Romance

Tales of Brave Ulysses (Timeline 10/27/62)

Tales of Brave Ulysses (Timeline 10/27/62) is the sixth book by James Philip in a Brit-centric alternate history take on the aftermath of a Cuban Missile Crisis turned spasmodic WW3. Over in hours, or so it seems, but everything is changed.

I love this title. The author has a fondness for using song titles as book titles, and the Cream song of the same name is one of my favorites.

This is the last one out as I write this, and thus the last in my reread project for this spacific series. There is a parallel series, currently at three books, set from an American perspective, largely in the United States.

Fair warning: This books ends in the cliffhanger to eclipse his previous cliffhangers. Unless you have paid unnatural attention to detail, you will end the book by crying out “nooooooooo!” I admire the skill that went into building that ending. Fantastic! Luckily, the next volume is out soon. I have preordered it. There will be enough chaos, even without Philip being proverbially ghost-written by GRRM.

Obviously, I love the series. I have pointed out some modest complaints previously. The need for editing continues. Other things improved, or didn’t strike me as hard. Your mileage may vary. I can see some people simply not liking the type of story at all, or failing to get into it at the beginning.

By the end of this book, there has been some cutting to the chase, so to speak. What is known versus what is not known is always a driver of story, but ultimately must resolve for a conclusion to occur. Things look grim, but people who need to know now do, with help from the most surprising of sources. And there needs to be some action! Some tidying up loose ends. The next book is the last set in the sixties, within the years immediately following the nuclear madness. There will be two more, but the last is going to be set a decade later. That could be intriguing.

The Burning Time (Timeline 10/27/62)

The Burning Time (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 5) by James Philip is the fifth in a series of alternate history books, which together will complete an overall story arc, with a point of departure in which the Cuban Missile Crisis gets critical. It proves to be no more the end of history than was the end of the Cold War, although the United States starts out perceiving it as such. Lack of vigilance, lack of complete information, vanity, and lack of appreciation for who your friends are has its price – especially for your friends.

This set of books in the timeline are mainly written from a British perspective. There is an additional, overlapping series showing events almost entirely in the United States, and from an American perspective. You might also say that a Maltese perspective plays a key role in this, the main series. Malta is certainly the star among locations. Finally, this volume, and some of the others, are not without the perspective of historical or imagined characters in or from foreign locations. More often you merely see the impact on world events of what antagonists are doing.

The Burning Time is a bargain $3.99 on Kindle. As mentioned previously, and so far true throughout the series, editing could have improved things. Not the story, but the effect of skidding to a halt in the flow when you, if you’re like me, run into a typo, spelling error, repeated word, or such. The story is so compelling, at least for me, and the major characters so dear to me, it is well worth errors and periodic trudges through expository setup.

Red Dawn continues to raise havoc, while there are signs of danger that could be described as elsewhere… elusive. We tend to believe what we want to believe, and to dismiss what seems farfetched. This book ends on gut-wrenching notes that again are something of a cliffhanger. Luckily you will not have to wait to be able to read book six. Book seven is another story, and the cliffhanger therein is the ultimate, but that’s another review.

Red Dawn (Timeline 10/27/62)

I’ve been slipping, so I actually finished Red Dawn (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 4) some time ago and didn’t immediately write a review. This is, as you’ll know if you’ve been following along at home, the fourth in the primary, Brit-centric Cuban Missile Crisis alternate history and aftermath series by James Philip. In fact, you will see three reviews in rapid succession, because I have also finished the fifth book, and am about to finish rereading the sixth book in the series. After which there will be a sad wait for the seventh.

