The Qwillery | category: Brannigan


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: Beyond the Pool of Stars and Through the Gate in the Sea by Howard Andrew Jones

Beyond the Pool of Stars
Author:  Howard Andrew Jones
Series:  Pathfinder Tales29
Publisher:  Tor Books, October 6, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
List Price:  US$22.99 (print); US$7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765374530 (print); 9781466842656 (eBook)

Review: Beyond the Pool of Stars and Through the Gate in the Sea by Howard Andrew Jones
Mirian Raas comes from a long line of salvagers, adventurers who use magic to dive for sunken ships off the coast of tropical Sargava. When her father dies, Mirian has to take over his last job: a dangerous expedition into deep jungle pools, helping a tribe of lizardfolk reclaim the lost treasures of their people. Yet this isn't any ordinary job, as the same colonial government that looks down on Mirian for her half-native heritage has an interest in the treasure, and the survival of the entire nation may depend on the outcome...

From critically acclaimed author Howard Andrew Jones comes a fantastical adventure of deep-water danger and unlikely alliances in Pathfinder Tales: Beyond the Pool of Stars, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Role playing Game.

Through the Gate in the Sea
Author:  Howard Andrew Jones
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 37
Publisher:  Tor Books, February 21, 2017
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765384386 (print);  9780765384393 (eBook)

Review: Beyond the Pool of Stars and Through the Gate in the Sea by Howard Andrew Jones
Deepwater salvager Mirian Raas and her bold crew may have bought their nation’s freedom with a hoard of lost lizardfolk treasure, but their troubles are only just beginning in this sequel to Beyond the Pool of Stars.
When Mirian’s new lizardfolk companions, long believed to be the last of their tribe, discover hints that their people may yet survive on a magical island, the crew of the Daughter of the Mist is only too happy to help them venture into uncharted waters. Yet the perilous sea isn’t the only danger, as the devil-worshiping empire of Cheliax hasn’t forgotten its defeat at Mirian’s hands, and far in the east, an ancient, undead child-king has set his sights on the magical artifact that’s kept the lost lizardfolk city safe all these centuries.

Pathfinder is the world's bestselling tabletop role-playing game—now adapted as a series of novels.

Branningan's Thoughts

Howard Andrew Jones is an inventive and talented author that has created sea and land-based fantasy adventures. Beyond the Pool of Stars and Through the Gate in the Sea are two stand-alone novels that share the same cast of characters. If you’d like to read them in order start with the Beyond the Pool of Stars, but truly you can read either book in any order.

Mirian Raas is the protagonist for both books. Mirian grew up in a family of underwater ship scavengers. With her inherited magical items that give her some awesome powers, she leads a life of adventure fighting off pirates and monsters with her crew on the ship Daughter of the Mist.

In Beyond the Pool of Stars, Mirian’s father dies, leaving her to finish his last job reclaiming a treasure that has the potential to leave two group of civilizations at war. This one kept me on my toes through the entire read. It’s full of adventure and exotic locations. I have to say that I’ve never read a book with underwater treasure hunting before and I really enjoyed experiencing something new. It’s rare these day to be surprised by stories.

Jones continues to expand on the adventures stories in Through the Gate in the Sea. This time, Mirian Raas picks up a new Lizardfolk crew member and helps him seek out the long lost homeland that has captured the attention of an undead ruler.

The best thing about Jones’s style is that it reminds me of a modern-day pulp writer, which for me is the highest of compliments. I love the quick pace of the story, the nonstop action, and imaginative cast of characters and storyline. I never got bored and I was left wanting just a few more chapters. I’d recommend either book to any fantasy reader. There is nothing in the content of either story that would keep me from recommending it to Teens to Adults.

On a Completely Separate Side Note: This will be my last review of new to current books. I’ve loved the last six years of reviewing books for The Qwillery, but now that my children are getting older, my free time is dwindling. I will, however, be submitting RetroReviews from time to time, so I hope you’ll keep your eyes out for those. Thank you for your support and keep reading.

