Book two of the Mountain Man series picks up right after book one as Gus recovers from the attack on his home that almost killed him. His poor state of health forces him to venture into the city to find pain killers to aid in his recovery so he makes sure to also grab supplies (mostly booze.) WHen he begins to feel better he decides to take advantage of the winter conditions and fight back against the zombie horde down in the city while the cold and snow hampers their movement. This leads to the advancement of one of the more intriguing threads from the first book - why do the zombie corpses completely disappear within a few days after they are killed for good? When Gus finally uncovers the root cause behind the disappearances, he finds himself facing a new threat even more menacing than the zombies themselves.
Book one of this series, We Are Legion, was a unique take on the future of the human race. A future that became dependent on self replicating probes implanted with the personality of a cryogenically frozen, sarcastic, sci-fi geek named Bob. With Earth dying and becoming non-viable, Bob and all his replicants are busy doing what they can to find viable homes for the humans left on Earth; however, finding enough habitable planets and getting everyone off Earth in time is no easy task. To that end the Bobs make great strides in technology that allow them to better fulfill their role as humanity's caretakers but the challenges they face are also increasing at an alarming rate. Those challenges include first contact with alien races, both more and less advanced than Bob, domestic terrorists that threaten the survivors on Earth, and Bob's personal struggle with the fact that he is no longer human.
After two generations the research colony on Venus has lost most of its funding so the discovery of a possible alien artifact on the planet's surface couldn't come at a better time. It means an influx of money, but also a team of experts and security agents from the United Nations which has ruthlessly controlled the colonies since Mars tried to declare independence. Elsewhere in the galaxy, an alien planet is slowly dying. Their scientists have finally identified a world they can terraform. However, there is another intelligent species in the same solar system who might have a prior claim. There are those on both sides willing to do anything for their survival even if it means xenocide.
Augustus "Gus" Berry lives alone in the mountains, that is unless you count Uncle Jack (Daniels) and Captain Morgan who he spends a lot of time with every day. He was a painter, not a soldier, before the world changed but now he wields his Boomstick and baseball bat with the skills of a pro. Gus takes no chances because he knows that it only takes one mistake for the zombies to get the better of you, but winter is coming and needs to venture down into the city to scavenge supplies. He works over the houses because the obvious locations like stores and malls were picked clean long ago, but going through houses can be a bit of a crap shoot. Most don't have much but every now and then you hit a good one. Gus suits up and makes sure that he is prepared for whatever the zombies may throw at him but he isn't quite ready for what other humans might have in store.
For the first five books of the Frontlines series humanity was pushed from their many homes amongst the stars back towards Earth. The aliens known as Lankies eventually set up a foothold on Mars and began to batter Earth and put humanity on the brink; however, in the last book we saw the human forces finally push back. Although the Lankies are still on Mars it is no longer a launching point for their military and human forces control the orbital. This book starts a number of years later over the last few years there has not been a single Lankey attack launched against Earth so of course it is time to get curious and figure out what is going on. What better way to do that than to head back out of our solar system and see what the Lankies are up to elsewhere. What could possibly go wrong?
The planet would survive but humankind was probably doomed. There was indeed a solution but it couldn't be finished in time to save civilization. So they built what they could and left artificial intelligence to finish the job in the hope that any survivors would need it in the future. Assuming that their descendants would have the scientific knowledge to make use of their creation there was still the problem of how language would change over 12,000 years. They built Atlantis, left a code, and hoped for the best. Now a small group of scientists has less than a week to crack it. They will need to venture under the ice of Antarctica in the middle of a war, escape nanoswarm lifeforms that would prefer humans die out, and crack the code that might explain how to use a machine beyond their science.
Ready Player One was a fun sci-fi adventure that became a favorite of gamers everywhere, including myself, and it went on to also become a successful movie directed by Steven Spielberg. With so few good gamer centric novels being written I was instantly worried when I saw this sequel was in the works because I felt there would be no way for Ernest Cline to recapture the magic of the first book. Sure he could load up another novel with a ton of pop culture trivia but it was the magic of the giant Easter egg hunt with a fortune at stake that truly captured one's imagination. So I went into this one with trepidation, and while it is not as good as the original, it was able to grab my attention with all of the tantalizing possibilities of where gaming and technology might go in the future.
In the first book of the series, Firefly: Big Damn Hero we got a glimpse of Shepherd Book's mysterious background before he became a man of the cloth, and this time around we get a lot more than just a glimpse of the past of the man they call Jayne. Jayne's past catches up to him when an old flame, Temperance. reaches out to him in dire need of assistance. Her small town on a dusty planet in the middle of nowhere is under threat from a band of thugs and she is desperate enough to reach out to Jayne even though they didn't part on good terms. This does sound like a job for Jayne but he also knows he can't go it alone so the entire crew winds up risking their lives for someone they don't even know. Not to mention this isn't even a paying gig.
Terry Brooks, best known as the author of the Shannara series, offers up a dystopian sci-fi tale set in the United Territories, which is the country that was formed after the fall of the United States. Ash Collins is a typical teenager working on his homework when he gets a vidview from his Dad. "Ash! Get out now! Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks. Don't wait!" his out of breath Dad urgently says before the call gets abruptly cut off. Ash is pretty surprised by that call since the Red Zone is the forbidden area of Los Angeles that is way too dangerous for him to have ever been there; however, when his apartment is suddenly assaulted he flees out a window without a real plan. Ash has lived a sheltered life and is ill prepared to be hunted by professionals, so when his Dad shows up on the news for supposedly committing suicide, Ash has little choice but to follow his Dad's cryptic final instructions and head into the Red Zone to find Street Freaks, whatever that is.
I have never had a desire to delve into the plethora of books related to existing TV/movie sci-fi franchises, like Star Trek or Star Wars, but Firefly's cancellation remains such a sore spot for me that I couldn't resist a chance to experience more of the characters I fell in love with and didn't get enough of. Big Damn Hero is the first novel set in the world of the short-lived TV series created by Joss Whedon and it reads like it could easily have been an episode of the series. Set in a time before the movie Serenity, as evidenced by all of the characters being present, Big Damn Hero offers up a chance for you to return to the Verse and spend more time with Mal and the crew as they try to make a living under the watchful eye of the Alliance.