Empire of Light by Gary Gibson

Empire of LightSource: Borrowed from a friend
Format: Paperback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

The nova war has begun to spread as the Emissaries wage a fierce and reckless campaign, encroaching on the area of space occupied by humanity and forcing the Shoal into a desperate retreat. While Dakota goes in search of the entity responsible for creating the Maker caches, Corso, left in charge of a fleet of human-piloted Magi ships, finds his authority crumbling in the face of assassination attempts and politically-motivated sabotage. If any hope exists at all, it lies in an abandoned asteroid a thousand light-years beyond the Consortium’s borders, and with Ty Whitecloud, the only man alive with the skill to decipher the messages left behind by an ancient race of star travellers. Unfortunately Whitecloud is locked in a prison cell aboard a dying coreship adrift in space, awaiting execution for war crimes against Corso’s own people. But if humanity has any hope of survival, Corso is going to have to find some way to keep him alive – and that’s only if Dakota doesn’t kill him first.

If the previous two books were pretty large in terms of scale and scope, well, the series just got bigger with this one. This time Corso and Dakota are on the trail of the Mos Hadroch, some type of weapon that should stop the nova war between the Shoal and the Emissaries. And to get hold of it, they need one of the few humans who know anything at all about the Mos Hadroch, namely Ty Whitecloud. What’s so special about him, you wonder? Like Corso, he’s a scientist, or perhaps more of an anthropologist in this case. And he has heard of the Mos Hadroch, which immediately makes him invaluable. He’s also part of the reason Dakota ended up killing Corso’s people on behalf of the Uchidans… which puts him on both their hit lists. Enter suspicion and tension.

I liked the way Gibson brought Whitecloud into the story and enabled me to get to know him. He had my sympathy from the beginning – even knowing his history as a Uchidan. Trader once again features – but perhaps not quite so much as in the previous two stories. Or perhaps even more than one realises. I will admit to being a little disappointed that one of the main devices Gibson used in this story was a repeat of that used in Stealing Light. Nevertheless, he did up the ante on this one, and as a whole the story was very satisfying.

This book is the complete page-turner. I find it uncanny how, with almost clockwork regularity, I can gulp down eight pages at a time without barely noticing, then discover on checking that I am eight pages on from where I last took note of the page number. This is one of the things I really love about Gibson’s books: I devour them. And it’s a testament to how well he writes, allowing the story to flow without being hampered by words and extraneous images.

A must read for those who like hard scifi with nasty aliens.

Creatus by Carmen DeSousa

CreatusSource: Own Collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Overall Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

As the sun’s rays peeked above the horizon, lighting the abyss below her, she inhaled a deep breath, closed her eyes, and jumped. She didn’t scream; she didn’t look down. As much as she hated her life, she hoped it wouldn’t end this way. She’d really like to see him one more time.

Her life didn’t flash before her eyes as she’d always heard. Just an image of her mother covered in blood and her Dark Angel telling her he was sorry.

What really attracted me to this book is the tag-line to the series – “The reason we believe in fairy tales – and monsters”.

At first glance, the Creatus may appear to be vampires, but as it turns out, that’s far from the case. My memory is hazy – comes of writing a review long after I’ve read the book – but if I recall, the Creatus crash-landed on Earth four thousand years ago (okay, so I got that from the blurb) and have worked to integrate into human society – as well as hide from it – over the millenia.

From They Exist we learned that Derrick has been watching over Kris since she was a little girl – since he saved her from certain death the night her mother was killed. Over the years since, she has lived in numerous foster homes, and is somewhat reckless given that she knows she has a “saviour” “out there”, and wants to meet him – she has learned that he only turns up when her life is threatened. So, not surprisingly, this book starts with her throwing herself off a bridge in a bid to bring him out into the open. Unknown to her, her action attracts the attention of a rogue Creatus, who discovers Derrick’s attachment to Kris.

This book is a fantastic read, and thankfully isn’t your run-of-the-mill vampire tale. In fact, forget vampires. The Creatus are something completely different. DeSousa’s writing is excellent, drawing one in to the tale with ease, and then one is trapped, following events as they unfold.

At times, especially in the first chapters of this book, Derrick can appear to be very controlling, trying to restrict Kris’s movements. However, one discovers that this is more out of a desire to protect her from a danger he cannot tell her about (for reasons that eventually become clear) than a desire to clip her wings, so to speak.

An excellent romantic suspense that leaves one wanting to read more.

Creatus: They Exist by Carmen DeSousa

Creatus - They ExistSource: Own Collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Overall Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

For four thousand years, creatus have concealed themselves from the humans who hunted them almost to extinction. Unwittingly, one creatus will endanger them all…

As with most of his family, Derrick Ashton knows his future and what position he’s destined to fill within his unique society. Everything changes, however, when he breaks one of his family’s strictest laws and falls in love-with a human.

In his quest to protect the woman he can never have, a twist of faith propels him into a new role that will cause dissension among his family and endanger the anonymity that they’ve strived for thousands of years to protect. Now, he will risk everything to save the girl from humans and his own kind. The one thing he can’t save her from, however…is herself.

