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Book Probe: Goddess Denied, Simone Pond, Isabella`s Heiress
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, @revolutionsf, © 2015

Format: Book
By:   Various artists
Genre:   Books!
Review Date:   March 12, 2015

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Last Revenge by Nathaniel Danes

ĒHe felt like a god of war, smiting all those who opposed him.Ē

This is the second book in a military sci-fi series about armored-up humans fighting a war.

The events at the end of book one The Last Hero are still a bummer for the hero, and then he says, ďI canít offer anything but death, blood, metal and the coldness of space.Ē

But then he changes his mind and suits up for fightiní. And I was hoping the whole book would be him staring out a window in the rain. Thank goodness for fighting!

Brutal depictions of guns blazing are the connecting points of the story between all the humans talking, which this book shouldnít even bother with.

Weapons are described with pride, in glowing detail. The battle details bring everything to life.

The book is a violent, cathartic rush. Itís worth cheering when the good guys wade in. For best results, listen to heavy metal while reading.

The Goddess Denied: The Saga of Edda-Earth by Deborah L. Davitt

This one is a super-thick fantasy novel that reminds me of Game of Thrones' intricate political intertwinings. Caesar was never assassinated, so Rome kept flourishing instead of going kablooey. And all the pantheons of gods coexist. Naturally, they don't really get along.

The cast is enormous. It takes some time to get accustomed. Luckily, the book is over 800 pages, so you'll have plenty of time.

This is the second book in a series. Luckily for new readers, the first book is summarized at the beginning of this one. Not so lucky is the new reader, because the synopsis is over three pages and the new reader won't have any idea who the characters in that synopsis are.

The story is complex and the details are the key. It's political intrigue mixed with alternate history mixed with mythology. Those are three good things when one doesn't overwhelm the other. Here, there is enough for fans of each one to come away thinking the book was all about their favorite.

CyberWar by R.J. Hunecke

This one is a top-drawer action flick in book form. The good guys are cyber-warriors who fight the Cyber Elite, hackers who have taken over the government.

The drama here is gripping. It's close enough to reality to sink in emotionally. Nuclear devastation and a pandemic are plot points. Bad guys have plans that really could work, and good guys struggle to keep it together.

One problem: Commas. That's what this book needs. Lots and lots of commas. If my review copy had a glitch that deleted the commas, that's OK. I NEED COMMAS.

Real stakes and emotionally true reactions are the keys here. That saves the book. It's good enough for me to overlook the comma thing, well, mostly. But the emotions and the drama of this story will stay with readers for awhile.

Random Dingoes by Ira Nayman

Sci-fi comedy in book form will always be compared to Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy. That is terribly unfair.

So letís get started!

Like Hitchhikerís Guide, this story contains silly names, silly characters and silly events. Like the Guide, sometimes it doesnít make any sense. Like the Guide, in a few years you may still be trying to figure it out.

Itís about cops who travel between alternate universes. Itís almost 300 pages, and much of that is tangents, asides, parenthetical comments and footnotes. ( I totally got all the random pop-culture references, of course. Thatís my story and Iím sticking to it.)

Itís totally goofy, and thatís a good thing. In a way, I wanted someone to get writer Ira Nayman to dial it down a little. But having the silliness dialed up so high is part of Random Dingoesí charm.

Isabella's Heiress by N.P. Griffiths

I didn't know what to think when I cracked this thing open. It's almost 500 pages, and it looked to be a medieval romance along the lines of Outlander. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I, however, couldn't have been wronger. Instead, the heiress of the title is a modern-day inheritor of a warrior woman's legacy. She has a quest to accomplish after she's dead, and a wise handler to help her along. The whole story is inspiring, as a struggling hero finds her way and takes hold of her life (after her death). It's well worth a read, even when it crams exposition into just a few pages. The ending sticks the landing perfectly. This is just page-turning good stuff.

Gearteeth by Timothy Black

Timothy Black knocks this thing out of the park. Creativity oozes out of it. It has the style of a Western and the world-building of hard sci-fi. But it's neither. It's a combo platter of horror and action, with floating cities and werewolves, who are the best of all possible monsters. A werewolf virus swept Earth and now humans live in floating cities. Naturally, humans want to stay away from the werewolves and they fail in doing so, or there would be no book. It's just fun.

Timothy Black put more thought and invention into this than he needed to, and that's a good thing. Here's how I can tell: names. Here are some of the terms that he throws out during the story: Wendigo strain. Thunder Train. Howling City. And this quote:

"I was going to use the werewolf's head as a stepladder."

It feels that more is brewing under the surface of the story, as if a fully formed universe is there and I haven't seen it all yet. I can't wait.

The Saga of Lyn: Reawakening by Aric Carter

" A rusty old sword that has hidden powers."

That's all I needed to see on a back cover when I was but a wee lad. Who'm I kidding? It's still all I need. Aric Carter captured that style and feeling from the start. This story is stuffed full of fantasy-novel classic cliches and well-worn characters. I mean that as a compliment. It's comforting, really.

Another sure way to lure me in is to have a map at the start of the book. I could sit and stare at those maps in old-school fantasy novels and role-playing games for hours, imagining stuff that might happen there. This book is a good intro to the genre, too, if you want to try it out or if you have a young apprentice you need to educate.

This one is AD&D and an 80s fantasy flick combined and revitalized. Good times.

The New Agenda by Simone Pond

A bad guy designed The Repatterning, a program about as fun as it sounds. The book is told in first person from the perspective of his son. That grabbed me from the start. The hero of the story gets his whole worldview devastated over the course of the story, and thatís not the whole story. You have to figure that society-wide program is probably not a good thing. And youíd be right!

I liked the first book in this series, City Center. This continues the story, but it has a different, more personal and urgent feel. The apocalypse is bad news, but unlike most apocalypse stories, things are not completely doom and/or gloom. There is plenty of misery for apocalypse fans to consume.

But at the same time, I got a weird feeling when reading this, a feeling that Iím not used to when reading apocalypse stories.

That feeling is hope. Things might be OK.

Thatís just weird.

The Mainframe by Simone Pond

The first two books in this series are City Center and The New Agenda. Like a good sequel, this one jumps forward in time until a baby from book 2 is a teen. Her momís quest and her growth is the focus of the story until the story hands off to the teen for the big finish.

And again, itís hopeful! Thatís two post-apocalypse stories in a row for me. Now Iím going to expect rainbows and happy endings for the next apocalypse novel I read, and they better deliver. Simone Pond has set the bar really high.

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