Category Archives: RW book reviews

awards for Brings The Lightning

Peter Grant’s book Brings The Lightning has won the 2nd Annual Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance Award.

That is pretty cool. Rod Walker freely admits that among his other failings he’s not really a Western kind of guy, but he read Brings The Lightning last year and really liked it quite a bit. He’s looking forward to reading the sequel Rocky Mountain Retribution when time permits.

Rod Walker has also written a book. 

 

The Cursed Command by Christopher Nuttall

Previously Rod Walker reviewed both The Oncoming Storm and Falcone Strike by Christopher Nuttall, and enjoyed them both. When the next book in the series Cursed Command came out, RW read it in short order.

It continues the plot of the previous two books. Kat Falcone is now a Commodore, still commanding the Lightning, and her loyal executive officer William is now Captain McElney, given command of the Lightning’s sister ship Uncanny. Unfortunately, since William comes from the colonies, his command his fraught with political implications, and large numbers of people want to see him both succeed and fail.

As if there were not enough troubles, a contingent of the Uncanny’s crewmen are planning to mutiny, seize the ship, and go pirate. When the Lightning and the Uncanny are sent to a neutral sector to keep the neutrals from siding with the brutal Theocracy, the mutineers see their chance.

Assuming Theocracy agents and space pirates don’t kill them all first, of course.

Cursed Command was a fun read, with lots of space battles, political scheming, and derring-do. RW thinks that the book’s gender-integrated military is highly unlikely to work that well in real life, but hyperdrives don’t work in real life either, and the book doesn’t shy away from some of the brutalities of a gender-integrated military. (The pirates’ treatment of their female prisoners is one such example.) Rod Walker enjoyed the book, and is looking forward to the final book in the series later this year.

Rod Walker’s book also has space battles. 

Starship Liberator, by BV Larson and David VanDyke

Rod Walker recently read and enjoyed Starship Liberator by BV Larson and David VanDyke. The ebook edition is indie published, and the paperback and hardback are put out by Castalia House.

Starship Liberator is an interesting mashup of several different kinds of military SF – there are alien invaders, gigantic mecha, a sinister conspiracy, space pirates, powersuits, and massive space naval battles. It’s a long book at 8600 Kindle locations, but it goes quick.

The main character of the book is Derek Straker, a mechsuiter for the Hundred Worlds in their fight against the alien Hok invaders. A mechsuit is a gigantic robot battlesuit, and Straker’s neural link with the device lets him wield with fearsome efficiency. After fighting in a catastrophic defeat for the Hundred Worlds, Straker realizes that both the Hundred Worlds and the Hok are not what they seem to be, and he must choose whether or not to knuckle under to one cruel system or another, or find a way to forge his own path.

The book was a fun read, with lots of space battles and ground combat, and the science was plausible with getting bogged down in endless technical explanations. RW thinks the book’s only weak points were some of the flashbacks (RW does not personally care for that technique, but tastes may differ), and he thought the character of Engels was occasionally annoying.

But it was a good book, and RW is looking forward to the sequel.

Rod Walker’s book has space battles. 

review of Somewhither by John C Wright

Rod Walker really liked Somewhither by John C Wright. He read it last year but misplaced his review, so he will write it anew now.

The premise is simple, and Rod Walker will give it the highest compliment – he wishes he had thought of himself! There are a number of parallel Earths, but instead of a infinite number, there are only a small amount because parallel Earths can only be created at a major historical junction point – like the Israelites did not leave Egypt, for example, or Alexander the Great did not die prematurely.

In one of these parallel Earths, the Tower of Babel was finished, and now rules supreme over a hellish world-state as the Dark Tower. The sorcerers of the Dark Tower have learned of the existence of the parallel Earths, and have decided that it is the mission of the Dark Tower to conquer all Earths and bring all possible versions of humanity under their control.

On our Earth, a mad scientist has figured out how to open dimensional portals to the Dark Tower’s version of reality. Into this mess stumbles the protagonist Ilya, who is besotted with the mad scientist’s beautiful daughter. Ilya’s father is also a member of the secret order of the Catholic Church dedicated to keeping the forces of the Dark Tower (and other nasty things) at bay.

And when the mad scientist successfully opens his portal, trouble breaks out…and poor Ilya is drawn into the battle, where he learns disturbing truths about his nature and parentage.

Somewhither is a wild and mad adventure, and a thoroughly enjoyable read. It definitely was one of the best books of 2015, and deserved its win at the new Dragon awards. Rod Walker is looking forward to the sequel.

Rod Walker also wrote a book for Castalia House, though it isn’t as long as Somewhither. 

Somewhither Audio

Somewhither by John C Wright is now available in audiobook. 22 hours long, as read by Jon Mollison.

