January 2020


The fifth book, and the second in the second trilogy, in the Roma Nova alternative reality action/thriller series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Print
Page count: 296
Publisher: Pulcheria Press

The book is set at the beginning of 1980s. Roma Nova was founded by refugees from Roman Empire and has thrived during the centuries. However, it’s not a democracy. Power is in the hands of the heads of the twelve families, all women, and the imperatrix who is always a woman.

Aurelia Mitela is in her forties and at the height of her career. She’s the foreign minister and the head of the twelve families who together advice the imperatrix. 13 years ago, she set Caius Tellus to prison in Germany after he assaulted her and killed people. However, now he’s served his sentence and is back. Aurelia tries to fight it, but to her horror, outdated laws let Caius walk. He manages to influence the head of the Tella family and eventually even the impratrix herself to worm his way to the highest levels of government.

At the same time, some people are rioting. Aurelia suspects that Caius is behind it but can’t find any proof. When her 19-year-old daughter is attacked, she takes her and flees to her farm but even that place has been attacked. When riots continue, led by Roman Nationalist movement which calls for return to the “natural” male leadership, the Roman Novan government itself is in danger.

For some readers, the beginning is slower because it’s focused on Aurelia’s personal life, her alienation from her daughter, and fears of Caius. Of course, if you’ve read the previous book (which I recommend) you know just how dangerous Caius is so it’s great foreshadowing. But when the action starts, it’s relentless. It also felt like the darkest book in the series so far.

This was a great book in the series. The characters are great and it’s so rare but wonderful to see a woman over 40 as the main character of an action book. Aurelia is a former special forces Major so she’s more than capable of fighting with both hand-to-hand and weapons.

Aurelia a passionate character; she cares deeply for the people in her life and also for Roma Nova itself. The current ruler Severina is a weak person and therefore a bad ruler but Aurelia tries her best to guide her, even when Severina doesn’t want that guidance. Severina is more than a plausible character and so is Aurelia’s daughter who is becoming increasingly uncomfortable of her mother’s protection.

While the main plot of overthrowing the matriarchal leaders of the nation is very similar to the plot in the second book of the series, Perfiditas, the execution was completely different. The revolutionaries take advantage of the people’s prejudices and ignorance in addition to lazy or corrupt government officials, set in their ways. It’s all frighteningly realistic.

The book ends in a cliffhanger so I’m going to get the next book soon.

Collects Terra Incognita issues 1-6.

Writers: Scott Tipton, David Tipton
Artists: Tony Shasteen, Àngel Hernández, Carlos Nieto

This is a continuation to the Tipton’s two Mirror universe Trek comics “Mirror Broken” and “Through the Mirror”. However, you don’t need to read them because until the final issue the only mirror universe element is that Reg Barclay has come over to the TNG universe. He’s keeping the usual Barclay tied up in his quarters and taken over his duties on Enterprise-D. We follow the Enterprise crew when they try to negotiate a peace with the Cardassians and through a couple of other adventures.

The first issue centers on Barclay. He resents the way that the others treat him (or rather the original Barclay) and is determined to better his career. When the USS Hood needs help with their warp engines, Barclay seizes his opportunity.

In the second issue, the Enterprise takes over the Hood’s mission. The Hood was carrying Vulcan diplomats to critical negotiations with the Cardassians. After Starfleet’s battle with the Borg in Wolf 359, their fleet was greatly diminished and they really need the peace with the Cardassians. They want to negotiate away from large battleships, so two of the Vulcans and Deanna Troi take a shuttle. They meet with two of the Cardassian negotiators and head down to the planet. Of course, the shuttle crashes and the Vulcans and the Cardassians must work together to get to safety.

In the third issue, Vulcan doctor Selar takes the center stage. The lead Vulcan negotiator is dying and only Selar’s expertise might help him. We also find out about Selar’s childhood.

In the fourth issue, Riker, Wesley, the mirror-Barclay, and ensign Shannon Gilson meet the representatives of the Faundori who want to join the Federation. The Faundori are known for their engineering skills so the Federation needs them. However, things aren’t what they seem.

In the fifth issue, the Enterprise answers a distress call from the Lolligans, humanoids who have tentacles instead of arms. They’re suffering from a wide-spread disease which makes them break out in homicidal rage. If doctor Crusher can’t find a cure for them, the entire species must be transported and put to stasis until a cure can be found. If it’s found. Crusher, Data, Worf, and the Mirror-Barclay investigate on the Lolligans’ planet.

In the final issue, characters from the Mirror universe come to fetch Mirror-Barclay back. They consider him a deserter so they aren’t gentle. However, I don’t think you need to read the previous collections to understand what’s going on.

For the most part, I enjoyed these stories. It was great to return to the TNG crew and they’re in character. The only thing that I didn’t care for was that nobody suspected Mirror-Barclay. Not even when he rolled up the sleeves of his uniform and the crew had already seen the sleeveless Mirror universe uniforms. Not even Troi. I also though that Mirror-Barclay was up to something sinister, but apparently not. Of course, this made him more relateble than most of the ruthless Mirror universe people.

Still, this was an enjoyable ride and the last pages promise more to come.

The fourth and final volume in the Planet of Adventure science fantasy series.

