1st In a Series Challenge 2011


The first book in a duology which is set in the Mirror Universe as seen in Star Trek: Deep Space 9.

Publication year: 2001
Format: print
Page count: 232
Publisher: Pocket Books

“Annika Hansen, Agent Seven of Corps Nine for the Obsidian Order, waited patiently for her quarry to appear.”
This first sentence pretty much tells you if this book is for you. If it makes you groan or want to throw the book across the room, it’s a safe bet the book is too cheesy. I giggled out loud in a train. It’s a very cheesy way to keep calling this character Seven even though she’s never even met the Borg. But that’s the way of the alternate universes: because it’s same characters but in different circumstances, they still have to be recognizable to the readers/watchers.

When Seven was a little girl, her parents died and she was adopted into a Cardassian family. She was surgically changed to resemble a Cardassian and set to the Obsidian Order at a young age. She’s been an extremely efficient agent of the Order ever since. Her personality is much the same as aboard Voyager: efficient, aloof, cold. However, she also loathes her human, Terran, appearance and wants to always appear as a member of another race. When she’s told to go undercover as a Terran, that’s very difficult for her.

At the start of the book, she’s on a mission on Khitomer to murder a powerful Klingon called Duras in order to destabilize the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance and to influence the upcoming election of an Overseer position in a way that the Order’s head, Enabran Tain, wants to. She kills Duras and gets out of the port. A space mercenary called Jadzia is helping her.

The murder enraged Regent Worf. When his parents were killed, he was taken into the Duras family, alongside with the half-blooded B’Elanna. Duras was like a brother to Worf and he vows to find his killer. Deanna Troi, Worf’s companion and Imzadi, and the Intendant of Betazed, does her own investigation and manipulates the other Intendants so that she can have her luxury gambling place.

Meanwhile, the Intendant of Bajor Kira Nerys realizes that she has a real chance to become the Overseer and makes her plans.

The plot centers on scheming and back stabbing. We get to see a lot of characters from the DS9 series from Garak to Leeta and more are mentioned. The mood is much darker than in the primary Star Trek universe. Most people here are loyal only to themselves.

Winn Adami has an important role in the book. I was fascinated how her role was a mirror to the one on the TV-show. If I remember correctly, Winn was, if not an outright villain, at least an ambitious antagonist to Kira and Sisko, and her motives were often suspect. Here, Overseer Kira is the ambitious, self centered manipulator and First Minister Winn is the “last, best hope” for her people.

Worf was also fascinatingly different. Here, he was raised by Klingons so he had no need to hold back his temper or his strength when fighting. He’s famous for his temper and people are genuinely afraid that he will kill them if they enrage him. He’s also in an intimate relationship with Troi, and B’Elanna is his foster sister. Apparently, the other Klingons look down on B’Elanna because of her Terran father, and Worf is helping her overcome that contempt. So, Worf is still brave and loyal; his loyalty is just to different people and culture.

The Betazoids have withdrawn to their own planet and so Troi is pretty much the only Betazoid in Alliance. She uses her empathy to manipulate others, Worf among them. She knows that her only tie to power is her relationship to Worf and so she guards that quite jealously.

I really enjoyed this darker side of the regular characters. Pretty much the only thing I had mixed feelings about was the non-hetero sexuality. Leeta has a live-in girlfriend and Kira uses Terrans of both sexes; apparently she and Seven get intimate. However, because the universe is a darker one, that implies to me that non-hetero relations are seen as, if not down right evil, at least the exotic Other for other people to leer at. Otherwise, the relationships were considered normal in the society and not commented at, which is always great.

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The first in an SF trilogy rooted in Norse mythology.

Publication year: 2008
Page count: 370
Format: print
Publisher: TOR

The story starts with Ragnarok. Some of the einherjar and the walcyrie have become tainted, and they have turned against their brethren. In the fight in the snow, they and the creatures of darkness kill each other. Only Muire, the smallest and the least of the waelcyrge, is still alive because she ran away in the middle of the fighting. She will call herself a coward for the rest of her life. Only one other person is alive on the battlefield; Kasimir who is a walcyrie’s steed, a valraven. His rider is dead and he’s gravely wounded. Together, Muire and Kasimir managed to beat off the final attack and survive it. Kasimir chooses Muire as his rider but she feels that she’s not worthy and isolates herself from the valraven. The third survivor is Mingan, the Grey Wolf, a tainted one and Suneater who betrayed his brethren to the other tainted.

