The Phoenix Conspiracy Review

The Phoenix Conspiracy by Richard Sanders is a science-fiction novel set in a future Universe where mankind has managed to create a sprawling Empire stretching across a huge swath of the galaxy. Opposing them are two rival alien Empires.

On the face of it the Human Empire seems to be largely peaceful. However, a rogue captain attacks an innocent alien civilian convoy and quickly plunges the galaxy to the brink of war.

The hero (I guess I have to call him that), is Lieutenant Commander Calvin, Captain of an Intel Wing ship, which seems to be a sort of futuristic equivalent of the C.I.A. Calvin is tasked with finding this rogue Captain and bringing him to justice.

This he manages to do right at the beginning of the story, but when the Captain is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death everything goes tits up for Calvin. The captain is inexplicably able to take control of his transport ship and makes off into the inky blackness of space.

Calvin is sent off in pursuit. On board his ship though is a brand new XO, and I dont think there has ever been a more hateful character put to paper.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the books good points.

So here are the good points…erm….

It’s free. That’s always a big bonus if you’re looking to try something new.

The first 20-25% of the novel are actually quite good, at more than one point the plot dipped and twisted quite well giving me more than a few surprises. It is also well placed for the most part and never got boring, and to give him his due Calvin has his moments as a compelling well formed hero.

So ye that’s the good stuff. Sadly it’s not exactly a long list.

So anyway down to the bad bits, this part is a little longer I’m afraid.

First I’ll begin with the setting. This novel has a very Star Trek type feel to the Universe, sadly it feels even cheaper than Star Trek the Original series does in retrospect, which is no mean feat considering.

One of the novels weakest points for me was the technology available to our hero. Apparently even though humans have built large lumbering star-ship that blunder their way through the endless darkness of space, they also still rely on basic rifles, this in a universe where force-fields and shields exist. So primitive.

If technology has advance advanced enough to create force-fields why in hell are the marines and Special Forces still shooting piddly little pieces of shrapnel down corridors at alien enemies armed with superior weaponry?

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One of the primary reasons I enjoy science-fiction is the creative worlds and technology that adorn their pages. Massive battleships firing highly charged laser beams across countless kilometres of space to crash into invisible shields and dissipate into nothing. Men armoured in huge battle suits and laser guns firing down numerous insectile enemies in narrow corridors filled with smoke and flickering lights. They are the sort of things many people expect from science-fiction, not bullet firing guns that wouldn’t look out of place now, a time where space flight is still in its infancy.

One of the biggest things to do when you write a sci-fi novel is think big, think monumental and go for it, sometimes the more insane the better, we want to see an exciting future full of new and exciting prospects and objects to discover and enjoy.

They even use paper. PAPER! Come on Richard give them an iPad or something. Hell what about giving Calvin a touch sensitive desk that doubles as a computer or a voice activated central computer and holographs. I’m reading about a futuristic human Empire battling for control of the Universe, give them some fun toys to do it with. Not paper. Who wants an intelligence officer buried under paper. I’d stake my life on the fact that the real C.I.A is light years ahead of the technology at the disposal of Calvin and his friends.

Always remember if your writing a science-fiction novel about great galactic wars make it big and make it exciting. Use your creativity.

But I can over-look the lack of any advanced technology, it is the characters that really make me want to pull my hair out.

2 dimensional doesn’t even begin to describe the characters that inhabit the pages of this book. Everyone is a clichéd stereotype, except for Calvin anyway. The women are beautiful and the men can’t help but lose their self-control in their presence. Even when the man and woman are at loggerheads the man will suddenly loses all of his self-control and fall under the spell of the woman.

Let’s look more closely at the two primary characters. Commander Calvin is supposedly a gifted young intelligence officer and brilliant captain. Yet he’s an habitual drug user who is regularly comatose in a drugged stupor when he should be on the bridge.

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Path to Vengeance Review

With his father, brother and fiancée lying dead at the hands of Krelathan raiders, Grogaan’s life is ripped apart, he is consumed with grief, anger and rage. He vows to himself that he will have his revenge and he sets out on his ‘path to vengeance’ by purchasing four starfighters for him and his friends, … Continue reading “Path to Vengeance Review”

The first time I read this I couldn’t help but think; “Hold on a second…Why the hell should I care about him then?” And from then on I didn’t like him, I couldn’t have cared less what happened to him, and when the ship was taken from his control I couldn’t help but think he deserved it. And if you lose your readers belief and love for your character, especially your antagonist, then you have lost the reader.

