Tag Archives: space opera

Book Review – First Contact

firstcontactFirst Contact

Author: Michael R. Hicks

Series: In Her Name: The Last War #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 2009

Review Copy: Free eBook

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Goodreads Description

The Terran survey ship Aurora makes a startling discovery in an uncharted star system: two planets inhabited by an advanced, and decidedly unfriendly, non-human civilization. Disabled by gigantic alien warships before it can escape, the Aurora is boarded by nightmarish blue-skinned warriors with claws and fangs who slaughter the crew in ritual combat using primitive weapons. The sole survivor, Midshipman Ichiro Sato, is returned to Earth as a messenger bearing a device that warns of an impending attack.

For that is the way of the Kreelan Empire, which has waged war against countless civilizations across the stars in its quest for a savior, one not of their own blood, foretold in an ages-old prophecy. With only a few generations left before their ancient species faces extinction, the Kreelans will wage their last war against humanity, hoping against hope for redemption of sins long past.

Review

First Contact by Michael R. Hicks is the first book in the trilogy In Her Name: The Last War, though this is also part of a larger nine book (currently) In Her Name series.  It’s not the first published, but it is the first chronologically in the battle with Earth.  This is a military space opera sci-fi that grabbed my attention a couple years ago, and what I saw promised me an epic space-based adventure.  I wasn’t disappointed.

It opens in deep space with what the title suggests, first contact with an alien species.  Also, as the title suggests, this leads to war.  The aliens, which humans call the Kreelans, are warrior-like, hundreds of thousands of years more advanced, and have a complex social structure that proves to be quite fascinating.  This book covers first contact and the subsequent war that results, but it’s only the beginning.  This promises to be a long war, considering it’s a long series.

The characters are pretty well-developed.  At the centre is Ichiro Sato, a young and inexperienced officer who becomes the centre of attention by Earth’s forces and the Kreelans.  He’s the messenger, and he has a tough job.  He develops a relationship with Stephanie Guillaume, a journalist who gets to go through an experience of a lifetime.  Her growth over the book was quite good.  Another major character is Sergeant Patty Coyle.  She’s a tough woman who proves to be a formidable leader who I was really rooting for.  There’s a huge number of human characters, but I found that these three were the most compelling and most central of the entire book.  On the Kreelan side, we have Tesh-Dar and Li’ara-Zhurah being the most major characters.  There’s a lot of focus on their points of view, which is part of what makes this book interesting. We see both sides of the battle.  We get to understand why the Kreelans are fighting, as well as how they think.  They seem less evil and a lot more real.  That was well-done.

The action is central to this story, as this is basically one giant epic battle.  It’s not just in space, though.  We get a combination of space battles between spaceships, as well as hand-to-hand combat, gun battles, and sword fights.  That’s right, the Kreelans prefer to use swords.  I felt that the action was done very nicely, though some may find the use of technical military terms a bit too much to understand.  The battles are very long and drawn-out, too.  There’s so much detail, and we see the battle from several points of view.

The setting is mostly in space, as well as on Keran, the location of the battle.  In the beginning, on the Aurora and the Kreelan ship, we get a good description of the ships.  It’s as if the characters are seeing things for the first time, so we get a very good idea of what they see.  The atmosphere on the Kreelan ship was quite interesting.  Later on, setting descriptions become less important, while dialogue and action are the focus.  I didn’t get a very good feel for Keran, though a decent image of the ships used by the Kreelans and humans.

I was drawn in to the story quite a bit.  I was firmly on Sato’s side, and I was almost cheering for him at times.  I got to like his first shipmates, especially Captain McLaren and Yao Ming.  The battles were brutal.  There was plenty of violence, not as a glorification of violence, but to show what war is like.  It didn’t make it romantic.  There are a lot of deaths, including major characters.  Don’t be surprised if your favourite character dies.

Overall, this was a very solid sci-fi novel with good character development and epic battles.  There are still some mysteries to be solved, but I expect to discover the answers in future books.  I will definitely keep reading.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  Recommended to any science fiction, space opera, or military sci-fi fan.  It’s a very enjoyable read.

