Monday, December 31, 2012


2012 has been quite an exciting year!  Starting off with a return from Afghanistan (really, if that was the only good thing this would be a great post). A nice couple of weeks off and then back to work.

Lots of wedding planning, followed by the actual event
A delightful almost 3 week vacation to Australia and New Zealand.
A second reception in my Wifes hometown (along with a trip to the State Fair).
There was a bit of tragedy as we had to attend the funerals of both of my wifes Grandmothers (within 3 months of each other).
And of course some new life to counteract those losses as my wife is now pregnant and due in June.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Second Star (Star Svensdotter #1) by Dana Stabenow

Second Star (Star Svensdotter, #1)

Second Star (Star Svensdotter #1)

Classic SF. Given that I grew up in the days when the Russians (or Soviets) were a driving force, this novel felt familiar. This is basically an alternate future book, where a message from space shows that Aliens are out there and motivates the world to head outwards to greet those aliens on a more equal footing.

Star is basically a construction manager / captain of the still developing L5 community being put together by the Western alliance (US, Japan, Mexico, Canada) on a grand scale (miles long rotating habitat meant to house 1 million people? That's the definition of grand scale!).  Of course, there are a lot of issues. The potential of a hostile takeover, construction delays, solar flares and, yes, aliens all make this book an entertaining read.

Amazingly for a book written 2 decades ago, the book holds up fairly well (other than the geo-political aspects). I had to go back see when it was written and was quite surprised at the date.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight (Lost Stars #1) by Jack Campbell

The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight

The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight (Lost Stars #1)

What a great spinoff concept. Prior to this book the Syndicate, controlled by nefarious CEO's, were nothing more than relative stick figures. In this case we get to delve deeper into Syndicate society in the post-Geary age.  The main characters were tangentially introduced in the main series, but now we have a chance to see the desperate fight of the leadership of Midway to separate themselves from the central control of the Syndicate.

This is much more of a political novel than the Lost Fleet books.  Yes, there is space combat as well as ground combat, but a lot of the book is devoted to the truly twisted political realm of the CEO's, where you cannot trust anyone. Even though they must work together to wring a small hole of safety for both themselves and the people of Midway, the sheer level of scheming is intense (where every move is never taken at face value and no one is what they seem to be). But the two leaders, Drakon and Iceni, seem to see the value of cooperation and realize that the system that they were born into needs to be changed (but realizing that it cannot be done overnight).

A very solid book and I very much look forward to the next (with a cliffhanger like Jack dropped at the end of the book, it is a given that there needs to be another book).

Friday, December 14, 2012

A World Out of Time

A World Out of Time

A World Out of Time

Classic SF. While a few of the concepts of the future world are a bit dated (though one could argue that as most of the story is from the perspective of a man who died in the 1970's) it overall is an interesting romp that covers an impressive scope of time (not just throwing us hundreds of years into the future, but millions!!!).

Corbell begins this tale as a corpsicle, frozen on the off chance getting revived in the future. And lucky for him he does... sorta. Waking up in a new body he finds he is merely fodder for the "State", his old body is ground up to extract his memories and tied into a body of a criminal who has been wiped. Slated to be a operator of a ramscoop ship, he eventually has his own ideas and ends up hijacking it and eventually returning to the Earth 3 million years after he left. Afterward he spends the rest of the book on the prowl for a special treatment that will make him young again.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Furious (Kris Longknife #10)

Furious (Kris Longknife, #10)

Furious (Kris Longknife #10)

This is the style of SF that I grew up on.  I guess that is why I have read the past 9 books, making this one a no-brainer.

In a lot of ways this is perhaps the most boring of the series. No cataclismic fight against overwhelming odds and very little fleet action (even the ground fighting/espionage, another big factor for this series, was tame).  Mainly just a bunch of hiding/escaping from pursuers, a break in, more fleeing and then a courtroom drama (set in the Japanese empire, which is entertaining).  And oddly enough, more romance than we have seen in almost the entire series combined.

Kris starts the story exiled, stuck on a planet far away, seperated from most of her friends (except Abbie). After yet another assaination attempt coupled with some key intel that needs to be resolved back in Wardhaven, she promptly escapes. Making things difficult for her is that her father and her grandfather have both sworn out warrants against her, and her other grandfather locks her out of her massive funds.

Overall entertaining popcorn novel.  The most frustrating part of the book was the end, which so horribly teases the next book I was kind of annoyed......

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dead of Night (Dead of Night #1) by Jonathan Maberry

Dead of Night

Dead of Night (Dead of Night #1)

Still not sure how I missed finding Jonathan Maberry before but I am hooked. This book seems to keep up his Zombie theme, with more of the classic outbreak/beginning story.  Providing one of the better back stories for how the infection came to be than most books, the book kept me glued until the end.

When a mad-scientist doctor injects a death row serial killer with something other than what the government wants, untold horror is unleashed on a little county in Pennsylvania. Most of the story is told from the perspective of the reporter, Trout, and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Dez. Trout gets the full story from the prison doc, while Dez must slowly figure out the danger she is in bit by bit and only through trial and error is she able to learn how to fight correctly.  It is a solid story that keeps you involved for the entire novel, as you try to figure out where the story will end.

Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville, #3)

Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3)

This book was kind of a slog to get through. I continue to enjoy reading stories involving Kitty, but this story seemed somewhat adrift and not anchored like the first two books.  It also had the odd feel that there were basically two stories in this book that are combined. The mystery of who is harassing Kitty during her self-enforced isolation and the part where she deals with the aftereffects of the first story.

Overall we get a better understanding of the world that Kitty lives in (with the expansion of new types of supernatural creatures and of magic) as well as better understanding of the two men who dominate her life, her lawyer, Ben, and her occasional hunter ally Cormic.

I really do enjoy the tone (the voice) of Kitty, she remains an engaging character and I have hopes for the next book. It helps that in the end she is back where she belongs, behind the mic.

Ex-Heroes (Ex-Heroes #1) by Peter Clines

Ex-Heroes (Ex-Heroes, #1)

Ex-Heroes (Ex-Heroes #1)

You got Zombies in my Superheroes novel. You got Superheroes in my Zombie novel. Together it is a great combination (yes, I know Marvel has done this in the past, but it still doesn't make it any less interesting).

This story is a solid read. It combines both the origin stories of the various heroes with back story on how they handled the Zombie outbreak to the present situation, dealing with their closest opponents, a gang that has also survived the outbreak.The writer does a great job blending those stories together, causing a level of care for the characters as well as bringing the story to a rip-roaring battle of a crescendo.

4/5 stars.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Agent to the Stars

Agent to the Stars

Agent to the Stars

I guess in this day and age everyone needs an agent. And given the rep of aliens (which varies from the killers in Alien to the cuddly ET), it really wouldn't hurt to have a someone lay the groundwork. In particular if you are a not so nice smelling blob..

I thought this was a fun book and a quick read. The characters both fulfilled and defied their stereotypes (from the hounding reporter to your standard issue slimy agent).  I kind of had an inkling of where this book was going to finally end up but it was a entertaining ride.


One year ago I was lonely (ironically surrounded by people, but still lonely) at a FOB thousands of miles (and hours offset) from family. Yesterday I got to spend most of the day with them, going first for a run (5K here in Arlington):

And then a little later the Holiday meal. I have my wife and my family surrounding me, and thanks to the separation from last year, makin this the best Thanksgiving yet.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Kitty Goes to Washington

Kitty Goes to Washington (Kitty Norville, #2)

Kitty Goes to Washington (Kitty Norville #2)


Gotta love it when the book is set in my hometown.  And in this case the author seems to actually have visited DC.   I am really come around to Kitty. Beyond the amusement of a werewolf named Kitty, her character seems fairly consistent and is entertaining to me.
This time Kitty has been summoned to DC to testify to Congress.  After the events of the first book, more of the supernatural is out and Congress wants answers. DC of course has it's own supernatural underground...  A senior vampire with tight control of the city, were's who work for embassy's and a much more tolerant collection of were's.

The supernatural backstory of this world continues to grow, in this case we are introduced to the concept of elves (and magic that works).

Kitty's big mouth continues to get her in trouble, and her overriding curiosity doesn't help either.

Fun read and I am looking forward to the next book.

Monday, November 05, 2012


Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3)

First off, are they really going to split this into 2 movies?!  Because that seems somewhat ridiculous.....
But overall this was a pretty satisfying conclusion to the series. In true angsty teenage-centric and aimed books, a 17 year old girl is the key to victory (insert rolling of my eyes at this).

In a reflection of the modern world, the propo's are given almost as much value to the war effort as the actual conflict with the Capitol. And of course as the Mockingjay, Katness is key for this effort. There really wasn't any question about the eventual end of President Snow, but the last couple of chapters were an interesting turn of events.

And yes, as a cat person the most moving part of this book involved Katniss and Buttercup, as they meet right at the end of the book... Both of them hurting and finding comfort in the other after a long period of studied indifference between them.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Allison Hewitt Is Trapped (Zombie #1)i

Allison Hewitt Is Trapped (Zombie, #1)

Allison Hewitt Is Trapped (Zombie #1)

As a book lover myself I had to appreciate a story that starts out set in a book store which is written in blog format. Allison Hewitt, the lead of our story naturally, is a graduate student in English.  Which overall would make you think that she has little use in a zombie outbreak scenario. But she proves that wrong, with her quick and expert utilization of a fire axe.

Written as a find in the future that is being submitted to a literary collection addressing the zombie outbreak, this novel collects the posts and comments (which give a nice flavor for how the rest of the country is dealing with things, something that is often lacking in other books once the comm's go down (taken care by the concept of SafeNet, a (almost magical network to a techie like me) network that was meant for last minute coordination in a grid down scenario)).  Any story where the main character almost gets whacked because she is so focused on getting some new reading material to alleviate the boredom is one that I enjoy and relate to. Of course I have a harder time seeing myself being so unprepared and untrained as she is, but it is things like that which make the character relate able.
Overall a well written novel that provides a satisfying end for the story, with a unique voice and very familiar writing style.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1)

I really liked this book. I read a lot of fiction with Vampires and Werewolves in them, and the most interesting part is what sort of twist the author puts on the particular legend. Soulless delivers on that, with an interesting twist of being set in Victorian England in a world where the Vamps and Were's are known and even mostly accepted in society and in this case there is an interesting twist...  You have the rare supernatural (who only survive the transition if they have an excess of soul), the common normal (normal amount of soul), and the ultra-rare preternatural (no soul).

