Welcome!


Welcome!! My name is Paul Lappen. I am in my early 50s, single, and live in Connecticut USA. This blog will consist of book reviews, written by me, on a wide variety of subjects. I specialize, as much as possible, in small press and self-published books, to give them whatever tiny bit of publicity help that I can. Other than that, I am willing to review nearly any genre, except poetry, romance, elementary-school children's books and (really bloody) horror.

I have another 800 reviews at my archive blog: http://www.deadtreesreviewarchive.blogspot.com (please visit).

I post my reviews to:

booklore.co.uk
midwestbookreview.com
2 yahoo groups
Amazon and B&N (of course)
Librarything.com
Goodreads.com
Bookwormr.com
Books-a-million.com
Reviewcentre.com
Onlinebookclub.org
Pinterest.com
and on Twitter
(seriously)

I am always looking for more places to post my reviews.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crochet Rag Rugs Basic Pattern Collection

Crochet Rag Rugs Basic Pattern Collection, Sarah Holmes, CreateSpace, 2009

This short book, which includes patterns and pictures, is all about crocheting rugs using rags, not yarn. Crocheting with yarn is very well-known, but I have never heard of crocheting with rags. It sounds like a good way to get rid of excess fabric.

It talks about how to attach the 1-inch wide strips of fabric together, in order to make longer strips. Before you even start cutting your fabric strips, it might be good to estimate just how much will be needed; the book covers it. Another important point to remember is making sure that the rug will stay flat when it goes on the floor.

The book shows pictures of different kinds of rugs. There is a basic round rug, a rectangular rug (where it's OK to change colors every few rows), the well-known oval rug, a heart-shaped rug, a slice rag rug (that looks like a round rug that has been cut in half) and a harvest rug. Instructions are included with each picture, instructions that are written in Crochet, not in English.

Those who know how to use a crochet needle could do a lot worse than buy this book. The patterns and instructions seem like they are easy-to-follow. It is very much worth considering.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Red Serpent: The Elemental King

Red Serpent: The Elemental King, Delson Armstrong, 9ine Inc., 2011

This is Part 3 of a projected 10-part series about humanity dealing with an invasion of Earth by a race of humanoid vampires. Things are not going well; what is left of humanity has been pushed onto a giant space station called the Regnum.

In this book, the Regnum is being evacuated. Everyone knows that a vampire attack is coming, and that the Regnum will be the first target. Humanity is moving, not without fighting amongst themselves, to the Moon where living quarters have already been constructed. A number of people resent John Howe having taken dictatorial control over humanity. He feels that the survival of humanity is more important then democracy. Alex, his nephew, is The Falsifier, the one who is destined to lead humanity to ultimate victory over the vampires.

The vampires really want Alex, for a number of reasons. There are several human armies trapped on Earth, numbering over a million men each, so an agreement is reached between the two sides. In exchange for Alex, one of the human armies will be allowed safe passage off the Earth (of course, it's not that simple). They do go to war on a grand scale, with thousands of ships on both sides, and millions of men. The humans have an immense cannon on the Moon that shoots an energy beam at the Earth which laces the atmosphere with silver (vampires and silver do not mix). A person could be forgiven for thinking that the Earth itself has had enough; suddenly, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes are everywhere, killing millions more vampires. The vampires have a secret weapon of their own, called the Hydra Project. For every vampire who is turned into ashes by an energy weapon or silver sword, those ashes instantly re-constitute themselves into two fully functioning warriors. The death toll on both sides is huge.

Meantime, humanity is in open revolt, with strikes and bombings happening all over the Moon. More than once, John Howe has to speak to the people and practically plead with them to stick together. Things get interesting when the planet Migra, the vampire homeworld, suddenly shows up on Earth's doorstep. Along with Migra comes Anaxagoras, the Supreme Leader of the vampires; he is also Alex's grandfather. Alex is the only one with any chance of stopping Anaxagoras.