Review: Dark Sky and Dark Deeds by Mike Brooks

Dark Sky
Author:  Mike Brooks
Series:  Keiko 2
Publisher:  Saga Press, July 11, 2017
Format:  Trade Paperback, Hardcover and eBook
List Price: US$16.99 (Trade Paperback); US$26.99 (Hardcover);
     US$7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781481459563 (Trade Paperback); 9781481459570 (Hardcover);
     9781481459587 (eBook)

Review: Dark Sky and Dark Deeds by Mike Brooks
In the sequel to the thrilling Dark Run, which Publishers Weekly called “a terrific debut,” Ichabod Drift and his crew sign on for a new smuggling job that soon goes south when they are separated and caught up in a dangerous civil war.

When Ichabod Drift and the Keiko crew sign on for a new smuggling job to a mining planet, they don’t realize what they are up against. The miners, badly treated for years by the corporation, are staging a rebellion. Split into two groups, one with the authorities and one with the rebels, Drift and his crew support their respective sides in the conflict. But when they are cut off from each other due to a communication blackout, both halves of the crew don’t realize that they have begun fighting themselves…

Dark Deeds
Author: Mike Brooks
Series:  Keiko 3
Publisher:  Saga Press, November 14, 2017
Format:  Trade Paperback, Hardcover and eBook
List Price:  US$16.99 (Trade Paperback); US$27.99 (Hardcover);
     US$7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781534405448 (Trade Paperback); 9781534405455 (Hardcover);
     9781534405462 (eBook)

Review: Dark Sky and Dark Deeds by Mike Brooks
In the third book of the “entertaining” (Kirkus Reveiws) Keiko series, Captain Ichabod Drift and his crew find themselves in another mess as a ship-wide vacation leads to their second-in-command taken hostage by the planet’s criminal mastermind.

After the riotous civil war in Dark Sky, the crew of the Keiko decides to go on vacation at an illegal gambling port for a little fun. What they don’t realize is that the casinos are run by an ex-client who didn’t get his shipment due to the war. The mob boss decides to take Tamara Rourke, the Keiko’s second-in-command, and hold her hostage until the crew raises enough money to pay him back for the lost shipment. If they don’t pay up in time, Rourke will be killed.

Captain Ichabod Drift and his crew agree. But as they find a way to get the funds, one will betray everyone and one will die…

Brannigan's Review

It’s impossible for a layman not to compare Mike Brooks’s Keiko series to the much beloved Firefly series by Joss Whedon. It’s a space western. For those of us who are more familiar with this type of subgenre within Science Fiction, we don’t immediately start comparing the two, but if you’re a fan of one there’s a very good chance you’ll really enjoy the other.

I received both Dark Sky and Dark Deeds together so it only makes sense in my mind to review them together. Personally, I never enjoy jumping into a series with book 2, but as a reviewer I find it useful as it immediately shows how much care the author takes to put the reader at ease if they haven’t read book 1. Brooks does a wonderful job of introducing the reader to his characters right from the start. Captain Ichabod Drift and Second-in-command Tamara Rourke have an immediate connection that draws you in, as well as the rest of the crew on the ship Keiko: Apirana Wahawaha, Jia and Kuai Chang, and Jenna McIlroy. Brooks does an awesome job of making sure the Keiko has enough diversity that it keeps everyone from merging into cutouts.

Captain Drift used to be a pirate, but has now moved on to being a smuggler. It was while being hired for a job that they find themselves on a planet on the brink of civil war in Dark Sky. I really enjoyed the fact that instead of having Drift and his crew take on the big bad corporation, he actually finds a way for the crew to split up and unknowingly take both sides, which leads to some great conflict. In Dark Deeds, we see the crew being punished for failing to finish the job they were given in book 2 by Sergei Orlov. Tamara Rourke is held hostage until Drift and his crew pay their debt. One again things don’t go as planned.

