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Audiobook Review – Starship Troopers

I first read Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers when I was twelve.  In fact, I read it three times back to back to back when I was twelve.  I’ve owned at least four copies, which seemed to either wear out or get ‘borrowed’, so I guess you could say I’m a fan.

Imagine my delight when an audiobook of this classic became available.

Join the Army and See the Universe. That is the motto of The Third Space War, also known as The First Interstellar War, but most commonly as The Bug War. In one of Robert Heinlein’s most controversial best sellers, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the universe – and into battle with the Terrain Mobile Infantry against mankind’s most alarming enemy.

I really can’t say anthing new about Heinlein’s story that hasn’t been said, discussed, and argued over a thousand times already.  There’s a reason he’s one of the greats in 20th Century science fiction.  Every piece of Mil SF that I’ve read has had at a bit of Heinlein in it somewhere.

Lloyd James does an excellent job as narrator in this work.  His tone, pacing, and vocalizations are exactly what this story requires.  His work is true to how I envisioned Starship Troopers the first time I read it.

If you’re a Heinlein fan, you’ll enjoy a side trip down a familiar path with this audiobook.  If you’ve never read this classic, this is an excellent chance to give Starship Troopers a try.

Audiobook Review – Galaxy’s Edge Part III

The third audiobook in the Galaxy’s Edge series is out, and I enjoyed listening to the story as much as I did reading the books.

Daring heroics, sacrifice, and courage come together as the Legion attempts to contain the fire sparked at the Battle of Tarrago. But the galaxy is spiraling into all-out war.

Captain Chhun’s Dark Ops squad is reunited with Wraith. When their mission to deny Goth Sulluss the shipyards he so eagerly desires goes awry, Chhun and Wraith must find a way to stop the Black Fleet’s advance – even if it costs them their lives.

Meanwhile, an old friend from Nether Ops executes a covert operation that will turn the focus of the Last War of the Republic in a terrible new direction.

Following Goth Sullus’s ruthless onslaughts against the Republic, a desperate House of Reason searches for scapegoats – and finds one, deserving or not, in Commander Ellek Owens. His sentence is cruel, unjust – and final. Unless Victory Squad has anything to say about it.

In the Umnar system, the soulless menace known as the Cybar seeks to break Prisma Maydoon – and to set the stage for the total annihilation of not only the Republic, but all life in the galaxy.

Cole and Anspach, coupled with narrator R.C. Bray, do an excellent job of moving us through the middle of the Galaxy’s Edge saga while still keeping our attention.   This story has it all:  action, aliens, ancient evil, action, new evil, and action.

Bray does an excellent job of pacing his narration and painting the story in the listener’s mind.  He’s helped by excellent source material, which grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.

Even if you’ve read the books that make up this story, I think you’ll enjoy Galaxy’s Edge Part III.  If you haven’t, or if you haven’t listened to parts I and II, you probably need to go back and give them a listen or read first.  This is definitely the middle of the series’ story arc.

Book Review – Chasing the Dragon

Book 2 of Jason Anspach and Nick Cole’s series “Tyrus Rechs: Contracts and Terminations” is out, entitled “Chasing the Dragon“.

The Dragon was trained from his youth to operate as a lethal killing machine. He has tangled with crime lords, dangerous insurgents, even Nether Ops… and none of these forces has been able to bring the elusive warrior to heel.

Enter the notorious bounty hunter Tyrus Rechs.

Rechs takes on the job as a favor to an old Savage Wars buddy. Only Rechs isn’t out to kill the Dragon—his mission is to save the kid’s life.

Unless the Dragon kills Rechs first.

Chasing the Dragon picks up where Requiem for Medusa left off, with Tyrus Rechs doing what Tyrus Rechs does best:   Break things and kill people.  The story rarely stops to take a breath, and it’s a fun romp that brings us all of the fun and action we’ve come to expect from the Galaxy’s Edge universe.

Tyrus Rechs is a fascinating character.  He shares a lot with Heinlein’s Lazarus Long, although I can’t see Lazarus doing quite so much damage in an afternoon.  When the authors are done telling his tale as a bounty hunter, I hope they delve further into the stories of his long life.

If you’re looking for a page-turner that begs to be read again as soon as you get to the last page, you’ll enjoy Chasing the Dragon.

