Tag Archives: sci-fi

Review of Primal Trilogy, by Ryan Kirk

I received a free Audible code for a copy of Ryan Kirk‘s Primal Trilogy.

Description from Goodreads:

Tev is a hunter, raised from birth to protect and feed his clan. Among his people, his skills are unmatched. With a spear and knife in hand he has never failed. He longs to explore the world beyond the boundaries of his hunting grounds, not knowing the cost that wish will have. 

His life, and the lives of every member of his clan, are shattered when fire descends from the sky, bringing with it dangers far beyond any that existed before. Tev’s hard-won skills are all that separates his clan from complete annihilation. 

The Primal Trilogy collects the first three short novels in the Primal universe, as well as the short story “Rebellion,” set years before the events of the trilogy. The Primal Trilogy details first contact between two technologically different societies, then follows the consequences of that encounter for generations.


Primal Dawn:

I liked the characters here a lot and the world-building of a human race in alone space, but still a little uncertain. However, I wasn’t all together comfortable with how heavily the plot depends of the comparison of the noble savage and the distanced modernity. Further, I didn’t at all understand the mindset, that is integral to the plot, that when one of their own soldiers goes rogue the only available option was to put a primitive man (who hasn’t even seen metal before) into a futuristic exo-suit and send him out to hunt. This over even a discussion of leaving the ship themselves. This over broadcasting a message that Derrick was alive to calm the soldier down. This over any possible artillery on the drop ship itself. I won’t even get into the deus ex mechina that allowed the primitive man to be the better warrior in unfamiliar technology, since that appears to actually be a plot point in book two. But the central plot point is one that left me totally baffled. 

I did think the book conflated warrior and hunter. Tev is supposed to be this great warrior. But his people all seemed fairly communal and peaceful. There was never any mention of warring between the clans. What was described was Tev being a great hunter (of animals). I don’t actually know that all of those two skillsets would transfer seamlessly enough to be interchangeable. 

Lastly, while I liked the writing, characters, story, etc there is a lot more page space dedicated to hunting/fighting than actual plot progression. In terms of actual events, not a lot happens. Instead a lot of time is dedicated to what Tev is thinking in a fight or considering his next move or observations. I’m not disappointed to be continuing the series though and am curious what will happen.

Primal Darkness:

Not bad, but eventually I just got tired of listening to fight scenes. It’s not that they’re bad, just redundant. I feel like 75% of this book is descriptions of fights, or battles, or martial moves, etc. It started to just feel like warrior worship…or Tev worship, as he’s apparently better at everything than everyone around him. 

There is a bit of a plot, with the ship returning to Tev’s home-world and the question of protecting it from the bad guys (that might not be as bad as thought). But it’s buried so deep as to feel secondary to ‘all hail the amazing Tev and the virtuous Kindra.’ Honestly, the drive to simply do the right thing seems overly simple (as does the solution), when speaking in terms of intergalactic interests. 

Still, though my interest is waning, it’s not dead yet. I’m moving on to book three.

Primal Destiny:

As with the previous books the writing was fine. However, as the conclusion to the series, I found it less than satisfying. Too many questions are left unanswered. Most aren’t even addressed. I could probably list a dozen here, from ‘Where did the rebellion get all that technology—who funded them’ to ‘Where did Needra go’—she was a prime warrior and just disappears as a character. (I listened to the audio. So, I’m not positive I spelled that name correctly.)

By the end, I also started to feel it was a book of men doing men things. Kirk was good about mentioning both men and women were hunters and warriors. But as the series progressed (and especially here in the last book), the story became more fight-scene heavy and women faded into the background (or disappeared entirely for large chunks of time) and became secondary characters. I mention this because the books synopses infer that Tev and Kindra are the main characters. But after reading this, I’d say they are Tev and Derrick. Kindra is too rarely involved in the action and decision making and frankly just isn’t given as much page space. I would personally call her first of the secondary or supporting characters. And I feel like Kirk (maybe as a male writer) did this by accident.

All in all, this wasn’t a bad book at all. But I have to admit to being happy to be finished with it. Tev is a lovely characters, but I didn’t much enjoy the author’s didactic condemnation of modernity. But again, not bad.

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… 


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.


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


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.