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The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

The Burning DarkPremise: Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland is a war hero ready to retire. For his last assignment he has been sent to the remote U-Star Coast City, a space station being dismantled for decommission. It rests near the strange star known as Shadow, with eerie purple light that has incalculable effects on those who look at it. The remaining crew aboard the Coast City are less than friendly, and skeptical of the Fleet Medal Cleveland wears, especially once he discovers the mission where he saved an entire planet from being destroyed by spiders has been wiped from existence in the database.

Shadow causes all sorts of electrical malfunctions and interference with communication, but its light also causes the crew to hear and see things that may or may not really be there. When Cleveland picks up radio communications on the banned subspace channels, he discovers a message from far away and long ago. With creeping shadows and malfunctioning electronics, he and the rest of the crew begin to think they are seeing ghosts. Or perhaps it’s just the negative effects from the looming purple star.

Themes: Ida Cleveland does all he can to uphold honor and respect, especially with records of his heroics being wiped from all knowledge. Nobody on board the station believes he actually earned the prestigious Fleet Medal, and because of this he feels he must prove his own valor to the rest of the crew. As a retired captain, the other soldiers don’t pay him the same respect as if he were still an officer.

Friends are hard to come by in the remote space station, especially when Cleveland is new to the crew. He befriends a medic named Izanami, but sees her only occasionally on the large station. The established crew already have their allegiances, and nobody wants to give Cleveland a chance especially with there being no record of him earning his medal. Lacking any true friends, he spends most of his time alone in his cabin listening on his piecemeal radio.

Pros: The Burning Dark is creepy, and it gets progressively creepier. Christopher made some intense characters in The Burning Dark, with the space station and the nearby star gaining personalities of their own. Everything is suspect when it comes to trusting senses or how characters perceive their surroundings, including interactions with other people aboard the Coast City. I like that there are multiple dangers all around for everybody in the enemy spiders, churning shadows, and the ever-present star Shadow and its odd purple light, all within the vacuum of space.

Cons: Without giving a spoiler, I think it was about halfway through the book (before the author gives away one important secret) that I actually figured out one of the main secrets happening on this secluded station. It doesn’t make the story less creepy or intense, but it’s the angle the story later takes that I felt could have been left more ambiguous. Thankfully, I didn’t think it went off the rails at the end, but it left me with the feeling of being set up for another book.

Recommendations: I’ve read a couple other books from Adam Christopher that I’ve really enjoyed, but I’ll say this is probably my favorite of his I’ve read to date. In The Burning Dark, he’s done a thoughtful crossover between science fiction and horror that sits firmly in either genre. The story takes an unexpected turn at the end, but manages to keep the reader on their toes. While The Burning Dark stands on its own as a story, I would gladly read another set in this universe of cyborg insects and subspace ghosts. Read at your own risk. You might find yourself jumping at shadows and hearing voices in radio static.

Adam Christopher’s website
The Burning Dark on Goodreads
Buy The Burning Dark on Amazon

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Horror, Science Fiction

 

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The Deep Zone by James M. Tabor

The Deep Zone (Hallie Leland, #1)Premise: A deadly bacterial strain is introduced into a military hospital in Afghanistan, and it is from there that it makes its way back to the United States. Common antibiotics aren’t working on this mutation, and the only hope comes from a “moonmilk” from the deepest cave in Mexico that has the ability to fight off the most powerful of pathogens. And the person who discovered the moonmilk must go back in to get more samples, even though she was fired from her position for unexplainable reasons.

Hallie Leland is an expert diver, caver, and microbiologist, and she is just the person for the job to find the one thing that can potentially save the lives of millions. Hallie has been added to an elite team of hand-picked people with very specific specializations of diving, caving, and cultural experience to go deep into the cave to obtain more of the moonmilk while doctors in the U.S. fight off the quickly spreading infection with available means. The doctors themselves risk exposure to the infection, while their last hope goes on an incredibly dangerous recovery mission.

With the burden for salvation solely on Hallie’s shoulders to obtain the moonmilk and bring it back to synthesize a cure for the deadly ACE bacteria, the real source of the outbreak comes to light with players working every angle to achieve their own goals. Some shady dealings with foreign governments and private corporations reveal the real threats to the country and the world.

Themes: Trust becomes a problem as those who Hallie could depend on before lose their credibility, while others regain trust that was broken when she was let go from her previous position. Trusting the government to make wise decisions and to handle this outbreak effectively becomes essential for this team going on the moonmilk recovery mission.

One major theme in The Deep Zone centers around the governmental and private response of a major epidemic. Turnaround times for vaccines and treatments must be factored against the time it takes for such an epidemic to spread. And individual officials working for their own benefit threaten the fabric of the governments they work for.

Romance develops, especially toward the end, as Hallie begins to care about a member of her team. The imminent danger helps to fuel the feelings that are growing, with the chance of loss of the other person at any moment.

