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FOTEP Book Reviews

Science Fiction / Fantasy Books

 

The Adept (1991)
by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris

There are 5 books in this series:

In the first book we meet Sir Adam Sinclair, who among other things, is a reincarnated Adept whose job is to protect the Light against those who would walk the Dark Path.

Adam meets a young artist, Peregrine Lovat, who can see the past and future lives of those he paints.

Together they go after some dark magicians with nefarious plans.

Masonic note: Adam is a member of the Knights Templar.

These are no longer in print so will have to be purchased used.

Amazon Score: 3.9/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

Apprentice Adept (1980)
by Piers Anthony

This fantasy series takes place in two dimensions, Proton, a frame of science, and Phaze, a frame of magic. In each frame, identical people exist. When one of these people dies and the other lives, it is possible to cross between frames.

This is what happens with Stile, he is able to cross from Proton to Phaze where he is no longer a Game winning serf and is instead the Blue Adept.

The series has seven books:

Amazon Score: 4.4/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

The Black Tower Series (1982)
by Stephen King

This is an epic that could be cut in half and be even more compelling.

Roland Deschain is the last gunslinger. His quest is to make it to The Dark Tower, a nexus of multiple worlds.

The story is in the journey, not really ending with the Dark Tower.

There are 7 actual books in the series with a mid-quel that fits between books four and five.

The books are:

Amazon Score: 4.1/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

The Chronicles of Amber (1970)
by Roger Zelazny

The 10 books in the Chronicles of Amber have been collected into a single, 1264 page-long, volume. The original books are tiny, 150 pages. Having 10 books in one volume isn't that cumbersome.

The are only two true worlds, the rest are mere shadows. Carl Corey wakes up in a hospital room with amnesia. As he soon discovers, he is actually Prince Corwin, one of nine princes of Amber. He wakes on Earth, a shadow of Amber that can be manipulated by a select few. He's on the run from his brother Eric.

The individual books are:

The Corwin Cycle

  • Nine Princes in Amber (1970)
  • The Guns of Avalon (1972)
  • Sign of the Unicorn (1975)
  • The Hand of Oberon (1976)
  • The Courts of Chaos (1978)
The Merlin Cycle

  • Trumps of Doom (1985)
  • Blood of Amber (1986)
  • Sign of Chaos (1987)
  • Knight of Shadows (1989)
  • Prince of Chaos (1991)
I remember reading these in the 80s, not long after they were first published. I really enjoyed the series and at 150 pages per book they are very quick reads.

Amazon Score: 4.8/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

The Crystal Cave (1970)
by Mary Stewart

I read this (and it's on my re-read list) back when it was the only book in the series. Now there are 5 books in the The Arthurian Saga, which now need to be read.

This is the tale of bastard son Myridden Emrys (Merlin) from age six. It's been ages since I read the first book and only remember that I very much enjoyed the book. I haven't read the other books in the series so can't speak to them.

Amazon Score: 4.5/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

The Dragonriders of Pern Series (1968)
by Anne McCaffrey

Another series authored by a woman and with a woman's perspective is The Dragonriders of Pern a series of 23 books that feature dragons and the riders on the fictional planet of Pern.

At the start of the series in Dragonflight, Lessa, fearing for her life after her family is killed lives life as a drudge in Ruatha Hold. Lessa is found during a Search for dragonrider candidates and later Impresses the queen hatchling Ramoth.

There are politics and duels as Lessa climbs her way to be Weyrwoman of Benden Weyr.

I was surprised at how old this series was. It stand up well to time and is certainly worth a read.

Amazon Score: 4.5/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

The Dresden Files (2000)
by Jim Butcher

This series has 16 books (15 novels and a collection of short stories).

Harry Dresden is a Private Investigator/Wizard for Hire. But nobody's hiring him. So when the police want him to look into two murders using black magic, he jumps at the chance. But, where there's black magic, there's a black mage and Harry would rather not run afoul of him.

