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  1. Stargate: The Ark of Truth Robert C. Cooper Quick View: This straight to DVD movie acts more like the final episode of the TV series and less like a proper movie, being overshadowed by the larger, more definitive Stargate: Continuum. Full Review: Stargate: Ark of Truth is one of two movies produced by the SyFy network in order to offer a proper ending to their long running show, Stargate: SG1. The series was based off of the popular cult classic, Stargate, an my opinions on that film can be found it my review of the movie on this site. This movie, when compared to its predecessor, Serenity, as well as its companion title, Stargate: Continuum, falls short of what most would consider a good film. It’s not that it’s bad or that the writing was poor or the visuals were lacking, it’s that the movie was produced as if it were just another episode of the series. When people watch a movie following a tv show, they expect a much higher production quality and experience. Stargate: Ark of Truth lacks, well, both. To be fair, it is as direct-to-dvd movie meant to offer a quick end to the final arc of the show, but still, shows like Star Trek have proven that successful Sci Fi shows can have very successful film adaptations to help tie up loose ends. The story follows SG1 as they search the ruins of the planet Dakara looking for the Ark of Truth, which was a device which could basically force anyone to believe that the ascended beings known as the Ori were, in fact, not gods. Now, none of this is going to make sense unless you watch seasons 9 and 10 of Stargate SG1, so go and binge watch those on Hulu. This review aint going anywhere. All caught up? Good. Anyways, the team is confronted by a team of Ori followers accompanied by an Ori priest. Whilst the Ori Prior tells the men to shoot, SG1 reveals that the prior has lost all of his abilities granted to him by the Ori. After killing him, they reveal it was a machine, not magic, that defeated him. With the help of the now turned Ori followers, SG1 ventures to the Ori galaxy through the supergate to hunt for the real Ark of Truth. The characters in the film are, well, already developed. Other than a few new characters introduced in the last season who made some big changes in the movie, we were treated to the same guys and gals seen in SG1. As I said, this movie was more or less just a big fancy season finale rather than an actual feature length film. The characters work well, and after a job well done, walk through the gate for what would soon be one of the last times. The scenery was similar to what we saw throughout the series, lush green forests, stone temples, beautiful ship sets, etc. Overall this movie just doesn’t deserve to be called a movie to me. It really is just a glorified season finale. One could say the same of Serenity if it weren’t for the fact Serenity had a large challenging plot and the production quality to match. Overall, Ark of Truth was the appetizer for continuum, but definitely worth the watch if you went through the effort of making it through 10 seasons of Stargate SG1. Final Score: 4/10 View the full article
  2. Halo: The Cole Protocol Tobias S. Buckle Quick View: Full Review: Halo: The Cole Protocol brings a new, very unique take on the halo universe, its tropes, the factions, and in the end, humanity as a whole. We see a new and original view of the relationship between the United Nations Space Command, the SPARTANS, the Rebels in hiding, and some humans and aliens caught in the crossfire as the Human-Covenant War finds its way into even the smallest and well hidden human colonies. Tobias Buckel does a great job stepping up to the plate and entering the ring with writers like Eric Nylund and Frank O’Connor, two people who have essentially created the Halo Universe. His story is dramatic, gripping, and offers a darker more serious tone to the already mature series. Buckle keeps a professional writing style throughout the book, and does his best to keep the presentation of the novel as good as the content. The novel follows the story of a human rebel living on a large space station hidden in an asteroid belt. Before The Human-Covenant war, The outer colonies were terribly taxed by the inner colonies and sought revolution through war. This was led to the creation of the SPARTAN program, which was making quick work of the rebels before the Covenant began their genocide of the human race. Now, these former rebels have fled into the far reaches of occupied space, and are slowly being picked off as the Covenant hunt human life without bias. A team of Spartans and a ballsy young Lieutenant named Jacob Keyes help these suspicious rebels in saving the lives of all the humans living aboard this hidden station as the alien pirates they were trading with give up their location for profit. The story has an enchanting rhythm to it, as every word of every paragraph of every chapter follows one after the other in a charming and poetic way. The formal writing style adds a level of maturity to the gritty sci fi adventure and the developing story of these vastly different groups of people coming together works wonders as Buckel creates a work of art out of a somewhat old and simple idea. Unlike previous novels, it’s not all about the good guys as the rebels who have no sympathy for the lives of the UNSC put their