Rather simplistic novel depicting a mission to Mars. Goes hand in hand with The Case for Mars. A fun light read if you are into the space program.
The Case for Mars – Robert Zubrin
Subtitled “The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must”, this is non-fiction detailing how and why man should colonize Mars. Zubrin is a rocket scientist and the founder of the Mars Society, and thus knows what he is talking about.
The Mask of Loki – Roger Zelazny & Thomas T. Thomas
Jack of Shadows – Roger Zelazny
Fantasy/Science Fiction hybrid set on a world where one side always faces the sun and the other is always dark. The light side features science while the dark side is the realm of magic. Our hero Jack is a sort of spy/mythic hero and these are his adventures. Zelazny weirdness is all over the writing of this rather lighthearted tale.
Creatures of Light and Darkness – Roger Zelazny
This Immortal – Roger Zelazny
Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny
The crew of a colony ship has set itself up as the Hindu pantheon, lording it over the descendants of their former passengers by controlling access to superior technology and enacting laws forbidding progress. This works well for a long time, until the Buddha appears.
A deep novel which is sometimes difficult to fathom, it is nevertheless considered a science fiction classic for good reason. The way in which Zelazny uses technology as a metaphor for spirituality is masterful.
The Thrawn Trilogy – Timothy Zahn
So what happened after The Return of the Jedi? This series answers the question. If you are a Star Wars fan, you will want to pick this up. The writing won’t win any literary awards, much in the same way that the movies were not nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, but who cares? It’s action with all those characters that we have come to know and love. The series consists of :
- Heir to the Empire
- Dark Force Rising
- The Last Command
Better to Beg Forgiveness (Ripple Creek I) – Michael Z. Williamson
Set in the same universe as Freehold but preceding it chronologically, this novel follows a group of bodyguards tasked with protecting the president of a nation wracked by civil war. The setting is very much inspired by present day Afghanistan and Iraq. Clan warfare and a lacking sense of national identity make the task of unification and pacification very difficult. To make it worse, the bureaucrats and military organizations of the UN (now a world and multiplanetary government) don’t care one way or another. They simply want their own agendas pushed. When it all hits the fan, the bureaucrats choose to simply “remove” the president, but the bodyguards have other ideas.
From the excellent action scenes to the realistic character studies, Williamson displays his impressive knowledge of military matters. The plot is a bit slow and perhaps even unfocused in the first half, but then picks up speed to end in a huge climax. If you are a fan of Williamson’s other work, you’ll like this one, but it is only really for the hardcore military fiction buff. That’s right, I didn’t say science fiction. In fact, this book could have been set in the present day Middle East with very few changes.
Confirmed Kill (Target: Terror III) – Michael Z. Williamson
The second sequel to The Scope of Justice finds our two snipers, Monroe and Wade, dropped into the jungles of Indonesia, where they become involved in a power struggle between diverse anti-government factions, consisting both of terrorists and Indonesian Army. In a clever twist to the story, their new commanding officer, a born and bred bureaucrat Colonel, comes with them. Our heroes are Sergeants, but they have vastly superior skills and experience. This poses many challenges as the team attempts to complete its mission in a shifting local political environment.
I was afraid that this third book would be a mere re-hash or the first two in a new locale, but Williamson has managed to make it unique. The overall structure of a covert mission remains in all three books, but the missions themselves vary widely. Williamson also captures well, especially in this last installment, the good and the bad of the military. How some personnel is helpful, how some is annoyingly by the book, how some goes above and beyond. Most military fiction does not go very deeply into these interesting subjects. Overall, a satisfying read.
Targets of Opportunity (Target: Terror II) – Michael Z. Williamson
In the sequel to The Scope of Justice, the two snipers Monroe and Wade, have a new mission: Take out terrorists smuggling explosives through Romania for use in Western Europe. Once in place, they find themselves doing a lot of straight spy work, typically with little or no backup. To further complicate things, they are in place clandestinely, and must also hide from Romanian authorities.
