Escape Velocity, by Jason M. Hough

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, Captains Skyler Luiken and Gloria Tsandi (and their respective crews) have smashed through the deadly Swarm Blockade, but now find themselves scattered around the planet Carthage and the space stations that she holds in her orbit. Their mission is now twofold: destroy the military compounds of the nefarious alien overlords and find a way back home to Earth.
Standing in their way are a race of horrifying aliens aided by incredible weapons and technology. Low on supplies and with intermittent communication, the surviving humans must rely on all of their cunning, strength, and plain old good luck to turn the tables and overcome their foes. 

The only expectation I had for Escape Velocity was that it was the conclusion to the Dire Earth Duology, and that it had a badass captain on the cover. If you read my review on Tuesday, you already know that I seriously liked Zero World, so I had high expectations for the Dire Earth Duology.

I think that book two is the better of the two books. The floundering that I had felt in book one was gone, replaced by familiarity. Some of the clunky surreal sequences I was left scratching my head in the first book reached fruition in book two.

The dangling plot from Injection Burn is wrapped up in Escape Velocity, and if Jason Hough decided to write more in the same universe, I’d be an eager reader. I’m probably going to read the Dire Earth Cycle, and I look forward to meeting Jason at the 2017 Phoenix Comicon this weekend. I’m giving Escape Velocity four and a half stars over Injection Burn’s four.

Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dire Earth Cycle and the near-future spy thriller Zero World. In a former life he was a 3D artist, animator, and game designer (Metal Fatigue, Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). He has also worked in the fields of high-performance cluster computing and machine learning.

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Injection Burn, by Jason M. Hough

Skyler Luiken and his ragtag crew of scavengers, scientists, and brawlers have a new mission: a long journey to a distant planet where a race of benevolent aliens are held captive behind a cloud of destructive ships known as the Swarm Blockade. No human ships have ever made it past this impenetrable wall, and Skyler knows not what to anticipate when they reach their destination. Safe to say that the last thing he expects to find there is a second human ship led by the tough-as-nails Captain Gloria Tsandi. These two crews and their respective captains initially clash, but they will have to learn to work together when their mutual foe closes in around them and begins the outright destruction of their vessels along with any hope of a return to Earth.”

I had no expectation when I saw Injection Burn on Netgalley, other than I knew I’d liked Zero World. I wasn’t aware that the Dire Earth duology was a companion series to the Dire Earth Cycle, but at no time reading Injection Burn did I feel like I was missing something.

The para-military vibe from the characters makes this a standard space opera. I kept waiting for the two distinct stories to merge, and I was not disappointed in the payout. There is a surreal plot in book one that I felt out of my element reading, but it pays off in book two.

I’ll give Injection burn four stars.

Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dire Earth Cycle and the near-future spy thriller Zero World. In a former life he was a 3D artist, animator, and game designer (Metal Fatigue, Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). He has also worked in the fields of high-performance cluster computing and machine learning.

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Your Depression Doesn’t Care

Being a writer in the information age has resulted in many micro-communities for writers. Personally, I prefer Wattpad & Writer’s Cafe. When one of our own, especially one of them young whippersnappers passes, it’s a reminder that we are all human. (Except for Felix R. Savage, I suspect he’s a sentient drinks machine.) We have the ability to connect with any other human on the planet instantly. That can take the form of a funny Facebook post. Re-tweeting that review that made our day. Doing whatever it is that people use Instagram for. We get to see art as it’s created.

Unfortunately, too many creatives end up taking their own lives. Each time it happens, it’s a sad reminder that many artists, including authors, battle mental health issues and that the act of writing is a solitary one. Many, many wonderful people have harmed themselves because they believe that they are the only one who suffers, and that they have to suffer alone. I wish that I could tell each and every one of them that they are most definitely not alone. My own battle with depression was one of the factors that led me to get my undergraduate degree in human behavior. Understanding depression has helped me a lot, but even with the knowledge, and the ability, once licensed, to practice as a mental health professional, I still suffer. I still have to fight against depression.

My depression doesn’t care.

I know, cerebrally, that depression is a thing. I know that I can be affected by what I eat, how much sleep I get, and how active I am throughout the day. I know that when the constant barrage of bad news on the television and on my Twitter feed gets me bummed out, I’ve gotta shut that noise down. I know that that dream last night about being a failure as a writer is just my insecurity going whack on my subconscious. I know I have many friends, family, and fans that for some reason adore me.

My depression doesn’t care.