past behind them for the greater good. In the other stories we see a lot of selfishness coming from the rebels who encounter the protagonists, and in stark contrast Buckle adds humility and humanity to the bigger picture. The overall descriptive style and world of the novel fits with the darker themes Buckle was going for and meshes well with the established lore and understanding of the Halo universe. The original plot elements and progression are well paced. That said the novel does suffer from a lack of diversity. The majority of the novel takes place in the same place, and with a universe as large as halo, if it isn’t on a halo, you gotta be everywhere. Now, some could argue that the story demands attention to the events that happen in this one place, but I beg the question, why must the group of people stay stagnant when they have all of Human occupied space as their playground. Beside that, the story really isn’t anything special. Sure, it’s new and unique to Halo, but ultimately it’s a pretty recycled concept overall. I still recommend reading it as it’s a fun addition to the Halo series, but it’s far from required reading. Final Score: 7.5 out of 10 View the full article
  3. Stargate Roland Emmerich Quick View: The story of a soldier, an archaeologist, and a wormhole that drops you right at the doorstep of an Egyptian god. What could go wrong? Full Review: Stargate was a breathtaking, and visually astounding, science fiction movie from the early 90s. This movie helped inspire a lot of my love for science fiction as well as history, and to this day remains one of my favorite movies. With a lead role portrayed by a young Kurt Russell, viewers are treated to a well written and well paced movie complete with a good balance between mystery, action, and drama. The idea for this movie was so inspiring that it lead to not one but three entire TV franchises, lasting a sum total of 17 seasons. It’s fun, witty, and has you leaving the room with a smile on your face. The movie delivers both strong messages about depression, duty, and the will to persevere, as well as having an honest and enjoyable ending. The story follows an archeologist by the name of Daniel Jackson, who discovers that the ancient egyptian pyramids actually seem to predate the egyptians credited with building them. Jackson is mocked by the historians and educators of the field, disregarding everything he tries to assert. After leaving his failure of a conference, an older women in a black car offers him a job to prove his theories true. After months of work, Jackson discovers that an ancient cartouche found in egypt had etched in it 6 star constellations, with a 7th symbol representing a pyramid and the sun. This combination turns out to be the code to activate a device called the “Stargate”, an intergalactic wormhole device found buried in Giza. Jackson, accompanied by an Air Force special forces unit lead by Jack O’Neill, a grieving father, step through the event horizon, and embark on a journey that would push each man to their breaking point. The characters easily define the film and its brilliance. Daniel Jackson’s liberal, pencil pushing demeanor offers great contrast to Russell’s hardened military vet portrayal of O’Neill. The snarky, sarcastic airmen, along with the quirky native inhabitants of the planet Abydos offer a resounding diversity in cast and culture. On top of this, the introduction of the movie does an amazing job giving both of the protagonists a compelling story and reason for being. The conflicts throughout the story between the main villain, as well as the rivalry between each character, helps show the effect that each character’s past has on the mission, themselves, and those around them. Its this attention to detail and skillful writing that makes this movie such a delight to watch. The scenery and locations used in filming are magnificent, from the decommissioned missile silo to the deserts of Abydos to the large stone temples inside the pyramid and spaceship offer a variety of locations for the actors’ work to play off of. The practical use of the desert throughout the film also adds much more authenticity to the film, and improves on the overall production. The only problem I can really find with this film is the lack of use of the rest of the Airmen besides Jack O’Neill. They are the proverbial red shirts and act as lambs to the slaughter for most of the film, with even some of the native villagers given more character and importance. Of course, like many of my critiques of good stories, this falls more under opinion then of objective observation. Another problem with the movie is the uncomfortable yet necessary disregard of logic throughout the film. When one of the men suggest dialing the gate from home, he’s met with “It doesn’t work like that.” Why not? Why must it be one way? I didn’t know airmen kowalski here was an expert in physics and the thermodynamics of a wormhole. Other than this, the movie is pretty on par. I highly recommend this film to anybody looking for a great Sci Fi action thriller to watch on a friday night. