Saints (Monster Hunter Memoirs III) – Larry Correia & John Ringo

In the third and final Monster Hunter Memoirs book, Chad finds a great evil lurking under New Orleans, which might explain the unusual density of supernatural events in the city. He suspects this might be why Saint Peter sent him back to Earth after his death. A showdown approaches.

Saints wraps up the series, but the teasing final sentence opens up to more adventures in perhaps not a direct sequel but another spin-off. While there are some rambling tangents, Ringo’s prose is as always filled with great action scenes and bone-dry humour.

Sinners (Monster Hunter Memoirs II) – Larry Correia & John Ringo

The second book in the series is set in New Orleans, after Chad has had to hastily move from Seattle due to an ill-advised liaison with a young elf. In New Orleans, so many people believe in “hoodoo” that the local MHI branch,  “Hoodoo Squad”, is very busy all the time. Adding to the culture shock for Chad, the population of the city seems as unusual as the monsters.

While the first book was really funny, this one is plain hilarious. The action scenes are superb. However, just as in the earlier installment, there are no real surprises, and we seem no closer to finding out what Chad’s “Divine Mission” is.

Grunge (Monster Hunter Memoirs I) – Larry Correia & John Ringo

“Chad” Gardenier grows up in an academic household, hating his parents. He enlists the Marines as quickly as he can, and is killed in the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombings. He is sent back to the mortal realm with a mission, and instructions to look for a sign. The sign is “57”. He eventually joins Monster Hunter International as a, you guessed it, monster hunter.

The book, written in memoir form, has all the hallmarks of a John Ringo novel. The hero is self-reliant, really good at what he does, has right-wing political views and is total badass. The prose is infused with Mr. Ringo’s signature dry wit, and the action scenes especially are laugh-out-loud funny.

While it is a fun and easy read, it is disappointing that the story is not very interesting, or surprising. This is a fun little book for John Ringo fans, but it doesn’t have the same high stakes feel as the main Monster Hunter International series. While the journey is entertaining, the outcome is very much predictable.

The Monster Hunter Memoirs series is set in the Monster Hunter International universe, specifically about 30 years prior. While both Mr. Correia and Mr. Ringo are credited as authors, the books are written almost entirely by Mr. Ringo.

Strands of Sorrow (Black Tide Rising IV) – John Ringo

BlackTideRising4StrandsofSorrowThe fourth and last book in Black Tide Rising sees the beginning of major zombie clearance on the US mainland, with the retaking of some large coastal bases, and planning for the re-establishment of proper civilization beyond survival. Given the clearance of the bases, more and more surviving higher officers start to appear, some of whom are unable to adapt to the “new military”.

Throughout the series, Ringo has approached the zombie problem from a logical perspective. Once the survivors have gotten through the initial collapse of society and achieved a modicum of organization, ridding the world of all those zombies becomes a logistical issue. While the discussions on said logistics are interesting per se, they do not an action novel make. Furthermore, given that what action is now relatively safe for our heroes, there is not a huge amount of tension. Mr. Ringo is as always a very funny author so the novel is still a page turner, but sadly the subject matter and the way it is treated makes this one less engaging than most of his works. The novel also verges further into “preachy” about the military and the right wing than even the author’s usual, and that part got old fast.

3Rosbochs

 

Islands of Rage and Hope (Black Tide Rising III) – John Ringo

BlackTideRising3IslandsofRageandHopeAfter consolidating through the North Atlantic hurricane season, Wolf Squadron moves on to capture Guantanamo Bay and liberate the Marines trapped there. Our heroes then mow through a few Caribbean islands in search of vaccine production materials, a quest which eventually leads them to an unlikely place.

New Marines means Shewolf has to convince new people that her way is the correct way. Unsurprisingly, taking orders from a thirteen year old Second Lieutenant is hard for those who have not seen her in action. Unfortunately, interpersonal issues, and the organizational tangles stemming from them, take up too large a portion of the book. There are some very interesting discussions on leadership but they too often take the form of infodumps from senior officers, who always seem to have more knowledge than any average person. Having said that, this is Ringo and as usual with him the novel is a page turner, especially the last third where the action really picks up. The humor, also as usual with Ringo, is dry and hilarious.

3½Rosbochs

 

The Tuloriad – John Ringo & Tom Kratman

TheTuloriadAfter the Posleen War ends, a small band of Posleen is smuggled off Earth in secret to start their civilization anew. They start on a sort of quest to find a home. At the same time, elements of humanity led by the Catholic Church aim to bring religion to these Posleen, saving their souls and making allies of them.