The second book in the series is an improvement over the first. The prose is less stilted and the story flows better overall. The two main action scenes are very good. Williamson describes well how it feels to be a stranger in a strange land, needing to blend in but having a hard time doing so. I found myself caring more for the protagonists as Williamson explored their motivations in more depth. The technical parts about sniping are detailed and fascinating (at least to this reader). An enjoyable read if you have some interest in the subject matter.
The Scope of Justice (Target: Terror I) – Michael Z. Williamson
This rather short novel follows a US sniper and spotter team on an assassination mission in Afghanistan. It is set after the Afghan war of 2001 and the target is a terrorist leader. Needless to say, the initial attempt goes to hell in more ways than one. The two Americans then have to use their own ingenuity and local resources to both survive and to complete their mission.
This is competent but not great military fiction. A rather straightforward story, exciting but without any really unexpected wrinkles. Interesting reading if you want to learn something about modern snipers and how they operate. The dialogue is pretty awful at times though.
The Prometheus Project – Steve White
The idea behind this novel is simple and rather ingenious. Just after World War II, a mysterious man calling himself Mr. Inconnu plops down on Earth claiming to be from a lost human colony. He warns the US government that aliens pervade the galaxy and that if these should discover Earth in her present state, the planet will become a low status protectorate. Kind of like an Amazon tribe discovered by super advanced Westerners. But Mr. Inconnu brings advanced knowledge, allowing the newly created Prometheus Project to both kickstart human development and fool the aliens into thinking that Earth is advanced enough to merit at least the attention given a barely civilized polity.
But there is a traitor in the Project.
I wanted to like this novel. The central concepts and the plot are well thought out. The beginning is quite entertaining, but once the novelty wears off it starts to get pretty dull. The alien cultures are described in a sense of wonder style that fails to convey a sense of wonder. White is trapped by his own storyline, as multiple infodumps thinly disguised as stilted conversation give the story a clumsy shove in the desired direction. The characters are all one dimensional, even the narrator. I skimmed through the last fifty pages just to find out what happens. I found it a pity that this book turned out less than well, because in essence it is quite a good story.
Alien Emergencies – James White
The Apocalypse Troll – David Weber
In the future, mankind is winning the war against the Kangas. But the enemy attempts to send troops back in time to Earth 2007. Only one Kanga unit, a deadly Troll, remains alive in 2007 after mankind tries to stop the plan. But a human from the future also survives… And so it begins.
The idea of only one “future human” surviving is entertaining, and Weber on a bad day is still better than many authors on a good one. However, I did feel that Mr. Weber was treading water here. The plot is predictable and somewhat prosaic. The ending is a bit too syrupy and well tied up. The good guys are a bit too good. A nice way to spend an afternoon or two, but nothing fantastic.
The Shadow of Saganami (Saganami I) – David Weber
This is the first of a spin off in the Honor Harrington series. It starts off by dealing with the next generation of midshipmen. Helen Zilwicki, one of the characters created by Eric Flint for the Honorverse, is prominently featured.
I was disappointed with the first 300 pages but after that the book rapidly picks up the pace and shows true Honorverse form. It is a shame that Weber has descended into verbose overflow. Yes, David, I understood what you meant after the first sentence. You don’t need to re-explain and expand for another overly long paragraph. It slows down the action too much.
I would recommend this for the Honor Harrington fan, but not as a first taste of Weber. There is too much background information that needs to be known to make it enjoyable as a first foray.
Note: This series is also known as Saganami Island.
Crown of Slaves (Wages of Sin I) – David Weber & Eric Flint
This is the first of a spinoff series in the the Honor Harrington Universe. My guess is that Flint is doing most of the writing since he is the one who came up with the Zilwicki characters in the Honorverse anthologies.
All the way through reading the book, I kept thinking that Weber and Flint can do much better than this. While the characters are engaging, the plot is lackluster. There’s a lot of interesting material here, but it just doesn’t feel like the high adventure it’s supposed to be. The whole thing is rather construed and feels forced. The first half is very dull, but the novel thankfully picks up during the second half. And then there’s the endless exposition; just as in the later works by Weber, the explanations drone on and on. If I hadn’t been a fan of the Honorverse, I would probably not have finished the book.