It’s hard to write reviews that are interesting without containing spoilers. Red Dawn is $3.99, a Kindle bargain, naturally. It carries on with the need for editing, which didn’t hit me so hard on my first read through. I’ve actually been catching more errors of various types this time around, having become attuned to it, and because it’s a reread. If you can’t bear that kind of thing, you might want to pass. Also, I am not referring to British spellings or expressions, which are natural, considering. The wife recently observed that British English is currently gaining greater use in American English due to the popularity of BBC shows. This came up because a blogger friend of mine was told “speak English” in response to the expression “sod off.” I joked that sod off is British for “get off my lawn.”

Onward. Shockingly, something called Red Dawn comes to the fore in this volume. It continues to be clear that war is not done with the Anglosphere… even the Americans, and that the British and Americans need to be on the same side. The end is the usual cliffhanger, where you can’t be sure just how dire an outcome was until the next book. Good thing that’s already published!

Once again, well worth the read. With another caveat I ought have pointed out sooner, and which varies in degree from book to book in the series. There are swaths of exposition interspersed between action. Some is simply authorial exposition, and some is in the form of dry conversation or thoughts internal to a character. It does serve to set things up and move matters along, but it can be dull in places. Another picky thing is repetition of detail you’ve already seen enough that perhaps you need not see it again. If you are going to refer to “the Big Cats,” you should not need to clarify every single time that this refers to the ships HMS Lion and HMS Tiger. We don’t need to be retold every time that a particular character, a real historical figure, is a living national treasure yada yada. I’ve been finding that a bit grating on the reread, and it applies to the series, not to Red Dawn specifically.

That said, read it if you have any interest in this sort of thing. It really is great, picky details aside.

Love is Strange (Timeline 10/27/62)

Love is Strange (Timeline 10/27/62) by James Philip is the second in an excellent series of alternate history books based on the scenario of what if the Cuban Missile Crisis had turned hot. This is part of my reread project, to review books I read before this site existed. Well worth rereading, I might add, though I don’t remember noticing the large number of spots that needed editing when I first read it.

The author skillfully weaves a web of interconnections between characters who might have been disparate, while also making them live and breathe in a way that gets you emotionally engaged. That comes into its own in the second volume, where the first contained more informational narrative to set the scenario. Ultimately, the entire series centers around a pair of fictional characters. However, you get into the heads of historical figures, as well as a wide cast of secondary characters. Secondary is not to be confused with unimportant. Some of the insight described in this paragraph comes from my having read the entire series to date, and then entire USA timeline series that intertwines with it.

To reiterate from my review of the first volume, this series is Brit-centric. The Americans don’t come off looking too good after destroying large swaths of the world with too little provocation, forgetting their allies in the process, and behaving in ways perceived badly afterward. The world becomes an extremely dangerous place.

If you can get through the first volume without being annoyed that the USA doesn’t come of the hero, it moves along wonderfully from there. I know from having read it already, it just gets better from here.

It is funny the things you forget. I had forgotten how early a pair of mysterious characters joined the story. I had forgotten the introduction of some lesser characters. I had forgotten how obvious it was that a character you hear of more than see is a bad guy.

Highly recommended.

Operation Anadyr (Timeline 10/27/62)

Operation Anadyr (Timeline 10/27/62) by James Philip is the 99¢, abbreviated introduction to an extended alternate history series that imagines what if the Cuban Missile Crisis had turned hot. This is largely written from a British perspective. The author has since created a second, overlapping series set in the United States, from an American perspective.

This is part of my Operation Reread, which gives me a different take, perhaps, than had I reviewed the book immediately following my first read. Obviously I got hooked, given that I have read every one to date, and have preordered each next volume as it has become available. Hooked or not, I can see why I perceived this as the least compelling volume in the series. I can also see how some might perceive it as anti-American. It’s written from the perspective of people in the world hurt far worse than Americans, who in the context of fictional events and a fictional hindsight could be seen as trigger-happy bullies. It’s worth suspending any misgivings you may have along those lines.

