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SciFi / Fantasy / Horror

  • Fused

    by Jude Hardin

    Rating: 5.75

    Navy SEAL reject Nathan Brennan is recruited to have a piece of technology implanted in his brain in this military thriller from Hardin.The author's skillful handing of plot and setting make for a page-turner, though improving the quality of the prose and deepening the character development would help the book stand out in a crowded market.

  • Darkness Eternal (Refuge Inc.)

    by Leslie Lee Sanders

    Rating: 5.75

    Sanders's Refuge Inc. series standalone is an entertaining sci-fi love story that centers around Connor Nichols and Vince Moore, friends who hover on the brink of romance in a post-apocalyptic world where homosexuality is illegal. While the world the author creates is fully realized and fascinating, she is often heavy handed in depicting the characters unrequited love/lust. Still, the characters are fairly well developed and the story flows smoothly, despite some plot points that are wrapped up a little to neatly.

  • A Fractured Conjuring

    by Martin Reaves

    Rating: 5.75

    In Reaves's novel, bestselling author Chloe Sender and her stunning girlfriend, Dray, are tormented by Chloe’s latest project. Despite sometimes vivid prose -- which could be improved by tightening and avoiding passive construction -- the narrative gets bogged down by confusing plot elements, while other intriguing threads (an ancient book and a way the unreal might be made corporeal) are underutilized. And though the disjointed plot elements mirror Chloe's mental state, it is difficult for readers to follow along, hamstringing a book with an interesting premise.

  • The Dead Room (The Dead Room Trilogy Book 1)

    by Stephanie Erickson

    Rating: 5.50

    Three centuries after a mysterious apocalypse, young friends Ashley and Mason are cast out of their small northern Pacific island society and must discover whether or not their people truly are Earth’s only survivors. This storyline, with its interesting characters and intriguing, casually-paced plot, is frustratingly interrupted by an underdeveloped story about a political coup and the well-drawn story of the island's titular "Dead Room." There's a lot going on here and readers may find themselves at times torn and confused. But at its best, this book is a wonderful read.

  • MissionSRX: Ephemeral Solace (Mission:SRX Book 2)

    by Matthew D. White

    Rating: 5.50

    An fantasy set mostly on the surface of Mars,  this book follows a disgraced former Commander who was stripped of his rank and sent to the front lines, as he helps defend Mars colonies against an alien threat. A redemption story set amid humanity's fight for survival, what White's novel lacks in polish and character development, it makes up for in non-stop action and gritty episodes of military heroism that many readers will find enthralling.

  • Parched

    by Andrew Branham

    Rating: 5.25

    James and his family fight for survival in a hot world where the sun has inexplicably expanded in this post-apocalyptic road story that gets bogged down in detail and a flat prose style that prioritizes narrative exposition over character development.  The author has nonetheless worked out details as well as the grittiness of survival impressively, but the pace would have benefitted from showing and implying rather than so much telling. 

  • Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

    by Jeb Kinnison

    Rating: 5.25

    In Kinnison's expansive but muddled science fiction novel -- the third installment in his Substrate Wars series -- the leaders of New Earth discover a threat known as Shrivers, set up by the powerful technology they’ve used to help rapidly advance humanity. Despite this interesting premise, the book features underdeveloped characters and stilted dialogue. And despite the threat of annihilation, the plot never takes on much urgency as it moves toward a somewhat predictable conclusion.

  • The Prince: Lucifer's Origins

    by J. M. Erickson

    Rating: 5.25

    With the help of a symbiont, Prince Victor Venture must learn to survive both his royal family’s machinations and the dangerous environment of the planet Hell in this military sci-fi novel. Pluses include a large female cast, intrigue involving an implanted Artificial Intelligence, and a planet subject to time shifts. However, the narrative is hampered by the overextended metaphor of Lucifer’s fall, while the chapter quotes from The Prince belabor the plot point of Victor’s political education.