I use the tools I’ve learned while getting my human behavior degree. I talk to other creatives, and we bolster each other with positive reinforcement. I joke about the pratfalls of being a hybrid author. (Except that I am totally going to self-publish a book of rejections once I have 300 pages worth.) I talk to those that sat next to me in class after class, and have moved on to their own mental health careers.

My depression doesn’t care.

See, that’s the thing with depression, and other mental health issues: It defies logic and experience. I’ve heard so many first-hand retellings of other author’s battles with mental health. We all deal with it. Some better than others. Some have networks to help them over the lows, and cheer the highs. But the take-away is that we all deal with it.

Your depression doesn’t care.

But I do. I care that there are people out there that suffer from mental health issues. If you’re suffering from depression, please remember that many have walked the path you see laid out before you. I have walked the path laid out before you. Amateurs, mid-listers, hybrid authors, and mega New York Times best sellers have all at one time walked the path laid out before you. Your demons are not that unique. The flavor might be different, but in the end, it’s very much the same.

Mark Gardner cares.

I would be some kind of nincompoop if I thought that I was the only one who cared. You have people who care about you and your well-being. Ignore that voice in the back of your head that tells you otherwise. If you’re suffering from depression, reach out to someone. If you subscribe to a particular religion, talk to your clergy. If you’re a veteran, utilize the many resources available to you. If you’re attending a college, university, or even a high school, find a guidance councilor. Cast away the shame of mental illness… That’s the depression going hog-wild on your psyche. There are numerous resources that allow you to remain anonymous. But get help.

Get. Help. Now.

National Suicide Prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Veterans: 1-800-273-8255
MentalHealth.gov: 1‑877‑726‑4727


The Rebellion’s Last Traitor, by Nik Korpon

In a dystopian world ravaged by war and environmental collapse, one man fights history to discover the truth about his wife and child. After decades of war, the brutal Tathadann Party restored order toshattered Eitan City by outlawing the past and rewriting history. Memory is a commodity – bought and sold, and experienced like a drug. Henraek works as a Tathadann memory thief, draining citizens’ memories. Everything changes when Henraek harvests a memory of his own wife’s death, in the hidden rebellion that once tore apart their city. Now he will do whatever it takes to learn the truth – even ifit means burning Eitan City to the ground.

I saw Nik Korpon’s The Rebellion’s Last Traitor on Netgalley, and since I groove scifi, and Angry Robot in general, I decided to give it a whirl.

The Good: Intricate world building. The backstory of the word envisioned by the author displayed a lot of thought and a love of the fictional world created. The gritty dark noir feel of the city and its inhabitants really drove home the totalitarian oppression committed against the citizens.

The Bad: The rebellion that ended so long ago that put so many characters on the varying sides was to more interesting that the main storyline. But these little snippets were almost an afterthought. In fiction like Firefly, the loss of the rebels was so important that it was integrated into each episode. Also, the alternating narrative is nice, but the style of both characters and their POVs were pretty much the same. More than once I had to flip back to the first page of the chapter to verify what POV I was in.

The Disappointing: The story was super confusing. There was a complex socio-political thing going on, but there just wasn’t enough information to really click. I had no investment in the characters. The Rebellion’s Last Traitor has so much potential, but the execution was left muddy and confusing.

The Final Word: I’m probably the wrong person to ask if I’d recommend this story. I like all sci-fi, even bad sci-fi. Reading this book felt like I had accidentally picked up the second book in a series, and I spent most of the read lost. I’m going to give this on three stars.

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Scandalous Contradiction

This is a continuation of Permanence, but if you missed it, you can still read this. Both parts are still not an official part of Days Until Home. But, and you have to imagine me leaning in close and whispering conspiratorially, there could be an announcement this summer about that… Anyway, these 1,487 words are from the following prompts: Terrible Minds, Inspiration Monday, The Writing Reader, Sunday Scribblings 2, #3WW, & #SoCS.

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Adelaide was eager to disembark the Juniper Jumper. Even with no advance notice, information brokers found their way into tickets for the short hop from Earth to Luna Station. Some were able to purchase their passage on the atmospheric jumper by purchasing their tickets on the exchange. Those that were tardy ended up paying a premium on the secondary market. At least one information broker stood with her equipment at the boarding gate and simply offered each patron before they boarded triple and quadruple the going rate for tickets. To the young couple who intended to vacation on Luna, a delay of only twelve hours was worth is for the exorbitant profit they would make reselling. Even after paying the taxes on their windfall, they still would have enough to upgrade their accommodations and tuck a little away for the next tax season. She wondered how many ticket holders were re-accommodated to later flights. Adelaide frowned at the euphemism often employed by the corporations. It was an offense to language that they would hide their true actions behind innocent words like that. The flagrant disregard for, and the lengths to which they go to violate an individual’s rights was almost an anticlimax when she saw it in person.

