Audiobook Series Review: Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos (Frontlines Series)

26 01 2015

The Frontlines Series by Marko Kloos

Terms of Enlistment

Length: 9Hrs 40Min

Lines of Departure

Length: 9Hrs 7Min

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Grade: B

I am a sucker for End of Year lists. I always find new and interesting books by pursuing the Best of… lists put out by Industry people and bloggers. While checking out the Goodreads and Audible lists, I saw a title I was aware of, but was surprised to see on such lists. At first glance, Marko Kloos Frontlines series, with books Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure seemed like pretty much by the numbers Military Science Fiction in the vein of John Scalzi and Jack Campbell, so I was surprised to see getting such high praise. Yet, then I realize, Old Man’s War and the Black Jack Geary military SF series are some of my favorites, so why not give it a go. The Frontline series is basically just what I expected, solid military science fiction with a likable main character. The writing is solid, with much less of the pulpy cheese factor of series like BV Larson’s Star Force yet with just as much fun. While at times I got a little lost in the extended action scenes, Kloos does a good job, especially on Lines of Departure, setting up intriguing scenarios reminiscent of classic Military science fiction, yet spins it just enough to give it it’s own flavor. One of the highlights of the book is the unique nature of its alien enemy, but the true heart of the novel explores the murkiness of domestic life, with some well drawn internal sociopolitical conflicts giving the tale a multilayered approach. Fans of classic Military science fiction will find this series a step up from much of the current offerings available in terms quality and enjoyment.

Often times the term workhorse is applied to a mediocre position player who always seems to find himself in the game. Well, Luke Daniels is a workhorse in the Audiobook Industry, with one glaring exception, his performances are never mediocre. Daniels seems to be able to handle any genre at the drop of the hat, giving the performance of an expert. In Kloos’ series, Daniel shows off his ability to keep the action at a brisk pace while bringing the characters to life in intriguing ways. There is a reason why we see Luke Daniels as the narrator of so many audiobooks, his performances always manages to bring the most out of the books he is reading.

Bob’s Audiobook Report: January Week 2

13 01 2014

Week two of 2014 saw me completing 4 Audiobooks, two from the same series, and two of series that have been sitting on my TBL Pile for a while. Since I have a lot of stuff coming up in January, a move at the end of the month, surgery this week, as well as plenty of other stressors, I have been looking for lighter, more straightforward stories that are easy to focus on. This is why I have been choosing mostly action based series with well drawn characters, because during times like this, I have trouble focusing on highly conceptual plots and esoteric storylines. I like monsters and explosions and aliens and my choices all pretty much hit the mark.

Conspiracies by F. Paul Wilson (Repairman Jack, Book 3)

Read by Christopher Price

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 28 Min

Genre: Suspense Thriller

Grade: B+

All The Rage by F. Paul Wilson (Repairman Jack, Book 4)

Read by Christopher Price

Brilliance Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 17 Min

Genre: Suspense Thriller

Grade: B+

I completed two of F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack novels, COMSPIRACIES and ALL THE RAGE. In the beginning of long running series, especially those with a supernatural edge, I always enjoy watching the development of the series mythology. I feel both of these book are important to building the Repairman Jack Mythos, while still pretty much self contained stories. Both were a lot of fun, each giving more incite into Jack, while continuing the frustrating interpersonal conflict between Jack’s desire to be a part of his girlfriend Gia and her daughter’s life, while knowing that he also lives on the edge of society and must feed his need for adventure and violence. I am still less than thrilled with Christopher Price’s narration, especially in comparison to the other narrators in the series. I think his voice is too deep for the character, and while his vocal range is admirable, I don’t thing he ever nails the characters. They always feel just a tad off of what they should be, like listening to a celebrity impersonator, just after listening to the real thing.

Midnight City by J. Barton Mitchell

Read by Kirby Heyborne

Blackstone Audio

Length: 15 Hrs 36 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic/Alien Invasion

Grade: B+

Midnight City has been languishing on my mountainous TBL pile for a long time, and with the recent release of the second book in the series, I thought I had to give it a go. Midnight City has a War of the Worlds meets Chtorr feel. A classic Alien Invasion vibe with an esoteric spin and a touch of magic. While marketed as a Young Adult novel, it definitely has a more mature vibe that should fit a large range of readers. It did take me a while to get into the book. Mitchell doesn’t ease you into his world, but throws you right into the deep end, and it takes some time to adjust. But when the book gets moving, it gets bad ass moving, with now stop action in a fascinating apocalyptic setting. Kirby Heyborne’s excellent performance shouldn’t be a surprise to any audiobook fan. His reading is crisp and professional, with just the right amount of edge.  

Semper Mars (Book 1 of The Heritage Trilogy) by Ian Douglas

Read by Ray Chase

Audible Frontiers

Length: 13 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Grade: B+

Military Science Fiction is one of my go to genres when I find myself in a reading slump and just want something fun, fast and furious. MilSF has a way of making fascinating concepts accessible and throwing in lots of pyrotechnics for effect. Yet, not all MilSF hits the spot. My first attempt at a Ian Douglas novel failed miserably. Didn’t like it at all. Yet, the concepts around The Heritage Trilogy seemed fascinating, and I had been looking for more stuff performed by narrator Ray Chase. Semper Mars is jingoistic, HOORAH! near future MilSF at it’s best. Full of lots of Marine history, potential alien tech, World War between the ol’ US of A, and those pesky univeralist United Nations. and clever battles, Semper Mars was just the right listen for my mood. Ray Chase continues to impress. While I think he’s a better 1st person narrator than a 3rd person, his voice is pleasant, and he brings the characters alive. He never hampers the relentless pace of the narrative, and at times can be just as clever with his delivery as a marine with a beer bomb.