Over two millenia go by. The humans have built another world and that, too, is nearing the end. Eiledon is the last human city and it’s still alive in the middle of acid rain and desolation because of the Techonmancer Thjierry Thorvaldsdottir who protects the city. Muire has isolated herself from the humans but then she feels the Grey Wolf is near again and has killed someone. Muire finds the victim who is near death and draws the man’s soul into herself. The victim requires vengeance against his killer who is, indeed, Mingan. Also, the city’s law enforcement are hunting both the killer and Muire.

The setting here is stunning and I loved it! It’s a mixture of science fiction and fantasy; the valraven and walcyrie are magical creatures and they use magic, yet they live in a society where cyborgs exist and food comes from vats. The Technomancer has created a species to serve her, the moreaux who seem to have been originally various animals and are now animal-looking humans, just stronger and quicker. (And named after H. G. Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau.) They have names out of Greek mythology like Selene and Helios. There are also humans who have been mutated because of battle viruses unleashed in wars. The people take care to categorize everyone accordingly to truman, halfman, unman… and only trumans have rights to education. Most of the people have Icelandic sounding names.

The world is, admittedly, bleak. Most of the characters live in appalling conditions and must earn their food by fighting for the entertainment of others and whoring. They die of diseases because they don’t have the money to pay for medicines. Only the Technomancer and those close to her live in abundance.

Muire finds out that some of her former brethren have come back, reincarnated into these brief lived humans. Cathoair is the reborn war leader of the einherjiar whom Muire loved from afar. It breaks her heart to see Cathoair as a fighter for entertainment and then whoring himself. Cathoair’s life isn’t easy by any means and we get to see some of his past.

All of the character are flawed and broken. They’d endured horrible things but still carry on somehow. Muire has isolated herself from humans because they die so quickly. All the time she thinks of herself as a coward and a weakling; a failure. She used to be a historian, poet, and a smith before Ragnarok. She’s also weakened from the fight and the long time that she took to bury the dead. Earlier, she didn’t need to sleep and didn’t get tired. Now, while she can’t age, she does feel hot and cold and gets tired. Kasimir is worried that he’s once gain let down his rider and is doing his best not to pressure Muire. Even Mingan is looking for some sort of a way to continue living after what he has done, although we don’t see his POV much. Ironically, the most balance character in the book might be the moreau Selene who has been built to serve and has no choice in the matter.

Yet the themes of the book are surviving horrible situations and mistakes, moving on, and continuing to live. Even redemption.

The Norse mythology is most seen in the character Muire, who sometimes calls herself a angel. She talks about serving the Light and the All-Father. The human society has a religion loosely based on what happened at Ragnarok and Mingan is their devil. I was a bit bemused to see that the World Serpent, called the Bearer of Burdens, was expected to fight alongside light.

Sex and violence are intertwined in the book. Both of Cathoair’s lovers (a woman and a man) are also fighting in the ring and he beats on them there. Mingan’s and Muire’s relationship is also mixed with both. Muire loathes him because of his betrayal and tries to hurt him while Mingan desires Muire. Mingan can draw others’ breath, and life essence (memories, even memories from previous lives and energy so sustain himself), and this is done by mouth contact; kissing. It can be painful but Mingan can make it pleasurable, too. A bit later in the story, Mingan gives Muire back her full powers and I’m not entire comfortable with that but I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to be.

Overall, I liked the twists in the plot. Muire is the main POV character but there are several others, too.

I’m not sure if I like all the aspects of the ending but I’m curious to find out where the story goes next. However, it can be read as a stand-alone; the story wraps up in the end.

The first book in a series about superheroes.

Publication year: 2011
Size: 566 KB
Format: Kindle ebook
Publisher: CreateSpace

The city of Claremont was once a home to many superheroes and villains. But then came the Battle where many of the super powered people died along with a lot of innocent people, and the city hasn’t been the same. However, some of the heroes didn’t die. They were wounded and decided to retire anonymously.

One of those people is Jack King who used to be Teen Protector call Sparks. Ten years after the Battle, he works in a book store and has a gorgeous lawyer as a girlfriend. Then, a man from his past walks back into his life: Bruce Webster who was like a brother to Jack and a member of the Teen Protectors as Osprey. Today, Bruce is an Agent for the Federal Agency and he’s worried about something. He’d like Jack to protect his back, but Jack doesn’t want to get back into heroics and refuses. However, the next day Jack hears that Bruce has been brutally murdered and of course Jack has to find out who murdered his former best friend.

Jack is the main character but the book has a lot of POV character. Agent Manning is Bruce’s long-time friend and has his own powers. He too wants to investigate Bruce’s murder but is prevented by his superior. Karen is Bruce’s gorgeous wife who is on the run with a mysterious package. Sword-wielding knights and a shape shifter chase her around. Bruce has also contacted a homeless teenager Jonathan who also has powers. Jonathan becomes involved in the case by accident.

