Novel Review: Incorruptible by J. B. Garner

Incorruptible (The Push Chronicles #3)Incorruptible by J.B. Garner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The urban fantasy series with the heart, soul and humor of a self-aware comic book concludes appropriately and true to itself. Wishes became reality under the warped plan of an unsure, mad scientist in the series opener. At his mind’s bidding, superheroes and supervillians [“Pushed” and “Pushcrooks”] burst onto the scene. The eternal battle between good and evil was to be led unquestionably by neo-God, Epic–the former professor/mad scientist. Protagonist, ex-girlfriend Dr. Irene Roman [aka “Indy”] leads the charge in countering the comic-inspired madness. She’s one of the few [“Naturals”] that can see through the new reality to the old one.

This final installment sees factions of Pushed each battling to define what the new relationship between Pushed and non-Pushed will look like. The Pushed all too often ignore that the non-Pushed might have their own thoughts in this matter. Indy’s associates [the Atlanta 5] start off in one kind of trouble while she’s roiled in another. New friendly Pushed rush in to take up the mantle. Especially nice is the inclusion of non-Pushed civilians doing their part to rebel and organize while living in an occupied, blockaded city.

The series is campy fun and enjoyable.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com. I’ve previously read this author’s:
     Indomitable (The Push Chronicles, #1)–4 stars
     Indefatigable (The Push Chronicles, #2)–3 stars
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Indefatigable by J. B. Garner

Indefatigable (The Push Chronicles, #2)Indefatigable by J.B. Garner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The urban fantasy series with the heart, soul and humor of a self-aware comic book continues here after its impressive start with Indomitable. Wishes became reality under the warped plan of an unsure, mad scientist in the series opener. At his mind’s bidding, superheroes and supervillians burst onto the scene. The eternal battle between good and evil was to be led unquestionably by neo-God, Epic–the former professor/mad scientist. Protagonist, ex-girlfriend Dr. Irene Roman leads the charge in countering the comic-inspired madness. She’s one of the few that can see through the new reality to the old one. She’s accompanied by a ragtag band of loyal new superheroes that don’t necessarily agree that everything new, including their powers, is bad.

Another unaffected person takes center stage here, but his methods are too extreme for Irene and he either wants her help or her death. This new mega-foe has lost his moral compass as he coaxes corpses into zombie-like vampires to help bring down the superheroes.

Irene must decide whether everything about the new reality is bad, or if something redeemable lies therein. It’s this internal struggle that makes the series. That, and its sheer sense of fun. The series is recommended.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Morning Star (Red Rising, #3)Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel completes the The Red Rising Trilogy in a worthy and satisfying way. The expansive world-building of the second installment pays off as Darrow and company try to realize his martyred wife’s dream of a caste-less solar system.

The entire series is highly recommended.

The first in the series, Red Rising, was easily one of the best debut novels of 2014. It took tones of dystopian, young adult series like The Hunger Games and elevated the dialogue on social justice, honesty and loyalty. The second and best in the series, Golden Son, abandoned all comparisons as the world-building went into overdrive, sculpting the framework for the grand conflict of liberating the enslaved masses throughout the solar system. The plot veered toward Space Military without losing its heart. If anything, the human element matured to a nuanced field of grays.

A year has elapsed between the second and final installments. Darrow is a broken shadow of his former self having endured nothing but torture and seclusion since he’s last been seen. His allies need to be rebuilt and re-earned. And, he needs to rebuild himself physically, emotionally, mentally, and strategically. Much has transpired in his absence vaulting him to mythic status which even he cannot live up to. The expectations are mountainous, and hope dwindles . . .

While coasting on the great work of the second installment, pleasingly this novel doesn’t embrace a fairy tale ending. Unless one means the original Grimm’s tales which were dark messy things embedded with lessons for the ages.

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Novel Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Gemina by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The exciting and worthy sequel to Illuminae ably walks the fine line between stylistic consistency and narrative predictability. Like the first in the series, this novel takes the form of epistolary dossier with a smattering of emails, texts and video transcriptions. A brilliant if not ominous addition is the new heroine’s hand-drawn journal bringing a graphic element into the mix. A bullet hole through each page and an increasingly larger blood stain marring her sketches provide appropriately unsubtle foreshadowing.

The previous trilogy of protagonists [Kady, Ezra, and the existential AI–AIDAN] take a backseat to a new trilogy of sub-adult heroes. Hanna, of the aforementioned journal, is the well to-do daughter of the Heimdall Space Station captain. With all survivors of the first book crammed on the science vessel, Hypatia, due to arrive within days, the Bei-Tech Corporation plans a full-scale attack on the Heimdall and its wormhole to keep news of its atrocities from getting out. Working with her are teenaged, unregistered cousins, Nik and Ella, the scions of a mafia family. Heavily inked Nik has already done time for murder and has the survival instincts and resourcefulness to prove it. His plague-stricken cousin Ella [think: Polio] may not have use of her lower body, but she makes up for that in cyber know-how.

