Galaxy’s Edge – Dark Victory – A Science Fiction Book Review

I’ve got to hand it to Anspach and Cole.  The world building they are doing in the Galaxy’s Edge franchise doesn’t seem like it will ever slow down.  They’re at least fifteen books into this universe and I keep running into newer and weirder twists and turns in the history of their galaxy.  And they’re always throwing in new characters and cross-connecting old characters and advancing new plot lines.  These boys are on their game.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

In this latest installment Aeson Ford (/Captain Keel/Wraith/Tyrus Rechs (imposter)) is working undercover for his old Legionnaire friend Chhun.  He gets mixed up with an investigation into Nether Ops interference into the chaotic political situation that has existed since the Legion put an end to the House of Reason.  Working with the Nether Ops agent “Honey” he infiltrates several bases of the nefarious spy agency leading up to the capture of vital intel.  Meanwhile Ford is also in search of information on his own forgotten origins in the Kill Team Ice that stretches back to the Savage Wars by means of cryosleep.

Meanwhile we discover that his crewmate Leenah was not killed when the Indelible VI was attacked by bounty hunters in the last book.  We learn how her ship was all but destroyed just as she made the jump to light speed.  The jump saved her life but left her stranded in the middle of nowhere with almost no air and no way to get help.  Through her mechanical ingenuity she rigs a signal and waits with time running out.  Meanwhile Ford’s other crewmate Garret is Lenah working with Nilo’s Black Leaf mercenaries and because he hasn’t given up on Leenah’s life, he locates her signal and convinces Nilo to go on a rescue mission.

When they get to the beacon Leenah and the ship is gone and Nilo figures out that Leenah has been captured by Gomarii slavers and they go on a mission to save her and take down the Gomarii.  During the rescue Nilo and Garret discover that the Gomarii vessel is actually a Savage hulk that contains information in its memory banks crucial to the upcoming resumption of the Savage threat to the galaxy.

Aeson Ford fabricates a plot to capture a rogue Naval Commander who has been doing the Nether Ops dirty work.  During the action Honey betrays him with her former colleagues in Nether Ops and she is killed along with the rest of the agents that Ford defeats.  When he returns to the Legion base, he learns that his old comrade Masters is in dire straits.  Instead of returning to Garret and Nilo he heads off with the legionnaires to save Masters.  But at the end of the book, we find that Nilo also has business on that same dangerous planet.

Dark Victory winds two plots together and both are done well.  The rescue of Leenah from the salvers is the more dynamic and satisfying of the subplots but taking Ford out of the action allows the secondary characters like Leenah and Garret to get their moments in the sun.  Plus, it allows Nilo and Garret to advance the information on the Savage Wars back story which will tie in with other characters that don’t figure in this book but will return soon.  Let’s face it, once you’re into the series this deep all you want to know is whether it’s still a good read.  It is.

Here’s a Sample From My Unfinished Sci-Fi Book

Here’s a sample of a book I’m currently about a quarter of the way through.  If you look at the Header of the website there’s a new link to “Stuff to Buy.”  That where I’ll embed links to books and photogrpaphy I’ll have to sell soon.

 

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 1 – An Object Lesson

Joseph Boghadair was set up at a loophole in a small prefabricated metal building at the top of a mountain that contained the Icarus Mine.  His .50 caliber sniper rifle was trained on the narrow road that led up to the mine.  He could see a line of black SUVs about a mile and a half down the road and he was getting ready to start firing on the convoy.  His first shots took out the engine of the lead vehicle thereby halting the convoy.  His second volley took out the engine of the last car in line thus trapping the rest of the vehicles between.  Then at a more leisurely pace he took care of the other eight vehicles.  By this point the passengers were crouching behind their disabled cars and randomly firing handguns and assault weapons in Joseph’s general direction with almost no discernible results.