This is another really good novel. There is plenty of action, and Armstrong does a fine job from beginning to end.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Vincent Hobbes Presents: The Endlands

Vincent Hobbes Presents: The Endlands, Vincent Hobbes (ed.), Hobbes End Publishing LLC, 2010

Imagine a place just a little removed from reality, a place where nothing is as it seems, and where anything could be just around the corner. Imagine no more: The Endlands is here.

The birth of a baby in the average hospital becomes distinctly un-average when the woman gives birth to a baby with large, black eyes, bat-like ears and a form of telepathy. Thousands of such births are happening all over the world at the same time, as if God is introducing the newest species of mankind.

A trucker picks up a hitchhiker who takes him to an out-of-the-way place with the best barbeque ever. Waking up after being drugged, the trucker finds himself in a barrel of barbeque sauce. A sign on the wall says that all meat must marinate for 24 hours, before being cooked and served to the public.

A soldier has been taught, nearly from birth, that his homeland has been overrun with demons and vampires, who engage in all kinds of unholy rituals. Most of them have been liquidated, but not all. The soldier is going to a certain house to investigate a report of such activities. He bursts in, and kills the family inside, including children and a baby. Only then does he realize that they were human all along, and the only thing they had going against them was being Jewish.

In a seacoast town, whales suddenly start rising out of the water, like giant zeppelins. At first, it is very cool, attracting the world's media. It becomes un-cool when the whales swoop down on people and feed on them.

Charlie is one of those who is chronically early for everything. He has received his summons from the government, one with severe penalties for non-compliance. It seems as if the world is conspiring to make him late; the traffic is heavier than usual, he has a hard time finding a parking space and he must wait at the front desk to be checked in. Finally, he gets to the right room, and sits there alone, when the gas is turned on.

These are not specifically science fiction, or fantasy, or horror stories, but the sort of stories that could easily be made into episodes of "The Twilight Zone"  TV show. In fact, the book is dedicated to Rod Serling. These stories will give the reader a kick in the psyche, and they are very good. 

Those Who Fight Monsters

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives, Justin Gustainis (ed.), Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2011

These days, urban fantasy stories are big business (in literary terms). This anthology presents new stories of demon hunters by today's most popular writers.

Kate Connor is your average suburban soccer mom, who just happens to work for a super-secret branch of the Vatican. Allie, her teenage daughter, is a demon-hunter in training, but is not yet ready to join Kate on patrol (a never-ending source of sulking and whining on Allie's part). Allie sneaks off to a fancy party in a huge mansion owned by a demon who needs human sacrifices.

Quincey Morris is an occult investigator in Austin, Texas. His latest client is a man whose dot-com went out of business. Contemplating suicide, he signed over his soul in exchange for ten years of success. The ten years are up in a few hours, and the man is terrified that he is going to Hell. Can Morris do anything about it?

Petunia "Pete" Caldecott is a former Inspector with the London Metropolitan Police. Sitting in a bar one night, wanting to be alone, she is approached by an inhabitant of the land of Faery. The prince of Faery has been murdered, which is totally foreign to Faery, and human eyes are needed to find the murderer.

Tony Giodone is a former hitman who has been turned into a werewolf. He now works for the police force of the Sazi Council (they are the good guys). His latest case involves Carmine, a mob boss, who has snuck into Calgary, Alberta, because there are people who want a certain thing very badly. They have no problem with killing anyone who gets in their way. It involves a vial of a very sophisticated virus, and what looks like a photo of a brick wall.

These stories will certainly keep the reader interested. For non-horror readers (like yours truly), the horror part is not overwhelming. Urban fantasy readers will love this book, and it is a first-rate group of stories.

Gift From the Stars

Gift From the Stars, James Gunn, BenBella Books, 2005

First Contact with an alien species can happen in a grand moment of scientific discovery, like in the film "Contact." It can also happen in a much more mundane and accidental manner.

