Tag Archives: #Parallelworld

Thoma, C. (2014). Boreal and John Grey. Season 2. Self-published.

As with Thoma‘s Season 1 collection, I bought the entire Season 2 of the Boreal and John Grey serial. Once again, I really enjoyed the five novellas that make up Season 2: The Threads (73p), The Snare (77p), The Warp (96p), The Loop (99p) and The Weave.

When we left Season 1, Ella’s boss changed his mind about killing Finn – as much as a Duergar/Guardian of the Gates is able to. Lots of blod had been shed, much of it by the two main characters (Ella and Finn). Now it was time for recuperation and a sort or regular life. As much as a John Grey and his Stabilizer could hope for.

Insistent ringing roused Ella from sleep, shattering a dream of Finn talking to her earnestly about lollipops.

Lollipops? Seriously?

Damn ringing continued. Had to be the alarm clock, Ella thought fuzzily and made a grab for it, upturning the lamp on her bedside table and catching it a second before it crashed to the floor.

Not the alarm clock.

Phone. Blindly she groped for it and rolled on her back to answer, her arm flopping to the side. (p. 1)

Of course, recuperation and rest are not on any hunter’s schedule. Their short leave comes to an end with the sighting of a white flying creature. All land creatures from Aelfheim are white, a necessity on a frozen world. A very long time ago Ljosaelfar made their way to Earth/Midgard through Gates created by John Grey to pierce the veil between worlds. Earth was ripe for the taking, warm and willing, while Aelfheim was frigid and stormy. Primitive Viking leaders were no threat. What the Boreal had forgotten was that invaders cannot only watch the invadees but should also watch their backs. Their attempt was thwarted by the Dokkaelfar.

Because gates have once again started appearing, that means that John Grey must exist. In Season 1 we found out that John Grey is not a single individual but rather a title bestowed on people with the ability to open Gates. As we know, today that person is Finn.

He tensed, his back arching. “Asmodr,” he gasped out. His hands curled into fists and an image hit her like a bullet between the eyes.

A blinding form, humanoid, the face dark but the rest sparkling as if made of broken mirror shards — and there was pain, bowing her spine, splitting her head, until she couldn’t breathe. The light intensified, searing into her retinas. (Kindle Locations 441-445).

However, Finn does not operate in a vacuum. For some reason his abilities require a Stabilizer, and that Stabilizer is Ella. We are about to find out what on earth a Stabilizer is and does.

Something zipped by her head. She waved a hand at her face with the vague idea it was an insect — then that something slammed into the wall of the rooftop entrance, cracking the concrete. (Kindle Locations 492-494).

There are many who want to control John Grey and his Stabilizer, for those “who control the Gates, control everything”. Hopeful puppet masters hunt the couple using their weaknesses against them. Our own history is full of successful puppet masters whose mantra is that “the end justifies the means” and are perfectly willing to kill their potential puppets if they cannot gain that control.

I really like this about Seasons 1 and 2 of Boreal and John Grey. Thoma is a Greek-Cypriot, and if anyone knows anything at all about puppet masters it is they. Even now they are victims of the breed. Maybe that is one reason the author writes so vividly and realistically about the topic.

This time, the collected novellas ended in a true cliff-hanger. If I had thought that was how the entire serial was ending, I wouldn’t have minded it as much. However, as is the case, everything about the ending points towards a Season 3.

Once again, Thoma’s writing is excellent. Rhythm, flow, and plot-tightness is maintained until the last period is written. Point of View is third person told through Ella’s eyes. Again, the story is full of action, betrayal, strange creatures, agencies, and magic, i.e. all the elements required for a great fantasy thriller. There is swearing, violence and sex (Euro-Vanilla on all three/maybe US age 16). If this does not bother you, then Boreal and John Grey ought to be a great read. It certainly was for me.


My review of:

Thoma, C. (2014). Boreal and John Grey Season 1. Self-published.

I absolutely loved the scifi/fantasy/thriller story Boreal and John Grey, Season One. Thoma is an author that justifies self-published works.  Season 1 contains the novellas “The Encounter” (45 p), “The Gate” (70 p), “The Dragon” (94 p), “The Dream” (100 p) and “The Truth” (107 p).