This first book runs heavily toward factual exposition, mainly in the form of facts laid out in an excerpted future history book/memorial retrospective. That may feel heavy and slightly dull at times, or it may be fascinating. It serves to fill you in, regardless, so we may cut to the characters and their stories. The most central characters and their interaction is introduced nicely. We also meet a few additional characters of importance. It’s just the barest of setups, in a way; cataclysm… now what?

I cannot recommend the entire series enough, starting with this fast-reading introduction.

Gateway to Fourline

Gateway to Fourline is the first book in a trilogy by Pam Brondos. I received the Kindle edition free as part of a special preview program for Amazon Prime customers. It is a relatively short 295 pages for a relatively high $5.99 regular Kindle price.

Short take: I enjoyed it and am intrigued enough that I might be tempted to buy the second part, On the Meldon Plain, though not enough to pre-order it, even at the $5.99 price. But I’d rather pay, say, $3.99 for it. Book 1 is not a cliffhanger, so there is not a compelling need to see what happens next the way there could be. At the same time, you know that Nat is not done with Fourline or the fallout from the help she provided the people trapped in our world.

The story could be considered young adult, centering as it does on a financially challenged college student. It features two types of fantasy characters that are not ones we’ve seen before the way we have, say, elves and dwarves. On the other hand, it features the standard stolen throne sort of scenario, and people who use a tool of sorts that might remind you of Wheel of Time.

As expected when there is a publisher involved, it was well edited.

I definitely recommend it if the price point doesn’t bother you and you enjoy straightforward fantasy of the “person from our world enters an alternate realm and hijinks ensue” variety.

The Bellbottom Incident

Third and final volume in the Incident Series, The Bellbottom Incident by Neve Maslakovic ties things up nicely. Along the way, it gives us a higher proportion of adventure to buildup than the first two. That is, most of the book is a chase to the recent past. This was set up at the end of the second book when a time-orphaned teenager disappears to the past. The wrong past, as it turns out, since she only gets as far as 1976.

This is a great look at the rules of time travel as the author has imagined them, their implications in recent time versus far time, and at the role of human nature.

It is worth noting that these three books are more like one story in three volumes. You could read the first and walk away, but really, if you read more than that, you gotta read all three.

One of the locations in 1976 is the Fort Myers, Florida area. This tickled me, as I lived there for about six weeks at the beginning of 1986. If six weeks is long enough to describe as “lived there.” I took a semester off and stayed with a friend, his first wife and her daughter. Had he not decided they had had enough of Florida, the lack of decent jobs and people they could relate to, I would presumably have been there for at least a few months. I lived a stone’s throw from the Edison Mall and his summer home. I’ve been on the Sanibel Causeway, and even seen what it’s like in dense fog. I kind of liked the area, enough that I thought about trying to stay on my own when my friend moved back north. I just couldn’t see how I could swing it, and how I could do that and also complete college.

Personal history aside, I loved this book, and the set of them it completed. It was worth the $4.99, especially given that it was well edited. It’s not that it leaves absolutely nothing to your imagination, but it ends things satisfyingly, and without any obvious temptation for future books in the same fictional universe. Not that it couldn’t happen.

The Runestone Incident

The Runestone Incident is the second in the Incident Series by Neve Maslakovic. The series appears to be destined to be three and done, apart from a brief prequel that I have no plans to read.

This is a fairly direct sequel to the first, in that it helps to be aware what happened, and to know that you liked the concept and direction of these stories. In the background of all of them lurks a slow moving romance.

At the same time, the historical focus is completely different. Julia Olsen remains the delightful point of view character. The university in Minnesota, where she works, remains the central setting. The university’s time machine, used for a wide range of historical research, remains central to the plot and the inevitable hijinks.

This time it’s the Kensington Runestone, its authenticity and whether Scandanavians made it that far into the future United States during the fourteenth century. There are history lessons embedded in the fiction that I largely knew already. There is also authorial license with details we cannot know beyond a doubt happened one way or another. It is fiction, after all.