Coming Soon: Well, this week I have surgery, so I’m not sure how it will affect my listening. I plan on continuing listening to Repairman Jack, and The heritage Trilogy (currently listening to book 2). I also plan on listening to a book called Noise by Darin Bradley read by Chris Patton. Plan on a bit more print reading this week during my time off.

Audiobook Review: Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

18 06 2013

Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

Read by Marguerite Gavin

Tantor Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 40 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Valor’s Choice is a solid, by the numbers military science fiction tale that is elevated by its unique alien species and likable protagonist. If you are looking for a cutting edge, unique take on this subgenre, you may be disappointed, but if you want a book that reminds you why big battles pitting space marines against lizard alien hordes is so much fun, Valor’s Choice will be perfect for you.

Grade: B+

Sometimes I don’t think I am qualified to read Military Science Fiction. First off, I have never seen Zulu. It seems, at some point, in every military science fiction book, or any book involving a small group being sieged upon by a large indigenous population, someone in the book mentions the movie Zulu, or its historical basis. I often wonder if not seeing Zulu allows me to enjoy these great moments of siege warfare in military science fiction better or if it’s a detriment. I often feel that the fact that I never served in the military, never have fired a gun, that the closest I have ever come to military strategy was the rambunctious games of RISK I used to play after school with friends are less of a detriment to the expertise I need to properly evaluate a good military science fiction novel than the fact that I have never seen Zulu. There are many people out there who have brilliant minds for history. Who can pull seemingly random historical facts out of the air to illuminate an issue, or some aspect of a military science fiction or alternate history novel, and while I have always loved history, I always feel inadequate around these people.  These people flood the message boards and reviews and interactions with authors with these amazingly precise bits of military and historical analysis that plays directly into issues that the author explores or to counter deficiency in an authors reasoning, and I want to mumble something like, “Ummmm… yeah…. but what about Zulu?” Then I remember, I have never seen Zulu. Yet, I have decided finally that it’s fine. I don’t have to be some super intelligent, historical genius to enjoy tales of bands of brothers facing incredible odds. I can find hope in tales of these friends, heading out once more into the breach. Oh, have I mentioned I’ve never read Henry V?

In Valor’s Choice, humanity is now space faring, and is a crucial part of a confederation of species battling against a mysterious menace known simply as The Others. Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is a veteran of many battles, and takes great pride in her ability to take new officers and whip them into fighting men. Yet, things become more complicated when she learns her newest Lieutenant just happens to be the same di’Taykan, a species know for their uncontrollable sexual pheromones, that she slept with the night before. Now, a General has informed her that her battle hardened and exhausted company will be pulling ceremonial duty as representatives to a new warrior species the Confederation is courting. Yet, when things go wrong, Kerr finds herself and her small group of soldier behind enemy lines, with thousands of native warriors doing their best to kill them. Valor’s Choice is a solid, by the numbers military science fiction tale that is elevated by its unique alien species and likable protagonist. If you are looking for a cutting edge, unique take on this subgenre, you may be disappointed, but if you want a book that reminds you why big battles pitting space marines against lizard alien hordes is so much fun, Valor’s Choice will be perfect for you. I picked up Valor’s Choice for two main reasons. First, in all the recent discussions about gender in SFF, I realized that I haven’t read much hard science fiction by female authors, and when I requested suggestions for hard or military science fiction, this one caught my eye. The other reason comes from my frustration with my current batch of Military SF series. It seems there is a real plague of competence in military SF, and I wanted to find something that reminds me that in war people die and battles don’t always go according to plan. Valor’s Choice perfectly fit my mood at the time. It was full of cool aliens, classic themes and battles where you actually felt the heroes were in jeopardy. Instead of being annoyed at the classic tropes Huff used, I embraced them. I love seeing the Staff Sergeant as the true driving force of the Company. I love the soldiers who may not be willing to go a night without finding a bar to fight in, but are willing to put their lives on the line for their fellow soldiers. And I really enjoyed the cocky officers and Generals who get out thought and put in their place by those who actually have experience. I think that Valor’s Choice reminded me that Military Science Fiction, although bleak and dark at times, can also be a heck of a lot of explody fun. It’s been a while, probably since listening to Ringo and Weber’s March Up Country that I have just sat back and enjoyed the bumpy ride of an action filled tale like this. In fact, I enjoyed this novel, and it’s complicated but comfortable protagonist so much, I immediately downloaded the next book in the series from my library.

Marguerite Gavin did an excellent job bringing this book to life. I like that she had a nice, clear voice, with enough grit and hardness to depict the darkness of the tale, but enough exuberance to capture the humor as well . She has a mature voice that was perfectly suited to voice a wide range of characters no matter what gender or species. I especially enjoyed her alien vices. Her voice for the spider like Mictoc was both creepy, and oddly regal, and she got more than one laugh out of me while voicing the bird like Rakva. She paced the novel well, building the tension as the situation became more and more dire. I was surprised by the number of editing mistakes in the production. I listened to the version available on Overdrive, and it had multiple repeated lines, each an obvious different take on the same line. At first, I though maybe it was a stylistic touch by the author, but later in the book I realize that if it was, it was a pretty stupid style. Yet, these mistakes were more of a novelty problem, and only briefly ripped me away from the world I was immersed in. Valor’s Choice is a fun military science fiction audiobook, affectively voiced by a strong narrator.

Audiobook Review: Guardian by Jack Campbell

12 06 2013

Guardian (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, Bk 3) by Jack Campbell

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers

Length: 13 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Guardian continues the Lost Fleet series, giving us some cool new subplots in a relatively well contained story. Despite an overall lack of dramatic tension during the battle scenes, Campbell creates enough drama in other areas to provide us with another fun spacefaring adventure.

