A King’s Ship (Empire Rising #2) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A King’s Ship
Series: Empire Rising #2
Author: David Holmes
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 314
Words: 122K

From the Publisher and Bookstooge.blog

The war with China is over. But for Captain James Somerville there is a task still unfinished.

Former Politburo Intelligence Minister Chang has evaded capture and escaped from Chinese space. Declared a war criminal by the UN and British law courts, James is given the Royal Space Navy’s newest exploration cruiser and sent after Chang.

His chase will threaten to stir up old rivalries and take him to the edge of explored space. What he will discover there will radically reshape humanity’s position in the galaxy and throw him into a series of desperate battles. Alone and outnumbered he will come to realize what it really takes to command a King’s Ship.

And that means finding a Lost Colony with a secret (they have skillz! And have pirated Space Briton’s ships), finding aliens, finding MORE aliens and then killing lots of aliens. And finding out that there are even more aliens (even though the humans don’t realize the discovery for what it is at the time).


I was pretty happy with this. While there are some impressive space battles (where we once again count every missile down until it explodes or something), we also get some British Space Marine action. Boo yah! These guys are almost as tough as regular American Space Soldiers, so you know in the big scheme of things they’re pretty badass. And they’re even all squishy on the inside and have a bonding moment, awwwww. Thankfully, that doesn’t last too long before they get back to killing aliens.

The Big Bad Communist from the first book has escaped and Captain Happy Pants is tasked with secretly hunting him down. And boy does he kick some applecarts over in that process. India is caught with its hands fully in the Space Communist cookie jar and whines about it. Captain Happy doesn’t care, nor should he, he’s got a Space United Nations mandate! And Ensign Chicky Boo is now Admiral/Captain/Commander/Whatever Chicky Boo and is helping out. But a sexy Lost Human Politician gets in the way until Captain Happy Pants puts her aside because he still loves the British Space Princess. It’s a real Space Soap Opera! Find out next episode who has the alien baby!!! (not really, but come on, you had to see that coming).

Once again, I really enjoyed this. It hits the Space Opera itch that I have (that I’m not getting scratched by Anspach & Cole with their Galaxy’s Edge series, boo, hiss) and while it has more spaceship battles than I really care for, it does have more than enough ground pounder action to keep me happy. Space Marines for da win baby!

★★★✬☆

The Widowmaker (Widowmaker #1) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Widowmaker
Series: Widowmaker #1
Author: Mike Resnick
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 198
Words: 67K

From Bookstooge.blog


Jefferson Nighthawk, also known as the Widowmaker, is in deepfreeze for an incurable disease. Unfortunately, that is expensive and even the Widowmaker runs out of money now and then. So to procure more money to keep him on ice until a cure is found, a clone is made and sent on an assignment. Which he fulfills and then dies because he makes bad choices about a woman.


Every time I re-read a book, it feels like I am marching out into an old minefield. With a blindfold on while carrying a 25lb cane that I smash into the ground at every step. That feeling of “will THIS step be the one where I explode and my guts go flying for 200 yards in every direction” is not very pleasant. On the flip side, if I do make it safely to the other side, the palpable relief coupled with the enjoyment of a familiar trek pretty much trebles the enjoyment.

In some ways this was a very frustrating read. Jeff Nighthawk, the young clone, is just so young that you know what is going to happen because he wants what he wants despite everyone telling him otherwise. If he’d been a normal person, he would have had a broken heart and learned from his past. Being a galaxy famous bounty hunter, well, all it takes is one mistake to kill him.

I really liked the idea of cloning the Widowmaker and using him. It makes for some interesting dynamics and philosophical rabbit trails but without getting all deep and serious and depressing. It was also fun to be back in Resnick’s Far Future History. Santiago took place during the Democracy (I think) and this takes place much later in what is called the Oligarchy. But the idea that there is always a frontier, a place to go if you’re a free individual is one that Resnick keeps alive in his stories.