After about half an hour a few of the men in black body armor attempted to reach a stand of trees about 300 yards away to their left.  Joseph put a few well aimed rounds in front of their path and they quickly retreated back to the supposed safety of their not so mobile autos.  Joseph snorted wryly at their shyness.

An hour after that a helicopter approached the mountain from the opposite direction to Joseph’s loophole.  Walking over to a window on the other wall he could see a distant Blackhawk approaching at relatively high altitude.  Joseph then began his preparations for their reception.

Between crew and troops, the Blackhawk had a dozen men on board.  And more importantly it had a couple of hellfire missiles.  From a very safe distance away it targeted Joseph’s position and fired.  The missile struck precisely on target and obliterated the steel structure almost completely.  All that remained was the foundation of the structure around the mine shaft, now clogged with debris.

The Blackhawk landed about three quarters of a mile from the mine entrance.  At this point the agents hunkered down behind their vehicles began to stream toward the helicopter.  By the time they reached the aircraft the troops had exited and were waiting for their rescued brethren to arrive.

FBI Special Agent in Charge, George Chastain assembled both teams and briefed them on the updated mission plan.  “We will proceed to the mine head and look for any human remains.  We will collect whatever we can retrieve for lab analysis and attempt to seal the mine head until qualified personnel can be assembled for recovery operations.  It is presumed that the target, Joseph Boghadair was killed by the missile strike but we will take no chances.  He was an extremely dangerous individual and should not be approached by anyone without backup and prior approval from leadership.  In addition to his war record it is believed that Boghadair is responsible for the shooting deaths of forty-six people in the last six months with thirteen of those people being FBI personnel.  No one enters the mine until remote sensing equipment is brought in.  Alright, proceed.”

The agents formed two groups.  Apparently, SUV agents and helicopter agents must not bond very well.  But before they were more than a hundred feet from the helicopter a series of incredibly powerful explosions shook the ground and knocked them off their feet.  And while they were holding onto the ground for dear life, they could see that the high ground where the mine head was located collapsed into the earth.  The roar of that collapse was more frightening than the initial earthquake and some of the agents hid their heads under their arms in abject terror.  When the mountain stopped shaking the men started to collect themselves and stand up.  When they looked around them, they were astonished.  A circular pit had opened up centered on the mine head.  It was a thousand yards in diameter and so deep that only blackness could be seen at its center.  Several cracks had formed outside the circular pit.  One of these had nearly swallowed the Blackhawk.  It was on its side and half buried in the crevice.  Its rotors were fractured and it wouldn’t be flying away from this landing.

Chastain went over to the edge of the crater and just stared down into the blackness below.  Then he went back to his team and started giving orders to begin a retreat from the stricken mountain.  He was trying to think of what he was going to tell his boss.  Nothing reasonable came to mind.

Galaxy’s Edge – Legacies – A Science Fiction Book Review

Before I proceed to the review a quick note.  It’s been over a year since the last review in this series.  The explanation is a puzzling fact.  I buy the paperback version of books and for some reason Legacies never came out in paperback.  I’ve checked and the subsequent books in the series are now available in paperback but Legacies never was.  So recently I gave up and bought the hardcover version.  What can I say, I’m a creature of habit.  Anyway, welcome back.

Legacies rejoins the story with Aeson Ford, aka Aeson Keel, aka Wraith and now aka Tyrus Rechs in search of Prisma, the young woman who has found herself embedded in the conflict between a confusing array of sides.  From the previous volumes in the series, she has seen Goth Sullus destroy her family in his quest to convert the Galactic Republic into a personal weapon against lurking threats and she has been swept along by Tyrus Rechs and Aeson Keel and discovered that she has mysterious powers that somehow make her important in the conflicts still to come.