Book Review – Seeds of Earth

Seeds of EarthSeeds of Earth

Author: Michael Cobley

Series: Humanity’s Fire #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 2009

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Goodreads Description

The first intelligent species to Earth attacked without warning, and only three colony ships escaped. 150 years later, planet Darien hosts humans at peace with indigenous scholarly Uvovo. Buried on the forest moon are secrets of an epic battle between ancient races. In a galactic war, what will Uvovo choose, when their nature is revealed, and the enemy comes?

Review

Seeds of Earth is the first novel in the Humanity’s Fire series by Michael Cobley.  It’s a space opera that takes place mainly on one planet, as well as several other locations in the galaxy.  Seeing that it was endorsed by Iain M. Banks, I had high hopes for this.  I wasn’t completely satisfied, unfortunately.

The premise is interesting, though not very original.  Humans have a colony on a planet, studying the history of the indigenous species, and going about their lives in their Scottish/Russian/Scandinavian society.  With the threat of war because of a powerful alien species claiming the planet, it looks to be a very tense book.  There’s a lot of politics, fighting, and even some romance and adventure.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  The story actually is interesting, and I enjoyed that aspect.  However, there was something missing.

The characters were a varied bunch, but I had some major issues with them.  Greg Cameron seems to be the main protagonist, but there are several.  He’s a nice guy, a good archaeologist, and a very standard lead character who doesn’t show much personality. Catriona is his love interest.  She’s a super-intelligent scientist who shows more personality than Greg.  Then there’s Greg’s uncle Theo who is the rebellious sort and shows probably the most interesting personality of the entire cast of characters.  Also, we have Cheluvahar, Greg’s Uvovo friend.  He’s a native of the world, and they are an interesting species.  Very friendly character.  Ambassador Robert Horst provides a major part in the story, and he has a rather strange obsession with his dead daughter.  He’s not very compelling, though.  And finally, we have Kao Chih, who’s from another human colony, and he’s making a rather haphazard journey across the stars to get to Darien.  He’s kind of naive, but overall likeable.  Unfortunately, I found that most of the characters were two-dimensional.  They lacked depth.  I had no attachment to even one of the characters.  That was disappointing.

The setting is good.  Darien is a reasonably well-developed world, as is the history of the Uvovo.  I’m interested in that more than the characters.  The history and the politics of the aliens in this book is done well.  However, I got a feeling similar to that of Ringworld from the aliens.  They were a bit goofy or cheesy.  It worked better with Ringworld because of the free-spirit kind of culture of the hippie movement that was going on at the time, but it doesn’t quite feel right with this book.  It doesn’t feel like the hippie movement, which isn’t my point, but the goofiness wasn’t sitting right with me.

There was plenty of action, which didn’t disappoint me.  The technology was interesting, as well.  The theme of anti-AI was present here, as this is a common theme in science fiction.  I can understand the motives in this case.

Overall, it was a solid start, though the lack of good character development holds it back from being very good.  It was decent.  I enjoyed it, though.  I would give it a rating of 3 out of 5.  It’s recommended for anyone who likes science fiction with the threat of war or highly destructive ancient weapons.  I’m looking forward to the next book.

Book Review – The Reality Dysfunction Part 2: Expansion

realitydysfunction2The Reality Dysfunction Part 2: Expansion is the second part of the first book in the Night’s Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton.  Both parts are available as one book in the Tor edition.

This book continues just as part 1 left off.  The familiar characters are all back to continue their rather perilous-looking adventures.  It continues to be gritty and is becoming darker now.  What’s impressed me about the story is that there are many threads, and they’re all starting to converge into one point.  In the beginning, they all seemed unrelated, but now they all have the same purpose, to try to figure out how to stop the expansion of this invasion into the world of the living.  Not only is this science fiction, it also has elements of horror.  This isn’t about zombies, but more like possession (don’t worry, this is all on the cover of the book).