Grade: B+

Sometimes I wish Black Jack Geary would just die. There I said it. Yet, that is an extreme reaction. In reality, I wish he would get his butt kicked, make some stupid costly mistake, or in some way act inappropriately. I like Jack Geary. He’s a good guy. A really good guy. A REALLY REALLY good guy. He is competent and morally upstanding. He has basically won a war, discovered three new alien species, rescued countless numbers of prisoners and won’t even have sex with his wife because it may end up looking bad to the others in his fleet. He faces seemingly endless odds and comes away with all but a few smallest casualties which of course, he suffers and moans about leading his to a crisis of faith because he only saved 99 of his 100 ships against a desperate suicidal enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy him. Poor Black Jack. The Lost Fleet series is awesome. It really is. There’s a whole lot of fun, some cool physics, space exploration, aliens, government conspiracies and even some creepy ghostly stuff, but the core of the series is the battles and how Black Jack has trained his fleet to win. It no longer has become a series about whether Black Jack will pull their asses out of a fire, but just how he’s going to do it. I long for the days where the good guys may not come up with that last minute plan that saves the day. I’d like to see our heroes retreating with their proverbial tales tucked between their afterburners.  Hell, I will even take a pyrrhic victory or two. Or at least a small nose bleed. This problem of over competence in Military Science fictions bugging me. I need a series where out heroes lose nearly every battle. Where they are chipped away at, demoralized and constantly on the run. This was one of the things I loved about Battlestar Gallactica. You knew they would probably survive, you just weren’t sure how many people would die along the way. So, I now need recommendations for Military Science Fiction where out heroes get their asses kicked on a regular basis. There must be a series that meets this criteria!

Guardian is the third book in Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier series, the spin-off to the popular Lost Fleet series. Captain Black Jack Geary has successfully completed his mission to explore the space occupied by The Enigma, a strange alien species that has been manipulating The Alliance and The Syndicate Worlds during their century long war. Now, Black Jack and his fleet must return home through Syndicate Space with his new alien allies, and a priceless prize ship taken from another aggressive alien species. Yet, a strange quirk in the Hypernet Gate has the fleet traveling through one ambush after another in the hopes to get home. Guardian is another fun space bound adventure by Jack Campbell. Here he  changes it up from more traditional space battles to the fleet dealing with surprise and desperate almost guerrilla style attacks by a subtle enemy who doesn’t want him to succeed but needs to maintain deniability. This creates some interesting moments, but again, very little dramatic tension. You never really feel that the Fleet is in jeopardy, just wonder how they will overcome the latest challenge. While this is frustrating, it really doesn’t diminish the overall enjoyment of the series all that much. To balance this out, Campbell creates tension in other places, like the strange ship with it’s Ghostly defenses, an internal conspiracy against Geary within his own Alliance, a new cocky and comical new enemy and a fascinating look at Earth, which has garnished an almost religious place in the minds of the Alliance. I actually like that there are religious aspects to this series. Too often in far future SF religion is either used as a divisive force, or society has grown past such tomfoolery, Here, Jack Campbell uses a form of ancestor worship as a logical religious system that really is a part of the individuals lives but rarely affects the politics of the times. It’s an interesting look, and one skeptical people like me are comfortable with. I think that the science fiction explorations of this series are beginning to outshine the military aspects, and that is not that big of a deal, unless you are looking for balls to the wall, "once more into the breach" style hardcore Military SF. I do think that Campbell has some interesting subplots, and if played right, things could totally blow up in Black Jack’s face, forcing him to stop being such a nice guy and start unapologetically ruffling feathers and kicking ass. Am I wrong to want things to go bad for him so that I can have a little more vicarious fun? I hope not. Guardian continues the Lost Fleet series, giving us some cool new subplots in a relatively well contained story. The future of this series is a bit up in the air, but I for one am hoping for some dark times ahead for Black Jack and his crew. Yeah, I’m a dick.

What can I say about Christian Rummel that I haven’t already said in my reviews of like the 20 or 100 of his other books I have listened to? Well, I’m sure he’s a snazzy dresser and probably has some kick ass dance moves that make all the ladies swoon, but as a narrator, he pretty much has us all swooning. I enjoy listening to Christian Rummel narrations. You simply know what you will get. Strong characters, razor sharp pacing, and the ability to get a laugh when appropriate, as well as ripping a tear yelling and screaming out of my manliest of eyes. In Guardian, again Campbell provided him with a plethora of characters to play with. It’s funny, there really is not much detailed background on these characters. Who really knows how someone from some future planet is supposed to sound, yet Rummel brings them all to life in a way that just feels right. The Lost Fleet series is a whole lot of fun, and a great series for audio. Fans of military SF who haven’t yet taken the leap, why the hell not?

Audiobook Series Review: Star Force by B. V. Larson

28 01 2013

Back when I first started to listen to audiobooks, one of my favorite things to do was to discover a series, particularly a long running or completed series, and listen to them from start to finish. Yet, when I began blogging more, I sort of fell away from this practice. Part of the reason was that I had listened to so many series, that I was at the point where much of my listening was grabbing the newest edition of a series I already loved. I also found, becoming more active on social networks and following publishers and bloggers more directly, I would become excited about the new releases. Another issue I have is that I find that writing reviews for the 13th edition and keeping it fresh and interesting is a challenge. Yet, I miss the series listen. Last year, audible released the complete Chronicles of Amber Series and I decided that instead of listening to each one and reviewing it, I would listen to both 5 book Cycles and review them as complete works. I quite enjoyed the act of listening to five books within the series back to back, then writing about them as a complete work. Going through my To Be Read Pile I have quite a few series that I would like to finish up, and scanning through Audible’s backlists I have discovered series I would like to take on. So, one of my blogger resolutions this year was to complete a few series I am only about halfway through, and take on some new series, giving them the “Series Review” treatment. While this may mean a few less reviews on the blog and maybe some longer gaps between posts, I know I have plenty of content on this blog to keep people happy.

