Daniel Abraham, one of the two authors that write The Expanse series under the name James S. A. Corey, offers up an epic fantasy series featuring a rich, complex world worthy of your attention. Unfortunately, it might not seem that way at first. The opening chapters jump around from character to character and right when you start to get your bearings then a new chapter starts and you find yourself completely lost all over again. This feeling of confusion is compounded by the fact that there are a myriad of different humanoid races and you are exposed to the history of the world along with the present day. This is a lot to absorb all at the same time which makes it easy to lose track of things, especially when you don't know what is important and what is not. Luckily it is all worth the effort in the end because The Dagger and the Coin is an excellent series once you get settled into it.
The fifth book of the Frontlines series brings the story to a turning point for mankind. The first four books have seen humanity dominated by the alien Lankies, losing battle after battle, and abandoning every human planet except for Earth. Even then, the relentless attacks coming from the Lanky inhabited planet of Mars have caused humanity to barely maintain a hold on Earth. With our existence on the brink, the only option left is to go "all in" and launch an offensive to reclaim our solar system. Gathering up the scraps of the space fleet to attack Mars is a desperate play, but there are no other alternatives left.
To anyone who enjoys fantasy RPG games, including old school paper Dungeons & Dragons, the premise of this book is an interesting one. Why are there so many dungeons around just sitting there waiting for a party of adventures to come and plunder them? How did they get there and where did the monsters come from? What do those monsters in each room do all day long when the dungeon is not being raided? How can a rat drop a helmet twice its size as loot after it is killed? Well this book attempts to explain all of that and while a tongue in cheek book about the illogic of fantasy RPG video games may sound like fun, let me tell you why you might want to avoid this one.
All the main characters are back (at least the ones that are still alive) and Peter V. Brett finally brings his epic story to a conclusion. Sharak Ka is nigh and it is time to find out if humanity has what it takes to survive the threat. Despite the many advances in warding skills and demon fighting techniques that have occurred since the series started, mankind still remains ill prepared for what is coming. The Krasians and Thesans must put aside their differences if they are to survive until dawn. Whether you believe in the Creator, Everam, or neither, it matters not as the demons are ready to swarm and every living person must do their part or be prepared to walk the lonely path.
In 2088 Earth decides to send out twelve deep space missions. Reggie Straifer proposes that they visit an anomalous star that appears to have some kind of shell blocking the light emitting from it. When his proposal is accepted and becomes one of the twelve missions he chooses the name Noumenon, a posited object or event that exists without sense or perception. Nine ships, populated by genetic clones, travel for two hundred years to get to the star while back on Earth two thousand years pass by. The story is told in first person vignettes at crucial timepoints.
Despite being only two books in length the Commonwealth Saga manages to deliver an epic science fiction story from the mind of author Peter F. Hamilton. The first book, Pandora's Star, is aptly named as it sets the stage by telling the tale of how humanity lets curiosity unleash a threat upon the galaxy that it is in no way prepared to handle. Multi-century lifespans and instant wormhole travel between stars has made humanity overly complacent and easy prey for the Prime aliens who are ruthless, aggressive, and without mercy. Survival of the fittest may have served us well in the distant past but now it is time to find out if we are able to channel our inner predator or if we finally become prey to someone else.
This work originally started as an online journal where each entry was uploaded piece by piece and appeared as if it was hand written by the protagonist as he tried to survive a zombie apocalypse. It was published in this unconventional way because J. L Bourne wanted it to feel real and raw and was quoted as saying "there are no publishers or editors in the apocalypse." Eventually this unique work was compiled and morphed into book form but the journal entry format remained in tact which is a good thing since it happens to keep the story moving forward rapidly. Couple that with the credibility that Bourne's 22 years of military and intelligence service brings to his main character, who is also military, and you have a unique work worth experiencing within a very crowded genre.
Fuzzy Nation is a modern take on the classic tale of a large corporation exploiting natural resources for profit, destroying the environment in the process, and then running into an environmental snag. In this case the exploitation happens to be occurring on a distant planet and the snag is the discovery of a new life form that mucks up the works. Because these new creatures are small and furry they are given the name "Fuzzies" and the bulk of this story is the ensuing legal battle between scientists and lawyers over whether or not the Fuzzies are sapient. Of course if they are deemed sapient then interplanetary law dictates that the corporation must stop exploiting their home world and leave it to them, so vast sums of money are at stake on the outcome. Don't be fooled into thinking that a legal battle must be boring as John Scalzi injects his usual amount of humor into the tale and makes this a fun short story that doesn't outstay its welcome.
Pandora's Star is the book where Peter F. Hamilton first introduces readers to the human Commonwealth. It is the year 2380 and humanity has populated several hundred worlds across hundreds of light years, all due to wormhole technology. That is when a single astronomer observes something unexplainable about 1000 light years from Earth - two stars just disappear when they become simultaneously enclosed by some kind of structure. This sparks all kinds of debate within the Commonwealth as whoever did this must have technology far superior to humanity and could pose a serious threat to the Commonwealth despite the distance. What to do about it? Sit back and do nothing hoping to avoid detection by these superior aliens or attempt to find a way to traverse the massive distance to take a closer look? Neither option is a great one and the Commonwealth's ultimate decision makes up the core of this interesting story.
This time around Edward W. Robertson moves his story arc forward right from the start but he does it by mixing the old with the new as Walt returns to being a main character. There are two main story lines once again with Walt, who we know from Breakers, as the central figure of one and Raina, who was just a child when human civilization fell, as the central character of the other. Right from the start these two story lines offer different perspectives on the state of the Los Angeles basin as human factions vie for control of the area. If you haven't started the series and want to avoid any spoilers that reveal plot points from the prior books then you should stop reading now but know that this book is probably the best of the Breakers series to date because the story arc is finally moving forward, although things don't appear to going well for anyone.