Book review: Crash and Burn by Cynthia Sax

The time and place

Unknown time, presumably the future. As in Breathing Vapor, the story takes place aboard various ships and on the planet Tau Ceti, a world colonized by the Humanoid Alliance.

The suspension of disbelief

Space travel exists and humans have colonized it. You can stick chips in your head for communication (at a cost). People built cyborgs as war machines: soldiers with machine frames, wifi links in their heads, and nanomachines.

The quick summary

Safyre, a crack pilot, is on a suicide mission to save her friend. A rogue cyborg who’ve been receiving her transmissions gets in her way, because he knows the place she’s going is at risk and he’s grown to care for her through their voice communications. Can he let her fulfill her promise and still keep her alive?

My squees

I adore Safyre. She’s loyal, stubborn, clever, and skilled, willing to put people ahead of herself. Her friendship is an amazing valuable, and she cares fiercely for people. She’s into being restrained during sex, and I like how it’s presented and integrated into the love scenes. There’s nothing fussy about it, and sometimes one partner has a kink that the other doesn’t have themselves but is cool with going along with. That feels authentic.

Crash is a sweetheart, and the way he treasures Safyre and respects her abilities, letting her take part in her most important mission, is well-navigated. It’s also nice to see a war machine who questions his own purposes and makes his own life. He chooses not to kill, and when he has to look at that resolution and reevaluate it, his dilemma is compelling. I like a bit of existential angst in characters.

My grumbles

Terminology: use of the term being instead of human or person. Sometimes instead of “anyone”, Sax writes “any being”. That felt a bit jarring. Similarly, the almost exclusive use of “my female” and “my male” as terms of endearment. I don’t think being female is Safyre’s most important or prominent characteristic, but others may disagree. It feels primitive in a way that may appeal to some.

The genetic compatibility (fated mate) trope. I’ve never been a fan of it, and I think Safyre and Crash would work just fine without it.

Read if you

  • Can’t get enough of fellows with Brain Computer Interfaces
  • Would risk your life for your best friend
  • Think people with black sclera are hot, too

Skip if you

  • Prefer fluffy happy books where nobody cool has horrible things happen to them
  • Want detailed engineering explanations of how all the cybernetics, space travel, and weaponry work
  • Dislike crude language with your explicit sex

Final Thoughts

Something very dark happens late in the story to people you’ve grown to care for. It’s a haymaker and I thought it gave the story extra emotional depth and resonance, but if you want a light or optimistic book you won’t get that. This is a story that takes place during military struggle, and it’s got some gritty parts.

I look forward to reading Defying Death.

Author site: A Taste of Cyn

Resources: Goodreads / Amazon / Kobo / ARe

Book Review: Core Punch by Pauline Baird Jones

The time and place

New Orleans, some time in our future

The suspension of disbelief

New Orleans was pretty much wiped out by Hurricane Chen fifty years before the story. I would put money on that actually happening, though. The bulk of the city was lifted into the air so that it’s divided into New Orleans Old and New Orleans New (or dirtside). Some very humanoid aliens come to earth every so often. The aliens have nanites and AI technology, but Earth does not. Instead we have skimmers, which seem to be flying cars.

The quick summary

Dzholh “Joe” Ban!drn, a Garradian, and Violet Baker, NOPD are sent to retrieve some people who haven’t evacuated NOO when there’s a Category 5 hurricane bearing down on them. They go between bands of the storm, but bad data throws them into the heart of it with equipment in poor condition. Our heroes attempt to survive the storm and an evil trying to sabotage them.

My squees

The cover, which Jones made herself!. I’m used to people who look a little vacant or suffering indigestion against a background of the galaxy. This uses a literal interpretation of a metaphor- the eye of the storm, and that amps up the cool and danger simultaneously.

Even in the future, police departments need to make do with a shoestring budget, and that proves important to the plot. Also, the method to the deaths got more ghoulish as I thought about it harder. The paranoia is woven in so that I, reading it, got more paranoid about everyone and everything in the book conspiring against Joe and his companion.

My grumbles

This book chronicles action admist forces of nature. I had trouble figuring out the spatial and physical mechanics of what was going on at any given time. The piloting the skimmer and other navigation sections left me feeling lost and quite aware I was reading fiction. This may be worse because I have no geographical knowledge of New Orleans. I don’t know how this would work for others, because my spatial reasoning is abysmal. If you can visualize yourself in the environment, you’ll have much better luck.

I’m not sure what’s alien about Joe besides his having purple skin and a nanite integrated in his head. I think I missed the memo on the attractiveness of near-human/early Star Trek aliens. The tongue-in-cheek terms tended to grate on me. Some of them I grew fond of, but I never got accustomed to the word crapeau in lieu of other swear words.

Read if you

  • Are fond of disaster scenarios
  • Like a light mystery
  • Enjoy stories set in New Orleans

Skip if you

  • Already have paranoid delusions about things trying to destroy Earth
  • Get lost in mazes all the time and have terrible spatial reasoning

Disclosure and final thoughts

I won this book in a raffle. As a token of my appreciation for the author’s generosity to the community, I wrote a review. I’d put the heat level at sweet for those curious.

Author site: paulinebjones.server101.com

Other resources: Amazon / iBooks / B&N / Kobo / Google Play