Tag Archives: book reviews

The Unsung Frame, by Greg Dragon

A war between humans and synthetics… In a futuristic Tampa Bay, skiptracer Dhata Mays and his sidekick, Lur Diaz, are on a job investigating a cheating lowlife. But after a deadly explosion and the woman who hired them disappears, nobody is safe. Suddenly, everyone is under suspicion, and the police are no longer there “to serve and to protect.” Now, it’s up to Dhata to take matters into his own hands and uncover a deep-rooted plot to escalate the tension between the humans and synths. He must stop the battle before it’s too late. But is the truth too big for a small-time skiptracer to handle alone?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Greg Dragon is an excellent writer. From urban crime novels, to space opera, to a futuristic society on the verge of a race war, to fantasy sword fighting, Greg Dragon writes all the things. Followers of mine on the blog know that I’ve read everything that’s even sci-fi adjacent that Greg has written. He is a talented author, and I’m enriched to read his stories. You can be to, just pick a few of them up. You won’t be disappointed.

The Unsung Frame is a clever play on words, that is revealed in the second half of the book. Dhata and Lurita are in the thick of things again, and this time they may have come up against a foe that they have no chance of defeating. The tensions between the synths and humes has ratcheted up several notches due to the events that transpired in The Judas Cypher. The lines are drawn, and the divisiveness is a page out of the modern day political climate.

The action is intense, but what I really like about The Unsung Frame is that Dhata is a “real” hume. Yeah, he’s got cybernetic implants, but he’s not indestructible like many protagonists. When you read The Unsung Frame, you wonder if Dhata and Lur have what it takes to survive the day. Anyone can write someone that’s bulletproof, but it takes a special kind of writer to make me worry about the protagonist.

The Unsung Frame, like the first book in the Synth Crisis series, is a must read. Action-packed from the beginning, with a splash of humanity throughout, The Unsung Frame has everything you could want from a near-future science fiction mystery. Five stars!

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Greg Dragon has been a creative writer for several years, and has authored on topics of relationship, finance, physical fitness and more through different sources of media. In particular, his online magazine has been a source of much pragmatic information, which has been helpful to many. As a result, his work continues to grow with a large and loyal fan base.

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Timeshaft, by Stewart Bint

By the twenty-seventh century, mankind has finally mastered time travel—but is also driving recklessly towards wiping itself out. The guerilla environmentalist group WorldSave, with its chief operative Ashday’s Child, uses the Timeshaft to correct mistakes of the past in an effort to extend the life of the planet. But the enigmatic Ashday’s Child has his own destiny to accomplish, and will do whatever it takes within a complicated web of paradoxes to do so. While his destiny—and very existence—is challenged from the beginning to the end of time, he must collect the key players through the ages to create the very Timeshaft itself. “Do our actions as time travellers change what would otherwise have happened, or is everything already laid down in a predetermined plan?” he asks. Critics say Stewart Bint’s Timeshaft is an expertly synchronized saga of time travel, the irresistible force of destiny, and the responsibility of mankind as rulers of the world.

One of the reasons that I’m a big fan of time travel stories is that each one has to take a hard look at free will, destiny, and predetermination. Timeshaft is no exception. These ideas are dealt a heavy hand in this story. “A” leads to “B,” leads to “C,” is common in linear storytelling, but Bint shoehorns in steps “G,” and “W” for good measure.

The stories and timelines weave on each other, and there is some confusion, as with most stories in this genre, but by the end of the story it all makes sense. Timeshaft is an interesting romp through time, and I’m eager to read more from Stewart Bint in the future. Easily a four-star read.

International novelist published by Dragon Moon Press. Journalist/magazine columnist. Active awareness campaigner for mental health and sepsis. Named on the 2016 list of “Inspirational Mental Health Advocates that are changing the world.” Previous roles include radio presenter, newsreader and phone-in host. Married to Sue, with two grown-up children, Chris and Charlotte, and a charismatic budgie called Alfie Lives in Leicestershire, UK. Usually goes barefoot.

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Atmospheric Pressure, by Aaron Frale

Olson lives in a city that has been sealed from the outside world. He’s an Eleven Year and close to citizenship. His life is upended when one of the few adults who cares about him commits suicide – or so it appears at first. While investigating, Olson meets a girl named Natalie snooping around his school. He soon learns that one of her friends died under similarly mysterious circumstances. Together, they start looking for answers, and end up discovering the city’s darkest secrets.

Atmospheric Pressure, by Aaron Frale, reminds me of the Silo series, by Hugh Howey. The storyline is reminiscent of The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell.

Dystopian fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction seems to resonate with readers in today’s political climate. Overreaching governments, class division, and a planet that will kill those pesky humans is all the rage. I love reading these stories.

One of the things that I appreciated about Atmospheric Pressure, was that the portrayal of youths match this type of closed society – age, responsibilities, and indoctrination. The story and dialog is believable, and many of the situations the protagonists encounter, I can imagine them happening in real life.