This series is both noir and fantasy. Dresden is a hard-boiled PI who is also a wizard. In the Dresden world there are humans, faeries, and vampires. Each with their own cultures and leaders.

The books wear a little thin toward the end of the series but all are worth a read.

Amazon Score: 4.0/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

Ender's Game (1985)
by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game is the first in a large collection of books in this universe. Some feature Ender, others feature his brother and sister as well as other characters. This review is on the first of these books.

Andrew (Ender) Wiggin is a third, a state-sanctioned third child. You see, The Hundred Worlds is looking for that one special candidate to lead the Worlds' fleet against "the buggers." Peter, Ender's older brother was close but not right for command. Valentine, Ender's older sister was also close but also not right for command. So their parents were granted a rare third child to see if he could have what his brother and sister lacked.

Ender's Game takes place on Earth, at Battle School and at Command School. All three are well-drawn and provide the perfect background for the drama and action that take place in the book.

The book, Ender's Game, is excellent. There is much to recommend it (although it is best if you don't already know the ending).

As I reread the series and get into the books I haven't already read, I'll update this review with other books in the universe (although of the books I've read so far, Ender's Game outshines the others).

Amazon Score: 4.5/5
Thrift Books: 4.5/5

The Fallen 1 (2003)
by Thomas E. Sniegoski

This series has 5 books, but only book 1 is worth reading. The rest are boiler plate and not even more of the same.

Aaron Corbet is just your average kid, that is, until he turns 18.

When he turns 18, strange things befall him. He starts hearing voices, including that of Gabriel, his dog.

That would be OK if he weren't being hunted by angels.

What on Earth is happening to Aaron? What is he, really? And how is his destiny to be fulfilled?

I really liked book 1 (which is actually two books: The Fallen and Leviathan). It is fast-paced, has some nice twists and wraps up nicely. The following books seem churned out; more of the same without the joy of discovering more about Aaron.

Amazon Score: 4.0/5
Thrift Books: 4.5/5

Foundation Series (1942/1951)
by Isaac Asimov

Hari Seldon has invented a new science of mathematics, psychohistory, which is able to predict the future (in broad terms) and has predicted the fall of the empire and a coming dark age. Not content to just see this fall and a long period of galactic stagnation, he creates the Foundation, a project to gather all learning and culture, thereby shortening the dark age by thousands of years.

The Foundation Series is made up of 7 books:

The original trilogy:

The Sequels:

The Prequels:

Isaac Asimov is a very good, and very prolific author. He has many books worth reading and it's a bit of an adventure discovering his different books.

Amazon Score: 4.3/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

The Last Herald Mage Trilogy (1989)
by Mercedes Lackey

This Lambda Award-winning trilogy tells the story of Vanyel mostly, and somewhat Tylendel, Vanyel's lifebonded.

Vanyel is set to inherit Forst Reach, but his father doesn't believe he measuers up as a man and is sent to the capital city of Haven in Valdemar. Here he discovers that he doesn't have the gift required of a bard and his dreams are crushed. He meets Tylendel and falls for him, but this is not destined to go well.

Eventually, Vanyel is Chosen by a Companion, Yfandes, and this starts him on his true road in life.

Of all the Valdemar books, I like this trilogy the best. To give you an idea of how popular these books are, the trilogy has been republished in a single volume just recently.

The trilogy consists of, well, three books:

Amazon Score: 4.5/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

Macroscope (1969)
by Piers Anthony

This is an early work by Piers Anthony before he turned to his hit fantasy series Xanth, Apprentice Adept (Blue Adept) and The Incarnations of Immortality

In this novel we are introduced to The Macroscope, an uber-Hubble telescope that uses Macrons rather than light to explore the origins of the universe. But the universe is only one small thing explored in more than 400 pages. The book centers on a boy genius raised with other child geniuses in an experimental community, the enigma of the Macroscope and the characters themselves. This is as much a story of science as it is of political machinations and of the alien race that is blocking the use of the Macroscope in a devious and destructive way.

This is speculative hard science fiction and a somewhat immature early work by the author.

