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

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HE MIGHT BE STILL ON MARS

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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A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.

TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS

A curious scientist stumbles on mysterious ruins in the opening chapters of this science fiction epic.

Things are really turning around for Kira Navárez. A xenobiologist, she’s finishing up a stint doing research on the large moon Adrasteia with a small team of other scientists, and her boyfriend, Alan, has just proposed to her. Instead of continuing to spend months apart, working on different planets and waiting until they can be together, they'll be able to ask their employers to make them part of a colony as a couple. As Kira performs a few routine last-minute checks before their team leaves the system, something strange catches her eye. She decides to check it out, just to be thorough, and finds herself in the middle of an ancient structure. When her curiosity gets the better of her and she touches a pedestal covered in dust, a bizarre black material flows out and covers her entire body. She passes out as she's being rescued by her team, and when she comes to, she seems to be fine, and the team reports her findings to the government. But soon a kind of strange, alien suit takes over her body, covering her with black material that lashes out violently against Alan and the other scientists, forming spikes that jump out from her skin. A military ship comes to collect what's left of the team and investigate the reports of an alien discovery. When an alien species attacks the ship, presumably because of Kira’s discovery, Kira will have to learn to harness the suit’s strange powers to defend herself and the rest of the human race. Paolini, best known for the YA epic fantasy series The Inheritance Cycle, makes his adult debut in another genre that welcomes long page counts. This one clocks in at close to 900 pages, but the rollicking pace, rapidly developing stakes, and Paolini’s confident worldbuilding make them fly by. Perhaps not the most impressive prose, but a worthwhile adventure story.

A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-76284-9

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

GIDEON THE NINTH

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: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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