If you liked the other Posleen books, you will probably enjoy read this one. It doesn’t have much value if you haven’t read them, especially Yellow Eyes. It is reasonably good fun but there are no massive stakes. In some ways it is a setup for the Hedren War. The discussions on the role of religion are reasonably interesting, and superficially contrarian for a science fiction book.

2½Rosbochs

To Sail a Darkling Sea (Black Tide Rising II) – John Ringo

BlackTideRisingIIToSailaDarklingSeaBook two of Black Tide Rising picks up shortly after Under a Graveyard Sky. Wolf Squadron is now well on its way to being a reasonably organized naval military force. Faith “Shewolf” Smith is a legend after initial difficult zombie clearance actions, and her sister Sophia “Seawolf” Smith is not far behind as a boat captain. The story is fairly straight forward and mainly deals with the growing pains of squadron, the formalization of military command over it, and the introduction of new characters.

Unlike the first book, there is no backs-to-the-wall-with-everything-on-the-line combat, nor is the survival of most of the characters really in question. A setup book necessary for the continuation of the series. Having said that, Mr. Ringo’s trademark humor, his lively characters and his knack for snappy dialogue make it a thoroughly enjoyable read. I also loved the emerging anti-zombie mechanical devices.

4Rosbochs

Under a Graveyard Sky (Black Tide Rising I) – John Ringo

BlackTideRisingIUnderAGraveyardSkySteve Smith is not a survivalist in the “nutter” sense of the word. He is a former special forces soldier who takes what most would consider excessive precautions against various “end of the world” scenarios. His teenage daughters are well versed in weapons usage and know how to pack for the apocalypse. When Steve’s brother Tom sends him a coded message that the zombie apocalypse is coming (yes really!), he sets in motion a well-prepared plan to get his family out of harm’s way. Zombie apocalypse wasn’t one of the more likely scenarios, but he can deal. His thirteen year old daughter Faith is reasonably happy though. She has always dreamed of a chance to kill zombies.

This is an unusual zombie novel since Mr. Ringo has actually taken the time to make the zombie trope somewhat, and I use the word loosely, realistic. Your classic zombie might as well be a magical being. No matter how much zombie-ism is made out as a disease, zombies would still need to get energy from somewhere, and evacuate waste. “Normal” zombies don’t poop. Mr. Ringo neatly solves the evacuation issue by having the tailored zombie virus induce a very strong itching feeling when it strikes, giving the afflicted an uncontrollable urge to strip just before they go on the more traditional murdering cannibalistic rampage.

As usual with Mr. Ringo, the novel oozes dry humor. Some of the one liners felled in the middle of zombie killing action are laugh out loud funny, and the whole thing is extremely entertaining despite the subject matter. The “Last Concert in New York” scene is particularly quirky and absurd. I look forward to coming installments.

4Rosbochs

Tiger by the Tail (Paladin of Shadows VI) – John Ringo & Ryan Sear

PaladinofShadows6TigerbytheTailMike Harmon and his band of Georgian (the country not the state) mountain soldiers are back. This time they are on a training mission in Southeast Asia. One thing leads to another, with the action moving from Indonesia, to Hong Kong, to Phuket and finally to Myanmar.

In this sixth book, Ringo is cooperating with Ryan Sear. While the action is pretty good, compared to the previous books, especially I-IV, it feels a bit color by numbers, a bit like a Bond movie. The sex scenes, while still explicit and edgy, seem more written for shock effect than with reference to actual S&M practices. And apart from one quite brief action scene, there is far too little doubt about the outcome. The Keldara have become supermen, and this is a bit dull.

The perhaps unfortunate thing about a novel with a large chunk set in Hong Kong is that I could pick it apart for accuracy. I understand artistic license and I understand that there will be inaccuracies but in this book it was a bit much. For example a Hong Kong scene is set in Shekou docks, but this is over the border in Mainland China. A simple check on Google Maps would have established that. It detracts from the enjoyment of the novel when the research is so sloppy.

2½Rosbochs

Queen of Wands (Special Circumstances II) – John Ringo

The sequel to Princess of Wands sees “Soccermom-osaurus” Mrs. Barbara Everette as an experienced FLUF agent, defending America from evil supernatural and mystic creatures. As in the first book, this one also takes the form of three interlinked stories, the middle one of which is set (sort of) at Dragon*con.

Ringo always delivers thrills and page-turnability. But this time he fell short of the mark. The story is bland. The stakes are nominally high, certainly. but I never felt like I cared that much. The way the author has had to shoehorn belief into some sort of consistent reality makes for too many weird conversations. So a bit of a dud but still eminently readable.