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  4. Atlas 3 Isaac Hooke Quick View: A worthy and satisfying conclusion to an enjoyable space marine series. Publisher’s summary: The ATLAS mechanized battle suits are the pinnacle of military technology, boasting awesome destructive power—but what is behind the armor is only human. Rade Galaal, elite soldier and ATLAS operator, has been tested—and broken—by savage battles and devastating losses. Now, an old enemy poses a new threat. The vile insectile aliens that once threatened Earth have regrouped to engineer a new apocalyptic assault on mankind, and the ATLAS mechs are called to defend the very survival of the human race. On the desolate, far-flung moons of Tau Ceti II, there will come a reckoning. Earth’s adversaries are legion, and the planet’s soldiers—for all of their rigorous training and amazing ordnance—are only flesh and blood. But they possess a defiant will to survive. Will Rade find the strength to reforge his shattered spirit and defeat the alien onslaught before all is lost? Full Review: As much as I enjoyed Atlas 2, it’s a story about struggle and survival, with an almost completely dire ending. Atlas 3 on the other hand is a story of action, and plans to defeat the invading aliens. It’s also a story with a very satisfying ending. From Shaw working with Azen and his rebel phants, to Rade and Tahoe’s separate missions targeting different alien strongholds, this time around we’re treated to three different points of view. As good as it should have been, I couldn’t help but find Rade and Tahoe’s missions draw out, and occasionally skimmed a page here and there as many of the encounters seemed like just more of thee same. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Atlas 3, I very much did. But I would say to me it seemed like the most repetitive of the series, and that’s why I gave it a slightly lower score. However, if you’ve read Atlas 1 and 2, I highly recommend reading Atlas 3 as it wraps of the story in a worthly and satisfying way. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  5. Atlas 2 Isaac Hooke Quick View: An excellent sequel which follows both Rade and Shaw’s struggle to survive the alien menace. Publisher’s summary: The desperate battle on far-flung Geronimo may have ended in a qualified victory for the elite MOTH soldiers in their devastating, atomic-powered ATLAS mechs…but the cost was a massive one, paid in blood. Rade Galaal, graduate of the toughest military training in the universe, barely survived the terrifying mission in deep space that claimed the lives of the two people he couldn’t afford to lose: a comrade who was more than a brother, and someone who was his whole world. Lost, broken, and questioning his place as a MOTH and as a man, Rade faces a new crisis when an enemy force—a terrifyingly familiar one—threatens the future of humanity itself. Entering human territory from the depths of uncharted space where Rade lost everything, this massive alien vessel wears the face of death. Once the nightmarish invader begins threatening total annihilation, can Rade and his team hope to prevail…or even survive? Full Review: Something I loved about the first Atlas book was how it ended. Not how Rade’s best friend gave his life to save Rade. And not how Shaw, the love of Rade’s life, volunteered to stay behind and blow the gate to keep the aliens from following the navy back to human space. No, it was the epilogue in which the point of view changes from Rade to Shaw, who we find out has survived. And the alternating of point of views between Rade and Shaw is one of the things I like most about Atlas 2, following both characters struggle on. Shaw’s struggle is primarily one of raw survival, as she is stranded on a hostile planet hundreds of light years away from human space. Rade on the other hand starts book two believe Shaw has joined his best friend’s fate so many light years away. And losing the two people closest to him hits him hard, but he carries on as best he can along with his good friend Tahoe. And the MOTH are again needed in Atlas 2 as the aliens attack threatening all of mankind. If you’ve enjoyed the original Atlas, then I think you’ll really enjoy Atlas 2. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  6. The Lost Fleet: Genesis Raymond L. Weil Quick View: Raymond Weil brings us another fulfilling, action packed chapter in the Slaver Wars series. Publisher’s summary: Fleet Admiral Jeremy Strong is determined to preserve the planet Gaia as the new home of the lost fleets. Unfortunately, a new and frightening danger from the destroyed Dyson Sphere threatens to undo everything he has fought for. Kazak, the AI on the Originator ship has his own agenda. The Humans and Altons will either do as he demands or he will destroy them. Can Fleet Admiral Strong outsmart the two-million-year-old AI or is he doomed to failure? Admiral Tolsen has found the Dyson Sphere in the home galaxy. However, he will have to fight to keep control of it as research teams work frantically to discover its secrets before it’s too late. Both the Simulins and the Shari are determined to destroy Tolsen’s fleet and take the Dyson Sphere for themselves. Both galaxies erupt into war as the titanic struggle for supremacy continues. If the Simulins win, then all hope is lost as they will destroy all organic life. If the Shari win, they will use the science and technology in the Dyson Sphere to conquer the home galaxy and destroy the Human Federation of Worlds. Full Review: When I got the email announcing the latest integration of The Lost Fleet series has been released, it instantly moved to the top of my que. In it, the story