2Q 2014 Small Press Book Reviews

sorcerers in space cover

Sorcerers in Space

by Larry Hodges (Class Act Books)

If you think puns are the lowest form of humor, move along, nothing to see here. But if you think puns are awesome are you ever in for a treat when you read Sorcerers in Space. It’s a spoof, it’s a parody, it’s one enjoyable groaner after another. Add a star if you were raised in the 60s, or are fascinated with that decade. John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, the grassy knoll, the Cold War, the Space Race, the Beatles – they are all here. But this is a world where Air Force One is a flying carpet and people use magic mirrors instead of phones to communicate. The White House isn’t white not white anymore but the reason makes sense. Lincoln Bedroom gets its name from the ghost of Lincoln, who haunts it. Dr. Seus makes an appearance. And the President’s pet is a dragon.

Our protagonist, Neil, is apprenticed to a sorcerer, an older sorcerer who has connections and a rather high opinion of himself. Neil has a prophecy about a killer (but friendly) meteor hanging over his head which adds a certain urgency to his fulfilling his destiny. They live near Cape Canaveral and get involved in the Space Face Race. It’s all too complicated to explain, but as a reader I had many, many laugh-out-loud moments, and it drew me along despite my lukewarm feeling about puns.

Reading this book had me humming tunes from the 1960s, and smiling, for days. I don’t recommend reading Sorcerers in Space in bed next to your spouse. You’ll keep waking them up when you laugh.

Tempest Gate cover

Beyond the Tempest Gate

by Jeff Suwak (Vabella Publishing)

For those of you into Sword and Sorcery, this Byronic tale of a hero with a destiny hits all the high notes: political intrigue, prophecies, monsters of various sorts – including monsters of the prosaic kind (fearful people in the way of necessary change) as well as monsters with actual fangs. The world building is good. My only quibble is a slight overuse of flashbacks, but the author makes those work.

The ending to this novella was not what I expected, and stayed with me for a long time afterward.

Fires of Man cover

Fires of Man: Book 1 of the Psionic Earth Series

by Dan Levinson (Jolly Fish Press)

This stunning piece of military science fiction avoids the pitfalls of “take that hill” military-speak hoo-rah and delivers solid characters and intricate plotting. The shiny idea is that an actual war seems to have stalemated but has actually gone underground and is being prosecuted by soldiers with psionic abilities. The soldiers who carry out that war take “war is hell” to some truly uncharted territory.  You follow the lives of soldiers on both sides of the conflict—some of whom are related—until they meet in a battle that made me want to read the next book in the series. I’m invested in the futures of these characters, and I am not even that fond of military sci-fi. Do you know how rare that is?

The world building is astounding. There are distinct cultures, cuisines, cities, languages, economies, and customs. It’s well-and-truly thought out alternate universe.

The central backbone of all this conflict is an ancient religion that melds the psionic abilities of the covert soldiers into conflicts of their world’s ancient past. And how it will affect their future. RECOMMENDED.



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