But it was his second in command that really made me want to scream in frustration. Commander `bloody’ Presley, the most tight arsed officer who ever lived. Presley is from the Navy and as such is a stickler for the rules and discipline of the battleships, rules and discipline that Calvin has demolished on his more informal vessel.

Now on the one hand Calvin is an idiot and is unfit for military command, all his officers are friends and feel free to question his decisions, on this count Presley is right on the money, the ship is a shambles and really should be replaced with a better crew.

Yet Presley is such a two dimensional cardboard cut-out it is insanely infuriating and you’ll find yourself disagreeing with her just so you don’t agree with her. You will spend most of your time trying to work out how the author ever thought she was a viable addition to the story. At one point in the story the author actually writes this for her:

“She knew he was right, but didn’t want him to be.”

While that may not seem all that irregular, humans after all are very egocentric, its indicative of Presley’s entire character. She has to be right all the time no matter what, and no matter how much evidence to the contrary she has smashed into her face.

Any military commander will tell you to listen to the advice given to you and to act in the best interests of the unit not your ego, and sadly Presley is so damned egotistical she would sacrifice the whole galaxy so no one else could say she was wrong.

At one point she annoyed me so much it actually made me want to break my Kindle in half.

I think I’ve ranted on long enough and I apologise for chewing your ear off, I just struggle to understand the point of this novel. The story doesn’t really go anywhere and the story just ends abruptly, meaning you have to buy the sequels to learn anything. And those sequels are costly, especially for independently published novels.

Overall I’d say if you enjoy sci-fi books by all means give it a go, its free so you have nothing to lose, but don’t expect it to be a particularly fun read and don’t expect it to make any sense unless your then willing to pay for the next novel. I for one will never pay for the next books and don’t think I will ever lose any sleep not knowing the outcome of Calvin or Presley.

You can try the book for yourself over on Amazon.

Rating

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Survival Year Review

Can you imagine a world where every citizen could directly weigh in on politics and the actions of his or her host government from their cell phone?

In this not-so-distant sci-fi future, Jennifer French’s Survival Year offers this scenario as a true possibility. There’s international betrayal, a love triangle and a common desire to bring the world together in the face of global political upheaval, not unlike the current events we’re now experiencing. The more I read of Survival Year the more I was convinced that what the characters had planned could potentially work. However, It was impossible not to recognise the negative possibilities, as well.

If there was ever a more in-the-now fictional story regarding the geopolitical landscape I have yet to read it. This is one hell of a political thriller.

French outlines what could potentially be an answer to the global political decline – financial, commodities, communications – 100% government transparency. French is well aware of the potential world she lays out in her book; she’s got a background in cyber ethics. But there’s not just political intrigue within these pages, there’s also love, action, and even a few assassination attempts to keep the plot moving and interesting, after all the political aspects can get a little dry.

As far as her writing style goes French warmed up and the plot moved along more naturally as the book entered its second half. Katarina, part of the Survival Year committee, is the main character. She’s got some co-stars and they have some focus where it matters but Katarina is very much the heart of the tale. She is a confident woman who is more than willing to give it all up in hopes of changing the political climate for the greater good. Despite a few flaws she is a compelling character and is more than able to hold her own as the focus of the story.

For those paying attention to the various political events happening around the real world, this book will give pause. I had a rather strong reaction to it, and there are few books about which I can make that statement. Survival Year is a relatively short read, but it has the qualities you’d find in a much longer book.

Highly recommended.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Before I Go To Sleep Review

When I heard about Before I Go To Sleep I couldn’t help but think, “here we go again, it’s another simple romantic thriller with very little to offer the reader beyond a few shocks and a maybe a couple of awws.” But it wasn’t long before I realised this wasn’t just a simple copy and paste story.

Every day our dear heroine Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear each time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he’s obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis, all because of a mysterious accident that sadly made Christine an amnesiac.

This book is a surprisingly complex thriller filled with intense moments of suspense. Every word of dialogue seems to have a double meaning, causing the reader to question everything they are told. Did this accident actually happen or is it all a manifestation of her own mind?

She wants to run from herself, from her new reality. The reality where she has to learn everything about her life each time she awakens. A reality with this stranger called Ben who claims to be her husband.

