Book Review: Jumper’s Hope by Carol Van Natta

Book Review

Jumper's Hope cover art

The time and place

About a thousand years from now. Action takes place on fairly backwater planet Branimir, on the passenger-freighter Faraon Azul, and in the city of Ridderth on planet Mabingion, the site of a brutal city riot several years before the book begins.

The suspension of disbelief

Humans have colonized many planets and developed space travel. Some humans have psychic powers, referred to as “minder talents.” These talents include mind control, healing, telekinetics, detection of other powers, and plenty more. Those who have them are often pressed into the Minder Corps of Citizen Protection Services: essentially the galactic police.

The quick summary

Retired pilot Kerzanna crashes on the planet Jess has retired to. It’s no simple accident—someone wants her dead. Jess finds and rescues her, to both their confusion, as they were each convinced the other died several years ago. The two try to lay low and make their escape, but somebody has a tempting offer for them that could give them a chance of a future together. All they need to do is deliver some information. Easier said than done when the baddies are still after Kerzanna.

My squees

Kerzanna is one of the most interesting cyborgs I’ve read about in SFR. Cybernetics aren’t all sunshine and roses while we still have flesh. Like prosthetics now, they cause stress on other systems and need constant tweaking. I like how the CPS deactivated some of her capabilities and there was a side market for restoring them, it felt very punk. Kerzanna and Jess are mature adults who use their experience wisely during the course of the story. Though he’s retired, he has problems due to some mismanagement by his workplace. There’s a bit of upside to that oversight, but of course there is also a price for taking advantage of that. It makes me think hard about how organizations treat their employees.

The villainous troupe is entertaining. Davidro is an easy fellow to understand, and watching the way he tries to handle his underlings keeps making me snicker. I felt sympathy for Vahan, who may be cold-blooded and callous, but has to deal with a difficult job. Renner the electric talent has gotten more interesting through the series, and Georgie the forecaster and the others are memorable. Those who slip Davidro’s leash still have parts to play, even if they pay vividly terrible prices.

There’s a battle in space, and it’s exciting. Keeping track of the minor characters involved there is easy. Van Natta is good at making them distinctive and choosing interesting names.

My grumbles

I had a lot of trouble visualizing the layout of the passenger-freighter ship. That could just be my own spatial reasoning problems. What’s a nav pod, and why can it do what it does in the story?

There are several time jumps near the end of the book. Sometimes it felt like events were skipped over a bit abruptly, which made keeping track of them a little difficult for me.

Read if you

  • Enjoy a tale of reunited lovers
  • Like an interesting stable of villains
  • Are really into competent cyborg heroines

Skip if you

  • Want your heat level higher than sweet
  • Shy away from violence
  • Prefer a primary focus on the love story

Disclosure and final thoughts

I received an advance reader copy for review purposes.

Don’t read this book on its own. Earlier books introduced these villains and their motives, and that makes the experience much richer. The leads get their happy ending, but there’s a twist for some characters which makes me very excited to read the next book. The way the characters have been built over time makes me curious about where some of them will end up.

Each entry in the Central Galactic Concordance is a bit different in tone. This one felt most like Overload Flux, with some spaceboard and plenty of hand-to-hand action. If you’re curious about other books in the series, I also reviewed Minder Rising and Pico’s Crush.

Author site: http://author.carolvannatta.com/

Resources: Kobo / Goodreads / Amazon / Google Play / iBooks / aRE

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Back from Asia

Blog

I didn’t get as much reading done over my Asia trip as I would have liked. Four and a half books is plenty, but there were many times I didn’t feel like reading.

Escapism is a popular reason to read genre fiction. Maybe there’s a little escapism in my reading. I don’t read with it in mind, though. I read fiction so that I can experience reality more deeply, so that I can empathize better with others, so my mind is more flexible. I want to know how everybody feels, fictional or non. The more experiences I can think through, even if they’re not my own, make my life richer. They make me ask questions about what I am doing and what I want to do in life.

Travel can be the same for me. I am still busy processing my experiences in Japan and Taiwan. I learned a bit more about where and who I come from historically and presently. To those who don’t have Taiwan on your wish list, I’d urge you to add it, especially if you love cities and nature.

Unrelatedly, I accidentally got myself into DRM purgatory by downloading a book I purchased and accidentally authorizing it with my library account in OverDrive. Now I can’t read it in Adobe Digital Editions, among other things. I thought, well my bad, I’ll purchase another copy, but I can’t do that with the same retailer since it’s in my eLibrary, though not readable there. I sent an email to the retailer to see if they can remove it from my library or issue another key.

For the rest of the year, I have a few books published in 2016 that I need to read if I’m to do the SFR Galaxy Awards. I have some books on my short list, but I’m looking forward to more travel reading (I’m going to San Francisco in a week and then the East Coast mid-December)!

