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nrlymrtl has commented on (214) products.

A Little Short for an Alien: Short Story Collection by Frances Pauli

nrlymrtl, November 23, 2014

This collection of short stories consists of 5 pretty short pieces and 1 longer story. If I misspell any character or place names in this review, please forgive me as I was listening and not reading. Over all, it is a great collection and humorous, and sometimes serious, science fiction.

Braided

Lietenant Commander Roe has braids. It’s part of his thing, his personal identity. Unfortunately, you can’t climb the ladder in the space navy with long hair. You can, however, get your braids caught in the automated doors (which leads to having amused friends). This was a very amusing, short story that brought together braids, job insecurity, space jelly fish, and hopeful romance. And it did it well.

Escape From Damas Prime

Rook & Tool are brothers. Tool and his wife recently were approved to breed. Rook chats privately with his brother about the Progressive Thinkers, who Tool thinks are all radicals. There is a secret mission to leave their place, explore the rest of the galaxy/universe, and find out if their race is still hated. Deet (a Progressive Thinker) is slated to go on this mission, but Rook will be sucked into help more than he initially signed on to do.

This story left me with lots of questions: Are these guys more machine than animal? Are they virtual beings trapped in a computer program? What will happen to their mission? It was well written but I hope there will be (or is) more to the story.

Sector 7

A bored paperpusher, Dylan, is stuck at work on the boring night shift. Nothing ever happens. He will be lucky to have just one worker pop on by for their regular drug screening. And then a huge ursine alien walks in, grunts a lot, and falls to the floor, her belly moving. Things just got a whole lot more interesting.

This was a very short story, and a classic tale, but it was still fun to watch Dylan go from whining about his boring job to trying to convince Medic to send some personnel to his office right away. It got more than 1 chuckle out of me.

A Brief Interruption

Captain Jules as an ongoing argument with her spaceship’s AI as she struggles to win victorious over the attacking space squids. As we quickly learn, this is her avatar blinking in and out of the game.

Again, this was a really short story, and I also enjoyed it quite a bit. Enjoying my PC games, and also having spotty internet connections whenever it rains, snows, or is windy, I could relate to this. I was amused.

Tricopier 6000XT

We are back with Dylan from the story Sector 7. Again, it is another boring night shift. He rustles through the shifts mail only to find that Medical’s mail has been delivered to him accidentally. Before he can work up the motivation to walk it up to them, something many-toothed and alien escapes from one of the packages and proceeds to climb up his leg. Of course, he rings Medical for immediate assistance and this leads to all sorts of embarrassment for Dylan and high amusement for me. This was probably my second favorite story in the book.



Alien Embrace

This was the prime jewel in this collection and my favorite. It is also the longest, so we got to spend the most time with the characters (and that is probably one of the reasons I enjoyed it a bit more than the others). Jo Lorey, a musician, has been brought out to this alien planet by the mining company. The mining management need to do their best to verify that the planet is not inhabited by any intelligent, self-aware, society-building species. Jo’s friend, Hillary has caught one of the Warblers (as the somewhat reptile/bird-like aliens are called) for observation. She has tried every way she knows how to attempt communication with it and has failed. However, they have noticed that the Warblers create a type of music. Jo is there to attempt communication through the music of her flute.

This was a beautifully written story that had a very poignant ending. Ah! I hope the best for Jo and the Warblers but fear the worse! Excellent story.
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Dying for a Living by Kory M. Shrum

nrlymrtl, November 23, 2014

Jesse Sullivan is a necronite and hired as a consultant by the government to participate in federally sanctioned life regenerations. Basically, a client pays a fee to the company, an AMP (a simple acronym for a fancy term for psychic) is consulted, and a necronite is assigned to shadow the person on the day of their predetermined death. When death comes, someone has to walk through the tunnel of light into the void and that is what Jesse is paid to do. Don’t worry, she regenerates in anywhere from a few hours to a day later (depending on the circumstances of death). The story opens on the morning of her 67th death as she meets her client, her life assistant (Allie) in tow. He’s a pretty dull business man and sure enough, Jesse saves him later in the day, after many hours of watching him make boring calls and process paperwork. The most exciting thing about this man was his use of improper slang, such as ‘zombie’ for necronite.