Adrian Mast is an aeronautical engineer (and frustrated astronaut). Browsing in a local bookstore, he picks up a remaindered book on UFOs. In the Appendix, Adrian finds what look like a legitimate set of plans for an interstellar spaceship. With help from Frances Farmstead, the bookstore's owner, Adrian tracks down the publisher, who nrevously denies that they ever published the book, even though their name is on it. Peter Cavendish, the author, is in a mental hospital in the Midwest, afraid that the government, or the aliens, is out to get him. Somone has gone to a lot of trouble to suppress the book. Adrian and Frances get the plans spread out to the scientific community, before someone "suppresses" them.

The alien machines built from the plans radically change Earth, bringing about an era of really free energy. Adrian and Frances put together a group of people to build a spaceship based on the plans. They get permission from the Energy Board. Cannibalizing an old space station, the ship is finally ready for launch. Mankind still has no idea who the aliens are, where they are or why they sent the spaceship plans. On its maiden voyage, the ship suddenly starts traveling in a very different direction. Before he left the ship, back at Earth, Peter Cavendish programmed the ship's computer to take the ship to the aliens.

The ship enters a wormhole, where the laws of time and space are turned upside down. There is no way to tell how long the wormhole is, or if the ship is even moving. The crew remembers events that haven't yet happened. The ship eventually leaves the wormhole, and reaches a planet with hundreds of spaceships in orbit, of all shapes and sizes. Evidently, humanity was not the only civilization to hear from the aliens. After months of waiting for a reception committee, which never happens, members of the crew land on the surface, find their way into underground tunnels, and get some answers to their questions.

This one is very plausible and rational, and it has believable characters. It is interesting from start to finish, and is very much worth the time.

Immortal Quest: The Trouble With Mages

Immortal Quest: The Trouble With Mages, Alexandra MacKenzie, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2010

This is a fantasy story about a relationship that has lasted for several centuries. It is also about the potential end of the world.

Nick Wright is a present-day London detective who, one night, is interrogating a burglary suspect named Marlen. He tells Nick that they have known each other for 500 years, and that Nick is on his eleventh lifetime. As a mage, Marlen is immortal. Nick is skeptical, to say the least. Marlen tells Nick things about himself that no one can possibly know. Nick slowly begins to beleive that maybe Marlen is not totally nuts.

Marlen attempted a spell to get Nick to remember the old days of partying all over Europe. Not only does it not work, but Marlen accidentally releases a powerful mage named Vere from her 700-year imprisonment. She wanted to bring the gift of immortality to all people, and was supposedly working on the ultimate spell. She infused three items, a cup, a ring and a stone with magical power, now hidden in widely different parts of Britain. If she ever got hold of those items, and completed her spell, the whole world would be in danger. At least, that is according to Duncan Phipps, head of the Immortal Society of Mages, who wants the three items for his own megalomaniacal purposes.

Meantime, Nick has gotten a job with DI6, Britain's domestic intelligence service. But, he has been shunted into the last place he wants to work with DI6, the PIS, or Paranormal Investigative Service. Nick would much rather investigate terrorists than Elvis sightings. His uncle Brianm who runs the PIS, tells Nick to stick with Marlen. The PIS has been investigating the Mages for years, and they need a real magical object to study. The relationship between Nick and Marlen is volatile, at best. Marlen tries, perhaps too hard, to get the "old Nick" back. Nick becomes fond of Marlen, but does not want to get into a relationship with him. Nick has tried very hard to suppress his homosexual past. Everything climaxes at an isolated castle in Scotland. Is Vere really as mean as her reputation says? Does Vere or Duncan get "eliminated?" Do Marlen and Nick come to any sort of understanding about their relationship?

This might be a rather quiet relationship story, but it's a good one. It is marketed as an LGBT novel, but the homosexuality is pretty subtle. It's recommended.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

State of Mind

State of Mind, Sven Michael Davison, Bedouin Press, 2011

This book is set in 2030 Los Angeles. It is about government mind control, and one man's attempts to fight back.

Jake Travissi was thrown off the police force for upsetting the wrong people. He is let back on the force after he is implanted with a P-Chip. It lets a person do practically anything with their mind; access the Web, see things through the eyes of another P-Chip recipient, record video on to a computer hard drive and talk to other P-Chip recipients telepathically. A person can even regulate their metabolism so that they can eat and drink whatever they want and not gain weight. Jake is part of a three-man squad working for Homeland Security.