  • Unseen (The Unseen Trilogy) (Volume 1)

    by Stephanie Erickson

    Rating: 5.00

    In this entertaining yet unfulfilling tale, a mind reader struggles to control her powers. After obtaining her Master's Degree, Mackenzie Day's plans to help people through music therapy are derailed when she encounters the Unseen, a secret organization of fellow mind readers who offer to train her to her full potential. Sadly, the story focuses too much on mundane details and unproductive conversations, even as the Unseen refuse to answer Mackenzie's constant questions. With the emphasis on how the protagonist deals with her condition, it reads more as a soapbox for Sensory Processing Disorder than a cohesive and compelling adventure.

  • Game Over (A Series of Ends Book 1)

    by Derek Edgington

    Rating: 5.00

    In Edgington’s science-fiction adventure, Ekko Everlasting wakes up in a virtual game world with no memory of his life or how he got there. Although initially entertaining, the novel’s choose-your-own-adventure style loses it’s verve with few options and an easily worked out pattern. Additionally, Ekko’s amnesia makes it hard for readers to invest in him as a character, while his dialogue is often cliche. Still, the conclusion is unexpected enough to spark interest in the rest of the series.

  • Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble

    by Lori L MacLaughlin

    Rating: 4.50

    In this original and entertaining fantasy adventure, skilled mercenaries Tara Triannon and her sister Laraina must deliver a hunted prince and a spoiled, wanna-be sorceress to safety while being pursued by a notorious assassin called the Butcher. Along the way, Tara's undeveloped magical powers could save them, or make things far worse. Strong, vivid characters and a well-textured setting make this high-stakes fantasy stand out from the crowd. Readers will enjoy this exciting sword-and-sorcery sister act.

  • The Ascent of Mh370

    by Clive Green

    Rating: 4.00

    In Green's imaginative yet meandering novel, real-life Malaysian Airlines flight 370 was hijacked by terrorists and then aliens and brought to an undersea base, where passengers were subjected to a program hoping to force human evolution toward enlightened consciousness. The alien procedures serve as Green's critique of a human civilization fixated on individual gain over community ideals and naturalistic deference. Unfortunately, Green allows much of the plot to be lost to lengthy new age lectures and galactic history lessons, while his protagonist is relegated to observer on an intergalactic tour.

  • Saffron: Book One of The Neptune Chronicles

    by Vic Warren

    Rating: 3.75

    In Warren’s underwater adventure, diver Jamie Edmondson is contacted by a wealthy friend to investigate strange sightings off the coast of California that lead to the discovery of new, hostile human-like species. The novel is poorly placed and all of the characters -- except for Jamie, who is well rendered -- thinly drawn. The erratic pacing, clunky dialogue, and stock characters do little service to the book's unique plot. 

  • Gravity. The Alex Cave Series Book 4

    by James M. Corkill

    Rating: 3.75

    In book four of Corkill’s Alex Cave series, the discovery a gravity defying device and Cave’s lust for adventure set in motion the potential destruction of the world. The plot moves forward with few surprises and a villain so underdeveloped that she is hard to root against, let alone fear. Each new consequence of the gravitational device drives the plot forward, but the momentum is quick and labored. Readers will find the book's premise interesting, but the predictability and half-baked villain detract from the story.

  • When the Devil Climbs

    by Drake Vaughn

    Rating: 3.75

    Killer pigs and a truckload of bloodthirsty survivalists aren't enough to save this confusing and surprisingly dull thriller. When a team of ex-cons working to hang billboards along the highway in California's San Joaquin Valley is pinned down by man-eating pigs, tension is quickly dissipated by point-of-view character Russ's frequent and lengthy discourses on his ill-spent criminal past. Due to stereotypical characters, poor plotting, and a predictable ending, a potentially interesting premise fails to pan out.

  • The Man of Cloud 9

    by Adam Dreece

    Rating: 3.50

    In a near future subject to solar flares, climate change, and a puzzling rejection of previous technologies, the brilliant but socially inept Niko Rafaelo -- a Steve Jobs analog, down to the theatrical shareholders’ meetings -- develops world-changing nanotechnology. Some good worldbuilding has gone into not only the commercial uses, but also the problems of developing nanotech. However, the plot bogs down with Niko developing one iteration of nano “clouds” after another, a cartoonish antagonist, and a novel-long tease about the identity of Niko’s daughter. 

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