Publication year: 1970
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 23 hours 3 minutes
Narrator: Elijah Alexander

The previous book ended when Earth man Adam Reith and his two companions, barbarian teenager Traz and renegade Dirdirman Ankhe at afram Anacho, captured a shady businessman Woudiver who sold them out to their enemies. Even though Woudiver is their captive, he manages to signal the fourth alien race on the planet, the Pnume, about Reith and arrange his kidnapping. Reith is captured and taken to the vast underground tunnels where the aliens and their human slaves live. He manages to free himself but now has the task of avoiding the Pnume and their human slaves, the Pnumekin, and finding a way to the surface. To do that, he in turn captures a young Pnumekin woman and forces her to show him the way.

This time the book has distinctive two parts: the first part is set in the underground tunnels exploring the Pnumekin culture and the other is set on the surface where Reith must educate the woman about the surface culture. For me, the first part was more fun: I like characters sneaking around and it wasn’t easy to make several chapters of it fun.

The Pnumekin were weird. The Pnume strip them of personality and sexuality with culture and drugs. The woman Reith kidnaps doesn’t even have a name; he calls her Zap 210 based on the area where he found her. Her growth has been stunted with drugs and she has no knowledge of human sexuality or how different genders behave toward each other. She calls it “boisterous conduct” and doesn’t want to even hear about it. Reith must educate her and while he’s considerate enough, I found myself rolling my eyes at the scenes.

The Pnume themselves are curious and collect samples of life, including humans.

Still, this was a good ending to the series, even if the wrap-up was pretty abrupt.

A stand-alone fantasy / steampunk novella.

Publication year: 2019
Format: Print
Page count: 130
Publisher: Tor

The story is set in an alternative 1912 Cairo. Around 1860, djinns were set loose on the world and the world hasn’t been the same. Egypt is now an independent republic and their representatives are about to vote if women should get the vote.

Against this backdrop, senior agent Hamed al-Nasr and his fresh off the academy partner agent Onsi, both from the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, are handed a case of the haunted tram car. Hamed is convinced that the culprit isn’t a ghost but an irate djinn. But when Ramses Station’s superintendent refuses to pay for the agents’ services, Hamed and Onsi must come up with something different than the usual exorcism.

This was a charming short book. The background is fascinating and I’d love to read more stories in this world. Happily, I haven’t yet read the first short story, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, so I have that to look forward to. I’m a fan of Amelia Peabody books so one fictional Cairo is somewhat familiar to me. Clark describes the city and the people vividly.

Hamed is an experienced agent and while he at first resents his new partner, he quickly realizes how necessary it is for Onsi to get more field experience. Onsi is also a useful agent and not just there to wonder what’s going on. Both are very rational agents, used to dealing with magical beings.

The suffragette side plot runs parallel to the main plot and introduces us to many colorful female characters. Novella length was perfect for the story.

A Buffy the Vampire slayer book, set in the third season.

Publication year: 2000
Format: Print
Page count: 178
Publisher: Pocket books

The story starts with a young woman, Heidi, who is chased by two vampire men, twins in fact. They catch her and take her back to their “home”, to their mother who is also a vampire. Together they drink from the girl and kill her.

Buffy and her mom Joyce are in the mall, having a nice day together. Then Buffy realizes that someone is following them. It turns out to be Suz Tompkins, one of the “tough girls” in Sunnydale High. She asks Buffy for help, nearly crying because her best friends have gone missing and she suspects something really bad has happened to them. Heidi’s own mom doesn’t care and the police think that Heidi has just run away or joined a gang.

Buffy agrees to help and the vampire twins arrive in the Bronze. Buffy lures them out. She and Angel attack them. She kills one of them and then their vampire mom arrives just in time to see her kill the other. The vampire mom summons the Greek goddess of revenge, Nemesis, and asks for revenge against Buffy. Nemesis puts Buffy on trial.

This was a fun Buffy story, except she does more contemplation than usual. The Scooby Gang are in character and pretty funny. It has several references to earlier episodes, which I quite enjoyed. Overall, I enjoyed the story.

A lecture series in the Great Courses series.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours 19 minutes
Narrator: Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

I love spy fiction so when this course was in one of Audibles two listens for one credit, I took it.

This is an overview of espionage through the ages, starting from ancient world all the way to the modern era. The period that I was most interested in, the ancient world, got just one lecture so it was way too brief for my tastes, but otherwise I greatly enjoyed this. (Of course, modern times have way, way more sources.) It’s a very good starting place. Liulevicius gives us a lot of examples of all the eras he touches on and there are a couple of chapters about spy fiction, too. We don’t actually get to know much about what the spies did, in day to day spying, though. He makes it clear that literally anyone could be a spy: a silk merchant, a dancer, a highly respected general.

He doesn’t much mention the morals or ethics of spying as a profession but offers some insight into why certain people become spies.

The course includes the pdf course guidebook.

In GoodReads, the Action Heroine group is once again doing the
Action heroine fans yearly challenge. I’ve joined it with the initial goal of 20 books.

This will be the third year that I’m participated in this challenge. You can count in comics, books, novellas, reread, library books, tbr books, collections, so it’s pretty easy.

Just before Christmas, I bought five Buffy books from a second hand bookstore and I have a stack of Buffy comics, too, so I’m starting with them.

Books read
1, Cameron Dokey: Here be Monsters
2, Alison Morton: Insurrectio
3, Jana DeLeon: Lethal Bayou Beauty
4, Mel Odom: Unnatural Selection
5, Kevin J. Anderson, ed: Fiction River: Pulse Pounders: Countdown
6, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: The Gabriel Set-Up
7, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: The Black Pearl
8, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: Top Traitor
9, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: Mister Sun
10,Christopher Golden: Sins of the Father
11, Captain Marvel vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More
12, Brent Nichols: Gears of a Mad God: A Steampunk Lovecraft Adventure
13,

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