In this book we will follow separate stories involving Prisma and Keel as they struggle to survive in a galaxy filled with confusing threats.  Prisma is aboard a war machine left over from the Savage Wars, a device that replays historic battles to evaluate alternate strategies to some mysterious end.  Keel goes under cover as Tyrus Rechs to find out who has put a price on his head and why.  And these two seemingly unrelated threads are slowly woven into one fabric.  Truths are revealed about Aeson Ford’s father and Tyrus Rechs and Goth Sullus that go back to the beginning of the Savage Wars and maybe beyond.

The book shifts back and forth between the two main narratives and then adds another plot line from the past.  This leads to some whiplash for the reader from time to time but the writing is quite well done and it kept my interest throughout.  Anspach and Cole have a very complex world-building project going on in this series.  In this volume, they provide origin information on the Cybar, Aeson Ford and links with the Savage Wars plot lines that expand a great deal on what I knew about the story previously.  And any hope of finishing this series in less than a million volumes has flown out the window.  But I’m happily resigned to my fate.

Highly recommended for all fans of the series.  Year two of the series is barreling along on hyperdrive.

Thanksgiving in Dunwich

I’ve been so busy with my own personal Thanksgiving plans that I lost track of what the town of Dunwich was planning for the holiday.  Last year the COVID lockdown put a damper on this but this year First Selectman Cthulhu and the rest of the Board were determined to get things back to normal.  So, to get the ball rolling Cthulhu invited fifty of the wealthiest and most influential Dunwichians to his house on Monday for a sumptuous dinner.

Of course, there was a misunderstanding.  The guests assumed they were going to eat instead of being eaten but you can hardly fault the First Selectman for that.  He was specific that the menu would come directly from his favorite cookbook, “To Serve Man.”  When I spoke to him, he was still recovering from overindulging but after a couple of barrels of Alka Seltzer he was feeling much better.  He told me his favorite moment was when the guests walked through a doorway and after failing to find any light switches on the walls used their phone lights to determine that they were inside their host’s mouth.  Their screams of terror made the meal all that much more enjoyable.  Oh, that First Selectman, he’s incorrigible!

I read an advertisement in the Dunwich Complainer that a town fair was going to take place on Wednesday.  There would be the usual pie contests and a silent auction for the various crafts that the townspeople would donate.  There were also supposed to be games.  The one that interested me the most was the sack race.  In most towns this is a pretty straight forward affair but the twist that is employed in Dunwich is that Cthulhu alters the geometry of space in the playing field.  This makes moving in a straight line rather tricky.  Three years ago, Josiah Bishop ended up falling through a portal and landed inside of Azathoth’s gallbladder.  He reappeared three weeks later in pretty horrendous condition.  His ears had pretty much melted off and his hair was orange.  When asked what happened he said, “Outside the ordered universe is that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.”  A lot of people just assumed Josiah had just stomped off because he’s a sore loser and because Jenkin Brown took the prize and they’ve never gotten along.

But by far the oddest story I’ve heard this week was from Arthur Birdsong.  He was walking through some of the more overgrown areas of the northern hills of Dunwich when he was caught in one of the frequent thunderstorms.  Searching for cover he saw a very dilapidated house and ran to it.  The door wasn’t locked so he let himself in.  Finding a fire in the living room he warmed himself and then looked around at his surroundings.  There was a very old book open on a table and he saw that the book was describing cannibalism among certain tribes in Africa and an illustration showed a butcher’s shop with human body parts for sale.  Arms, legs and organs were grouped on tables.  Suddenly he heard a door open above and a white-haired man in 17th century garb walked down the staircase.  The man saw that Arthur had been interested in the book and he began a long meandering tale, the gist of which was that he had come to the notion that feeding on human flesh would enormously extend the human lifespan.  Just then a drop of blood from the ceiling splashed down in between the two men and Arthur looked up and saw an enormous spot of blood on the ceiling and realized that the horrid old man was a cannibal and had just been butchering of one of his victims upstairs.

At first Arthur was hoping that a bolt of lightning would burn the house and the cannibal in the righteous fire of heaven.  But when that failed to happen, he asked the old man what time was dinner.