Review – Dragontamer’s Daughters

I recently dipped my toes in Young Adult fiction and gave Kenton Kilgore’s Dragontamer’s Daughters a read. I’m glad I did.

Two girls find a dragon like no other—and their lives will never be the same!

In an alternate Old West, Isabella and Alijandra live exiled with their parents in the high desert. Years before, the girls’ father caught, tamed, and trained dragons for the Emperor’s armies, but now he is an outlaw, blamed for the deaths of thousands.

Finding a small dragon gravely injured after a fight, the girls take her home and begin tending her back to health. Alijandra calls the dragon “Pearl,” after her round white eyes. As time goes on and Pearl begins to heal, the family learns more about her and the strange and terrifying abilities she possesses.

But time is running out for them, their family, and for Pearl herself. Soon, they will be forced to contend with the native people on whose lands they live. With the ambitious governor whose soldiers hunt the girls’ father. With a man who has no name but wields immense, eerie powers. With Pearl’s yearning to fulfill the journey that accidentally brought her to the girls. And with their own dreams and wishes for a life they once lived—and might live again.

If you were a fan of the “Little House” books as a child, you will enjoy this tale of family, hard work, and love.  Kilgore portrays a family living at the edge of impoverishment, but still loving and caring for one another during trying times.

Every character that gets more than a page worth of attention in this book grows as the story unfolds, which is a rare trick in fiction. The two main characters, sisters  Isabella and Alijandra, grow from one stage of life to the next as they work through the challenges life throws at them, including a magical dragon that needs their help.

Kilgore obviously knows the high desert setting very well, but he paints everything in vivid, detailed strokes that will fill the reader’s mind and enrich the story.

This isn’t an action story, but it is filled with tension until the final chapters, when everything erupts into a fast-paced race to the book’s conclusion. In between all that, there are many thought-provoking, touching scenes that will stay with you.

Review – So Little and So Light

Sarah Hoyt’s new collection of short stories, So Little and So Light, is packed with stories that will both entertain you and make you think.

From a parallel world where we have all the dreams of pulp writers, to a future where bioengineering kindles new hates and new heroes, to a different Tudor England, to the intricacies of time wars, this science fiction collection provides a glimpse of things undreamed… some from which we’ll gladly waken, and some we’d very much like to be true.

So Little and So Light contains stories from Mrs. Hoyt’s “USAIAN” universe, in which the USA is almost an ancient myth, but its spirit lives on in those who still believe, as well as stories about the far future and alternate histories.  Each one stands very well on its own, but most of them could definitely be followed up by either more short works or full length books.  I enjoyed all of them, but my favorites were “Lost” and the title work, “So Little and So Light”.

I normally burn through short story collections, but the writing in this one was so good that I took my time, even stopping after several of the stories to think about their plots and the questions they bring up.  Mrs. Hoyt is a master of drawing the characters and scenery in the reader’s mind without writing long overt descriptions, and I found myself getting lost in the worlds she creates in her stories.

If you’re a fan of alternate history, science fiction, or just good, fun stories, So Little and So Light will be a good fit for you.

Review – The American Civil War

If you’ve ever wanted to learn a bit about the American Civil War, this audiobook is a good place to start.

Between 1861 and 1865, the clash of the greatest armies the Western hemisphere had ever seen turned small towns, little-known streams, and obscure meadows in the American countryside into names we will always remember. In those great battles, those streams ran red with blood – and the United States was truly born.

If you’ve ever wanted to understand the Civil War, this series of 48 startlingly evocative lectures by a leading Civil War historian can serve as both an ideal single course or a solid starting point for further exploration – a richly detailed examination of how this great conflict affected every person in America. For you’ll gain not only a deep knowledge of what happened, but new insights into why.

You’ll learn how both sides’ armies were recruited, equipped, and trained, and about the hard lot of those they took prisoner. You’ll hear how soldiers on each of those sides dealt with the rigors of camp life, campaigns, and the terror of combat. And you’ll understand how slaves and their falling masters responded to the advancing war, as well as the desperate price paid by the families so many left behind.

Though this series of lectures goes far beyond a simple examination of battles and generals, it also offers detailed analyses of the strategic and tactical dimensions of the Civil War’s most important campaigns. At the same time, it never forgets that the conflict involved far more than pins on a map – and indeed claimed a greater cost in human lives than all other American wars combined.