The Idea of the Widowmaker is also one that resonates with me. Not necessarily the stone cold killer, but the idea of being the apex of your profession. I like reading about individuals who have striven to be the best and ARE the best. None of this schmopey dopey “ohhh, we’re all just the same” crap. No, we damned well are NOT the same and if you think otherwise, then you are insane and contributing to the general insanity of the world. I cannot be an astronaut no matter how much I might want to be. Nor can I be a professional basketball player. But I can work with only 1 person for 9hrs a day and not need communal group hugs or “attaboys” every other minute and I don’t need to discuss Movie/TV Show X over the water cooler. And you’d be surprised how many people can’t take the solitude. They think they can, but they can’t. So all that rant aside, I like reading about people who excel at what they do. It is inspiring.

There are 3 more Widowmaker books in this series and since I enjoyed this re-read as much as I did, I am fully looking forward to the rest of the series.

★★★★☆

Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire #3) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Pebble in the Sky
Series: Galactic Empire #3
Authors: Isaac Asimov
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 174
Words: 70K

From Wikipedia:

While walking down the street in Chicago, Joseph Schwartz, a retired tailor, is the unwitting victim of a nearby nuclear laboratory accident, by means of which he is instantaneously transported tens of thousands of years into the future (50,000 years, by one character’s estimate, a figure later retconned by future Asimov works as a “mistake”). He finds himself in a place he does not recognize, and due to apparent changes in the spoken language that far into the future, he is unable to communicate with anyone. He wanders into a farm, and is taken in by the couple that lives there. They mistake him for a mentally deficient person, and they secretly offer him as a subject for an experimental procedure to increase his mental abilities. The procedure, which has killed several subjects, works in his case, and he finds that he can quickly learn to speak the current lingua franca. He also slowly realizes that the procedure has given him strong telepathic abilities, including the ability to project his thoughts to the point of killing or injuring a person.

The Earth, at this time, is seen by the rest of the Galactic Empire as a rebellious planet — it has rebelled three times in the past — and the inhabitants are widely frowned upon and discriminated against. Earth also has several large radioactive areas, although the cause is never really described. With large uninhabitable areas, it is a very poor planet, and anyone who is unable to work is legally required to be euthanized. The people of the Earth must also be executed when they reach the age of sixty, a procedure known as “The Sixty”, with very few exceptions; mainly for people who have made significant contributions to society. That is a problem for Schwartz, who is now sixty-two years old.

The Earth is part of the Trantorian Galactic Empire, with a resident Procurator, who lives in a domed town in the high Himalayas and a Galactic military garrison, but in practice it is ruled by a group of Earth-centered “religious fanatics” who believe in the ultimate superiority of Earthlings. They have created a new, deadly supervirus that they plan to use to kill or subjugate the rest of the Empire, and to avenge themselves for the way their planet has been treated by the galaxy at large. Citizens of the Empire are unaware of Earth’s lethal viruses, and mistakenly believe it is Earth’s environment that causes them “Radiation Fever,” and that Earthlings pose the Empire no threat.

Joseph Schwartz, along with Affret Shekt, the scientist who developed the new device that boosted Schwartz’s mental powers, his daughter Pola Shekt, and a visiting archaeologist Bel Arvardan, are captured by the rebels, but they escape with the help of Schwartz’s new mental abilities, and they are narrowly able to stop the plan to release the virus. Schwartz uses his mental abilities to provoke a pilot from the Imperial garrison into bombing the site where the arsenal of the super-virus exists.

The book ends on a hopeful note — perhaps the Empire can be persuaded to restore the Earth and reintroduce uncontaminated soil.


This was a much better book than the previous two Empire novels and thus I enjoyed it a bit more. Sadly, that still doesn’t mean it was a really good book. While it wasn’t frozen yoghurt, it was more akin to a McDonald’s softserve icecream, when what I was hoping for was some Haagen Daz.

I’ve got Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage duology available to me and I am still really waffling about if I want to read them or not. Based on these books, I really don’t expect much.