The Star Force Series

The Star Force series is a military science fiction series that centers on one man, Kyle Riggs, a former Computer Science Professor who gets swept up in an intergalactic struggle between biotic and robotic entities. As a founding member of earth’s Star Force, a military political entity, Kyle Riggs uses his ability to communicate in the language of computers and his knack for problem solving to utilize alien technology to battle a race of super robots bent on the extinction of all organic creatures. Along the way he interacts with various new alien species, some as enemies and some as allies, while attempting to keep Earth safe.

There are a lot of things I loved about the Star Force serious, and a lot of things I hated. One of my major issues with Military Science Fiction, is I tend to like the build up more then the payoff. I love the logistical elements of this series, as Kyle Riggs comes up with newer forms of weaponry. It’s fascinating how he uses the technology in interesting new ways. I also like the diplomatic elements, despite some problematic issues. Along the way, Riggs must deal with his counterpart in Star Force, a piratical egomaniacal Fleet Commander named Crowe, who only keeps Riggs around because he needs him. This constant struggle between two bigger than life characters is interesting, but frustratingly repetitive. The real fascinating ideas comes from Riggs dealing with the alien societies, all of whom have their own biological imperatives. From the warrior worm race who speak in pictographs, to the herd like centaurs, who value honor above all things, Riggs must manipulate each species to get them to do what he wants. He also must deal with Robotic entities, like the enemy Macros, the Nanos, who goal is to defeat the Macros whatever the cost, and Marvin, a robotic ally that often does more harm than good, when he isn’t saving all their lives.

Yet, this series is ripe with frustrations for the reader. The entire series is told from the perception of one character, Kyle Riggs. And while he’s a well conceived character, those around him tend to become annoyances or caricatures, there only to serve his needs. Riggs is the type of leader who simply cannot get the best out of those around him, except by throwing himself into the fire. It’s a frustrating personality trait that sole purpose is to give the reader a front row perspective on everything. There is absolutely no delegation on any level, and it makes the narrative suffer. I think Larson would have been better off splitting the Riggs characters into other perspectives, creating close allies, perhaps one who deals with science and technology and another a ground level military leader why Riggs serves as a command figure. The way this series is set up just lacks any feel of plausibility.

Another issues for me is his female characters. There are two main female characters, one who is boning Kyle Riggs, and one who wants to bone Kyle Riggs. Both of these characters started out as competent women, who have been relegated to whiny bitches either jealous of Kyle’s relationship with the other, or resentful of the fact they aren’t getting a piece of his lovin’. While I actually like both of these characters, I tend to enjoy the series more when they are out of the picture. Lastly, the payoff action scenes. Larson writes action well. The strategies of the battles are well thought out. Yet, I find myself losing interest quicker during the action scenes. Part of it is due to the fact that, once again, it’s Kyle Riggs in the mix of things. When not negotiating with aliens, coming up with new scientific developments and devising military strategy, he’s fighting hand to hand against crustaceans, worms and robotic warriors. Also, I must admit, that often my least favorite part of military scifi is the battles. It’s just how I roll I guess.

Yet, it’s not all bad people. Let’s face it, there is a reason I listened to all six audiobooks, nearly 70 hours of audio, within a month’s time. The Star Force series is the ultimate example of popcorn fiction. It’s like a tasty snack that once you eat one, you just need to finish the bag, even if they start to burn your mouth with their excess flavor. Each novel has a set up that just pulls you in. These books are full of crazy aliens, killer robots, mechanical battles stations, teleportation rings, mechanical marine suits, space skateboards, hover tanks and backstabbery, betrayal and paranoia galore. It’s like a big salad full of cheesy science fiction tropes and covered in bacon. I had a heck of a fun time listening to these books. Even with all the problems, and all my frustrations, I can’t wait until the next book of this series comes out.


Mark Boyett’s narration is akin to a SyFy television movie. While easy to follow, it’s a bit over the top with clichéd characters and rock ’em sock ’em pacing. Basically, it suits the style of the tale. I wouldn’t want Boyett narrating a touching multigenerational family saga, but a battle between mechanized troops and hover tanks. Well, let em rip. There were some small production issues. Bad pickups that didn’t quite fit in, some volume drops at times, and other little snafus, but for the most part it worked. I found myself enjoying the dialogue intensive moments, and Boyett’s delivery on the robotic and alien characters, but I found the pacing pf the action to be somewhat mind numbing at times. His non-American accents were cartoonish, but, the whole series had a cartoonish feel so that’s not really a complaint. All in all, it was the right narrator for the project, not my favorite but one who can do the job.



Swarm by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 1)

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Swarm is simple, escapist military science fiction fun. Larson writes with a “what the hell, let’s go for it” style that’s reminiscent of a train hopping a track and running into a truck full of fireworks in front of a car full of clowns. Don’t expect lots of depth, but do expect plenty of huge robotic sandworms killing off tons of enhanced super soldiers.

I have previously reviewed this title. Click here for my review.

Grade: B


Extinction by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 2)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 52 Min

Quick Thoughts: Extinction moves the focus away from Earth, as Kyle and his marines become the pawns of the Macros, fighting against other biotics in order to assure Earth survival. It is full of some of the most brutal action of the series. It’s keeps the intimate feel the first novel had, while expanding the scope of universe. Definitely moves the series in interesting directions.

Grade: B


Rebellion by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 3)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 27 Min

Quick Thoughts: Rebellion may have been my favorite book in the series. Riggs now knows he is fighting a losing battle as allies of the Macros, and that fighting other biotic species only plays into the hands of the true enemies. Riggs must figure out how to take the fight to the Macros, bring the biotic species together and keep earth safe. While still full of actions, questions of strategy and morality take center stage in this transitional novel.

Grade B+


Conquest by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 4)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 30 Min

Quick Thoughts: After moving the series in the right direction, Conquest takes a step back and loses a lot of the key elements that I was loving in the earlier books. Now back on Earth, Riggs must figure out a way to keep his home world safe from the Robots retribution. While full of action and hover tanks, Conquest loses the interaction with other species, and the bigger questions of the series. Easily my least favorite Star Force novel.