Their first case is to investigate the very public murder of Dr. Veloso, a co-creator of the P-Chip. The shooter's eyes, teeth and fingerprints have been removed, making identification nearly impossible. While Jake is there, he has split-second flashes of his hands destroying the evidence. On another raid, taking out an alleged terrorist cell, Jake has more flashes of he and his colleagues doing very illegal things. He also hears voices in his head, which are the God Heads.

Sandoval, the Director of Homeland Security, who commands the three-man squad (the Enhanced Unit), also runs a super-secret squad of P-Chip hackers. It is possible to take a person "offline," to shut down their higher brain functions, controlling them to do or say whatever you want, then plant false memories to make up for it. Jake begins to push back against the God Heads, killing one of them. In retaliation, Jake is kept offline for several weeks, and controlled to resign from the Enhanced Unit. He is constantly filled with feelings of depression and suicide by the God Heads. He is also turned into something of a donut addict, becoming a fat, lazy parody of a cop. Sandoval's intention in pushing the skyrocketing popularity of P-Chips is to become one of the elite who actually rule the world, while everyone else is kept happy in some artificial P-Chip world. With help from Dr. Morris, the P-Chip's other co-creator, Jake is able to do a lot more pushing back against Sandoval and the God Heads.

This one is very plausible, it's more than a little spooky and it's really good. How long will it be before a cell phone, or Web browser, can be miniaturized enough to fit inside a human brain?

GENeration eXtraTERrestrial

GENeration eXtraTERrestrial, Aurelio O'Brien, Bad Attitude Books, 2010

Many novels have been written about aliens coming to Earth. What happens after they become part of society, and the media spotlight moves elsewhere?

Grace Brown is a serious scientist in the field of extraterrestrial life. Her boss blackmails her into working with Diane and Tab, a photographer and writer for a tabloid newspaper. The three travel throughout America, meeting people who say that they were impregnated by extraterrestrials ("Knocked Up By An Alien!"). Their stories are not as easy to dismiss as Grace had hoped. To get back at her boss, Grace brings them all back to her employer, where they happen to give birth all at the same time.

Born to a male farmer from Kansas, Brock looks like a walking plant who eats rocks. It's how he gets his daily minerals. Gray looks like your average alien (gray skin and big eyes) who needs a drink of alcohol every day, the way that humans need water every day. He also has a hydraulic skeleton; his arm and leg bones slide inside each other, so he can make them longer or shorter at will. The triplets, Flora, Fauna and Manfred, have wings and hatch from eggs laid by a New York socialite. Alpha looks like an average child, except for the thrid eye in the middle of her forehead that allows her to see auras. Charlie is a super-genius with a full head of hair and set of teeth, right out of the womb. Realizing that his mother has died in childbirth, Charlie crawls to her head and hugs her while he weeps.

After the media circus fades, the Genxters deal with the usual growing-up issues. There's alcoholism, gender issues and making their way through school. Gray becomes a natural athlete; he is cut from his high school football team when the other teams refuse to play with him on the team. One day, the metabolisms of the triplets go into overdrive. They can't eat enough, and they gain a lot of weight. They spend the next couple of years each encased in a chrysalis, from which they eventually emerge. They each lose their wings because of a certain adolescent rite of passage. Charlie dresses like he just stepped out of a book on Edwardian attire. He starts a website so that the group can stay in touch. He becomes very interested in finding out where he, and the rest of the group, come from, so he scrutinizes signals from the stars, looking for any signs of intelligence.

This is a really interesting novel, but it is not just a novel. There are several websites mentioned in this book that really exist. Yes, it is very much worth reading. 

Go, Mutants!

Go, Mutants!, Larry Doyle, Ecco Books, 2010

Earth has survived numerous invasions by aliens and attacks by ancient monsters brought back to life. Some of these aliens are in high school.

