Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jim Hines space opera "Terminal Uprising" keeps the action fun and humerous

In “Terminal Alliance”, Jim Hines sensational space opera, a motley crew of bio-engineered janitors is forced to step up and save the universe. After a bio-weapon decimates the alien Krakau command crew on the space cruiser EMCS Pufferfish, Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos, the senior, and very smart, janitor, and her small crew of cleanup specialists thwarts the savage alien Prodryan’s plan for universal conquest, while learning the truth about what caused humanity's descent into feral cannibalistic behavior on Earth (hint it was not because of something humans did, there was an outside agency involved) and simultaneously having to figure out how to pilot and defend the ship in space battles. While Hines milks the entire janitor motif to the hilt, he combines a sharp wit and sly humor as he skewers a lot of sf tropes in this super fun read.   We need more books like Terminal Alliance in science fiction.

“Terminal Uprising”, Hines humorous follow-up to the terrific “Terminal Alliance” continues Mops and her crew’s adventures. Now free from Krakuan dominance, Mops and her crew are piloting their stolen space cruiser, the Pufferfish, but running into issues with supplies.  Admiral Pachelbel, a Krakuan, who wants to do the right thing has provided information to Mops, which requires them to  pick up Cate, a Prodryan lawyer, with all the nasty lawyer tricks, with a secret agenda (and everyone has a secret agenda).  Pachelbel wants Mops to go back to Earth, which is guarded by the Krakua space force, because there have been sightings on Earth of non-feral humans. During her trip to get Cate, Mops slyly defeats an Krakua armada trying to capture her ship with another awesome display of alien anatomy and janitorial knowledge.

 Continuing their journey to Earth, Mops continues her talent for milking all of the alien races fear of human warrior talents.  One of the story elements of Terminal Alliance is that the Krakuan's bio-engineered most humans into ferocious unstoppable space warriors, who they have been using to dominate the universe.  While they breach the Krakuan space barrier surrounding on Earth, Mops, Cate, Monroe and Wolf, one of her crewmates, and a woman who really wants to be a warrior, if she only could shoot straight, get to the surface, but lose their shuttle, while the rest of the crew hide in space.

On Earth, Mops and her cohort find the non-feral survivors living in fortified underground towns.  Its not that people have found a cure.  Some people were just immune from the bio- weapon that decimated Earth's populous.  But Mops and her crew and the earthlings come under attack from Krakuan forces illegally on Earth.  It seems like there is another secret plot afoot to keep the Krakuans in power.  Since Mops crew defeated the Procydans, the Krakuans think they need help to stop the surging Procydans from destroying the universe.  In the ensuing confrontation, the human survivors of Earth and Mops ragtag group of janitors will have to use all of their wits and strategically placed cleaning supplies to defeat the Krakuan traitors.There are some very good scenes here.  Confrontations between Mops and the evil Krakuans and between Wolf and the earthlings.  Wolf does a lot of growing up.

Besides Hines' witty prose and humor, what made Terminal Alliance such a fun read was three things - the juxtaposition of Mops lowly janitor position with the saving the universe plot, the likability of the characters and a fast moving adventure story set in different alien locations. In Terminal Uprising, Hines shifts the setting to Earth, and away from space battles, and the action involves a whole new group of characters. There is less journeying around the universe meeting new aliens and more stationary settings. I think this detracted a bit from the freshness of the first book.  Maybe it’s just hard to still milk the same jokes as is the first novel. But I think it’s also hard to strike lightning in a bottle. This is a really good novel, a fun read that will keep you fully engaged, and for a second book in a trilogy it more than holds its own against other books out there. Its just not as fun a read as Terminal Alliance.

But it’s definitely worth a read. I would follow Mops anywhere.

In the crowded field of fantasy, paranormal superheroes and fantasy mystery mashups, it’s good to pick up a fun witty sf space opera novel filled with likable characters and humorous situations. Snap up the pair.

Nick Petrie's "Tear it Down" is a A + thriller

Nick Petrie's fourth Peter Ash novel "Tear it Down" cements his "go to" status for that certain type of strong warrior action adventure thrillers—that is the a good guy fighting against the bad guys. His novels are non-stop action. Occupying some of the same territory as the oft compared, but little duplicated "Jack Reacher" novels, Peter Ash uses his unique skill set and friends to help people who are facing troubles and to right wrongs. There is an innate moral code underlying these novels.
Good people beating back bad. And in Peter Ash, Petrie is not afraid to break laws so that the "right" people – that is good people- win out against murderous thugs, racist killers or gangs who are threatening them. And in “Tear it Down”, the multi-racial setting is an ideal location because Petrie gets to show another part of our multi cultural country to good effect.

