A detailed, if blandly plotted, SF adventure with great tech.


A futuristic bounty hunter goes on a lucrative mission to Mars to find a businesswoman’s husband in Dalzell’s SF novel.

It’s the 26th century, and as this book opens, bounty hunter Owen Bone is looking for a kidnapped teenage girl named Solange who’s being held hostage by a drug dealer. Owen and his robot sidekick, Sandi, manage to rescue the girl; it’s revealed that Owen has formidable skills as a mercenary and that the robot has seemingly limitless strength, and both of these factors prove invaluable during the mission. There’s no time for the pair to rest, though, as businesswoman and scientist Stella Ling recruits them to find her husband, a member of the Chinese Politburo who’s taken off to the colonized planet Mars with a sizable chunk of Stella’s money and other valuables. Owen is happy with the promise of a $10 million payment, but once he’s on the red planet, he faces unexpected obstacles. As he and Sandi become acquainted with the Martian bureaucracy, they realize that the job was actually a ruse, and their true objective is to eliminate a sly and powerful man named Wilson Black. Owen and Sandi find themselves tested as he leads them on an interplanetary chase that pushes them to their limits. Dalzell offers an intriguing vision of Earth in the future that eagerly dives into details regarding the financial and political workings of China, Russia, and other countries. Along the way, it also provides some darker sections that deal with greed, mining, and developing worlds that never really develop. The Mars colony, the spaceships, and the robotics all come with unique inventions and advancements, which only further highlight Dalzell’s impressive worldbuilding. The main plot, however, is a rather simple space-based caper with a bit of cat-and-mouse, and occasional typos in the text distract from the novel’s strengths.

A detailed, if blandly plotted, SF adventure with great tech.

Pub Date: April 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73460-550-1

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

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Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.


From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 1

This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery.

Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition...and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences.

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31319-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An ambitious but plodding space odyssey.


Having survived a disastrous deep space mission in 2038, three asteroid miners plan a return to their abandoned ship to save two colleagues who were left behind.

Though bankrolled through a crooked money laundering scheme, their original project promised to put in place a program to reduce the CO2 levels on Earth, ease global warming, and pave the way for the future. The rescue mission, itself unsanctioned, doesn't have a much better chance of succeeding. All manner of technical mishaps, unplanned-for dangers, and cutthroat competition for the precious resources from the asteroid await the three miners. One of them has cancer. The international community opposes the mission, with China, Russia, and the United States sending questionable "observers" to the new space station that gets built north of the moon for the expedition. And then there is Space Titan Jack Macy, a rogue billionaire threatening to grab the riches. (As one character says, "It's a free universe.") Suarez's basic story is a good one, with tense moments, cool robot surrogates, and virtual reality visions. But too much of the novel consists of long, sometimes bloated stretches of technical description, discussions of newfangled financing for "off-world" projects, and at least one unneeded backstory. So little actually happens that fixing the station's faulty plumbing becomes a significant plot point. For those who want to know everything about "silicon photovoltaics" and "orthostatic intolerance," Suarez's latest SF saga will be right up their alley. But for those itching for less talk and more action, the book's many pages of setup become wearing.

An ambitious but plodding space odyssey.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-18363-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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