22 hours! The mind boggles. Rod Walker can sometimes get through six words without mangling his speech, but these occasions are few and far between.

Anyway, Rod Walker really liked Somewhither and wrote a review of it, but for the life of him cannot remember where he put it. So he shall have write it anew.

Meanwhile, Rod Walker has a book. 

 

a review of Daughter Of Danger, by John C Wright

Rod Walker really enjoyed this book.

It continues John C Wright’s Moth & Cobweb saga, started with The Swan Night’s Squire trilogy last year. The premise of Moth & Cobweb is that the world is secretly ruled by malevolent elfs, who use the powerful Black Spell to keep men from noticing their presence. However, a new power is rising to challenge the elfs, something dark and more malevolent than them.

In this fourth book, a girl wakes up in a hospital bed with no memory, wearing a magic ring that seems to have a variety of powers. When monstrous assassins arrive to kill her and take the ring, the girl discovers that she also possesses the combat skills of a master ninja. Forced to flee the hospital, the girl must set out to discover who she is while avoiding the dark powers that want to track her down.

Daughter Of Danger had some of the best fight scenes that RW has read in one of Mr. Wright’s books. The interaction of the characters, especially Ami & Elfine, was highly entertaining. The world of Moth & Cobweb is unquestionably a complex one, so after the setting was established in the previous trilogy, the plot can blast full speed ahead.

RW definitely recommends that you read this book (and the previous three), and is looking forward to the sequel later this year.

If you enjoy fight scenes, check out Rod Walker’s book.

The Oncoming Storm & Falcone Strike, by Christopher G Nuttall

Rod Walker enjoyed reading The Oncoming Storm and Falcone Strike by Christopher Nuttall, and they made for a pleasant diversion during the past week.

The setup did remind RW a lot of the Honor Harrington novels, at least in the beginning and in the premise of the books. The idea is that the Commonwealth of Tyre, a parliamentary monarchy, encounters the violent and paranoid Theocracy. The Theocrats espouse a new religion that arose in the years since mankind developed spaceflight, and believe that God has given them the right to unite all of humanity under their banner.

In other words, it’s Space British Navy vs. Space Jihadis. (It is a clever plot device that allows the author to write a parallel to contemporary jihadis without all the baggage of actually writing about them.) The Commonwealth is in denial about the threat the Theocracy presents, even as the Theocrats build up their forces for an attack.

Into this confrontation comes Captain Kat Falcone, the youngest daughter of Duke Lucas Falcone. The Duke knows war is coming, and so he arranges for his daughter to receive command of a starship long before she would have otherwise, hoping to have someone reliable in place when the war starts. Kat is horrified, since she knows she was promoted only because of her family connections, but she knows her duty is to prepare for the threat of the Theocracy and win the trust of her officers and soldiers.

The books are an easy read. That sounds condescending, but it’s not intended that way. Clear and transparent prose is really hard to do, and it takes a lot of practice to get it right. (The difference between a writer’s 1st novel and his 30th is often jarring.) Mr. Nuttall has it down pat. The books are entertaining and the characters are engaging.

RW’s chief quibble is that a mixed-gender navy and military like the Commonwealth seems highly unlikely to function that well in real life. It’s like how in fiction line marriages and polyamory always seem to function perfectly, but in real life they always seem to end in court cases at best and murder-suicides at worst. (Of course, given how badly the Commonwealth fares in the first couple of battles, perhaps that is an in-universe explanation.) It seems unrealistic, but then hyperspace is unrealistic, so there’s that.

Looking forward to reading the remaining two books when they are released!

If you like space battles, check out Rod Walker’s book.

Daughter of Danger, by John C Wright

Rod Walker was pleased to observe that John C Wright has a new book out, Daughter of Danger, the fourth book of his Moth & Cobweb series. RW really enjoyed the first trilogy in the Moth & Cobweb series, and you can read his review of that trilogy here.

Needless to say, he will be reading Daughter of Danger as soon as time allows.

If you enjoy young adult books, you will like Rod Walker’s book.

 

Appendix N: The Literary History Of Dungeons And Dragons, by Jeffro Johnson

Rod Walker read Jeffro Johnson’s book Appendix N: The Literary History Of Dungeons And Dragons (published by Castalia House) with great interest.

If you are not familiar with “Appendix N”, it is a list of novels that Gary Gygax, designer of Dungeons and Dragons, put in the back of the original Dungeon Master’s guide. Mr. Gygax thought this list of books would provide inspiration for the game, and the books themselves also helped inspire Dungeons and Dragons. A lot of the books are unknown today, partly because of the vagaries of the publishing industry, and partly because of what CS Lewis called “chronological snobbery”, the idea that anything old must be hopelessly obsolete or sexist or racist or whatever, and therefore is of no interest to modern enlightened readers.