continues for both galaxies as the Jeremy Strong and his compatriots try to adjust after the events of the previous book, As they are recovering, they learn of the dire and unexpected consequences of the destruction of the Triangulum’s Dyson sphere, one which makes it even more impeditive for them to try and find a way to work with the Originator’s AI, Kazak. That, and the continued threat to Gaia from the Simulins, is more than enough to keep the small band of alliance members in that far away galaxy busier than they’ve ever been. Back home in our own galaxy, Admiral Race Tolsen tries to secure the local Dyson sphere from all sides, while a small of researchers and Marines attempt to gain entrance and learn the sphere’s secretes before the Simulin’s can use it to bring an unstoppable fleet in from neighboring galaxies. I have to say I really enjoyed reading yet another episode in the life and times of Jeremy, Kelsey, Kevin, Katie, and Ariel as they struggle to survive in the Triangulum galaxy. Many other beloved characters also return, including Jeremy’s good friend and clan brother Grayseth, Alton’s Ambassador Tureen and the Scientist Andram, as well as the quirky A.I. Zed. All in all I felt the story was very fulfilling, moving the story in both galaxies along at a satisfying pace, and revealing enough new information to keep readers interested and hoping for more. That said, the book did slow down a few times during which I found myself skimming through those pages to get back to the action. I also found the small band of explorers were a little too complacent, as I could never imagine hanging around for weeks while my rations were running out. But those minor nick picks aside, I can heartily recommend this latest book in one of my favorite space opera series. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  7. Battlecruiser Alamo: The Price of Admiralty Richard Tongue Quick View: A whirlwind of an adventure and the start of one of my favorite Space Opera series. Publisher’s summary: Battlecruiser Alamo, under its new commander, Lieutenant-Captain Daniel Marshall, is launched with a half-trained but fully-resentful crew on a desperate mission that will determine the fate of the nascent Triplanetary Space Fleet, hunting down the unknown enemies that have been attacking shipping in the uncharted system, Lalande 21185. When he makes an unexpected discovery, the stakes just keep on rising; with enemies on space and ground, can Marshall save his ship – and a world? Full Review: The story begins as Lieutenant-Captain Daniel Marshall, former hot-shot fighter jock and ace, gets assigned his first command as a starship Captain in the new “Triplanetary Fleet.” The state of mankind at this time is one of post war peace, with the outposts of Mars, Titan, and Castillo having recently won freedom from the dictatorship that is the United Nations of Earth. If you don’t know (I had to look it up myself,) Titan is a moon of Saturn, and Castillo is a moon of Jupiter. Captain Marshall doesn’t get many breaks as the book starts, and he and his ship are quickly dispatched to investigate some missing freighters in another star system on a mission described as being make or break for the new fleet. As the story unfolded I found myself coming to like many of the characters including Captain Danny and his old wing woman and best friend Deadeye, the rebel without a cause and civilian shuttle pilot Maggie, the Espatier (aka Maine Corps) Ensign Esposito, the cool headed Mulenga, and the engineering wizard Quinn. And if you find you like them too, the good news is you can follow most of them through an additional fourteen adventures of action, exploration, space battles, and intrigue when you finish this first book in the series. As far as the book as a whole, I did find the political situation between Earth and her former colonies quite interesting, along with some of the technologies. For instance, in this universe faster than light travel results in a strange by product: Once a ship completes a jump through “hendecaspace,” it can’t jump again for a full week. This limitation is apparently to avoid something called “dimensional instability,” although I don’t think what that is is ever explained. That means once you get where you’re going, you’re pretty much stuck there for awhile. No jump in, take a look, and jump away like is possible in so many other books. As far as the plot is concerned, to me it seemed like a wild ride of ups and downs with a very satisfying finish. So if you’re looking for new Space Opera series, I can highly recommend the Battlecruiser Alamo with it’s like-able characters who over the course of the series seem to grow substantially more than characters in most other series. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  8. Halo: Ghosts of Onyx Eric Nylund Quick View: The satisfying final battles, heroic sacrifices, and gratuitous fan fair in the perfectly described climax gives the readers the ending they deserve. Publisher’s summary: The Spartan-II program has gone public. Tales of super-soldiers fending off thousands of Covenant attacks have become the stuff of legend. But just how many Spartans are left? While the Master Chief defends a besieged Earth, and the myriad factions of the Covenant continue their crusade to eliminate humanity, an ultrasecret cell of the Office of Naval Intelligence known as “Section Three” devises a plan to buy the UNSC vital time. They’re going to need hundreds of willing soldiers, though . . . and one more Spartan to get the job done. The planet Onyx is virtually abandoned and the perfect place to set this new plan in motion. But when the Master Chief destroys Halo, something is triggered deep within Onyx: Ancient Forerunner technology stirs, and fleets of UNSC and Covenant race to claim it to change the course of the Human-Covenant War. But this reawakened and ancient force may have plans of its own . . . Full Review: Halo: Ghosts of Onyx is the final installment of Eric Nylund’s Halo Trilogy. I recommend anybody who wishes to read Ghosts of onyx first read the previous two novels in order to have a better grasp on the story and characters going into the book. However, this is not required to enjoy the novel as it was written well enough to make a good stand alone story. Ghosts of Onyx is by far one of the greatest endings to a trilogy I have read to date, with a satisfying climax and a great wrap up, allowing for a feeling of completion as well as possibilities for future installments. Nylund delivers his signature character development, and pulls out all the stops with story and plot progression. Like every story, however, there are a few points which must be noted as to why this novel is the work of a god, but of one of us lowly humans. The book starts by taking us back to one of Blue Team’s early missions. The protagonist, Kurt, who was a member of Blue Team, ends up having his MJOLNIR power armor damaged during a zero G operation. Whilst the team thinks of him as dead, The Office of Naval Intelligence secretly recovers Kurt in order to give him a new mission: to train the new generation of SPARTANs. Kurt must face the many challenges of leadership as he reunites with his old instructor, and must look to the faces of hundred of orphaned children and tell them the same thing he was told: Their parents are gone, and they now belong to the military. He would train them to the best of his ability, knowing full well the military intended to use them for ulterior purposes. Blue team must also go through their own challenges, and the stories of Kurt, Doctor Halsey, Blue team and the SPARTAN IIIs all come together along with that of the leader of the enemy forces, and all of these events collide in a stunning work of fiction. Again, Nylund pulls out all the stops for this novel. He hits a lot of different key points on emotion, responsibility, the sense of belonging, family, duty to one’s species and, of course, free will. The exposition is done thoroughly through story progression and realistic human reactions, much like we saw in the previous two novels. With the varying cast of Humans, SPARTANs, Aliens, and even some AIs, we get to see all of the different moral issues and ethics re emerge, and we see events from all sides. Mystery still shrouds the forerunner installations the different species encounter, and we get to see how each and every character deals with the situations in which they are placed. The only issue I find with this novel is possibly the over abundance of story. I know, I know, that sounds weird considering it’s a book. But the vast majority of different characters, their stories, points of view, and decisions all come together into one book to form a massive story. Perhaps Nylund would have been better off making this two novels instead of one. How he managed to squeeze it all into a fairly average-sized book I’ll never understand. On top of that, this is only a negative if you see it as that. Many might even consider it a positive. The satisfying final battle, heroic sacrifices and gratuitous fan fair in the perfectly described climax gives the readers the ending they deserve for rummaging through this trilogy. The surprise ending and plot twist leave the story open to interpretation, until another author down the line feels fit to pick up this story. My thoughts on the Kilo-5 trilogy which follow Nylund’s trilogy are for their own reviews. For now, looking back on Nylunds work on this final novel, it’s easy to appreciate the effort put into completing this story. The different arcs and twists make the whole series incredibly re-readable and very enjoyable. It’s a shame Nylund is now under contract with Amazon Games, as I and many Halo fans would love to see him return to bless the halo universe with another stunning work. Reviewed By Joseph Tierney [ques] [aff] View the full article
  9. Stand Into Danger (Empire Rising) D. J. Holmes Quick View: An action packed prequel to the Empire Rising series. Publisher’s summary: It’s 2439 AD. Human nations have been thrown into competition for the resources of nearby star systems. The Russian Star Federation decides to make a move for one of humanity’s most important colonies. Returning home after a training exercise, Captain Jonathan Somerville and his ship HMS Achilles stumble into the middle of the warzone. Stranded behind enemy lines, the crew of Achilles must fight their way through occupied territory if they are to link up with coalition forces and help turn back the invaders. Stand into Danger is a military science fiction novella and introduction to the Empire Rising military sci-fi series. Full Review: Let me start by noting that Stand Into Danger is a short “novella” of just over 100 pages, released as a prequel to