Professor Gary Gallagher does an excellent job at giving a 10,000 foot survey of the Civil War.  He starts with the stresses on the nation that brought about the war, the events that led up to separation and war, the conduct of the campaigns and battles, and ends up with a brief discussion of the impact the war had on the United States for the fifty years or so after its conclusion.  Intermixed with all of this, he discusses the societies of the North and South, their comparative strengths and weaknesses, and the war’s impact on groups such as women, immigrants, and African-Americans.

While the political and cultural aspects of the war are still hotly debated, Professor Gallagher does an excellent job at giving an even-handed narrative.  Neither side was as heroic and virtuous as some would have us believe, but neither were they complete villains.

This is a great survey course that should direct you to more in-depth discussions of the various subjects that the Civil War entails.  Unfortunately, if Professor Gallagher dove as deeply as I would have liked in certain places, his course would have stretched for months instead of days.  Take The American Civil War as a good introduction for those who are just learning and a good refresher for those more familiar with the subject.

Review – Tide of Battle

Michael Z. Williamson’s latest collection of short stories, essays, and general fun, Tide of Battle,  is as fun and thought provoking as we’ve come to expect from his work.

Collected short fiction from multiple bestseller Michael Z. Williamson. After a brutal car crash, a disabled young man beats all odds to pursue his dream of crewing the first starship. Outnumbered and outgunned, a Freehold warship must use guile, expert maneuvering and sheer courage to survive a pursuing UN fleet. Meanwhile, other Freeholders resort to terrifying psyops to destroy their invaders’ morale. A family learns that their patriarch isn’t as crazy as they thought when a zombie uprising actually happens. A young girl must use her knowledge of elementals and spirit beings to protect a king who is unaware of the threats against him. In an alternate Bronze Age, the descendants of dinosaurs fight with sentient felinoids for territory and survival. Humans reduced to cowering in caves find a most unlikely weapon against their alien invaders.

With cutting satire on classic poetry and modern movies, a no-holds-barred lambast of several beloved firearms and their fan clubs, Williamson concludes with more of his Inappropriate Cocktail recipes, frequently both delicious and outrageously snarky, commemorating celebrities, events and cultural memes.

Tide of Battle comes in two parts. The first part contains stories written or co-written by Williamson.  My favorite was “The Digital Kid”, but if you’re a fan of his Freehold world, then you’ll like “Starhome”, “Hate in the Darkness”, and “Soft Casualty”.  The rest are a good collection of fiction written in other worlds and dealing with a myriad of situations.

In the book’s second part, Williamson proves, once again, that sacred cows make the best hamburgers.  He takes on gun people (both pro and anti), poetry, literature, and movies in a way that will both make you think and laugh.  Most interesting, to me, was his discussion on research for his book “A Long Time Until Now”. He finishes up with his signature cocktail recipes, which contain humor as dark and rich as good rum.

I enjoyed every word in Tide of Battle, and with the wide scope of the stories it contains, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something in it that you’ll enjoy, too.

Review – To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity

Recently, I finally finished a short story collection that deals with examples of what it means to be a man:  To Be Men:  Stories Celebrating Masculinity.

Tired of stories about men as bumbling idiots? Of fathers as incompetents? Of masculinity as “toxic”?
Tired of misandry?
Ready for some real masculine role models?
Stories about heroes and men who do the right thing? Stories about real men? The kind that provide for their families, love their wives and children, and make sacrifices. And save the world.
A collection of seventeen stories and two essays, To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity pays homage to men and masculinity.
Fun. Action-packed. Thought-provoking. Whatever your tastes, you will find enjoyment in these pages.
Each story embraces, in its own way, virtus—the concept of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth.
The sentient Colt 1911 destined for the smelter.
A courageous werewolf who embodies virtus no matter his form.
The wizard raising a family in the 21st century.
Sherlock Holmes’ newfound respect for women.
A future untamed frontier where “women and children first” proves itself a timeless maxim.
The hero who identifies as a M1A2 Abrams tank.
A Vietnam War sailor defending his gay crew mate, because when bullets are flying, only what you do matters.
The police chief in a noir-style world where Fae, dragons, and humans live, love, and break the law.
These stories will delight and entertain you.