The book starts with a scene shortly before the Battle until it jumps to ten years later. There are several such short scenes about the Battle in the book. Also, Jack has some flashbacks which are written in the present tense. That was a bit jarring at first but I got used to them quickly.

Most of the POV characters are heroes but they are flawed with distinct personalities, and powers. However, they are all brave and loyal to their friends, and they all have great fighting skills. Jack controls fire. He carries some heavy baggage from the Battle and is afraid of using the full extent of his powers. He’s also quick to anger and resorts easily to violence. Manning is professionally suspicious of everyone. He can see through everything and everyone, and uses his power in his work. Jonathan is also suspicious of others because he’s seen a lot of predators on the streets but he’s pretty secure of himself. He’s very accurate with thrown weapons. Karen is frantic because she doesn’t know where her husband is or who are the people chasing her. She can change herself into a data stream and teleport herself that way. Jack, Jonathan and a couple of other characters are readers and Rose mentions a lot of SF books by name.

There’s a lot of fighting in the book. The obvious difference to the mainstream superhero comic books is that both villains and heroes use deadly weapons, such as guns and swords, and kill people. Very few are just knocked unconscious. In fact, Jack uses his fire powers to brutally cook people alive and the scenes are pretty gory. All of the heroes we meet here carry weapons in addition to having powers.

The book is fast-paced. In fact, the first few chapters, after the scene set during the Battle, are the slowest ones in the book because they describe Jack’s pretty ordinary life.

The book has some romance. Jack has a girlfriend Rachel and he hasn’t told her about his superhero past. Manning is married and there’s romance brewing between two younger characters.

Unlike some of other reviewers, I noticed only a few spelling errors. Maybe they’ve been fixed. However, I did notice some other errors such as when a man is sincerely crying because his best friend is dead, this is called crocodile tears. Also, since the book is written in a tight third POV, there isn’t an obvious narrator, but a couple of times Rose used “we” in the narration, for example, “heroes who protect us” and that was jarring.

Kindle has a short preview of the next book, Black Mirror. While the story reaches a satisfying conclusion, there are some threads left open.

The first in an SF trilogy. I got it through BookMooch.

Publication year: 1978
Page count: 252
Format: print
Publisher: Daw

Niun is a young man in a warrior race called the mri. The mri hire themselves to another species, the regul, who are not violent. The mri guard regul space ships and battle against each other when the regul want it. However, for the past forty years, the mri and the regul have fought against the humans. During it, a hundred thousand mri has died and they are on the brink of extinction. The mri train with hand-to-hand weapons and want to duel. The humans use weapons of mass destruction.

The humans and regul have signed a treaty at the start of the story. The mri see this as surrender and are not pleased. Niun is especially depressed: he’s the last of the warrior cast Kel on the planet Kesrith and he’s been looking forward to getting his own share of glory in war. The leader of mri on Keshrith, the she’pan, has kept Niun beside her for far longer than is usual, and Niun resents the old she’pan for it. Except for Niun’s truesister Melein, who was told to join the Sen caste, all other mri on Kesrith are old people.

At the same time, two humans are on their way to Kesrith to prepare for the human colony that is going to be built there. They are on a regul ship and under strict orders to stay in the cabin except for short periods of time. Stavros is the leader of the small group; he’s an old and respected diplomat and he’s going to be the new colony’s governor. Sten Duncan is Stavros’ young aide and the other POV character. Stavros is spending his time trying to get the hang of the regul language while Duncan is going slowly mad with the isolation and boredom.

Unfortunately for the mri, the regul haven’t told them that their current home world Kesrith is going to be given to the humans.

The regul and mri both have distinct cultures and mindsets. Even though the mri have served the regul for over two thousand years, neither understand the other and they also loath each other. The mri have three castes; the Kel who are the warriors, the Sen, who are the scholars and leaders, and the Kath who are the gentle life-bearers (and only briefly seen in this book). Men can become either Kel or Sen, but women can belong into any of the castes. They have rigid boundaries: the Kel aren’t literate and they must obey the Sen without question or thought. The Sen are the leader, the decision makers, and the keepers of knowledge. They are forbidden to even touch weapons and have to remain chaste. The regul call the San religious leaders, but I didn’t think of the mri as religious. There was a brief mention of multiple gods but nothing else. The She’pan also called the Mother and all the warriors of her clan are her ritual husbands. The warriors are free to have sex with any Keth or Kel.

