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.
Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher, but times are tough in Chicago and he is struggling to make ends meet. His job is bound by strict rules, after all murdering people in order to save their lives is a complicated business, but when the bills start to stack up some of those "grey area" gigs become more attractive. As we experienced in the first novella, The Dispatcher, for an unknown reason it has become almost impossible to murder anyone as 99.9% of the time when someone is murdered their body disappears and they find themselves back at home alive and well with full knowledge of their death. Society has had 12 years to come to grips with this new reality and people are starting to get creative in how they take advantage of this phenomenon. This makes life complicated for Tony and his potential side gigs because he really could use the money.
The previous book was a total cliffhanger so it is up to this series finale to wrap up all the open storylines. The war in Europe went FUBAR when the dirty bombs did not wipe out the Variants as intended so Team Ghost is now up against a whole new level of enemy. The radiation from the bombs has caused the monsters to accelerate their rate of mutation and it has resulted in the evolution of a Queen mutant capable of controlling the others. Back in the US there is a full blown civil war underway and President Ringgold is on the run since many believe she ordered attacks on the very safe zones that she created. Horne is doing his best to keep Dr. Novato alive while Beckham is lost and presumed dead. Is it finally time for the human race to go extinct or will the remaining humans give all they have to prevail?
The fight for Earth has been lost. With the failure of Operation Redemption in the last book the human race now finds itself on the brink of extinction. The few humans still alive on Earth can barely recognize their own planet. All the freshwater gone and the oceans down to 21% of their former volume, and still the aliens continue to drain away the remaining water. Earth is now a barren planet and this is the world that the former crew of the grounded submarine, Ghost of Atlantis, is trying to survive in. Of course, things are not much better for their former commander, Captain Noble, who finds himself caged in some kind of alien zoo spaceship and headed to an unknown destination. Perhaps humanity's best hope of survival is Dr Winston's team who are on their way to Mars aboard the NTC Sunspot in a desperate attempt to find a new home - too bad for them the aliens are already there too.
Catherine Asaro's most recent series set in her Skolian Empire continues with Major Bhaajan investigating the sudden disappearance of a wealthy woman from her own party. The house EI, (Evolving Intelligence), has no record of the exact minute she vanished and the destruction of the room almost looks like there was an explosion but there is no body or evidence that she left the house. Bhaajan has little to go on until another woman vanishes. Again the EI has no record and a woman in the next room heard nothing. This time the crime is personal for Lavinda Majda, the one royal that Bhaaj not only respects but actually likes. Thanks to her relationship with the crimelord Jak in the Undercity, Bhaaj slowly begins to unravel a conspiracy hidden among the Empire's elite. They are attempting to use ancient technology leftover from those who originally brought humans to Raylicon six thousand years earlier.
Book 2 of the Quantum Evolution series is an even bigger brain burner than the first one so don't pick this up unless your mind is in the right place. In The Quantum Magician, Belisarius pulled off the biggest con of his career and also walked away with the Time Gates, which could be the most valuable asset in the universe. He is back with Cassandra, the love of his life, and he has a also possibly reached a new state of evolution for his sub-species, the Homo Quantus, as he is the only one capable of seeing the quantum possibilities of the universe without having to enter a fugue state. So things are looking pretty good for him as he approaches the Garret, the homeworld of his people that he left long ago, just in time to see it destroyed before his very eyes.
Being a Lyctor isn't at all what Harrow expected and Ascension has brought her nothing but grief. The Emperor immediately arranges for some of the resurrected, who have been in stasis for ten thousand years, to be transported to the Ninth, her former House. However, as a Lyctor Harrow has little time to brood over their fate because she must begin preparing to join the other Lyctors in battle against the great Resurrection Beasts. Each beast started as the soul of a planet that was altered by that planet's Resurrection and now Harrow and Ianthe, the other new Lyctor, have only a year to become fully functional or they will likely die when the next Beast is engaged. Of course, that is assuming the other Lyctors don't kill Harrow first.
Because the marketing hype for Gideon appeals more to millennials it led me to avoid this book until I was desperate for something new. The publisher's blurb also gives the impression of yet another teen competition plot albeit with lesbian necromancers and dirty magazines this time. The first chapter does in fact mention dirty magazines, and there are in fact necromancers, but ignore the rest as the Post-Resurrection Empire is a unique and strange setting. The Undying Emperor, father of the resurrection, has spent the last ten thousand years fighting a terrible cosmic threat with the aid of his immortal Lyctors. For the first time he has issued an invitation to the eight noble houses to send their best necromancer, along with their cavalier, to attempt Ascension and become Lyctors to replace the fallen. The brilliant and psychotic necromancer Harrowhark sees this as an opportunity to save the dying Ninth House if she Ascends but first she needs a cavalier. Gideon only cares because the announcement interrupts her latest and best attempt to escape the Ninth and join the army but then Harrowhark offers her an irresistible deal. Help Harrow Ascend and she will not only sign the paperwork so she can legally join the army, but also have Gideon commissioned as an officer.
What made this series unique at the start was the concept of trying to survive an apocalypse by living in the sky aboard airships. Once the focus moved down to the planet for the last two books there were times when the series felt like it had gone on a bit too long. The same storm related issues continue to arise over and over and the fights with the sirens have gotten old, but each time the story starts to drag a bit it is the characters that save the day. After a slow start to this one I was once again heavily invested in the outcome before it was over due to the characters and my desire to see them succeed. King Xavier has more enemies to fight than ever before, and that is saying something, and that means that humanity's future is as bleak as it has ever been. Certain Cazadores still resist his rule and cause internal strife while even larger external threats are organizing to come and take the Vanguard Islands for themselves. Once more we get a chance to find out if X, aka The Immortal, can live up to his nickname, or if time has finally run out for the dream of living on the surface.