Monthly Archives: June 2012

Review: The Hades Factor

The Hades Factor
The Hades Factor by Robert Ludlum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in a series by Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds about a secret organization. This books is really a prequel, so you don’t learn about Covert-One until the end. This book is about a young virus hunter and his wife, also a virus hunter, working side by side at USAMRIID. 3 cases, wide spread across the US, are brought to her attention while her husband is off at a conference in Europe, and also meeting with an old friend. She studies the virus, but it is new, similar to a hantavirus, but different. The cases have nothing in common – s no know vector or source. Then all hell breaks loose. She has stumbled on the wrong (or right) path, and the bad guys are on to her. They inject her with this 100% lethal virus, and clean out her office, very carefully removing all traces of the work she had done, and the contacts she had made. When her husband comes home,and find that his wife is very ill and dying, he vows to stop at nothing to find out who, what, where, when and why. So begins a chase across several continents, meetings with all sorts of people and scientists, and lots of epidemiological work, trying to trace her movements before her death, and to find the source of this infection, as it begins to become a world wide pandemic with millions dying. Fun, fascinating virus-hunter book, and more to look forward to in the series I hope.

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Review: The Ice Limit

The Ice Limit
The Ice Limit by Douglas Preston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another read through of the great Preston/Child novel (earlier in their careers), Ice Limit. A rousing adventure of Cape Horn, just north of the roaring 60s and the ice limit, where the warmer sea meets the Antarctic seas, and new ice is formed. A geologist who hunts meteorites finds one in the ice on a small island in the group of islands off the southern tip of Chile. Something happens and he dies, but a native to the area stumbles upon his equipment, sells it, and word gets back to a billionaire who specializes in rare pieces, like battling dinosaur skeletons and a whole pyramid, and he enlists the help of the geologist’s ex-partner,and famed meteorite hunter, Sam McFarlane, to track this thing down and get it back to New York. He brings in EES, Effective Engineering Solutions, which appears in other Preston/Child books, and they devise a scheme to get what they think is a 10,000 lb meteorite onto a retrofitted tanker and back up to the states, all under the watchful eyes of the Chilean government. What they are doing is technically not illegal, since they are mining “ore,” and have a permit, but still, the government would be reluctant to let such a find out of the country. What follows are the efforts to design and fit the tanker to make it hold the meteorite, camouflage it to some extent, get down to the island in the middle of winter in the southern seas, and retrieve it. But things don’t go as planned, even though EES has never failed to devise a solution to the largest of engineering problems. But this one is different, and it’s a wild ride to the finish. Great thriller, if a tad technical. Some interesting characters. I recall Eli Glinn from previous books and enjoyed him and his company. He is portrayed a little more in depth in this one and a little differently than the others, but still, it’s quite the exciting race as they try and fool an almost insane Chilean navy Commandante, ride out some of the worst weather anywhere, and move an enormous ‘rock” that proves to be more than it looks.

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Review: Dry Ice

Dry Ice
Dry Ice by Bill Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another in the Evans/Jameson weather thrillers, this one takes place in the middle of Antarctica, 1000 miles inland, at a remote and mysterious facility owned by a large agricultural firm. Ostensibly it is to monitor the weather and help predict where and when good crops will prevail. Secretly, they use manipulate weather so that rain falls on areas they own that need it, and dry out areas that don’t. They do good works, working in remote areas like the NE tip of Afghanistan, helping to build the self-sufficiency of the farmers, and bring them out of the stone age, investing in infrastructure, like schools, roads, hospitals. They do this all over the world. But the man who basically built and invented the facility, a creative genius in the field named Greg, has his own agenda. The company has been working with the Pentagon helping them by directing certain weather events to areas where it might help turn the tide of global politics. But Greg has his own agenda with the Pentagon once Flint decided the orders were getting too dangerous and were hurting people, and he intends to continue it. But Flint finds out, and send in Tess Beauchamp, the only other person who might be able to run the station but who is an enemy of Greg’s. They don’t tell him that he is being replaced and recalled to the states until her plane is in the air. But Greg has a surprise in store. Long ago he started working on placing logic bombs into the software that controls the array in just such an event, so that if anyone tampers with it, it triggers massive weather effects, including tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, heat, even volcanic activity and earthquakes. Thus begins a race against time to outwit Greg and his sequenced catastrophes. A thriller of a ride, but plenty of technical information for the geek at heart. I recommend their other work as well.

