In today's review round-up, Brent A. Harris, that old scallywag, reviews sci-fi action read FountainCorp Security, from Watson Davis, while Leo McBride reviews the Biblically-influenced AZ: Revenge of an Archangel, by A.A.Bavar, and young adult tale Horn-Horn, by A.D.T. McLellan.
FountainCorp Security: Diaries of a Space Marine, by Watson Davis
I considered leaving my review at that, as one might pick up this book at reading: Zombies. In Space.
But Watson Davis delivers a story much deeper than just the orbital undead up against an elite team of interstellar marines. Hero is a butt-kicking heroine with a difficult past who connects with a child rescued from a station ravaged by a nefarious shadow group that have created nano-tech zombies.
While this book doesn’t tread new ground and it relies on many established tropes (the rape-as-plot-device, especially) Davis deftly maneuvers around them, only bogging down a bit in the middle but recovering to deliver on its premise just in time for an actiony-climax. When Davis deals with Hero’s emotionally charged past, FountainCorp shines at its brightest. I enjoyed this book. It’s easy to delve into, the characters behave realistically, and the writing is solid. I did find it a bit jarring moving from the first person ‘diaries’ to the third-person narrative, but I recognize that’s a personal aesthetic and most won’t be bothered. 4 stars for a fun ride with a dynamic cast and… Space freaking Zombies!
AI Rating: 4/5
You can pick up Davis’ book here.
Brent A Harris is a frequent collaborator of mischief with Leo McBride. Sometimes they review books too. You can reach out to Brent at his website www.BrentAHarris.com.
AZ: Revenge of an Archangel, by A.A.Bavar
Gosh, I wish this book would have started at its half-way mark.
This is the story of Azrail, the Archangel of Death, and as it turns out in this tale, eons-long opponent of Lucifer.
Those eons stretch out across the first half of the novel, with Azrail - not Azrael, the spelling I'd be more familiar with but hey, no harm in a bit of variation - getting into confrontation after confrontation at scenes of Biblical significance. Crime Scene Bible, you might say, with an archangel taking off his sunglasses as The Who scream Yeaaaahhhhhh.
So we have conflicts over Cain and Abel, we stop by Sodom and Gomorrah and see how Lot and his family were urged to leave and the unfortunate ending of his wife, and so on. This vast timespan makes it a little hard to engage with the first half of the book. We drop in and out over centuries. We leave Lot and pop up at the crucifixion of Jesus - what was happening in the intervening time? Does it matter?
And then we leap again and come to... a really good bit of storytelling. The reaper Azrail discovers a girl who he spared from drowning as a baby, and becomes her guardian. Suddenly, we're more rooted to our world and connected to an intriguing tale, of an innocent child being protected by an angel - who she nicknames AZ - in the face of Lucifer's machinations. If we'd started here, this might have been a great tale, but I can't help but feel the first half of the book is going to lose a lot of readers before they get here. There are some odd anachronistic references too - the angel's dialogue can use slang that's a bit too modern at times, and there was one bit where he referenced a computer game that really broke me out of the novel.
All in all, it's an intriguing premise, but a tighter focus on a shorter period of time would have done it the world of good.
AI Rating: 3/5
AZ: Revenge of an Archangel is available here.
Horn-Horn, by A.D.T. McLellan
Power games can manifest in many forms - and the story of Horn-Horn has lead character Cassie Gellar caught in the middle of them.
Whether it's the power games going on in the cliques of her new school, or those being played by the supernatural forces from the world of Danube, it's hard to tell which is the more perilous for Cassie.
Horn-Horn is the name of the town that Cassie and her family have moved to, and just as she's starting to get to grips with the oddness of the town's residents, she discovers Zag, a mysterious child with the power to grant wishes, stranded in the nearby woods. She takes him in, only to find he is being pursued by Ursula, a dangerous being from Danube - which seems part a distant world in our solar system and part an almost faerie court. There's a bit of perspective hopping along the way - Cassie's tale is told in first person, while others are told in third person, which is a bit jarring.
As a YA tale, it's great in terms of the details of teenage life that it paints - the cruelties, the eagerness to find friends, the delights and the loneliness. This is both a strength and a bit of a flaw, in that the book spends such time on this aspect that the main plot itself takes some time to get going. I'm not sure I'd want the snark and the details of teenage life to be slimmed down, though, because they're the best thing about this book.
That, and its quirkiness, make me give this book a thumbs-up, even if it feels as if the otherworldly aspects don't quite make their mark.
AI Rating: 4/5
Horn-Horn is available on Amazon here.