Most thrillers make the reader want to scream at the character on the page. Saying things like don’t go there, don’t do that, it’s him run! S.J. Watson has managed to write a book where the reader has become as clueless as the characters as to what is happening and what will happen.

But when you get to the end all the signs have been there, and you were as blind to them as Christine was. You both failed to see them, and you both feel that same sense of being lost and alone.

Like any novel this one has it’s faults as well as its shining moments. For example, in Christine’s diary that she uses to remind her of her new life there is no mention of cell phones. The last real memory she has is from her twenties when there were no mobile phones, and yet throughout the story she is constantly using her cell phone.

This is just a trivial thing of course but with a novel like this all those small overlooked details do stick out. There were more such moments throughout the novel but some are more integral to the plot so I shan’t mention them here.

This book was the author’s first published novel. It is on the whole very well written and edited. It was quickly picked up by Hollywood and was transformed into the movie of the same name starring Mark Strong, Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.

If you want to get a copy you can head over to Amazon. I strongly recommend this novel if you fancy a good thriller.

Rating

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Camino Winds Review

With a nasty storm rapidly bearing down a foul murder is committed in this John Grisham whodunit.

With a nasty storm rapidly bearing down a foul murder is committed in this John Grisham whodunit.

Grisham is of course most well known for his courtroom thrillers, so this change of pace to a murder mystery set on a Floridian island is a bit different to his norm.

The story follows a group of mystery writers (a little meta) who while on the island find themselves facing down an oncoming hurricane. And if that wasn’t bad enough one of them soon winds up dead. This corpse, a Mr Nelson Kerr, is a former trial lawyer who “ratted out a client, a defence contractor who was illegally selling high-tech military stuff to the Iranians and North Koreans.”

While it’s understandable that the defence company would want the former lawyer dead that’s not the end of his list of enemies. There’s at least a few drug traffickers and other low lives who’d prefer Mr Kerr’s tongue silenced.

That’s when we’re introduced to the novels so called hero, Bruce Cable, a bookstore owner who’s also friend, editor, and drinking buddy of Camino Islands odd collection of writers.

I call Cable a so called hero because to be frank he’s a bit of a dick. He drinks all day and all night, sleeps with anything he can and seems to be quite immoral to say the least. He’s not a lawyer though so that’s a plus.

Since murder is rare on the island the local police seem inept at solving the mystery, leaving it to this amoral bookstore alcoholic and a colourful collection of supporting characters to solve.

Grisham’s tale unfolds at a leisurely pace, which is a nice way of saying it was a little slow and boring. It never really found its groove and rarely made it out of first gear.

Some of the supporting characters though are fun and well developed. Sadly the same cannot be said for the villains. I’ve only read a few Grisham’s in my time but the villains on this island appear to have been copy and pasted from any one of his other stories.

If you’re a firm fan of Grisham’s novels you will no doubt find plenty to enjoy here, but if you’re looking for an easy murder mystery to read I’d suggest you look elsewhere.

Rating

Rating: 6 out of 10.

You can check out Camino Winds for yourself on Amazon.

Helens of Troy Review

How can I best describe Helens-of-Troy to you? I could say it’s simply like Twilight but without all the crap bits in there but then that doesn’t leave any Twilight left so that would be a poor example. One other review I have seen described it as Gilmore Girls meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I have to say that’s not all that far wrong, although unlike Buffy it doesn’t make you want to scream in frustration through various points of high shrieking, poorly written plot lines.

Like Gilmore Girls, this book focuses upon the often turbulent relationships between three women, a grandmother, the mother, and the teenage daughter. Just like Rory the teenager, Ellie, is a sometimes sullen young girl struggling to break free of the barriers imposed upon her by her mother. And just like Rory she too appears to be older and wiser beyond the 15 years she has lived.

Unlike the Gilmore Girls however, it is the mother, Helen, who is the uptight woman who seems stuck in an age that has long since expired. Opposing her is the Grandmother, Helena, a rather eccentric ‘old’ woman prone to wearing revealing clothing in full view of the neighbours and entertaining a certain Police Officer in her bedroom.

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The novel begins with Helen and Ellie moving in with Helena (that’s a mouthful) in a small town called Troy. Things quickly escalate with a dead body being found on the Grandmother’s porch swing instead of the stuffed pieces of cloth being used to scare the trick-or-treaters.