Grade: C+


Battle Station by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 5)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 43 Min

Quick Thoughts: After the lull in forward progression in Conquest, the series takes off again in Battle Station. Now, Riggs comes to the aid of his new alien allies, fighting a ground war on new planets, and attempting to throw the Macros out of the Eden system. Yet, not everyone is happy with him expending Star Force resources in the aid on aliens. Riggs must deal with internal pressure as he takes the fight to the enemy. Battle Station gets the series back on the right track in a big way.

Grade: B+

Empire by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 6)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 13 Hrs 15 Min

Quick Thoughts: After his victories battling the Macros in distant planets, Kyle Riggs becomes increasingly concerned about what is going on back on Earth. When he didn’t expect is Earth to be a new Empire under the control of an egomaniacal leader. Stuck between two huge Fleets, one full of Robots and the other his fellow humans, Riggs must use the resources and allies he has to keep what he has won safe, without wasting biotic lives needed in the struggles against the macros. Empire keeps the series moving in the right direction and creates an excitement for what is yet to come.

Grade: B+

What Other’s Have Said:

Check out DelicioSciPhi’s Review of the series. who created the excellent cover image!



Audiobook Review: Day By Day Armageddon 3: Shattered Hourglass by J. L. Bourne

3 01 2013

Shattered Hourglass (Day By Day Armageddon, Bk. 3) by J. L. Bourne

Read by Jay Snyder

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs 27 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thought: Shattered Hourglass was a decent military Zombie novel, with great ideas that just never seemed to pay off. On its own, it had some fun moments, but as a piece of the overall story, it was a disappointment. Yet, I have faith in Bourne, and while I may not like how he went about it, this novel does tie up most of the loose ends of the other books, perhaps leading once again to the more intimate style he excels at for the next novel.

Grade: C

Back before Zombie Audiobooks were all the rage, there was Day By Day Armageddon. Of course, this was only two years ago, and sure, there were Zombie Audiobooks before that, but I think JL Bourne’s epistolary Zombie novel was one of the first that really thrust the genre into the mainstream, capturing the imaginations of bludgeoning horror fans and creating a sense of excitement for our shambling undead brothers. Day By Day Armageddon was the novel that introduced me to Permuted Press, probably the premiere publisher focusing on post apocalyptic horror and zombie titles. Permuted did a great job discovering Independent Zombie authors and giving them a platform to broaden their base. Then, with their deal with Audible, began bringing the Zombie genre to the audiobook format. J L Bourne’s series, with its military feel and diary style has often been imitated, yet few have matched it. It’s an intimate glimpse at the apocalypse through the eyes of a military deserter who faces incredible odds, nuclear irradiated zombies, the unpredictability of the survivors and a secret conspiracy to find safety and comradeship in the changed world. Yet, I know I, as well as other fans looked towards book 3 with a hesitant tension. The way that Bourne ended Beyond Exile, the second book in the series, expanded the world in such a way that you knew there had to be a move away from the style that the fans of the author embraced so well. It was a logical move for the author, whose military knowledge and detailed mythology required a broader world. It was the right thing for Bourne to do with the series, but it was also a bug risk. A risk that may not have paid off as much as the author hoped.

I really hate the whole “I wanted to like this novel, but was disappointed” type of review, but this was where I found myself after listening to Shattered Hourglass. There were many great moments, some crazy badass scenarios, and a fascinated expanded world that made Shattered Hourglass a pretty solid military scifi Zombie thriller. Bourne blends some unique science fiction elements with classic zombie themes, that as a fan of both genres I really enjoyed, Yet, as a follow up to Beyond Exile and the Day By Day Armageddon world, too much was lost. I could have dealt with the change from a singular first person perspective, to a multi character third person tale, if Bourne used it to further build on the chemistry and develop the relationships of the characters we grew to love in the first two novels but instead, the characters are broken up, spread across the globe, and relatively isolated from each other. Also, Bourne has a lot of great ideas, but with the move from first to third person the writing suffered. With the first person story, the big jumps in time could be explained, but in Shattered Hourglass, the flow of time was confusing, often times leading me to thing I missed something. Shattered Hourglass felt more like a series of outline points that failed to transition properly. Not that the book was bad. We met some great new characters, and Bourne’s action is full of an authenticity that many other military themed novels lack. Yet, what really frustrated me was the ending. It seemed to me that Bourne was going places with each setting, setting up a big final moment for every character, and then just sort of skipped over it. It was sort of like, “We got to China, [stuff happened], we completed out mission.” Yet, what I was really waiting for was the stuff. I wanted more stuff. I had actually thought that the whole novel was a set up for the next in the series where we would get all the stuff, but, wham, bam, it was over. Shattered Hourglass was a decent military Zombie novel, with great ideas that just never seemed to pay off. On its own, it had some fun moments, but as a piece of the overall story, it was a disappointment. Yet, I have faith in Bourne, and while I may not like how he went about it, this novel does tie up most of the loose ends of the other books, perhaps leading once again to the more intimate style he excels at for the next novel.

Jay Snyder is one of the most technically proficient narrators out there. He is a master of pacing, giving the novels he reads the feel of a cinematic blockbuster. Give his a well described character, with vocal quirks and he will deliver. Fill your story with a bunch of underdeveloped, cookie cutter characters, and you will have trouble distinguishing one person from the next in Snyder’s reading. For Shattered Hourglass, we had both situations. There are some awesome, well developed and quirky characters interspersed between to pretty standard stereotypical white male military typos. This fact leads to an unbalanced feel, often contributing to the lack of discernable transitions in the story. Audiobook fans the rely on vocal and pacing changes when the novel transitions from perspective to perspective may have trouble at times with Shattered Hourglass, like I did. The overall performance of Snyder was excellent, but his style only accentuated some of the problems with the writing. I think this audiobook may have benefited with more of a quirky independent style than a Cinematic Blockbuster style of reading. Shattered Hourglass is a must listen for fans of the Day By Day Armageddon, just beware that it may not be the follow up you were hoping for.