Although it was early September, the cold bit to the bone and the air smelled like snow. Snow and piss and trash. The alley stretched ahead, empty of life and strewn with crushed cans and paper.

Ella didn’t move. Faint humming filled her ears, and clicking noises sounded. The clouds above shifted, though no wind blew. The Veil was thinning. Shades would be lurking, waiting to pounce. In the past, faint, frail faeries came through; these had recently turned into more malevolent creatures — kobolds and goblins with a taste for blood. (p. 1.)

Right off the story reveals the quality of Thoma’s work and the kind of story we can expect. The first two paragraphs seethe with potential action and foreshadow a dark story. For Boreal and John Grey, Season 1 is a dark and action-filled story about elements of the Paranormal Investigation Bureau (PIB) and its dealings somewhere in the US.

PIB Voyants (“Sight”, i.e. can see Shades) are paired off and sent to investigate and deal with possible sightings of Shades (Vaettir). Ella Benson and Simon Esterhase make up one such pairing. An anonymous call was redirected to their team, yet only Ella turns up to hunt. What she discovers about the Veil and the Shades disturbs her boss, David Holborn. She does not reveal that when a goblin was about to kill her, it was instead destroyed by a man who fought “like a hurricane” and who left after making sure she was OK (without sharing his name). Throughout the story Ella finds that trusted people aren’t trustworthy while suspicious characters might not be suspicious after all. We also meet the ever-trustworthy Mike, Ella’s neighbour, friend and also Oracle (“He hears the Shades.”, p. 116).

Ella and the mysterious stranger are our main characters. Both are “Heroes“, i.e. “solitary people who fight for the greater good to the detriment of themselves and who do what must be done so others can live normal lives.”

Thoma tells us that she was inspired by the Icelandic saga Eddukvæði by Sæmundar (English translation). I saw this in the details of the story and how the characters from the Edda fit into modern US and  its paranoia. Edda’s inspiration made for recognizable yet new and original characters. I loved the description of the alternate evolution on a Boreal world (brrr).

Any steady reader of this blog knows that romance is not my thing. A majority of romance authors seem incapable of writing believable character interaction. Not so with Thoma. In this case I believed both the emotional and physical interactions that took place. The sex was European vanilla, and the violence held back yet remained believable. Swearing fit with its position in the story.

Certain issues were extremely relevant in a global context. Hatred left from wars leading to atrocious actions from extremist groups on both sides (e.g. Dave and Adramar) is one issue. Relationships across racial/ethnical divides is another. Child abuse a third. No preaching was involved. I hate preaching, even when I am the one doing the preaching. The worst part of the story was that it ended.

Information was weaved into the story in a manner that kept the drive going. No stutters or dissonances were found. Due to Thoma’s world-building, and how tight the story was, I found it difficult to  take breaks.

Each episode flowed flawlessly into the next and the amount of editing that must have gone into this showed. Fortunately, the novel ended without a cliff-hanger. There was a clear opening for continuing the story.

By now you must realise that I heartily recommend this scifi/fantasy/thriller. Fun characters, great resolutions, sex and some violence are all wrapped up into one of the better stories I have read this year.

I bought my copy at Amazon.


My other Thoma reviews: Rex Rising

Yates, A.M.: Stealer (2016)

Cover by Clarissa Yeo

As the bus-doors squealed shut, she fantasized about stealing the rainbow-striped balloon and drifting away to wherever the wind blew. Maybe to wherever her father was.

Victim mentality is difficult to let go of. A person gets so wrapped up in what has been that they forget the future does not have to look the same. There are choices. However, reaching for that choice, when one’s self-image seems shot to pieces and one’s position as underdog appears set in stone, is nigh to impossible.

Dee is 17 years old and considered an odd-ball. She is taller than most, has unusual hair and a scarred back. Her position on the social status totem pole is low. Laura, her only, and now ex-, friend, left her for a higher spot. Predatory kids consider her easy bait.

“Don’t feed the wolves. Never feed the wolves.”

To top it all, Dee thinks she is probably insane. She hears and sees things that the other kids apparently do not. Take Danny’s broken pencil:

Every tooth mark incised the instrument with Danny’s belief in magic – belief in gods who used magic.

And, the pencil…… It glowed and floated.