the Empire Rising series. That said, I found it to be an enjoyable, action packed, page turning story in the same vain as the original book in the series, Void War, which I also enjoyed. In fact, I found that this series has some of the most unique ideas about what the future of mankind in space will be like. It’s one in which the major nations of Earth, not Earth united, colonize nearby star systems. And those nations have brought with them many of the same alliances, tensions, and rivalries that existed prior to human interstellar travel. Another unique fact about this universe is how FTL space travel is limited to areas absent of “dark matter,” which seems to be most everywhere except for a limited number of narrow paths between certain stars. This makes for some interesting limitations on the use of FTL, as well as often forcing ships down pre-established routes which often weave their way through other nation’s star systems. I also want to mention how strong and like-able I found the main character, Captain Jonathan Somerville. Unlike captains in other series who struggle with serious personal issues, Somerville is a smart British Captain with a strong sense of national duty as well as fidelity to his nation’s allies. But it’s his outrage over unnecessary civilian causalities caused by the aggressor in this story that has him risking ship and crew to save lives, and in the process he ranks up quite an impressive record of space battle victories. In fact, the only fault I have with the book is a very dangerous away mission the captain insists on going on, one that while it does make for a very dramatic chapter, also is the only part of the story that didn’t seem all that plausible. In the end I can highly recommend Stand Into Danger, and personally look forward to reading more stories like this one from author D.J. Holmes. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  10. Halo: First Strike Eric Nylund Quick View: This novel delivers on both entertainment and mental stimulation. Recommend to anybody interested in Humans V Aliens, and super soldier hero stories. Publisher’s summary: Reach fell, and when hope seemed lost, humanity stood face-to-face with the possible extinction of all life in the galaxy and lived to tell the tale. But that was just one epic battle, and the war rages on . . . The Covenant shows no mercy as they continue to assault every human world they can find, but in their way lies humanity’s great champion, Spartan-117, the Master Chief. Together with his AI companion Cortana and the last remaining Spartans, the fight continues on two fronts. One takes a crew of Spartans to the charred surface of Reach, the only planet they’ve ever known as home. But beneath the surface, Dr. Halsey has discovered an ancient secret…one that could alter the course of the war. Meanwhile, Master Chief and Cortana head towards a gathering of Covenant warships because the UNSC’s worst nightmare has come true: the Covenant has discovered the location of Earth and is forming a massive fleet to destroy it…and all who oppose the will of the Prophets. Full Review: Halo: First strike is the second installment of Eric Nylund’s Halo Trilogy. I highly recommend anybody planning on reading these books to start with Halo: Fall of Reach, as it does the majority of world building and background. A knowledge of the plot of the game Halo: Combat Evolved is also needed to understand First Strike. The novel is down right brilliant, with its amazing array of characters and plot points, coming together to form a well written and very entertaining novel for an afternoon read. You’ll find yourself turning page after page just waiting to find out what happens next. That said, there is still some things that interrupted an otherwise seamless flow. We start off during the end of the previous novel, where John-117 must make the decision to split his Spartans into 2 teams. In the prequel, We followed John on his mission and subsequent endeavor the the Halo ring. In this book, we follow the other team on their mission to defend the planet Reach. We jump back and forth between this team, and John after the events of Combat Evolved, with each story taking its own path. It isn’t always easy to write a book which follows two different story-lines, buy Nylund finds some clever ways to merge the two into one coherent story with plenty of twists and turns. He continues the spot on character development from the previous novel, allowing for more emotion to break through the SPARTAN’s hard shells and thick power armor. Their relationship between regular military personnel as well as Doctor Halsey gives insight into the minds of these unique individuals. A lot of stories fall victim to repeating plot-lines or caricatures of previous installments, but Nylund does a great job at giving First Strike an original and entertaining story. I got into trouble in school for reading during class because of the page-turner aspect of the novel, and anybody invested in the characters and story will find a hard time putting this book down. The ending of the novel sets up perfectly for Halo 2 as well as Nylunds Final Halo Novel, Ghosts of Onyx. The places and the situations which everybody ends up in offers a satisfying end to the novel, allowing those who somehow manage to stay unimpressed with the series with a feeling of completion. Overall, the novel is well