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Fringe Station by Rachel Aukes

Source: Own Collection
Format: Hardcover
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Having grown up reading Anne McCaffrey, Space Opera tends to be a comfortable place for me. So it was a delight to be able to return to the world of Captain Aramis Reyne, Critch, Throttle, Heid and the other players. This story is complex, as nothing in the Collective is simple. As the worlds on the fringe of the Collective seek independence and full citizenship for the inhabitants, Reyne and Critch need to bury the hatchet in order to become the motivational force they once were as leaders of the Torrents. But to do some means overcoming betrayal (aka learning the truth), and seeking those who would join their ranks. But sometimes the Collective is one step ahead, and resources can be closed down at a whim. We also get to know more about a mysterious group who like to run the Collective from the shadows, so to speak.

An exciting space-romp that is a pleasure to read, with plenty of action, strange worlds and compelling characters.

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Tangled Up in Blue by Joan D Vinge

Source: Own Collection
Format: Hardcover
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Set before events in The Snow Queen, Tangled introduces us to the greengrass Gundhalinu, fresh on the Hegemony’s police force in Carbuncle. When a vigilante raid, conducted by junior police officers frustrated at the restrictions placed on them by the relationship between the Hegemony and the Tiamatan Queen, goes south leaving one survivor with no memory of events, and two powerful factions of Survey hunting an Old Empire artifact collide, two police officers find themselves the focus of attention.

I really enjoyed reading this final chapter of The Snow Queen Cycle – it’s been a long enough time coming. It was invaluable, in a way, to have the insights given by the other three books – one understands more of the importance of events in this book that way, and the fragility. I found it a quick read, as exciting as the other books, and as vividly written. Definitely well worth the time spent reading it.

Fringe Runner by Rachel Aukes

fringe-runnerSource: ARC from author
Format: Paperback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

After the colonization of Mars and Europa, it took us fewer than five generations to reach beyond our solar system and discover new planets capable of supporting human life. Too far away to be governed under Earth law, the Collective was formed. Several hundred years later, the Collective has expanded to a thriving system of six inhabited worlds, but power struggles are common, and a seemingly inevitable interplanetary war looms on the horizon. It’s nearly impossible for the working class to make ends meet.

Aramis Reyne is one of the working class. An old space captain hounded by arthritis and war memories, he struggles to make enough credits to feed his crew and keep his ship flying by running mail and supplies to the farthest, most dangerous reaches of the Collective known as the fringe. When he’s offered a no-questions-asked contract to pick up a package, he jumps at the opportunity. But, he quickly learns that he should’ve asked questions…and that there are far worse things in the Collective than being broke.

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

This was a very exciting book. Just how I like my science fiction action.

In Fringe Runner Aukes has created an excellent socio-political scenario as a backdrop to the real story, and to match that, a motley crew of misfits and ne’er-do-wells with pasts to their names. And a whole load of heart. Reyne is a sympathetic space captain who runs into events that aren’t of his making. And finds himself a kingpin in a plot that has far-reaching consequences. How far do old loyalties and ambitions extend? And what prices must be paid to achieve his dream?

Great action, fantastic villains and some surprises nestle in this story. For space opera lovers, with a good helping of space piracy.

 

Pirate Bound by Carysa Locke

Pirate BoundSource: Copy from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Talented Pirates have suffered loss. Some years ago a deadly virus swept through the female Pirates, decimating them. Now the Pirates face extinction since they have few viable females to bear talented children. Then the Pirates come across two female Talented, Sanah and Nayla, exhausted and wary, who have escaped from a Talented organisation known as Veritas. Nayla is a biokineticist, able to heal on a cellular level, who’s Talent is required by their brother Niall – working for Veritas – for it’s killing abilities.

What a fantastic story. Each of the main characters, and a few of the secondary characters, are well developed with differing personalities, goals and desires. Dem’s qualities as a protective hero make him very endearing, and I enjoyed his internal battle with his Talents. That really made me chuckle. Cannon was an extremely insightful Pirate King who really keeps his finger on the pulse. It would be nice to one day read more about him, and also about Treon, Dem’s enigmatic brother.

Inventive and well-written, I hope to read many more books about the Telepathic Space Pirates. This definitely checks all my boxes in space opera, psychic talents and romance. This is excellent stuff right here, reminiscent of the best of Anne McCaffrey.

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.