Alexia Tarabotti is soulless, and her mere touch completely dampens the supernaturals ability (i.e. a vampire could walk in the day if holding on to her). A spinster who has been "put on the shelf" (at the old age of 25!) and barely tolerates the upper class world that she lives in (choosing to focus on things such as science and current events) she seems to find herself embroiled in supernatural machinations.  She is friends with a foppish vampire and interacts with the supernatural regulatory agency (run in this case by an alpha were and his beta) on a regular basis.

Everything is fine until a vampire, badly dressed and not part of the local (Westminster) hive, decides that she is a viable snack.  What follows is a great romp where we learn more of the underlying society, about the great plot she has stumbled onto and a fair amount of romance (at least by Victorian standards). Very satisfying book that is well written with strong identifiable characters, great dialog and a plot that moves steadily along.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

One Foot in the Grave (Night Huntress #2)

One Foot in the Grave (Night Huntress, #2)

One Foot in the Grave (Night Huntress #2)

Now with government sanction.  Fast forwarding from the last book by 5 years, we catch up with Cat as she has become part of the government organization that took her in at the end of the last book, still pining for Bones. Which is good since Bones quickly shows up after searching for her the past couple of years (not buying her note that she left him).  She does have a strong support group, new friends and coworkers that very much like her (some a little too much) but other her work she doesn't have all that much else going on in her life.

We learn a little more about the quirks of the Vampire world, meet Cat's father (or sire depending on interpretation) and overall quickly move along on a whirlwind plot.  All of which leads full circle to the beginning of the book, and a suprise decision that shows that Cat is more than just a vengence demon out for blood against rouge vampires (talk about daddy issues).

The Ice Limit

The Ice Limit

The Ice Limit

I was entertained. I know that sounds like damning with faint praise but this book was slightly out of my favorite genre (though they do throw a twist in the latter quarter of the novel).

Highly competent men undertaking near impossible tasks. And moving a meteorite halfway around the world from where it was buried near the Antarctic Circle, without the assistance or approval of the host nation, is quite the task. Particularly when the rock weighs more than 10,000 tons?

The characters where almost caricatures, not very deep with only a modicum of back story to provide motivations. But the story and the engineering (and chicanery required to pull it off under the noses of the local authorities) were interesting. I must say that I really didn't see them heading down the SF road at the end, but it was an interesting twist.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Apocalypse Codex (Laundry Files #4)

The Apocalypse Codex (Laundry Files, #4)

The Apocalypse Codex (Laundry Files #4)

More Bob? Yes please! Filled with loads of geeky references that had me grinning as I read them, the Laundry series is one in which I get really excited about a new book. And this one pays off.  Continuing right off the back of the last novel (like another series I like, the Joe Ledger series by Jonathan Maberry, Bob is having a right bad year.. Of course the implication in this series is that things are only going to get worse as the world steady heads toward Code Nightmare Green, which is basically the Apocalypse) Bob is continuing on his track up the management trail at the Laundry. After being selected for management training he is quickly detailed to a previously unknown organization, External Affairs.

Bob and the contractors that he is assigned as oversight have to deal with the latest problem that has concerned the denizens of Mahagony Row, a tele-evangalist who is getting far too cozy with the upper echelons of British Government.  So off to America (Colorado) they go. And not too shortly after that everything goes to shit. Turns out the preacher is being mislead and is working with the big scary things on the other plane and Bob and team have shown up near the end game.

A lot more of the underlying world is dribbled out in this book, giving us a better view of the how the Laundry fits into the world (hint, it isn't as important as it thinks it is...).

4/5 Stars

Monday, September 24, 2012

March to the Stars

March to the Stars (Empire of Man, #3)

March to the Stars (Empire of Man #3)

At long last, Prince Roger finally gets to the point where he can get to the starport and leave Marduk. But really, based on the previous books, did you think it was going to be that easy?

The defining plot turn of this series has been the steady movement of the Bronze Barbarians and their rapdily evolving charge, Prince Roger, from the frying pan into a much hotter fire. And boy, did they find the (quite literal) frying pan on the other end of the ocean. Rogers entourage has grown to include some of the notable allies that have decided to hitch their wagons to his rapidly moving star, so in the end Roger is sailing out of Kvern Cove with not just his human bodyguards but a number of Disporians and Vashin's as well.

After encountering great sea beasts and pirates, they finally run into the local culture, that it turns out, quite literally wants to kill and eat some of them as the price for passing through their territory. Fighting out of that, they find that they have picked up quite a pursing force as they find refuge with the mountain people.

The most anti climatic element of the story is the actual taking of the starport, which with the inside help from an IBI Agent is almost rushed over. But Roger and Company are not done, since in the end they must seize a starship.... Which of course, unknown until they actually board it, is staffed by a Saint Special Forces Unit (Greenpiece Brigade.... hehe).