Arthur had to admit that human pot pie wasn’t bad.  A little gamey and fatty but no worse than mutton.  And the old fellow even threw in some pretty decent hard cider.  So, they became pretty chummy and after dinner they stayed up late chatting and Arthur discovered that they had both gone to the same prep school.  So, they sang school songs and Arthur invited his new friend over for Thanksgiving dinner.  He had been planning to serve a turkey dinner but in light of his new perspective on health food he decided to invite his least favorite blue-haired feminist wine-auntie over and serve her up instead.  I told Arthur that was splendid and I hoped it became a family tradition.  He sadly informed me that he only had three wine-aunties so it would be a short-lived tradition.  I told him to cheer up.  I have dozens of relatives that need eating.  I told him I’d donate one of mine every Thanksgiving for the foreseeable future.  Well, this brought tears to Arthur’s eyes and he declared it a “Thanksgiving Miracle.”  I said, “Nonsense, it is always better to give than to receive.”

So, you can see we here in Dunwich have a lot to be thankful for; friends, family and meat tenderizer.  Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving allows you to enjoy your family as much as we intend to enjoy (parts of) ours.

Larry Correia’s Got a Book Up for a Dragon Award

Larry’s got a mil-sf book in the running for a Dragon Award and he talks a little about the nominees that he’s familiar with.  If you’re voting in the Dragon Awards take a look at his comments.  And Larry’s a good guy so if you’re looking for good sf&f books I’d give authors he likes a look see.

 

 

 

Dave Freer Over at Mad Genius Club Has a Good Essay on Writing

Dave talks about what it’s like reviewing your own book for publication and feeling like the whole thing is poor.  I’m writing a book myself and I have to say I understand exactly what he’s saying.  The urge to re-write whole sections is almost overpowering.

Seeing other people pound out multiple books in a year is humbling.  I get side-tracked continuously between blogging and photography and just trying to keep my real life floating along.  Kudos to those who do all that and also create good fiction too.

A good read.

Arkhaven Comics – A Review

Vox Day is an idiosyncratic guy who will be remembered, if for no other reason, because he waged the hilarious Rabid Puppies War against the pink science fiction doofuses of WorldCon in 2015 and 2016.  But he is also the proprietor of a book publishing company, Castalia House and recently he has branched into comics with a company called Arkhaven.

Last month Arkhaven started up a comic site that publishes the various stories on-line for free at  https://www.arkhaven.com/  .  I’ve never been a comic book guy.  I did watch a few of the Marvel tv shows when I was a kid and I did bring my grandsons to watch the Marvel movies until they started getting too woke.

But there are at least a couple of comics on this site that I can appreciate.  One is Ben Garrison’s Editorial Cartoons.  Ben’s editorials are from the right and his drawings are clever.

The other that I just started following is a dark fantasy (supernatural) comic called Chicago Typewriter.  It’s very well drawn and the story so far is entertaining.

Anyway, if you have any interest in comics, check out Vox’s site.  I think he should be congratulated for jumping into a field that up till now has been more than dominated by woke publishers who have made their former readers unwelcome.  I hope this venture is a great success and Vox makes a pile of cash.  Vox is one of the few people on our side who has walked the walk and built his own platform.  Kudos to him.

Side Jobs and Brief Cases – Two Short Story Collections from The Dresden Files – by Jim Butcher – An SF&F Book Review

These two books are each a group of short stories that Jim Butcher has collected.  Side Jobs was published in 2010 and Brief Cases was published in 2018.  In each case Butcher collected the stories that had been published in anthologies then added a new novella at the end.  And obviously the differences in subject matter and tone in the collections match up with the where they fit in the chronology of the Dresden Files at the time they were written.  But just as with the overall series the “feel” of the stories and especially the character of Harry himself is surprisingly consistent.  He is as always, a wise-cracking, annoying defender of the human world against the forces of the various supernatural creatures he opposes.  He battles White, Red and Black Court vampires, ghosts, sorcerers, werewolves, faeries and other folklore creatures.  Harry is always a little too lefty and feminist for my complete stamp of approval but Butcher writes a very good story and I have been reading these books for a very long time and even when some lefty cultural stance annoys me, I still read and enjoy the story.  And these stories are no exception.  Some character or some comment from Harry will annoy me but I’ll still read and enjoy each story.