If you are new to the Peter Ash canon, he is an ex-soldier who returned from war overseas with some unique warrior skill set and a problem with enclosed places. When he spends too much time in buildings, the “White Noise” builds up and causes him problems. But he can also harness the White Noise to reveal the skills of a warrior. Hyper fit and blessed with some great fighting techniques, Ash likes to build and repair buildings and people's lives. Currently living with his girlfriend June Cassidy, he has gotten his bruised and battered body back in shape from his last escapade, and has rebuilt all of Cassidy's homestead. She easily recognizes that he needs a new cause. She sends him to multi-racial Memphis to help her friend Wanda, a black combat photographer, who has been getting threatening calls.

When Ash gets to Wanda's house, he finds that someone has escalated the threats and driven a stolen dump truck into her living room. But Wanda has escaped harm and is not ready to leave. Ash tells her he will help fix up her place and also help protect her from the outside threats. Wanda is also suffering some unknown war related problem and is consuming multiple drugs to combat it.

While gathering supplies, Ash is waylaid in his truck at a gas station by a Eli Bell, a guitar playing teenager. It seems the Bell, who has a talent for music and planning, was involved in a 4 person jewelry store robbery at a local mall that went south, and while he escaped with the loot, others were not so lucky. Although Ash could stop him, he feels for Bell and lets him take his truck, but regrets it immediately. On the way back from the hijacking, Ash is grabbed up by King Robbie, Memphis’s reining drug kingpin, who puts Ash in his fortified Mercedes and questions him about Bell. With King are Charlene Scott, King’s shooter and Adrien Brody, his man mountain muscle.

On the way back to Wanda’s, Ash sees some murderous thugs using a machine gun to shoot up her house. With nary a delay, he grabs a forcibly grabs a gun from Charlene, and runs out to stop the thugs. The thugs are Judah Lee, a white supremacist killer who just got out of jail and his hog killing brother Albert. The brothers are hell bent on getting the house from Wanda because there is an old family story of buried loot in the house.

The stage now set, the action picks up even more. There a confrontation with another drug dealer which ends with Ash with a gun. Ash almost catches Eli Bell. King Robbie is not done with Ash and Judah Lee, is a crazed homicidal killer. Ash has to call for reinforcements, and his friend, Lewis, comes south. Lewis is handy with a shotgun and is game for business. Locked and loaded, Ash and Lewis will have to protect Eli Bell and Wanda and put a stop to the killing.

There will be a confrontation with King Robbie’s crew who Lewis and Ash brace in their hideout and a highway battle with Albert and Judah Lee which culminates in a hand to hand battle.

It’s a tough world, but a good man and his friends can make all the difference.

The Other Man: 21 Writers Speak Candidly about Sex, Love, Infidelity, & Moving On

Edited by Paul Alan Fahey
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Who is the other man?

He’s an accident waiting to happen: the skateboarder round the bend, the smiling barista with the extra hot mocha, the computer geek eager to retool your mate’s hard drive. He’s a relationship gatecrasher bound by no rules and with no sense of fair play. Like Caesar, he comes, he sees, he conquers. On the flip side, you or I can be the other man, charging in and breaking the bonds of a committed relationship without a thought to the pain and misery inflicted upon the injured parties. Face it: We’re not all innocent bystanders in other-man scenarios.

The Other Man is an artistic collaboration by and about gay men and their relationships. If you’ve ever been the other man, had him invade your life, or are just plain curious about this beguiling, unpredictable and dangerous creature, then this anthology of personal essays is for you. Twenty-one of our most acclaimed authors, many Lambda Award winners and finalists, write candidly about either being the other man, suffering the other man or having their relationships tested by infidelity. What they tell us is we must take heart, it does get better and one day our luck is bound to change. We’ll survive the bumps and detours in our relationships and weather the storms, or resolve to move on. Along the way, we’ll hope to meet someone new and simpatico, maybe even our long-awaited soul mate. Life will be good again. Or will it?

Contributors include: Perry Brass, Austin Bunn, Rob Byrnes, Mark Canavera, R.W. Clinger, Lewis DeSimone, Paul Alan Fahey, Wes Hartley, William Henderson, Allen Mack, Jeff Mann, Tom Mendicino, Erik Orrantia, Felice Picano, David Pratt, Glen Retief, Jeffrey Ricker, Rodney Ross, Jason Schneiderman, Philip Dean Walker, and Chuck Willman. Edited by: Paul Alan Fahey.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this anthology will go to the It Gets Better Project.

My Review

I was ecstatic to get the opportunity to read this collection of stories, especially since Rodney Ross, author of The Cool Part of His Pillow, is one of the contributors, and I really loved his first book.

Each of the stories in this collection is deeply personal and candid and offers different perspectives on infidelity. Human emotions are very complex and relationships are hard work, requiring commitment from both partners. Life is full of unexpected changes and I really enjoyed reading these struggles to adapt and grow in spite of relationship difficulties.