Kris Longknife – Daring (Kris Longknife IX) – Mike Shepherd
United Sentients, led by Wardhaven, takes action to find the cause for the Iteeche ships that are disappearing, a topic introduced in Undaunted. Kris, as commander of a patrol squadron, is ordered to lead an exploration into very deep space. Various other states, prominently including the Greenfeld Empire, decide they need to go along. Kris finds herself in the lead of a rather large fleet of exploration, though not in command. The political machinations make her life complicated. The main action starts when the fleet actually finds a race of aliens who devastate and plunder other civilizations. Any attempt at contact is met by immediate aggression. Kris must now save a race that is not even aware of humanity’s existence, and survive in order to report her findings.
This is the first time since Defiant that the series has set our heroes with their backs to the wall in a real win or die situation with immense stakes. Kris must battle the demons of her past to do the right thing, even if her actions will likely lead to condemnation on her return to base. Shepherd skillfully continues developing Kris as a heroine who deserves happiness but whose background and sense of duty prevent it. Unlike many other long series, Shepherd dares to reinvent this one and kill off key characters, keeping the whole thing fresh and exciting.
Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroineâ€™s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.
Crusade (Starfire I) – David Weber & Steve White
We Few (Empire of Man IV) – David Weber & John Ringo
The final book in the Empire of Man series has the ever smaller band finally getting off the planet Marduk. But their problems aren’t over. The Empire is in the hands of traitors who claim that Prince Roger is the real traitor. The bad buys also hold Roger’s mother, the Empress, under psychological control. This one is a departure for the series, with space battles and high level political intrigue. While still a cracking read, it suffers from Weber’s datadump writing at times. The action will stop and one is subjected to two or three pages of long-winded explanation about some pet political or tactical point. Having said that, if you liked the first three books, you will enjoy this one just fine.
March to the Stars (Empire of Man III) – David Weber & John Ringo
The third book in the Empire of Man series continues in the same vein as the previous two. The band discovers that their problems farÂ from over even if they manage to get off Marduk. After a hefty bodycount (most of it in the last 100 pages) we are left hanging until the next book.
Note: This series is also known as the Prince Roger Series or the March Upcountry series.
March to the Sea (Empire of Man II) – David Weber & John Ringo
The second installment of the Empire of Man series starts slow but gets much better towards the end. Weber’s obsessive verboseness unfortunately shows up here and there. Real people just don’t talk like that. There is lots of enjoyable discussion about weapons development, although a couple of drawings would have been nice for us mere mortals.
Note: This series is also known as the Prince Roger Series or the March Upcountry series.
March Upcountry (Empire of Man I) – David Weber & John Ringo
In the first book of the Empire of Man series, Crown Prince Roger is a spoiled, annoying brat. When his ship is sabotaged and crashes in the wilderness on a backwater planet, he is forced to rough it towards civilization with a company of Marines from the Imperial Guard. Very enjoyable military science fiction.
Note: This series is also known as the Prince Roger Series or simply the March Upcountry series.
The Dahak Series – David Weber
A human pilot finds out that the moon is in fact a giant warship left there by the mutinous crew that turns out to have originall colonized the Earth. Our hero inherits an age old conflict. The premise is way out there, but these three books are good military science fiction, and a great deal of fun. The series consists of:
- Mutineers’ Moon
- The Armageddon Inheritance
- Heirs of Empire
The three books have now been republished in the Empire from the Ashes omnibus.
In Fury Born – David Weber
This is more or less an expanded version of Path of the Fury, with what can be considered a prequel to the original added at the start of the book. This fills out elements hinted at in Path of the Fury.
While Path of the Fury is a fun little book, this expanded version is horrible. Path of the Fury was written early in Weber’s career, when he was still writing hard hitting, fast moving, action packed military science fiction. Then he slowed down and became a word pooper. The new section is ponderous and verbose ad nauseam like his later works. I really tried but I could not get through the new material.