One of my favorite things in sci-fi is the question of what it means to be human, and when do machines cross that line into being truly alive, capable of free will, of questioning their makers, of wanting to be a part of this thing called “life”. “Urban Heroes” leans hard into that question and I love it. You have the main character, Calista, who is on the run from the uprising between man and machine she was accidentally a part of. Calista is a pilot, which means she has an almost symbiotic relationship with her ship all for the low, low price of trading her arm for a robotic one. Calista runs in with people who have more machine parts then actual machines, and yet they are offered more rights than the true robotic AI populating their world. Which is occupied by floating cities now that the world has kind of crumbled away, or something. With Calista is Axton, who pretty much everyone and their mother wants to get their hands on. Why? That is slowly teased out over the course of this very short book, and I loved the tragedy that was Calista and Axton. This book makes you think, question what is truly alive, breaks your heart, and leaves you wanting more. Maybe too much more?
I am not the biggest reader of dystopian novels, or at least, pure dystopian. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read anything in the genre mainly because I haven’t seen a lot of exciting things done in it. But, behold! Allow me to introduce you to “Reactive” and Tatum City! The world our MC, Lune, occupies has been destroyed—nuclear fallout is kind of what is alluded to but I'm not sure. Strange beasts roam the wilds, and safety can only be found in the walled cities. But some cities are far from safe. Lune is kidnapped from her loving mother, and given to the leader of Tatum City where she is constantly beaten, as everyone around her tries to break her spirit. But that never stops Lune from going for the one thing she wants more than anything else: to be reunited with her mother who she hasn’t seen for 11 years. The only way to do that is to win the three deadly Trials. Winning just one Trial means you get the right to have a better job, and additional benefits for your family, but winning all three means you are given a boon of your choosing, and Lune would do anything to win and choose her freedom. Well, almost anything.
“Demon’s on the Dalton” is the second in the Hell Hole’s serial trilogy, and picks up pretty immediately from where the first in the series left off. Although, this book spends a decent chunk early on recapping and re-familiarizing the reader with what happened in the first novella, so if you don’t read the first one, I don’t think you’ll be totally lost, though I do think the excitement of the first book is higher than in the second. We get Angela’s perspective this time as our trio of survivors race across the Dalton. The majority of the story is spent with our characters in their vehicle, barely able to stop to pee on the side of the road before all manner of hell spawn is on top of them. Their mission is still primarily to survive, to get to Fairbanks, and safety. But as the U.S. military mobilizes and starts their counter attack, their mission shifts, becoming more than just survival, but helping the powers that be to end the unending wave of demonic creatures that are pouring into our world.
“An Honest Policy” is a satirical commentary on the American voting system that was inspired by Reddits’ Writing Prompts boards. It’s a quick novella full of snarky wit, humor and an eldritch god-like entity who has decided he—it?—has had enough of the lies and the extremes of the political parties. Qym—the god’s name is much longer, so hopefully he doesn’t kill me for the abbreviation—is running on one very honest and straight forward policy: if elected president, he will murder everyone. No foreign policies, no questions on healthcare or family values, everyone will be equally dead. Tom, the Conservative extreme-esque opponent to Qym and a seasoned politician, has only ever lied to people. He’s only ever done and pandered to who and what is necessary in order to achieve his political goals, including having a fake family. Tom may not be honest, but he’s also not promising murder, so he’s pretty caught off guard when he starts losing to this ancient deity, and badly. So the question becomes if Tom can win and “save” America, but really, the story’s focus is on the circus that is politics and the echo chamber that prime time media allows us to fall into. The commentary is not subtle, no “side” is right, no one is good. It’s frustrating, but very entertaining, and unnervingly close to home—minus the murderous god thing, of course.
Talk about an epic space opera! “Luska”, the first in the Spearfinger series, is a robust story, both in terms of the world building, the amount of developed characters the reader is introduced to, and the far reaching conflict that is introduced. The story starts with the caretakers of the galaxy, the Idrix, being wiped out leaving a power vacuum that disrupts the once peaceful balance the galaxy had been in. Now the different factions that feel neglected or who chaff under a perceived yoke of servitude, rise up and cause wide spread havoc which gives the perfect cover to an even worse threat to come in. An ancient god-like race that is firmly anti-alien threatens everyone and everything, and only a few people are in a position to do anything about it. You can tell just from that really brief synopsis that this is a complex world and story, which I am all for—most of the time.
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