Archives

The Fall of Fort Bragg by Rachel Aukes

the-fall-of-fort-braggSource: ARC from the author
Format: Kindle
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This is a Kindle Worlds novella in the Extinction Cycle by Nicholas Sansbury Smith.

I appreciated the opportunity to read this story written in the Extinction Cycle world as created by Nicholas Sansbury Smith. In this book we get to meet Horn’s wife, Sheila, and their girls, Tasha and Jenny.

This story did not disappoint. For all Aukes is not Smith, her story had the same level of horror, suspense and pacing I have come to expect from Smith’s books. I could have easily been fooled into thinking Smith had written it. Kudos to Aukes for remaining true to the series in this regard. Not that a change would have been awful; after all, this story is about a different group of people.

Not much else to say, really, except that fans of the Extinction Cycle shouldn’t miss this addition to the canon. It’s excellent.

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.

Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Hell DiversSource: ARC from the author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

More than two centuries after World War III poisoned the planet, the final bastion of humanity lives on massive airships circling the globe in search for a habitable area to call home. Aging and outdated, most of the ships plummeted back to earth long ago. Enter the Hell Divers—men and women who risk their lives by diving to the surface to scavenge for parts that keep their homes in the air. When one of the two surviving airships is damaged in an electrical storm, a Hell Diver team is deployed to a hostile zone called Hades. But there’s something down there that’s far worse than the mutated creatures discovered on dives in the past—something that threatens the fragile future of humanity.

Aaaah, what it is to pick up a book by Nicholas. Even knowing you’re going to go on a hell-ride (no pun intended…) with him, you pick it up and read it, because it’s going to be that good. And Hell Divers is no less. Oh no. Within a sentence or two Smith had sucked me right in to X’s world and life on board the Hive – one of the last two airships floating above a devastated Earth.

And what a fascinating scenario. Humanity survives solely in huge airships that fly around above a totally devastated, radioactive Earth. These airships are far from airworthy, and are pretty much staying up there by their bootstraps. To keep these massive colonies in the skies, Hell Divers must parachute to the surface of the devastated Earth for supplies, then ride back up to their airships on helium balloons. As the book opens, we meet X, by far the most experienced Hell Diver on his ship with a total of 95 jumps to his name. It’s clearly pointed out that the average most divers make is 15 jumps. This man surely knows his stuff. And the motto of the Hell Divers is one of the coolest I’ve come across: “We dive so humanity survives.” That’s their whole existence right there, in a nutshell.

It’s really difficult to make any sort of comment on this book without heading into the realm of spoilers, so I’m going to keep to the bare minimum. One of the things I really liked about this novel was how Smith introduced various threads, and how those threads developed as the story progressed. Another thing I really liked was this, and I quote:


That was the thing about extinction: every move became a life-or-death decision, with the fate of entire species on the line.


That particularly caught my eye, having recently seen a documentary on the extinction of the northern white rhinoceros, and how that was precisely the issue – every move made becomes a critical decision.

This book has one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen in a good long while. Very relevant to the story, and puts one quite in the scene for what happens in the book. Great fusion there.

Without a doubt, Smith is becoming a master storyteller. I guess that begins to happen when one has more than ten novels under one’s belt. Each successive book of his that I read is a step up from the previous one, and his ideas are no less inventive. I look forward to picking up the next Hell Divers novel. Please get writing!

Scavenger: A.I. by Timothy C Ward

Scavenger AISource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Hundreds of years ago a nanotech virus nearly wiped out humanity. The kernel of that technology has been locked in a buried military and guarded from warlords and tyrants by a class of sentries. Divemaster Rushing Stenson and his wife Star thought their journey underground would lead to the discovery of the ancient city of Danvar. Instead, they resurrected a power perfect for the tyrant that put them there. He plans to use this self replicating technology to rebuild America and give life eternal to those loyal to his empire.

In Scavenger: A.I., Rush, Star and their crew of survivors see an opportunity to use this power to defend their new territory and rewrite the course of their lives and country in a way that would make their children proud. However, as they discover the oddities of this power, it may be too late to reverse the evolution they’ve seen within. And some aren’t interested even if they could. Even if what they’re becoming is too much like the tyrants they’re fighting.

As the nanotech and infusion of the power source they’ve uncovered changes Rush and Star, they are tempted with the chance of bringing their deceased newborn back to life. Will this child be the one they knew, and if not, how far into dangerous territory will they go to force what shouldn’t be?

I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Picking up where Scavenger: Evolution left off, Rush and Star face a new threat in the form of W, formerly Warren, who has embedded himself in the nanotech world. As W tries to bend their wills to his, and revive the dead in a macabre bid for power, Rush and Star – as well as other players – seek to understand their abilities and those of their companions. To be honest, I’m completely unsure how many variants of nanotech were introduced during the course of this story, except to say ‘quite a number’. Each with their own quirks and abilities, too.

This is a story of divided loyalties, dreams, pursuit of power, and hope. Again I enjoyed the diving sequences, and the demonstration of abilities those with nanos have – as well as those simply with enhanced Poseidon suits. There is more action (and reaction) than there really is character building, but at the same time Ward does take his characters on a journey that requires them to make decisions and face realities they’d rather not have to deal with. And it definitely asks how one would react when you don’t know if those around you are friend or foe. At times the story is confusing, but this is more a product of the character’s own confusion (usually relating to the M-MANs than anything else) than it is Ward’s writing. One is kept on one’s toes, asking as many questions as the characters are, and the resolution is as much a surprise for the reader as for the character.

A complex story told well, and I hope there is more to come.

 

Scavenger: Evolution by Timothy C Ward

Source: Copy from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Overall Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

In the future, sand divers search the depths for the lost city of Danvar and the truth behind their bleak existence. Divemaster Rush hasn’t dove since he lost his infant. A job offer turns from an escape to a trap and the lure of a hardened heart to survive like anyone else would. One dive leads to another. Farther and farther from the surface, death and evolution change his world. He’ll have to change too or watch his wife rise without him.

Inspired by Hugh Howey’s world of Sand. Written and sold with his permission. Scavenger: Evolution takes the landscape of Dune and throws in the pacing and thrills of Alien.

This story constitutes my introduction into the world of Sand. I think Hugh Howey’s books just got bumped up my lengthy TBR list.

Rush used to be a diver, but after losing his infant son to the sand, he aborted from life, in the process estranging his wife, Star. We meet him as a down-and-outer working in a bar.  He is accosted by Warren, someone who wants a job done by a diver, by Rush specifically, and is offering money. Even in Rush’s depressed state, he realises he must choose between losing his humanity and gaining it.

The plot of this tale is relatively simple, but Ward adds several layers that increase the obstacles for Rush. Add the sand on top of those, and one gets a gripping tale of suspense. I loved the sand-diving sequences. Ward used words sparsely to image them, but at the same time gave one a clear idea of how the divers dive. And the complexities involved. Add to those a distracted diver dealing with some pretty big emotional issues?

In short, Ward’s writing is excellent. Perhaps a small portion of this comes from the fact that the world is already built, but it also comes from the fact that there was very little active worldbuilding within this story, as such. Everything is assumed, with little explanation given. I really liked that. The point wasn’t belaboured, and nothing – even Ward’s writing style, which is clear, precise and vivid – got in the way of the story. Much was left unsaid, leaving several questions still running around my head. Questions that beg for answers. I’ll be looking forward to Ward’s next book in this world!

It’s totally possible to read this story without having touched Hugh Howey’s books – but be careful. You’ll want to read those quite soon after picking this one up!