Book Review: ‘Kris Longknife: Audacious’ by Mike Shepherd

Kris Longknife: Audacious by Mike Shepherd

This is book 5 in the Kris Longknife series. The title character, Kris, started out in the first book of the series (Kris Longknife: Mutineer) as a rich kid/politician’s daughter that turned her back on that way of life and what has happened in her past with a life in the Military, specifically the space navy, as a Marine. But there’s more to being ‘One of those damn Longknifes’ than she thought. She got involved saving the kidnapped daughter of another planet’s head of state and in the second half of the book single-handedly overhauling a failing humanitarian mission… and along the way proving it’s really not safe to be close to a Longknife.

In book 2 (Kris Longknife: Deserter), Kris goes off on an adventure to save her friend Tommy who has gone missing. But there’s a long more going on here than just her friend getting lost. There’s a plague and plots within plots and it takes stepping into her rich background and being her ‘Princess Longknife’ self to get where she needs to go with this one. And it doesn’t hurt to have one of most dangerous lady’s maids in existence at one’s side, either.

In Book 3 (Kris Longknife: Defiant), she is at home on Wardhaven while the fleet is off on a propaganda mission. The ‘enemy’ comes calling and it is up to Kris to defend her world through the means of a desperate gambit that risks it all.

She lived through that and into Book 4 (Kris Longknife: Resolute) where she is sent to the remote system called ‘Chance’, given her own command in what is more of an exile than a real promotion. But of course all doesn’t turn up roses and quiet out there, as there’s pirates to stir things up and alien ruins to spice it all with. Can’t she just stay out of trouble anywhere?!

So that brings us to Kris Longknife: Audacious. Uncle Ray (King Ray Longknife to many) decides that it might be best for Kris to keep away from the Rim for a while, so he sends her to the planet Eden for what is openly supposed to be a business mission. She’s supposed to help negotiate a technological deal as one of the major stockholders of Nuu Enterprises to build computers for companies on Eden (or some such). But Kris knows that there’s some unspoken reason for her being sent to Eden… but what could such a peace loving, quiet, and civilized world like the long established Eden need. It was one of the first of earth’s colonies, it’s rich, it’s got really low crime rates and a unified elected government…

But of course, any planet called ‘Eden’ is going to have one or more snakes. And when an assassination attempt upon her person on her first day on the planet which results in a gunfight and more than one body down doesn’t even show up on the news or in any of the papers… it’s only the first hint that nothing is quite what it seems.

While I wouldn’t call this series the best set of books on the shelves, it is entertaining and over the course of these five books we have a cast of characters that are fun to read about. And you always know that the damned Longknives, and one Kris Longknife in particular, is going to be in the thick of things. Unfortunately it looks like it really isn’t safe to be around Kris on a casual level. People tend to get shot, blown up, and maybe run out of town for hanging around her.

Mike Shepherd’s writing has clearly improved since that first book appeared in 2004. And the characters have grown and the worlds of this universe fleshed out. In Book 4 one of the major foils in Kris’ life shuffled off the mortal coil, but in this one we meet a new one that is as bad, if not worse. I wonder if this Peterwald will last as many books as the last did. I also wonder how many more hangers on Kris is going to gather. She does seem to add at least one per book./p>

Don’t expect heavy thinking, deep science, detailed military campaigns or anything too far beyond tomorrow in these books. But there is adventure, heroism, military honor, and a strong sense of doing the right thing for all the right reasons (even if it’s not with the intended results) in these books. Oh, and a body count of red shirts, and maybe a revolution or two on the side. The books are enjoyable reads that won’t weigh you down or make you have to think too much. Good entertainment without insulting you as a reader.

I already have book 6 in this series, called Kris Longknife: Intrepid. In fact, I’ve had it for almost a month, as the Kris Longknife books come out in November each year. (See Mike’s website I linked to and read his FAQ there as to why that is.) In fact, I had Audacious since it came out last year but Mhari burried it in her stack of read books until recently, so I only now got to read it. *grin*. I likely will get to Intrepid sometime early in the new year. I’m reading Charles Stross’ Saturn’s Children next.