Amazon Score: 4.5/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

The Magic of Xanth (1977)
by Piers Anthony

This is a fantasy series as well. It has 41 planned books, the first few are:

First, the books are full of puns. At first that's pretty fun, after a while they get old. The puns are so-so but the stories are very good.

In the first book, A Spell for Chameleon, Bink must find his magical power or be sent to Mundania where the non-magical people are. The magical world is Xanth. Of course it takes an epic adventure to find his talent. (Sorry, he does find he has a talent.)

Amazon Score: 4.5/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

Rendezvous with Rama (1973)
by Arthur C. Clarke

It is hurtling through space and a probe reveals its nature: it's a spacecraft, it's huge and it's heading toward us.

A manned mission is sent to the ship to discover its nature and, dare we hope, meet the Ramans.

This Clarke book won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards in 1973/4 and is an exciting adventure in a hard science fiction book.

The sequels are nearly as good:

Amazon Score: 4.5/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

The Riftwar Saga (1982)
by Raymond E. Feist

In the US, the Riftwar Saga is made up of 4 books:

Pug is an orphan living in the keep. One day he is down at the seashore collecting the denizens of the tide pools for the kitchen. Being a glorious summer day, he pauses for a snooze, waking late so he hurries to get back to the keep before the gates are closed. Slipping on a rock he sprains his ankle. Barely escaping the rising tide he is soaked in a storm. In the forest by the road, he is saved from a charging boar by an approaching woodsman. Pug is take to the woodsman's master's cabin in the woods. The master turns out to be a magician.

This is all forgotten in the days leading up to The Choosing. At the Choosing, Tomas (his best friend) and he were the last to be chosen. When Tomas was chosen by the Swordmaster but not chosen himself, his heart sank. That was the last master, he wasn't chosen. But then the magician stepped forward, he needed an apprentice as well. Pug was chosen by the magician. He was to be the Magician's Apprentice. And this starts the adventure.

This is the Riftwar series and explors the invasion of the Tsurani Empire through a rift between dimensions. A bridge is created to allow rift travel and the citizens of Midkemia, with their horses and metal weapons battle the Tsurani on several fronts.

This first book was more rift war and less magic and that was disappointing. I'm interested in seeing what happens in the following books. The first book is clearly the first half of a larger book. It ends precipitously, leaving Pug and Tomas hanging. This book is a fast read and entertaining dispite my disappointment.

In part 2 of Magician, we rejoin Pug and Tomas. Pug has been a slave to the Tsurani in Tsuranuanni for several years. Discovered by Hokanu, Pug and the troubadore, Laurie, are taken from the swamps and brought into the city for an unknown purpose. Well into his stay, a Great One visits and detects in Pug the power of magic. Pug is freed from being a slave and becomes the province of the Assembly. Tomas has been with the Dwarves for years and in Elvandar. The dragon gift of the gold and white armor is changing him. Tomas has become the dearest hope of the Elf queen, and her direst fear. Meanwhile, is there a romance brewing between Tomas and the Elf queen?

In book 3, Silverthorn, we start with the royal family and about half way through we move to Arutha, Laurie, Jimmy, Martin and Gardan who are on a quest to find the antidote to a silverthorn poison. (In an attempt to kill Arutha, princess Anita is grazed, but that is enough to poison her.) This is an adventure story as we seek the cure.

In book 4, Arutha is again a target of the Nighthawks and Jimmy is sent out to find their new hideout while Arutha works to make his family safe while he hunts down his enemy, Murmandamus. Meanwhile Pug has been trained by Elves on Kelewan so he, Tomas and hopefully Macros the Black, can defeat the ancient Enemy.

Amazon Score: 4.4/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

Soul Rider (Flux and Anchor) (1984)
by Jack L. Chalker

This one is a little bit out there. Sex and politics are fluid in this one, but I really liked it.

Imagine a world where, outside of the bounds of "regular" space (Anchor) there is a malleable space that is formed at the will of wizards (Flux). Now imagine some intelligence that can go from person to person and whisper in your ear (A Soul Rider).

