Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is one of the most consistently creative and unique series around. It works as a straight up action thriller but it has just a touch of science fiction and horror to keep things interesting. Dogs of War is the latest entry in the series and proves that Joe Ledger is still going strong.

Advances in robotics and nanotechnology present a frightening new array of dangers. In the hands of a freelance terrorist with substantial resources, they can become almost apocalyptic. When Joe Ledger’s brother with the Baltimore PD gives Joe a call about a strange case, Joe hops on a plane and heads back across the country to his old stomping grounds. Meanwhile, WMDs are going off in different places around the world, and it looks like the problems are only starting. It isn’t long before Joe and the Department of Military Science (DMS) is once again in a race to save the world from destruction.

Although the Joe Ledger novels build off of events from previous books, they can still each be easily read as standalones. Joe, his team and all of the DMS is still suffering from a crisis of confidence from events in the previous novel, Kill Switch. Rebuilding their organization and their confidence is essential if they are going to have any hope of averting disaster.

Jonathan Maberry excels at the high-octane, adrenaline-pounding action. He also does a great job of humanizing his heroes, especially when the stakes are personal. Joe and other members of the DMS are often placed in serious jeopardy, and for long-time readers, you are aware that not everyone always makes it out alive. These stakes add a level of tension to every scene.

Maberry’s blend of science fiction and action continue to work well here. Imbuing his characters with a sense of humor and unflagging loyalty to one another deepens the reader’s investment in the story. Joe Ledger, Top, Bunny and all the people at DMS, not to mention Ghost (one of the greatest dog sidekicks ever) are not at the top of their game at the start of the story, but they’ll get there by the end. Dogs of War is another great entry in the Joe Ledger series and I’m looking forward to many more installments. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: Dogs of War: Robots are no longer science fiction. Autonomous, programmed to react like animals: fast, relentless, deadly. From microscopic nanobots to massive self-guided aircraft. This technology is here, it’s assessable, and it’s dangerous. What’s even scarier is that almost anyone can get their hands on it.

A freelance terrorist uses the latest generation of robot dogs to deliver WMDs into cities across America. Sophisticated military weapons systems turn on their human masters. A technological apocalypse is coming and we may be too late to stop it.

Joe Ledger and a newly rebuilt Department of Military Sciences square off against this new and terrible threat. Dogs of War pits Joe against a merciless new enemy and an army of techno-terrorists in a race to prevent a global destruction.

Let loose the Dogs of War.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Star Trek: Prey: Book Two: The Jackal's Trick by John Jackson Miller

The Jackal’s Trick is the middle book in the Prey trilogy set in the Star Trek Universe. The book  picks up shortly after the events at the end of the first book, Hell’s Heart. Korgh continues to sow discord that threatens the century long peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire after the Khitomer Accords. Korgh’s influence in the Empire grows as the Unsung and their shadow wing of Birds of Prey ships continue to wreak havoc and disrupt peace talks aimed at creation of a safe corridor of space for travel by numerous races.

Admiral William Riker works at maintaining the fragile peace while his flagship, along with the Enterprise and Captain Picard continue to hunt the Unsung as well as whoever is behind them. Meanwhile, Worf is once again isolated and outnumbered as he takes on a mission that has become deeply personal for him.

This second book explores more of the history of Cross, the Kruge impersonator who is key to Korgh’s schemes. The plight of the unsung and the role of discommendation in general in Klingon society is an interesting subtext to the events in this book and this series. The role of honor among Klingons is well known, but the implications of the Klingon treatment of those judged without honor is explored more fully here.

John Jackson Miller has a firm grasp on the characters in the Star Trek Universe. He delivers an exciting book with great action scenes and a riveting conspiracy. Hidden agendas and secret plans spice up the action. More favorite characters, such as Tuvok, pop up in this book both in aid of unraveling the current conspiracy as well as to provide insight into past events that have helped shape the present. Miller does a great job of interspersing outstanding action scenes in amongst a fascinating conspiracy and characters who are not always what they appear to be. This book is a blast and I can’t wait to see how the series concludes.