Audiobook Review: Swarm by B. V. Larson

28 12 2012

Swarm (Star Force, Book 1) by B. V. Larson

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Swarm is simple, escapist military science fiction fun. Larson writes with a "what the hell, let’s go for it" style that’s reminiscent of a train hopping a track and running into a truck full of fireworks in front of a car full of clowns. Don’t expect lots of depth, but do expect plenty of huge robotic sandworms killing off tons of enhanced super soldiers.

Grade: B

So, some things you should know about me. I have never been abducted by aliens. I have never been taken aboard any sort of ship, whether terrestrial or extraterrestrial and had my anus probed to learn important things about our species. I ha’ve seen the images that come from colonoscopies, and I’m not sure exactly how that helps, and have to wonder why the aliens don’t just hack into a doctor’s system and download intra-anal images, and not worry about getting their hands dirty. I have seen plenty of UFO’s, but, let’s face it, there are plenty of flying objects out there that I just can’t identify either because of ignorance, or just my poor vision. Now, I believe that there very well may be aliens out there, but I can’t help but wonder why they would bother to even come to Earth. Now, the biggest reason used among science fiction novels has been the mysterious collection of "resources." Now, I am not fancy smancy asteroid physics sciencey guy, but that sort of seems to me like flying to Turkey for a pack of Camels in a world full of 7-11’s. What resources does Earth have, that the thousands of planetary flotsam and jetsam along the way don’t? And if earth is full of these awesome natural resources, can they only be detected through the anuses of drunk rural bumpkins? Why not just use the kinetic force of a really big rock, smash earth to pieces then collect what’s there? Yet, despite all these issues, I love alien invasion stories, whether they are lizard men, little gray dudes, or robot collectives. This is mostly due to the one reason I think would give a valid explanation for inter planetary contact, curiosity, even if it did kill the psychic tree cat.

Unbeknownst to humanity, there is a vast war going on between large Macro Machines, and an alien species that uses a swarm of nanomachines to fight them. These nanomachines called Micros are in search of flesh and blood operators to help fight the machines, whether they want to or not. Now, the Macros are heading towards Earth, and the Swarm has arrived kidnapping people off the face of the planet, and putting them through a series of test, which if failed, those tested are discarded to lethal affects. Kyle Riggs has passed their test, and now must battle the coming Enemy while trying to keep their mysterious new allies from destroying humanity.  Swarm is a fun filled action pack military science fiction thriller full of high stake battles, over the top characters and plenty of humor. Now, I’ll be honest, looking back at Swarm, there are just tons of head shakily inconsistent moments in the story, but the story is so damned fun, you don’t even think about them while in the midst of all the action. Kyle Riggs is a totally cool character, if you discount his flawed persona, ability to shrug off things like the murder of his children and his total superhero, Mary Sue-ishness. Larson writes with a "what the hell, let’s go for it" style that’s reminiscent of a train hopping a track and running into a truck full of fireworks in front of a car full of clowns. It’s just too over the top to be realistic, but crazy enough that I just didn’t really care if it made sense. Larson does a great job of making things explode, developing bad ass ways for robots to kill us and for us to kill robots, and filling his characters with a blend of testosterone, bravado and paranoia. Swarm reminded me of a less nuanced version of John Ringo’s Posleen War series, which is like saying a bunker buster bomb is a less nuanced version of a tactical nuke. Moving forward, I hope to see more character development, a deeper look into the enemies and allies Earth makes, a bit more tactical reason to the battle scenes beyond a "kill them all" attitude and female characters that serve as more than just the sexy conscious of the men.  Yet, I have no doubt I will be moving forward with this series.  Swarm is simple, escapist military science fiction fun. Don’t expect lots of depth, but do expect plenty of huge robotic sandworms killing off tons of enhanced super soldiers.

The positive thing about Mark Boyett’s performance is his no hold barred approach to reading Swarm. The negative thing about Mark Boyett’s performance is his no holds barred approach to reading Swarm. Boyett takes on these characters with an abandon which adds a sense of excitement to the production, but also forces a bad caricature feel onto many of the characters. In many ways, Boyett gave the novel a graphic novel feel, with his over the top accents and rapid fire pacing. I think his reading totally fit the book. There is no need to tone it down as Riggs and his boys are dropping nukes and fighting killer robots in the Amazon Basin. Yet, sometimes, particularly during the moments that were supposed to be Rigg’s introspective and emotional moments, Boyett’s style muted the emotional impact. Yet, those moments are pretty sparse, so we get quickly back to the fighting which Boyett delivers wonderfully. Swarm is a great audiobook for those moments when you just want to lean back, and listen to something explody and violent. Or, what I like to call, Thursday.

Audiobook Review: Embedded by Dan Abnett

8 11 2012

Embedded by Dan Abnett

Read by Eric G. Dove

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Embedded is a cleverly plotted, often times darkly humorous military science fiction tale whose brilliant concept is only bolstered by the authors competent execution. Abnett begins with a strong world and well conceived characters, and finished with breakneck action scenes that will leave the reader breathless.

Grade: B+

One of the things I love most about science fiction is its ability to take recognizable situations and give it a "what if" feel. I especially like this within the boundaries of military science fiction. I have read a few straight forward military novels but rarely do I seek them out. Yet, take the same overall scenarios and add alien space lizards to the mix, and I’m there. Within Military Science fiction we can explore ground wars with crazy new weaponry and naval battles taking place in multi-dimensional space.  As war seems to be becoming not just military struggles but televised events, the embedded reporter has become a new iconic hero of the modern age. These reporters, who haven’t had the same level of training as military personnel, put themselves into harms way to bring us the stories of war in ways that we have never seen before. I think this is what attracted me to Dan Abnett’s Embedded. The basic plot revolves around a seasoned reporter who, while trying to discover the secrets behind a military operation on a colony planet, meets up with a group who has developed a new technology to embed someone into the mind of a soldier. The process allows the reporter to act as a sort of passenger, experiencing what the soldier sees, hears and feels during their mission. Of course, since this is science fiction, something goes terribly wrong.