Her way out of victim mentality and hiding from the wolves slowly begins when the Vasquez brothers go after Danny. In spite of being left with dog shit in her hair,  facing her fears slowly becomes possible.

Dee has a strange treasure collection. A broken pencil, broken key-chain, broken glasses, broken lighter, broken needle and broken guitar pick probably do not seem like much to most of us. But Dee senses that these objects represent something more, and the only person with whom Dee dares talk about what she sees and hears is her grand-father. He is also the person who reveals who her father is, a man called River who appeared and disappeared right before his eyes. As it turns out, Dee’s heritage becomes essential to her survival. One day, a guy steals her collection and disappears into thin air. Dee desperately wants her things back but has no idea how to go about it.

Then, she sees a speaking glow bug that calls itself Nid. A deal is made. If Dee frees Nid, Nid promises that Dee will travel safely to the place where the box has gone and that Dee will make it back to her family, safe and sound.

Yates has done a great job on her new world. Crescent is both similar and dissimilar to our own world. Society is highly stratified into different Breeds. At top are the “Leaders” and near the bottom are “Stealers“. Guess which one Dee belongs to. The right to define is a right we fight wars over. Stealers are a perfect example of what happens when the powers that be use their power to re-name. Stealers used to be called “Scouts“.

A scout is a person who seeks information about the unknown, one who goes in front, one who acts as a buffer for those behind while a stealer is a person who takes what does not belong to them. Instead of being part of a team, Stealers are now enslaved by those who can afford to own them. Propaganda has it that the only thing Stealers do well is run from trouble and steal your things. Propaganda also has it that as long as people fulfil the duties Leaders claim each breed must, all needs will be taken care of. As Stealer shows, propaganda in Crescent is as true as propaganda anywhere.

I really liked Stealer. Some of the foreshadowing is obvious and trendy. For instance, Dee and Hunter. If two people meet, and that meeting is hostile, it is almost written in stone that they become lovers. In addition, Yates  throws in the required competitor for the main character’s affections. Dee follows in the tradition of a mystery parent giving their child great powers. Then something happens and those powers become immense. For the most part, Yates avoids  overdoing it. Yates also writes Dee as a believably confused and surprised young woman in a confusing and surprising situation. Moving to new cultures is difficult. Language, traditions and presentation in Crescent are different to the ones of her own home-town somewhere in the US. Yates tells a story full of action and adventure with interesting characters, both main- and side-characters. I could identify with some of them. Crescent is a fun world with solutions I do not think I have seen before.


Reviews:

Jenkins, David Elias: The Feral (The Last Line I) (2014)

The Feral - David Elias Jenkins

The life of a soldier in action is a whole lot of wait for a few minutes of terror. This seems to hold true for all who lead adventurous lives. Some of those soldiers are so caught in the grip of adrenaline kicks that they would never ever be able to function in a regular 9-5 job again. The members of the STG (Special Threats Group) Empire one are such adrenaline junkies.

Usher and Isaac Marlowe are the members of that group who stand out the most as three-dimensional people. The rest of the group: Kruger, Charlie, Brock and Christie add flavour to the dynamics of the group and their work. All of them are from different backgrounds. The only thing they have in common is that at one point or another “The Veil” was lifted from their eyes and they had an undeniable encounter with the Unseelie Court (Faery). Since that time the various member have worked toward getting the Unseelie off the Earth and back to whatever parallel world they are from. But the Unseelie have the opposite aim. They wish to invade the Earth, eradicate humans and make the Earth their own home.

Mr. Jenkins introduces a variation on vampires that I loved. More different to the glitter and Oooh-Aaahing of people around the world cannot exist. If there is, please let me know. Amoral, hungry, arrogant and bizarre are only a few terms that describe the vampire we get to meet. Vampires and werewolves are part of the Faery world. That makes more sense than them being converted humans. We even meet a zombie-like creature in the form of the infiltrator Owen Sibelius. This is the kind of zombie I understand.

