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Hell Divers II: Ghosts by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Source: Amazon
Format: Kindle
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

This book is hands down Nick’s best yet. A quick read, I was spellbound from the first sentence.

Once again we’re pulled in to life on – and off – the Hive, an airship that’s been aloft for well over two centuries. Familiar characters are present, but as the events occur ten years after Hell Divers I, there are new ones to love – and hate. Oh, and new monsters too. Nick’s always good with the monsters…

This is my favourite quote: ‘There was only one thing left for Michael to say. He bumped his comm pad to open a private channel to Captain Jordan and yelled, “We dive so humanity survives!”‘

This is definitely one of my favourite reads of 2017. Absolutely fantastic stuff.

I can’t wait for Hell Divers III.

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.

The Phoenix Conspiracy by Richard L Sanders

The Phoenix ConspiracySource: Own collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Calvin, an intelligence operative, is sent to eliminate a dangerous traitor. But, as he chases his prey across the stars, he realizes they are both pawns in a shadowy chess game. One that threatens humankind everywhere.

If he is to uncover the conspiracy he must confront–and embrace–the darkest elements of the galaxy. And throw himself, his career, and everyone he loves into the line of fire.

When a fleet captain opens fire on commercial ships belonging to non-human allies, he is rightly arrested for his actions. But young Lieutenant Commander Calvin Cross, captain of the IWS Nighthawk isn’t convinced. As a trained intelligence officer with Intel Wing, he finds no motive for Captain Asari Raidan’s actions, and questions the arrest.

And so begins a rollicking ride through space – with quite high stakes, mind (if you consider death a high stake) – as Cross pursues Raidan (who hijacks – or doesn’t? – a fleet ship). Mind, he’s looking for answers, but his orders are to kill on sight. Matters are not helped by Summers Presley, former XO under Raidan’s command with a personal vendetta against Raidan, who is transferred to the IWS Nighthawk for the pursuit.

I really enjoyed this, my second reading of this book. Excellent military SF with great tension, threats coming from all sides and a question to be answered. And plenty of questions left unanswered, which leaves me hankering to read the next book in the series.

Sanders writes clearly, keeps the action moving while giving sufficient detail to enable one to get a sense of the environment around the actors. An excellent read, lovers of military SF and conspiracy theories will enjoy this one.

Pax Imperia by Mike Smith

Pax ImperiaSource: Own collection
Format: ebook
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Commander Jonathan Radec has finally obtained everything he ever wanted in life. However, in a cruel twist of fate, just as he reaches out for his most heartfelt desire, it is torn from his grasp forever.

“For only he who has experienced ultimate happiness, can completely understand the deepest depths of absolute despair.”

Jon has always trusted those closest to him implicitly. It has long been his greatest strength, but one that his enemies have come to realise is also his ultimate weakness. For it is always those closest to you whose betrayal cuts the deepest.

In a horrific, pre-emptive strike at the very heart of the Imperium, the Senate is completely wiped out. In the aftermath of the attack, surrounded by the cries of the dead and dying, destiny once again reaches out its long arm, forcing Jon down a path he has long resisted. For, ever since the day he first set eyes upon Sofia, Jon has been destined to stand above all others.

As the last Emperor of the Imperium.

Jon has already fought through the very depths of hell itself and out the other side to save the ones he loves. Now, to save his family, he will gladly lay siege to the heavens themselves, for they tremble at his approach. As Jon not only commands the living, but also the dead, and they all want revenge against those who have taken everything from them.

Even if the rest of the Imperium must burn first.

This was the most difficult book in the trilogy for me to read. I started to read it, and then I spent the next month or so reading a bit more and then putting off reading any farther for days at a time because I couldn’t bear to find out “what happens next”; and yet at the same time, I was compelled to read further in order to find out “what happens next”. In summation, I had a very definite love-hate relationship with this book. What an awful dilemma!

I really commend Smith for the way he created characters one really invests in, as it was for only that reason that my heart was shattered at the beginning of the story, and purely for that reason that I kept on reading to find out how the story resolved. And the climax of this story was worth every moment of heartache that had come before. Fantastic stuff, and totally worthy of The Last Praetorian.

I won’t say any more, because to do so would be to reveal plot points that are best kept under wraps. I will say this, though: the epilogue made me cry, dammit. The first book I’ve had tears in my eyes over since as long as I can remember.

The Sunfire by Mike Smith

The SunfireSource: Own collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Commander Jonathan Radec is dead. However, the Commander has already died once before, and for some death is but a doorway…

“For whoever has lived unjustly and impiously goes to the dungeon of requital and penance which, you know, they call Tartarus.” – Plato

After making a shocking discovery that reveals the truth about a long-held misconception, the crew launch a desperate rescue mission to Tartarus. The only way to reach there, aboard The Sunfire, which was once the Confederation Navy’s newest, most powerful heavy cruiser, but is now nothing more than a ghost ship, adrift amongst the stars.

Meanwhile the last Imperial Princess, Sofia Aurelius, is questioning her own decision to focus on the Senate and turn her back on her family–and Jon. Embarking on a quest to discover the truth about the present–she instead finds the past has finally caught up with her.

Failure will mean certainly death for them both, but the price of success could be far worse, almost certainly plunging the galaxy into civil war, the last of which, five-hundred years ago, cost tens of millions of lives.

Smith has an inventive imagination, and this story is no exception. One may think that because Jon Radec appears near-invincible, that one has to completely suspend belief in order to swallow this story. But the beauty of writing the story mostly from his POV shows just how and where he is vulnerable. This sets the reader up for tension as events head Radec’s way.

But not only that. Smith is audacious, and comes up with plot lines and devices that stagger the readers’ imagination – and that totally suit the characters of Jon Radec and his contemporaries. What Smith does in The Sunfire is not far short of brilliant, and a joy (advisedly) to read. A page-turner that keeps one in the grip of events, hastening to discover the outcome.

I thoroughly enjoyed this second instalment of the Redemption trilogy, and look forward to reading Pax Imperia.