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 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.

Von Neumann’s War – John Ringo & Travis S. Taylor

In the beginning of this book, various professional and amateur astronomers notice that Mars is changing color. It is becoming slowly less red and more grey. Eventually, they figure out that it is being consumed by Von Neumann machines. For those who aren’t familiar, these are machines capable of replicating themselves. A team of Very Smart People in Huntsville, Alabama ends up developing the concepts for and leading the defense. If the location sounds familiar, it is the site of the Marshall Space Flight Center and the Redstone Arsenal, some of the premier rocket design locations in the United States. The book starts fast, and gets faster, as a reconnaissance probe is sent to find out more about the Von Neumann “probes” and then these attack Earth. The “motivation” of the probes is interesting. They only kill as a side effect. Mostly they just grab anything metal, including dental braces, cars, metal eyelets out of shoes, dog tags and rebar out of buildings, to make more of themselves. The story focuses on the Very Smart People, and they are quite a fun bunch of rocket scientists.

This is what happens when you combine Ringo, known for fast moving prose and a twisted sense of humor, with Taylor, who can write one heck of a fast moving plot. Hold on tight! Just like in his other works, Taylor’s story creeps up on you. It starts very small and by the end the fate of the world is at stake and the action scenes crowd each other out on the page. The initial alien attack conveniently lands near Paris. I say conveniently because the US can act as the Last Citadel. I suspect it also gave our authors a chance to destroy France. This book is great fun, the science is fascinating and the main characters sound like a group of people I’d like to have a beer with.

Princess of Wands (Special Circumstances I) – John Ringo

An ordinary Southern homemaker, Barbara “Barb” Everette has three kids and a full life. She is the epitome of the churchgoing soccer mom, with the only slight quirk her prowess at martial arts. But on a weekend off, she ends up foiling the attempt of a demon to take over a village in the Louisiana bayou. And then things get even weirder as she is recruited into a super secret organization that battles supernatural beings as they manifest on Earth.

Once again Ringo has managed to write a page turner. The prose and action are excellent as usual, and peppered with the author’s dry humor. Just like Ghost, the novel is episodic, although the characters could hardly be more different. Barb is a very unusual Fantasy heroine, being a deeply religious woman who deems men masters of the household, even her useless one. It is interesting to see how Ringo makes this trait her very strength in her battles against the forces of darkness. There is a also quite a bit of fanservice, as Ringo drops Barb into a typical SciFi convention replete with the requisite authors, geeks and role players. Making the villain a thinly disguised David Drake who hates and envies a thinly disguised Robert Jordan is a nice touch. Unfortunately the convention is also the novel’s weaker section. Too many characters are introduced at the event, and the plot does not flow very well at this point.

While it is not the best Ringo plot wise, the quality of the writing is high as usual. Very entertaining.

The Hero – John Ringo & Michael Z. Williamson

This story is set about a thousand years after the events in the Posleen War series. The titular hero is a Darhel. The Darhel are known as being the puppetmasters of humanity a millennium earlier, and also for being incapable of killing. He is assigned to a Deep Reconnaissance Commando team due to his psychic ability to sense living beings. The rest of the team is made up of humans. They are sent on a scouting missions to a planet held by the “Blobs”, a mysterious enemy. While there, they find an Aldenata artifact, and the team sniper betrays the team, killing almost all of the members in a bid to secure the valuable artifact for himself. The Darhel now has to evade the sniper and eliminate him as a threat, despite his racial inability to kill.

This book is a very tight knit drama of a few individuals. The psychological aspects are very interesting, delving into motivations and character. The story itself was unfortunately somewhat weak. The first half is basically a set up for the chase in the second half. The chase, though interesting, felt a bit long-winded. If you are interested in special forces and sniper operations, it is a decent read, but despite its exposition on Darhel physiology and psychology, it does not add very much to the Legacy of the Aldenata universe.

Cally’s War – John Ringo & Julie Cochrane

This book is part of Ringo‘s Legacy of the Aldenata universe. Set about fifty years after the Posleen War, its main character is Cally O’Neal, daughter of Mike O’Neal. Her father believes her dead, but in fact she is an assassin and intelligence operative for a secret organization known as the Bane Sidhe. The purpose of the organization is to resist the autocratic rule of the Darhel. But that’s just the backstory. This novel deals with how Cally has to assassinate a counterintelligence officer. And how she falls in love with a rival agent. It’s complicated.

