Al Clark by Jonathan G Meyer **
I read a lot of Science Fiction because I like the genre, but this one doesn’t do it for me. The story is bland, anecdotal, and without much excitement. Confession: I did not read beyond the 40 percent mark, and skimmed up to 60 percent, then quit. Al Clark, the character, and the subsequent others as they finally appeared bored me so much playing Solitaire seemed like a better way to waste my time. Unfortunately, Jonathan G Meyer hasn’t reached the point in his career where he knows how to captivate a reader by employing strong , believable motivation for every action taken by the people in his story. His largely one-dimensional characters just plod through the motions. He claims to enjoy the old “pulp fiction” books he read as a teenager. I read a lot of Heinlein, Asimov, Clark and many others from that era during my own youth, and still do, but Al Clark in no way piques nostalgia in me for those early times and the great authors he may want to emulate.
FORAGER by Peter R Stone ****
Possibly aimed at a “Young Adult” or “New Adult” audience, Forager takes place in post-apocalyptic Australia, a refreshing change from the norm. The author, creating a new and substantially different civilization that devolved following a past nuclear war, has written an engaging story. Forager opens with a cast of well developed, youthful characters, a gang of young men tasked with searching ruins to collect metals for use in factories. Their home of Newtowne on the outskirts of Melbourne is comprised of three basic categories of citizenry– wealthy men, male laborers, and the Custodians, the latter also male who act as enforces of the draconian rules laid out by the wealthy, who live mostly segregated from the proletariat. Women, in this society, have no standing at all–their position demands they breed at the will of their husbands and dutifully serve the male members of their households
Ethan, from whose point of view the story emerges, is the boss of a scavenging crew. Brain-injured from an accident, he’s physically healthy, but has lost an entire year’s memories to amnesia. Possibly due to the accident he doesn’t remember, he has some odd mental powers that enable him to sense not only the metals they seek, but Skels, dangerous outlaws who live in the ruins. Those powers, thought to be caused by radiation-damaged genes, are forbidden, so Ethan hides them. When his team encounters a pair of traders from a distant town, he risks his own life to save them from the Skels. One of the visitors, Nanako, a beautiful young woman, is completely unlike the females of Newtowne, who are forbidden to walk outside unescorted after dark. She’s intriguing, bold, and opinionated refusing to bow to local customs. When she begins coming to Ethan’s bachelor apartment to cook meals for him, he fears for her safety, but she persists. This breaking of firm rules could send him to prison and her to death, but he cannot force her to stay away. Nor does he really want to.
Forager is an excellent, entertaining read marred somewhat by poor word choices, inaccurate punctuation, and typos.
Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh*****
(The Psy/Changling/Angel series)
Singh has once again proven that SF, Paranormal, and Romance genres can blend to make an exemplary novel. Shards of Hope grabbed me, though not quite as quickly as have all the others. Unfortunately, I experienced this novel as an Audible, the way I do many books. I found the rendition of the text irritating until I became accustomed to the high-pitched, frenetic delivery of the reader during narrative sections. The softer, more thoughtful voices used in dialogue were easier to listen to. After eagerly awaiting this book, however, I refused to let the performance mar my enjoyment of the plot and characters, and I was not disappointed. Though I’ve read Singh’s other books about the Psy and the Changelings, I enjoyed this one immensely—perhaps more than earlier novels in the series.
Aden Kai has a rough road ahead as he tries to transition Arrows, the warriors and protectors of the Psy, whom he commands, into a new era where Silence no longer reigns. The members of his troop, especially the older ones, fear openly expressing their emotions telepathically, because doing so has been trained out of them by earlier leaders. However, Aden believes that when they see and hear him and other young leaders allowing their emotions freedom, they will begin to understand it is safe to do so and the Arrows will benefit from this new openness. Convincing Zaira to join him in his endeavors is the first, most important step. The two have been friends since childhood, when she was inducted into the Arrow program. Horribly damaged by the physical and psychic abuse visited upon her by her parents, Zaira is the one Arrow Aden wants to stand with him as he leads. Sadly, she is averse to his plan. Only if he can persuade her to trust to trust not only him, but herself, does he foresee success. Zaira’s avowed mission in life is to keep Aden safe, but she fears the core-deep rage burning within makes her too dangerous and unpredictable. If she relaxes the tight control she binds her emotions with in order to become his partner in all the ways he wants her, what will happen if the killing rage runs free and he happens to be in the way? But Aden believes he cannot succeed without her.