Once again, putting it down was a challenge. Since I reviewed the first book shortly after finishing it, and am doing the same with this one, you can see how closely this post follows that one. I blew through it avidly.

It is possible that you may find the build slow and have less patience for the preliminaries than I did. The serious action starts well into the book. Then again, if by serious action you think of it as climactic action, that makes sense. While these are science fiction, they are also a form of mystery. The build fits that.

Recommended, in case that wasn’t clear. I bought this Kindle edition on sale for $1.99. It is normally $4.99, the top of my preferred price range. I did pay full price for the third installment after finishing the first, and the second installment did nothing to make me regret that. I plan to read that next, despite a substantial queue of other options. Stay tuned.

Great Series

While you’re waiting for me to get around to reviewing them properly, ideally even book by book, I thought I’d throw out a list of some series that fall in the range of enjoyed to can’t get enough of them. In keeping with the general focus of this place, these are all low cost eBooks. Thus I won’t bother listing something like The Wheel of Time. Oh wait, I sort of just did.

Spinward Fringe by Randolph Lalonde is a fantastic, distant future SF saga that not only makes you think Firefly writ large, but contains unabashed references or homages to same, and to other bits of culture you may recognize. The first, prequel-like volume, linked, is free to get you started.

Timeline 10/27/62 by James Philip it a Brit-centric alternate history in which the point of departure is the Cuban Missile Crisis turning hot. This is the first series in which I have ever preordered the next book before it was released. I feel like I have shared the lives of Peter, Marijah and others, and cannot wait to see more. The abbreviated first volume, linked, will get you hooked for a mere 99¢. All are bargains. A secondary, USA-centric concurrent series is due to start releasing, appropriately, on October 27, even as the original continues.

Portals of Infinity by John Van Stry is a catchy fantasy series that I thought might be cheesy at first, but in fact is clever, distinctive, and hard to put down. The first is not introductory priced the way some first books in a series are, but it’s well worth $2.99.

Ark Royal by Christopher Nuttall is another Brit-centric SF series, which has become six books since I read and loved the first three, which frankly I thought tied things up neatly, but I guess I’ll see when I get around to the rest. Humanity’s first encounter with non-humans becomes interesting. The author is prolific and these are not his only books I have read and enjoyed, but the others so far have been standalones.

The Beast of Maug Maurai by Roberto Calas is one solid story in three parts, not quite like other fantasy that I’ve read, with seemingly hopeless odds, some deeper mysteries, and food for thought about duty. Seemingly contrary to how great the set was, the entire first volume in some ways read like a fleshed out version of gathering your band of characters for a D&D quest. Yet it felt real and memorable. I would love to revisit this world, the consequences and future developments. Then again, sometimes it’s fun to feed these things to our imaginations. I couldn’t put these down. I tend to read myself to sleep. Didn’t work with these. Lucky for me I found them after the series was complete

There are others I could probably name, but this covers most of the highlights of a couple years of reading primarily low cost Kindle books and making discoveries such as these.

Bad News

It is fitting and intentional that my first review post should be for the first novel by an author I have known online since she was twelve. She has always written well. The writing in the book is no exception, and to me sounded exactly like her, if you know what I mean.

The book is Bad News, by Maddy Pumilia. I paid $5.99 for the Kindle edition. This is more than my typical price range, but was reasonable for something I was eager to check out, and for something with a traditional publisher. It is also outside my usual genres.

Bad News is a suspenseful murder mystery with a playful side and, to my delight, a romantic angle. I am a sucker for the romance. The story was inspired by Maddy’s own journalism career background; the kind of “what if this happened…” that I have many times thought of in my own life, but zero times novelized.

Without giving away details beyond those blurbed on the book page, I found it all but impossible to put down. This is saying a lot, considering some of the amazing books I’ve read lately. Maddy cost me a bit of sleep. Whodunnit kept me guessing and speculating until the end. Recommended. Especially if romance and/or mystery are your thing.