There is much to like about this book. Cally herself is deeply flawed mentally and she wears different identities like personae. She is probably over 70, but with rejuvenation the body is young, and she lives like a twenty year old. The bad part is the very long introduction. Before we get to the main action, half the book is spent on what is basically a tangent. While it neatly sets up Cally’s character and backstory, I still felt that it could have been trimmed. To add insult to injury, the conclusion feels hurried, with some characters barely getting a personality before playing important parts.

If you have read the other books in the series, you may like this one. But note that there are no Posleen to fight and it’s not really about combat.

Watch on the Rhine – John Ringo & Tom Kratman

This book is part of Ringo‘s Legacy of the Aldenata universe. It deals with the defense of Germany during the Posleen War. In what initially seems like a Faustian bargain, the Germans rejuvenate a whole bunch of old SS soldiers to form the cadre for their elite defense forces. They even resurrect the SS unit names and eventually the infamous double flash insignia. Much thoughtprovoking discussion ensues. The authors treat the subject matter in an adult manner. It’s a tricky subject, but they pull it off.

The action contained is great. The combat scenes are, as expected, intense and well written. The characters, major and minor, are all well fleshed out. The flashbacks into the past of various SS officers, especially Brasche, are excellent and used well throughout as a backdrop to the main action.

If you like the other books in the series, you will like this one. But it stands well on its own. No doubt many will loathe this book for the hated symbols it portrays and the notion of reawakening a buried evil. But as discussed in the text, symbols are not absolute. I urge readers to approach the text with open minds.

Claws That Catch (Looking Glass IV) – John Ringo & Travis S. Taylor

The third mission of the Vorpal Blade, now actually Vorpal Blade Two, has the crew looking for an ancient artifact. Far from stagnating, the plot thickens as a new commanding officer and various crew members enter the mix. The just don’t “get” the Blade and its odd denizens. The ensuing conflicts and madcap hijinks are central to character development.

After finishing this one, I find myself wanting more. As mentioned in the Manxome Foe review, these books are just plain fun. The characters are likeable, the humor is dry and the pages just want to be turned.

Manxome Foe (Looking Glass III) – John Ringo & Travis S. Taylor

During the second mission of the A.S.S. Vorpal Blade, the crew is tasked with a long duration journey in order to investigate what happened to a far-flung research outpost with which contact has been lost. Big space battles with the Dreen ensue, as well as an encounter with an ally.

Just as in Vorpal Blade, the tone is light hearted, with a lot of dry humor pervading the text. No plot development is too hyperbolic for the authors, and therein, in my opinion, lies the charm of the series. It is almost a guilty pleasure. While the physics and logic are unassailable, the attitude is pure sass.

Vorpal Blade (Looking Glass II) – John Ringo & Travis S. Taylor

The sequel to Into the Looking Glass takes up the story more than ten years later. The US is launching its first starship, based on a nuclear submarine and and alien propulsion system. The novel follows the mission. It is an escalation of encounters from very mild to extremely deadly, with quantum physics sprinkled throughout.

Unlike Into the Looking Glass, which I was somewhat disappointed with, I thoroughly enjoyed Vorpal Blade. It is a fun romp with the right doses of humor and action. The characters are engaging, fun and well-written. You really get a sense of being with them on the starship. Fun!

Into the Looking Glass (Looking Glass I) – John Ringo

An experiment gone wrong opens a gate to another dimension. Pretty soon more gates start to open. Mayhem ensues as evil demonspawn aliens pour through some of the gates and try to colonize by exterminating those pesky humans. Hot shot physicist, renaissance man and generally cool guy Bill Weaver teams up with some Navy Seals to figure things out and contain the threat.

As can be expected with Ringo, there’s a lot of action, all of it good and exciting. However, the books does get bogged down in the physics of it all. The writer has painted himself into a corner here. The gates and their function are pretty pivotal to the story, but the explanations required for that angle are yawn inducing, getting in the way of the action. Note that quantum physics actually interests me but that is not why I read the book. Still, if you enjoy Ringo, don’t let that stand in your way. Plenty of kick-ass action as well as a not so veiled ringing endorsement of Bush and his administration.

A Deeper Blue (Paladin of Shadows V) – John Ringo

Book five sees the usual gang take on smugglers and terrorists trying to bring off a nerve gas attack in Florida. But there’s a twist. Events in Unto the Breach have left Mike in deep depression. As he works on that, he isn’t afraid to step on toes in order to get things done.

This one is quite a ride, and my vague familiarity of the territory (the Keys, mainland Florida and the Bahamas) made it all flow smoothly. The culture shock between “by the book” US law officialdow and “get it done” Keldara is played for lots of laughs. Reading between the lines, though, there is an astute critique of current US anti terrorism efforts and the debate surrounding them.