The 68th death was much more interesting. Jesse was assigned to a prostitute. Yep, Jesse got an education during this day’s work. These were some of the best scenes of the book, having me laugh out loud. Who was pretending to be the boat again? What are we bending the other direction? Of course, Jesse has to stay in the same room as the client the entire time, so she got to play a different role for each of the prostitute’s clients throughout the day, including a sex worker in training. Ha!

The story gets a little deeper when someone tries to outright kill Jesse (yes, even zombies can be killed) and it is just luck that her friends are able to save her in time. This event is the start of a deeper mystery for Jesse, Allie, and Lane (Jesse’s friend with benefits). There’s a lot of people and groups, including many religious organizations, that see the necronites as unnatural. It’s hard to nail down just which group or which individual wanted Jesse dead for good. Her case handler, Brinkley, goes missing and suspicion falls on him.

But then things get even weirder for Jesse. Most necronites don’t recall much of their lives before their first regeneration. Jesse’s first death was due to a barn fire. She has a complicated and sometimes painful past; as the story moves forward, Jesse has to start working through some of that. Then we have Gabriel, a black winged, suited man that only she can see and interact with. Now Jesse must question her own sanity.

I really enjoyed this fast paced urban fantasy. It used science to explain (sort of, it’s still fiction) the regenerations and then placed it within a boring government job. Jesse’s ability isn’t unique (there are others, although not bunches, like her) and it is used like a tool in her weekly job. I really liked this new take on zombies. With our current culture saturated with zombie books, movies, tv, music, costumes, games, etc., I wasn’t sure I would find this book interesting. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that I didn’t want to put the book away.

And there was a love triangle! I despise love triangles in general, feeling that they are also overused in the last 10 years. But this one was different. Jesse wants simple �" like friends with benefits kind of simple. She’s not looking for a long-term, deep connection kind of relationship. But both her lovers are. Plus our main character is bisexual (without it being a big deal). I loved this aspect because Jesse was so many things �" government consultant, snarky wit, center of some big mystery �" and oh, yeah, she also swings both ways. It was footnote to her character, not the main aspect. So the love triangle really worked for me, adding to the character building instead of ticking me off.

I almost passed on this book and I am ever so glad I did not. There’s a lot of cool stuff that happens in the second half of the book, but I don’t want to toss spoilers around. Let’s say that there is plenty of action, some sacrifice, more character development, and more dealing with the past. It’s excellent. I am very much hoping Book 2 in the series makes it’s way to audio as well.
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A Pack of Wolves 2: Skyfall by Eric S. Brown
A Pack of Wolves 2: Skyfall

nrlymrtl, November 23, 2014

Note: This is Book 2 and I have not listened to Book 1 as I thought it would stand alone. It almost does. The plot is easy to grab on to, but the characters are introduced so quickly and little background is given that I lost track of who was who. So I recommend giving Book 1 a read/listen before venturing into this book.

OK, so we got aliens in mech suits stomping around our fair cities, rounding up humans for unknown uses. Then we have the werewolf pack lead by Zed Farr. His family and their friends are the only ones who can save humanity. There was at least 1 vampire in the mix and a sorcerer (though he might have also been a werewolf who just happens to be trained in the wizardly arts). Plenty of action and weapons make up the plot of this book. Oh, and death. Yes, there is death. In fact, I am not sure there will be a Book 3 in this series.

If I recall correctly, we started with Brian, who seems to have gone off on his own, lone wolfing it. He is gathered back into the family fold to battle the aliens. Zed, who takes on a southern USA hick accent (even though he is far older and can probably mimic any number of world-wide hicks), is the family’s leader. Then we had other players like Jennifer, Brooke, Nathan. But honestly, they were introduced so quickly with little to no background that I didn’t really get a sense of them. Also there is some rivalry between the Blood (trueborn werewolves) and the Turned (or was it Changed? �" those that were bit and turned werewolf). One of the short stories gives a little more info on this, but largely it was pretty sketchy.

The action is fun, though the plot is very, very basic �" kill the aliens before they kill you and eat you. While an alien or two have 2-4 lines late in the story, we never get any background on them and why they have invaded Earth and what their endgame is. Still, it was a fun lunch break listen. Honestly, it made me think of one of my PC games where I can just run around as a good(ish) guy and smash evil guys.