This book also could just be called... "Slimies in Spaaaaacccceeeeee!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Snuff (Discworld, #39)

Snuff (Discworld #39)

39 books set in Discworld?! Quite a long trip from the original one that read so many years ago, about the carnivorous Luggage and the hapless Rincewald. But lord do I love this series.

Commander Vimes is a man in need of a vacation. Or at least, that is what everyone, in particular his wife, has decided for him. So via a strong conspiracy that goes all the way up to leader of Ankh-Morpork he is heading off for a vacation to the countryside estate of his wife. Accompanied by his wife, his child and his body servant he is forced out to an extended time of leisure. However, Sam is never off the clock. And then a Goblin is murdered in his area. Then, as things tend to do in Discworld, things get even more complicated.

I know the Discworld books aren't for everyone (there is just a bit too much tongue in cheek for "serious" fantasy fans) there is just something immensely enjoyable to escape to this fantastically weird and large world.

March Upcountry

March Upcountry (Empire of Man, #1)

March Upcountry (Empire of Man #1)

In a complete out of character thing for me this is one of the few books that I have read multiple times. Here you have a book written by my two favorite authors, combining Science Fiction with a smattering of fantasy and just plain gritty writing.

The book is a lot of plain old fun. Starting with the SF standard of an intergalactic empire engaged in a long term dispute with the significant opponents. That is where Prince Roger MacClintock comes into the scene. Spoiled, petulant and whiny, a clotheshorse fop who is stuck in the petulant teenage-mode of believing that the world has screwed him.  His mother, the empress, sends him off to an out of the way locale to basically get him out of her hair (and maybe protect him from palace intrigue).

Then things go wrong... The ship he is on is sabotaged, forcing it into a no-win scenario where they must drop Roger (and the Company of Marine Bodyguards, the Bronze Barbarians) off into the basically uncharted planet of Marduk.  Because the spaceport on the planet is presumed to be under the control of the enemy (the Saints, an empire run by eco-fascists) they must drop on the far side and make the long trek to take over the spaceport.

Marduk is murder on the Marines, hot, humid and full of lots of things that want to kill them.  Even after gaining some local support the Marines seem to be most effective at going from the frying pan into the fire, on a continuous basis.  Throughout the book (and subsequent books) Roger is slowly redeemed, mostly through the actions of Captain Pahner (head of the Marine Company) and the local who becomes bonded to him, Cord.

One note though.... John Ringo is murder on characters. Literally, since the one key thing when reading his books is that there is going to be a sizable death count on the good-guys team (normally an even bigger body count on the bad guys). David Weber has been known to kill characters as well but not with even a fraction compared to John.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Firestorm (Destroyermen #6)


Firestorm (Destroyermen #6)

Can things get worse? For the crew of Walker and her allies, the only answer is yes. Now solidly engaged in a two front war against opponents that individually outnumber the entire alliance, the scope of this story continues to grow (my biggest concern is that every books seems to be making the scope bigger! There really doesn't appear to be an end in sight).

Now forced to stave off an attack by the Holy Dominion while simultaneously continuing to strike at the Grik, the story is steadly expanding to a global scope. The focus of this book is the expansion of air. Both by the HD with their trained attack flying Grik and by the Grik themselves with the introduction of Zeppelins developed by the Japanese cruisermen.

The best part is the Captain Reddy finally gets to be reunited with his love, even if just for a little while.

Split Infinity (Apprentice Adept #1)

Split Infinity  (Apprentice Adept, #1)

Split Infinity (Apprentice Adept #1)

SF can be tricky stuff, particularly when you start reaching for books that were printed more than a decade ago. Some books just age well, some just look like giant piles of stinking poo. Split Infinity, written more than 25 years ago, has aged well. The lumping together of Science Fiction and Fantasy can be frustrating to fans of one genre or the other, but this books manages to span the two genres.

We are introduced to Stile, who is a serf on the SF world of Proton. Due to a number of various issues he literally stumbles across to the Fantasy world of Phaze, where he uses the various skills he acquired on Proton, and a lucky dose of magic, to learn more about the world. Along the way we learn the back story of Stile, his training and history as well as more information about the Phaze. Stile is fantastically lucky with the ladies, he seems unable to enter situations where at least one woman doesn't become enamored with him. As well, Stiles also appears to be among the most powerful of Phaze, an Adept, with ready access to magic.

A great story as Stile meets unicorns, robots and werewolves and continues to "know thyself" as well as balance his life in both worlds.



Republic by 

Civil war is not the way to go. Particularily if you are a small state, not prepared and have little support from anyone around you.

West Virginia in this tale has suffered an increasing number of indignities by the federal government. In this case a crony of the President closes the major employer in a small WV town and plans to move it overseas. After the people of the town reject that decision, even going to the point of breaking into the plant and pretending that things were okay, the favorite bogeyman of the far Right (and the far Left), DHS, storms the place and kills some of the occupiers.  Things go downhill from there....

The characters introduced are likable and, since most of them are military people, quite relateable to me. The author constructs situations where I as a Army NG Officer am forced to sit back and think what I would do in a similar situation (the most notable was the Army CPT intervenes when DHS agents randomly round up all middle-eastern males over 13 by kicking in doors and dragging them out).

