Indie Highlight: “The Wings of War” by Bryce O’Connor and “The Ixan Prophecies” by Scott Bartlett

The “Indie Highlight” is a series of posts in which I shine the lights on Indie/Self-Published books that I believe are worthy of your attention. I’ll be writing reviews and recommending them, along with providing links on where to get the books.

The Wings of War series by Bryce O’Connor

The Wings of War series box set was one that got me with great ads. The artwork featured on the covers were fantastic, and we can’t help but judge books by their covers, so I was interested. I was sold when I saw the first four books lumped together for $.99 with more than 500 reviews averaging over 4 stars.

But all of that doesn’t matter if the content isn’t good. Bryce O’Connor has created a fascinating character in Raz i’Syul, a dragon person (the name for his species escapes me) whose life is compelling and tragic. Some aspects of prophecy get woven throughout the fantasy setting of the four books in this series. There are many fantasy tropes packed in here, but none of them feel particularly overdone or boring. O’Connor grabbed me with his characters right from the start and that’s the major selling point of this series. The world-building for the series is compact, generally focused directly around the actions of Raz and his companions. It will be interesting to see if the sequel (the promised 5th book is coming soon!) opens the world up more for exploration or maintains the narrow focus.

The series is sold, in part, as ‘dark fantasy’ and there are certainly some pretty dark parts in the books, though it is rare that the darker/violent moments felt like window dressing as opposed to intrinsic to the plot. There are times where it does dip into the unbelievable with some aspects of how the violence plays out, but it never drove me off the more powerful urge to read just one more chapter. The series is definitely a page-turner that had me looking forward to reading more while I was doing other things throughout the day.

The whole series weighs in at around 1700 pages so far, with at least one more book on the way. It’s a series worth checking out, especially if you like narrowly focused action-filled fantasy. Get the first four books for $0.99!

The Ixan Prophecies Trilogy by Scott Bartlett

The Ixan Prophecies Trilogy begins with Supercarrier, a book I got through Prime Reading and decided to give a chance because I like big spaceships shooting at each other. I didn’t anticipate a truly fascinating piece of world-building accompanied by shades of religion, prophecy, questions of the dangers of unfettered capitalism, and more.

The crew of a supercarrier that some believe is obsolete get thrust into a major conflict that may endanger the whole human race. Does that sound familiar? Maybe a little bit like Battlestar Galactica? I thought that too, but I didn’t anticipate the way that Bartlett would throw much bigger questions as well as a group of fascinating alien species at me to accompany what initially felt like a tried-and-true plot formula. The series continued to evolve throughout the second book, Juggernaut, and came to a satisfying conclusion with the third book, Reckoning. The possibility for more works was left open, and I was pleased to see Bartlett has put out more books.

At times, the actions of the crew were a little bit strange to me, particularly on a vessel that is run with military efficiency. The amount of questioning orders and second-guessing command decisions was a bit more than I tend to think necessary in fiction (admittedly, I have absolutely no idea how things go in the real military other than secondhand reports, so maybe I’m in the wrong here). The battle sequences are a delight. The aliens are interesting, often in ways that were unexpected. I love running into ideas for aliens that feel genuinely original, and Bartlett offered more than one in this series.

The Ixan Prophecies trilogy is definitely worth your time if you are into military sci-fi or like science fiction with interesting aliens. My complaints are minor enough to recommend the series for your reading. Additionally, Bartlett is super engaged through social media and his fantastic newsletter. I love when authors engage with readers, and Bartlett definitely meets that desire. Check out the first book, Supercarrier, for a low price (varying).

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Guest Post: “Seeing Our Present Through the Lens of the Past” – Vintage Sci-Fi

Pluto- Inspiration of many a sci-fi work, photo from NASA (Public Domain)

I’m very excited to offer up a guest post about Vintage Sci-Fi in anticipation of Vintage Sci-Fi Month (January). I hope you will join me an many others in dedicating a month of reading to vintage sci-fi (the loose definition of “vintage” that has been adopted is anything written before the year of your birth). I’m hosting this post as part of a blog tour for Vintage Sci-Fi Month!

Jacob of RedStarReviews is a lifelong reader who found out about #VintageSciFiMonth after it had been around for a few years and immediately joined in and now January is his favorite month of the year for reading.

Seeing Our Present Through The Lens Of The Past

We are almost in the year 2020. When we go back and read Vintage SciFi stories it’s quickly apparent that a lot of the authors guessed wrongly on how their future would turn out because we’ve bypassed several dates covered in these books and not left the solar system or met aliens or have personal jet packs in every household for ease of transportation. So why would we want to read stories that are seemingly outdated? Or even problematic in their views? That’s a question I’ve asked and been asked so I’ve invested some thought into this and would love sharing my answer with y’all!