To Be Men brings together some excellent writers to give us rich, well-told stories that describe the many facets of what it means to be a man in the classic sense.  My favorites were”Street Fox” by C. J. Brightley, “Compassion” by Jon Del Arroz, and “Man Made Hell” by Julie Frost.

This collection has modern fiction, science fiction, urban fantasy, and even a nod to Arthur Conan Doyle.  In other words, it’s a good bet that you’ll find something in there that you’ll like.

The authors do an excellent job of showing how their characters are classically masculine, meaning that they exhibit bravery, honor, trust, and compassion, without them becoming brutes.  Where they interact with other people, especially women, they show the respect that they wish to receive.

To Be Men is a book that I plan on giving to my son when he gets a bit older so he can learn from the stories.  It’s also a book I hope my daughter reads so that she can know what she should expect from the men in her life.

Review – The Pride of the Damned

The third and final book in Peter Grant’s Cochrane’s Company trilogy, The Pride of the Damned, is out.  If you enjoyed the first two books in the series, you’ll love the story’s climax:

The shadow war started as a simple contract to defend a system against asteroid thieves. The harder Andrew Cochrane and Hawkwood Security fought, the worse things became. Now they find themselves embroiled in an interstellar war with an entire mafia!

Worse yet, the proceedings are so profitable – not to mention bloody – that they’ve attracted the attention of some of the worst criminal organizations in the galaxy. If Hawkwood is to survive, it’ll need all the wits, cunning and ingenuity it can muster – and the unwavering courage and dedication of its people.

The galaxy’s not big enough for both sides. One or the other will go to the wall.

The universe is well and truly built and the characters are well developed by the time this book begins, so the story moves quickly to the events leading up to its finale.  The Pride of the Damned has a lot of space opera in it, with a touch of thriller and spy novel thrown in for flavor.

The author goes into good detail of how Cochrane continues to build his fleet and the family of friends and colleagues he’s put together.  The space battle scenes are well thought out and keep the reader turning the page.  The characters are believable and the way that Grant makes them move within the story is the mark of a master storyteller.

This is not a juvenile by any means, but I’d be comfortable suggesting this series to anyone who enjoys a carefully laid out arc that travels quite nicely across three books.  If you’re looking for something to binge read during the dog days of summer, Cochrane’s Company is it.

The Stones of Silence – Sets up the story and introduces us to most of the characters

An Airless Storm – Develops the characters and pits Cochrane and his crew against an intractable foe

The Pride of the Damned – Brings everything together to a thrilling conclusion.

Review – Shattered Under Midnight

Dorothy Grant’s new novel, Shattered Under Midnight, mixes action with romance, and is not the kind of book you want to start reading while you’re trying to fall asleep.

Raina escaped to Freeport with a tour booked under a stolen ID, and a plan to lose herself in the city. Instead, she found a city in revolt, and now both sides are after her to control the alien gifts engineered into her DNA.

Her only ally is an offworld investigator trying to get to the bottom of the explosive mix of on-planet and alien politics… but his secrets are even deadlier than her own.

From the back alleys of the souk to the depths of alien ruins, they’re now in a desperate fight to stop the revolution before everything is lost!

The action in Shattered Under Midnight starts in the first paragraph and keeps coming until the very end.  Raina is a gifted young woman who is running away from oppression and worse.  She meets up with Akrep, a dangerous man who may or may not be one of the good guys, and together they have to fight to protect new friends and ancient artifacts.  The book has romance, ancient aliens, and gunfights, so there’s something for everyone.

The pacing in the story is pretty good.  Mrs. Grant does a good job of convincing the reader to keep turning the pages without making you feel like you’re sprinting through the book.  At the end of the story, I wanted to know more about both principle characters, so I hope that this isn’t the end of their story.  There’s definitely more to tell, both before and after this particular novel.

Raina develops quite quickly in the short time span of the story.  Like I said, there’s more of her story to tell, so I hope Mrs. Grant can flesh both her and Akrep out in future works.

This is a quick read, and the way it’s told is appropriate for teenagers to senior citizens.  I whizzed through it in just a few hours.  Shattered Under Midnight is a perfect, light story for when you just want to climb inside a book for an evening.

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