The Engines of God (Series) – Jack McDevitt

Book One, Ingredients list:

1. FTL drives
2. Decently easy interstellar travel
3. Single, hard-minded, I-do-my-job-because-I-have-nothing-else-and-anyway-I-love-to-do-it Star Pilot (named Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins) with incredible skill that remains mostly undiscovered and under-utilized doing transport jobs for rich companies
4. Massive planet that is empty and thought to be better utilized as a replacement Earth (once it’s terraformed, that is)
5. Archeologists who insist that there is more to be learned from the ancients who once lived there
6. Money-makers and politicos who could give a fuck about archeologists or their work


I suppose so. I mean, this book doesn’t really leave much to guess. Group 1 wants Group 2 to leave the goddam planet, Group 2 doesn’t want to. Group 2 convinces our plucky heroine to stick around and fly their butts out at the last minute. Ancient shit is found, planet is destroyed, and they wander around the galaxy following clues to see where their heart-I mean-information takes them.

Best quote from the book:

Janet listened skeptically at first, and then with mounting enthusiasm.

Book Two. Shit gets REAL.

In this stunning piece of literature, our plucky heroine (hereafter referred to as: Plucky McPluckersons) is minding her own goddam business when some stupid high-minded scientists start wetting their pants over the destruction of yet another planet. Sure, THIS time it’s due to another fucking planet smashing its shit up, but what does she care? Being the only nearby pilot with any skill, she gets wrapped into a scheme to go and “learn” about the lost civilizations of the planet anyway. Problems abound, including (but not limited to) their landers being destroyed, people being destroyed, and large fucking insects trying to kill them while they march to find a lander left by a previous expedition. Mostly it goes like this:


Best quote from the book:

Hutch drew him away and turned him over to the Asian.

Book Three, Synopsis:

Plucky McPluckersons was minding her own business when a group of crackpots with a “theory” hire her to be their pilot as they look for satellites around planets or signals from satellites around planets or some shit. At any rate the satellites end up forming a trail to somewhere. Zooming around space at the whim of crackpots-that-also-happen-to-be-right-a-lot-of-the-time seems to be a hobby of hers.

(Note that, from now on, Plucky McPluckersons’ character is essentially a bureaucratic paper-pusher who still manages to get roped into these off-world missions.)

Best quote from the book:

Nick made a face, signaling that he didn’t like zero gee, that his organs had begun to move around.

Book Four. It’s time to save the WORLD.

Some cloud shit brought up in Book One rears its ugly head when it’s discovered that the clouds not only move toward civilized planets, but they also FUCK THEIR SHIT UP. Naturally, humans won’t abide by this wonton destruction. Just kidding! Humans don’t care even when they realize that a shit-cloud is coming for THEM, and will be here in… 900 YEARS. Way to plan ahead humans. Go you.

Turns out that Plucky McPluckersons gets to test out any shit-cloud-removal theories on a nearby civilization about to be destroyed. Yay Science!

Best quote from the book, a tie between:

More applause.


On the surface of the threatened world, seas had become rough, in anticipation of the onslaught.

Book Five. (Psst! Not much happens.)

Okay sure so some lights start blinking and they wander off to follow them. Sure they start to see these now-called “raiders” adjusting the trajectory of nearby objects to impact with planets at a later date. And sure they get attacked at various points by the raiders themselves. So what? The record player that is the brain of most characters in this book is playing one, solitary loop over and over: OMG MY SPACEFLIGHT PROGRAM IS UNDERFUNDED. WE NEEDZ MORE MONIEZ. AND MAYBE THIS WEIRD SHIT WILL GET PEOPLE TO PAY.

Best quote from the book:

Everett was standing in his dark blue uniform, looking a bit older than the last time she’d seen him.

Book Six, aka: “Oops! We forgot to end Book Four!”

The shit-clouds are back ladies. And they’re closer than ever to swarming your little speck of a planet and… well… okay so it has only been a few years. But at least now spaceflight is all but extinct save for a few private organizations. And BY GUM are they some organizations! I mean, even Plucky McPluckersons is a fundraiser for one of them now! And now they have new technology to wander into the core of their galaxy! To finally stop the shit-clouds from shitting all over things!

It all gets kind of funky at the end but I can’t tell you or it’d spoil it. I don’t mean that it will spoil a good ending, but it’s the only one this book has got.

