A solidly entertaining and sometimes enthralling interplanetary yarn.

IN THE ORBIT OF SIRENS

In Bruno’s debut SF series starter, refugees of a cyborg invasion colonize a distant, exotic world only to find bizarre and terrifying new threats.

In the future, humans on Earth have had to contend with an uprising of cyborgs called the Undriel, who are reminiscent of the Borg of the Star Trek universe. Human survivors in a war spanning the solar system wind up making a final stand on Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. The Undriel overwhelm them, but young mechanic Denton Castus and his family manage to flee just in time by joining tens of thousands of humans in stasis as part of a desperate plan called the Telemachus Project. They take a 300-year flight to a habitable planet called Kamaria, which is “Earth-like, but different from Earth in a lot of ways.” For example, the exotic and potentially dangerous life-forms, from airborne bacteria to a race of technologically advanced, psychic flying humanoids called the Auk’nai, are very different, indeed. In a flashback, a previous Telemachus Project ship lands on Kamaria and its passengers make a tentative accord with the Auk’nai and explore the immediate vicinity, which includes a forbidding, abandoned city. There, a malevolent influence possesses war hero Roelin Raike. The two story threads come together when Denton awakens on Kamaria and integrates into the colonists’ society, where a long-ago incomprehensible crime is a lingering trauma. Before long, Denton also begins to feel the same psychic presence that afflicted Raike. Bruno is a highly imaginative and natural storyteller, conjuring numerous technologies, cultures, and creatures and providing a particularly spectacular ending. SF fans may detect echoes of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, TV’s Babylon Five, the blockbuster film Avatar, and other works; the smoothly polished prose and snappy pace are reminiscent of a no-nonsense master thriller author such as Alistair Maclean. The technology and biology descriptions don’t get in the way of the suspense, and the references to ancient Greek legend sharpen the backstory of Kamaria’s godlike aliens, who do indeed seem mythic. Hall’s illustrations feel like a tribute to the material’s stated origin—a comic book that Bruno created in elementary school.

A solidly entertaining and sometimes enthralling interplanetary yarn.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73464-701-3

Page Count: 514

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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The perfect blend of sweet, sexy romance and a riveting, high-stakes survival story.

ICE PLANET BARBARIANS

From the Ice Planet Barbarians series , Vol. 1

A woman stolen by aliens crash-lands on an ice planet and finds love.

Dixon’s wildly popular series—it’s a fan favorite on TikTok and has a podcast dedicated to deconstructing each episode—is finally coming to print. In this first installment of the series, Georgie and at least a dozen other 22-year-old women are stolen from their homes on Earth by green aliens. Something goes wrong, and the aliens abandon their human cargo on an icy planet the women dub Not-Hoth. After engineering an escape plan, Georgie becomes their de facto leader. She bundles up and trudges out to find help and meets Vektal, a 7-foot blue alien and the leader of his tribe, the Sakh. His people have developed a symbiotic relationship with an organism called the khui, which allows the Sakh to survive the brutally cold temperatures of their home planet. Vektal’s people mate for life, but since there are very few women left, he has resigned himself to life without a partner. When he sees Georgie and his khui resonates, a physical response akin to purring, he knows she is destined to be his mate. Explorations of coercion, consent, and free will are woven throughout the story. Vektal’s unorthodox greeting shows that consent might operate differently in his world; but in the end, he learns that humans trapped in the worst of circumstances will still fight to control their own destinies. The book is fast-paced and sexy, but the major appeal might be Vektal. He is a romance main character stripped down to the core: desperate to find his partner and willing to do anything to keep her happy.

The perfect blend of sweet, sexy romance and a riveting, high-stakes survival story.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-54602-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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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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