Series

California Dreaming

I finished this yesterday, but didn’t want to write and post the review the same day as Aftermath. This time James Philip brings us California Dreaming (Timeline 10/27/62 – USA), the second in his alternate history of the Cuban Missile Crisis gone hot from the perspective of the United States. The fantastic original series is from a British perspective.

The two series naturally interact, since these are the same events seen from different sides of the pond, through mostly different, if sometimes related, eyes. Coincidence stretches almost to the breaking point in the telling, but that can be the way of coincidence, so it’s not a real complaint.

Something sinister is happening behind the scenes. My personal theory is that the only reason for the October War in the first place was forces that didn’t exist or didn’t have their way in our own timeline. I could be wrong. Part of the beauty of the combined series it that there is such room to speculate and wonder. Having read the other series to date, I found myself anticipating larger events that would affect this (mostly) new set of characters. The author doesn’t disappoint, leaving things tantalizingly up in the air so we can’t wait for the next installment.

Something is rotten in America. Given that Americans were caught off guard by this, no wonder it was utterly baffling internationally.

The prices of $3.99 is a bargain for such an exceptional work. I had ordered in advance, so I had it in hand, virtually speaking, as soon as it released. Presumably the editing problems will be patched up in time, so you might see fewer or none. I’ve not seen as many errors in any of his other books. Mostly it’s wrong spellings, extra or missing words, as when you start to phrase a sentence one way and then change it, but leave a missing or dangling word. I’ve done the same many times. Too bad I can’t (as far as I know) flag a needed edit right from the Kindle.

That said, I would buy the entire rest of both sets on the spot, right now, if they were done, and read nothing but them until the conclusion. If there is a conclusion, per se, given that there’s an entire new timeline to play in, and endless possible repercussions. I would buy them in paperback, if they were available no other way. Your mileage may vary, but they are one of the best things I’ve read.

Aftermath

This review of Aftermath (Timeline 10/27/62 – USA) is sort of odd to write, given that I am waiting to reread the original series of Timeline 10/27/62 before reviewing those, which arguably should be read, at least the first one or two, first. The original set, starting with Operation Anadyr, have a British perspective. The Brits are in a hard way after nuclear cataclysm, complicated by the United States seemingly going mad.

All of these book are brilliantly written by James Philip. Aftermath was $2.99 and is just a bit longer than the abbrieviated Operation Anadyr, designed to get you hooked at 99¢.

Aftermath sets you up with various characters, some with familiar surnames if you’ve read the other series, and the events of the ever so brief October War from their perspectives. Where were you when the Cuban Missile Crisis went off the rails? It’s more intriguing, having read the other series, but probably not vital. We start to learn where the US was hit and how the personal and political might go down.

This book had more need for editing than I recall in the other series, if much less than the next one in the USA series. The advantage of electronic books is the ability to fix errors as readers find them. My inner editor sees every one of them, but I’ve gotten over being stopped cold when that happens. It helps that it’s hard to put down. The next one gets even more so, as I’m sure I’ll tell you again once I have finished it.

The Dreams of a Dying God

I got The Dreams of a Dying God (The Godlanders War Book 1) by Aaron Pogue on a special for $1.99. Based on nothing but the description, I might never have paid the normal price of $4.99. As it turns out, the other two books in the (I presume) trilogy are already out. That’s good, in that I am intrigued. That’s bad, in that I am not sure I am intrigued enough to pay $4.99 each for them. I have months of reading and rereading (to do justice in reviewing stuff I read before I launched this place) I can do before spending another dime on books. Not that I won’t. It’s a weakness. Especially when it seems to be a bargain.

When it came time to start this book, the early part of it had me going back to the description to remind myself what it was about and why a pirate was in the sands of what we might call North Africa, rescuing a slave and conducting a dig for a lost city.

Once it gets going, though, it is completely different from anything I have read. What is real? How does a god create or change reality? How does a god defend himself? How do myths and legends come about? How does reality in the past differ from how we understand it in the present?

I got a sense of quantum many worlds out of this book. That would explain the obvious match for our own world, but with different names, like Hurope. I thought the druids were a great touch. Something like them could make a fascinating story in its own right.

