Tag Archives: #ResistanceMovement

Pritchard, Laura; Monarchy (I) (2017)

Pritchard asked me to review her story about a potential future.

At some point in the future the huge division between rich and poor became the excuse revolutionists needed. As with all revolutions, all that had changed was who was in power. From the descriptions in the book we are in a fairly small Monarchy. Citizens are divided between seven sectors. The central one is the capitol city. The other six sectors produce what the population needs to survive, including members of the military. The military is made up of the oldest children of people in six of the sectors. Constance is one such youth. These youth are sent to the capitol the year they turn 16.

Once there, the group of teens first go through an induction week that is supposed to break them. After that, they are given whatever job society (Lex) thinks they qualify for. Once Constance has been inducted into the Brigadiers, she must follow orders (just as we would expect of any soldier). There is romance and all of the other relationships we often find in young adult stories.

Monarchy is not a finished product. It did have potential. With more editing and a couple of beta-reads it would have been fun. Basic stuff like getting “pallet”, “palette” and “palate” right.


Reviews:

Farrugia, Nathan; Anomaly (Helix IV) (2016)

Sophia portrayed by Haylee Collins / Photographer: Andrew Maccoll / Cover design: Pat Naoum
Sophia portrayed by Haylee Collins / Photographer: Andrew Maccoll / Cover design: Pat Naoum

Sometimes getting to know the author is as fun as getting to know the characters. Farrugia is probably as adrenaline addicted as Sophia but, thankfully, seems a ways off Denton’s brand of crazy. He is also funny as hell and a great writer.

This odd group of animals I belong to, seems hell-bent on destroying itself in one way or another. Often, I wonder who profits from the unrest going on. Seeing behind propaganda, to the Dentons, Hals and Sievers of this world, takes time and effort. What Farrugia manages to get across in Anomaly is how little the pawns, even at the level of Illarion, know. Just because two parties kill each-other, doesn’t mean they oppose each other. Unlike many of the real-world conspiracies I hear/read, Farrugia’s conspiracy thriller shows us a believable chess-game where the consequences to the players are small, but to their pawns, well.

Purity is clearly one of the pawns being played. We got an inkling of that in Interceptor. Anomaly‘s use of Hal, Denton and DC pushes me to think in one direction. Farrugia is probably just messing with my mind. Cults are terrifying creatures. Especially political cults. Nazism was one. We see another one tear its way through Europe, triggered by the 70-year-long battle between USA and Russia that is, at this part of the “game”, destroying the Middle-East. Purity has reached the point of the mob. “Burn the witches” is a chant at one of their rallies. Farrugia paints the mindlessness, hysterical anger, fear and violence present in such a mob perfectly.

We get to know Marina better. I find myself curious about her. “Will this hurt?” she asked. And it did. It takes a special kind of training to acquire the mind-set of the researchers in the various Columns, training most people would pass.

Eastern Europe is clearly in trouble and the only ones who might save it are Sophia and Olesya’s people. But only if the two groups cooperate. Both feel the need to talk but are afraid to trust the other. They know that no matter what they choose, the likelihood of their groups getting out intact is nil. However, both are the kind of leader who wants to get as much of her team out alive and as well as possible.

What on earth are Intron’s goals? They aren’t what Hélio  says. Why are Fifth Column’s implants turning up in such strange people? Who are training these new, indestructible operatives? What is DC up to? How are Purity identifying the mutants? Can paranoia be taken too far?

As usual, I had fun. Lots of action, lots of conspiracy and one hell of a mystery. Definitely recommended.

I was given an advance copy of Anomaly to review.


Reviews:


My reviews of:

  1. Helix
  2. Exile
  3. Interceptor

Anomaly is available at Amazon

Farrugia, Nathan M.: Helix: Episode 1 (2016)

Hi, I’m Nathan and I make up stories. There’s a word for that. Delusional. And sexy.

Helix: Episode 1 is part of the world of The Fifth Column. What I like most, aside from how well the text flows, is its realism. No mental leaps are required of me to believe in the likelihood of the methods used to acquire soldier material, how these people are tested, what training they receive and their use. The military and population application of all of the genetic manipulation described, especially unquestioning loyalty, is frightening.