I think there is great value (and fun) in seeing our present/near future through the eyes of the creative minds of our past. Some you’ll read and see they weren’t too far off, others are so far off it’s like you’re reading alternative histories, while others you read and you wonder if the author was a time traveler. However when you’re reading words directed towards the future from the past you’re also seeing the hopes, bias, dreams, fears, and thought processes from an earlier age and there is value in that. You can be reminded of how far we’ve come as a species and have hope that we’ll continue to grow; or maybe see where we’ve failed to grow and start addressing that. You get to see what dangers inspired concern in the hearts of those writers and consider if we’ve moved past those fears or if we still need to address those issues. You get to see us through their eyes and see if we measure up, fall short, or exceed their thoughts on the future of humanity.

Seeing ourselves through the eyes of others is a challenging and much needed experience! It is a worthwhile thought experiment and a good way to discover personal and societal growth. Vintage SciFi allows us the opportunity to do this and it’s one of the reasons why I love #VintageSciFiMonth and eagerly await January every year! I hope you’ll consider joining us this year and gain some new perspectives from older works.

 

“Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow” by E.K. Johnston

I saw that Queen’s Shadow was announced and felt a thrill of excitement. Though I have thought the Disney Star Wars books have been uneven (as were the Expanded Universe novels before Disney, for sure), I have enjoyed my share of them. Also, I have a soft spot for The Phantom Menace. I saw it as a kid right at an age that it would appeal to. Sure, it has major issues, but it has some truly great moments. I love the over-the-top feel of Queen Amidala, as well as basically all the cool stuff on Naboo. So here we are, with a novel about the Queen and the handmaids. I feel that.

The book follows these handmaids through Padme’s move into the Senate, and shows how their careers diverge into different paths. It picks up right as Padme’s time as Queen is coming to an end. Some political intrigue is involved, and readers get insight into one of the best characters from the prequel trilogy. E.K. Johnston gives all the handmaids personalities and motivations. I didn’t think any were particularly memorable, but they made me want to keep reading.  The book has several memorable moments, especially as it reaches its climactic action and ties to the later movies.

Johnston also fills in several details about how things developed in between films, which I always think is welcome especially for the Prequel Trilogy, which, among its faults, moved too quickly for my taste. There are also some details filled in about the broader conflicts in the Galaxy, which helps make sense of some of the machinations behind Episode III.

The novel is for a Young Adult audience, but reads just about the same as most Star Wars books, in my opinion. The whole expanded universe and now these “canon” novels are generally appropriate for any readers capable of handling somewhat mature content. It honestly makes me wonder a little bit why this was categorized as YA and not simply in the general science fiction section.

Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow is quite a fun read, and one that serves fans well. It’s not going to blow readers away with the intricacy of the plot, but it gives Star Wars fans more insight into the films and some of the more interesting characters in the prequel series. Johnston’s work is a welcome addition to the Star Wars canon, and I particularly enjoyed learning more about the Queen. I’d recommend reading it.

Links

Star Wars Expanded Universe Read Through– I have many posts on expanded universe novels within Star Wars. Check them out here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

 

Five for Friday: Let’s Talk 5 random books! – 3/29/19

Over at the “Little Red Reviewer,” “Redhead” has been posting a “Five for Friday” feature on five random books from her shelves to discuss and encouraging others to do so. So here, I go. Following (directly, as quoted in the link)  her rules:

The only things these books have in common are:
-they were
on my bookshelf
-I’m interested in your thoughts on them

This go-round, I grabbed what was nearest at hand, along with one book from my “to read” nonfiction basket.

Firefly Legacy Edition Book One (2018)
I love Firefly. I recently re-watched it for the first time in too long and the feeling when it ended was very much empty. I saw that this collection of Firefly graphic novels was coming out, and sprung for it and the second. Of course, I still haven’t read it. I clearly need to. Anyone read these comics?

The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Desolation by Yoshiki Tanaka (2018)
This is volume 8 in the 10 volume Legend of the Galactic Heroes series. Better known for its anime (that’s still hard to track down, sadly), this is a  military space opera that feels like an anime when you’re reading it. Unfortunately, it hasn’t made as much a splash in English as I was hoping it would. But these novels are truly enjoyable. They have a very different feel from most military sci-fi in English, and the scale is really anime–like thousands of ships battling each other. I love it.

Natural Signs and Knowledge of God by C. Stephen Evans (2010)
I read this book back when it came out, but want to re-read it. Evans gives a different perspective on theistic arguments than is often offered. He doesn’t fall into the trap of seeing them as entire, clear proofs. I am interested in the re-read but I probably won’t get to it for a long while yet.