At the end of this novella, there were 2 short stories. I think they might have been better at the front to give the listener some background to a few of the characters. They were a nice addition to the audio version.
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Drawing Dead: A Tale of Poker and Vampires by Scott Mckenzie

nrlymrtl, November 23, 2014

The story is told using a few flashbacks to bring the reader up to date on how Eddie Nelson got to this deplorable state. A Brit, he and his girlfriend came to Las Vegas for a vacation. He returned home to nurse his blossoming addiction for on-line poker. That on-line addiction grew to playing in live tournaments. Soon, he was playing professionally, and living by himself. Fast forward to present day and Eddie has been on a losing streak for weeks now. He’s out of money, considering who he can call to wrangle a plane ticket home when a sketchy stranger buys him a beer. Raphael wants to stake him in a high-stakes game. If Eddie wins, he gives half his winnings to Raphael. If he loses, then Eddie has to do Raphael a favor and play in a private poker tournament.

This tale started off a little slow for me and I think that is because I don’t play poker and some of the lingo was lost on me. There was a quick run down of game rules and terms at the beginning of the book, but such a list is hard to absorb in audio form. Anyway, the story does pick up with the flashbacks of Eddie spiraling into the poker addiction whirlpool. I really enjoyed watching Eddie go from a winning high to another high to another high and then the bum of a loss, and then another loss, and finally to the point where Raphael finds him.

And I guess I am free to talk about the Las Vegas vampire aspect since there is line about these poker vampires in the book’s description. The vampires don’t show up until about half way through the book. Mckenzie has created this whole underworld society in Vegas for these vampires. Even the taxi drivers know about them; or know enough to not ask questions. This part of the book was the true story, and the gem of the tale. It was for more interesting, suspenseful, and messy. Not everyone makes it out alive.

For much of the book, there are no females. Sure, Eddie had a girlfriend that had one or two lines at one point, but she didn’t play a real role in the story. There is an epilogue to the tale told from a woman’s stand point. It is done well, so one can see that the author is very capable of writing female characters. But it would have been nice to make some of the other players, a dealer, or even a few of the vampires female. We make up 50% of the population (even more as a generation ages because men just don’t last like us ladies) so why not have them make up 25% or more of the characters in a book? But that is my only complaint.
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Fire and Sword by Louise Turner
Fire and Sword

nrlymrtl, November 23, 2014

John Semphill finds himself in a world of hurt upon awakening on a bloody battlefield in the summer of 1488, Scotland. King James III went to over with his own son, Prince James. John’s father, Thomas Semphill, insisted they fight for the King; this pitted them against one of their decades-old foe, Lord Montgomerie. And King James and his armies have lost. Thomas Semphill is dead and John’s prospects of being a knight in good standing are looking slim indeed.

I really enjoyed the writing of this novel �" the grittiness of the battlefields, of life in general, really stuck with me. I felt that this book was well researched (though I know extremely little about Scottish history, so take my opinion with a grain of salt). From the food to clothes to family names, I feel like I got the 15th century Scottish experience in reading this book. I especially liked that Turner included a note about family names, personal names, and designations at the very beginning. So many characters had the same first name as this was truly the style at the time. But I felt she made the reading easy by referring to characters by their designations (i.e. John of Ellestoun) when clarity was needed.

The characters themselves were complex. John starts off as a rather unsure teenager trying to please his father, along with his mother and sister. But once his father is dead, he is the man of the family now and all eyes turn to him to keep the family line alive and well. Indeed, John had to do some quick growing up in this novel.

Lord Montgomerie, who initially comes off as a proficient warrior and something of a brute becomes more complex as the story unfolds. While initially an enemy of John (and Montgomerie did fight for the winning side in the battle that killed John’s father), the two become allies of a sort. The women, Helen, Margaret, and Mary (among others) bring their own views to the events of the story and aren’t just window dressing.

Because I know so little of Scottish history, I did find myself lost at times in the big picture. On one hand, I wanted to pop over to Wikipedia to look up some of these historical figures to get a better sense of what was going on, but I didn’t want to spoil the larger plotline for myself. So, I had to muddle through a few areas due to my lack of knowledge.
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