The best parts of this series are Brooks’s worldbuilding and character development. The plot points weren’t as interesting to me as much as how the characters interacted and dealt with the struggles. They were far more engaging. This can be a very long lived series if Brooks wants it to be, just because he’s created a crew that is fun to spend time with.

The worst parts of this series is when Brooks gets lost in the stereotypical locations and villains. There were too many salons and fist fights for my liking. Just because it’s a Space Western doesn’t mean we have to spend all our time in saloons and brothels. It’s just been done too much. The villains were too predictable and frankly not as fun to spend time with as the crew.

Mike Brook’s Dark Sky and Dark Deeds are the type of Space Western you want to read and really get to know and love the crew. I truly hope Mike Brooks keeps the series going for years to come. There is Violence, some Language and Adult Situations. I would recommend it to older teens and adults. This series is perfect for those of you who enjoy a little YeeHaw! in their Sci-Fi.

Review: Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

Little Heaven
Author:  Nick Cutter
Publisher:  Gallery Books, July 11, 2017
Format:  Trade Paperback
List Price:  US$17.00
ISBN:  9781501104237
Previously:  Hardcover and eBook,  January 10, 2017

Review: Little Heaven by Nick Cutter
A “gripping and terrifying story…and one not to be missed” (Robert McCammon) from the acclaimed author of The Troop and The Deep!

A trio of mismatched mercenaries—Micah Shughrue, Minerva Atwater, and Ebenzer Elkins, colloquially known as “the Englishman”—is hired by young Ellen Bellhaven for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven, where a clandestine religious cult holds sway. But shortly after they arrive, things begin to turn ominous. There are stirrings in the woods and over the treetops—and above all else, the brooding shape of a monolith known as the Black Rock casts its terrible pall. Paranoia and distrust soon grip the settlement. Escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral toward madness. Hell—or the closest thing to it—invades Little Heaven. All present here are now forced to take a stand and fight back, but whatever has cast its dark eye on Little Heaven is marshaling its power—and it wants them all…

“A slow boil of unrelenting terror and inescapable consequences. Nick Cutter ups his game every time. Beautifully written—menace drips from every page.” —Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author

“A sprawling epic that can stand alongside the best of ‘80s King, Barker, and McCammon. Fun, nasty, smart, and scary, and in all the right places.” —Paul Tremblay, acclaimed author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

Brannigan's Review

I’ve read and reviewed Nick Cutter before, and, once again, I was very entertained. Little Heaven is a time-jumping, monster-hunting, rescue mission. You heard me right, there’s a lot going on in this one, and yet Cutter’s skill at balancing everything without it getting cluttered or confusing is on point. In my previous Cutter review of The Troop, I mentioned he isn’t afraid of the gore, and this book also shows us that he’s not afraid of tickling your gag reflex.

Our heroes are Micha, Ebenezer and Minerva, a gun-toting band of mercenaries with a long history. They get the band back together to rescue a young boy in a dangerous cult. Cutter spends some time revealing their relationship by jumping back and forth between 1966 and 1980. While on this rescue mission, we learn that there are monsters hiding in the forests surrounding the compound. All of this is very familiar to Micha’s past and his long-lost daughter.

I’ve read from some other reviewers that Cutter borrows heavily from the King of Horror, but as I’ve never been a big fan of his I can’t speak to that. What I can say is that Cutter knows how to write action and horror in a very unique and engaging way. The only thing I’d change would be less gore, but I don’t see Cutter stopping this anytime soon. One thing I really liked in this book is the illustrations, there are not a lot, but I’ve always wished they were used more in Adult Fiction. There’s one illustration that I found particularly creepy.

Nick Cutter knows how to keep his readers turning pages and Little Heaven is no exception. As long as you don’t mind getting creeped out by the monsters and gore, you’ll enjoy this one. There is plenty of Adult Language and violence so this one is for Adults only. If you like your horror mixed with action, you’ll want to pick this one up.