balanced, has good progression, and attention to detail. The one problem with the book is how Nylund gets some of the moral quandaries across. During battle, the SPARTANs are perfect soldiers, but instead of having to face morally questionable decisions during battle, he has these moments during the in-between sections of the story. During ship travel, mostly. These quieter parts of the plot is where we see the ethical breakdown of John and his friends in decision making. Although this gives them more time to ponder their choices, it doesn’t give the same type of influence as if they were making a snap judgement. Although he changes this later on in the series, First Strike is left to suffer with this seemingly care free approach. That said, it still gives great retrospect and insight into the quandary that’s required to fully enjoy this book, and how he manages to keep it impactful despite its execution makes his skills as a writer even more apparent. Overall the novel delivers on both entertainment value, and mental stimulation. I would recommend this novel to anybody interested in SciFi Humans V Aliens, Super soldier hero stories. Reviewed by Joseph Tierney [ques] [aff] View the full article
  11. Flagship (Captain’s Crucible) Isaac Hooke Quick View: A Unique and Interesting Story Of Discovery and Survival. Publisher’s summary: Captain Jonathan Dallas, commodore of Battle Unit 72, investigates the disappearance of a military research vessel on the fringes of known space. When the unit is ambushed by a threat that endangers not only the fleet but also all of humanity itself, Jonathan must somehow find the resources to fight back. Cut off from Central Command and faced with impossible odds, can Jonathan overcome his demons to save humanity and, more importantly, can he save himself? Flagship: where captains are made. Or broken. Full Review: FlagShip starts with a look at a pivotal moment in Captain Jonathan Dallas’ past, and that had me checking to see if I picked a book about space travel or mountain climbing. Thankfully, not to much later into the book we find our good Captain on the bridge doing what he does best, commanding a starship in space. However, things begin to unravel pretty quickly in his part of the fleet. First one of his ships goes missing, and then a drone sent to find it goes missing as well. Unlike so many other captains, Jonathan doesn’t take anything for granted and mobilizes his task force to find his wayward ship. What follows is a compelling story of discovery, survival, galactic history, and fleet politics which kept me glued to this book right up to the end. One thing I really liked about this book was how strong the Captain and his XO were, how cheeky the (non-sentient) shipboard A.I. was, and many of the other characters were memorable as well. I also enjoyed the unique technology found in this story. From the ships, to their weapons and FTL capabilities, to the fighters and combat robots. Throw in some very unique aliens and their tech, fleet politics, and getting stuck behind enemy lines, and you have all the ingredients for a gripping action packed tale of space exploration and combat. So if you don’t mind a few minor pauses as the main characters deal with some pretty deep questions, I think you’ll find FlagShip an interesting action packed ride, one which I heartily recommend. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  12. Halo: The Fall Of Reach by Eric Nylund Quick View: A compelling story and characters brings the Halo universe to life in this first book in the series. Publisher’s Summary: Legends are not simply born…they are willed into existence. Humanity has expanded beyond the Sol System. There are hundreds of planets we now call “home.” The United Nations Space Command now struggles to control this vast empire. After exhausting all strategies to keep seething insurrections from exploding into interplanetary civil war, the UNSC has one last hope. At the Office of Naval Intelligence, Dr. Catherine Halsey has been hard at work on a top secret program that could bring an end to all this conflict…and it starts with seventy-five children, among them a six year old boy named John. Halsey never guessed that this little boy would become humanity’s final hope against a vast alien force heck-bent on wiping us out. This is the story of John, Spartan-117…the Master Chief, and of the battles that brought humanity face to face with its possible extinction. Full Review: The Halo Novels are arguably some of the best scifi novels written based off of a game. This is probably due to the fact that unlike most novels based off of video games, this book came first. Eric Nylund was commissioned by Microsoft and Bungie to write The Fall of Reach in order to give their new game a good backstory. The novel released in october of 2001, a month before the Halo: Combat Evolved launched on the Xbox. After the release of the game, Nylund wrote two more novels, creating a very well written and emotionally driven trilogy giving a great deal of conviction behind the protagonist and his comrades. The Fall of Reach follows the story of a man named John­117, starting all the way at his childhood, when Doctor Catherine Halsey talks to a young John after a game of king of the Hill, then to him at orientation with 75 other children being told they would never see their parents again and that they were