Best quote from the book:

Like any good high school teacher, she was pure showbiz.

Series end. And so my time thinking about it.

CONCLUSION: Whip out the big red SELL stamp and get crazy. (When the shit-clouds come your crap will be useless anyway.)

Reviewer’s Note: This book is suspenseful enough that you might, potentially, forget to evacuate your bladder and end up exploding in such a violent way that it’s felt by your ancestors. If you were a hamster. So adjust to scale accordingly.

Avalanche Soldier – Susan R. Matthews


What do these words say to you? What images to they conjure, what pictures do they paint? If it’s a fun romp through the perspective of an elite fighting force as they try to protect shrines and people from themselves while in mountainous terrain–you’d be wrong.

If it’s a serious look into the quagmire that is the human psyche when forced to choose between loyalty to your country and loyalty to your people and your god–you’d be wrong again.

Wow you’re not very good at this are you?

In fact, this book takes all of that and says, “Fuck everyone else’s idea of science fiction. Screw deeper meaning. I’m going to be the first book to show these Science Fiction sheep what it’s REALLY all about!”

Here’s how the book progresses:

1. Salli, a member of an elite paramilitary force entrusted with the task of protecting their religious shrines, is the best on her team. She knows it because she keeps complaining that although she’s The Best her mentor keeps making her work harder than everyone else.
2. Salli’s brother runs away after the accidental death of a tourist. He is now a deserter, presumably taken by the other religious faction on the planet. (oh noes)
4. Oh, right. To find him she has to become a deserter herself. Woe is she!
5. She finds him after being caught by his ragtag group while she thought she was hidden. So much for her Elite Skillz™.
6. They convince her to go on some religious walk and she meets the messiah. Who makes her go all squishy inside.
7. She’s in love! (with the messiah. But then again who isn’t?)
8. I stop reading, as I’ve lost the desire to work for good and have gone off to further my newest hobby: kitten-smashing.

The End.


Best quote from the book:

And Meeka had embraced their thought; or at least they had embraced Meeka, and he seemed to feel that their view of the world and his accorded miraculously well with one another.

Darwin’s Blade – Dan Simmons

Cue music… Check.

Cue lights… Check.

Cue middle-aged discouraged, depressed and despondent man who lost his wife and child years ago to a preventable accident and hasn’t been able to get over the incident since… Check.

Cue loving couple who has taken previously mentioned middle-aged man under their wing who use snark and love to keep him from committing suicide because they LOVE HIM ON THE INSIDE… Check.

Now that the setting is in place, we can glean a bit about where the book is going. Character one (Darwin) has a story arc we can probably guess. Man who has spent decades futilely chasing the demons of his dead family has the free time to be the top accident investigator in the state. Man uncovers a conspiracy to defraud insurance companies that at the same time injure and sometimes kill the underprivileged poor. Man uses his bad-ass skills that he’s acquired through constant anger and mourning (and being a former Marine in Vietnam) to SOLVE THE FUCKING PROBLEM.

Oh, and in the end he finds a girl. Someone who has not lost her love of life, who is dedicated to her job, is strong, independent, kicks-ass, and happens to be a bigwig in the FBI.

So who wins in the end?

4) ILLEGALS (Oops, wait–They’re still poor and illegal)


Best quote from the book:

Darwin winced slightly at the use of the noun task as a verb.

Reviewer’s Note: This review makes no comment on the brilliant writing that is contained within any of Dan Simmons’ other books. Hyperion kicks this book’s ass and hands it back on a self-forged, gilded, shimmering plate of luminescent gold. Encrusted with rare gems. Stored in a sleeve of baby koala skin. Looked after by fair maidens.

Aftermath – LeVar Burton

LeVar has a fondness for Science Fiction, and why shouldn’t he? He spent so much time on the set of Star Trek that he must have some interest. But what kind of influence does that have on a person?

Not a science-y one, if this book is to be taken to heart.

Setting: Post-Racial-War in America, circa 2009-2019
Most-Uttered Sentence: “Fuck I’m hungry and cold and where the hell are my GODDAM PANTS?!”
Most Pressing Problem Aside From Lack-Of-Pants: All public and private nation-wide infrastructure has collapsed.

So we have a scientist. She has invented a magical (I mean, scientific!) box that, when hooked up to a brain, spurs that brain into overdrive utilizing all the “unused” 90%. What does this do? Well it cures cancer of course! And any other ailment you might be experiencing. Presumably you are just under-utilizing your own biological resources and she has managed to harness them.