Review: The Predator: Hunters and Hunted - Official Movie Prequel

The Predator: Hunters and Hunted - Official Movie Prequel
Author:  James A. Moore
Publisher:  Titan Books, July 31, 2018
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 322 pages
List Price:  US$7.99 (print);  US$7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781785654268 (print); 9781785657931 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: The Predator: Hunters and Hunted - Official Movie Prequel
For centuries Earth has been visited by warlike creatures that stalk mankind’s finest warriors. Their goals unknown, these deadly hunters kill their prey and depart as invisibly as they arrived, leaving no trace other than a trail of bodies.

When Roger Elliott faced such a creature during the Vietnam War, he didn’t expect to survive. Nor did he expect that, decades later, he would train the Reapers—a clandestine strike force attached to Project Stargazer. Their mission: to capture one of the creatures, thus proving its existence, disassembling its tech, and balancing the odds between the HUNTERS AND HUNTED

Brannigan's Review

James A. Moore’s The Predator: Hunters and Hunted is the official prequel to the upcoming film The Predator directed by Shane Black. After the original Predator film came out in 1987, I immediately became a fan. The last Predator film was released in 2010. I’ve only read a few issues of the many different comics starring the Predator, and I’ve never read any of novels about the character. I am, however, a fan of a good novelization as they often give out little nuggets of information that you don’t get in the movie. So when I saw this book the other day, I couldn’t resist grabbing it and giving it a go.

Jame A. Moore is a very engaging writer that takes a hold of you and throws you off a cliff. He quickly introduces you to several characters, some who show up on the list of characters in the upcoming film and others that don’t -- General Woodhurst, Roger Elliott of the CIA, and Tomlin the leader of The Reapers, a Black ops group tasked with finding and hunting down a Predator.

Woodhurst is your stoic military general, stone-faced and quiet, Roger Elliott is a haunted ex-military man, who survived an encounter against a Predator during the Vietnam war and is tasked with the job of training the Reapers. Tomlin is a dedicated skilled Patriot. Out of the three of these men, Roger Elliott is the most developed character as we spend time with him during his first encounter with the Predator. Currently he's a grizzled recovering alcoholic living with the horror he experienced.

One aspect of the book I really enjoyed is the time we spend in the Predator’s mind as he goes about hunting down humans. I’m not sure if this has been done in comics or past novels, but it’s an enjoyable aspect of the book that fills a niche you don’t get in the films.

Besides the Predator, the other antagonist is Traeger, a man who is helping General Woodhurst gain congressional funding for their project, but you quickly see Traeger is the typical, greedy double-dealing baddie looking for ways to profit from the capture of an alien with advanced tech.

Moore fills the book up with as much action as possible while fleshing out some of the Predator mythos. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything because the trailers of the upcoming movie show the Reapers are successful in capturing the Predator. My only disappointment in the book was the fact that the Predator got captured fairly quickly. I would have enjoyed a little more of a drawn out hunt, but it was still very entertaining.

The Predator: Hunters and Hunted is an amazing prequel novelization. It did it’s job. I can’t wait till the movie comes out. It’s yet to be see how smoothly it lines up with opening of the upcoming film. There is adult language and violence in the book, so I would only recommend the book to adults. I would, without hesitation, recommend anyone who is a fan of the film series and looking forward to the new movie to go out and grab the prequel.

Review: Gears of Faith by Gabrielle Harbowy

Gears of Faith
Author:  Gabrielle Harbowy
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 38
Publisher:  Tor Books, April 4, 2017
Format:  Trade Paperback, 288 pages, and eBook, 350 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  ISBN 9780765384409 (print); 9780765384416 (eBook)

Review: Gears of Faith by Gabrielle Harbowy
Pathfinder is the world's bestselling tabletop role-playing game—now adapted as a series of novels.

Keren is a sworn knight of Iomedae, proper and disciplined in every way. Her girlfriend, Zae, is the opposite—a curious gnome cleric of the clockwork god, who loves nothing more than the chaos of her makeshift hospitals. When a powerful evil artifact is stolen from a crusader stronghold, both knight and gnome are secretly sent to the great city of Absalom to track down the stolen bloodstone.