Events slowly escalate to the point where WV makes the decision to secede and the author plays out the eventual result of that action (of a state poorly prepared, with little munitions and fuel, no real outside support, forces that are in shreds due to desertions due to torn loyalties, and facing the the Active Duty Armed Forces). A solid read that kept me turning the page to see how it played out.

Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress #1)

Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress, #1)

Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress #1) by Jeaniene Frost

This was a heck of a fun read. This book introduces Catherine Crawfield, a half-vampire Vampire hunter. While sometimes the vampire thing seems a bit played out, Cat is an interesting twist. The whole vampire mythology is pretty much mainline (super strength, ability to confuse minds, super-healing, and of course the whole blood sucking thing. The devil in these stories is in the details, like the fact that Vamp's are only susceptible to silver and wither away when killed.) the idea of the halfbreed is more open to interpretation.

Cat is the product of a vampire rape (which apparently has to occur in the short period of a less than a week from being turned) who is raised by her mother. At 16 she finally told how she came to being and is put on the path to staking every vampire she can get her hands on. The story finds us joining her at age 22, with quite a collection of vampires laying around her grandparents farm. Everything was going well until she picks up her next victim, Bones.

We learn more about Bones and his particular quest and, as so often happens in these sorts of tales,  eventually there develops a romantic interest. Luckily the seemingly required erotic bits are short and not too painful to listen to.

The events in the story quickly escalate and are well written. But the jewel of the story is Cat, quippy and fun to listen to (ala Buffy), which ensures that I will be taking on the next book shortly.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Rot & Ruin

Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura, #1)

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry.  So many of the zombie books are about the actual event. This book starts in the ruins, some 15 years after the event. Benny Imura is the main character as well as his brother Tom. Benny has grown up in the post-zombie world where Zombies and Zombie Hunters (like his brother) are playing cards and the slice of humanity of that we can see is huddled behind the fences. Only a few people, like his brother, go outside the fence into the Rot and Ruin.

But Benny faces the coming of age rite that once you hit 15 you have to find a job. And Benny is finding that he is either ill-suited for most the jobs or he sees no future in some of them (slinging dead zombies into the burn pit all day long? I can see why). So as a last resort he turns to his brother Tom. As with a lot of siblings, there is tension, and Benny blames his brother for his parents passing away, thinking him a coward compared to the more boisterous zombie hunters. Everything starts going wrong after he discovers the the ultra-rare trading card, "The Lost Girl," which serves as the focal point for the rest of the book.

As to the rest? Read it and find out. Jonathan Maberry is a top-notch storyteller who spins excellent action sequences and keeps the story moving along. So come along  and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012



Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson. I am at heart a libertarian, but in all fairness this book is sorta like libertarian porn. Because libertarian societies have difficulties coexisting with non-libertarian societies (we have a lot of people in current society who take and don't give, and any change from that will not be peaceful) Michael simplifies things and allows a libertarian society to come about with the introduction of star travel.  

Basically a bunch of like minded libertarians founded Freehold and let it grow into the society we see in the first 2/3's of the book. But then the libertarian's favorite bad guy, the UN (the biggest, most bureaucratic and ineffective government out there) comes in and messes things up. 

The whole story is told from the perspective of Kendra Pacelli, a member of the UN Peacekeeping Force who is set up and forced to flee to Freehold. She is slowly introduced to the Freehold society (and by proxy the reader, of whom some of these concepts is quite foreign) and to it's military.

It really is a fun read and is a nice dream.

The Man with the Iron Heart

The Man with the Iron Heart

The Man with the Iron Heart by 
Reinhard Heydrich the Allies encounters a true opposition in post-defeat Germany. Heydrich has had 3 years to prepare for the downfall and subsequent resistance inside Germany. And to anyone who has followed the news in the past decade, every tool that Al Quada has deployed is in the arsenal of Heydrich's Werewolves. Suicide truck bombs, suicide bombers, IED's, other traps  and even the kidnapping and execution of service members (caught on camera of course).

Maybe this book works for other people but I personally am exhausted from our own War against Terror that uses the same tactics, reading about them set into 1945-48 just felt like a chore. 

The War With Earth

The War With Earth (New Kashubia, #2)

The War With Earth by Leo Frankowski is classic style SF. I grew up on the likes of the Stainless Steel Rat, with a super competent main character (and often a loving wife) outwitting the rest of society. This story is right off that block, with main character being a Soldier in charge of a super battle tank that is powered with by a sentient AI. Working with his wife and other members of his command staff his team thwart both the public (by protecting the secrets of the Kabushian Expeditionary Force) and the Earth invaders.

Things come awfully easily to Mickolai. The opposition is shown as dreadfully incompetent (let's face it, competent can be a pain) and with the aid of the AI's very few things slow him and his team down for long. A neat part of this book is the concept of Dreamworld, where a user linked to the computer can experience things at multiples (17-30 times) real life. Makes basic training or even earning a PhD possible in very short time.

All in all a fun fast read.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


On July 14 I married the lovely Hannah (aka Cupcake Girl) here in Arlington at the Ft. Myer Old Post Chapel:

True to her alias, we even visited a couple of the local Cupcake shops. We stopped by Georgetown cupcake (Preordering so we could skip the massive line). They were nice enough to also give us a dozen cupcakes.
We also stopped by Baked and Wired (my personal gtown favorite):
then walked over

And visited Sprinkles

And because she worked there for 3 years, we also stopped by cakelove:

Then it was off to the reception at the Shearaton Pentagon City, where we were blessed by a rainbow:
And then partied the night away with good food, drink, and tasty desserts surrounded by friends and family.