Whereas in the first book the Bei-Tech attackers remain largely nameless and most threats seem to come from within, this novel leans into new subgenres quite unlike the those of the first book. The first subgenre to this sci-fi is clearly Thriller as 2 dozen highly trained militants are sent to Heimdall to kill everyone on the space station and to pave the way for a drone attack to finish off the Hypatia and the Kerenza colony. A 25th operative is already working undercover on the station. A second subgenre [Horror] emerges from the recreation of the mafia family. To foster their drug trafficking, Nik and Ella’s family farms psychotropic substance-secreting, parasitic aliens in underused parts of the station. These aliens resemble four-headed hydras crossed with lamprey eels and have the cuddle-factor and predatory instincts of Ridley Scott’s aliens. What could possibly go wrong??

The huge Win in this book and series lies in the unreliable narration provided by the dossier files as emails and texts reach Facebook levels of news-reliability.

This series is highly recommended.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This brilliant, hefty tome and yet quick read turns the epistolary novel on its head by presenting a researched dossier submitted by the unnamed Illuminae about a sequence of shocking events in the far reaches of space. With a few “researcher notes” amending the files, the dossier contains intercepted memos and emails, dictations of video footage, interviews and AI internal processing.

Indubitably “Young Adult” with two teenaged heroes. Anti-authority, computer hacker Kady and her ex-boyfriend looking for a leader and a romantic reunion, Ezra, play the star-crossing ex-lovers hoping that their story can end less tragically than Romeo and Juliet’s. The tale is also “Sci-fi”, as everything takes place in a far stretch of the universe, first on an illegal mining outpost on an otherwise insignificant planet, and then later on spaceships crossing the void in order to reach a space station. The vastness of space and the loneliness therein are major themes, so too is the breakdown of civilization and order when outside of the view of the rest of humanity.

More interestingly, the subgenres of the novel defy expectation as they morph from one into another. Each holds its own quite convincingly taking the reader on a desperate ride. The first subgenre is militaristic as notions of business, government and military all roil uncleanly together. Then, an unreliable and independent AI abducts the plot. Finally, medical engineering of the nefarious, speculative sort surfaces turning the novel into a full-blown thriller.

The quick pace has the accelerator to the floor the entire time.

I absolutely recommend this is series opener and look forward to the sequels.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Steel Victory by J. L. Gribble

Steel VictorySteel Victory by J.L. Gribble
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An uneven smorgasbord of fantasy and urban fantasy tropes jumble together in a post-nuclear apocalypse setting. A millennia after the nuclear war, society has reformed with humans, elves, vampires, mages, and were-creatures of all sorts. The political entities are the New World Greek city-state of Limani and the British and Roman Empires somehow revived after the wars. This unlikely mix stretches the suspension of disbelief to the breaking point in its refusal to world-build with any sort of coherence.

POVs alternate between a thousand-y.o. vampire, Victory, as she juggles the politics of Limani dealing with both internal xenophobic pro-humanists and external Roman aggression and that of her adopted, mage-warrior teenaged daughter offering the angst-ridden, young adult angle.

Eyebrow raising developments lie around every plot twist. The implication of a bonded pair of mage-warriors. The implication of said pair being separated. An unexplained curse that stops one from doing magic. The threat of a 1000-y.o. nuclear missile without a delivery system.

The convoluted cultural and historical structure assumed in the tale would strengthen with careful pruning. This would allow the two themes of conservative xenophobia and imperial expansionism to take root. Each has merits worth exploring.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Graphic Novel Review: Trees, Vol. 2: Two Forests by Warren Ellis

Trees, Vol. 2: Two Forests (Trees, #2)Trees, Vol. 2: Two Forests by Warren Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The highly anticipated the sequel to Trees, Vol. 1, again drawn by Jason Howard, arrives with a narrower focus than the premiere volume which showed five different socio-cultural reactions across the world to the phenomenon of massive alien “trees” slamming down onto Earth and then lying dormant for 10 years.

This volume restricts its world view to Manhattan and Britain. The urban landscape of Manhattan remains flooded and decimated from the introduction of its tree. A man raised in its wake with a bone to pick with the police force’s handling of the original event has just been named Mayor-Elect. He leans into his ties to the lower Manhattan Underworld to achieve revenge . . .

Meanwhile, Dr. Joanne Creary barely survived the awakening of the Blindhail Tree on Svalbard. She witnessed the interaction between the alien black “Blindhail Poppies” and the tree and is reassigned to the only tree in Britain. It sits in the desolate Orkneys and her job is to be vigilant, and report what she sees.

Despite the vast differences between the two focal locations, the parallels arise quickly between the disparate scenes aided by Howard’s able art where the scar from a bullet wound may mirror a neolithic stone circle . . .

The development is fascinating, even as the endgame remains a mystery.

 
 
 
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