Sure, they may not be the most powerful or experienced members of their organizations, but that’s the whole point—with legendary champions and undead graveknights battling at every turn in their race to recover the stone, who’ll notice one young knight and her gnome? All they have to do is stay alive long enough to outsmart a thief capable of evading both gods and heroes.

Brannigan's Review

Gabrielle Harbowy’s Gears of Faith, while enjoyable, often fails to fulfill its promises. We follow two main characters, Keren Rhinn, a human, and Zae, a gnome, who are lovers and who both have a strong religious faith. Keren, as a Holy Knight, is more comfortable using her sword to accomplish her god’s missions, while Zae, a tinkerer, uses her faith in healing and creating. Together they are given a mission to find a thief of a holy relic while also seeking further training.

The hidden antagonist is the thief who stole a part of a dead god and we’re left to wonder who the thief is and what he or she wants to accomplish with the relic. We follow Keren and Zae as they travel to a new city to both seek new training in their respective religions. Keren learns how to call on her god to help her cast magic, and Zae receives formal inventor training. While in the city we meet many different characters that could be the thief.

Harbowy’s writing has a very natural flow to it, which makes it easy to lose time reading. She writes characters you easily embrace and enjoy, and is very descriptive in her writing. My main problem with the book is that Harbowy starts it off by saying the characters are going to be going to school and apprehending a thief. While Harbowy technically does show us the characters going to school and looking for the thief, we never really dive into either plot points very deeply. I felt like we spent the book in a wading pool. I never felt like I got a satisfactory immersion with either character. Because of this, the climax of the plot felt rushed and unsatisfying.

Harbowy's Gears of Faith, while being a wonderful fantasy story, in the end falls flat on its promise of showing the characters growing while going to school and seeking the thief. There isn't an issue with language. Minor acts of violence and sexual situations make it appropriate for older teens and adults. If you would like a light fantasy read, pick up your own copy today.

Review: Pirate's Prophecy by Chris A. Jackson

Pirate's Prophecy
Author:  Chris A. Jackson
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 31
Publisher:  Tor Books, February 2, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
List Price: US$14.99 (print); US$7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765375476 (print); 9781466847347 (eBook)

Review: Pirate's Prophecy by Chris A. Jackson
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy role playing games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Pirate's Prophecy is the continuation of their popular novel series.

Captain Torius Vin and the crew of the Stargazer have given up the pirate life, instead becoming abolitionist privateers bent on capturing slave ships and setting their prisoners free. But when rumors surface of a new secret weapon in devil-ruled Cheliax, are the Stargazers willing to go up against a navy backed by Hell itself?

Brannigan's Review:

Pirate’s Prophecy is Chris A. Jackson’s third book in the Pathfinder series. Unfortunately, I could tell I was missing a lot of back history with the characters in the book. I felt like I was having dinner with my wife’s old high school friends—unable to laugh at their inside jokes or understand what’s not being said as much as what is being said. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself. The food was still good and the company friendly. Alright I’ve played out this analogy.

Jackson’s a skilled writer and it shows by the fact that I knew I was missing things but I didn’t mind that much as the characters were entertaining and the story and plot kept me interested. It’s hard to mess up a pirate adventure. Add in some subterfuge and you’ve got a winner idea in my book.

The pirate crew of the Stargazer were all engaging. The main characters in this book are: Captain Torius Vin, who struggles with his old life of simple piracy and his new found life of acting as a spy and saboteur; Celeste, the Captain’s love interest who is a Naga (mythical snake with a human head) and suffers from time loss while stargazing; and Vreva Jhafae a female spy who tries to discover what dangerous weapon is about to be unleashed on her nation.

If that doesn’t grab your interest you’ll be pleased to know that Jackson is a master at description and keeps the flow of the story moving. You feel like you’re on the deck of the Stargazer or in the seedy docks of Ostenso. Your heart races in combat and worry regarding whether or not Vreva Jhafae will be be caught.