J!m Anderson is your typical sullen, brooding teenager at Manhattan High School. Well, maybe he's not so typical, because he has a large, megacephalic head, and oily, blue skin which he occasionally sheds like a snake. Along with Johnny, a motorcycle-riding radioactive ape, and Larry, a gelatinous mass playing the role of the "fat kid" (Son of the Blob), J!m really does have a hard time making his way through the world of high school. Maybe people really are out to get him; after all, his father is the one who led the alien invasion of Earth.

The Harvest Dance is coming, and J!m is supposed to ask Marie Rand if she would like to go with him. Her father is the school's biology teacher, and one of those people who likes to tinker in his garage. Mrs. Rand is a disembodied head who is constantly nagging Mr. Rand to find a body to which to attach her head. The body she was using is no longer viable, but it's kept in a freezer for posterity. Despite numerous opportunities, J!m never gets around to asking Maries to the dance, so she goes with Russ, J!m's bitter enemy.

J!m has a permanent exemption from showering after gym class, for anatomical reasons that are forcefully revealed by the local bullies, led by Russ, at the local drive-in. Later, during another Russ-led attempt to get rid of J!m, once and for all, J!m catches on fire, is severely burned, and dies. But not really, because he recovers in a couple of days, and is now a solar-powered being with skin as hard as diamonds (puberty rears its ugly head).

Larry is thrown into an animal cage during a field trip. Approximately a cupful of his mass is retrieved. Mr. Rand is able to do something about that, with help from some jumper cables and a car battery. Later comes the climactic scene, where Russ forces Marie into his atomic-powered car, with J!m in hot pursuit. Just before the car goes over a cliff, Marie is thrown from the car, and severely injured. Does Marie survive? Does J!m learn the truth about his father? Can Larry be resurrected?

This is an absolute gem of a book. As a former writer for "The Simpsons," Doyle certainly knows how to do satire. It's got everything a 1950s teen story needs: a sullen, rebellious main character, bullies, a chase scene and a drive-in. This is very highly recommended. 

Pock's World

Pock's World, Dave Duncan, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2010

This science fiction adventure story is set on a planet facing a dire future. As usual, nothing is as it appears.

Pock's World, long settled by humans, has been infected by humanoid aliens. STARS, the consortium that "runs" the star sector, takes this very seriously. Pock's has been quarantined, and may have to be sterilized, which would mean the murder of over 650 million inhabitants. In the past, STARS has done this to other planets.

A group of people are sent to Pock's to examine the evidence. Father Andre has a wide ruthless streak, and visited Pock's a long time in the past. Ratty Turnsole is a muckraking reoprter. Millie Backet is a bureaucrat who, somehow, manages to turn this into the Backet Commission. Athena Fimble is an ambitious politician, and sleazy tycoon Linn Lazuline has a physical relationship going with Fimble. Of course, they all have their own agendas.

Finally reaching Pock's, a place with a barely tolerable climate, the group meets the humanoid alien prisoner. He has been tortured by the guards, but is able to handle pain better than humans. He also claims to be able to impregante men and women pretty easily. Coming from a planet in another sector, if he should be killed, there are millions more where he came from. Think "the next stage in human evolution." Turnsole falls for, and becomes the consort of, Joy, one of the four human incarnations of Mother, the planet's goddess. It seems like it might be pretty easy to build a religion involving a gas giant planet that takes up one-sixth of your sky every day.

The group is stunned to learn that STARS has intentionally disabled an orbiting probe and sent it into a decaying orbit. It will hit and destroy Pock's in four days, and was disabled before the group ever reached Pock's World. It is a geologically unstable world, with earthquakes and volcanoes everywhere. The probe doesn't have to actually destroy the planet; all it has to do is punch a big enough hole in the crust, and the planet's geological instability will do the rest. Another of Mother's human incarnations assures the people that nothing is going to happen. Do allo the members of the group leave Pock's World in time? Do all of them even want to leave?

