Tag Archives: #space

Cradle of the Deep, by Deirdre Gould

The Keseburg once boasted a complement of fifty thousand. Generations of hardship, space hazards and disease have whittled it down to just under thirty thousand. That was the number when a small crew of resource miners departed on a routine asteroid run three months ago. But when they return home to the ship, all traces of their friends and family are gone. The Keseburg is silent, adrift, and running out of fuel. As they search the massive ship for survivors and answers, something else stalks them. Something that does not belong on the Keseburg.

The story of Issk’ath continues in Cradle of the Deep. What? You thought that the series was about the people aboard the Keseberg? ‘Fraid not. It was always about Issk’ath and its interaction with humanity, or at least the humanity that’s left. Issk’ath deals with guilt, called iterations in the narrative. Each time it does something that could be seen as inhumane, Issk’ath iterates. The parallel with humanity is not wasted here. Some people are wracked with guilt for minor infractions. Inter-generational guilt is a common theme in literature. But at times, Issk’ath is immune from its guilt – we’ve all encountered someone whose agenda precludes all other feelings, including guilt. But what is the nature of guilt, and by extension humanity? If a machine can feel guilt, then what is it about humanity that sets it apart from machine or even our genetic ancestors?

Like Traveler in the Dark, Cradle of the Deep focuses on a small cast of characters. Prior to this story, Issk’ath moves from permissive to overt action to “save” humanity from their frail casings. This causes much iteration, and sets us up for the crew of the Dolan to discover the Keseberg adrift with all souls lost at the hands (pincers?) of a homicidal robot. Can someone dying say no to termination under the claim of humane action? Can an otherwise able-bodied person choose to end their life for convenience?

The odd naming structure that baffled me in book one is gone from book two. It’s much easier to understand who is talking to whom in this story. Themes of predestination, choice, and rebellion are rife in this installment of Ex Situ. The narrative did suffer a little bit in this book, with some omnipotent head-hopping. I was able to follow who was doing/thinking what, but at least once or twice, I had to reread a paragraph when I got lost. The story was a fun read, and the ending worked well setting up book three without short-changing the reader. I’d give Cradle of the Deep four stars.

Deirdre Gould lives in Central Maine with her three children and husband. She’s also resided in northern Idaho, coastal Virginia and central Pennsylvania, but all of them just led her back home. The winters sure are cold, but that just means the zombies run slower. The area is isolated, but that just means the apocalyptic diseases don’t spread as quickly. And the storms are bad enough that no one thinks you’re crazy for “prepping.” It’s kind of ideal for a post-apocalypse writer when you think about it.


Escape Velocity, by Jason M. Hough

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, Captains Skyler Luiken and Gloria Tsandi (and their respective crews) have smashed through the deadly Swarm Blockade, but now find themselves scattered around the planet Carthage and the space stations that she holds in her orbit. Their mission is now twofold: destroy the military compounds of the nefarious alien overlords and find a way back home to Earth.
Standing in their way are a race of horrifying aliens aided by incredible weapons and technology. Low on supplies and with intermittent communication, the surviving humans must rely on all of their cunning, strength, and plain old good luck to turn the tables and overcome their foes. 

The only expectation I had for Escape Velocity was that it was the conclusion to the Dire Earth Duology, and that it had a badass captain on the cover. If you read my review on Tuesday, you already know that I seriously liked Zero World, so I had high expectations for the Dire Earth Duology.

I think that book two is the better of the two books. The floundering that I had felt in book one was gone, replaced by familiarity. Some of the clunky surreal sequences I was left scratching my head in the first book reached fruition in book two.

The dangling plot from Injection Burn is wrapped up in Escape Velocity, and if Jason Hough decided to write more in the same universe, I’d be an eager reader. I’m probably going to read the Dire Earth Cycle, and I look forward to meeting Jason at the 2017 Phoenix Comicon this weekend. I’m giving Escape Velocity four and a half stars over Injection Burn’s four.

Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dire Earth Cycle and the near-future spy thriller Zero World. In a former life he was a 3D artist, animator, and game designer (Metal Fatigue, Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). He has also worked in the fields of high-performance cluster computing and machine learning.


Injection Burn, by Jason M. Hough

Skyler Luiken and his ragtag crew of scavengers, scientists, and brawlers have a new mission: a long journey to a distant planet where a race of benevolent aliens are held captive behind a cloud of destructive ships known as the Swarm Blockade. No human ships have ever made it past this impenetrable wall, and Skyler knows not what to anticipate when they reach their destination. Safe to say that the last thing he expects to find there is a second human ship led by the tough-as-nails Captain Gloria Tsandi. These two crews and their respective captains initially clash, but they will have to learn to work together when their mutual foe closes in around them and begins the outright destruction of their vessels along with any hope of a return to Earth.”

