Suspense

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.

The Pillars of Hercules (Timeline 10/27/62)

The Pillars of Hercules (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 3) is the next in the main alternate history, Cuban Missile Crisis turned hot series by James Philip. It’s a bargain at $3.99, at least once you’re hooked on the series as I was by the time I finished the second one. I did notice a large number of instances where editing was needed. It rolled off me, but some, and usually I, may find it jarring.

Even as I read this, I found myself wondering what to say, besides praise how good the story is. I would reiterate the author’s skill at building connections between often disparate characters. It doesn’t seem unrealistic so much as literary usage of the proverbial “six degrees.” Kevin Bacon would surely approve.

Despite being Brit-centric, there is no shortage of action in the United States, along with some key points of view. I missed some details on my first read, including the vehement outlook of Curtis LeMay, and the implications of the glimpse we get at the thoughts of the heroine’s brother.

The events of this book have added meaning for me, given that I have read the volumes of the parallel USA timeline that have been published to date. If I were ambitious, I would eventually come up with a recommended reading order that would intertwine the two series logically. A bit like the periodic discussions in Robert Jordan fandom about at what point in reading the main Wheel of Time series you should interject reading the New Spring prequel.

At any rate, things have been unexpectedly grim, but at least now the powers that be have an inkling of what might be going on, and who is not an enemy. Onward!

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.

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 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.

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 99ยข. 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.