Some of the brainwashing techniques described in the Sophia serial is brainwashing we all go through. Propaganda is poured at us from every available medium from the time we are born. Our ethics and moral values are all part of this propaganda. Soldiers who are sent to kill, especially the ones who end up in some form of black ops, must endure even more. What military and intelligence leaders want are people who obey and find a way to achieve whatever their leaders command them to do as efficiently as possible. Unlike religious cults, though, the military cannot have unquestioning loyalty in such men and women. At least not in officers.

The Fifth Column is not an officially sanctioned group. They aren’t interested in their doings getting out to the public. So their brainwashing needs to be more thorough.

One of their tools for finding relevant children is the Human Genome Project. Based on certain genetic markers, children from around the world get tested by Project GATE. Olesya, our main character, is one such child. Except she does not seem to have the desired genetic marker. However, she does make it into the program.

“For a while, he was silent. It was the longest she’d seen him not talk. Above the, fireworks crackled, then trickled down the velvet sky. Olesya tried to imagine what this scholarship on the other side of the world would be like without her big brother.

The snow squeaked under Zakhar’s jacket. He rubbed his face with a gloved hand and she realized he’d been crying. The fireworks had faded now, golden glitter in the night.”

Project GATE aims to make the perfect killers. By combining extensive testing, combat and assassin training, brainwashing techniques and an engineered virus, Project GATE gets unquestioning, loyal and adjustable soldiers.

After one of their tests, Olesya, together with other team-members, is broken out of Project GATE by the Sixth Column and de-programmed. The Chimera Vector took us through that process and it was not fun for either the programee or the de-programmer.  Getting de-programmed is only the beginning of Olesya’s life with a mind of her own. Now the Sixth Column wants her to be their soldier. She, and the others from her old team, fight to free other Fifth Column members and to find their own people who seem to be disappearing. Theirs is a race against time and a superior power.

It turns out the Sixth Column is not only fighting against the Fifth Column but also against an organization whose members wear white armbands. All of these conspiracies give us much action, well-written action. With his background, Farrugia has the tools for being able to make the fighting realistic. Realism by itself, would not work well for some of the car-chases, so we get a bit of Bondism as well.  We reacquaint ourselves briefly with Sophia and it is interesting to see what that tells us about the Sixth Column.

Helix was fun, had great flow and interesting people who kept me entertained. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


My reviews of other Fifth Column stories


Helix, Episode 1 is available at Amazon

Lynn, Elizabeth A.: Watchtower (Chronicles of Tornor I) (1979)

“Tornor Keep was dead and burning.

Ryke’s face was soot-stained, and his wrists were skinned raw where he had torn them twisting in his chains. His head ached.”

From this moment we are in the company of Ryke, a man who remains in a state of shock through the story. All of his friends, his leaders and his place in the world and loyalties have been torn from him. He thought he understood war, but he had never seen it from the side of the loser. War is much more brutal and bloody when you are not the winner. Why he has been kept alive when the rest of the Keep (excluding the women who were raped and kept on as chattel) was killed is a mystery to Ryke.

Then Col Istor (master of the invaders) shows him why. Errel, Prince of Tornor until the invaders took the keep, is still alive. Given a beating, but still alive. In return for keeping him that way, Ryke must pledge his service to Istor. Ryke gives the only pledge he feels capable of keeping. It is accepted.

“I’ll serve you,” he said, “with loyalty, as long as Errel’s left alone and unharmed.”

The Northern border is a land where the gap between male and female is immense. As is usual in such societies, women are meant for marriage, childbirth and possibly healing of the kind wise women did. Men, well, men. I am glad Elizabeth A Lynn wrote this book the way she did. Ryke’s prejudices are challenged. Lynn shows us that  prejudices do not necessarily change even when confronted with evidence and anecdotes. This has been my experience as well, and I find it just as frustrating as Sorren and Norres expressed.

“The other was unimportant. It happened to all women. In war you could not even call it rape.”