I had no expectation when I saw Injection Burn on Netgalley, other than I knew I’d liked Zero World. I wasn’t aware that the Dire Earth duology was a companion series to the Dire Earth Cycle, but at no time reading Injection Burn did I feel like I was missing something.

The para-military vibe from the characters makes this a standard space opera. I kept waiting for the two distinct stories to merge, and I was not disappointed in the payout. There is a surreal plot in book one that I felt out of my element reading, but it pays off in book two.

I’ll give Injection burn four stars.

Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dire Earth Cycle and the near-future spy thriller Zero World. In a former life he was a 3D artist, animator, and game designer (Metal Fatigue, Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). He has also worked in the fields of high-performance cluster computing and machine learning.


Bathed in Light, by David Kristoph


The prophet of a dead religion. The luminary of an obsolete insurgency. A mother yet again severed from her impetus of survival. Praetar, the yellow planet in the Sarian system, leeches away hope the way sand drinks water. But the Melisao Empire has been cast aside, and a new power–an old power–reigns again. How will the remnants of the past find their niche in this new world… or will they even try?

I received Bathed in Light on Christmas, probably because the gifter knew I like good sci-fi, and David Kristoph specifically. I now have all six books for my Kindle, and paperbacks to adorn my shelves.

I tore through Bathed in Light in about four hours. Each of the three parts makes for a comfortable place to stop reading for the night if you wanted to stretch it out to three reading sessions. Bathed in Light gives more depth and insight into events that have happened in the previous five books, with an emphasis on the events from Born of Sand.

The tension is the highest in this latest edition of the TOADS series, and I just don’t know if David Kristoph can top this one. His writing has improved with each iteration, and I’m glad I took a chance on this indie author when I saw his first book on NetGalley so long ago.

Bathed in Light is a five-star read, and you’d be crazy not to read all six books in this series, especially since you can get all six for less than twenty bucks on Amazon.

David Kristoph

David Kristoph lives with his wonderful wife and two not-quite German Shepherds. He’s a fantastic reader, great videogamer, good chess player, average cyclist, and mediocre runner. He writes mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy. Check out his work if you want to help pay for his beer.


An Interview with Zen DiPietro


Recently, I’ve reviewed Translucid and Fragments, by Zen DiPietro. I asked her for a brief interview, and she was kind enough to acquiesce to my request…

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
The first time I said it was when I was a kid–just a few years old. I developed an early and rabid love for books. But when I was old enough to understand how getting paid works for authors, I decided to go with a college major that involved a regular paycheck.

I enjoyed writing over the years, but stopped when I had kids. Eventually the ideas knocking around in my head got too big and really needed to come out. Eventually, I told my husband, “I’m going to write a book.” And that man didn’t even bat an eye. He ordered me a laptop and off we went. I became a full-time writer and five books later, we’re still all-in.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My heart pounds when I write the big action scenes. I really buy into it, and feel what my characters feel. That probably comes from my experience as a role-playing gamer.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I read and binge-watch sci-fi. I play with my cats, play games with the kids, and work out whenever possible. I also like making things—sewing, 3D printing, graphic design, whatever. There never seems to be enough time in the day.

In one sentence, tell us all about the Dragonfire Station series.
Wow, one sentence! Okay. I won’t even cheat with a major run-on with multiple clauses.

Dragonfire Station is The Bourne Identity meets Firefly and Star Trek.

Yeah. That doesn’t seem to say a lot, but when you think about those elements, it really does.

What inspired you to write the series?
I love the excitement and mystery of a thriller, and the limitless possibilities of the universe. It made perfect sense to me to put them together. I write the stories I want to read, and there’s nothing I love more than a page-turner filled with characters who feel like people I know and care about.

How long does it take you to write a book?
A first draft takes about two months. Then I put it aside for a while and work on something else. When I come back to it to revise, I’ve gotten some perspective. I keep putting it away and coming back to it until it goes to the editor. All told, it takes about six months, but it’s not the only thing I’m working on during that time.

What did you learn about writing and publishing between Translucid and Fragments?
Well, writing my first series was a huge learning process, and I’ve had the benefit of those lessons in writing the Dragonfire Station series. But I actually wrote Translucid and Fragments simultaneously. I wrote the first book, then went straight into the second. From there, I toggled back and forth between them when doing revisions and edits. It was a huge undertaking
Continue reading

Fragments, by Zen DiPietro


Fallon and her team need answers. But before they can storm the PAC base on Earth, they need to find supplies and deal with Fallon’s memory loss. Her strange dreams sure aren’t helping matters. If they’re memories that her brain is trying to reconstruct, her brain is just going to have to work harder at making some sense. Either way, once they arrive at Earth, all bets are off. As soon as they steal the information they need, it will be kill or be killed. Elite intelligence operations don’t issue polite warnings.

