Obsidian Rim

Every week I check what’s new in SFR, and I see a lot of cover images featuring shirtless dudes, usually with no heads and sometimes with altered skin (say, tiger-striped, circuit-boarded, or purple). I read some of these books. I enjoy them. I’m happy other people enjoy them. But there are other things I want from SFR, too.

The SFRB posted an article about the new shared-world series called Obsidian Rim. Far-future space adventure romance. To say I’m excited would be a tame statement. It ticks my following boxes:

  • Available at all retailers
  • Humans only
  • A medium dose of science, so it’s not space fantasy
  • Character-driven story with relationships
  • Explore new society experiences

Things that don’t tick these boxes are cool with me, but there’s already plenty of that to read in SFR. This series sports a whole bunch of factors I like together that I don’t see done often.

So far, three books are out:

I believe in what this series is doing and want to support it as best I can. Ideally there will be reviews and giveaways to come. I think there are something like twenty books in the pipeline for 2019? I’m looking forward to that!

Choice paralysis

I’ve signed up for another multi-week writing class where we try to write or revise a hundred pages. But I find myself confused as to what I want to work on: a project that’s 25% of the way through the first draft, or a brand new one? I’ve an idea for a fantasy romance…but it it fantasy when the magic is sufficiently advanced technology? It’s not set in space, so it’s not space fantasy. The project with some writing and plotting already done is another scifi romance.

Am I beguiled by the shininess of a new project, or does this indecision come from my fear of nobody wanting another book that’s set in the world of my first manuscript? Sequels are a hard sell. So motivating myself for working on that project can be difficult any given day.

But I need to remind myself that the high-order bit is that I’m writing. Writing is good for me. Either story needs a good structure, its beats figured out, and its themes crystallized. Figuring out those things help keep my brain balanced.

Binge-worthy series for the holidays

Winter (in the northern hemisphere) holidays are coming up: whatever you do or don’t celebrate, you may get some time off to relax. When I have a chunk of time, I love to binge-read a series. Here are some romance and science fiction series I recommend for this holiday season if you haven’t already read them. All of them are complete.

The Brothers Sinister by Courtney Milan

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Historical romance series set in Victorian England. Features intelligent, complicated characters I can’t forget. Favorite character: Violet Waterfield in The Countess Conspiracy. Some would call her difficult. I find her amazing.

You can buy the whole darn thing as a bundle, too.

The Phoenix Adventures by Anna Hackett

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I’ve made it clear that I adore Anna Hackett’s books. Lots of action, monsters, treasures, and other discoveries make the lives of the protagonists very interesting. Favorite character: Nera Darc from Return to Dark Earth. Quiet, deadly, and kinder than she lets on.

Hackett also made a small box set to start you off on the series.

Darkest London by Kristen Callihan

Paranormal historical romance. Callihan presents non-traditional supernatural creatures in a way that always kept me guessing. Watching the characters fall in love was mesmerizing. Favorite character: Hollis Evernight of, well, Evernight. I sympathized with her specific communication struggles.

Paradox series by Rachel Bach

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Feel like some action-packed science fiction with romantic elements that will remind you of Mass Effect? Go read the Paradox trilogy by Rachel Bach. Since there’s only one protagonist, I won’t pick a favorite character, but Devi’s voice is engrossing and I was always rooting for her.

Book Review: Jumper’s Hope by Carol Van Natta

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

Book review: Through Uncharted Space by Anna Hackett

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The time and place

The far future, all over space. We see action aboard a deep space convoy, Planet Sulla, and a marine planet. Planet Sulla has a very civilized-looking society with some giant underlying problems.

The suspension of disbelief

Humans have colonized the galaxy after they made Earth uninhabitable with nuclear weapons. There are plenty of humanoid aliens around, but I’m not clear on whether they are offshoots of humanity or were already out there by the time we were exploring space.

The quick summary

Scam artist Dakota Jones is on the run from terrorist organization Golden Nova, which she infiltrated in order to steal a treasure map from. When she finds the treasure, she’ll sell it so she never has to be dependent on anyone again. However, the convoy she’s escaping on is run by Dare Phoenix, who figures out she’s not the meek worker she’s pretending to be. He offers his protection from the assassins after her if he can join her search for the treasure. She agrees reluctantly, because Dare Phoenix is dangerous to her heart. He in turn is intent on finding all there is to know about her, in every sense.

My squees

The underwater exploration sequences are amazing. All the action is clearly described and well-paced, so I felt excited but never lost. Fight scenes and adventure are well-choreographed. And of course, there’s plenty of steam (with some kink that I didn’t find distracting) so our heroes can, er, let it off when they have some moments to themselves.
The factions and locations in this story are original and detailed. Nothing feels lazy in the construction of societies and motivations. The characters are unique and fun, so I don’t have them confused with each other, or characters from other novels.

My grumbles

The situation on Sulla didn’t seem resolved, and I wondered what would become of the characters that we’d met. The planet isn’t mentioned again later, so I felt like I’d been left hanging.
I was also confused about the final confrontation with the planet’s inhabitants. After some of the trouble they’d caused, I was puzzled when they just let the Phoenixes and Ms. Jones go. I think I would have caused more of a fuss.

Read if you

  • Like undersea nature documentaries
  • Enjoy risk-taking, independent, scrappy heroines
  • Want ziplines and other action thrills to go with your sexy scenes

Skip if you

  • Need a detailed twisty noir
  • Avoid any mention of spanking or bondage
  • Require complex villains with inscrutable motivations

Disclosure and final thoughts

I received a free copy for review purposes because I am on Anna’s launch team. This is a comfort food book: if you’ve read other Hackett books you’ll be pleased to know it’s what you’d expect. To keep things interesting, the underwater world and light D/s elements aren’t something I’ve read in her other books.

 

Author site: annahackettbooks.com

Resources: Goodreads / Amazon US / Amazon Not-US / Kobo / aRe