Book Review: Without a Front – The Warrior’s Challenge by Fletcher DeLancey

Book Review

The time and place

This book picks up right where Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge ends. Read that book first.

The suspension of disbelief

See Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge.

The quick summary

Andira Tal is recovering from an attempt on her life with her new love by her side when the machinations against her finally bear fruit. Her resources are depleted, and she has very little time to counter the threat. Can she get out of this mess with her job, her family, and her life intact?

My squees

DeLancey has given a ton of attention to detail in the world and plot. I felt Alsea as very real and cohesive, and the plot is complex but not difficult to understand. The action scenes are easy to follow, and so are the foreign-to-me celebrations and traditions we see.

The love story has some credible conflict and two incredible women, and the familial and friendship relationships are rich and believable. Andira’s lady shows incredible resolve and strength while remaining human. She grows to assert herself even more in this book, and that makes Andira grow and change for the better in response.

My grumbles

The idea of someone (divine or technological) selecting soul mates for each other doesn’t grab me. As TV Tropes says, your mileage may vary.

Some of the issues highlighted in the first book felt like a distant memory here. I wanted to know the status of the named asylum seekers and troubled veterans, since I’d grown to care about them and I thought they were situations that still needed more addressing. Perhaps that will come up in further books.

Read if you

  • Can handle many twisty plot threads
  • Want many strong characters to sigh over

Skip if you

  • Can’t deal with a little nonhuman biology (think Star Trek aliens)
  • Need a quick, light read
  • Are creeped out by empaths

Final thoughts

I received a review copy, but also borrowed this book from the library for the time it took me to read it. Almost everything gets wrapped up in this novel, after three long books! The couple and memorable secondary characters each get their deserved resolution or at least a break after so many exhausting trials. I’m curious to know what will be next for the world of Alsea- I look forward to reading about the further adventures of several intriguing characters. I’m no television buff, but I believe that these books would translate well to a miniseries. Someone pick up that option!

Resources: Author siteGoodreads / Amazon / Kobo / Ylva Publishing

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Back to the manuscript

Writing

I’m following some revision guidelines from Holly Lisle and Rachel Aaron. It’s recommended that you print out your manuscript for annotation. Trouble is, I’m doing lots of travel for the next few weeks. Lugging around 400+ 8″x11″ pages seems like a recipe for disaster. I’ll lose papers all over the place. I’ve compiled the manuscript for my ereader, but I don’t think annotations will feel the same.

In any case, I’m going to put that part off and make a scene list where I look at the structure of the scenes and plotlines.

  • Which plots do the scene advance?
  • Which characters are involved?

From this I’ll be able to note if the book has too big a dose of the journalist late in the story with very little buildup earlier in the book, or if I have five scenes in a row dealing with the office break-in plot.

I will also try to answer the following questions:

  • What new data is conveyed to the reader?
  • What is the conflict in this scene?

New data pulls the story along. I wonder if I believe almost all scenes should have a conflict in a novel. This can be low-stakes, like two people discussing a plan to go to France. Chances are, they don’t have the exact same plan in mind. There’s the conflict: the details they have to work out. Both people have something they want from the conversation, and it’s my job to get them to tell what that is.

I think that can eat three weeks, easily. I just need to do it!

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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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