Soldiers around the world have a tough lot in life. For some reason the public seems to expect them to be invisible. If they see fighting, we do not wish to hear about what effect that action has on them. Killing other people as a job must necessarily affect the person doing the killing. But these people are ordered to accomplish whatever aims their idiotic leaders wish to pursue and are not in a position to constantly question orders they are given – even if those orders make no sense. A soldier who reaches Special Forces level must be aware of the questionable legality of some of their orders, yet they have the mental strength that allows them to follow through. For the Special Threats Group, this is seldom a problem. They know that the enemy is a real threat to them and the rest of humanity, and they want these Faery gone. Sadly, of late, recruitment to the fighting groups is slower than the demise of their members and that leaves these people overworked and in serious need of decompression.

I would make a stinky soldier. Part of that has to do with my autism. Sucky balance, don’t know right from left, problem with orders and will have melt-downs when my sensory system is overloaded. Not great soldier material. In fact, I would probably be one of the first people killed if my country was ever invaded again. But I have the ability to see the necessity of soldier-like people in a world where the definition of peace is something we would kill to be right about. While the Faery are a clearly defined group and more or less easy to spot, humans who believe that the Faery need to own the world are a bit more difficult to separate from regular humans. Empire One also fights to rid the world of humans who (once again) have pitted themselves against humanity by providing the Faery with technology and biology that makes taking over the world easier. Because that is how stupid humans are. We really are. We do it all the time. Just take a look around and you will see how incredibly self-destructive humans are.

Another stinky soldier is Ariel – tasked to infiltrate Isiah Argent’s organization. Poor geek. He does a marvelous and terrified job considering what he has to work with. This is another three-dimensional character that Mr. Jenkins portrays well.

There is one part of the story where I feel the need to comment on believability. In one of the scenes with Kruger something was supposed to take around 1-1.5 hours to finish. Once the two things had been taken, that would not be a likely scenario due to stuff leaving. (As clear as I can make it without spoiling the story.)

Warning on lots of violence and gore. Very dark story. Definitely recommended.

Mr. Jenkins provided me with a copy of The Feral to review or not.


Reviews:


The Feral available at Amazon UK


The Unseelie Court

Wells, Martha: The Ships of Air (The Fall of Ile-Rien II) (2004)

 

Martha Wells brings back the three worlds caught up in the invasion of Ile-Rien.

For some reason there are readers out there who have decided that The Fall of the Ile-Rien is a fantasy work. The first story, The Wizard Hunters, has plenty of elements of fantasy in it, so that would be a natural conclusion to draw about that. That is until you get to the parallel world and strange technologies that turn up. In The Ships of Air the science fiction element is even stronger. My annoyance comes from the way women authors are so casually relegated categories that simply do not fit.

There, rant over.

Tremaine is a great main character. In spite of Ander’s misogynism, she manages to get people to follow her. Perhaps this is due to her quick thinking, diplomacy and ability to cut through objections when need be. Her childhood training by her father and uncle is clearly an asset in the treacherous landscapes of worlds and people that she finds herself in.

Ander, on the other hand, still needs to have his testicles removed. He never quite seems to grasp just how different the Syprian society is to the one of Ile-Rien and the power women have in Sypria. He really needs to be a bit more careful about what he says around Tremaine. The men surrounding her would probably just nod approvingly if Tremaine got her scissors out.

We get to meet representatives of the Gardier community. The “top dog” there seems to be a soldier of some sort. The Gardier are an interesting people. All of them seem to be terrified of the evil Ile-Rien and dismissive of the animal-like Syprians. Their beliefs about their own superiority  mirrors much of what we see in the real world on a regular basis. Hell, 6 million Jews got killed for being “animals”.

Fear is a powerful tool to get your citizenship in line. We see the US using this tool all the time these days, and it seems to be working. Even here in Norway the government has started using the same type of fear-propaganda. The Gardier leader’s socialisation shows in the way she interacts with the Syprians and the Ile-Rien. Just because she is a Gardier leader does not mean that she sees other Gardiaer’s as equal to herself. Oh, no. Nor do the people in either Ile-Rien or Sypria. That is how the world works. It seems humans have this need to belong to a “we” group that feels far superior to the “them” group where the rest of the world is lumped.

I really enjoy the questions raised in this trilogy and the action I get to enjoy. Sadly, I have to admit to enjoying well-written fight scenes. Yes, that probably makes me a violent creature, but there you are. Martha Wells knows how to make her worlds of the possible and impossible come alive for this reader.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Ships of Air available at Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, Mysterious Galaxy, Books-a-Million, Book Depository.com, Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon.ca, IndieBoundTantor Audio, French: Polish: Łowcy czarnoksiężników


My review of The Wizard Hunters


I know I got my shovel, where’s yours?