Adelaide did her best to keep out of the digital eye of the brokers. Paparazzi, she remembered the archaic term for the ambush journalists. They were like bitches in heat, their tongues wagging and doing everything to catch her eye. They knew that with Adelaide and Erika traveling together, something was going on. Even a year after their return to Earth and six months after the Kerwood Nine stood trial for the destruction of the mining ship they were still newsworthy. Those that cared about such things knew that there were at lease two other Kerwood survivors living on Luna Station, plus both Jeremy and Old Vicky found their way on board regularly.

Erika complained constantly about the intrusion into their privacy. Adelaide shrugged and shared a knowing and sympathetic smile with the flight crew. At least they kept themselves professional, she thought. The same couldn’t be said for the information brokers.

Adelaide’s years of spacefaring allowed her to know the exact moment that they switched from the fractional gravity aboard the Juniper Jumper to the full-G of Luna Station. Most people knew that something was up when their stomachs lurched from aft to “down” as the jumper aligned itself with the station’s rotation.

As an engineer, Adelaide appreciated the complex mechanism that allowed the station to rotate around the space elevator that tethered the monstrosity of steel and Lexan to Luna. Adelaide would never admit it to anyone, but she felt the pull of Luna. It was as if she was coming home after a particularly long contract.

Adelaide saw one of the flight crew poke her head into the first class cabin and lock gazes with her. Her reaction was slight, and the crewmember nodded and retreated to the cockpit.

“Hey,” Erika pouted when Adelaide grabbed her by the elbow and moved down the narrow aisle.

“We don’t have time for a show,” Adelaide hissed to her companion.
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Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul. Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind. Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors. But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

I enjoyed Red Queen. I expected to enjoy Glass Sword. And I did… mostly. A sequel not living up to my expectations is common, so I try to factor that when I read the second book in a series. I don’t think that my quibbles with expectations are what made Glass Sword not as good as the first book.

The two books almost feel like different people wrote them. Red Queen felt like an epic YA fantasy with a political undercurrent that resulted in manipulative politics that were forced upon Mare. In Glass Sword, the tale is more of an angsty love triangle, and Maven’s vindictiveness seems cliché. Cal’s depression, while realistic, is just such a drag. Finally, will Mare ever learn? She makes the same mistakes in book two as she did in book one.

All in all, I’ll still read the third book. I already have all the short stories, and I’ll likely read those as well. The ending of Glass Sword makes me think that whatever happens in King’s Cage will be epic. I’m gonna give Glass Sword four stars, and look forward to reading more from Victoria Aveyard.

victoria-aveyard

Victoria Aveyard recently graduated from USC, where she majored in screenwriting. She has sold several television pilots and feature-length screenplays, and is currently represented by the Hollywood management company Benderspink. THE RED QUEEN is her first novel.

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Facsimile, by Vicki Weavil

For a ticket to Earth, 17-year-old Anna-Maria “Ann” Solano is ready to jettison her birth planet, best friend, and the boy who loves her. Her mission is easy: escort Dace Keeling, a young naturalist, through the wilderness of the partially terraformed planet Eco. Ann’s determination to escape the limitations of her small, frontier colony never falters, until Dace’s expeditions uncover three secrets. One offers riches, one shatters Ann’s perceptions of herself, and one reveals that the humans stranded on Eco are not its only inhabitants. This is the story of a girl who must choose between fulfilling the dream that has always sustained her or save the planet she’s never considered home.

I was trapped in the passenger seat on a long road trip, so I ended up reading Facsimile in about six hours. Facsimile has a slow beginning. The premise was interesting, but it was difficult to connect with the characters. There was this odd love triangle, but it didn’t seem to work for me. I had just finished reading the Generations series by Scott Sigler, and I was hoping that Facsimile would be similar. There are a lot of parallels – children left to cope on their own; no adults around to guide the youth who just want to get off the planet; a strong female protagonist.

I think that the narrative was a bit too long. There were some interesting social justice components, but they seemed forced. I think if I had to sum up my quibbles with Facsimile, it would be “forced.” The story just didn’t seem to flow smoothly. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still read a sequel, because the overall story was interesting. In the end, I’d award Facsimile 3.5 stars.

Vicki turned her early obsession with reading into a dual career as an author and librarian. An avid reader who appreciates good writing in all genres, Vicki has been known to read seven books in as many days. When not writing or reading, she likes to spend her time watching films, listening to music, gardening, or traveling. Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats.
 

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