I have to admit, I was quite surprised by Embedded. It’s undeniable that Abnett has come up with an excellent concept. Not being familiar with Abnett’s work previously I was still a bit skeptical. I have been a witness far too often to excellent science fiction concepts being massacred in execution. There is a tendency for science fiction novelist to spend so much time setting up their concept through endless exposition and techno babble that it just sucks the life out of the story. Happily, Embedded is an excellent example of science fiction done right. Abnett cleverly sets up his world and develops his characters, creating an engaging science fiction experience before we even get to the nuts and bolts of the plot. I really enjoyed how he extrapolated current fads and trends pushing them to a realistic end in his world. He ads these little tidbits, like corporate sponsorship of language censoring, that just seem like cute little bits of world building, then actually surprises you by making them important plot points later on in the novel. Abnett starts off measured and meticulous, yet, when the action does start, it never really lets up. The second half of this novel moves as a breakneck speed, putting our characters in an ever escalating state of mortal danger. If I had any complaint about the novel, it would be the ending. I think the ending accomplished what the author set out to do, but I felt there were certain plot points left floating in the air that I really wanted resolved. I know that this is, of course, set up for the sequel, but for me, I was left unsatisfied. Embedded is a cleverly plotted, often times darkly humorous military science fiction tale whose brilliant concept is only bolstered by the authors competent execution. Abnett begins with a strong world and well conceived characters, and finished with breakneck action scenes that will leave the reader breathless.

I was really impressed with the overall production quality of the Embedded Audiobook. Narrator Eric G. Dove gives a strong reading of the novel, capturing the voice of Lex Fault, the main perspective character, well, He has a strong, pleasant voice, and captures the tone and timber of the novel perfectly. He really excelled at reading the action in this novel, giving it a crisp pace, yet allowing the reader to follow along with the events of the tale. The production uses quite a few interesting tricks that pay off well, particularly with the censored swearing.  This was one of those few times where a novel needed to have special effect utilized, and the production teem pulled it off seamlessly. This was my first experience with Eric G. Dove’s narration, and hopefully, it won’t be my last.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

Audiobook Review: The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight by Jack Campbell

6 11 2012

The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight by Jack Campbell

Read by Marc Vietor

Audible Frontiers

Length: 12 Hrs 21 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Tarnished Knight is a promising start of a new series that expands the world Campbell has created in The Lost Fleet. While there are plenty of military engagements, overall there is less action, and more emphasis on character development and a complex political plot. Overall, Tarnished Knight is a winner, with the right mixture of action based military science fiction and political space opera.

Grade: B

I have been a big fan of Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series since first encountering it two years ago. I was very excited, after the sixth book of the series, Victorious, which tied up much of the plot of the series, when Campbell announced that he would be writing two spin off series based in the same universe. I have always enjoyed spin-off series, particularly in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy. So much of good SF/F comes down to world building, and these authors create these vast and complex worlds, then the novels only give you a glimpse of it. Often times, when reading a science fiction world set in an elaborate universe, I feel like I’m given a newspaper, but only read the local section. There are so many other stories out there that can be told, and while the main story is what hooks me in, I often wonder what is going on in the world when the main characters leave on their next mission, and people go back to their daily grind. So, when I found out that the first spin-off series was just more of Blackjack Geary doing his thing, just with a new mission, I was sort of disappointed. I liked the book, and there were interesting new things to look at, but I don’t think it really gave us a bigger look at the overall world Campbell had created.  This is why I was really looking forward to Tarnished Knight, the first of a Spin off Series set in the world of The Lost Fleet, yet giving us a glimpse into Syndicate Controlled Space.

When the Syndicate Government lost its century long war to the Alliance, thanks to the efforts of the legendary Blackjack Geary, many of the Syndicate controlled systems fell into chaos. In Midway, a system that borders the space controlled by the mysterious Enigma Race, two former Syndicate CEO’s form an uneasy alliance in order to Midwa as an Independent System. Yet, their instinctive distrust of each other and the populous creates tension as the two new leaders try to figure a way hold onto the power they have. Tarnished Knight is a complex mixture of military science fiction and political space opera that has heavy doses of action, political maneuvering and paranoid conspiracies, both real and imagined. Campbell has created an interesting new perspective that gives us a glimpse into a part of his world that we have only seen through a filter of an enemy and outsider. Here we see how the oppressive nature of the Syndicate government has affected even those who are trying to break away from it. Tarnished Knight reminded me a lot of some aspects of David Weber’s Honerverse, where the complex political systems create a sense of institutional blindness, and an inability to adapt to changing circumstances. We have two main players, former CEO’s Icena and Drakon, who are almost genetically unable to trust each other. It was quite interesting to see the misconceptions and poor assumptions of basic drives of humanity that have been bread into these characters. We are given an outsiders perspective, able to see pieces that they can’t, and full of knowledge from the Lost Fleet series, that make their decisions often seem frustrating. Yet, it also makes a certain bit of sense from their perspective. I find this sort of complex merging of political realities and social engineering fascinating within a science fiction setting. Some fans of The Lost Fleet series, who expect non stop action full of large scale naval battles, may find the concentration on the minutia of everyday static rule to be disappointing. Yet, I felt, with this setting. Campbell has more room to develop his characters, and create something more enduring. Tarnished Knight is a promising start of a new series that expands the world Campbell has created in The Lost Fleet. While there are plenty of military engagements, overall there is less action, and more emphasis on character development and a complex political plot. Overall, Tarnished Knight is a winner, with the right mixture of action based military science fiction and political space opera.