The characters are incredible.  They consist mainly of the Edenists, those that are capable of a kind of telepathic communication with each other and their living spaceships and habitats, and the Adamists, who are more like regular humans.  This book focuses far more on Joshua Calvert, as well as one small group of unaffected humans on Lalonde lead by Father Horst Elwes, and Ione Saldana.  Syrinx is in this book far less than part 1, but I expect a big return in future books.  I’m really liking the pair of Joshua and Ione.  They’re both young and rich, Joshua is a bit reckless and daring, while Ione has a lot of responsibility and seems to handle it well.  Father Horst has to take many children under his wing and protect them from the invading dead.  There are many more characters, but these three stand out the most for me.  I must say that Joshua is showing quite a bit of depth.

Hamilton’s style of writing is very descriptive.  He uses a lot of technical terminology, but doesn’t make it difficult to understand.  He makes it easy to create an image in the mind of what is happening.  Lalonde itself is very much alive in my mind, as is Tranquillity.  I continue to be very impressed with this.

I have a big recommendation.  When reading this book, make sure you read it right after you finish part 1.  It was difficult to get back into the story after several months, as I’d forgotten who was who.  The cast of characters is so vast that it can be difficult to keep them all straight.  But after a bit, it was no trouble.

By the end of this book, some loose ends were tied up, but the main problem still exists.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.  As with part 1, I recommend this very much to fans of science fiction and space operas.  I’d give this 5 out of 5 stars.  Great stuff!

Book Review – The Reality Dysfunction Part 1: Emergence

realitydysfunction1The Reality Dysfunction Part 1: Emergence is the first part of the first book in the Night’s Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton.  Both parts are available as one book, though Warner Books published each of the books in 2 parts.  This is the review for the first part of The Reality Dysfunction.

This book opens the expansive trilogy with a bang.  It has not only impressed me, it has shown exactly how world building should be done.  This is probably the best example of world building I’ve read.  In science fiction and fantasy, the author has a world to create.  Hamilton not only created vibrant and wonderfully portrayed planets, but he has created an entire confederation of planets that spans a few hundred light years.  I have a feeling that I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg with this book.  There are hundreds of colonies to explore, though there are only 3 books in the series.  Much of the book takes place on the planet Lalonde, which is a newer colony, and shows how much of an undertaking it is to establish a colony world. It’s also a pretty unique world.  Norfolk is another intriguing world with its old English charm.  Tranquility is a vast, hollow living world created through genetic engineering.  Faster than light travel is commonplace, allowing starships to traverse the Confederation in weeks.

The cast of characters is huge.  There are a lot of names to learn, and it can be difficult to keep many of them straight.  However, the important players aren’t hard to forget.  It seems that many of the major characters, Joshua Calvert, Ione Saldana, Quinn Dexter, and Syrinx are all bound to have a common destiny.  Their stories are all told separately at first, but of course, they all come together in some way or another.  As the story isn’t finished, there’s still a lot to see.  The characters are very well developed.  There are no completely good or bad characters.  You may think so in some cases, but I’ve noticed there are instances of grey areas for each of them.  Joshua is a bit of a jerk at times, but I can’t help but like him.  Ione is a very interesting character who has a lot of responsibility, but is so young.  Quinn is the major antagonist, though it’ll be interesting to see how his story turns out.  Syrinx is an Edenist, a person who has embraced affinity, the ability to telepathically communicate with others of their society, as well as their genetically engineered starships, the Voidhawks.

As I mentioned before, this is part 1 of a book, so I have yet to see the end.  As of this moment, I’m only halfway through the story.  However, the amazing complexity of the story has shown me many surprises.  It is quite unpredictable.  I have no idea where it’s going, and I had no idea what the major complication was going to be, which came as a complete surprise.  There are many stories in one here, but they’re all important parts of the whole.  This I have yet to see, though.  There are some aspects that have been shown early on, but I have no idea what they have to do with the plot.  That will likely become apparent in part 2.

With its incredible complexity, extremely well-developed characters, and amazing universe, The Reality Dysfunction has impressed me very much, so far.  Hamilton may be one of the best science fiction authors.

I must give this 5 stars out of 5.  It is that good! Recommended for space opera fans and those who love world building.  You won’t regret it.