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Review: Skull Session

Skull Session
Skull Session by Daniel Hecht
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a psychological thriller about a young man who has Tourette’s, his son who suffers from some unknown neurological disease similar to autism, but with epileptic episodes, his girlfriend, and his family, who are somewhat normal and some who seem crazy. He is a teacher, without a job, and needs money, so when his crazy aunt calls and asks him to look in on her mansion up in Westchester County, NY, and repair the extensive damage done by vandalism, he accepts. So he and his girlfriend move up to the old house and begin restoration and sorting through her personal papers, but nothing is as it seems. Long-buried family secrets come to light,and the devils inside his head that he combats start to return with a vengeance. A powerful and unforgettable psychological thriller with horror overtones make this one a great read, although the depth of the psychological and neurological information can slow the narrative down at times. Well-researched, and a good read. My second time around. First read it in 2000.

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Review: Saving Cascadia

Saving Cascadia
Saving Cascadia by John J. Nance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is classic Nance – good solid thriller, clean cut, with no high body count. This one involves a fault line in Washington State, a zone of quietude (no action at all), and pressure building up from the plates moving, along with some geological problems beneath the island itself. Despite the warnings from an eminent seismologist, an engineering firm certifies the island as sound, and a developer builds a big casino complex on the island along with a convention center and hotel. But as warned, the activity in building the resort has caused problems. The area is unique in that, as the seismologist proposes, the fault line under it will amplify the pounding and drilling pressures above, sending it deep into the ground and could awaken the sleeping giant underneath, which it does. As the resort crumbles, something must be done to ferry the guests to safety, and a local air ambulance and air taxi service is brought in. They also need to try and stop the big one from coming. Strong characters, including some strong female leads, and some surprises along the way make this a solid thriller. Nance never fails to deliver.

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Review: The Lost Throne

The Lost Throne
The Lost Throne by Chris Kuzneski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another Jones/Payne adventure, this one involving monks in Greece in high remote hilltop monasteries, and some ancient Greek artifacts that several groups want for various conflicting reasons and are willing to kill for. Shuffling between St. Petersburg Russia, and several parts of Crete, and involving ancient Sparta, this is a page-turner. The camaraderie between Payne and Jones is a great as usual, and he has a gift for delineating a character in a few swift strokes of the pen. One-act characters, toss-offs really, become alive with some choice words, and a colorful description. One of the best things abut his books are the smaller characters. Highly enjoyable, if a little improbable at times. I recommend the whole series. But they can e read as stand-alones, although there are quick references to other adventures, but they aren’t necessary to the story.

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Review: SecondWorld

SecondWorld
SecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read a lot of YA books which tend to fall into the paranormal/fantasy, SF, and dystopian genres, and a few stragglers. And I enjoy them, some immensely. But they don’t give me that thrill. That rush of adrenaline, which I had been missing. Then I picked up Jeremy Robinson’s latest thriller. He writes like James Rollins and Matt Reilly – somewhat improbable plot, improbable feats of derring-do, etc. But they are fun and enjoyable, and they all do well in bringing people to life. And that was this book. Using a new character, an NCIS agent, it starts out with him underwater, supposedly studying some ocean stuff in an underwater habitat, but really an enforced vacation. Then strange red flakes start falling, and his habitat is unlivable and he surfaces, to find all life around him dead. He manages to get to shore, and works his way up the coast to Miami where it appears everyone has died from the red flakes, so he uses his scuba gear to be able to keep breathing, because somehow, the red flakes sucked the oxygen out of the air. What follows is his attempt to reach a safer zone, save a sick little girl, and be one of the few people trusted by POTUS to help save the world. Fun, blasting energy, but time for some small moments as well – sharing pudding with the girl, talking and joking with his comrades, a motley rag-tag bunch. It’s pure adrenaline, a headlong rush into a secret plot that has been hatching for 70 years – “an enemy reborn from the ashes of WWII“. Can’t say more without spoilers – it’s that kind of book, but once again he proves he is a master at his genre. Great action, great characters, fun, if improbable set-up, and a roller coaster ride to the finish line. And that was a wake-up, a refresher, from the quieter books I have been reading, so my next few reviews will be in this genre. Once I get started it takes me a few to stop. Then I get overloaded, and need to go back to the quieter ones – the YA genres. So if this is not to your taste, stay tuned. I won’t stay here forever, just a drop-in now and then to refresh myself at the font of action and mayhem.