Even though this collection focuses on gay relationships, there is something in here for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Jeffrey Ricker explores online dating after he had his heart broken in What If?. The relationships with men looking for something on the side were fun, but he wants more.

In The Rival With a Thousand Faces, Glen Retief is living with the love of his life in Spain, but learns that living with a deeply closeted man who is away from home a lot and has secrets of his own can be as difficult as coping with the difficulties of living in a foreign country. I loved the literature references and need to read Graham Greene.

Stung and humiliated by his last cheating boyfriend, Jason Schneiderman now plays hard to get in The Hat Prize. He learns his new date, Michael, has a boyfriend, but they enjoy each other’s company. Since Jason didn’t have to worry about falling in love, his relationship with Michael proceeded naturally without having to deal with all the pressure and awkwardness of a first date. Very sweet story.

In Husbands, Austin Bunn left his boyfriend when their education and careers took them separate ways. He discusses his affairs with married men, the advantages and disadvantages, at the same time exploring their motives and discovering more about his inner self and his own needs.

R.W. Clinger's In the Brokenness of Summertime explores the effects of infidelity on a long-married couple. The anger, hurt and guilt pouring from the pages was just heartbreaking. This is an intense and unsettling story, but the ending made me giggle.

In Any Resemblance to Actual Persons, Living or Dead, Is Entirely Coincidental, Tom Mendicino describes his own experience with Hal, a married man looking for discreet sex with men on the side and how he was the inspiration for a character in his first novel.

Mark Canavera learns that his lover, Ousmane, is having a virtual relationship in Complicity. He remembers his own affair that occurred just a few months before and even though Mark’s transgression was worse, the impact is the same. Will they be able to forgive each other? I liked the glimpse of life and troubles in West Africa.

In Turbulence, Chuck Willman shows how lies and deception impact everyone involved.

Some people think that it’s perfectly acceptable to “fuck around” during periods of extended absence. Of course, for such relationships to work there has to be openness, honesty and a set of ground rules. Allen Mack’s Just Wally and Me was a lighthearted, warm and funny story that made me smile.

Rob believes he’s an actor, even though he hasn’t worked in many years. Infidelity can break hearts…so can unfulfilled dreams. David Pratt’s Way Off explores the challenges of professional acting and a relationship in turmoil. This was a very sad story.

Morris Hartman is a lawyer…and a huge fan of author Perry Brass. He’s also straight, married and in the process of coming out. Perry is intrigued by this man, even though he has had disappointing experiences with fans in the past. They meet and have an affair. It’s not so simple. A Pitiless Love uncovers the emotional pain that can be suffered by the one who cheats.

Paul Alan Fahey’s Where Are You Going To? shows how the music you listen to can define special moments in your life.

I loved Jeff Mann’s Thomas. This is a really sad and lovely story that explores a man’s overwhelming pain and emotions from loving someone who doesn’t love him back. Time does not always heal wounds.

In Erik Orrantia’s Ballad Echoes, Erik feels responsible for taking care of his HIV+ lover even though their love has died. He falls for another man who is not so perfect either, but he manages to learn from his mistakes and move on. Relationships can never be perfect, because people are not. I hope Erik is happy.

In Philip Dean Walker’s The Other Side of the Game, Phil has had his eyes on a buff dude at the gym for over two years. He has a vibrant online life and a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop Phil from making a date with him. The two men have an affair while Drew’s boyfriend is studying abroad. The boyfriend returns, but Phil is unable to let go.

In the sexy Three’s A Charm, Wes Hartley talks about how he met his 16-year-old boyfriend, Riley, while he was in a relationship with the boy’s uncle, Ronny. Riley is not out yet, and is looking for a sexual mentor. This consists of no more than friendly head and sleepovers. Once Riley gains his confidence and skill, he comes out to his uncle and meets Tanner, a hot number close to his own age. The sleepovers continue…

Lewis DeSimone conveys the intense passion and overwhelming emotions of first love in Last Tango in Cambridge. This is a beautiful and heartfelt story.

William Henderson’s You Without Me is a very intriguing story told in the second-person point of view about an unhappily married man who does not reveal this fact to his new lover. His lover slips back into old ways. I liked the intimate feel of this story.

Rodney Ross and his partner have been together 30 years. In And Then There Was One, he tells amusing tales about the couples they know whose relationships failed. Wisely, they have chosen not to take sides.

Felice Picano’s The Child, is not about a child at all, but about a man who was the author’s partner’s “other man.” In the 70’s, gay relationships were open until HIV began to change things. This story deals with illness, death, grief and the messiness associated with it.

In A Brief History of the Divorce Party, the party was originally a holiday party until Rob Byrnes’ partner announced he was in love with someone else. It doesn’t have to end up badly. Time passes and life changes. Couples who have had history together can still be good friends and learn from their mistakes.

I enjoyed every single one of these personal stories and loved how they explored the complexities of relationships with humor, warmth and sensitivity.