Reviews of free sci-fi with titles beginning with H
*** sex = 7, action = 8, prose = 5
In general I don't like stories about superheros such as The Fountainhead or A Man in Full. I'll make an exception in this case because, in spite of numerous flaws, the story is moving. Without the few flaws I'll mention in a second, this would have been five stars.
The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. The apocalypse and some of the other features of the story such as the zombies called 'mutes' are comic-book science, but that does not detract from the story. At the time of the story the eastern U.S. has been rebuilt and looks like paradise compared to the west, specifically west Texas where most of the action takes place. The west is rough and lawless, much like the Hollywood's Wild West. The brutishness and super-tough attitude seems a little too over-the-top to someone who hasn't spent much time in Texas and indulged in a little good-natured gun play around the campfire.
There is unspeakable violence in this story, 'mutes' (zombies) are slaughtered in droves, other villains likewise. Beheadings, impalements, people blown up in bunches are common occurrences. The main characters suffer almost as much as in In Her Name - Empire, and need alien technology to survive. This would have stopped me if not for the fact that Hawk feels deep remorse at what he's been forced to do to survive and help rebuild the country.
With all that, this is first and foremost, a love story. A better, more engaging and more heartfelt love story than I have seen from Harlequin. The main love scene is as steamy as anything I've seen from them but without being pornographic. The age difference is nearly as great as in Yoonbarla but as neither character is a teenager, it is not as much an issue as it is in that story. Instead it is the need for toughness that keeps them apart, though only briefly, and much more realistically than the comical and silly 'Oh I'm not right for him', 'Oh I'm no good for her' over and over again that most formula romance drags the reader thru.
The main drawback to the story is the prose. The proofreading is poor, especially in the main love scene. The exclamation point is overused and the expressions 'wonderful creature', 'lovely creature' etc. are used to the point of distraction. The story is in sections, almost as if it is a series put together in one file, and the action peaks early, but I've done the same thing in Lhar and couldn't seem to find a way to work it out without changing the geography of the planet. I also have a feeling that this may not be the final edition of the work.
Because of the violence and the other faults, I give it three stars, but I enjoyed the book. It is emotionally powerful and will probably leave you in tears.
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** Sex = 0, action = 7, prose = 8
This is a kid's story, heavy on the unspeakable cruelty of middle schoolers. The plot is people in a space academy learning to pilot 'sleds' which are probably a lot like the x-wing fighters of star wars but which fit into the story as the brooms in Harry potter. Though the school is in a retrofitted luxury liner the atmosphere is Hogwarts, the characters are versions of Ron, Harry and Hermine with a haughty rich girl thrown in. The villains are nearly exact take offs on Malfoy and his twerps. The advantage of this is it moves along a lot faster than Harry Potter and it's free, but it is rather thin and tasteless.
The author does have a very modern web site with lots more stories available, some of which are free.
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*** Sex = 6, action = 3, prose = 9
This is a cute little piece of fluff that is actually quite a bit of fun. The title pretty much tells the story. In the near future a lonely widowed schoolteacher buys himself a late model personal companion robot. Even though she looks human enough, everyone knows she's a robot because no twenty-something girl that hot would be in the company of a dowdy, paunchy, fiftyish schoolteacher. There's some comedy and a bit of mayhem, including one knock-down fight between robots. There is plenty of sex but only the most puritanical would call it porn.
The setting is the opposite of the dystopia of most near future sci-fi. The United States and its government still function, corporations have been put in their place, public education still functions, mag-lev trains cross the country and the Green Party is a major political force. Some may call it Pollyanna, but if you believe as I do that Sci-fi doesn't just predict the future, but is a factor in shaping the future, maybe that will do some good.
For some, such as me, the idea of a robot girlfriend without a mind of her own is quite unsettling, but Mike, the main character, has none of the misgivings shown in Aluminum Quest or Tangle in the Dark over the 'cherubs' which are functionally the same thing although in a simulated world. If there is a message here it is that robot marriage may be the next step after gay marriage. The author does not seem to have an opinion one way or the other, but tosses it out as something to consider.
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*** Sex = 3, Action = 7, Prose = 9
This is a short, young adult novel of a world where male and female roles are reversed. Males are rare drones useful only for reproduction. Males are shared by groups of women called 'companies'. Women do all the heavy work, the fighting and hold most positions of authority. Women's greater size and strength is due to genetic manipulation, females who lack it are called 'humans' and considered throwbacks. The main character is a fifteen year old male who is sought after by many groups of women.
There is a bit of awkward sexuality and lots of violence but it is not unnecessarily graphic. It held my attention thruout. The plot and characters are good although I found the main character's laziness while the girls did all the work something of a put off. Of course there are societies in the world today where men are just as lazy. The science is believable and a 'space elevator' a la Arthur C. Clark is central to the story.
I find only a couple things that make this a three star not a four star. The first is that parts of the geography seem to be inconsistent, or at least unclear. The second is that a lot of it seems very similar to David Brin's 'Glory Season.' In a way that is not a bad thing since 'Glory Season' is a definite five star and one of my favorite Brin novels.
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