[Book Review] Can I have some more magic to go with my desert planet rebellion?

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells


If you’ve ever thought, “You know what Dune needed more of? More magic and a biker gang!” then this book was written for you. If you are looking for your next stick-it-to-the-corporation space opera rebellion, this book is also for you.

During a routine run through the desert, the gun-toting and chain-smoking biker Hob discovers the bullet-ridden body of her leader’s brother. The dead man’s daughter is still missing, and all the signs point to TransRifts Inc., the company that has the entire planet in a stranglehold. So begins a story of biker gang meets post-apocalyptic desert planet with a dash of Dune and a pinch of X-men. Continue reading

[Book Review] A junkyard underdog in my military space opera

Vick’s Vultures by Scott Warren

Another tasty space opera treat from the book universe.

Vick's Vultures.pngVictoria Marin, privateer and captain of the salvage spaceship Condor, is in the red and in danger of losing her ship if she can’t locate fresh salvage and bring home some new xenotech for profit. It seems too good to be true when her crew catch a distress signal in nearby space. What she finds there, though, is a drifting wreck and an inconvenient survivor – First Prince Tavram, heir apparent to one of the largest and most powerful empires in known space. And there’s a deadly, powerful warlord from an opposing empire hot on his trail.

Vick’s Vultures is a space opera in the military spirit of Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War series and David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, with the alien species density per planet of the Star Trek universe.  It’s light on description, great with the action, and tight on the military maneuvers. And unlike the genre’s ubiquitous young, untested commander persona who has to figure things out as crisis looms, we get Captain Victoria, a veteran with a loyal, established team, ready to rumble with the universe. Continue reading

[Book Review] One soulmate, too many space princes

Shrouded by Frances Pauli

“When Vashia arrives on Shroud as an indentured bride, Dolfan recognizes immediately that they are meant to be together. Broken, lost, and on the run, she trusts no one, but Dolfan has enough faith for the both of them… Until his people’s sacred ritual gives Vashia to someone else.”

“This one looks right up your alley,” my friend told me. “It’s science fiction full of planet royalty and court machinations and forbidden romance.”

“Nnnngghh,” I said. At that point, I may have been lying on the floor, holding a pillow over my face.

“Four words: Arranged Marriage Space Opera.”

Oh. Well, why didn’t you just say so? Continue reading

[Book Review] Space romance, running from aliens, and lots of suspicion

When I first launched theCanaryReview a few years back, I was going to make it a blog dedicated solely to space opera books. Then, I realized I’d never be able to sit still within one subgenre.

But I still love them. And so I bring you a couple more fun reads from this delicious sci-fi romance gene.

Enemy Within by Marcella BurnardEnemy Within (Enemy, #1)

Captain Ari Rose is the only person to survive being a prisoner of war of humanity’s alien enemies. Ever. Stripped of her command and banished to her father’s scientific expedition to finish a Ph.D. she doesn’t want, Ari wonders why she bothered to survive. But when pirates commandeer her father’s ship, Ari once again becomes a prisoner.

As far as pirate leader Cullin is concerned, if Ari hasn’t been brainwashed and returned as a spy, then she must be part of a traitorous alliance endangering billions of lives. Continue reading

[Book Review] When everyone wants you dead, except maybe the aliens.

I officially (and arbitrarily) dub this month of January Space Opera Month. And by Space Opera, I mean fun-adventures-in-space-with-cool-female-characters-(though-awesome-guy-heroes-are-welcome-too)-and-romance-and-drama-and-witty-conversations. And space.

What that means for you, canaries, is that for the foreseeable future, theCanaryReview will be theSpaceCanaryReview, and all things shall be awesome and scifi.

I launched my holiday break with Peacekeeper by Laura E. Reeves…and came away with mixed feelings. That’s two-canaries mix of feelings.

Peacekeeper by Laura E. Reeves



I’m gonna start with the stuff that I loved (AllCapsLOVE). For one, main character Ariane Kedros has a dark, dark past. None of that nonsense about personal trauma or a bad relationship. During a war fifteen years ago, Ari piloted the ship that fired a superweapon and wiped out an entire solar system. She has a new identity now, but if the truth ever came out, she’d be tried for war crimes – if she survived that long, that is.

When I first read the premise on the back of the novel, I sat back and thought, Oh my. How are you going to pull this off? And I knew then, that this book was going to either really, really, intensely good. Or a complete flop.

Turns out there’s option number 3: Mixed feelings bag.

Reeve handles the story with a deft hand. Ari’s past slowly comes into focus, her relationships, the pseudo-blackmail hold her army ex-commanders still have on her, her alcoholism and fears of discovery…and it all comes to a head when she discovers that other members of the mission are being assassinated, one after another. Oh and there’s this peacekeeping assignment she has to juggle that forces her to rub elbows with the people whose solar system she destroyed once upon a time, except maybe she didn’t.

Ariane is refreshingly human in a genre that often opts for bright flash over grit. I loved it! Oh, and the aliens in the book? They were, well, alien. In that wonderful, not-human way.

But reaching into the mixed feelings bag, past my utter delight over the way Reeve brought the little details of the peace negotiations or those of the crazy future of social media to life, I get to the stuff that made the canaries fly the coup.  I dove into Peacekeeper excepting this to be all Ariane, all the time. Turns out, I get something a lot closer to epic political scifi/murder mystery. Jumping around three different points of view means that for at least a fourth of the book I’m stuck following Tom-or-whatever-his-name-is, not Ariane, and not the intriguing Edones. This means I spent one-third of the book wishing Tom would trip and fall out of an airlock.

It also means the story and character motivations are spotty at best – okay, if you take it all in as you read, but it breaks down once you pause to figure out why certain things happen, how come she gets tortured, and what are the flashbacks for and why flashbacks why?

