Saturday, July 18, 2015

Master Sergeant

Mel Odom
Harper Voyager, 2015 (an ARC was gracefully provided by Harper for review)
Size: Average (my copy has 368 pages)
Theme: Military alien sci-fi
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Frank Sage
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

In this riveting story of military sci-fi we follow the deployment of Master Sergeant Frank Sage, an experienced war veteran, on the planet Makaum. Although he wished he was leaving the safety of the military training command facilities back on Terra in order to go to the expanding war front against the Phrenorians, he is commissioned to this planet in order to help bring the Makaum troops into line with Terran military standards. In Makaum, an uneasy truce is being managed between the Terran army, the Phrenorian empire, the (ta)Klar, and the Makaum natives who landed in that planet generations ago. The harsh environment and the extremely aggressive fauna and flora of the planet do not hamper the interests of different parties on its natural resources. However, Makaum might also not be that far from conflict as initially thought…

The novel is action-packed with jungle exploration, covert operations, and city pursuits. The plot also provides direct insights into the Phrenorians, namely one of their military leaders, which I found an interesting feature (although there is very little of it). There is a quite inventive array of technologies but they are easy to absorb. The same goes for some specific vocabulary introduced through the book. The plot is easy to follow, yet complex enough to keep the reader always on the edge and eager to turn the page. The main character is likable and well explored, and the other key characters work very well together.

I very much enjoyed the first installment of this series and am looking forward to reading the second book (Guerilla, which is scheduled to be launched on August 2015).

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mentats of Dune

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Tor, 2014 (my hardcover copy was gracefully provided by Tor for review)
Size: Long (my hardcover copy has 445 pages)
Theme: Space Opera
Narrative: third-person
Main character: several
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This novel continues the events from Sisterhood of Dune, focused on the emergence and establishment of the great schools of Dune. As in the previous book, we learn a bit more about the Mentats, the Bene Gesserit, the Spacing Guild, CHOAM, and others. Events through the book are mostly defined by the great conflict between the anti-technology fanatics of Manford Torondo and the pro-technology industries of Josef Venport. This conflict is shaping the entire Dune universe, and greatly affecting the schools and houses of Dune.

The Bene Gesserit are in great turmoil, with their order split between the sisters that reside in the Imperial Palace and the ones that moved to Wallach IX. Valya harkonnen is taking up an important role in the sisterhood, while trying to re-establish the broken Harkonnen family. And she is mostly concerned with revenge on Vorian Atreides. Within the sisterhood, abilities such as truth saying and use of the voice are just appearing. The Mentat school established by Gilbertus Albans will face dire times, as he continues to hide the Erasmus core, while attempting to keep in good standing with Manford’s faction. Josef Venport is expanding and strengthening his stand through a myriad of options: from hiring Fremen to do sabotage work for him, to building new Cymeks. And in the midst of all this, the emperor starts to feel insecure and powerless against the two great factions, as they

The style and pace continue from the previous novel. I much enjoy the very short chapters switching between the multiple storylines. The book is packed with action and adventure, with some twists and turns, but mostly many plots unraveling simultaneously. The only aspect that could be better is that the authors keep reminding us of some basics when the action moves to a group or character. For someone reading the book, this needless repetition gets boring and off-putting. Yet, this is a must read for Dune fans and everyone who read the previous installment  (having read through the entire Legends of Dune series beforehand is absolutely mandatory in order to understand the plot). I look forward to reading the third novel of this mini-series and I highly recommend this book.

Related work:
This novel continues the storyline from “Sisterhood of Dune”. Within the extensive Dune universe novels, this storyline occurs after “Dune: the battle of Corrin” (from the Legends of Dune prequel trilogy) and before “Dune: House Atreides” (from the Prelude to Dune prequel trilogy).