While the story is not original, (two youths from opposite social classes team up to defeat a totalitarian regime) It’s a great read, and I look forward to reading the sequel in 2017 or 2018. Atmospheric Pressure is a great dystopian read, and an easy four stars.

Aaron’s first novel is Playlist of the Ancient Dead. He also co-wrote a no-budget comedy flick called Hamlet the Vampire Slayer. The University of New Mexico gave him an MFA in Dramatic Writing. Screaming and playing guitar for the prog/metal band is one of his pastimes. He lives with his wife Felicia, two cats, and a small dog who thinks he’s a large dog.

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The Memory Agent, by Matthew BJ Delaney

Crime never changes. Punishment does. In a time when prisons no longer contain inmates behind concrete and steel, the convicted serve their time while asleep, rehabilitating in virtual reality while blissfully unaware of their crimes. Roger Parker is a professional prison breaker, skilled at navigating these strange penal dream worlds and extracting those imprisoned there—for a price. Parker wants out of the game, but a powerful senator, desperate to save his son, convinces Parker to pull one last job. The clincher? An opportunity for Parker to find his wife, herself interned, lost somewhere in a treacherous, time-shifting Manhattan cyberspace. As Parker and his team make their hallucinatory journey between worlds, memory and motive lose coherence and integrity, and the clock begins to run out: internal security detects the breaker, and sets out to remove him—permanently. Unable to rely on his perceptions, unsure of the truth or even his very identity, will Parker break out…or be broken?

The premise and ultimate reveal of The Memory Agent is nothing new. I saw it on Netgalley, and decided to give it a whirl. Inception, The Adjustment Bureau, and The Matrix come to mind as the protagonist slowly unravels the mystery of who he is and what his world is all about. The chapter structure of this book was crazypants, with the first chapter consisting of the first third of the book. That chapter has this surreal horror-chic that was a turn-off for me. I gritted my teeth, and slogged through that first chapter, and was glad that I did.

It was obvious that a lot of thought and planning went into the narrative structure of this story. Each clue, in retrospect, telegraphed the direction of the story and hinted at events to come. The author had to be quite ambitious to envision and create the world(s) that Roger Parker and his team inhabit.

The Memory Agent blends several genres, including horror, science fiction, historical fiction, and mystery. Fans of any of those genres could easily get into it and be satisfied when they finished reading. Although the story is immensely complex, sometimes requiring minor re-reads, everything is ultimately understood by the end of the book. The ending is woefully predictable, but that doesn’t detract from this four-star read.

Matthew B.J. Delaney published his first novel, Jinn, in 2003. Winner of the International Horror Guild Award, the novel was optioned for film by Touchstone Pictures, was featured as People magazine’s Page-Turner of the Week, and received a Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Delaney received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dartmouth College and a master’s in public administration from Harvard. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, he left a career in finance and moved from Boston to New York City to join the New York City Police Department. He has been a member of the NYPD for twelve years and has been assigned to precincts throughout Manhattan and the Bronx as well as within police headquarters and the Intelligence Division. He is currently a decorated Special Operations Lieutenant serving in a Brooklyn violent crime suppression unit. He continues to write in his spare time.

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Lola, by Melissa Scrivner Love

The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia . . . but what no one has figured out is that the gang’s real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia’s girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola. Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man’s world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter–and in many ways tougher and more ruthless–than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival.

When I saw the crime novel, Lola, on blogging for books, I knew I had to get a copy. It seems that when the main protagonist of a story is a female, her compassion is seen as a weakness. Often, female protagonists are portrayed as overly masculine, i.e., “one of the boys,” or they are hyper-sexualized. It’s nice to read a realistic female protagonist that is neither of these. Yes, she’s a hot chica, and yes, she’s the ruthless leader of the Crenshaw Six, but her compassion offers nuance that’s often missing from fiction. I think one of the biggest things in the plus column for Lola, is that she feels like a real person.

From a human behavior analysis, the trials and tribulations of Lola’s childhood are perfectly followed through by the author. If Lola were a real person, and sought clinical help, I could easily see the causality of her past. And like a real person, she is who she is because of those experiences, and also in spite of those experiences. I’m not sure if the author did a lot of research, or if she draws from her own experiences or those of someone close to her. The accurate portrayal of human behavior is refreshing, because so often it’s exaggerated for effect.

There are underlying themes of prejudice and gender roles. Lola couldn’t possibly be the leader of the Crenshaw Six. That’s what everybody thinks, until it’s too late. A trail of clues is sprinkled through out the story that reveals what the reader knows, to the rest of the characters: Lola is a badass, and you better not [mess] with her or those that she cares about. Lola is cunning. She’s ruthless. Adversity is the brush she and her brother are painted with. She won’t back down, and she certainly won’t quit. These actions are Lola’s strength. A strength that serves her until the end of the story.