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff (1954)
I fell in love with Sutcliff’s books as a child and have re-read many of them several times. This one is probably my favorite, and there was an okay movie made out of it (The Eagle). Anyway, Sutcliff writes truly grounded historical fiction, largely centered around the Roman Empire. Anyone else read her stuff?

Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2008)
The first book in Tchaikovsky’s “Shadows of the Apt” series, this novel shows his immense talent across the board. The premise includes humans divided into various “kinden” that have various abilities of insects, something of Tchaikovsky’s specialty. It’s a truly epic fantasy series (10 books long!) and I’m on book 6, so far loving every minute. I’m glad I dove into this after reading the superb Children of Time by the same author.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1958

I’ve almost completed my read-through of the top science fiction books of all time and was casting about for something else to do. I decided that reading through the list of Hugo award winners and nominees wasn’t a bad way to spend my time.

The Big Time by Fritz Leiber (Winner/My Winner [default])- Grade: A-
Leiber’s idea here is super awesome. Two factions are sending time traveling armies throughout, er, time to battle it out every-when. That’s the bare bones of the idea, and I have to say I thought it was completely awesome. “You don’t know about the Change War, but it’s influencing your lives all the time and maybe you’ve had hints of it without realizing” (chapter 1). So this Change War is going on all around you and I. We may not know it, but perhaps that firefighter who saved a child in a burning building was really one of the Spiders coming back through time to ensure the child survived–or perhaps the arsonist was a Snake sent back to ensure the child didn’t live. Nevertheless, in the here and now, all we know is what we know. It’s a startlingly all-inclusive concept that doesn’t happen often even in speculative fiction. It makes everything new in a way that can influence how you look at happenings. It’s like the “glitch in the Matrix”–whenever I have deja vu I always think about it. But a great concept does not a classic make. Leiber has a strong plot to go along with the concept, though some of the characters fall a bit flat and the dialogue is stilted at times. I truly wish there were many, many more books following this idea, because it made time travel relevant and interesting.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

My Read-Through of the Hugos- Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1955

I’ve almost completed my read-through of the top science fiction books of all time and was casting about for something else to do. I decided that reading through the list of Hugo award winners and nominees wasn’t a bad way to spend my time. I start here, at the beginning, with the first Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel. Each year, I’ll read all the books nominated and pick my own winner, while also noting which novel won the award that year.

They’d Rather be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley (Winner/My Winner)
Grade: D
Apparently this book is widely regarded as the worst book to ever win a Hugo award. I thought it was passable in parts, though. The main plot is a decent thread: scientists make a machine that can basically make you immortal, but only if you are able to give up all of your prejudices and admitting you’re wrong. The problem is that many, many people would rather be right than admit to being wrong, so very few can benefit. It’s a good piece for irony, though the authors don’t often cash in on it. Instead, what we have is a bunch of 1950s ideas about men and women that are very outdated, some horrible dialogue, and some head-scratching moments. Honestly, the opening was the coolest part, where a young boy is discovered to have certain mental powers. Overall, it is not a very good book, though it could have been a great short story. Also, what the heck is with that 1st Edition cover? Finally, I am guessing–I may be wrong–that this is going to be the lowest grade given to a Hugo Award book that is also my winner. This one gets it by default, being the only one known on the ballot.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

My Read-Through of the Hugos- Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Share Your Idea for Star Trek Series- Along with my idea!

q-whoOn Facebook I mentioned how much I’ve been enjoying the “New Frontier” Star Trek series of books. They’re a fascinating look at different parts of the universe that don’t show up in the TV shows or movies. A friend came along and asked what my idea would be for a Star Trek Series (book or television). I decided to write up a brief blog post on it and share my idea with you. I’d love to hear your own ideas in the comments. Here’s my pitch:

I think a series that was set as a struggle against Borg expansion would be utterly fascinating. The Borg remain a kind of open-ended question in the Star Trek Universe. Imagine a series that followed, say, a Defiant Class ship (or maybe a bigger one so they could introduce more characters–but a class designed to combat Borg) as they tried to stamp out Borg incursions in Federation space.

They could also have some kind of modified Warp drive that allowed them to jump around faster and get to hot spots behind the borders or in other places, combating Borg attacks on planets outside the Federation. Some of these planets could be lost, while others would be saved by the crew of the ship.

I’d give them a super nerdy Borg expert–possibly Vulcan–as a science officer, a battle hardened captain (maybe ex-Borg), a first officer with a grudge, at least one Klingon, a Bajoran who has seen a lot of fighting with Cardassians, and more. Medical officer should be pretty unique too–more willing to do things that would combat the Borg.

Ethical dilemmas could be the name of the game–do they do things that would kill more Borg just for the sake of killing them? How do they choose which planets/people to save? etc.