Review: Have Wormhole, Will Travel

Posted on April 20th, 2014 @ 09:07
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Have Wormhole, Will TravelHave Wormhole, Will Travel by Tony McFadden

My rating:


Vampires? No Such Thing.

Aliens, though, that’s something else.

They’ve been here, living quietly among us, since before the Industrial Revolution.

Their goal: To ensure we never leave our Solar System. We have a bad habit of wiping out indigenous populations, and theirs is the nearest inhabited planet to ours.

So when a scientist at Sydney University harnesses the power of wormholes, making interstellar travel a virtual walk in the park, one of these tall, pale-skinned aliens, Callum, is forced to choose: destroy us, or help us survive the inevitable Armageddon.

8 billion Earthlings, and our survival is in the hands of one guy – alien – meant to wipe us out.


[I got this book from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

To be fair, I got it a couple of months ago, perhaps a little more, and should probably have read and reviewed it sooner, but… Oh, well.

I liked the basic idea: an alien race has been monitoring Earth (as well as other planets) to make sure none would develop interstellar travel—wormholes would allow just that. It seems we puny humans have a reputation of pillaging barbarians, so they don’t want us anywhere near their home. As a result, their agents have been on planet for centuries, squashing out scientific discoveries (such as cold fusion) as soon as they hit a little too close to home, so to speak. Callum and Jason (we can assume those aren’t their real names) are two such agents, currently living in Sydney, and so when Professor Sam Sheppard stumbles upon the perfect theory to create instant means of travel by way of wormholes, it’s up to them to report to their own bosses and try to fix the problem… or not.

(I won’t pass judgment on the science aspect. String theory isn’t my forte, and I honestly wouldn’t know if what was mentioned in the novel was true to real science or not.)

This premise raised interesting ethical questions, because the aliens are ready to wipe out all human beings just out of fear (but we are the ruthless barbarians). I definitely would’ve wanted to see this developed some more, especially considering the method used in the attempt to save our planet, because there was strong potential in that. On the one hand, it probably would’ve made for a less funny story; on the other hand, the comical aspects weren’t that funny for me, so I guess that’s why I wouldn’t have minded. The novel didn’t do anything for me in that regard, and I felt at times that it didn’t know where to go, whether to be comical or lean towards more serious science-fiction.

The plot was also a bit disjointed here and there, though nothing that prevented me from following what was happening. There was a lot of dialogue and not that many descriptions, so at times it was a little difficult to picture places and people. I’m usually not for long descriptions anyway, but I admit some more this time would have helped.

The characters, to be honest, left me cold. The three girls convinced that Jacob and Callum were vampires made me smile at first; however, their antics tended to become tiring, and I wasn’t sure in the end what was the point, since one of them is only really important because of where she lives, another is simply comic relief, and they were interchangeable. Same with Sheppard, insufferable prick as he was. Though I get those characters were likely meant to be on the cliché side for the sake of poking fun at clichés, it was hard to actually care about them, and consequently about the fate of Earth and how everything would end. They came off as mean and/or stupid more than anything else. Also, Callum definitely pulls a TSTL: what’s the point of being here to stop Sheppard if you give him the means to create wormholes by accidentally doodling equations on a sheet of paper right under his nose? Hadn’t he done that, the problem would’ve been solved from the beginning. I don’t like it when a plot rests on such “happenings” that aren’t too believable.

Some more background about the aliens would’ve been welcome, too. Since one of them appears to lean towards a relationship with a human being, I expected something to explain it. Their race as a whole brushes off humans as expendable, after all.

All in all, as I said, I liked the idea about wormholes, and the book was in itself an easy read. Unfortunately, the unsavory characters, a couple of plot holes, and the way the story seemed to hesitate between “comical” and “actually serious” didn’t allow me to enjoy this novel more.

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Review: Cipher

Posted on April 17th, 2014 @ 22:55
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CipherCipher by S.E. Bennett

My rating:


Cipher Omega is a failed experiment, an identical clone of the brilliant, damaged woman whose genome the scientists of the Basement were trying to copy and improve. All her life she has dreamt of life outside the laboratory, on the surface world, but when her home is destroyed and she’s left the only survivor of a hundred-year human cloning project, she is forced to face the reality of the military-ruled nation that created her. Aided by the only other surviving child of the Basement, an enigmatic solider named Tor, and two rebel freedom fighters named Bowen and Oona Rivers, Cipher finds herself searching for answers, at any cost.