The Good: I knew I’d like Fragments since I five-starred Translucid. I asked Zen to send me Fragments when it was ready, and she complied. Yay! I immediately moved it to the top of my TBR pile. This is another action/adventure outing for Fallon and her team. Everything I liked about Translucid, I liked in Fragments.

The Bad: While the chapters weren’t as long in Fragments as they were in Translucid, they were still pretty long. About thirty to forty-five minutes per chapter. Since I only spend about an hour a night reading, I would just read for an hour and end at the nearest scene break. There were significant “flashbacks” and narrated stories contained within. These were mostly important to the story, but I got the feeling that some of these had been shoehorned in to meet an arbitrary word count. They weren’t arduous to read, and a few of them would’ve made excellent side-stories, maybe a collection of short Fallon memories.

The Beautiful: I enjoyed the continuation of the Dragonfire Station series. It was nice to read about the different aspects of the universe. Since I compared the last book with popular television shows and movies, I’ll do the same for Fragments: Firefly meets Serenity. I know the movie was based on the series, and I got a total Whedon-esque vibe while reading Fragments. Lots of time on ships heading here or there to do this or that, all while staying under the radar of the totalitarian government bent on getting Fallon and her crew.

The Final Word: While I think Fragments would make an excellent sci-fi TV series, and I could totally see Joss Whedon directing it; I liked Translucid better. Like its predecessor, Fragments wrapped up the story leaving more questions than answers, but in a good way. I read more than I normally do so I could knock out Fragments yesterday. I look forward to reading book three but dread the long wait. Overall, I’d give Fragments 4.5 stars. Both books in the series are 99 cents on Amazon, and you’d be a total doofenshmirtz not to get them both.


Zen DiPietro is a lifelong bookworm, writer, and a mom of two. Perhaps most importantly, a Browncoat Trekkie Whovian. Also red-haired, left-handed, and a vegetarian geek. Absolutely terrible at conforming. A recovering gamer, but we won’t talk about that. Particular loves include badass heroines, British accents, and the smell of Band-Aids. Being an introvert gets in her way sometimes, as she finds it hard to make idle chitchat or stay up past 9 p.m. On the other hand, it makes it easy for her to dive down the rabbit hole of her love for books, stories, movies and games.


Girl on the Moon, by Jack McDonald Burnett


This near-future sci-fi adventure sends humankind back to the moon, this time to make first contact with an inscrutable alien race. And when Earth’s new acquaintances become new neighbors, humanity might not be done with the moon yet — and it might not be done with Earth. Fortunately for humankind, it has Conn Garrow. They said Conn wasn’t qualified for astronaut training. To prove herself, all she’ll have to do is outwit alien races, escape from prison, run a huge business, survive assassination attempts, engineer impossible rescues — and walk on the moon. Never tell Conn there’s something she can’t do.

This review is going to seem overly critical, so I want to start by saying that I liked Girl on the Moon, by Jack McDonald Burnett. There are a lot of heated dialog on both sides of the indie versus traditional publishing argument. Kindle Press, and its slush pile, Kindle Scout, are a great hybridization of both worlds. I missed the Kindle Scout campaign for this book and would’ve readily nominated it had I seen it. I did pick up Girl on the Moon through the Prime Reading program through Amazon.

A review compared this to Andy Weir’s The Martian. While they both have a person stranded on a celestial body with little chance of rescue, the stories are nothing alike. Girl on the Moon tells us of the trials and tribulations of Constance “Conn” Garrow, who wants so bad to be an astronaut. The story fills in much back story, and after the opening scene continues beyond Conn’s stint on the moon.

When I say ‘tells,’ I mean it. There is very little dialog, with the author info-dumping large swaths of text. For some reason though, it seems to work. I did find some of the various solutions throughout the story to be a bit coincidental, and unlike The Martian, where the Watney character overcame adversity with intelligence, stubbornness and a witty snark, Conn seems to persevere through outside forces.

Here and there I had trouble suspending my disbelief, and Girl on the Moon doesn’t have the hard sci-fi angle that other stories like this have, but overall, I enjoyed the read. I would definitely look for more sci-fi in the future from Jack McDonald Burnett. I’ll bump my fractional rating up to four stars, and recommend this story to any sci-fi fan or an indie fan. Plus, it’s free with Amazon Prime membership, so get it.


Jack McDonald Burnett is an attorney living in the Atlanta metro area. In former lives, Jack was a freelance writer, an editor for a small, niche publisher, and communications director for a software company. Jack’s short fiction has appeared in the anthology Defiant, She Advanced: Legends of Future Resistance, available from Amazon, Ama-Gi Magazine, and firstwriter.magazine. His nonfiction work has appeared in such diverse publications and venues as Mortgage Lending Compliance Alert, American Builders Quarterly, Mortgage Technology, Economic Opportunity Report, and Puck Daddy. His first novel, Girl on the Moon, is newly available in the Kindle Store. He is writing the sequel, Girl on Mars, and two other novels.