The stories are self-sufficient and can be read alone without the need to jump into the next one.  And because the stories were written for various anthologies some of them have oddball plots that were picked to fit in to some overarching theme.  Like in Brief Cases there is a western story called “A Fistful of Warlocks” that was written for an anthology called “Straight Outta Tombstone.”  And likewise for other stories that had themes relating to weddings or relationships or even beer or baseball.  But even the stories that you would think would be just a throwaway Butcher puts in the work and makes the story hang together.  And in these short stories sometimes Harry isn’t even the narrator.  Thomas Raith, John Marcone, Karrin Murphy and even Molly Carpenter each narrate a story.   And especially in the case of Thomas and Marcone I think these add a lot of interest to the story because of the very different point of view of these characters from Harry.

Just as with the rest of the Dresden Files these books cannot be enjoyed unless you already have read the first few books about Harry.  But it is good to know that Jim Butcher takes the time to make even his short stories worth reading.

On Killing Off Fictional Family

I’m working on a fantasy story.  And I’m at the point in the origin phase where the protagonist needs a crisis to propel him into a new and horrible life.  And I’m wavering between some deus ex machina scooping him out of his normal life or a horrible injustice killing off one or more of his family.

And the funny thing is I feel bad about killing off his kin.  I mean, they’re good people and they’ve never done anything to me and all things being equal I might need them later.  So, I’m vacillating and trying to thread the needle.  Can I just kill off his father?  But I kind of need him for later.  How about his mother?  The murder of his mother would be a great catalyst.  There’s guilt and rage and despair and hunger for revenge and all sorts of mixed emotions.  That could work well.  But it feels like a cheap trick.

I could kill off his newlywed sister.  It’s going to happen at the wedding reception anyway.  But that’s even more conflicted.  There’s the bride groom and the other sisters and then the parents won’t be distracted by one of them dying so the protagonist will be dealing with all kinds of messy emotional baggage.  Everyone will be whining for a hundred pages and I don’t need that.

I’m planning some kind of mob hit.  I’m undecided between a shotgun blast coming out of the reception or a bomb thrown through the window.  Either way it’s not ideal.  Very messy.  Definitely not the beautiful death.

So, as you can see there won’t be any easy way to write this.  All kinds of angst and messy follow-on consequences.  But let’s face it, murdered family has been a great plot device since Cain killed Abel.  I’m already trying to work my way through a father with conflicted feelings about the son whom he loves but who is responsible for the death of his wife.  That’s got all kinds of possibilities.  As I said I need the father around later and his grudging cooperation in some plot devices would add a nice amount of resistance to some scenes that would otherwise lose all tension.

So, she has to go.  But I am grateful for her part up to this point and I will give her a nice close-up scene before the finale.  She’ll get to talk to her son and they will share something personal before I finish her off.  Then she’ll upstage her oldest daughter’s wedding.  What mother could ask for more than that?

So, as you can see, for me the characters in my story take on a life of their own and I have to think carefully before I bring anyone in.  The butterfly effect is in full effect and especially when my character has a very long-life span, I have to be careful about cutting off all descendants of present characters because I might need their grandchildren or even great grandchildren at some point.

And finally, this action is meant to cut off his normal life and send him forward into a future where many of his actions are going to appear to him to be pretty evil.  To make that happen I’ll need something to disorient his moral compass.  The random brutal death of someone who symbolizes normalcy and happiness to him is just about right.  Add in a feeling that he is culpable in the death and I think I can work that into a tragic figure.  Will Shakespeare, hold my beer.