Pros: James M. Tabor obviously knows his stuff and has taken the time to do proper research into many facets of the story, especially when it comes to certain details. Different types of gear for diving, climbing, weapons, medical technology, and caving are all over The Deep Zone. The terminology is accurate for all these aspects, making sure not to dumb down anything for the reader’s sake. The action is pretty solid for most of the story and you get a real sense of danger, becoming especially perilous for any and all characters at key points throughout the story.

Cons: There are simply way too many descriptions in The Deep Zone. We get details into the types of military gear being used, the types of climbing gear, even the types of medical gear. The author might know a lot about the subject and have done his research, but I just stopped caring about these things halfway through the book. And the romance between the protagonist and a not quite main character seemed forced. I got the sense she didn’t care for him at first and at some point that seemed to change inexplicably. There is some deus ex machina stuff going on at the end that isn’t quite explained very well. The book could have probably been cut down another one hundred pages and had a better clip than it does without losing much in the way of its tone.

Recommendations: The Deep Zone is a serious adventure novel that includes political and military intrigue suitable for anyone looking for a lengthy intelligent read. The characters are fine, if not somewhat taking on characterizations of various personality traits. The most consistent part of the book are where the author takes the time to share the details of his knowledge and research of every aspect of the story, some of which makes the book drag at times. The Deep Zone has a serious tone that is consistent throughout, with language and terminology that lends to a more mature and intelligent audience. With all that said, The Deep Zone has a lot of everything, including some decent action, adventure, political intrigue, and even a little romance thrown in. It would have been even better if it were a shorter book.

James M. Tabor’s website
The Deep Zone on Goodreads
Buy The Deep Zone on Amazon
Download The Deep Zone for your Kindle
I received a copy from Goodreads to write this honest review.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Fiction

 

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Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole

Control Point (Shadow Ops, #1)Premise: Oscar Britton is an Army Lieutenant who is good at his job and is deeply ingrained in the military mindset, even when it means working alongside the Supernatural Operations Corps, a unit created to use the newly-forming magic in individuals known as Latents. These much-feared people use their magical abilities under control of the governments of the world to hunt down others with similar or outlawed forms of magic. But when Britton manifests a rare magical ability of his own, he finds himself on the run and hunted by the SOC.

Prohibited magic users, also known as Probes, are thought to be exterminated because of their danger. After being captured, Britton wonders about the rumors of exceptions being made for Latents with rare magic to be sent to reeducation and training camps. Britton is going to learn all about his abilities and the shadow world surrounding them. He is well-equipped to handle tough situations with his military background, but his understanding of everything is about to change.

Themes: Politics play a huge part in Control Point, especially being in a military setting and with world governments interacting and locking down on magic control. We learn there are even more politics at play when it comes to the shadow world. Our governments attempt to make claims on the shadow world, but the natives there might have something to say about it. And even in the shadow world, tribes of the locals war with each other. Corruption of governments controlling magic by limiting the rights of its own citizens who become Latent makes for politics at their worst.

Faith becomes a theme as religious characters like Therese use their faith to ground them, but also as characters question their faith as they come to grips with these people with magic abilities. Oscar Britton’s faith is shaken as he is ordered to shoot on high school students and as he comes to grips with corruption wielding powerful weapons at the expense of civil liberties.

Pros: The magic system of Control Point is thought out well and it is packed full of action. The elemental combined with physical and going from our dimension to another dimension is done pretty seamlessly, especially as the conflicts of the two realms intersect and play off each other. The politics of both worlds smash into each other and throw the characters into conflict that makes the best of the magic, especially showing how both sides differ in their use of the magic. There are intense action scenes with creative uses of the different forms of magic, and above all the author makes the best of his military background by showcasing it in the setting.

Cons: This is tough because there were times I loved the protagonist and times I hated him. Oscar is good at his job as a military officer and once he has guidance he learns to control his powers quickly, though for someone in the military he seemed quick to disobey orders. I’m not in the military so I don’t know the rules on chain of command and obeying orders, but I know insubordination is a big no-no. Worse than that, I had a problem with Therese. She is portrayed as a religious healer, though she is as foul-mouthed as a sailor, as is most everyone else, and too easily goes from her healing role to performing the outlawed act of Rending, the opposite of healing. Basically, the world is cool, the execution is slick, but there are some character problems. Flawed characters does not mean characters who go against their own moral or belief structures.

Recommendations: Shadow Ops: Control Point is a wonderful debut from Myke Cole. Though it has some character problems that need some tweaking, the setting and plot are very solid. The author’s military background really shines as he constructs a world of armies using magic. I was reminded of the issues of X-Men where the governments lock down on the mutants, but in Control Point we get magic mixed with military from someone with some real-world experience on the subject. Myke Cole is a stand out new voice in the realm of military fantasy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book in the Shadow Ops series to see what Oscar Britton and the rest of the Latents do next.

Myke Cole’s website
Shadow Ops: Control Point on Goodreads
Buy Shadow Ops: Control Point on Amazon
Download Shadow Ops: Control Point for your Kindle

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2013 in Fantasy

 

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