Tag Archive | Political Intrigue

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.

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

 

The Last Praetorian by Mike Smith

The Last PraetorianSource: Own Collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Commander Jonathan Radec is a man desperately trying to escape from the mistakes of his past.

Now the owner of Vanguard Shipping, his primary concerns are trying to keep his ships flying and his crew alive. However, the shadowy Syndicate organisation has set their sights on the Commander and his business, having sent a beautiful assassin to kill him. To make matters worse, she’s become the target of his infatuation, much to the dismay of his ex-girlfriend. Recently elevated to President of the Confederation, she’s still very much in love with him and capable of making his life a living hell.

Surrounded by a galaxy beginning to tear itself apart, with enemies on all sides, he’s now also unwillingly tasked with trying to save the Confederation – for which he has little regard. Jon has little going in his favour, except a crew consisting of the elite of the old Imperial Navy, all of whom would fight to the death for him, and a past that possibly makes him one of the most dangerous men alive.

The Last Praetorian is a Science Fiction adventure/romance, which tries to answer the question: “Can you ever find redemption for the mistakes of your past?”

Just finished reading this book. A brilliant read.

I picked this book up on Amazon for free. To be honest, the cover (and, well, the title too) attracted me. When I began to read it, I hadn’t even read the blurb, so I didn’t know what I was getting in to.

Good thing that I love to read a good military scifi novel. Which this is. Actually, better than good. Smith does an excellent job of creating an invincible character out of Jon Radec, the Commander of the Emperor’s Praetorian Guards, yet making him still human.

The book is really two in parallel. In the first, we see what appears to be the beginning of the end of a five-hundred-year Empire, while in the second, we see events that happen five years later.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It has everything going for it, along with quite a few surprise elements. Smith doesn’t hesitate to put his characters through their paces. His vision of where the events take place is clearly put into words – excellent world-building.

If it weren’t for the fact that this book requires, in some places, extensive editing, it would have got five stars. It is only for this reason that I have allocated four stars to it.

Mike Smith is going to be a force to be reckoned with. I will be looking for the rest of the trilogy.