Tag Archives: Parvus Press

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Book Review: Annihilation Aria, by Michael R. Underwood

I borrowed a copy of Annihilation Aria (by Michael R. Underwood) from the local library.

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An exuberant space opera that dares us to lose ourselves in battle songs and nonstop action!

A woman who can wield a weapon like a song and her voice like a weapon. A man who can out-think any problem. A pilot who can outmaneuver the best of them. Lahra, Max, and Wheel live and work aboard the Kettle, salvaging artifacts from dangerous galactic ruins to keep scraping by.

But those artifacts can unlock an ancient power which threatens the iron-fisted rule of the galaxy’s imperialist overlords, the Vsenk. To protect their dominion, the Vsenk have humbled entire civilizations. They eat ships like the Kettle and her found family for breakfast.

Lahra, Max, and Wheel are each just trying to get home to the lives they lost, but they’ll have to evade space fascists, kick-start a rebellion, and save the galaxy first to do it.

Board the Kettle for a space opera like none you’ve ever read before; an adventure of galactic subterfuge, ancient alien lore, a secret resistance force, lost civilizations, and giant space turtles.

This is a little rambly, but I have scattered thoughts.

I enjoyed this a lot. I did think the pacing a little inconsistent—it dragged in the middle—and it felt a little like a second book sometimes, because of how much history was referenced between the characters. But overall, I loved spending time with the characters, enjoyed that the two main characters were married and seriously in love (no need to be a romance if the relationship is already established), appreciated the diversity in the alien species, thought there was a ton of witty humor, and several moral quandaries that invited deeper thought.

I also got a personal little amusement after I spent the whole book thinking, “Wow, this has a real Stargate feel to it” (along with anything and everything like Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider,—we had a lara/Lahra after all—Farscape, Star Wars, Firefly, etc, but mostly Stargate)—with the archeologist stepping through a gate and getting lost in space—and then realizing Max was referred to as ‘son of Danielle.’ Close enough to Daniel for me to call it a tribute, right? I’m running with it. It made me happy.

Lastly, as an aside, I recently read several books that I found recommended in a Fantasy Readers’ Forum in which the OP asked for books in which martial women protect nerdier guys. (Totally my jam too, BTW.) Well, this may be Sci-Fi, but it fits the OP’s request better than just about any of the books I saw recommended. (Except maybe His Secret Illuminations). So, if that’s your thing too, pick this book up.

All in all, I don’t know if a second book is planned, but I’d be happy to read it (or more of Underwood’s work) if one is.

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Other Reviews:

Garik16: Review Annihilation Aria

Review: Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood

peridot shift Flotsam

Book Review of Flotsam (Peridot Shift #1), by R.J. Theodore

I received a copy of R.J. Theodore‘s Flotsam from the publisher.

Description from Goodreads:
A fantastical steampunk first contact novel that ties together high magic, high technology, and bold characters to create a story you won’t soon forget.

Captain Talis just wants to keep her airship crew from starving, and maybe scrape up enough cash for some badly needed repairs. When an anonymous client offers a small fortune to root through a pile of atmospheric wreckage, it seems like an easy payday. The job yields an ancient ring, a forbidden secret, and a host of deadly enemies.

Now on the run from cultists with powerful allies, Talis needs to unload the ring as quickly as possible. Her desperate search for a buyer and the fallout from her discovery leads to a planetary battle between a secret society, alien forces, and even the gods themselves.

Talis and her crew have just one desperate chance to make things right before their potential big score destroys them all.

This wasn’t a bad read. I thought the world was really interesting and on the surface the characters seemed to be too. The writing was easily readable and the editing was sound. All in all, I’d recommend it.

However, it did seem overly long, dragging in the middle. I never felt I really got to know the characters, especially the crew and primary antagonist. And the fate of the world was left unresolved in favor of the reader learning the fate of a few.

Lastly, I’m torn about the use of the Xe pronouns. Part of me appreciates a genderless character and the effort it takes to introduce what are likely unfamiliar pronouns to a lot of readers. Another part of me was bothered that the character was presented as so very alien.

I was reminded of an interview I recently read with (I think) David J. Peterson, who has a job of creating fictional languages. The interviewer essentially asked him if he’d ever take an existing, but not well known language, and use it for, say, Elvish. Who would know, the interview joked. Peterson basically rephrased the question as “Are you asking me if I’d ever use someone’s culture? No.”

There was a real part of me that thought using what is the actual identity of real people to represent, not just a fictional character, but a character presented as so much more alien than any other other character that no one in the book could relate to them, was uncomfortable. How might it feel to people who themselves use Xe to read about that character?

I actually feel a little bad bringing it up, because I see from other reviews that there were earlier issues with the character being genderless and the author and publisher took them into account and improved it. Choosing to go with Xe/Xi, instead of whatever it was before. I guess I just wish they’d made a pronoun up, instead of going with a real world one, for a character that was presented as so very non-human by the other characters in the book. (Keeping in mind none are wholly human, but they have a sense of WE that Scrimshaw is denied.)

Vicks Vultures

Book Review of Vick’s Vultures, by Scott Warren

I won a paperback copy of Vick’s Vultures, by Scott Warren, through Goodreads.

In the far future, alien technology captured by the Union Earth Privateers has fueled Earth’s tenuous expansion from a single planet to a handful of systems across the Orion Spur.

Victoria Marin, captain of the U.E. Condor, and her crew of Vultures have been running dry for months. In danger of losing her command and her credibility if she can’t locate fresh salvage, she locks onto the distress signal of an alien ship in hopes of valuable cargo. What she finds instead is First Prince Tavram, the heir apparent to one of the largest empires in known space. Tavram’s ship has been crippled after narrowly escaping an ambush and his would-be assasin is coming to finish the job.

The Vultures launch a high risk mission to rescue the prince and recover every last scrap of xenotech they can before the hunter catches up to his prey. But there are more dangers than notorious interstellar assassins when it comes to ferrying an alien prince across the stars, and Victoria must contend with dangerous alliances, old grudges, and even her own government if she means to bring her crew home alive. Whether she succeeds or fails, the consequences of her choices will affect the path of all humanity.

Vick’s Vultures was a complete surprise. I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect when I started it, but I’ll assure you it wasn’t gripping writing, fun characters, an interesting universe (or two) inhabited by a slew of differing alien creatures and cultures, all of it fitting together almost seamlessly. And it darned sure wasn’t a kick-butt female captain that wonderfully walked the line in which she was definitely a woman, but that never eclipsed her being a captain, nor did the author feel the need to butch her up so much she just became a dreaded man with boobs. Thank you Scott Warren for that! Characters really can be female and professional, who knew?

I did think Best Wish’s loss of control toward the end a little too convenient to believe and I occasionally had a little trouble understanding the techno-speak. But all in all, this was a fabulous read.