My overall experience of listening to Tarnished Knight as an audiobook came away mixed. There we some definite continuity issues between Marc Vietor’s pronunciation of some names versus the pronunciations used in The Lost Fleet series. I really think this is something the producers of the series should have paid better attention to. Marc Vietor is a solid narrator. He excels at certain productions that are suited to his unique style. He was excellent as the voice of Webmind in Robert Sawyers WWW series, and brilliant as Mack Megaton in the Audie nominated production of AL Martinez’s The Automatic Detective. Yet, here, with a multi-POV tale, with a lot of characters, his almost robotic tones left something to be desired. It wasn’t that his characterizations were bad. I think he shows a decent amount of range for his voice, but, I felt that another narrator may have brought more to the table than Vietor does here. If this was the first entry to a brand new series, the weaknesses of his performance may have been easier to overlook, but since this is a well established world, the deficiencies were all the more glaring. That being said, my problems with the narration were not major enough to want to switch to the print version of this series. I can live with Vietor continuing as narrator, but if they do switch to someone else for future editions, you won’t hear me complaining.

Audiobook Review: Bloodstar by Ian Douglas

10 09 2012

Bloodstar by Ian Douglas (Star Corpsman, Bk. 1)

Read by David Drummond

Harper Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 45 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Bloodstar has everything a good military science fiction novel should have, lots of action, some cool alien baddies, and well thought out tech, but sadly it stutters along the way with endless exposition, cheesy male fantasy tropes and a poorly executed twist. I liked the characters and overall story, but too many bumps along the road kept me from fully enjoying the trip.

Grade: C

So, I know not to trust Skynet, right. I get it. Some day, when the machines runs the world under the guide of the sentient computer mind that currently inhabits Amazon’s Recommendation program, I will kick myself for giving into its tantalizing suggestions of novels I may like to read. I know that it spends the majority of its time plotting world domination, with only a cursory glance at its book recommendations, and I know it’s using the funding it gets by trapping people into buying their books solely from its hive mind collection of entertainment devices but I still fall for its trap. The Amazon algorithm is a pretty simple standard, "You liked this, and other people who liked this purchased this…" switchaaroo that I could probably have programmed using BASIC in my 9th grade Computer Math class. 10 If Bob Likes ***** Then GOTO 20. 20 Joe Liked ***** and Purchased ****** 30 End. So, one of my favorite sub genres is military science fiction. I have read books by Jack Campbell, John Ringo, David Weber and the like. Back in the day, I used to rate and review Military Science Fiction on Amazon. So, for a long time Amazon has been saying, "Hey Bob, You Like Military Science Fiction. Ian Douglas writes Military Science Fiction, henceforth and so on, you would like Ian Douglas.” Really, despite the evils of Skynet, how can I argue with that logic? So, when I discovered Ian Douglas would be releasing a new book, which is the start of a new series, I thought, "Might as well start appeasing our eventual Overlord now by taking one of his suggestions."

Elliot Carlyle is a Navy Corpsman assigned to a Marine Unit called The Black Wizards. Carlyle dreams of traveling to a new planet where he can discover some new Alien tech and get rich. Yet, when he get’s his first active assignment to travel to Bloodworld where a breakoff religious colony is being threatened by an Alien race, getting rich is the last thing on his mind. He just wants to survive, put his past behind him and make sure his fellow soldiers come home in one piece. There is a lot to like in Bloodstar. Douglas fills his military science fiction tale with lots of details on new technology and Alien biology. Yet, despite these fascinating details, the story is held back by seemingly endless exposition, stilted dialogue, and an overall permeation of cheesiness. Bloodstar feels like the novelization of a shtickty SYFY sequel to the original Starship Troopers movie, which let’s face it, was a pretty cheesy version of a good book. The major problem was, it wasn’t cheesy fun, it was take-yourself-too-seriously but still cheesy. I didn’t hate Bloodstar. At points I enjoyed it. Then, some female soldier would show up to some dinner party in a not simply revealing but basically not existent outfit so the guys could lust after her, and I was like, “Come On!" I actually liked Elliot Carlyle as a character. There were moments where his story was really working, then suddenly it was like Douglas got this brilliant idea for a twist, and went with it despite the fact that it didn’t really match up with what he did in the past. I would call it a continuity error, but it was more like the author was saying, "Oh, what I really meant was that, and you just made a natural assumption that any human being would make.  So really, it‘s your fault if you can’t slam the round pegs of your assumptions into this square hole of a plot twist I just chiseled" It was frustrating because the twists could have been awesome, if executed properly but here it just left me with a case of the "but… butt…”’s." Bloodstar has everything a good military science fiction novel should have, lots of action, some cool alien baddies, and well thought out tech, but sadly it stutters along the way with endless exposition, cheesy male fantasy tropes and a poorly executed twist. I liked the characters and overall story, but too many bumps along the road kept me from fully enjoying the trip.

This is my first time listening to David Drummond as a narrator. For the most part, he did well. His pacing was fine, and his characters all came off well, I just didn’t really like his voice. Now, I can understand why he was cast for this novel. He actually almost sounded like the voice in the propaganda portions of the Starship Troopers movie. He had this sort of old school tone with exaggerated inflection that reminds me of how I assumed most books on tape sounded before I became an audiobook convert. Drummond sounds like a guy you would hire to voice your political ad, if you were running in the 70’s. It wasn’t bad, I just never really engaged with it. I think, with the right material, Drummond would be a lot of fun to listen to, but in Bloodstar, his voice actually highlighted what I didn’t like about the novel. I’m sure fans of Ian Douglas’s work would probably enjoy Bloodstar, but for me, it just didn’t work.

Note: Thanks to harper Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.