Ryke is used to being in “middle management”. He likes leadership, but only to a certain extent. Beyond that, he prefers having another person tell him what to do and, to a certain extent, what to think. Errel (Prince to Ryke) is supposed to fill that spot, but Errel is not willing to play along. He challenges Ryke to think for himself and to make his own choices. Ryke hates that. At times I have wanted people to choose for me. Often I wonder if that is the way most of us want the world to be. If others choose for us, perhaps we have less responsibility? But I would not choose to have Ryke’s fear of choice. In the end, neither would he.

Definitely recommended.

P.S: I have not been able to find a link to Elizabeth A. Lynn anywhere.

P.P.S: “The art of the chearis, as it is described, resembles in some aspects the Japanese martial art aikido, created by Master Morihei Uyeshiba. This imitation is deliberate. Writers must write what they know. In gratitude for that knowledge, the author respectfully wishes to thank her teachers.” (Dedication page)


1980 World Fantasy Award


Reviews:


Watchtower is available on scribd.com


Translations:

Jensen, Megg: Anathema (Cloud Prophet I) (2011)

Keeping slaves is generally not something people openly admit  today. Many countries continue this practice and my contention is that most states participate in this tradition while closing our minds and eyes to that fact. Traditionally, people have become slaves either through being conquered by another nation, power-hunger or through criminal acts.

Sometimes being conquered happens via false promises. Such is the case with the Serenian island in Anathema. Serenians were lured by promises of help from the Malborn. Once the Malborn were in force on the island, it took ten years for them to eradicate opposition. Criminals were those who would not obey the three “rules” Malborn leaders had set as a condition of harmony between the two people. “Trust, adore and obey” was what the Malborn required from the Serenians. Once you were deemed a criminal you would either be killed or enslaved along with your entire family. Add to that their military prowess, and the Malborn were bound to win.

Reychel remembers nothing but slavery. At fifteen slaves were branded with their master’s mark. This mark and their shaved heads clearly divided slaves from the rest of the population and it also make it extremely difficult for successful escapes to happen. Kandek, her master, is about to lose two of his slaves, one of whom is Reychel. The other is Ivy, Reychel’s best friend. First out is Ivy.  Fortunately for Reychel, her turn comes soon after. Her escape was public and unusual.

When slavery is all a person has known all sorts of things about being a free person had to be learned. There was a whole network set up to help escaped slaves deal with their new status. Blending in was vital. Both of them also had to come to terms with Reychel having magic powers of some sort. Ivy already knew about hers. Her ability to calm others, even to the point of forcing them to do things, becomes an important element of the story. Learning Reychel’s ability is also essential. The reader knows this long before Reychel does.

Another discovery Reychel ends up making is the value of her friendship with Ivy. Why did Ivy want her rescued, and why is Ivy acting so strange now that they are out of slave quarters? Sometimes people have different opinions of what friendship is and what friends are for.

Usually, slaves weren’t worth enough for a master to mount a search for too long. That was the case with Ivy. Reychel, however, was the exception to the rule. Kandek will not give up. If not for the friendship of one of the militia both girls would have been caught within the first weeks. There is a love interest with Marc, the militia guard. Another discovery about Ivy is the result of that interest.

Ivy is a fun character. Reychel is in line with a young adult hero type. So is Marc. All three are important to the story and the action-filled adventure Megg Jensen gives us.

Recommended.


Reviews:


Anathema can be found at Amazon

Ee, Susan: End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days III) (2015)

… “Hey, you! Dinnertime! I’m over here, you scabby rats! Come and get me!”

The Hyundai is rocking with hellions as they pile on. I’m about to screech out of the lot – or at least make donuts until all the hellions head my way and leave the rest of the people alone – when I feel a thump. The car drops on one side. Then I see the shredded rubber of a tire being flung over the hood.

That was the front tire.

I stare dumbly at the ripped-up tire as it flops and wobbles to a standstill in the parking lot.

Then so many hellions pile onto my car that I can’t see the tire anymore.

I stroke the fur of my teddy bear. It’s all I can think to do.