Pirate’s Prophecy is a Nautical adventure with plenty of nail-biting moments. You’ll find it hard to put down. I will say there are definitely some things you’ll feel like you’re missing as this is the third book with these characters, but if you’re not the type to be put off by that, I would recommend giving it a read—or go buy the first two books. I’d recommend this book for Young Adults and Adults as there is minor violence and adult situations. Perfect for fantasy lovers, nautical adventurers and fans of spy craft.

Review: Hellknight by Liane Merciel

Author:   Liane Merciel
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 32
Publisher:  Tor Books, April 5, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765375483 (print); 9781466847354 (eBook)

Review: Hellknight by Liane Merciel
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy role playing games, accessories, and board games. Liane Merciel's Pathfinder Tales: Hellknight is a thrilling addition to their popular novel series.

The Hellknights are a brutal organization of warriors dedicated to maintaining law and order at any cost. For devil-blooded Jheraal, even the harshest methods are justified if it means building a better world for her daughter. Yet when a serial killer starts targeting hellspawn like Jheraal and her child, Jheraal has no choice but to use all her cunning and ruthlessness in order to defeat an ancient enemy to whom even death is no deterrent.

Brannigan's Review

Liane Merciel’s Hellknight from the Pathfinder Tales universe is an engrossing mystery. The story takes place in Cheliax region and the city of Westcrown. The city and its history blends into the story. What was once a beautiful proud city has fallen under the rule of a noble family that openly works with demons and dark magic as well as the Hellknights, a brutal organization that demands justice and order at any cost. Most of the races in the Hellknights are devil-blooded humanoids that wear their ancestry in the forms or horns, scales, fangs and other frightening visages that cause them to be outcasts from normal society, but as Hellknights they find a purpose. In Westcrown, it is to keep order. Parts of the city have fallen to ruins that are overrun by monsters.

The story starts in the ruins when devil-bloods or hellspawn are killed by Sechel, an assassin who kills in an unusual way. She rips hearts from her victims’ chests, but instead of dying the victims remain in an comatose state with a hole in their chest. Jheraal, a Hellknight investigator, is assigned to investigate the crime and stop the murder. Ederras, a Paladin fighting at the Worldwound, finds out his brother, a noble in Westcrown, is murdered, leaving him the sole heir to his family name and wealth. Ending his self exile, he returns home to find his brother’s killer. It’s not long before Jheraal and Ederras, two opposites, are working together to find and stop the murderer. As they investigate, they only discover this mystery is deeply rooted in their families’ and city’s history.

Merciel’s two main protagonists, Jheraal and Ederras, are the primary POV characters. They each take turns showing you the world and story through their perspective, giving the reader several unique ways of looking at the story.

The characters are all well developed. Merciel does a wonderful job of giving them a life outside of the main story and allows them to grow and develop. I actually fell in love with Sechel and would relish reading more about her in her own book. This shows how well Merciel did in humanizing her characters, even those that don't have as much time on the page.

I highly recommend Hellknight for anyone that enjoys a fast paced fantasy mystery. For those that have no knowledge about the Pathfinder universe, don’t worry, I didn’t either until I started reading the books and I’ve never felt left behind. Don’t let a good mystery slip away. I would recommend this book for young adults as well as adults. There is some descriptive violence and minor adult situations, but nothing I would be worried about my teenager reading.

Review: Blueprint for a Battlestar by Rod Pyle

Blueprint for a Battlestar: Serious Scientific Explanations Behind Sci-Fi’s Greatest Inventions
Author:  Rod Pyle
Publisher:  Sterling, October 11, 2016
Format:  Hardcover, 192 pages
List Price:  US$24.95
ISBN:  9781454921349

Review: Blueprint for a Battlestar by Rod Pyle
Through stunning images, including 75 illustrations created exclusively for this book, 25 remarkable and memorable technologies from the world of sci-fi are explored.