Okay, so I missed one…

Yup, last Friday I missed posting my weekly blog. Oh, woe…

Mhari and I are fine. We had a quiet little Christmas. Mhari’s busy doing Further Confusion pre-registration things (Reminder: Pre-Reg for FC2009 closes at Midnight pacific time, on December 30th, 2008. That means you have until midnight, pacific time, TOMORROW, to get a membership to the convention without paying the at-door price At the door of the convention.) so she hasn’t had lots of time to play games or watch TV or whatnot. But we did get some Dr. Who (3rd modern season) watched on Christmas day. We plan for more on New Years.

We’re both having our usual back issues, sometimes lessor, sometimes greater. But not too bad. Nothing that can’t keep until our next Dr James appointment on the 4th.

City of Heroes: Well, we did slightly different things because of the Winter Event and people generally being not sure of their availability. So it’s been things like opening presents, doing a few missions as a group, or doing the Rescue Baby New Year mission.

Personally I have been doing the BNY mission again and again as a character that can solo him well, to earn Candy Canes for other characters that can’t solo him. See, presents, when opened have a chance of giving ONE candy cane, or they could burst forth with a small hoard of winter beasts. (Or if you are in a group of 5 or more, possibly a ‘Giant Monster’ Winter Lord!) But the Rescue Baby New Year mission will offer, as one of it’s selectable rewards, 5 Candy Canes.

The boss you have to defeat in the BNY mission is an Elite Boss by the name of Snaptooth. He does very heavy lethal damage, and isn’t alone, having his red cap minion(s) with him. Most Tankers and Brutes can solo him if they have good Lethal defenses/resistance. Masterminds of level 32 and above should be able to solo him. Some Scrappers and Stalkers can do him in, solo. High level Keldians and VEATs can likely solo him. But Blasters, Corruptors, Defenders, Dominators, and Controllers are just going to be frustrated, usually, because they can’t seem to dish out enough damage fast enough to take him down before he takes them down.

So those squishies that can’t solo Snaptooth (but could otherwise wipe the floor with the other mobs, in many cases) either need to team up with others to do Snaptooth, or go click presents in a zone below their level… again and again and again, while others are trying to do the same, and may be leaving their spawned mobs behind them as they click-and-run. Present-clicking can get very, very, very boring and does nothing to earn you XP if you are doing it in a lower-level zone.

I have been doing the BNY mission with my Level 50 tanker on the hero side, and my level (now) 38 Brute on the villain side. Then giving the candy canes to my lower level ‘squishies’ so they can buy the Winter’s Gift recipe that provides 20% slow resistance… something that is VERY useful! But it costs 50 Candy Canes. So that’s 10 BNY missions. My Brute, Purple Moose, was level 37 when I started. He’s level 38.5 now. *grin* The BNY mission, especially the defeat of Snaptooth, is VERY good XP, especially thanks to Patrol XP boosting it 50%!

I went on the CoH forums and put in some suggestions that they consider more options than just the BNY mission for the Winter Event… I’m sure Lord Recluse wouldn’t mind delaying the New Year a bit, or making things Colder for a while. Or Mender Silos might have something to do with things. There is sure to be plenty of reasons for the various powers that be to have things that they want to stop/do, etc. There has GOT to be options that people can do other than the exact same thing that has been done for 3 Winter Events in a row. And new ski runs, while nice, really isn’t enough. Some new CONTENT would be nice. Of course, if they let the Mission Architect use Winter Event things, maybe next year the player community will have to show them how it’s done! *grin*

Lord of the Rings Online: Yup, I played it some. Was solo’ing a Warden for a while. Interesting class with it’s gambit system. I’ll play more of it over time as I need breaks from other things.

Second Life: Got on just a little bit and chatted with a couple of folks. Did a little roleplaying. But I wasn’t on much.