So much fun, that you didn't want it to end, but in some ways you did because the moment you stopped you realized how absolutely tired you were.

Assassin's Code

Assassin's Code (Joe Ledger, #4)

Zombies, werewolves, secret societies (ala Illuminate), super-virus's and even a dragon (all of course with a mostly super-science edge, not paranormal). So the one obvious missing item in our paranormal ecology is vampires, so this book deals it out in spades. As I have read the books in this series the one thing I kept thinking is that the only person who seems to be having a worse day would have been Jack Bauer from the TV series 24. Then I remember the first line above and I am going to have to have to declare that Joe is definitely having a worse time that Jack.

Assassin's Code kept me alive, as I listened to it on a long drive where I was quite tired, but there was no way that I was going to fall asleep and miss what happened next. As it often happens in this series it starts of strong and keeps up the action (with one exception, the interludes to the historical events that provide some of the back story on the organizations) to the explosive crescendo at the end.

Joe, Ghost and Echo Team are in Iran, rescuing some wayward hikers that have been kidnapped by the Iranian's. On their way out they Joe is isolated and forced, by a mysterious sniper team, to meet with the head of Iran's Intelligence organization who provides some specific information (and some generic background stuff) about 7 (big, multi-megaton) nuclear weapons that are being staged around the Middle East as well as possibly in the US.

So without rest Joe and the DMS are thrown into a desperate search to find and disarm those weapons. Along the way we run into the Red Order (a secret order of Vampire Assassin's), a secret anti-vampire organization and even the Holy Inquisition. It even incorporates one of the historical question marks that have confounded scholars for decades, the Voynich ManuscriptThis really is some great fun and anytime you stop for that book reading interruption thing called life you feel the twitchy need to get back to it ASAP.

Friday, July 06, 2012



A. Lee Martinez is a hard author to categorize. I think the closest author to describe him would be a (slightly) less off the wall Terry Pratchett. Definitely a fun read.

Monster is about, appropriately, the main character of this book. He is not in fact a monster, but he catches them (basically like animal control for the city). In this world magic is all around us, but only a select few can see it (and most forget/justify it away shortly thereafter.. think the adults in Sunnydale (Buffy)). Monster is not having a good life (living on the edge of poverty with a demon girlfriend) and his life gets more complicated when he meets Judy.

Judy has called animal control because a yeti is eating all the ice cream at the supermarket she is working at. While shortly forgetting that incident, she continues to run into Monster as more and more supernatural animals keep showing up around her. And then the plot gets really complicated....

Fun read but it can drag a little bit in the middle. I have enjoyed some of his other works more than this one...

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Angels of Vengeance

Angels of Vengeance

Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham.
The first book was the hook for me, with the sudden disappearance of pretty much everyone inside the continental US (and implied death). Because of the timing that the author choose(2003), a lot of America's military muscle was already outside the US so that makes things slightly less catastrophic. And I kept on following things into the second book as the second order effects of the disappearance and then beginnings of reclamation of the now deserted US began (as well as the global chaos that came, nuclear war in the middle east and India/Pakistan regions).

This book picks up not too much afterward, now focusing more on the politics of the new America and her reduced role in the world. Overall it was a fairly standard action/spy novel with the unique catastrophic event background. I really only read this out of the fascination of how the author would continue to spin world events and to see what would happen to the now familiar characters. It was a fun book but I feel that this book neatly wraps up at least the characters lives in a fashion that even if there is another book, the odds of me continuing are pretty low.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Moon Called

Moon Called, Mercy Thompson Book 1 by Patricia Briggs

It is kind of refreshing to have the main character not be a vampire or werewolf. I think I picked this book up on sale as I normally am not a big fan stories with a lot of were in them, but the world itself made up for things and I would definitely give it another whirl.

Magic is out of the bag in this world. Some parts of the magical world are out in the open (even to the point that the US Government, in a case of not learning from the past, has created reservations for them) while most of the supernatural world is still in the closet. Mercy is one of the closeted ones, sitting in almost her own category, a "Walker" who is able to turn into a coyote. Her history of being adopted by a werewolf pack due in part to the similarity of her ability makes her an expert on werewolves, but still an outsider.
Mercy runs an auto repair shop in Washington state. With clients who include a vampire, former bosses who are gremlins and the Alpha of a werewolf clan living right next to her. While raised in a werewolf pack, she has nothing to do with them until events drag her deep into pack business. All because of the act of kindness of taking in a young, newly turned and unaffiliated werewolf boy who she meets through her shop. 

Well scripted actions scenes, a very well thought out world and interesting characters made this a fortuitous accidental buy.

Zombie Fallout: Zombie Fallout, Book 1

I love me some zombies. And I always appreciate the hangman's humor in any "The End of the World as we know it" type of story as I am pretty sure that is how I would handle it.