Robert Petkoff’s narration is once again amazing. He voices a large cast that includes humans, Klingons, and various other alien races. His pace complements the story and underscores the action. He manages to draw you into the story without ever distracting from it. An outstanding performance. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive a copy of this book from the publisher.

Description: The Klingon-Federation alliance is in peril as never before. Lord Korgh has seized control of the House of Kruge, executing a plot one hundred years in the making. The Klingon cult known as the Unsung rampages across the stars, striking from the shadows in their cloaked Birds-of-Prey. And the mysterious figure known as Buxtus Cross launches a scheme that will transform the Klingon Empire forever.

Into danger flies Admiral William T. Riker and the USS Titan, charged with protecting the peace forged nearly a century before during the Khitomer Accords. Aided by Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the USS Enterprise, Riker and his officers scour the stars, seeking to find the Unsung and uncover the truth behind the conspiracy before time runs out.

Yet even as Commander Worf departs on a deeply personal mission of honor, hidden sinister forces seek to turn the crisis to their advantage. And the conspirators’ plans threaten to spiral out of control, jeopardizing the very empire they aspire to rule.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

In Exit Strategy, Steve Hamilton has created a dynamite followup to The Second Life of Nick Mason which introduced us to the titular hero.

Nick Mason traded his life to criminal kingpin Darius Cole in exchange for his freedom. The freedom to see his family, an ex-wife and a young daughter. Now, whenever Nick’s phone rings, he must do Cole’s bidding with no questions asked. In The Second Life of Nick Mason, Mason learns he has traded one cage for another. In Exit Strategy, Nick must keep doing increasingly dangerous jobs, including killing the people in witness protection who stand between Darius Cole and freedom.

Exit Strategy starts with a bang, literally, as Nick finds himself sent to gun down one of the witnesses from Darius Cole’s trial who is back in Chicago in preparation to testify again at the retrial. Nick must continue to perform his tasks while searching for a way out of his seemingly impossible predicament. Each step seems to take him further away from the man he thought he was. His latest task sets him on a collision course with a dangerous assassin: the man he replaced in Cole’s organization.

The first Nick Mason book gives us some background on how Nick came to be in his current predicament and what he was willing to trade to see his family again. In this book, the action leaps off the page from the very beginning and continues at a breakneck pace all the way to the end. Nick has to compromise his morals to the point where it’s unclear they still exist. What is clear is that failure to follow Cole’s instructions place the lives of his family in jeopardy, as well as anyone else who is close to him. Nick is placed in the impossible situation of helping Cole win his freedom, which will only put Nick further under Cole’s thumb.

Hamilton does a great job of keeping the action moving from beginning to end. He never lets you feel comfortable that anyone is safe and the surprises keep coming all the way to the end. This is turning into a really good series and Nick Mason is a great creation. I can’t wait to read the next one. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: Nick Mason has been given a true mission impossible: Infiltrate WITSEC, the top-secret federal witness-protection program that has never been compromised, locate the three men who put his boss Darius Cole behind bars for life, and kill them.

But first he has to find them—they’re ghost prisoners locked down around the clock in classified “deep black” locations by a battalion of heavily armed U.S. marshals charged with protecting them—and the clock is ticking. Cole is appealing his conviction, and these witnesses are either his ticket to freedom or the final nail in his coffin. If they testify, Darius Cole will never step foot in the outside world again. If they are killed, he will walk out a free man.  

As he risks everything to complete his mission, Mason finds himself being hunted by the very man he replaced, the ruthless assassin who once served, then betrayed, Darius Cole. Rather than waiting to be Mason’s next victim, he has escaped witness protection to hunt down and kill Mason himself.

In an action-packed journey that leads from a high-security military installation in the Appalachian Mountains to a secret underground bunker hidden far below the streets of New York City, Nick Mason will have to become, more than ever before, the lethal weapon that Darius Cole created.