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Thursday, June 25, 2020

This Week's Double Bill. . .


Obligations
This latest outing into the Caine Riordan universe – written by Kevin Ikenberry – focuses on the experiences of Captain Hubert –Bo– Moorefield and his taskforce, who have set up shop at Camp Stark, a Forward Operating Base on the border of the Haman desert region of R’bak, in anticipation of the arrival of Lieutenant Harold Tapper and his Sarmatchani strike force. Tapper and his team had previously liberated a considerable vehicle cache and other operational supplies from their J’strull enemies, and are being pursued. It’s Moorefield’s job to make sure the strike force and their contraband are taken in to safe custody.
There you have the premise of a gritty little tale that’s bound to please, especially as Murphy’s Law runs rampant, and things don’t go to plan.
I won’t say anything further about the story ark, as – for me at any rate – that’s not what this visit to R’bak is really about. No, what I particularly liked about Ikenberry’s approach was its emphasis on the psychological cost facing those soldiers who serve their country and/or end up having to go to war.
Yes, there’s action aplenty. (This is a story within the Caine Riordan universe after all.) And its well written. But as a veteran who has seen action in a number of different theaters around the world, I really appreciated the subtle reminder we get of the other, often hidden war that goes on inside the minds of those who give their all to keep us safe. That war can make you bleed. It hurts. It inflicts injuries just as real, just as debilitating as the ‘real thing.’ And the emotional impact on those you’ve left behind?
In Bo Moorefield’s case, he was abducted from earth and put into cryogenic sleep in 1992, on the very day he received a ‘Dear John’ letter from his wife, Sharon. We explore his feelings about that. After all, he wakes up one hundred and thirty years later on a very different world, countless millions of miles away, and is completely helpless to do anything about it. He can’t call. He can’t write. He can’t offer to sit down and talk things through to see if there’s any chance of a reconciliation. No, it’s a past event; long-gone history by the time he realizes what’s happened, and he has to carry that burden into battle.
But how does it affect him? His outlook? His capacity to relate to others effectively? His ability to take command and make effective, objective decisions? Is he still capable of inspiring those he leads? Because don’t forget, he’s not the only one dealing with ghosts of the past, and the J’strull aren’t going to give up their assets without one hell of a fight!
Yes, there’s a witch’s brew of trouble fomenting, and its up to Bo Moorefield to prioritize his obligations and find a solution before it’s too late.
A thoughtful and evocative tale about what soldiers on the frontline have to contend with.


Man-Eater

When it comes to the Lost Soldiers of the Caine Riordan universe, you’re guaranteed to meet a wide variety of individuals. Technical and combat specialists. Heroes. Professionals in their fields. People who were no doubt greatly missed when tragedy struck, snatching them away from their loved ones and through time and space, only for them to end up fighting someone else’s war. And this latest adventure – Man-Eater, by Griffin Barber – is no different. . .
Except that it IS.
How?
Warrant Officer Chalmers is something of a maverick, a former criminal investigation specialist gone bad. He crossed one too many lines and was being shipped back home to face the consequences of his crimes. But he never does, at least, not on Earth, for he wakes up 130 years later where everything has changed. His world. His situation. His prospects.
And THAT forms the crux of our story.
Have the sins of Chalmers’ past followed him into the future? Can he be trusted? Does he deserve a second chance? A chance to do better? To become a different person?
We find out, for Chalmers has been tasked to investigate a suspected crime ring operating among the local J’strull satraps of R’bak. Their activities not only threaten the Lost Soldiers’ overall objectives on the planet, but the lives of their allies too. In particular, Chalmers is expected to identify the leaders, root out their strongholds among the local communities, and locate contraband tech they might tip the balance of power throughout the region.
How does this shamed soldier fare?
You’ll find Man-Eater a rather cautionary tale, as Chalmers ends up fighting as much against his ingrained behavioral patterns as he does the alien expectations, language and customs he’s been thrown in amongst. It makes for inciteful, painful reading, because even when a person wants to change; indeed, is genuinely determined to change, old habit die hard. And as the story arc so poignantly expresses, Chalmers is his own worst enemy.
A thoroughly absorbing story that adds a greater depth to an ever-growing universe.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

My Review of . . .


The Tower of the Swallow
Were back to the main story arc in this installment of the Witcher series, and although this one is a little difficult to follow – Sapkowski has a tendency to skip backward and forward through time, changing POV as he does so – it’s worth sticking with it, as essential plot points come to the fore.

War grips the land. Everyone is searching for Ciri, the foretold child of prophecy, who is forced into hiding after suffering a terrible disfigurement. Geralt can’t protect her, for he lies gravely wounded in Brokilon Forest and hankers to leave before he’s recovered from his injuries. Yennefer has disappeared, and according to gossip, lies dead at the hands of enemies.

Full-on action. Plots and intrigue. A wonderful blend of fairytale and folk law. And at last, we begin to see the depth of treachery that has plagued Ciri since her birth, and who it is fomenting it. It’s great fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story progresses from here.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

My Hot Off The Press Review Of. . .


Baptism of Fire
War ravages the land. The world is changing. Lines have been drawn, and nothing will ever be the same again. Even the wizard’s guild couldn’t endure the calamity intact, and now lies shattered, its reputation in ruins and its sorcerers in hiding.
With nothing but their own wits and skills to protect them Geralt and Ciri battle their own demons – and more – trying to survive in the aftermath. But how on earth will they manage to find each other when they’re being hunted? Geralt as a fugitive, Ciri as the prize that everyone wants.
Baptism of Fire is a superb example of why the Witcher series is so compelling. It’s dark. Brooding. Brutal and complex. Just the ticket, for sheer escapism.
Indulge yourself, and become part of a runaway magical journey through a land where anything can happen.