Cassie is cast out of Anchor and brought into Flux by a Stringer and essentially sold into slavery. But Cassie is special and soon masters her surroundings. But her world is in jeopardy and she will need to save both Flux and Anchor.

There are five books in the series:

Amazon Score: 3.9/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
by Robert A. Heinlein

This is classic science fiction. Orphaned on Mars, a boy is raised by the indigenous population. Years later he is rescued by a team from Earth and is returned to his native planet. While marooned, the boy has grown to be a young man and has learned much from the Martians.

From him, we learn what Valentine Michael Smith himself has learned: There is God in us all (Thou art God) and when one truly understands, one Groks.

But Valentine's homecoming isn't sweet, having been raised away from the intrigues of Earth, without the company of Women and no concept of our world's religion. Worse, he returns home heir to a vast fortune and, as far as some are concerned, the owner of the planet Mars.

Heinlein explores our humanity through the innocent eyes of a child. This is a masterpiece and winner of the 1962 Hugo Award. And having been written in the early 60s there is a refreshing idealism entwined with realism that is often lost in more modern Sci-Fi Action/Adventure.

Amazon Score: 4.0/5
Thrift Books: 5.0/5

Tek War Series (1989)
by William Shatner and Ron Goulart

(Reviewed 13 Jul 16)

There are 9 books in this series:

Jake Cardigan has been in the Freezer for four years after being framed for selling Tek. When he gets out, he's no longer welcome as a police officer so he becomes a private detective for the prestigous Cosmos Detective Agency.

In the first installment, Jake and his partner Sid Gomez are tasked with finding a missing scientist, one whose invention would rid the world of Tek completely.

So far, they're quick and interesting reads.

Amazon Score 3.8/5
Thriftbooks Score 5.0/5


The Twilight Saga (2005)
by Stephenie Meyer

Much has been said about this series. The literary equivelent of a chick flick, these books feature a love story between a mortal, Bella Swan, and a vampire, Edward Cullen. Explored more in the subsequent books is Jacob Black a native American.

In the first book, Bella meets Edward and they start a romance after a rocky start. In addition to the romance we find that Bella runs afoul of a less-civilized vampire in the person of James.

These books were definately written by a woman and offer that perspective. This makes the reading a bit sappy but otherwise the stories are good and worth a read. There are four books in this series:

These books have been made into five movies:

Amazon Score: 4.0/5
Thrift Books: 4.0/5

The Wheel of Time (1984)
by Robert Jordan / Brandon Sanderson

This monolithic saga is contained in 14 books. The first 11 written by Robert Jordan and the final 3 written by Brandon Sanderson (using Robert Jordan's outlines and notes.)

Without spoilers, the first book takes our heroes (Rand al'Thor, Matrim (Mat) Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, Egwene al'Vere, and Nynaeve al'Meara) along with the Aes Sedai Moiraine Damodred, her Warder Al'Lan Mandragoran, and gleeman Thom Merrilin from The Two Rivers on an adventure to the abandoned city of Shadar Logoth where the run into trouble, then onto Caemlyn where we meet princess Elayne Trakand and an Ogier named Loial where they run into a bit of trouble, then onto Tar Valon where they get into and out of trouble.

You see, the world is in trouble, the Shadow is creeping back and The Dragon Reborn must fight the forces of The Dark One and save the world. The problem is there have been several supposed saviors all of them False Dragons.

Who is really The Dragon Reborn, what role do Rand, Mat and Perrin play. How do Nynaeve, Egwene and Elayne fit in and what becomes of their traveling companions.

This is definately an epic. The world is well-crafted and the characters well-built.

I've finished the series now and was not disappointed. The Last Battle was well done. So often the pentultimate battle is a giant scene bogged down by too much detail about a single fight. In this book the Last Battle was actually several battles against different, yet similar, foes. The book phased from continuing character plots to the final scenes, keeping the action fresh and the story moving forward.

Amazon Score: 4.5/5
Thrift Books: 4.5/5

 

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