[I got a copy from the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I quite liked this novel, though I must admit I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had expected.

The Basement setting and situation were intriguing, and I found the story as a whole pervaded with a feeling of oppression. It was more an impression than definite proof, but I had the nagging feeling that everyone was always being watched by someone else. Maybe because of the Feeds, maybe because Cipher remained aware that she had to watch her back at all times, and acknowledged that as soon as she’d let her guard down, it’d be the end. (And I agree she was right in thinking so!)

Cipher was a likeable character, one who was aware of the problems she was in, yet tried to keep fighting, even if it meant lying low for a while. She wasn’t a whiner, she kept focused on what she wanted and hoped for, and she knew how to put her coding and engineering skills to use in order to build a few backdoors. She only allowed herself to trust a handful of people, and wasn’t fooled by the shiny varnish and empty promises of the Municipality. While there were hints of a potential romance too (perhaps even a triangle), she kept her priorities straight and never let herself be engulfed into that, the way too many characters unfortunately seem to do as soon as a love interest appears. Love was an important motivator for her; however, it was ‘love’ in a wider sense, encompassing friendship and wanting to protect the few people she held dear—not the old-as-sin trope of True Love At First Sight Forever for a boy she had just met. And she remained ‘faithful’ to the Basement people, to her father, even to her sisters, in that she mourned them like the people they had been, and didn’t forget about them as soon as she was out, nor no matter how dire her own circumstances.

I also liked the siblings: Oona for her entusiasm for gardening and living things, in a world so devoid of positive life and new births; and Bowen for being overall sympathetic, understanding, and ready to take calculated risks to get the truth out.

A few things bothered me nevertheless. I expected Tor to be more… impressive when it came to planning, and the same went for Sally (deemed quite the strategist, after all). Some things are explained later when it comes to Tor, but I thought his mother wasn’t so foreseeing, and it seemed a little jarring. (Minor quibble about Tor: his way of calling Cipher ‘love’. It’s probably just me, but I can’t stand that, just like I can’t stand ‘babe’.) I wondered about a couple of inconsistencies, too: for instance, how come Cipher didn’t remember Tor from the Basement, when she was only two years younger, and she said she knew everybody there? She was rather young at the time, yet since she remembered classes she took when she was 4-5, I would’ve thought she would remember him as well?

At times, Cipher’s thoughts also intruded too much on the narrative. They weren’t useless, and contained important information, so they weren’t a problem in themselves; only they tended to interrupt the flow, and made me wonder if they wouldn’t have been better included elsewhere.

I wished Bowen and Oona had been given more importance, probably because of The Truth (the unauthorised Feed they broadcast in the beginning): the latter looked like a useful tool, able to ignite a lot of things, yet it just went away, and the siblings became more and more like ‘people to protect’, and not ‘people who mattered thanks to their actions’. (Perhaps I also slightly resented how Oona was important due to her pregnancy; it made sense within the context of that specific world, but I tend to find such things annoying. As a woman, I’m not at ease with the idea that what makes me important is my ability to have children; I want to believe we’re much more than that. This is however a very personal observation, and I doubt it’ll be a problem for every reader.)

In general, I liked this novel, and if there were to be a next installment—the ending kind of begs for one, especially now that Metis has appeared—I’d probably want to read it. I just can’t push myself to give it more than 3 stars.

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Review: Night Terrors

Posted on April 16th, 2014 @ 21:42
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Night Terrors (Shadow Watch, #1)Night Terrors by Tim Waggoner

My rating: 


It’s Men In Black meets The Sandman.

Meet the fine men and women of the NightWatch: a supernatural agency dedicated to hunting down rogue nightmares that escape from other realms when people dream about them, while ensuring that other dream-folk are allowed to live among the regular, human population… as long as they play by the rules.


[I got a free copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Well, what can I say… I really liked this one? I tend to naturally gravitate towards themes such as dreams and nightmares, and when I saw that Night Terrors dealt with exactly that—more specifically, nightmares made “flesh”—I just couldn’t pass on it. Although I’m also a glutton for punishment, since clowns have always creeped me out, and guess what Jinx is? Yep. The cover kind of gave it away, after all.

Audra and Jinx are agents of the Shadow Watch, an organisation bent on regulating interactions between the human world and Nod, a place where dreams have attained a state of self-awareness. Audra is an Ideator, a human whose psyche created and fleshed out a nightmare (Jinx), until the latter became his own self. Since then, both have been working for that special agency.

