I found out about this anthology through a panel I was on with James Schardt at LiberyCon. There are several authors in it that I know, and some I even call friends. Well, at least I did… they may disown me after this review… Hopefully not though, because I genuinely found the whole anthology to be some really good reading. And if any of you guys are reading this, remember, 2 stars on Goodreads means “It was OK”, so 2.5 means it was BETTER than OK! 🙂
Anyway… here’s the review!
A tyrannical United Nations pulls the strings of its colony worlds, ruling with an iron fist. Corporate interests take precedence, and brushfire rebellions smolder on the edges. One system, home to the only alien species yet discovered, with human allies throws off the yoke and calls itself Independence.
And now my take on the book…
This was a decent anthology with a couple of standout stories. I am impressed with the flow of the tales, and the passing of the baton between the authors as they continued the over-arching history of the universe. I’m still a bit iffy on whether I believe the premise of the main control method used by the UN to keep the various planets in line (no self-propagating plants). They did manage to create some serious bad guys that you just want to see get what’s coming to them. Unfortunately, it looks like Volume 2 may be where we start to see that happen in earnest.
Averaged out, the whole thing gets 3.4 stars. Here’s a breakdown of my ratings of the individual stories (with the Goodreads blurb included):
Gate Keeper by Jon Del Arroz (3 stars)
“A UN operative works to stop the destruction of the Gate that allows star travel to systems.”
A bit of fast paced intrigue on this one. Lost a star due to the bad science (sub-sonic frequencies are just sound waves that are below the human hearing threshold, so they don’t travel through empty space). A little too overtly political for my taste. I prefer subtle to keep the story more realistic.
Leverage by Doug Dandridge (3.5 stars)
“A former UN Marine living on Mars rebels and strikes back at the Special Forces unit sent to kill him.”
A very shocking intro to the ‘bad guys’ of the hundred worlds, the UN Citizen. A good story with quick detailed character development that works.
The Only Planet We Have by James Schardt (5 stars)
“First contact with the alien Karan sets the stage for a revolution in their society.”
A great story that introduces a unique and detailed alien race. This is probably the best story in the whole anthology.
Unrest by Lucas Marcum (4 stars)
“Decades after first contact, UN oppression of the Karan leads to strange alliances.”
A great hand-off of the aliens that picks up where the last story left off. Its different, but quite good in its own way. I want more of these aliens!
Sailing to Independence by James Peters (4 stars)
“A chance encounter with a dying man puts a spacer on the trail of a thousand-year-old treasure.”
A very interesting pushed destiny type of tale. A bit of romance and quite a bit of intrigue. A decent tale despite the fact that we never get to see what happens with the alien tech they find.
Above My Paygrade by Jamie Ibson (5 stars)
“A new, unknown alien threat is kept under wraps by police brutality and betrayals.”
This is the one that made me really hate the bad guys. It’s one set of slick betrayals after another that teaches you to never trust a Citizen.
Debt Repaid by Sean McCune (4 stars)
“A retired Marine joins with a motley crew to uncover layers of conspiracies and potential death when they run afoul of the UN.”
This one finally gives you some competent good guys to root for. Enjoyed in a lot.
Finding Sara by Daniel Humphreys (2.5 stars)
“A private detective is hired to find a runaway woman and encounters far more than he bargained for following her from system to system.”
This one propelled the main arc forward by providing new information, but did not feel finished. It ended too abruptly just as I was starting to like the characters.
Miracle Machine by Bart Kemper (2.5 stars)
“UN operatives on Earth conduct an operation to catch a rebel courier, with unintended consequences.”
The story was decent, but it made promises about consequences that I never saw played out in the rest of the anthology.
The Jump by J.K. Robinson (5 stars)
“The crew of a smuggling ship carrying a forbidden cargo must outwit a UN patrol craft or die trying.”
One of the best in the anthology. It has some really sympathetic characters that you really want to root for.
The Big Picture by J.F. Holmes (4 stars)
“Mercenaries contract to carry out some dirty work, but there’s a hidden agenda running through all the players.”
Another set of good guys to root for. Nice bit of action as well. Also the start of another carry-over character arc.
One Fish, Two Fish by Scott Bascom (2.5 stars)
“Genetic engineers under contract to the mob work to perfect their product while keeping their own heads on their shoulders.”
A lot of things were detailed out in this one that really didn’t add to the story. Could have used a good chop edit. Not a bad tale though. Contrarily, the ending could have used slightly more explanation on how the “solution” was going to work.
The Witch by T. Allen Diaz (2.5 stars)
“Corporate interests drive a deadly form of warfare and the order of the day is betrayal.”
I didn’t really understand how the politics in this one worked. Mercs were hired to fight rebels on behalf of some corporations. There was a lot of infiltration, double-crossing, etc. I never really figured out who the good guys were. There may not have been any, or I may have just gotten confused.
Three Strikes by John M. Olsen (4 stars)
“A woman with a murdered family works to deliver her revenge against the government that killed them.”
I like this one quite a bit. I wish the consequences of the woman’s efforts had been detailed out more, but overall it was a good story.
After Party by Sean McCune (5 stars)
“The crew of a starship comes face to face with an alien terror aboard an abandoned space station.”
This one is a regular space marine shoot-em-up story. Enjoyed, especially as it was the return of some previously known characters in Debt Repaid earlier in the anthology. It serves as a nice bookend to the whole anthology, and makes you want to read the next one.
And now for the obligatory shameless promotion!
Buy My Books!
Check out my books over on Amazon.com! I currently have two published. Both are available on Kindle Unlimited, and on Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for free if you have Amazon Prime.
If you like intrigue, humor and a bit of speculative technological supposition, you should pick up a copy of my technothriller-comedy eConscience Beta from Amazon today!
Peacekeeper Incorporated’s breakthrough nanotechnology could bring repeat offense crime to an end, freeing society from the need for criminal incarcerations. But first, they have to finish testing it. With funding on the line, and time to prove out the project getting short, the lead scientist must find a way speed things up. That’s unfortunate for his guinea pig, and anyone who would stand in his way.
Can the goal of ending most crime justify committing one… even a few?
And what happens when you conflate altruism with egotism?
Find out in eConscience Beta, where two lab techs and an uncouth petty criminal must outwit a brilliant but sociopathic scientist who’ll stop at nothing to establish his legacy as the man who ended crime.
If Science Fiction Space Adventure is more your speed, then you should check out my anthology, Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1.
Matter conversion technology—Matt-Con—has broadened the scope of mankind’s existence. It has opened up the real possibility of viable colonies on other planets in our solar system, and even space itself. Anywhere matter can be captured or energy from the sun can be felt, the possibility of expanding human habitation exists.
In this volume:
The space station Chariot of Helios—on its way to Mercury to become a power collection station for Earth’s growing need for energy to power matt-con tech—encounters a strange anomaly that threatens ship and crew.
The sudden destruction of mankind’s first atmospheric terraforming platform leaves three unlucky exonauts struggling to survive in the skies of Venus aboard a cobbled-together airship. Meanwhile, the commander of the space station above battles obstacles that might keep her from rescuing her stranded husband and crew in time.