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Book Review: Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge by Fletcher Delancey

Book Review

The time and place

The time is the far future. On Planet Alsea the inhabitants are humanoids with empathic powers. Most of the events take place in Blacksun, the capital, and the landholdings of the Opah family, called Hol-Opah.

The suspension of disbelief

Empathic humanoids with forehead and pelvic ridges developed on another planet. In the previous book, we learned that the ancient human settlers here might have tinkered a bit with fish people to produce the Alseans. An alien spaceship crashed on Alsea not long ago, and with it Alsea had to fight off some technologically advanced aliens. Now that Alsea has contacted greater galactic civilization, its populace must figure out how to handle all the new technology they have access to.

The quick summary

After repelling an alien invasion, Alsea’s leader Andira Tal now has the really hard work to deal with. Plenty of veterans and other civilians question her methods used to defend Alsea. She has squabbling castes who have differing views on what to do with the matter printers Alsea now has access to. How and when should they be introduced into the economy? The producers are afraid it will destroy their livelihoods. One such producer issues a challenge to Tal to live as a field hand for a month. Tal agrees, and finds new respect for the producers, and a chance at a life-changing love. However, a villain conspires to control Tal, and is just waiting for her to fall into his trap.

My squees

Delancey does an amazing job of describing landscapes and pageantry. The reader experiences so many aspects of society: farming, politics, the prison system, how castes work, and ceremonial swordfighting. Everything feels like it’s been carefully thought out: Alsea is a complete and detailed world, and its struggles felt convincing to me.

The romance builds slowly, and the relationship between Tal and her belle is a slow build from grudging respect to love as they interact with each other more and see beyond their preconceptions of who the other is. Tal’s lady is more than a match for the leader of Alsea- according to Tal herself! Speaking of Tal’s lady, so many characters have awesome and original names. They’re pleasant sounds in my mind.

Early on, Delancey handles questions of prisoners of war, euthanasia, and the unexpected victims of warfare. There’s a lot to consider here, given the events of The Caphenon, and all the consequences of war and alien contact are given due consideration.

My grumbles

I’m somewhat allergic to the ‘soul mates’ trope. Although Delancey handles the relationship well, with the women figuring out they would have bonded without divine intervention, it’s something that tweaks me in any circumstance.

This book is long and ends on a cliffhanger. The pace is slowed down by occasional vignettes about Tal’s adversary. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much to latch on about the villain. He’s vague about his machinations and his motivations seem pretty simple. I would have liked some more details (like his pet rabbit or something) about him to make him more intriguing to me.

Read if you

  • Are starved for f/f romances in science fiction
  • Want to read about mature and thoughtful adults trying to do right by those who care for them
  • Love rich details about worlds and societies

Skip if you

  • Need a quick or R-rated read
  • Hate talk about planetary politics

Final thoughts

Read The Caphenon before reading this. It will make the issues surrounding the Voloth and Tal’s despondence at the beginning of the book much clearer. I’ll definitely read Without a Front II: The Warrior’s Challenge.

Resources

Author site: Chronicles of Alsea

Goodreads / Ylva Publishing / Amazon / Amazon UK / Kobo

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Thank you, Hugo House. And now, to read.

Blog Writing

And thank you, Rebecca, for teaching us a lot and facilitating discussions so well with structure and humor. Leading us may have felt like herding cats, but you got a lot accomplished: most of us would not have written a quarter the words without your help! As mentioned, thank you to Hugo House, a nonprofit place where they teach writing classes.

Since it’s been a long road writing my draft I’m not going to do NaNoWriMo, but I’m cheering for everybody participating. Instead, it’s time to binge-read! I’m getting excited for my vacation and I borrowed plenty of library ebooks. I don’t know which ones I’ll get to, but they all look interesting:

Then there are all these books on my TBR shelf I also am itching to read. Here’s the top of the heap, alphabetical by author:

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One hundred to one

Writing

I was discussing reading in my writing class, and some classmates noted that they hadn’t read any fiction in years. This blew my tiny mind. I only started writing because I was reading so much: reading converted to creative fuel for writing. It can also function as creative fuel for making and running games, but writing’s what I’ve been doing the past year and some. I did some arithmetic and figured out that I read about a hundred times the words I write. People have different paces and ratios, I’m sure. I don’t think mine is unusual, though.

Sixteen years or so ago when Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series was taking off, she had profiles of a lot of the Hunters with their theme songs, which were inevitably hard rock or metal. I’m a big metal fan myself, and use a lot of music to inspire and drive my writing words. A decade ago I read less and was making music instead. Crafting music and words are both important to me, and someday I’d love to do both, but for now I like the money a full-time job offers me. My ratio of songs listened to versus written is probably higher than a hundred to one…maybe I’m a more efficient writer than composer, or maybe I’ve just gotten more productive as I’ve gotten older.

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