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Review: The Last Princess

The Last Princess
The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book I really hated to give a low mark to, since there wasn’t any one thing that stood out, and that was part of the problem. I just found it dull. It was trite, cliched, and lacked any characters that I really cared about. The story is set in the near future, in London, after a “17 day” event of natural disasters that has led to most of the world’s population gone, and for some reason, unexplained, leaving England reasonably better off. Food is scarce, and bands of Roamers have taken over the wooded areas, hunting the last of the animals and taking to eating people, and then there is a man who is intent on overthrowing the current monarchy and making himself king. He claims that the Royals are doing a Marie Antoinette thing, which they sort of are. Our heroine is the second daughter of the King, and as this mysterious cult leader and his army of recruits gets larger, she gets drawn into the quest to save the royal lineage. One of the things that bothered me was the callousness in the beginning that she felt towards others. She and her siblings seemed oblivious to the world around them and the fact that most people were starving. While some things were in short supply, they were eating well, and living in comfort, if a trifle cold, up at Balmoral castle in Scotland. Another thing that bothered me was three separate incidents of animal cruelty in the first half of the book. Not hunting, but just plain cruelty, to show how someone is becoming a bad person, or to show the callousness of the new army, etc. I just found it excessive and it bothered me, but then I an am animal lover. All in all, it’s not a bad book, just dull, cliched, trite, and mundane. i couldn’t get excited about anything, and nothing was described in enough detail, including the characters, to make me get involved. Just bored. The fact that the premise of the book meant it could have been good made it that much more disappointing. Another book in the series is planned for 2013, but I will pass.

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Review: Losers in Space

Losers in Space
Losers in Space by John Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book hard to pin down. I started writing the review in my head shortly after I started it, but it kept changing. The basic premise is that in the far future, a government has evolved that has created peace, and an end to hunger and poverty. Everyone gets a wage that is quite comfortable, so they never have to work, although some like to, and some jobs do need people in them. But in the top tier of the social and economic strata are the celebrities – the Paris Hiltons of their day; the ones with talent – art, theater, sports, etc.; and the extremely smart ones. Children of these people are in a sort of limbo, neither part of the enormous middle class or the upper tier. So they attend a special school, where they can see if they can develop something that will allow them to move up when they turn 18. One way is to basically be in the media attention so much that you amass “points” and a high score, and thus become a celebrity in your own right. Videos, called meeds, are created out of bits or “hooks” of material taken from other sources and spliced (or splyctured) into one video. The more times you get spliced and appear, the higher your score. So when the leader of a teen group comes up with an idea tat will get them recognition beyond anything they normally could get, by pulling a major stunt, they decide to go along. So they stow away on a Mars bound ship, which can only go one way. But it turns out their leader is a sociopath and things go disastrously wrong. Originally, the whole premise I found to be pretentious and over-thought, and the slang or lingo bothered me. But as the book moved along, and the characters were developed, it sort of falls away, and you are left with a rather warm and touching account of kids who have lived a life of privilege suddenly having to cope with some very big stuff. Add in Fwuffy, and you have a story that will melt your heart. The science in it is “hard” – no FTL (faster-than-light), etc. So the ship bound for Mars can only go one way, it can’t turn around. Based on the Aldrin Cyclers type ships, it is filled with “notes” for the geeky ones, most of which I read of course, although a few of the higher math ones involving calculations of aphelion, etc. I skimmed. At times heart wrenching, funny, risque, cliched, and fuzzy, it sings. But if you can’t take the heart, then get out of this kitchen. 😉

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Review: Time’s Chariot

Time's Chariot
Time’s Chariot by Ben Jeapes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one was sort of another take on the recent Turtledove I read. It’s about the future, not terribly far, but someone discovered how to manipulate the time stream, and in doing so, accidentally created several new time streams, all with billions of people in them, which of course now must be watched over, and looked after. So they create a Home Time division, where they have various agents who go out and are time police, and others who are planted back in time and move forward through the time stream, observing and recording events and sending them back to be entertainment for the masses, since there isn’t much to do in the future, but live in your apartment. The people are hungry for new things, and observations of the various time streams is a fun thing – a future soap opera or mini-series. They record special events and daily life. Since people can be kept alive almost indefinitely, they can be sent, as one correspondent is, back to Rome around 1000 AD, and live through the rest of history, up until the 21st century, when they are to be recalled. But something goes wrong. And Rico Darren, who has gotten in trouble before, sniffs it out, and begins to follow what seem to be anomalies. He enlists the help of one of the higher ups in Home Time, and a fellow officer, and together they try and track what is going on and stop it, whatever it is. It’s a fun story, sort of a Starship Troopers, but with time rather than bugs, and although the science isn’t very “hard,” the fun is, although at times it got a little confusing to me as to who was what and where. But that happens to me. All in all, a rather more old-fashioned SF book, but enjoyable.

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