★★★☆☆

Majestic ★★☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Majestic
Series: ———-
Author: Whitley Strieber
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 267
Words: 95K

Majestic is the name of the secret government agency tasked with dealing with aliens, etc in the United States Government. This book was published in 1989 and in 1993 the tv show The X-Files started airing. I will eat my hat, and quite possibly my boots too, if Chris Carter, the creator of the X-Files didn’t read this book and lift parts of it whole sale to create the X-Files mythology. The head of Majestic is even a bitter old man who has given himself cancer by smoking so much (one of the main villains in the X-Files is the Smoking Man). Because I have seen the X-Files, this felt like an origins story and was rather boring since all the bits and pieces had already been revealed. The differences and specifics were small enough and didn’t matter enough so I wasn’t really interested.

This is supposedly non-fiction posing as fiction to protect Strieber, but come on. And it committed the cardinal sin of being boring. I mean really, really, really boring. And aliens invading us, or protecting us or evolving us, or whatever the heck Strieber is claiming (all of the above at the same time plus some other stuff as far as I could tell) should NOT be boring.

I am debating whether I want to try again with Strieber. Part of writing reviews is so I can think about things like this and not make a snap decision. Sometimes not continuing isn’t even on my mind (like with Universe 2 from yesterday) until I start writing and then I can easily make a decision. This isn’t like that unfortunately. I have been considering this since about halfway through this book and I still can’t make up my mind. Am I hitting a bad run of Strieber or is he really just not for me? Is he really boring like this book? If he is, do I dare give him a 3rd chance? Cat Magic was also very boring, so you know what? I’m done with Strieber. I’ll leave him to those who want him.

★★☆☆☆

Universe 2 ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Universe 2
Series: Universe Anthology #2
Author: Terry Carr (ed)
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 231
Words: 70K

Marginally better than the previous volume, but with some of the names involved, I expected a LOT better. Here’s the TOC:

RETROACTIVE
by Bob Shaw

WHEN WE WENT TO SEE THE END OF THE WORLD
by Robert Silverberg

FUNERAL SERVICE
by Gerard F. Conway

A SPECIAL CONDITION IN SUMMIT CITY
by R. A. Lafferty

PATRON OF THE ARTS
by William Rotsler

USEFUL PHRASES FOR THE TOURIST
by Joanna Russ

ON THE DOWNHILL SIDE
by Harlan Ellison

THE OTHER PERCEIVER
by Pamela Sargent

MY HEAD’S IN A DIFFERENT PLACE, NOW
by Grania Davis

STALKING THE SUN
by Gordon Eklund

THE MAN WHO WAVED HELLO
by Gardner R. Dozois

THE HEADLESS MAN
by Gene Wolfe

TIGER BOY
by Edgar Pangborn

The weirdest, out there, completely bonzo’d gourd story was without a doubt the one by Grania Davis. A couple of druggies go to Mexico or South America, or some place south of California and get stoned out of their gourd and eventually turn into monsters. It was very disturbing, mainly because they had a young daughter (toddler age).

However, I still am not sold on this series. I’ll give it one more book to try to actually interest me but if it doesn’t, I’m going to have to call it quits. I’d probably be better off quitting now but I don’t have another anthology series lined up and I want that. Now that I just wrote that, that is absolutely silly. I would be better served simply not reading something than something that is sub-par, like this Universes series. So I’m done.

And this is one reason WHY I write reviews as well as rate the books I read. Being introspective sometimes takes time to allow my thoughts to stop swirling and to settle and that is when I have moments of clarity like the above paragraph.

★★★☆☆

Traitor’s Gambit (WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #6.5) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Traitor’s Gambit
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #6.5
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 32
Words: 9K

Cain gets involved in stopping a group of renegade humans who want to help the alien Tau by destroying the flagship that is protecting the human’s world. They all die, Cain and Jurgen escape and Cain looks like a hero.