The regul have a completely different social structure. They respect age and the elders are in charge. The elders can even kill younglings if they want to; the younglings are certainly verbally abused almost at every turn. The regul don’t have biological sexes until they mature and they live for hundreds of years. They also find lying to be extremely distasteful and never forget anything. They find humans baffling. 🙂 The elders are described as frail; they move around on machines and make the younglings do as much work as possible. (They reminded me of the Hutt even though I know that they have legs and are capable of walking, although slowly.)

Even tough the book centers on a warrior caste and is set in an aftermath of war, there’s little violence in the book. Most of the struggle is against the hostile planet. Kesrith’s atmosphere is acidic but barely breathable, it has hostile creatures, and boiling mud and water. At least the parts that we see seem to be mostly sand, mud, and rock. For such an unforgiving planet, the local wildlife is pretty large. Dusei are one of the local animal-like creatures. They seem to have some empathic talent and are able to form a bond with the mri, but only if the individual dus wants to. Niun doesn’t have a dus of his own and that just adds to his misery and self-doubts.

The plot doesn’t really start until near the end. However, I was fascinated with the cultures, so I didn’t really mind. At the start Niun is pretty self-centered and selfish in his concerns. He has a tendency to pity himself and think that he’s worthless. He had close relationship with his sister but that ended when she became a Sen, so Niun has been quite lonely among the old mri. Still, when the plot does start, it does so with a bang. Also, there’s no resolution at the end.

Once again, Cherryh has a very… interesting cover. That’s probably Melein, who is forbidden to even touch weapons. And that outfit is very, er, movie-like instead of being some actual use in a desert-like environment. Still, I guess it could have been much worse, too. The trilogy cover is pretty awesome, though.

My newest review: Sarah Jane Stratford’s Midnight Guardian.

It’s a new vampire series set during the second World War. I rather liked it, especially some of the characters, and I gave it four stars from five.

The first in a four part SF series which can be read as a stand-alone. I got it used.

Publication year: 1975
Page count: 192
Format: print
Publisher: Daw

The setting is clearly science fiction with high-tech Gates which can transport matter not just from one place to another but from one time to another, too. Yet, the world and the main character are from a pre-industrial society which is common in (epic) fantasy.

The prologue is just a couple of pages and introduces to the reader the concept of the Gates and that the species which built them, the qhal, was apparently ruined by the time travel aspect. The time travel part also changed the cultures and people on other planets, too. The survivor want to destroy the Gates, There’s also a short historical account from the place where the story starts, Andur-Kursh. The history remembers only one woman, Morgaine, who is thought to be evil incarnate when she was alive about a hundred years ago.

Vanye is a bastard son of Lord Nhi Rijan. He has two elder half-brothers who have enjoyed tormenting him through his childhood. One day, they go too far and Vanye kills his eldest brother and wounds the other grievously. Their father gives Vanye a choice – to kill himself or become a clanless exile, an ilin. Vanye goes into exile.

He’s chased mercilessly for months and finally he’s forced to northern lands which as still considered evil. Accidentally, he triggers a Gate and a fair woman on a gray horse comes out of it, as if from thin air. Vanye is scared when he realizes that the woman is legendary Morgaine. Still, he’s in a wintry climate without proper clothes or food, and so he’s forced to accept Morgaine’s shelter. In exchange Morgaine claims Vanye as her underling, as is customary, although not usually for women. So, Vanye has to follow and protect the strange woman.

Morgaine has only one goal: to destroy the Gate of Ivrel, and Thiye Thyie’s-son who has some understanding of how the Gate works and is using it for his own benefit. However, for her no time has passed inside the Gate and some of her old allies have become enemies. Nobody trusts her but some want her knowledge and power for themselves.

Vanye is a quite bitter protagonist. He’s had a hard life and at the start of the story, he’s lost everything but his life. Still, he wants to live and he’s honorable after his own customs; once he’s Morgaine’s ilin he will do everything in his power to protect and aid her, even if he should die protecting her. However, he doesn’t trust her and he doesn’t even know what she is. At the start, he thinks that she’s a qhal which seems to be a demon-like creature to him. Still, he keeps his oath once he’s made it.

Morgaine is a far more distant character; we see her only through Vanye’s eyes. She’s a young woman with a single goal and she will do anything to achieve it. I thought she also worried about the choices she had to make and even regretted some of them. She carries weapons that seem magical to the pre-industrial characters but seem to be technological.

The rest of the cast all have their own agendas and seemed very human to me, perhaps appallingly human and illogical 🙂 at times. I especially enjoyed Roh and Eirj. Roh, the chief of Chya clan, for his stubbornness that ended not only him but lots of others in trouble. Erij is almost as single minded as Morgaine once he made up his mind. He’s another tortured character but he’s also vindictive which Vanye doesn’t seem to be. However, Erij is a maimed man in a culture where all men are supposed to be warriors – that has be hard.