Other: I didn’t touch Perfect World or Tabula Rasa. More interested in getting candy canes on City.

Okay, there… I’ve written a blog… I’ll try to get a new one in on time this coming Friday.

Book Review: ‘Kiss of Fire’ by Deborah Cooke

Kiss of Fire by Deborah Cooke

This is the first in a series of ‘Dragonfire’ books. In this world there are dragons that can shape shift into human form. They have been there since creation as guardians of the four elements and the earth as a whole. These dragons are called Pyr. There are two factions amongst the Pyr the ‘regular’ Pyr that consider part of their destiny is also to protect humanity. The other faction are called Slayers as they consider Humans to be weak and useless and believe that only in the destruction of the non-Slayer Pyr and of any humans that get in their way will truly fulfill their goals of protecting the earth since humans are destroying their world.

Pyr are very, very long-lived and there are not many ‘female’ Pyr, in fact, only one. And she’s a special dragon, The Wyvern, as she is the Pyr Oracle who imparts her visions and guidance with verse and mysteries, not straight answers.

In this Dragonfire novel, we follow a human woman by the name of Sara Keegan who has recently inherited a New Age bookstore in Ann Arbor. She’s a former ace accountant who has decided to settle down with running her aunt’s store and lead a less globe-trotting life. She’s a very richly written character, and comes across as very real. She’s about to discover a life much different than she was expecting.

The Pyr central character of this novel is Quinn Tyrrell, a blacksmith and artist who’s now to be the centerpiece of a new cycle in the lives of himself and the good Pyr as it looks like Sara Keegan is his destined mate and the subject of his Firestorm, a destiny-driven urge to mate and create a heir for both his skills and his destiny. For Pyr can only be born from the mating of human and Pyr and the Firestorm is the sign that it is THEIR turn!

And while the Firestorm is a precious and wonderful thing, the Slayers have plans of their own, wishing to eliminate both the Seer (Sara) and the Smith (Quinn) to prevent the new age that is to come, and they have kidnapped and endangered the Wyvern, both to torture her into giving the Slayers and only the Slayers her prophecies as well as to bait a trap for the Seer and the Smith.

In general the book is very well written, with interesting hints into the background of the Pyr and is populated with well thought out characters that are anything but the cardboard characters so common in series romance novels.

The sexual tension in the novel is strong, but not overpowering for anyone other than the Seer and the Smith, and the sex, once it happens, is not described explicitly, but rather in the nature of a HBO or Showtime presentation, with anything that goes on below the hips being only indirectly described. And the sex is not the focus of the novel, rather it is the growing relationship between the destined mates and the overarching conflict between the Slayers and the Pyr that carry things.

While not the best Paranormal Romance novel I have read, it is written in a good hand, and I will not turn away from the sequels when I find them in the bookstore. However, I doubt I would have found it as interesting without the ‘Paranormal’ elements of the dragons. And dragons are an interesting change from the werewolves and vampires that commonly populate Paranormal Romance these days.

According to Deborah Cooke’s website there are 6 books in this series, with Kiss of Fire as the first, Kiss of Fury being second and having come out this past August. The 3rd, Kiss of Fate is currently scheduled for February 2009. Number 4, whose title has yet to be announced, is listed for November 2009.

Deborah Cooke’s blog called Alive & Knitting.

#520 – Off Switch

Here is today’s Modem Problems from Matthew McAndrews:
Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #520 – Off Switch – December 22nd, 2008

Click on the image for larger image, or on the link if there is no image present here for you.

Please note, the ISP where the Modem Problems website resides is currently down due to technical difficulties. It will return after migration to the new server. When the graphic reappears on these posts, that means it is back. Sorry for the interuption in service. Looks like part of the Internet really DOES have an Off Switch.

A Lazy Friday

Hi all. It’s a lazy friday for me, taking a sanity day off from work due to a combination of not being allowed to do ‘work from home’ any more and having a doctor’s appointment.

Mhari and I are doing well. It’s being a quiet holiday season as we have no plans to go anywhere this year, and life just sort of feels laid back right now.