Great world-building, no romance, shaky plotline and resolution, brilliant political intrigue. Odd ending, gritty themes.

All in all, mixed bag.

UPDATE. It’s about a week later, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I will yes absolutely read the sequel because I have to find out if the solar system Ariane is supposed to have destroyed is actually all kaput dead and gone. It was going to be four months in-book until they find out. That means they have to find out in book 2, right? Right? 

Some more scifi? Yesplease. Check out these plotlines:

Do you have any space sci-fi/space opera recommendations for me? Comment!

[Book Review] Romance on the lam

Book Review: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (Vorkosigan Saga, #15)(Vorkosigan Saga #15)

I can’t believe it’s been fifteen books already. Here is the latest installment in this military space opera series, following Ivan Vorpatril. In the past, Ivan has played the Watson to the series protagonist Miles’ Sherlock Holmes. But with Captin Vorpatril’s Alliance, it’s his turn to get his very own book.

Captain Ivan Vorpatril, confirmed bachelor, is happy as an admiral’s aide on an easy assignment, far from the politicking of the empire. On the other side of town, Tej Arqua and the exotic blue-skinned Rish are on the run, assassins on their heels and a price on their heads.

And of course, Tej and Rish’s troubles soon become Ivan’s very big and inconvenient problem. 

Bujold does it again – the novel is a rollercoaster of plots and resolutions, all with the humor and wit we’ve come to expect and love in her Miles’ series. I wasn’t very keen on reading a book from Ivan’s point of view (he’d never really struck me as an exciting character), but man, was I wrong. Ivan is great. He’s my favorite. I want more books about Ivan.  Continue reading

[Book Review] Treachery, kidnapping, and 24th century super-commandos

Book Review: The Ramal Extraction: Cutter’s Wars by Steve Perry

The Ramal Extraction: Cutter's WarsAfter marathoning through both of the Expendables, Lockout, and the latest Mission Impossible, this title was a perfect segue off-screen and into some book action. Science fiction, check. Fancy guns, check. Rugged guy on cover, looking coyly over his shoulder, check.

Colonel Cutter leads one of the best mercenary forces in the galaxy, men (and women, and aliens) for hire for the right price. Having just completed an easy mission, they’re hired for an extraction – the daughter of a powerful Rajah has been kidnapped by villains unknown. The team finds itself facing insurgents, assassins, a furious groom-to-be, a very short timeline, and no idea who had taken the girl. Continue reading

[ Book Review ] Academy Dropout Wanted for Captaincy.

Chirp, I have no idea.

Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

(Vatta’s War series)

I have a weakness for space fantasy, so when I saw this cover staring out at me, I thought, “Oh no, I am absolutely not–“, but my hand was already reaching.

I started Trading in Danger at 10:23pm yesterday and finished it in one swoop. The last half I power-skimmed, bleary-eyed but enthusiastic. It was five minutes till four in the morning when I reached the back cover. As a result, I have no idea what to rate this book. All I know is this: it kept me turning the pages well past any semblance of a normal sleep schedule. And I love it for that.

Ky has just been kicked out of the military academy.  Of course, she still has her family business and support to fall back on: the Vatta trading corporation’s run by her father, and he’ll find her a place in it. The problem? She’s failed again–and she doesn’t want to be seen as the irresponsible, pampered girl she used to be.

When her family gives her a ship and sends her on a trade route to get her away from the media mess she’d caused, it’s two-parts well-meaning banishment, and one-part opportunity. And then things begin get complicated.

Warships and pirates complicated.

Continue reading

[ Book Review ] He’s human, and she’s a blob.

Changing Vision by Julie E. Czerneda 

(The second book in the Web Shifters series)

In a futuristic world, where humans and aliens have spread across the galaxy, Esen Alt Quar, a web shifter — a biological animorph, the last of her kind — shares a trading business with her friend and human, Paul Ragem. On taking her first vacation after fifty years of self-imposed exile, danger strikes, both accidental and malevolent.  New species of aliens, old enemies, abduction, ghosts, torture, a super-weapon, the imminent destruction of a planet, and family grudges all rear their heads over the space of 500-some pages.

Now as with the other Czerneda books I have read so far (just three, to be fair), this novel suffers from the breadth of detail it attempts to cover, and from the scope of its interstellar action.  At the same time, and though there are a lot of them, the minor characters are carefully three dimensional and undergo their own personal growth and redemption.

Changing Vision sets itself apart in another sense as well; it is neither the sword & sorcery genre transposed into space, nor is it a thinly veiled pretense for a romance novel. While I do enjoy romance (and, of course, the inevitable angst) in my Space Opera, the strength of this series is Continue reading

[ Book Review ] It’s a Conflict alright.

Book Review: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: Conflict of Honors

(a novel of the Liaden Universe, the front cover says)

Product Description (lifted from Amazon.com):

“In the third novel of the Liaden Universe, Priscilla Delacroix is betrayed and abandoned by her shipmates. But confronting the crew will be far easier-and safer-than confronting the demons of her past.”

Upon reading this standalone novel from the Liaden Universe, however, the reader discovers that the much harder tasks falls to taking the characters and their situations seriously. I picked Conflict of Honors off the shelf up knowing full well it was a space opera. Hell, that was its selling point – the promise of angst, space, hilarious misunderstandings, and big dosage of futuristic escapism. And I was prepared to swallow mediocre prose to get it.

Instead, the authors created a monolith of flat characters, uninteresting conversations, and absurd conflicts bested only by the even more unlikely resolutions. Please note, the following will include a liberal helping of [mild] spoilers. Reader discretion advised. Continue reading