This novella tells the story of how Derrick comes to be Kris’s Dark Angel, the person always there who looks out for her. I read this book before reading any of the other books in the Creatus series, and it has piqued my interest. Very intriguing, filled with hints of more to come, and quite a few surprises.

I definitely need to get on with reading the rest of the series now.

Heart of Granite by James Barclay

Heart of GraniteSource: NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

The world has become a battleground in a war which no side is winning. But for those determined to retain power, the prolonged stalemate cannot be tolerated so desperate measures must be taken.

Max Halloran has no idea. He’s living the brief and glorious life of a hunter-killer pilot. He’s an ace in the air, on his way up through the ranks, in love, and with his family’s every need provided for in thanks for his service, Max has everything . . .

. . . right up until he hears something he shouldn’t have, and refuses to let it go. Suddenly he’s risking his life and the lives of all those he cares about for a secret which could expose corruption at the highest levels, and change the course of the war.

One man, one brief conversation . . . a whole world of trouble . . .

I picked this book up on NetGalley because the title intrigued me, the cover looked interesting, but the blurb completely hooked me. Then I opened the book, and was completely blown away. Devilishly inventive, I adored this book almost from the first sentence. Drakes, massive iguana-like land-based (water-replenishing) battleships/flight decks… and a massive desert. Fantastic stuff.

Max Halloran is a drake pilot on Heart of Granite, the “mother”(ship) his flight, and others, are based on. Heart of Granite is pretty much in concept like an aircraft carrier, but it’s instead an organic iguana-like animal that’s been modified genetically and structurally to accommodate people, drakes and other denizens. Max’s flies in a squadron with Inferno-X, an elite group of drake pilots – and their drakes. The one motto of all drake pilots: do not Fall. To Fall is to, pretty much, go insane when the drake attempts to meld with its pilot. Max initially comes across as cock-sure and arrogant, but one quickly finds out he’s got a strong streak of integrity, as well as stubbornness. Both of which get tested to the limits.

I love a good puzzle, and Heart of Granite certainly gave me one. I got half way through, then spent a good while paging back and forward (a challenge on a Kindle, mind, but I was desperate!) trying to figure out what on earth was really going on. And then I spent a few hours in bed that night trying to work through the logic of the clues I had available to me. This is a good thing. Reading as much as I do, one soon gets clued in to when things aren’t as they seem. And I knew something was going on here that no-one was talking about. Excellent brain fodder.

I honestly cannot think of anything bad to say about HoG. An excellent story, well-written and crafted, that makes for very entertaining reading. Great tension, and a very satisfying conclusion.

Outzone Raider by Mike Sheridan

Outzone RaiderSource: ARC from the author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

2041. THE GREAT GLOBAL WAR IS OVER. WHAT’S LEFT OF AMERICA IS IN CHAOS.

Beautiful but cynical exo-robotic operator, Vikki Gurin is playing a dangerous game. To make extra money for her family, she supplies Outzone bandit, Dima Aslanov with the information he needs during his daring raids across New Haven’s border. But when Aslanov and his bratva crew steal vital supplies destined for the federal government, he takes a step too far. Despite being caught up in America’s deadly secessionist wars, the US military are forced to turn their attention on him.

War-weary, Hoke Thompson didn’t expect to return home to find himself fighting fellow Americans. But these aren’t ordinary times. When his special ops team, Tactical Unit 8 return from rebel-held Oklahoma City, they discover their next mission is to neutralize a certain Dima Aslanov. Soon, Vikki gets caught up in the drama as the military hatches a plan to take the bandit down. Can she protect her family yet remain loyal to the Outzone warlord–or does something have to give?

Set against the backdrop of a brutal, war-torn America at the height of the secessionist wars, Outzone Raider interweaves two personal stories to a thrilling conclusion, as well as exploring both the rise of the Outzone and the fledgling New Haven State. Like all stories set in the Outzone World, there’s plenty of action–the characters riveting and believable.

First there’s a world war, and then the American soldiers return home to a divided country, which leads to the secessionist wars. A new state is created in the mid-west, New Haven, and this story is set in the years before a wall is built between New Haven and the Outzone, the latter being a lawless territory where those who wish to try their luck at survival.

Vikki Gurin is feisty exo-robot operator in New Haven’s Industrial Zone. It’s a gritty, hard place to work, but she likes her colleagues and the hard work. She is also a pair of eyes for Dima Aslanov, an Outzone bandit who likes to raid warehouses in the IZ for supplies. One night she hears of supplies of shelters, an order for the federal government that’s located in the heart of the IZ, and she decides to tell Aslanov about it. However, she leaves out information about the destination of the supply.

Dima Aslanov has one rule: if he’s to steal anything from the Industrial Zone, it must not be destined for the federal government. His raid for the supplies is successful, but it turns the eyes of the government and the intelligence organisations on his activities. It isn’t long before things heat up – for both Dima and Vikki.

This is a well-crafted post-apocalyptic thriller. Sheridan easily drew me in to the gritty world of Vikki and Dima, bringing the characters and their lives to life. It was good to get back into this setting and get to know it better through the eyes of a new group of people.

Things definitely do not come easily in the war-torn Americas, and one must take chances to get ahead. But which chance will be a step to far? Excellent post-apocalyptic fare, with great action and nail-biting suspense.