Review: American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett | Recorded Books, 2013

Imagine, if you will, the perfect town; immaculately groomed lawns, quiet streets, perfect houses, smiling faces, and no crime to speak of.  Wink, New Mexico is just such a town though as Mona Bright learns upon her arrival such perfection comes at a price. There are places in Wink that you just don’t go, things you just don’t do, and thoughts you aren’t aloud to think. There are secrets hidden behind the immaculate walls and picturesque homes and the Mesa it sits beneath, home to an abandoned research facility, casts a long and deep shadow on the denizens of Wink.

Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere has one of the most perfect premises to get me interested. The novel’s opening chapter provides a tantalizing glimpse that things aren’t quite what they seem offering a nice taste of things to come before slowing things down a bit. American Elsewhere is a delicately paced novel focusing on atmosphere over action. Mona Bright, an ex-cop, discovers during the reading of her father’s will that her mother once owned a house in a town called Wink. With the inheritance set to expire soon Mona sets off to find Wink which is a town that has become rather difficult to find in recent years. Arriving in Wink, Mona is met with a strange vision of a town seemingly right out of the 1950s where everybody knows everybody and nobody ever leaves.

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Review: Ex-Purgatory by Peter Clines

Ex-Purgatory by Peter Clines | Brilliance Audio, 2014

Peter Clines Ex-Heroes has quickly become one my favorite series in recent years. In fact, it is just about the only zombie-related series I’m currently reading or listening to. The Ex-Heroes series takes place in a world ravaged by a tide of undead (referred to in the series as ex-humans) where the last vestiges of humanity in the Los Angeles area are defended by a group of superheroes. Throughout the series Clines has done an excellent job of creating heroes who feel similar to more familiar comic book heroes while maintaining enough originality to let them stand on their own. Together with the people they defend the heroes of Peter Clines’ series have survived numerous ordeals from battles with former L. A. gangs, the obligitory hordes of zombies, to the remnants of s secret military project. Ex-Purgatory shakes things up a bit with a bit of a cold open. Readers are introduced to a young girl in the midst of a therapy session as she discusses with her doctor the fact that every night she dreams of a world full of zombies and heroes; a world that she insists is real. Immediately after readers are thrust into the life of George Bailey, who series regulars will immediately recognize as St. George/The Mighty Dragon, however this is a George whose life is fairly normal and who lives and works in a L. A. seemingly untouched by neither zombie or apocalypse. It is a clever play, clever enough to make even me wonder if what we had read before in the previous novels was reality or dream.

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Quick-Shot: For Honor We Stand by H. Paul Honsinger

For Honor We Stand by H. Paul Honsinger | 47North, 2014

The sequel to Honsinger’s To Honor You Call Us continues the story immediately following the events of that novel. You can read my review of it here and much of the same commentary there applies here. Honsinger turns out another exciting and action packed story in For Honor We Standcontinuing the adventures of the Cumberland and her crew. Honsinger, walks a rather deft line between space opera and military sci-fi offering fast-paced action and interesting characters in universe grounded with a distinct sense of history. While the action of novel is intense and near constant the most vivid impressions left are from Honsinger’s deft characterization of Dr. Sahin and Commander Robicheaux. One particular moment, as Commander Robicheaux speaks to a bunch of middies about his time as a midshipman marked a major turning point for the Commander in his struggle PTSD. I think it well worth pointing out that in a novel packed with exciting naval combat and massive revelations about the human war effort that one of the novel’s standout moments came in a rather sedate scene of conversation.  Similarly speaking, a quiet scene between Dr. Sahin and Commander Robicheaux about the fate of the war showed a strong sense of character and deftly illustrated how these two characters from wildly different cultural backgrounds have bonded over the profound loss caused by war. It is moments like these make this novel stand tall alongside more established authors in the field.

If you are a fan of military science fiction with a strong naval tradition H. Paul Honisnger’s Men of War series is definitely one you should be reading. My personal favorite duo of military science fiction authors: David Weber and Jack Campbell are now tentatively joined by H. Paul Honsinger (he has a rather large quantity of work to catch up with). To Honor You Call Us was an amazingly accomplished debut novel and For Honor We Stand builds upon a strong foundation of characterization, world-building, and action by raising the stakes in each regard. I am definitely awaiting the third Men of War novel Brothers in Battle with no small amount of excitement.

Review: Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos | Brilliance Audio, 2014 (pb: 47North, 2014)

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos is another new book in the military sci-fi genre from an up and coming author given a boost by solid reviews and the advent of Amazon’s new ventures into print publishing. Terms of Enlistment is a novel that falls directly in line with the likes of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. On the Earth of 2108 life is hard. Humanity has wrecked the environment and the majority of the population is limited to living in massive crime-ridden welfare tenements. One of the only ways out of the tenements is through enlistment (the other being the colony lottery). Andrew Grayson, lacking the pull to get the most out of the colony lottery, opts for enlistment. The novel is fairly straight forward following Andrew as he makes his way through basic training and is later assigned to active duty in one of the military’s three major branches.

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