Ellie doesn’t seem at all fazed by the dead body (a little strange but hey she’s probably grown up mowing things down on the Playstation), she is however slightly more scared the next morning after finding out her dream of a kidnapped young girl was actually a vision of the real event. A young girl has been taken from the town and no-one knows where she might be.

Clear panic ensues. But what Ellie isn’t telling people is that she knows who took the child. She knows the culprit is not within the realms of mortal understanding. It is a Vampire.

Now stop groaning right now otherwise I’ll put you in the naughty corner. Yes Vampires have recently been battered to death with the pen and paper of numerous writers (cough cough Meyer and Harris), and of course the money hungry corporate suits who wont be happy until they have bleed the Vampire species for all their non-existent blood. But this Vampire is different.

The Vampire inhabiting the pages of The Helen’s of Troy is very much a Dracula, Barlow esq type character who embraces his Vampire roots and has given in to the evil that inhabits his veins.

This is not some brooding ‘feel sorry for me I’m a vampire’ type ponce that has originated in recent years. This is a pure blooded daemon feasting upon children and seeking his revenge through whatever means necessary. And you know what? He’s damn funny for a dead guy.

But not all is lost. You see the Helens have a secret of their own, it is a secret the grandmother has embraced, that the mother has denied and that the daughter has yet to discover. They are special the Helens. Very special indeed. And they are the only hope against the encroaching darkness.

This book was a pleasure to read. Not only is it a nice chance from the rest of the modern Vampire drivel I’ve read but its witty and almost every chapter has one sexual innuendo or another, I laughed so often when reading this book that I started getting embarrassed with all the other people on the bus staring at me. But you know what? I don’t care. Every now and then you get a book that is so witty you can laugh at the same joke numerous times throughout the day. The jokes, the scenarios, the imagined looks on the characters faces keep screaming back into your mind throughout the day bringing a soft chuckle and a wide smile to your face. This is exactly what The Helens of Troy is. Yes there are a few grammatical and spelling mistakes that were missed during an edit but who bloody cares. I know what it’s supposed to say and 9 times out of ten its something that will rock my world.

The speech is fluid and dynamic, the description vivid and engaging, the characters funny and lovable.

I already miss Ellie’s ups and downs in making friends and falling for the local charmer. I loved old Helena and her inappropriate clothing and the mild mannered way in which she used her bosom to enthral the neighbour. And I even fell in love with Helen, she may be uptight, she may need a slap once in a while but she loves Ellie more than anything in the world and if there is one thing she can do to protect her daughter it is come to terms with the truth of who she is, and embrace it. To stop fighting the truth about what she and her family are and just go with the flow.

I loved this book and you can guarantee I will be reading it again before long. For a few days I can escape the boring monotony of the real world and once more fight alongside the Helens and get a few good laughs into the mix.

Go and grab your own copy of this book. You won’t regret it.

You can find it on Amazon here.

Rating

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Andor Awakening Review

When it comes to new authors the experience generally goes in one of two directions. More often than not you find yourself on a perilous slope that quickly puts you on your arse and sends you careering through brambles, thorns and all manner of sewage and nasty icky things. These first time writers are either too lazy or inexperienced to really unearth the true potential of what could very often be a good novel. Either that or their novel is just a really bad idea. As a reviewer these types of novels make you want to hit someone with a stick.

Anyway, without any further ado or how’s your father, let’s crack on with it.

Along with two other books I had this with novel with me when I went on holiday a few weeks back, I was finished with it in just over a day. I devoured it in almost one sitting, I even have the sunburn to prove it (blaming you for that Brendan).

I loved it, it was great read. The story line moved with such speed and ferocity that I was afraid to put it down for fear that it would all be over when I once more turned my gaze upon its pages.

This is a book that will not hook you in. No that’s not enough, this book will pretty much grab you by the neck, shake you around, and then pull you right into the war torn world of Shae.

One of the strongest points about this book though is the raw emotion that the author is able to not only put across to the reader but smash it into their face at the same time. You don’t so much read this book as experience it. From start to finish you are right there alongside the characters as they face whatever trials and tribulations are thrown at them. You are alongside Andor as he picks himself up, tries to find out who he is, what has happened to him and try’s to avoid becoming Razian pie.