With expertly written text by NASA insider Rod Pyle, each concept is explained and dissected to reveal the real science behind it. Some are temptingly within our reach—such as cyborgs and artificial intelligence—others are further off, but fast approaching reality (think bio-ports or cloaking devices). All are fascinating and make wonderful explorations into the science of the future as we understand it today.

Brannigan's Review

Rod Pyle has spent 10 years working at the Griffith Observatory in California as well as working as the Vice President in Communications for the World Space Foundation. He’s written several books on space and technology. All this shows his qualifications for writing about space age and future technology.

Blueprint for a Battlestar is a very entertaining and educational read by Pyle. He breaks down his book into different sections: Weapons of the Future, Fantastic Voyages, and Life - But Not As We Know It. Within each of these sections he has 8-10 different topics he explores, such as: Swords of Heat, My Pet T-Rex, and Wormholes. To give more weight to his words and place of authority, he provides additional readings and sources at the back of the book.

Each article explains where the idea first shows up in popular culture, how the item would have to work if you use actual science and then goes into how or if the item is currently being developed. If it’s currently not possible, he theorizes how it might be possible to accomplish in the future.

It’s amazing the amount of detail and scientific laws he explains in such short articles. It feeds your mind completely. Each topic or item he discusses range from 4-8 pages. He also includes pictures or actual blueprint mockups. After reading the articles, you get a real sense of how ingenious some of our early Science Fiction writers were and also how their words have truly inspired science to try and emulate their created worlds. It’s a wonderful reminder how powerful art can inspire science and then how science can inspire art in return.

Blueprint for a Battlestar is a must have for any serious fan of science fiction either in the medium of books, movies or comics. It should also be a must read for any scientists who are currently working on future tech. I know this is going to be a much loved and much used book in my family as I use it to teach my children and to inspire them. This is appropriate for all ages and should be shared with everyone.

About Rod Pyle

Rod Pyle is a NASA and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) insider, as well as being a writer and documentary filmmaker. He has written for numerous science and science fiction publications, including Astronautics Notebook, Foundation Journal, Starlog, and DreamWatch. He has written several books, including Destination Moon (Smithsonian Books), Innovation the NASA Way (McGraw-Hill), Missions to the Moon (Sterling), and Curiosity: An Inside Look at the Mars Rover Mission and the People Who Made it Happen (Prometheus Books). He has also worked as a visual effects coordinator for Star Trek: Deep Space 9.

Review: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Author:  Bracken MacLeod
Publisher:  Tor Books, October 4, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  USD$24.99 (print); US$11.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765382436 (print); 9781466887381 (eBook)
Genre:  Supernatural Thriller

Review: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod
In the spirit of John Carpenter's The Thing and Jacob's Ladder comes Stranded -- a terrifying, icebound thriller where nothing is quite what it seems by Bracken MacLeod.

Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.

Dismissing Noah's warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.

Brannigans' Review

This is my first time reading Bracken MacLeod’s work. I like to dabble in thrillers from time to time to reset my reading palette. For me the Thriller genre is a big unknown. I don’t read the big names in the genre, and I don’t tend to read multiple books from one author in the genre. I like it this way. It keeps things fresh and mysterious. It keeps me on my toes while vacationing in this unfamiliar environment.

MacLeod does a fantastic job with his descriptive detail. I immediately felt submerged in his world of the open ocean and later the frozen wasteland we find our protagonist in. It opens in a storm at night and we get a real sense of what the characters have to do to survive in these harsh conditions. It also immediately tells you as a reader that the environment is never going to be friendly or pleasant.

MacLeod brings his characters alive just as fast as we quickly learn how much every member on the Arctic Promise hates Noah Cabot. It takes some time to learn what our protagonist did to make everyone so mad. MacLeod is a patient man and releases information slowly to the reader. I enjoy this skill as a writer, since it takes skill to know when to give out information at the right moments in the book. The Antagonist of the book is a double billing between Mother Nature and her harsh conditions and Noah’s father-in-law and Captain of the Arctic Promise, William Brewster. No one hates Noah more than William. This is one of the secrets that MacLeod takes his time unfolding, which only leads to more secrets. MacLeod does a masterful job at connecting his characters to the reader. There’s at least one or two things about each of the men in the book that you can find some similarity to.