The more I reflect back over it, the more excited I am to read the sequels. I still think they are overpriced – I’d rather they be a buck or two lower – but at least they aren’t current paperback prices.

When I started this place, I had meant to include commentary in my reviews regarding the editing. Were their a lot of corrections needed? What made me think of it is the book I am currently reading, a favorite series, in which I am seeing regular errors. For instance, using the word raise in two different places when raze is the correct word. My inner editor cringes on hitting something like that. The Dreams of a Dying Good did not suffer from editing problems. It was solid.

Bottom line, this was a good book, a rather different fantasy, and you might enjoy it as much as I did. The discounted price I paid was a huge bargain. I’d rather not spend full price, but I lean toward it being worth rather than not worth it.

A last thought: The sequels intrigue me because I can’t begin to fathom what will take place in them. It is not that everything is neatly tied up at the end of this first book, but enough questions are answered to keep me from rushing into the next one because it’s a cliffhanger. I like that. Both the sense of relative completeness and the lack of predictability about where the story will take us subsequently.

The Fire Seekers

The Fire Seekers (The Babel Trilogy Book 1) is a hard-to-classify book by Richard Farr. I know I say this too often, but I found it hard to put down. I actually finished the last 20% of it after waking and being unable to fall back to sleep in the wee hours this morning.

You could call it science fiction. You could say it’s young adult, but it’s not really, apart from overlap. That is, readers in the YA market might also enjoy it, and appreciate the relative youth of the main character and his friends. Most of us, on the other hand, wouldn’t be able to relate to his extraordinary childhood, background, and, overt only as a plot factor at a couple of key points, wealth. More than a couple plot points, if you count some of what the ordinary-seeming protagonist knows as a result of his background. It’s definitely loaded with action, suspense, and a mystery that remains largely unsettled in the satisfying yet disturbing conclusion.

Sadly, the next book in the trilogy has not yet been published, or it would be the book I jumped into next. Which tells you just how gripping I found it. It reads a little like The Da Vinci Code, or Raiders of the Lost Ark if you imagine that as a book.

There is history, archaeology, language, mythology and religion, with accuracy beyond the call of frenetic fiction. The book really doesn’t pick on a specific religion so much as examining the history and basis of religions. Much of the plot revolves around a new religion, or perhaps anti-religion, having been founded and grown vast in record time. But why? To what end? Who are the bad guys?

Highly recommended. On Amazon, it doesn’t even have a full four stars average from reader feedback. I’m surprised. I’d expect enough five star ratings to make it four and a fraction. (No book or product is for everyone. It seems suspicious when something with more than its first few reviews has a solid five.) Oh well. I recommend it. If you like this sort of action story that falls somewhere into speculative fiction.

The Arch of Avooblis

The Arch of Avooblis (The Adventurers’ Academy Book 1) is a young adult/older children’s book by Charles Streams. I was dubious at first and at times, but overall it was an enjoyable if basic read. It is bound to make you think of Harry Potter at times, if only due to the setting and age of the main point of view character.

Dagdron is a bit of an anti-hero and can be downright unlikable at times. He reminds me somewhat of a late friend I first met at the age of 14. The academy teaches three sets of adventurer types/skills: Warriors, Enchanters, and Rogues. Our hero is a rogue, already trained from a young age by his father. Where Harry embraced Hogwarts eagerly, Dagdron goes off to school reluctantly at best. Worse, he is stuck with an effusive student warrior roommate.

I enjoyed this enough to plan to buy the second and third in the trilogy, which are bargain priced, but not free as this was. There’s no downside at all to checking it out as a free Kindle download. I also expect my eleven year old Harry Potter fanatic to enjoy it, when and if I can get her to read it.

Can a book with an unpleasant main character be worth reading, or even great? It’s been several years, but my adult reread of the Tripods Trilogy made me realize what a twerp the main character in that series was. Yet it remains a classic. YMMV.

I can’t guarantee you’ll like it, let alone love it, or even that your tween or teen will like it. It’s not a book for a rave recommendation. It is rather different, and might be worth a look.

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.