I really do like the narrative voice of the main character, Michael Talbot. As a military guy I can relate, and the really funny bit is that Mike is a zombie fan in the novel. So unlike some stories where apparently all the characters are dumbfounded that zombies exist, with no knowledge of the lore and stories that surround them (no modern novel should have character that are too shocked by zombies, they are too prevalent in US pop culture). Mike even experiences the moment of giddy, "It's real! It is really happening" before the reality hits him and it becomes "It's real?!? It is really happening.......  crap. We are screwed."

Overall the story flows pretty well, from the initial outbreak (damn flu shots....) to the desperate battle to protect his family. It does introduce some likable or interesting characters, but given this is a zombie story do not get too attached to any of them. The author does decide to bring in a mystical capability on both one of the characters and on at least a few of the zombies that made some of the story a stretch, but overall it didn't hurt the story too much (though it made for a some convenient outs for the near terminal situations that author painted the characters into).

Fun read, and also funny. Given the title it sounds like there may be some more story left from the remaining characters so I would be interested to see where this may go.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rising Tides: Destroyermen, Book 5

Rising Tides: Destroyermen, Book 5 by Taylor Anderson is a solid book. But it feels like you are treading water, because overall the story is taking its sweet time in developing. I still have high hopes and at this point I am quite invested in the characters in series and am curious how things will progress.

This really felt like a development book, setting up the next couple of books for some bang up, drag out fights. Not to say that the book is totally devoid of action, but the biggest danger in this book really came from nature (rouge waves, volcano's) and not from the Grik or to a lesser degree the New Dominion.

The fun (but sometimes dragging part) of this story is that there are number of diverse story lines all running concurrently. CPT Reddy and the Walker visiting New Britain, Sandra and the Princess still shipwrecked, the recovery of the ship full of P-40E's, the attempts to recover S-19, and the ongoing campaign against the Grik. Add in the nature of slow travel and sheer size of the Pacific and things are going to slow down.

That said, I will buying the next novel shortly. Great writing style and even when it is slow it is still a great read with engaging characters and societies.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Distant Thunders

Distant Thunder, Book 4 of the Destroyermen Series by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson continues to deliver in the Destroymen series.The concept of the obsolete Pacific fleet destroyer that were basically target practice in WWII being such a huge force for good in this parallel world that it gets sucked into is quite interesting. With the world there much more hostile than the world we are from, with the Grik on one side, a world that seems intent on eating you (the pirannah-like fish and the larger mountain fish) and only one real ally, the Lemurians you would think that the prospects for the Americans to be pretty grim.

But Captain Reddy and his crew continue to persevere. Even in the face of interaction with the New Britain Imperial Navy and the increasing threat of the Grik don't seem to keep them down. The action is pretty non-stop, with a lot of story lines going on at the same time. The main focus is on the developing relationship and exploration of the New Britain (and the associated "Company" (Far East India Trading Company basically) which is the power that is manipulating the throne) given that they have the Princess Rebecca in their protection. While CPT Reddy is away an agent of the Company kidnaps Rebecca, her protector Dennis Silva as well as Reddy's fiance are kidnapped.

A lot of this book was build-up. Exploring the development of additional technologies and critical repairs that  hopefully will pay off in the future novels. In addition to the Grik menace, the less than friendly Imperials there is also hints of another set of humans located in the America's that may present another threat in the future. Lots of space for these threads to continue to develop. I already picked up the next book in the series because I am excited to see how it develops.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

It's all about the content

In recent years (and moreso lately) the so called "serious" readers have shown themselves to be extremely shallow. While I as a lowly SF and Fantasy reader have always been looked down with on disdain (because of course SF&F cannot be real or serious...), there is now 2 categories of readers that now rate lower than the hard copy SF&F (and all the other categories that the literati choose not to label real books) readers, digital and audio consumers of fictional media (as opposed to the hard copy consumers of fictional media).

Digital reading is the effective future of all significant reading in the country. The explosion of e-readers and tablets in the past 3 years has caused a radical shift in how readers now consume their fiction. But the die hard's argue that reading is not just about reading, but the feel and texture of flipping a page and smelling the book. To that I say BS. I have been reading electronically for over a decade (all the way back to using my palm pilot to read books from my favorite publisher, Baen) and all it has done is make reading more convenient. In my pocket or bag instead of having a handful (or less) of books I can have them all in one convenient package. One in which I can place bookmarks, share passages and easily conduct searches for particular items. But making reading easier doesn't seem to be a factor to those who fetishize the physical consumption of media via an anachronistic manner, and who choose to mock and revile those who choose to embrace the new system (in part driven by fear as they see a system that has been around for all of recorded history).

And then there is the lowest of the low. Audiobook listeners (or readers IMNSHO). While I do agree that there is one concept in audiobooks that needs to be destroyed, the evil abridged book. This is quite an acceptable means for a reader to consume (which of course is completely not different than reading) a story. Let's face it, we all have seem people reading in places where it was really against their interests to do so (walking, in dangerous environments), and this is the completely acceptable medium to reclaim that time while remaining situationally aware (I run all the time listening to audio books, but I never have it too loud and I always retain my most important sense, sight because of the audiobook). But apparently books must be relegated every sense to the serious book person, and somehow having the words delivered to your ears lessen the message. We will just pat them on the head and enjoy the boon of technology.