I like that these Cain stories deal with other villains than just the Ruinous Powers (ie, the demons from the warp) that characterized the Gaunt’s Ghost series. It is also quite interesting to see humanity rejecting the Tau because they are aliens and not humans. Their tech is better, their world/universe view seems to have a greater chance of surviving in the long term but even Cain just rejects them categorically. It shows how much the Empire of Man has truly become an Empire of the Emperor. Kind of depressing, but then, the whole point of the Warhammer 40K universe is to be depressing. Thank goodness Cain lightens things up.

★★★✬☆

The Void War (Empire Rising #1) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Void War
Series: Empire Rising #1
Author: David Holmes
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 339
Words: 132K

Sometime in the year 3000 there is a Human Empire and some blathering idiot of a historian decides to chronicle the Rise of the Empire. Thankfully, we get a science fiction novel that tells a good cracking, exciting and interesting story instead of a dry history filled only with names, dates and statistical data. As you can probably tell, I am not a fan of history books (sorry Matt, they’re all yours!).

The Little (disgraced) Rich Boy makes good and starts becoming Somebody. Along the way he helps defeat Space Communists (Yaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!) but doesn’t get to marry the Princess (Boooooooo!). However, Ensign “Chickie Boo” Underling is standing in the wings and while they hate each other at first, it’s all a big misunderstanding and so by book’s end they are besties. (Awwwwwwww!)

Everything is based on The British Navy, in Spaaaaaaace! (say that while remembering the Muppet’s skit, Pigs in Spaaaaaace). Jack Campell did this first with his Black Jack Geary aka Lost Fleet series, but unlike Campbell, Holmes skips all the boring bits (like waiting 6hrs for space missiles to actually arrive or waiting 6hrs to shoot your own space missiles) and thus we zoom along at a pretty good breakneck pace. (don’t try shooting missiles at home, kids. That is not Batman & Robin approved behavior!)

I look forward to reading more in this series and hope it stays as good as this book was.

★★★✬☆

Latency (Hunter Bureau #2) ★★☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Latency
Series: Hunter Bureau #2
Author: Blaze Ward
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 197
Words: 62K

When I read and reviewed the first book, I mentioned that there were key words or phrases that usually only came from a political side that was completely opposed to everything I stand for in terms of morals, principles and guiding principles. So instead of either brushing it off or making a mountain out of a molehill, as I was reading, I just highlighted stuff that caught my eye. That’s mostly what this review will contain, is quotes from the book. I am not trying to provide context within the story or anything like that. I’m planning on hiding it all behind the Details code so you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.

Location 147: (speaking of handguns)Greyson’s grandfather had had something like that, demilled when the aliens decided to make humans safer.

Location 378: Back when the US was a thing and had an army they liked to sic on weaker nations.

Location 611: be allowed

Location 726: And they hadn’t done androgynous in those days. Being less than stridently hetero in the late 20th Century was an invitation to get beat up. Fucking barbarians.

Location 793: The bits that were left were generally the ones the Army had found useful as tools. Deliberate cruelty. Premeditated self-defense.

Location 972: Universal Basic Income kept people from starving,

Location 1184: Mostly, ex-special forces, so knuckleheads who liked to solve problems with extreme firepower.

Location 1332: Honest men got no reason to bolt,

Location 1904: Superfast trains had already worked in other countries because the governments had been able to get right of way. In the old United States, NIMBY had delayed everything for so long that it was never economical to actually build. Not In My Back Yard. Then the middle-class bastards had the audacity to complain about bad roads and crowded….

Location 2135: Greyson was just old enough to remember the great awakening in this culture, when everyone discovered that there were more options than white-bread hetero. Folks like that had always been there, but for the longest time the power structure in his country had come down hard on anyone deviating from the strict party line, both legally as well as socially.

Location 2277: would still be the rest of his lifetime and maybe all of Rachel’s before the planet started cooling down again, but hopefully they’d managed to save it in time.

Location 2686: Back in the bleak days of a War on Crime that was a thinly-veiled War on Black People that had started before 1618 and never really been forced to subside until aliens landed and threatened to crack heads together.