Battle Ground – A Novel of The Dresden Files – by Jim Butcher – An SF&F Book Review

Spoiler Alert.  All my reviews are spoilers.  If you wan to avoid them go down to the end and just read my recommendation.

For anyone coming to this review without any background to the Dresden Files, Battle Ground is I believe the seventeenth book of that series.  Jim Butcher has created quite a complicated and very entertaining world that centers on a Chicago that is embedded in a reality that has several kinds of vampires, two faery realms, werewolves, sasquatches, Norse mythological characters, Knights of the Cross, Fallen Angels and wizards.  And in particular Harry Dresden is the extremely conflicted and always wise-cracking Wizard of Chicago.  If you want to delve into the series, I guess it would be much more sensible and fun to start at book one but to each his own.

Battle Ground is the conclusion of the story arc begun in the previous book, Peace Talks.  And for all intents and purposes this book is taken up by the Battle of Chicago.  A really angry Titan named Ethniu has decided to destroy Chicago as a way to turn the human world against the supernatural groups that were parties to the “Unseelie Accords” that acted as a council to ensure that humans do not discover the hidden creatures all around them.

Along with her amphibious allies the Fomor who have a settlement under Lake Michigan they attack the city and with the power of the “Eye,” that Ethniu wields, they begin destroying the city and killing the population.  Standing against this systematic destruction and murder of Chicago is Harry and his allies.  I won’t say friends because many of them fear and/or hate him.  He has an Italian American mobster turned supernatural power broker named Marcone providing significant infrastructure, manpower and significant strategic support.  He has his current boss the Queen of Air and Darkness, Mab the Winter Queen, providing her troops and her own very considerable magical powers.  There are Harry’s nominal brothers in arms, the White Council of Wizards that are always right at the edge of expelling him for all the unorthodox and insubordinate actions he takes.  This includes his grandfather Ebenezar McCoy who is more or less the head of the Council and who always seem on the edge of either throttling Harry or apologizing to him.  There are the Knights of the Cross who are Harry’s friends and possess power that can stand against the evil that the enemy represent but even with these allies Harry and his friends are hopelessly overmatched.

But Harry has one ace in the hole.  He has a magical resource that if he can lure the Titan to a certain spot would allow him to capture her permanently.  But in order to do that Ethniu would have to be lured in by targets that she wanted to destroy and the destruction that she would accomplish would be ruinous.  And that is what the book is about.  As Harry and his allies go block by block saving civilians and battling monsters the Titan levels the city skyscrapers on her way to confronting Mab and the other powerful leaders.  And it’s a long book, over four hundred pages and the overwhelming majority of the book is this battle.

If you’re a fan of the series, and obviously if you’re still reading at book seventeen then you are, you will like this book a lot.  Sure, there are parts of the battle that seem kind of repetitive or at least maybe overkill.  And I have never been a big fan of Harry’s romantic attachment to Karren Murphy.  For whatever reason it never seems to keep my interest.  And there are a few scenes where some of the characters sound a little too touchy feely with too much “I’m here for you,” and all that.  But there is plenty on the battle side and on the personal side of this story to satisfy fans of the books.  Some questions from Peace Talks get answered and some things that were left hanging remain that way.  Some old friends and enemies die.  Others change their relation to Harry and further complicate his life.  And some characters that do not have a major part in the action still provide a needed presence.  I always enjoy the character of Michael Carpenter.  He’s the retired Knight of the Cross who is probably the most grounded character in the series and also provides sanctuary for Harry’s young daughter when horrible things come looking for Harry.  And Harry reaches a kind of crossroads with respect to his stature in the supernatural world.  He is now a heavy hitter and has gained respect and even some wisdom.

What can I say?  You’re going to like most of this book. And there will be few things that you won’t care for.  But if you’re a Dresden fan you will have to read it.