This box is delightfully small and has been developed over a number of years by: ( ) team of scientists, ( ) pharmaceutical company, (x) herself

Yup, she has managed to invent this box on her own working for a small research institute. Her goal? To find some investors in the medical community to help her get this device into the hands of anyone in the world that’s sick or dying. How noble!

But, being that this is Science Fiction, where do you see this going? If you guessed, “Oh I’ll just invite a few powerful big-wigs to my private lab and show them how awesome it is and promise that they’ll even get one of their own if they just invest a little money and then I can sell it cheaply to everyone in the wooooorld…” you guessed right.

Refreshingly real don’t you think?

I mean, someone who has spent that many years working in the field of Science™ would surely know what the reaction might be when inviting a number of rich and powerful people to your secluded office and telling them of your secret invention.

After all, some of them even seemed interested in her device! (did I mention that it cured cancer?)

The book, past that, is mostly the story of a few characters on personal journeys that end up converging to solve one riddle and save our Intrepid Science Practitioner. Their stories, while interesting in themselves, don’t come together in way that really pushes the meaning behind the book home.

One more thing: Our lovely Intrepid & Stouthearted Science Practitioner has omitted from her written research some curious side-effects from her human studies on the device, namely the fact that a small percentage of people (read: one) BECOME TELEPATHIC. Naturally, she decided to try the device on herself to see if the TELEPATHY was a side effect on her as well. Which it was. How else do you think our Motley Character Posse got together in the end to save the day?



Best quote from the book, as thought by a 10 yr old:

Amy saw that someone had stuck a white cross in the ground in front of the tank, a memorial to the insanity of war.

Book Reviews, the first five…

The cleansing begins with 5 rather abrupt reviews. I hope to be more in-depth later, but I was able to grab some things off the shelf that I already knew the answer to, so let’s get them out of the way.

The Second Coming – John Dalmas

Read about 2/3 of it a while back, was pretty bored, no interest in picking it back up. I was really interested in it based on the blurbs and such, a combination of my love of post-apocalyptic storytelling and “debates about modern faith and spiritual philosophy” seemed like it a nice prospect. In the end though I found the characters flat, the pacing not quite right, and just was generally meh. I sort of wish I’d finished it, maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t strongly enough believe that that might be true to try. Into the “sell/donate” pile it goes.

Grunts – Mary Gentle

This book was great fun. What’s not to love about a horde of orcs magically gaining military technology like Hueys and RPG’s? Discussing a Dark Lord and a Hind gunship in the same paragraph just makes me giggle.
Ultimately though it’s a single-read book. I don’t feel like there’s much more to get out of it, and even if there was I’d be more than happy to have a digital copy, so this one is going in the sell/donate pile as well. If you like military fiction, fantasy, or just an amusing read go grab it from your local library!

Northworld Trilogy – David Drake

Started reading, got about half way, gave up. Direct to the sell/donate pile. Ponderous and slow, I couldn’t tell if it was military fiction or fantasy. In either case, despite the use of battle suits and technology it’s definitely leaning towards the fantasy side of the scifi/fantasy question. I love Norse mythology, and this book seemed to draw quite a bit from that, however it was in this weird middle-ground between retelling/re-imagining and just borrowing some of the interesting bits. Ultimately I think it just felt too fantasy for me.

Gil’s All Fright Diner – A. Lee Martinez

Another fun book, which had it’s share of good quips, one-liners and amusing concepts. “Armageddon with a side of fries” is an amusing concept, and it was well enough executed, but it just felt like it lacked depth. Definitely not something I’d read again, which is how it earned it’s place in the buy/donate pile. Probably not a good book to be in general YA, but the writing feels a lot like YA. Got a giggle or two though, I’ll certainly admit!

Lord Valentines Castle – Robert Silverberg

This series came pretty highly recommended, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it, but this first book goes to the sell/donate pile. The pacing is slow, except in some random places where it feels like more time should have been spent but wasn’t. The lost king’s journey of re-discovery, this book is very much fluff fantasy through and through, although I am interested in the characters enough to want to know more.? I may even read it again someday, but I’ll be more than happy to do so with a digital or library copy.

Wow, those were abrupt reviews! I think it’s time to pick a more interesting or challenging book to review rather than picking the low hanging fruit.