This is a strong, well-done piece of storytelling. Duncan, a prolific writer, does a very good job with the characters and the society-building. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo, Michael J. Martineck, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2010

This is the story of present-day Earth that is changed forever. It happens in the blink of an eye.

At approximately 10:20 PM on May 5, all 6 billion people on Earth get a blinding headache for a second-and-a-half. In that instant, everyone gets another person implanted in their brain; different thoughts, different memories. Person A gets Person B's thoughts and memories, and Person B gets Person A's thoughts and memories. There is no rhyme or reason about who gets whom.

Alastair is a transit worker from Chicago who exchanges memories with John McCorely, the head of the Aryan Brotherhood, and currently an inmate in the Pelican Bay Supermax prison. His wife, Valerie, starts speaking Chinese, and their two-year-old daughter suddenly speaks German. Alastair knows that McCorely will not let anyone live who knows his "secrets," so he feels that his only alternative is to leave his family behind and head for parts unknown.

Cinsy is able to leave her abusive husband with "help" from a member of the Swiss National Police. Niven is a Manhattan ad executive on the verge of a Great Ad Idea, until Ming, a blind railway worker from China, is planted in his brain. Susan is a senior scientist with the National Institutes of Health, part of the group trying to figure out just what happened; her Other is a shaman from South America. A playboy from Abu Dhabi travels to India to rescue his Other, a young boy trapped in the world of human slavery. There are some tense moments at a Long Island middle school. The other of one of the teachers is a man from North Korea who goes to great lengths to find, or buy, enough food to keep his family alive for one more day. The Other of one of the students is an official from the North Korean government who really wants that person's name.

What happens in a world where there are no more secrets? There are huge amounts of cancellations of bank and credit card accounts. Now that someone else knows your account numbers and passwords, what is to prevent them from taking advantage? Phone lines are jammed for days, as people attempt to call their Others.

This one is very much worth reading. It takes one thing, or one event, and turns it on its side to see what will happen. It's very plausible, the characters feel like real peopleand it will give the reader something to consider.  

Other Dimensions

Other Dimensions, Clark Ashton Smith, Arkham House, 1970

The stories in this collection are a mixture of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Published mainly between 1910 and 1935, they represent a very different time in American fantastic fiction.

"Marooned in Andromeda" is about a trio of human mutineers kicked off a spaceship onto a semi-habitable planet. There, they have to survive in an unearthly landscape full of carnivorous beings who are far beyond the description of "strange." In "An Adventure in Futurity," Conrad Elkins looks like your average human, except for the fact that he comes from Earth of the year 15,000 A.D. Future Earth is dying, so Elkins has come to attempt to find some answers. He must return, and he takes the narrator with him. Earth has been importing slaves from Venus for hundreds of years, and the Venusians have had enough. They are rebelling, and winning. A microbe is released that changes Earth's atmosphere into the equivalent of the atmosphere of Venus. Of course, the Venusians are immune, but the humans that are left suffocate by the thousands.

Other stories take place on Earth. Explorers find an invisible city in the middle of a desert. An American rocket plane, chasing a Japanese plane, suddenly finds itself inside a strange cloud where physical laws are not the same. Once again, Earth is under attack from Venus, changing its climate into something acceptable for Venusians. Several stories take place in India, which, in the early 20th century, was the closest thing Earth had to an alien landscape. A man goes through a lot of research and preparation to kill a man who had wronged him a number of times over the years. He lures the man to his laboratory, gives him an undetectable poison and watches him die right in front of him. He then gets a call from the man's wife saying that he has just dies of heart attack at home, several miles away. The murderer rushes over there to examine the other corpse. Insanity begins to rear its head when the murderer realizes that he has two real corpses of the same man.

Smith was best known as a poet; these stories feel like poetry. Sometimes a person just needs to lose themself in a good old fashioned macabre/adventure story. If you can find a copy, start right here. These stories are different, and they are really, really good.

The Ashes of Worlds

The Ashes of Worlds, Kevin J. Anderson, Orbit Books, 2008

Last of a seven-book series, this is space opera on a grand scale. Galactic empires clash, and elemental beings wipe out entire star systems.