now military property, to their training to become the ultimate super soldiers, and of course, their augmentation. Throughout this story we see all of the pain and anguish John and his friends go through to meet the demands of the Office of Naval Intelligence, and we see insight in the strength of will it takes to serve a higher purpose at the cost of your own free choice. Let’s start with the character development. With this story, written to give background the protagonist of a Triple A Video Game, we could expect going in to see a lot of world building and character development. We get to see John as a child, and his story as he grows through the challenges he faces. We see his character react to the world around him in a very human and realistic way. His friends each have their own unique personality and grow based on their own experience and reactions. They all experience the hardships of training, the pain of losing a friend, and the fear and concentration seen in battle. They each cope with the augmentation process differently, dealing with the biological enhancement in their own time. Overall, Nylund does a great job giving these character who were taught to hide and hold back their emotions a way to express themselves. The attention he gives to their reactions, body movements and vocal tones really helps to give the characters the emotional depth they need. When it comes to world building, that’s really where the book meets a dilemma. Being commissioned to build the world of the halo universe, Nylund had to split writing a good story with creating the terminology and situation in which the game took place. While creating characters the reader could feel an attachment too, Nylund also had to squeeze in a terribly large amount of backstory about the Human­ Covenant War, the UNSC, the Spartans, and the forerunners. Because of this, the story gets interrupted quite a bit by the needed exposition through side stories and time skips. With all this said and done, The overall book was well written. Despite the forced exposition in the book, the readers can tell it wasn’t due to writing but due to Nylund’s mandate. The story is compelling, the characters are compelling, and the book does a great job setting up for its sequels in the trilogy by giving them that room to breathe exposition wise. At the end of the day, it is the necessary starting point that opens the readers up to the Halo universe and the many novels, games, comics and movies that it encompasses. Written by Joseph Tierney [ques] [aff] View the full article
  13. Man Of War (Rebellion) by M. R. Forbes Quick View: An action packed, page turning start to a new series Publisher’s Summary: In the year 2280, an alien fleet attacked the Earth. Their weapons were unstoppable, their defenses unbreakable. Our technology was inferior, our militaries overwhelmed. Only one starship escaped before civilization fell. Earth was lost. It was never forgotten. Fifty-two years have passed. A message from home has been received. The time to fight for what is ours has come. Welcome to the rebellion. Full Review: The story starts fifty years after an unstoppable alien race has all but wiped out humanity. But that doesn’t stop the last vestiges of freedom loving humans from trying to fight back, even though they’ve only had one victory in all those years. That victory was when a single starship from the United States escaped into FTL, while similar ships from other nations were reduced to piles of burning rubble by the vicious aliens. That starship was loaded with thousands of military and civilian personnel, and enough resources, technology, and seeds of life to start over when and if they ever find another earth like world. With the foundation set, our story begins by alternating between two lead characters: Donovan, a survivor of the Dread invasion. And Gabriel, acclaimed space pilot and the son of the man who successfully piloted mankind’s lone star ship to escape the initial invasion. To say things look bleak for Donovan and his squad of mostly tweens would be an understatement. But what other choice do they have but fight when the alien invader is bent on extinguishing the human race? Gabriel doesn’t have it much better as he’s lost almost everyone who was ever dear to him, and his current job is to fly recon missions where the odds are stacked against his survival. Following these two characters as they try to save the human race, while also trying to survive their own personal traumas as well as the poorly timed decisions of their leaders, was an enjoyable experience. A page turning, “I can’t wait to find out what happens next,” dang it’s well past my bedtime experience. I found the aliens, their motivations, and powerful technologies both interesting and unique, I also found myself intrigued by the 23rd century tech the humans who escaped earth still possessed, including a unique implementation of faster than light space travel. And the human freedom fighters left on earth were forced to use low tech and no tech solutions reminiscent of other Sci Fi tales. That’s not to say everything in this story is perfect, or the plot is infallible, as I discuss in my “spoiler rich” post in our forum here. But admittedly those are minor quips, and there is so much good in this story that I can wholeheartedly recommend it. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article