Location 2849: Sandwiches he brought from home instead of lunch out.

Location 2927: where a young white boy like him had had no business being.

Location 2951: But then, most men didn’t know how to deal with a woman who was tougher than they were, and probably smarter.

Location 3206: If Greyson had shown some of his otherwise private political leanings with the places he had mailed his packages, that was between him and God. And God supposedly loved everyone, so Greyson figured he was on safe ground

I read to the end of the book and with all of those quotes decided that I won’t be reading any more by Mister Blaze Ward. Now I just have to figure out what I’m going to replace this series with. Choices, choices, choices.

★★☆☆☆

The Return of Santiago (Santiago #2) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Return of Santiago
Series: Santiago #2
Author: Mike Resnick
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 278
Words: 122K

So, a hundred or two years after the first Santiago book, some small time thief discovers the original manuscript from Black Orpheus and decides that he wants to become his successor, a Dante. So he realizes that he needs a Santiago to center the continuing poem around sets out to find one. With the help of some colorful characters he attempts to recruit various bigger than life characters to become Santiago only to realize that each one is pretty flawed each time. Eventually, with the help of his co-horts hitting him over the head with it, he realizes HE is the new Santiago.

Santiago was published in 1986 and was a completely standalone novel. Return was published in ‘03 and did a bit of fancy dancy stuff to make it possible to need a “return of Santiago”. While I still enjoyed this, it simply wasn’t in the same league as the first book and really felt like Resnick was trying to recapture the magic (and failing). Thankfully, he doesn’t recycle the same set of characters as was presented in the first book, so that was good. But none of them quite lived up the engaging’ness of the cast of characters we met in the first book.

If you liked Santiago, then I would recommend Return if you really need to be a completionist. However, I would strongly caution you to think twice, as this just isn’t as good. Not bad, but not as good.

★★★✬☆

The Anubis Gates ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Anubis Gates
Series: ———-
Author: Tim Powers
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 353
Words: 162K

I’ve read this multiple times before and so I was wondering how this would turn out. After my recent experience with On Stranger Tides I had high hopes though and thankfully, this not only met those hopes but exceeded them.

Some old used up has-been magicians are trying to bring back the old gods of Egypt into our modern world (well the 1800’s through 1980) but with magic drying up like a raisin, things don’t quiiiiite go as planned. One of them gets possessed by Anubis and pretty much turns into a body switching werewolf. Another side effect is that time holes open up and people from our time figure it out and a dying tycoon takes advantage of it for his own purposes. Then the main character gets stuck in the past and has to deal with various other mad magicians who also cycle through time (they are trying to change history but their efforts simply make it happen, of course) and there is murder and mayhem and romance and lots and lots of weirdness. I loved every second of it. The magic was just different enough that it didn’t affect me like in Powers’ other books and for that I am grateful.

The only weak point is the ending. Once the main character accepts that he is now an obscure poet in a new body (that body switching Anubis guy causes a LOT of problems), Powers takes us through his life in about 10 pages and then right at the end, when he’s like 60 or something, (at least if I did my math right) he gets to live his own life. It was a very amateurish attempt to deal with Free Will and Pre-destination. That wasn’t the main point of the book, but it was a theme and I didn’t feel that how it was handled was very professional.

For a book that I am giving 5stars too it seems like I should have more to say. But since this is at least my 3rd read, if not more, simply being able to enjoy the story and saying so is going to have to be enough.

This re-read has convinced me to seek out Powers’ earlier work, The Drawing of the Dark. From my experience, the further into the past I go with Powers, the better I like his stuff. DotD was published in ‘79 so if my hypothesis is right, it should be right up my alley and possibly the book I like best by him. Only time will tell.

I’ve included the original 1983 cover, because just like with Santiago, this image is what is burnt into my brain to be associated with this story. While some of the later covers look very nice and all, they’re just not the same garish awesome that I want. The little picture up above is clickable for a much bigger version for those who are curious.

★★★★★