We’re doing the usual things with the usual people on the usual games. I’ve spent a little time relaxing from the quest for XP by hanging out a little on Second Life, or just gone to bed early if it’s not one of our game nights. Tonight will be a game night with our new villain team, the Wolf Pack, on City of Villain’s Protector server.

Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s blog from me for my latest book review. And I’ll have another one of those soon as my latest book is going rather swiftly.

Yup. Short posting. Not really a whole lot to be going on about. So I will leave it at this. Thanks for reading and special greetings to my sister, Play Ink, and my brother, Brainbelly.

Rook Review: Inside Straight by George R.R. Martin

Inside Straight: A Wild Cards Novel [Edited] by George R.R. Martin

Inside Straight is the first new Wild Cards Novel in a couple of years, and the two before it really didn’t catch my attention and I have not read them. Like a number of the other novels, Inside Straight a ‘Mosaic’ Novel, which means that a core collection of authors all worked on various parts of the novel, working to create a master whole. It’s a cross between a collection of connected short stories and a true novel that one or two people write.

For those that haven’t heard of Wild Cards before, I strongly recommend this link. But in short, back at the end of World War II there was a major event where a alien virus got released in the world. The virus is called ‘Wild Card’ and what it does is create a Major change in how the human genome works. At the initial exposure, a human could be dealt a number of different ‘hands’. In one of them, nothing will happen, in another collection of people something minor will happen, this is called a ‘Deuce’. The majority will be dealt the ‘Black Queen’ and be horribly disfigured and hopefully they will die. The next most common result is a ‘Joker’. These are very similar to the Black Queen but the person lives and has been changed in manners strange and bizarre but somehow can survive and function. Usually they become shunned and become the poor and downtrodden.

The final sort of ‘hand’ one can be dealt is to become an ‘Ace’. This means you get some fantastical power(s) that can do amazing and defy logic, laws of the universe, and are the ones that one would consider ‘super heroes’ (or villains).

Inside Straight is set in modern day, in a world that has had ‘Wild Card’ affected people, invasions of aliens, and many other things happen since the fatefull day that the world was first exposed. But the world is not so different from our own, and there are reality shows. This novel follows the story of a Reality Show called ‘American Heroes’ and starts with the usual auditions, before 28 ‘aces’ form four hands (Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs) to compete to become the next ‘Amerian Hero’. (Learn about the contestants here!) It’s told from the point of view of several of the contestants, including Johnathan Hive, the blogger/journalist that can turn into a swarm of wasps; Drummer Boy, a seven-foot tall, six-armed rockstar joker drummer of the band Joker Plague; The Amazing Bubbles, a former teen model whose card turned and made her able to turn any impact into her into mass in her own body (fat) that she can then ‘bubble’ out to make explosive effects: Stuntman, a african-american athleate that was too smart for sports… his card turned during film school and he became able to ‘bounceback’ from any injury (much like a certain cheerleader we all know now); Earth Witch, a woman who can only ‘dig ditches’ and learn she can do a lot more… and many other unique characters.

This is quite a book, and the Reality Show is only part of the wrapper for the story, it also involves conflict in Egypt and what it really means to be a hero. It’s well written, but often is more deep than many people expect a book about ‘super heroes’ to be. These are not comic book heroes. They are not characters from some super hero MMO. They seem a lot more real if a little strange and over the top at times. This isn’t a book for people that want light-hearted entertainment, as this book, while often a little irreverent and satirical, is very serious and deals with what seems, to this reader, to be very real issues if the modern world had real super powers in it.

All in all I greatly enjoyed this ‘Wild Cards’ novel, almost more than I have the prior books set in the same universe. It resonates better with today and echoes our times better. It asks the hard questions and doesn’t pull punches even when it’s characters might. I greatly look forward to the sequel, Busted Flush, that is already out in hardback, when it comes to paperback. And it was good to see Steve Perrin’s character, Digger Downs, as a Reality Show judge.