The dialogue, plot and imagery is all one big thumbs up from me. This book simmers with a hidden power that is truly magnificent, not only is this book a great debut, it’s great period. A highly recommended read and I look forward to the next instalment.

You can grab your own copy of Andor Awakening from Amazon.

Rating

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Harry Potter fan sites cut ties with JK Rowling over transgender rights

Two of the largest Harry Potter fan sites have made moves to distance themselves from the characters creator JK Rowling.

Two of the largest Harry Potter fan sites have made moves to distance themselves from the characters creator JK Rowling due to the recent remarks she made about transgender rights. The sites have said her personal views are at odds with the messages of empowerment found in her best-selling novels.

The two websites, the Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet said on Thursday that their sites would no longer provide links to the author’s personal websites, use photos of her or talk about any achievements she makes outside of the wizarding world.

The joint statement by the fan sites also said that Rowling’s airing of “harmful and disproven beliefs about what it means to be a transgender person” during Pride Month and her views on “marginalised people [are] out of step with the message of acceptance and empowerment we find in her books and celebrated by the Harry Potter [fan] community”.

This backlash follows a lengthy personal essay released by Rowling last month within which she discussed her beliefs on transgender rights, including examples of where she thought demands by transgender activists were actually dangerous to women.

Trans activists have condemned the authors essay. Photograph: John Phillips/Getty Images

After publishing the essay it didn’t take long for many stars of the Harry Potter universe to speak out. Daniel Radcliffe, who of course played the titular character, and Eddie Redmayne, who starsin the Fantastic Beasts spin-off series, spoke out against the author.

Four authors have also quit Rowling’s literary agency after accusing the company of refusing to issue a statement publicly supporting transgender rights.

The fan sites said members have found it difficult to speak out against Rowling because they have admired her work for so long, but said “it would be wrong not to use our platforms to counteract the harm she has caused.”

“Our stance is firm: transgender women are women,” the statement read. “Transgender men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary. Intersex people exist and should not be forced to live in the binary. We stand with Harry Potter fans in these communities.

“While we don’t condone the mistreatment [Rowling] has received for airing her opinions about transgender people, we must reject her beliefs.”

Rowling has yet to respond to this statement.

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Hero Book Review

If we take it at face value Hero seems like a simple run of the mill Tolkien-esq novel of grand adventure. It’s pages are filled with larger than like villains and a small unknown hero who is tasked with nothing short of saving the entire world. Sound’s familiar doesn’t it?

Unlike Frodo though the 16 year old Elf Saberen is a powerful central figure who proves that he is more than capable of holding his own against the rapidly encroaching darkness.

While Tolkein built a vast network of supporting characters in everyone’s favourite fellowship, Ben Smith forgoes this in favour of focusing on just two primary travellers. While this works exceedingly well at the beginning of the story it does begin to feel flimsy and strained towards the latter portion of the novel.

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Andor Awakening Review

When it comes to new authors the experience generally goes in one of two directions. More often than not you find yourself on a perilous slope that quickly puts you on your arse and sends you careering through brambles, thorns and all manner of sewage and nasty icky things. These first time writers are either … Continue reading “Andor Awakening Review”

That being said though Hero is a well-crafted and very enjoyable read that can’t fail to entertain. I took the book on holiday with me and I devoured the entire book from cover to cover in just over a day. I promptly passed it around my family and they each enjoyed it just as much as I did. Even my girlfriend who has a past with disliking fantasy books begrudgingly admitted a passing enjoyment of Hero, and that’s a bigger compliment than I could ever hope to give. If your novel is enjoyed by so many people with so many different tastes you know you have a good book.

My favourite aspect of Hero, comes not from its sweeping vistas of imaginative mountains or the epic adventure that sees Saberen pulled roughly from his comfortable life and thrust into a quest for the good of the entire world. No. For me the greatest aspect of this novel are the similarities of my adventures in the fictional worlds created by The Elder Scrolls Series.

Climbing a narrow path up a mountain to the mysterious cave at the top and the sudden, often heart pounding, appearances of various monsters and wild animals are paralleled almost seamlessly with Saberen’s adventures across Havaen. Hero is without a doubt one of the best Fantasy novels I have read recently. It is exciting, beautiful and all around bloody marvellous.

It is already back on my shelf waiting for me to get a few spare hours for me to re-join Saberen on his journey.

You can grab a copy of the book for yourself on Amazon.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.