Rod Walker spent some time playing Dungeons and Dragons as a teenager, but didn’t know Appendix N existed until he happened to start reading Jeffro’s columns about it. RW has found it a valuable experience – he discovered the works of Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, and Edgar Rice Burroughs through the Appendix N blogs, and has since been making an effort to read more older books.

Consequently, he bought and read Mr. Johnson’s Appendix N book and read it immediately. It is a compilation of the original columns, discussing each of the Appendix N books and their relation to roleplaying games and tabletop gaming. The book is both a fascinating look at the literary history that inspired D&D, and an excellent source of finding “new” old books to read. RW is going to seek out and read some of A. Merritt’s books after reading Appendix N.

If you want to read a book that has been written in the spirit of the old pulps, you should read Rod Walker’s book.

Forbidden Thoughts, an anthology review

Rod Walker really liked the concept of FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS, an anthology designed around various ideas and thoughts forbidden by the dominant left-leaning worldview of contemporary Western culture. He strongly liked several of the stories contained within the anthology.

That said, the anthology had two major weaknesses.

First, a couple of the stories weren’t actually stories. They were more along the lines of character sketches or situational sketches. For a story to work properly, it needs a problem, rising action, a climax, and resolution. Stories that are character or situational sketches are like half of a meal – the reader is left unsatisfied.

Second, a lot of the stories revolved around dystopias, and it’s hard to write dystopias for a couple of reasons. For one, every possible configuration of society is a dystopia for someone. For another, a dystopia is necessarily an exaggeration of a particular political or social problem, and a fictional society built around that seems inherently unstable. In other words, it is difficult to create a dystopia without gaping plot holes.

That said, there were good stories in the anthology, and here were Rod Walker’s favorite stories in FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS:

Safe Space Suit, by Nick Cole. In this story, mankind prepares to test the first warp drive while using a crew carefully selected for the maximum amount of camera-pleasing diversity. Unfortunately, the test goes drastically wrong, and hilarity results. When a false belief smacks into Reality, Reality wins every time. An excellent satirical story.

A Place For Everyone, by Ray Blank. In the future, the government uses an elaborate computer-calculated formula to assign everyone to jobs using 5,000 different criteria, none of which have anything to do with the job. The system wanders into a bit of a crisis through the combination of a corrupt government official, a bored supervisor, and a professor who desperately wants to stay with his wife. An interesting concept and a satisfying story.

The Secret History Of The World Gone By, by Joshua Young. An “after the apocalypse” story, a wandering barbarian comes to a city of enervated, genderless people sustained by their machines. The barbarian sets out to discover the truth of the city, and discovers a horrifying truth. This story lands in the “gender-based dystopia” category of science fiction which is hard to do right since it tends to become preachy, but this was an interesting story.

Hymns of the Mothers, by Brad Torgersen. This is another “after the apocalypse” gender dystopia story. In this one, a young girl gradually realizes that her society is monumentally unjust and hypocritical, and resolves to change it. It was interesting to see the opposite side of the coin from Joshua Young’s story, since the stories unintentionally dwelled on the same themes.

Rod Walker thinks the best story in the anthology is tied between John C Wright, Vox Day, Brian Niemeier, and L. Jagi Lamplighter.

By His Cockle Hat And Staff, by John C Wright. This is an extremely interesting concept. In a parallel universe, a dystopian Marxist state has figured out how to use psychic projection to possess people living in parallel versions of Earth. In order to spread their revolution to other universes, the dystopians are using psychic projection to try and bring all other parallel Earths under their control. (This is a similar concept to Wright’s Somewhither.) Of course, some of the parallel Earths have figured out how to fight back. Interesting story.

Amazon Gambit, by Vox Day. This is a cynically hilarious story set in the Quantum Mortis universe. An elite soldier is assigned to lead a company of entirely female soldiers, and soon realizes that the soldiers were chosen for their looks rather than competence, and that he has been set up to fail. The elite soldier nonetheless hits upon a solution that is 1.) cynical, 2.) effective, and 3.) possibly the funniest resolution in the book.

Elegy for the Locust, by Brian Niemeier. This story is set in Niemeier’s Soul Cycle universe, and seems very Lovecraftian, both in structure and style. The protagonist is even a disaffected young scholar meddling with things he doesn’t understand, much like many of Lovecraft’s protagonists. It’s a good tale of a man eaten up by envy, and the consequences thereof.

Test of the Prophet, by L. Jagi Lamplighter. This is an interesting story about a woman who travels back to Pakistan in an effort to rescue her cousin from terrorists, and in the process realizes that ghosts have been quietly and deliberately introducing errors into the written texts of religion in order to open people up to the forces of evil.

To sum up, Forbidden Thoughts is worth the read.

If you like books where the Marxists are the villains, you should read Rod Walker’s book.