Some aspects of this novel rest on well-known tropes, such as the two “cops” with a record of regularly causing havoc while on a mission, or the dashing potential love interest with mysterious goals and a mysterious employer. Or the shady bar with shady customers and a shady bartender who deals information. However, those being traditional fixtures of the detective novel/UF genre, I wasn’t too surprised to see them here. What I appreciated was how they were, but didn’t become too heavy.

I seriously dug the world-building here. The narrative, told in Audra’s voice, is peppered with small doses of information here and there, which allowed me to qickly grasp what Nod and the Shadow Watch stood for, how things worked there, what an Ideator was, and so on. Audra has a tendency to address the reader, which can be annoying to a degree if you don’t like that; personally, I thought it created some kind of complicity, as if I was allowed to get a glimpse of what dreams are really made of.

The characters weren’t the most developed ever, but I found them fun and sympathetic nonetheless. The nightmares/dreamt creatures came in many flavours, ranging from relatively human-looking dreams to strange animals, fear-inducing shadows and even Deathmobiles beaming green aging lasers into their enemies. The concept of their having Night and Day Aspects added interesting possibilities in my opinion. Night Jinx was pretty funny (in his own frightening ways), while Day Jinx turned out to be quite the decent fellow. There’s also a hint of a potential love interest, as said above. It never becomes overwhelming, which I was grateful for: the story’s stakes are high enough, and I seldom root for making-out sessions in such cases. The novel paved the way for more in that regard… or not… and it doesn’t really matter.

I admit I wasn’t too keen on the Evil Gloating speech of the villain towards the end, but at least it wasn’t the Bond Villain Stupidity kind.

As a whole, this book simply… clicked with me. I can’t really explain in objective terms.

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Review: King’s Crusade

Posted on April 14th, 2014 @ 18:44
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King's CrusadeKing’s Crusade by A.D. Starrling

My rating:


The perfect immortal warrior.
A set of stolen, priceless artifacts.
An ancient sect determined to bring about the downfall of human civilization.

The exciting, action-packed follow-up to Soul Meaning and the second installment in the supernatural thriller series, Seventeen.

When a team of scientists unearth scriptures older than the Dead Sea Scrolls in a cave in the Eastern Desert mountains in Egypt, a mystery lost to the tides of time is uncovered. Heading the expedition is Dimitri Reznak, the Head of the Crovir Immortal Culture & History Section. But the monumental discovery is spoiled by evidence of looting and half the priceless artifacts Reznak has been seeking for centuries have disappeared.

Alexa King is a covert agent for the Crovir First Council. When she is approached by her godfather for a mission that could help elucidate the enigma of her lost past, she finds herself delving into the dangerous and shadowy world of secret religious societies. Assigned by Reznak to assist her is Zachary Jackson, a gifted human and Harvard archaeology professor.

In their search for the missing artifacts, King and Jackson stumble upon the existence of a deadly sect whose origins are as mystifying as the relics they are searching for. From North Africa to the doors of Vatican City itself, they unveil a centuries-old plan that aims to shatter the very structure of civilized society.

With the help of Reznak and a group of unexpected allies, King and Jackson must stop the enemy and uncover the astonishing truth behind the missing artifacts and King’s own unearthly origins before all is lost.


[I got a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

3.5 stars. I had read and reviewed the first installment a couple of months ago, and I liked this one a little better. The action-to-revelations ratio seemed better paced to me, and didn’t leave me with the same dizzying sensation as Soul Meaning did. There is a lot of action—the characters are, after all, up against a sect that doesn’t hesitate to shoot whoever gets in the way, and whose arm reaches several countries—but I thought it felt more compact, and put to better use. It might be confusing sometimes, in that the author describes various kinds of moves, so if a reader doesn’t know those terms, picturing said moves could be difficult; fortunately, it wasn’t a problem for me (at least those Body Combat classes taught me the names of various kinds of kicks). I keep thinking that, just like Book #1, King’s Crusade would make a good action movie.

At first, I wasn’t sure about what to think of the conspiracy/archaeology side, because it’s been played a lot in so many stories already. On the other hand, though it’s a bit cliché, I do enjoy my dose of sexy-looking archaeology geek professors who find themselves embroiled in secret societies wars.