Morgaine’s fair hair color is said to be remarkable, so I wonder if fair skin color is also remarkable; maybe all the other characters are non-white? It’s not said, though.

The culture reminded me first of Mongols or Tolkien’s Rohirrim with the way they relied on horses and took good care of them, and also for being very patriarchal (there are only two named women in the book and the other is Vanye’s dead mother). However, they also have a strict honor system more reminiscent of Japanese culture’s samurai and ronin. Even though the book is slim, it manages to bring to life the culture, even though some parts are by necessity left vague, such as religion.

There’s a lot of traveling in the book and it’s realistic; it rains or snows or is too hot, and all of that have an effect. Horses are also not just cars but living creatures that tire and need to be taken care of.

The plot is very fast-paced and full of uncertainty and betrayals. About the only thing I didn’t really care for was the very ending. Oh and the lack of female characters.

For some reason I didn’t like it as much as the Chanur books.

Oh, that cover is awful! Both Morgaine and Vanye are specifically mentioned wearing armor.

The first book in a historical fantasy series about the very old vampire who is currently called the Comte de Saint-Germaine. The first book is set in the year 1745 and in Paris.

Publication year: 1978
Page count: 252 including the authors notes about the locations, people, and vampires
Format: print
Publisher: St. Martin Press

Comte de Saint-Germaine is a mysterious man who has recently taken his place among the Parisian nobles. Some think that he’s a fraud but others, particularly the women, are charmed. He seems to be interested in them as people, and not just to get (sexual) favors, and he keeps the confidences he’s told.

In a sense, those that call him a fraud are correct; he’s not a Count. He’s a vampire who remembers Ancient Rome because he lived there. He also has a double life in Paris as Prinz Ragocy who employs sorcerers and opposes the Satan worshiping clique of men lead by Saint Sebastien. Saint Sebastien is looking to sacrifice a couple of women in his rituals to Satan in order to get more power to himself. Unfortunately, one of the women is the young and vibrant Madelene de Montalia whom Saint-Germaine has fallen in love with.

The plot is about equal parts about Saint-Germaine fighting the Satan worshipers and romancing Madelaine. Still, the plot moves along quickly. The book has several point-of-view characters. In addition to Saint-Germaine, there’s Madelaine, her aunt Claudia, and a few others. The book starts and ends with a letter, and every chapter ends with a letter or a note. The letters are important. In fact, one subplot is resolved in the letters and the structure worked well for me.

Most of the characters are Parisian nobles and their servants and many of the chapters are set in parties or dinners. However, to balance them, there are the sorcerers who work in gloomy cellars.

The cast is pretty large In addition to the thoughtful Saint-Germaine, there’s Madelaine who’s intelligent and wants to study. However, she’s spent most of her life in a convent, so some things are a shock to her. Her aunt the countess Claudia is trapped in an unhappy marriage; her husband is a drunkard and a gambler, and resents it when Claudia tries to help him. Claudia advices her niece that she can’t expect a happy marriage, either. In fact, many of nobles are unhappy. One of the women is married to a gay man and her priest just tells her to pray for children. Saint-Germaine also rescues an injured coach man who becomes loyal to Saint-Germaine. The group of sorcerers includes a Spanish man who escaped the Inquisition and an Englishman who is the group’s leader. They can do actual magic.

Near the start, Madelaine finds out that Saint-Germine is a vampire but she isn’t disturbed by it. Instead, she wants him to suck her blood and later she wants to become a vampire so that she’ll have a longer life. I found this to be a bit strange, to say the least, especially for a woman raised by nuns. The vampire doesn’t have to kill anyone; he seems to need very little blood. Like Dracula, he can walk in daylight but is strongest during the night. He ages very slowly.

There are a lot of historical detail in the book. In fact, I was quickly bored with the clothing descriptions but religious talk about how women have to submit to even abusive husbands but those were a big part of the life of the nobles. However, otherwise I enjoyed the glimpse to a fantastical 1743 France.

There are two Satanistic ritual descriptions in the book and both are cruel. In both cases, a woman is the victim and in the first ritual she’s gang raped. The rituals have also homosexual acts. The book doesn’t have any non-Satanistic gays which, on the one hand fits the time period but is also a bit disappointing.

Saint-Germaine himself is based on real-life figure who was a mystery to his contemporaries.

All in all, I did enjoy the book and intend to read a few sequels, especially if they don’t have any Satan worshipers!

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