N.K. Jeminims GoH speech

Science Fiction’s invisible authors

Wells, Martha: The Wizard Hunters (The Fall of Ile-Rien I) (2003)

A female protagonist looking to die in what seems to be an accidental manner is a relief to meet. Wanting to die is something I experience on a regular basis so I find it nice to know that there are people in literature who feel the same way. Her death-wish is why Tremaine joins the clean-up crews after bombings and why she joins Gerard when he asks her to bring her uncle’s sphere along. Tremaine Valiarde is a woman with an unusual life up to now and it is about to enter the realm of the unexpected. She has two qualities that I really like. One is her ability to make difficult decisions quickly without needing to question her choices. The other is her ability to integrate others in her life as a matter of course. Actually, there are three qualities I really appreciate. The third is Tremaine’s ability to remain fairly clear-/ and level-headed in a crisis. When she, Florian and Gerard end up on an island in the middle of the ocean those qualities will become essential to survival.

Ilias and Giliead see it as their mission in life to hunt wizards. Their experience with wizards thus far in life has been that all wizards are  insane. In Sypria being a sorcerer, wizard or even the victim of one gets you either shunned or killed. Ilias and Giliead are about to get their views challenged.

Prejudice is an interesting quality. All of our fear-attitudes are. There must be people out there who do not struggle with prejudices, but I have not met any of them yet. We get to see different types of prejudices in the people from Ile-Rien and the people from Sypria, but at heart all of their prejudices are the same. This is where Tremaine’s ability to integrate others into her life becomes especially important.

Meetings between two fairly different cultures are bound to be troublesome. But the need to fight a common enemy enables people to overcome some of the fear and cooperate. Gardier provides the role of a common enemy through their invasions of both Ile-Rien and Sypria. When survival depends upon the parties cooperating logic states that they cooperate. But reality both here in the real world and in the world of The Wizard Hunters shows that people aren’t always logical.

The Wizard Hunters is my first meeting with Martha Wells. I have had a lot of first meetings with authors over the years and not all have been as successful as this one. Definitely recommended.

P.s.: Ander needs to have his testicles cut off.


Reviews:


The Wizard Hunters available at Barnes and Noble, Edge Books, Powell’s, Mysterious Galaxy, Books-a-Million, Amazon, Amazon UK, Tantor Audio, iTunes

French: Amazon.fr
German: Trade Paperback

Halstead, Jason: Dark Earth (Dark Earth I) (2011)

 

In my opinion Dark Earth seems aimed at a younger Young Adult audience.

Jason Halstead starts off the story in modern US and then takes us to a parallel world set to a pre-industrial age. He describes this Dark Earth as meaner and greedier than our own. Perhaps that is due to the younger audience he is writing for and possibly a need to create a good and a bad world. I certainly know of plenty of people who are as mean and greedy on our side of the gates. Places that are more or less pre-industrial are in existence although these are becoming fewer by the decade.

Our heroes are Eric, who lost his wife 13 years ago, and his 13-year-old daughter Jessica. Eric is still caught in the grief of his wife being killed while in her 8th month of pregnancy. When a guy turns up at his house attempting to murder his daughter, Eric is understandably frustrated, angry, afraid and reminded of his previous loss. Then Eric and Jessica discover that they are part of a 2000-year-old legacy that reaches across to parallel world. Now the two will also have to deal with Jessica being kidnapped and Eric being bitten by a strange wolf.

I read Dark Earth a long time ago but had forgotten to write a review for it. That meant I had to read it again. Jason Halstead certainly writes well enough for me to also enjoy the second reading. Although Jessica was the person of interest to the various parties, Eric was the character that I saw the most of. He was the one that showed growth and development.

There was plenty of action and some violence. Only one short bit might be considered by some parents as too much for the youngest children. Other than that, Dark Earth must be one of the safer stories out there for a Young adult audience. There was no swearing, very little violence, some sadness and no romance (except in the memory of Eric and his late wife).


Reviews:


Dark Earth on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Smashwords