Pooky Bear can’t help me in a vehicle. Not a lot of room to slice and dice.

That means I need to exit the car if I want a chance at getting out of this.

I sit in the car.

I wonder how long a person can stay in a vehicle.

But then, of course, the hellions begin pounding on the windshield. (p. 105)

Susan Ee, End of Days

Jackson, Ros: Melody of Demons (Kaddon Keys I) (2015)

Melody of Demons

I had an “aha” experience reading Melody of Demons. Asperger that I am, life apparently affects my ability to read a story. A recent family crisis brought out chaos in my head. To deal with that chaos, I unconsciously shut off certain cognitive processes, one of which was my ability to digest stories. Not until now, have I recognized doing this. What this meant with regards to Melody of Demons was that I had to keep on reading it until I could absorb what I was reading. Annoying as hell, yet an interesting observation for myself and possibly for others out there.

“Well, that was … a sermon. That’s certainly what it was. I think we all learned a valuable, no a lesson. That we already knew. Yes, one thing you can say for my father’s froth-mouthed rants, is they’re definitely spoken with words.”

Statements like this are in part why I enjoy Ms. Jackson’s writing so much. Her sense of humor fits my own. Yet that humor points to serious issues. In this instance, Ms. Jackson showed me how much certain people enjoy going on and on about their prejudices. Poor Aivee had to endure the rantings of a man who had it in for her kind of people, i.e. half krin/half human.

In this medieval world called Tazelinn, magic exists. For some people, only certain types of magic are acceptable. Krin aren’t human-looking at all (except maybe the bi-pedal part), but somehow they have an innate magic that enables them to shift to human and even interbreed. Aivee is the result of this ability. In all ways she seems human. But that shape must be maintained at all times. Her default shape is krin and her greatest fear is that others discover that she is different. I like the way Ms. Jackson shows us what a strain passing is for Aivee.

“She hadn’t noticed before how disconcerting the rhythm was, like the breath of a monstrous beast in her ear. Now everything was more solid, more real. She ran her fingers of the floorboards and felt the grain of them and their unyielding hardness, as though for the first time.”

Aivee’s innate magic appears to be based on sound or music. In Aivee’s case she uses music. As the story unfolds, we see her gain confidence in her abilities while she remains desperate in her need to hide her krinness.

Through misadventure, Aivee comes in contact with the Kaddon Keys. Finding a less qualified vigilante group would take some work. Yet the Kaddon Keys is the only thing The Missing have between themselves and being lost forever. Kaddon’s Guards (police) certainly aren’t looking for them.

Good intentions are a great place to start, but planning would make the difference between being beat almost to death and success. The Kaddon Keys tend to end up with a severe need for healing. Thankfully, they have their own healer. Duando uses crystal magic to help the Keys survive. Three other members are the owner of the Cross Keys, Fendo, and his two children Riko and Lendia. Riko is a prime example of a patriarchal society with his views on women and their abilities.

The only one of the three women in the group who fights to be seen as equal to the men is Niro. Niro’s sister has become one of the many missing in Kaddon. Not knowing where her sister is, drives Niro to demand a place in the group. Soon after she becomes possessed by a voice that fights for control of Niro’s brain. There is one advantage to this possession. Niro gains the ability to fight with and without weapons, but she must allow the voice control of her body while still remaining in charge herself. I do not envy her that challenge. This voice is the reason Aivee became a member of the Kaddon Keys.

Kaddon has its own gangs, and they each have a territory. Like all gangs, the Neffar are extremely territorial and they think the Keys are competitors. Their fearless and feared leader Leussan does her best to make the Keys history. The Neffar aren’t the only ones who end up wanting the Keys gone. They have angered the Guards, the corrupt nobles and whoever is behind the kidnappings as well. How they are going to do the missing any good is a mystery only Ms. Jackson knows how to solve. She will have to guide the Keys to the missing and save them from the above and several others who come their way.

Melody Demon was a fun adventure story to read. It can be read on its own, yet we are left in no doubt that there will be at least one more story. I look forward to it.


Melody Demon was given to me by the author.