Tag Archives: sci-fi

Review of Virtues of the Vicious, by Martin Wilsey

Cover of Virtues of the Vicious

I received an Audible code for a copy of Virtues of the Vicious, by Martin Wilsey.

Description from Goodreads:

Elizabeth Cruze came to Earth for one reason: to buy weapons. She never counted on ending up in prison. Never fear, though, she’s not planning on staying there long. 

Special Investigator Neal Locke has made a career out of catching the most elusive and dangerous criminals. He’s never failed to “get his man.” 

When Cruze escapes from prison, Locke is tasked to track her down. She should be easy to find…all he’s got to do is follow the trail of bodies. 

But Locke has been an investigator for a long time. It doesn’t take him long to figure out that there’s more going on than what he’s been told… 

Review:

Much in the style of Leviathan WakesVirtues of the Viciousfollows someone going about their galactic adventure and an older, somewhat jaded investigator tracking behind them, slowly learning that there is more to his investigation than meets the eye. 

I generally enjoyed the story. I liked the characters and Wilsey’s writing style. I liked that the main characters were older and there was some diversity in the cast. However, I also three separate times tried to check Goodreads, Amazon or Google to ensure this wasn’t the second book in a series. It completely feels like it must be. Characters are mentioned that aren’t introduced until much later, the political system of the universe is left for the reader to figure out, and there is simply a distance felt that I imagined was caused by a lack of previous books. From what I could discern, this is set in the same universe as Wilsey’s other books, but not connected. 

There were a number of too convenient to be believed events that solved problems for the crew, Cruze seemed to find that crew willing to go to war with her without even trying (that could actually just be part of the previous point), and the villain was dispatched a little too easily. It was anti-climactic. 

I also thought the pacing was inconsistent and dialogue needlessly formal at times. The farther into the book I got the fewer contractions I noticed, for example. I think Shore’s narration exacerbated this though. While I think she did a good job, some of the sentences that I felt needed contractions and didn’t have them felt even more stiff in her mouth. 

All in all however, despite these complaints, I’ll be looking for more of Wilsey’s writing. I liked what I saw.

Review of The Desert Sequence (Puatera Online #1-3), by Dawn Chapman

Covers of Desert Runner, Desert Born, and Desert Storm

I received audible codes from author Dawn Chapman for the first three books in the Puatera Online ‘series,’ Desert Runner, Desert Born, and Desert Storm. I’ve chosen to review them as one for reasons I believe will become clear below.

Description:

Follow NPC Maddie on her journey of self-discovery. Through the deadly desert plains to the inner programming that makes her who she is.

Review:

I don’t usually use star-ratings here on the blog. But sometimes it helps situate a book in my estimation. I’d give Puatera Online a 2.5, and then round up to 3.

The first thing I want to establish is that I would not call this a series. I would call it a serial. I know Goodreads/Amazon/etc doesn’t give authors and publishers an easy, clear way to make this distinction. But as a reader, it’s a big one for me, as serials don’t necessarily wrap up at the end of a ‘book.’ Think movie vs episode of a TV show. 

That’s the case here with Puatera Online. Each book runs one into the other, with the breaks between being fairly random. Each book contains three or so quests and at the end of one the author breaks for the next. The next picking up with the remainder of the ongoing quests and adding new ones ad infinito. If this was not a serial, my comment would be that all three of these ~100 page volumes should have been one novel. No question in my mind. 

Here’s the thing, I was annoyed to discover this is a serial, not a series (at least by my estimation). But I can’t really fault it for being what it is, instead of what I expected. So, my 2.5 rating isn’t based on that. I just thought it was important to let future readers know what to expect. Additionally, the cover image says “the complete trilogy,” but the story doesn’t wrap up at the end of book three and there are 8 books as of the time of me writing this review. So, don’t go in expecting something complete. Again, just worth noting. But no, my 2.5 star rating is based on the fact that it’s sloppy. 

Let me pause and add that the book is entertaining and the two main characters are likable. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy several aspects of it. But that fact remains that there are editorial inconsistencies (like the sisters being mentioned before before their quest was actually introduced, someone being said by an entity that can see the code to be an NPC and then being a player (this may have been authorial misdirection, but it felt more like she changed her mind midway through writing)). There are too many characters introduced in too short a time, some of them basically being dropped again very shortly there after. Chapman never even attempts to define the limits of the game/world (or even tell readers what kind of game it is), which I think is 100% necessary in a LitRPG book. Not all role playing games are the same. The timeline is a mess and this is complicated by some of it being programing and not real. But apparently some of it is? See, I’m not even sure. Some things are said to have happened a 1000 years ago for vaguely non-NPC characters, some players have played for 10+ years, but the game is still in alpha testing, etc. I have no idea of the timeline. Chapman doesn’t even attempt to explain how characters cross from the digital to the real world and the human players have nowhere near enough reaction (practically none at all) when this happens. This story just kind of sprawls all over the place. 

Honestly, I think Chapman has the bones of a good story here. It just feels too broken into pieces. The narrator did an excellent job with it though.

Review of The Queen’s Gambit (Rogue Queen #1), by Jessie Mihalik

I borrowed an audio copy of The Queen’s Gambit, by Jessie Mihalik, through Hoopla.

Description from Goodreads:

When the Quint Confederacy and the Kos Empire went to war—again—young Queen Samara wisely kept her Rogue Coalition out of the conflict. But staying neutral in a galactic war doesn’t pay the bills, not when both sides refuse to trade with neutral sectors.

With her people on the brink of starvation, Samara hatches a daring plan to snatch the kidnapped Kos Emperor from the Quint mercenaries holding him. The Kos Empire will pay a fortune for their emperor’s return, enough to feed the Coalition’s citizens while they wait for the return to a begrudging peace.

But when her plan goes sideways, Samara finds herself evading Quint mercenaries with the very man she intends to capture. And the more time she spends with Valentin Kos, the more she realizes that he’s not the coldly indifferent villain she imagined. Torn between duty and desire, Samara must decide if saving her people is worth giving up the one thing she’s always wanted.

Review:

This wasn’t bad, it was just kind of weak. The plot was weak. The romantic development was weak. The world-building was a little less weak, but still not strong. It felt like someone had taken a knit comb to a full length novel and picked out everything that fleshes a story out. What we’re left with instead is an unlikely couple who experience almost insta attraction, a galactic war in which the two largest, most powerful, wealthiest combatants can’t swat a minuscule fly of a woman, political intrigue that can be solved with an email or two, and a happily ever after that is so pat it feels like an afterthought. 

Now, I know none of that sounds positive. The story development really was lacking. But once you get past all the gratuitous-to-the-plot physical descriptions of the male lead (which I wouldn’t have minded if they had been balanced with more actual plot development) the story is entertaining. And when it comes right down to it, I value that over a lot of other elements in a book. 

Now, a word on the narration: I disliked how Dulude read this. I thought she made everyone (but especially Emperor Kos) sound a little too soft and….well weak, which was problematic with an already weak plot. But more that, her speech pattern had regular micro-pauses (I don’t know what else to call them) that interrupted sentences, broke them into pieces. It drove me absolutely batty. To be fair, it might not bother anyone else at all though.