If I had a single complaint about Lola, it’s that the cartel characters are portrayed like they are in most books and movies: cruel, sadistic, and marginally competent. They are clichés of every villain I’ve ever read. Still, as a complaint, “the villains were too villainy,” is not the worst criticism. Fans of Breaking Bad, or Greg Dragon’s The Factory will enjoy Lola. I award it five stars, and look forward to reading more by Melissa Scrivner Love.

MELISSA SCRIVNER LOVE was born to a police officer father and a court stenographer mother. After earning a master’s degree in English Literature from New York University, Melissa moved to Los Angeles, where she has lived for over a decade. During that time, she has written for several television shows, among them Life, CSI: Miami, and Person of Interest. She and her husband, a comedy writer and Los Angeles native, welcomed their daughter in 2014. Lola is her first novel.

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Killshot, by Felix R. Savage

When the Spirit of Destiny crashed on the moon, Earth’s last hope of escaping alien conquest was lost. Pilot Jack Kildare and the battle-hardened crew of the SoD survived, but they are trapped in Earth’s ramshackle little moon colony, exposed to the constant threat of alien attack. On Earth, the alien behemoth Lightbringer lies in the African jungle, grounded but no less deadly. Its crew spread destruction across a planet racked by conflict. Former astronaut Hannah Ginsburg inherits a dangerous role as go-between for the aliens and humankind. As much as she struggles to rein in the spreading chaos, her complicity in the alien conquest grows, pushing her nearer to the breaking point. Meanwhile, on the moon, Jack is desperate to get back to Earth and rejoin the fight. But the moon colonists side with the aliens, forcing him to lie and steal just to survive. His chance for redemption comes unexpectedly, when shipmate Skyler Taft detects a horrific new threat to our solar system. Humanity and aliens, locked in a bitter war for our planet, will all perish together … unless Jack can achieve the impossible, and work together with his worst enemy to save Earth.

Killshot is an excellent conclusion to the “Earth’s Last Gambit” series. With any story by Felix R. Savage, I didn’t know what to expect – only that it would be good. I’m glad that the over-sexualized encounters between Hannah and her alien master were toned down in this book.

A few highlights in Killshot: The theme of alien invaders affecting global religion was present through out the series, but Killshot really drove it home. I don’t know if the author intended it, but it reminded me of the extremist religions through out the world. The theme of subservience and slavery was also front and center in Killshot. With slavery and human trafficking so prevalent today, it’s nice to see it tackled in a modern novel.

All in all, Killshot ramps up the tension between the various survivors of the first three books, and introduce a new threat. The book returns to the pace and action from books 1 & 2. The ending is satisfying, and leaves the possibility of another quartet or trilogy in the future. I would eagerly read another series in this universe.

Killshot is a five-star read. Be sure to read the entire series.

felix-r-savage

You might say Felix R. Savage has a long history associated with rebellion. He was born in the 1970s, a decade of American youth rebelling against the safe culture of their parents. He is married to a wonderful woman and they have a beautiful daughter. Together the three of them live in Tokyo serving their cat overlord and benevolent protector. Felix writes Science Fiction and Fantasy while not translating, delighting in his family, or catering to the whims of the family’s cat. He never stops watching out for any sign the lizard people have found him.

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Sovereign, by April Daniels

Only nine months after her debut as the fourth superhero to fight under the name Dreadnought, Danny Tozer is already a scarred veteran. Protecting a city the size of New Port is a team-sized job and she’s doing it alone. Between her newfound celebrity and her demanding cape duties, Dreadnought is stretched thin, and it’s only going to get worse. When she crosses a newly discovered supervillain, Dreadnought comes under attack from all quarters. From her troubled family life to her disintegrating friendship with Calamity, there’s no trick too dirty and no lever too cruel for this villain to use against her. She might be hard to kill, but there’s more than one way to destroy a hero. Before the war is over, Dreadnought will be forced to confront parts of herself she never wanted to acknowledge. And behind it all, an old enemy waits in the wings to unleash a plot that will scar the world forever.

It’s hard to talk about a great book like Sovereign, by April Daniels without spoiling it. The cover art is compelling, just like Dreadnought. We see the continuing adventures of Danny Tozer. The way that society reacts to her and her power continues from book one. While I feel that Sovereign is not quite as powerful as Dreadnought, they are superhero books above all others as far as I’m concerned. From a literary standpoint, Sovereign cranks up the tension and the stakes, not just with Danny Tozer, but also with the world as a whole. Danny has more to lose and more to cherish in book two, and I cannot wait for book three. Like its predecessor, Sovereign, by April Daniels is a five-star superhero read.

april-daniels

April Daniels graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in literature, and then promptly lost her job during the 2008 stock crash and recession. After she recovered from homelessness, she completed her first manuscript by scribbling a few sentences at a time between calls while working in the customer support department for a well-known video game console. She has a number of hobbies, most of which are boring and predictable. As nostalgia for the 1990s comes into its full bloom, she has become ever more convinced that she was born two or three years too late and missed all the good stuff the first time around. Early in her writing practice, April set her narrative defaults to “lots of lesbians” and never looked back.

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