I would really like to tell you more about the plot of the book and its many mysteries, but, since it’s a thriller, I really don’t want to ruin anything for you. So I will say it starts off with Noah and his crew mates on a job to resupply an oil platform in the norther sea above Russia when their ship becomes trapped in ice. Then, things start happening.

My one warning to people looking to read this book is about pacing. It starts off slow the first 200 pages and then really takes off the last 100. I really didn’t mind the slow build as it does wonders in connecting to characters and getting a feel for the world before all the action. However, I hear from a lot of people how much they dislike slow books, so I feel obligated to alert you to this fact.

My only problem with the book is the lack of female characters. I know being a sailor and working on oil platforms is physically challenging work, but I would have enjoyed see more diversity in the characters. It would definitely add the story by offering different view points.

Stranded by Bracken MacLeod is a solid thriller ride through a frozen sea. It builds to a stunning conclusion. I would only recommend this book to adults as there is adult language used throughout and at times graphic violence as well as some very frightening scenes. For anyone that likes a thrill ride in their books with a strong environmental presence and solid character development, I would pass this book on to them.

Review: Shy Knives by Sam Sykes

Pathfinder Tales: Shy Knives
Author:  Sam Sykes
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 40
Publisher:  Tor Books, October 18, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print);  US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765384355 (print) 9780765384348 (eBook)

Review: Shy Knives by Sam Sykes
Shaia “Shy” Ratani is a clever rogue who makes her living outside of strictly legal methods. While hiding out in the frontier city of Yanmass, she accepts a job solving a nobleman’s murder, only to find herself sucked into a plot involving an invading centaur army that could see the whole city burned to the ground. Shy could stop that from happening, but doing so would involve revealing herself to the former friends who now want her dead. Add in an aristocratic partner with the literal blood of angels in her veins, and Shy quickly remembers why she swore off doing good deeds in the first place.

Based on the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

With more than a million players worldwide, Pathfinder is the world's most popular tabletop RPG.

Brannigan’s Review

Sam Sykes has joined the Pathfinder world. I know there are a lot of readers out there excited to find this out. Sykes brings his humor that has won him many fans in the past to a gripping who dunit mystery set in the Pathfinder world entitled Shy Knives.

Shaia ‘Shy’ Ratani, a thief with a heart of bronze who hasn’t quiet decided to turn away from her roguish ways is hired by Dalaris, a grieving woman whose betrothed was murdered. Everyone says he was murdered by centaurs, but Dalaris believes there are hidden forces working against her and her now dead fiancé. It becomes Shy’s job to find out who really killed him and why. As is common in most of these murder mysteries dealing with the upper class, nothing is as it first appears, including the characters.

Sykes does a wonderful job making Shy a truly engaging rogue. Her wit is always on point and often gets herself into trouble as she has no filter on what she says. This is where the majority of the famous Sykes’ humor comes into play. I also enjoyed the fact that Shy was still and foremost a rogue and wasn’t afraid to look after herself and break and bend rules to get the job done. Dalaris is also a wonderfully complex character who at first doesn’t appear to have a lot of depth but then you learn she too holds her secrets.

My only complaint is a personal one. I have never been a fan of first person narratives. I know this is a personal preference. For me it’s harder to get immersed into a story. It also makes me always wonder if I can trust the POV of the character. Another part of this story that might be an issue for other readers is the humor. It’s not a comedy by any means, but Sykes’s humor is unique and I can see if you don’t like his style you might find the book irritating. Some readers like their fantasy dark and serious, so take that into consideration.

Shy Knives is a perfect rogue’s tale. Sam Sykes knows how to write an interesting and humorous fantasy murder mystery. If any of those things are interesting to you, I would highly suggest you read this book. There are minor adult situations, language and violence so I would recommend it to older teens and adults.

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