Speaking of which, I liked Jackson as a character. In the beginning, I was afraid he’d turned some kind of womanizer (when Alexa recruits him, he’s in bed with a woman), but it quickly appeared that once on the job, he’d do it seriously, and involve himself even though things were clearly dangerous. He’s in in for the money, the mystery, the scientific/historical interest, not for the nookie. Neither he nor Alexa let themselves get distracted by feelings in the middle of a fight, and proved to be competent in their respective fields. As for Alexa, she knew what she had to do, she did it well, and she was the no-nonsense kind of character I like.

What dampened my enthusiasm:

- We don’t get to know Alexa that well. What I mean is that she’s got a bit of an amnesia thing going, although it’s only when it comes to her early childhood; and I would’ve liked to find out what happened to her, what led to the events of the prologue, before Dimitri found her.
- I don’t really agree with the ending. Part of me is glad that Alexa and Jackson managed to remain together. However, another part thinks that it seemed a little too easy. I could sense that kind of HEA coming from ten miles, knowing what happened to Reid at the end of book 1.
- Sometimes the characters were a bit… too competent? For instance, early enough, we learn that Alexa has never died, contrary to all the other immortals, and Jackson turns to be a tad bit too skilled when it comes to fighting, even though he isn’t on par with the overtrained immortals, of course.

I couldn’t decide between giving it 3 or 4 stars. I’m giving it 3 on Goodreads—well, I did like it—but if the points I’ve raised aren’t a bother for you, definitely consider it a 4.

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Review: Division Zero

Posted on April 12th, 2014 @ 11:47
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Division Zero (Division Zero #1)Division Zero by Matthew S. Cox

My rating:


Most cops get to deal with living criminals, but Agent Kirsten Wren is not most cops.

A gifted psionic with a troubled past, Kirsten possesses a rare combination of abilities that give her a powerful weapon against spirits. In 2418, rampant violence and corporate warfare have left no shortage of angry wraiths in West City. Most exist as little more than fleeting shadows and eerie whispers in the darkness.

Kirsten is shunned by a society that does not understand psionics, feared by those who know what she can do, and alone in a city of millions. Every so often, when a wraith gathers enough strength to become a threat to the living, these same people rely on her to stop it.

Unexplained killings by human-like androids known as dolls leave the Division One police baffled, causing them to punt the case to Division Zero. Kirsten, along with her partner Dorian, wind up in the crosshairs of corporate assassins as they attempt to find out who – or what – is behind the random murders before more people die.

She tries to hold on to the belief that no one is beyond redemption as she pursues a killer desperate to claim at least one more innocent soul – that might just be hers.


[I got a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

3.5 stars. The idea of mixing cyberpunk, crime, psychic powers and ghosts was really interesting, and in general, I liked what the author created here. The world depicted here seemed true enough to what I expected of such a setting, seen through the eyes of a young police officer who’s had her share of difficult moments and knows how far from rosy and sheltered life is. It addressed the matter of consciousness in various ways, the main ones being ghosts, but also AIs (the most advanced ones are granted citizen status, and failing to repair them is legally considered as murder).

I really enjoyed the way the normal world existed alongside the “dead” world. Ghosts tend to linger due to various reasons, from revenge to being tied to items or places (we get to see a few of these throughout the course of the story). Apart from that, their options are to either “go to the light”, or to fall prey to the strange, shadowy Harbingers, who (which?) come for the darkest souls. The way the novel ends leaves room for more on that, I think, but since we already learn a lot in this first installment, I felt satisfied.

I found it a little hard at times to get into the story, especially in the first half, but after a while things flowed more seamlessly. I think what bothered me in the first part was that a couple of side characters popped up, without exactly being solved. (view spoiler) So I was left wondering, when do I see them again, and… nothing.

Kirsten also annoyed me in the first half, because she’s such a whiner about never finding a boyfriend (they all run away when they find out she’s psychic). She’s 22, there’s still plenty of time for that, and I don’t like it when a female character who has a lot of potential is shown as pining after men, as if everything else wasn’t important. Everytime it happened, I wondered why she kept putting herself in such situations, too (it was as if she set herself for failure?). I must admit that behaviour made me knock off one star here. Fortunately, the second half of the novel was better in that regard, and she was more focused on her job. She also got to battle her own demons, and with this came a new acceptance, too, and another perspective on life.

Dorian… Dorian had his annoying quirks, but I liked what the author did with him, and I hope he appears in the next story. (view spoiler)

In spite of my initial qualms with Kirsten, I do want to read the next installment. I’ve seldom seen ghosts used in such futuristic settings, so the whole premise was interesting, and remained so in my opinion. (Also, I still hope we’ll see some of the minor characters again, such as the ones I’ve already mentioned.)

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