The Klikiss are an insectoid, hive-mind race who were thought to have been extinct for the past several thousand years. Well, they're not extinct, and they want their old colony planets back. The Klikiss are the sort of beings who don't take No for an answer. They are also in the middle of a major "civil war" to see which hive, or breedex, will dominate. With a death toll in the tens of thousands, new genetic material is needed to replenish the ranks, like from slaughtered human colonists on one planet .

Basil Wenceslas is Chairman of the Terran Hanseatic League (Emperor of Earth). He is increasingly isolated and psychotic. King Peter and Queen Estarra are able to flee Earth for the planet Theroc, where they set up a rival Confederation. Many human colony planets switch their allegiance to the Confederation, so Wenceslas sends the Earth Defense Forces to make an example of several colonies. The Ildiran Empire (another humanoid race) establishes an alliance with the Confederation, reducing the number of the Chairman's allies to near zero. The Chairman kidnaps the Ildiran Mage-Imperator, the Ildiran leader, and takes him to an EDF base on Earth's moon until he reconsiders the alliance. Ildirans have a sort of telepathic connection between all members of the race. If any Ildiran is cut off from that connection for any length of time, permanent insanity is a major concern.

Chairman Wenceslas comes up with the idea for an alliance with the Klikiss. He sends one of his senior Generals to negotiate a treaty. The General does not go out of loyalty; he goes because the Chairman does not think twice about holding hostage family members of his senior officers. The general discovers, to his horror, that the Klikiss have no interest in an alliance with anyone. Later, a Klikiss battle group shows up in Earth orbit, with enough firepower to turn Earth into a burned-out cinder. They want to talk to the Chairman, in person, now. He still thinks that he can get whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

This is what good space opera is all about. There is a helpful summary of the rest of the series, so the reader does not have to read it all to understand this book. But it's a very good idea, because the writing is that good. Separately or together, this is very much recommended.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Textile Planet

The Textile Planet, Sue Lange, Book View Cafe, 2010

Marla Gershe is a middle-level supervisor on the Textile Planet, an entire world devoted to textiles and the making of clothes. It's a high-stress job; Marla has daily production quotas that must be met. One day, Marla's boss takes away half of her staff to put them on another project, but Marla still has to make her daily production quota. Marla has had enough, and organizes a strike among the employees. In the confucion, Marla is shot in the stomach, and is rushed to the hospital.

Wherever Marla is, it is not exactly a hospital. She undergoes several months of experiments, like someone is doing psychological warfare on her. BAC, the consortium that runs the Textile Planet, would very much like Marla back at work, but Marla would rather be anywhere else. She gets out of the hospital, and immediately hops a spaceship to the most distant planet, a place called Ansonia.

Ansonia is said to be the "end of the line." Think of an 1800s American frontier town. It's a planet with a severe employment shortage; as long as you have two arms, two legs and a semi-functioning brain, you're hired. Marla finds herself doing data entry, locked into a cubicle for several hours a day, entering rows of numbers that come to her off of pieces of paper that come out of a chute. Marla has no idea what the numbers mean. At lunch, her fellow workers talk about the usual lunchtime topics, and about much deeper subjects, like the roles of men and women. After a year, Meko, Marla's boss, tells her that people have been asking about her, so a fast departure is a very good idea.

Marka ends up on an unexplored, desolate rock called XKJ-10. If Ansonia is the end of the line, XKJ-10 is much farther out than that. Marla meets Sam, a human who has been living on the planet for several months. He has a beard down to his waist, he has quite a mansion (made up of a number of different tents) and he claims that he can talk to the local ants. A major scientific discovery is made several million miles away (next door in astronomical terms), so XKJ-10 goes from being a desolate planet in the middle of nowhere to the most popular spot in the galaxy. Marla and Sam plan all sorts of construction, including a spaceport and hotel, to take advantage of all those scientists who will be coming their way.

Here is an interesting story that moves very quickly, perhaps too quickly. It's well done, and it will keep the reader's attention.