Sorry physical media consumers (aka "serious" readers). You have, as we say in the government world, become OBE (Obsolete By Events). Enjoy your rapidly diminishing world as the rest of us continue to get our horizons broadened. How you get the content in the end is irrelevant, all that matters is that you are getting the content.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Invincible: The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, Book 2

I love military SF. The series of books by Jack Campbell that detail the adventures of now Admiral Jack Geary are like crack to me. Well written and carefully planned out, they show the breadth and depth of military operations as well as the human side of the force. The author doesn't cheat to make sure that battles are too easy, and every victory comes with a price.

After defeating the Syndicate in the first series, John and his fleet are sent out to explore and obtain more information about the Enigma race that was driving the actions of the Syndicate. And in the events of the first book of this new series he learns more about the Enigma's and is driven to encounter even more alien races.

The fun part of this series is that John Geary is never left in a comfortable place. After being frozen a hundred years the society that he returned to was quite alien to him, and just as he was becoming comfortable he is now forced to contend with the truly alien aliens. I cannot wait until the next book!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vampire Academy

Vampires go to school?  Who knew?

The story begins with the characters, Lissa - a Moroi (living vampire) princess - and Rose - Lissa's Dhampir (half-human, half-vampire) protector already on the run. Shortly thereafter they are captured and returned to St. Vladimir's, a school where the young Moroi and Dhampir are trained.

In a twist from traditional mythology there are 2 types of vampires, the Moroi who live lives like humans (except for the requirement to take in blood as well as food and sensitivity to light) and the more traditional Strigoi (the dead). Richelle Mead builds up a very engaging world for her characters to inhabit, having to spend a moderate amount of time actually expanding this world during the story.

Most of the action (in true YA style) is built around the interactions between the main characters and the other students at the Academy. Both of reintegration and the invariable clique building (imagine if your High School had both commoners and various nobles attending it. It makes the jocks vs nerds stuff look tame, in particular since everyone there either knows magic or is insanely strong/fast). There is an overarching storyline that keeps the plot moving.

Much darker than most books of this genre, with more action and topics that you don't normally see (talk of suicide, drinking, sex).

Looking forward to the next book in this series.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The King of Plagues

The third of the Joe Ledger books by Jonathan Mayberry. This has been one of my favorite series that I have encountered lately, tightly written and completely engrossing. A delightful blend of SF, horror and action with a bit of detective work mixed in, it is sometimes hard to figure out where this book will lead you.

Joe is both the luckiest and unluckiest Department of Military Sciences employees. Lucky to be alive, but cursed with some of the worst events to occur during his watch. He has encountered zombies, genetic super-monsters, and had his girlfriend die in his arms. And this has all happened in less than a year. The novel picks up several months after the events of the Dragon Factory (there is a short story out there that details him working with his new furry partner Ghost taking down the man who killed Grace). It begins with the destruction of the London (gigantic London Hospital) in a massive terrorist event and it only gets worse.

The new villains of the series (looking to see more) appear to the be the un-before mentioned Seven Kings, which now includes a familiar villain as well. And their plot is devious.

Later in the novel Joe links up with Echo team, his psychologist buddy and a new female character on this wild ride. I cannot wait to crack open the next book!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Zombies: The Recent Dead

I like Zombies. I like Short Stories. Zombie short stories? Sure, why not? Yeah, I picked this book up because I love zombie/post apocalyptic novels and feel that sometimes all you need is a short concise story. I wanted to like it, but......

This book lurked in my list for a long time. I would read a story (I really only found one I tolerated) and then put it off to the side, coming back every so often to bite a small chunk off, get bored and then put it aside again. So I would say I slogged through this book. And this is short story compilation, it shouldn't be like this, where every bite was just not satisfying, but it was. But I rarely give up (from determination or hope, but I rarely quit anything once I started it, be it real life or reading) so I finally finished it (3 months later!).

I will say that the last story was one of the best, so it didn't finish on a truly sour note. But the best thing about this book? That I don't feel compelled to read it any more.

Way Station

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak. This was a throwback novel. Classic SF of the style that I haven't read in almost 20 years (I trend more toward military SF and urban fantasy). It definitely required a context switch but it is interesting to stretch my normal bound.

Enoch Wallace is a Civil War veteran who is living in the contemporary times(circa 1963 for the novel) and has finally attracted the attention of the government due to his lack of aging. Shortly after the the war he is offered the chance to become a station master in an chain of FTL transfer stations for travelers. He effectively is a hermit who has little interaction with society but talks with all the travelers who comes through.

Enoch only ages when he leaves his house, so he is aging at less than 1/24 normal, which is what finally draws the governments attention. There are a couple of threads that combine for a burst of activity toward the end and are fairly well wrapped up by the action. The writing has aged fairly well, and there is even concepts that are quite familiar as SF to modern readers (VR shooting range, aliens not so perfect). It does have some of the common threads of SF of the time (humans bad and immature, aliens superior) that does leave it feeling dated though.

I never read this author before and I found it quite entertaining to be exposed to him, definitely a good insightful book. I can definitely see why it won the Hugo for Best Novel in 1964. And I really cannot help but include this classic cover....