First Contacts Can Be Difficult

In April I came up with the idea of reading my first CJ Cherryh book, and as it was my first contact with her work I thought it would be clever to call it First Author Contact and to read her book about First Contact: Foreigner. I had seen and heard of Cherryh’s books for decades but I had never made time for them and decided it was finally time to change that!


The book started out fast and interestingly! A colony ship flung far off course into uncharted space, a crew sacrificing to save future generations of humanity, a battle of visions for the future, and ultimately an embarkation to a planet already populated by a relatively advanced civilization of aliens and first contact with them. All within the first forty pages. I was hooked. I was amazed. I was eager to dive into the rest of the story and then…. I was frustrated and bored. 


You see I had a very difficult time connected with the POV character chosen for the rest of the story. Bren is an intelligent and thoughtful human who is selected as the primary contact for the alien species on the planet. They call themselves Atevi and at first glance you might get an idea of Japanese culture combined with cats who think that assassination is perfectly acceptable as a political practice, but in truth that’s just the first impression. As you dig deeper you truly see something very rare: an alien culture in a SciFi book that is truly alien and difficult to comprehend. More on that later. Back to Bren. Bren is smart and capable yet very alone amongst the Atevi and is at their mercy. He is the target of assassination and an important piece in the Atevi political wars. He is forced to walk a difficult path trying to help create understanding between Human and Atevi while not being killed or creating a war based on misunderstanding. But his mind is frazzled and jumbled which makes the book difficult to comprehend. That confusion caused me to lose my enthusiasm for the book and set it behind me as I read other books. 


However this book stayed alive in the back of my mind. Other friends joined me in reading it and they had loved it. The concept was great. The aliens so alien. The desire to return and finish the book grew and grew and so I did. And I’m thankful I did. 


I found I could forgive Bren his jumbled frazzled mind since aliens were trying to assassinate him. I found his attempts to bridge the gulf between the species interesting and I found the second half of the book to be the best part of the story overall! I admit that I almost quit this book, but I’m glad I returned and I’m impressed enough that I’ll carry on in the series! CJ Cherryh did something so many try to do and few succeed: She created an alien species that has its own emotions, reactions, concepts, and methods. She didn’t just humanize them, she made the humans in the story (and the ones reading the book) have to struggle to communicate with and strive to comprehend them. She made them aliens, and she made words matter. I found this to be an excellent story and very well worth the time. 


And a special thanks to the cute puppy Lil Ms Piper for helping me to write this review! 

Notes On Notes From The Shadowed City

Jeffrey Alan Love has created a beautiful work of art in his book Notes From The Shadowed City. This book is GORGEOUS. 


I still recall the first time I encountered Love’s artwork on a SciFi book cover and how amazed I was by it. Everything about his style grabs my attention and draws me to the books featuring his cover illustrations. So when I first heard he was working on a book of his own that would prominently feature his artwork I knew I would be purchasing it. I had high expectations and expected the book would meet them. It exceeded them. 


Mike Mignola describes it best. “Plain brilliant” This work is lovely and dark with ominous tones. The book is a journal of an adventurer who has lost his own identity but discovered a city residing beneath the dark shadows of a floating city of magical beings. Having no idea as to who he is he decides to use the journal he has with him to illustrate his discoveries within the Shadowed City. Masked swordsmen, bandits, warriors, giants, mages, powerful swords, and secrets abound. 


This book really brings out and engages the imagination of the reader. After each page you’ll find your thoughts wandering along with the adventurer’s, imagining what wondrous things you might encounter in so magical a city. I couldn’t be happier with this amazing work of art and highly recommend you order a copy for yourself! You can do so here: FleskPublications and you can get a glimpse of the artist’s work on his  Instagram page or on his Twitter account. I’ve truly been amazed by his art and the dark beauty captured within the pages of this book. 

A Grim Future Of War

Warhammer40K is one of my favorite SciFi universes to get lost in. I could spend ages reading book after book in this series only to pick up yet another book in the series and then another again. I’m not saying it’s addictive, I’m saying it is that damn good. I’m often asked where to start, where best to dive into the WH40K universe, or what exactly is this universe?


WH40K is a time in the distant future in which all is war. There is no bright hope. There is no peace. It is a soul crushing time of despair and devastation. Sound depressing? Well for the average person alive during this time I quite imagine it is! Humanity spread to the stars and formed the greatest empire in the history of mankind! The empire is protected by our military, and our military is aided by genetically enhanced superhumans known as Space Marines. Space Marines are the genetic offspring of the Emperor’s chosen and created sons, the long missing Primarchs. These Space Marines are the heroes of the Imperium and are larger than life characters who live only to battle humanities enemies. They are aided by the Imperial Navy and regular army troopers known as the Imperial Guard. 


  Fifteen Hours is one of my personal favorite WH40K stories as it highlights the plight and dangers of a new Imperial Gaurdsman. Now with such protectors as these why is humanity in such danger? Why is there no hope for the future? Why is this Imperium not a brighter place? Well once upon a time it was! Ten thousand years prior the Emperor himself walked amongst the people with his chosen and created sons The Primarchs from whom the Space Marines are descended from. Humanity was at its strongest and brightest point. There was no limit to what we might have accomplished. But alas, a darkness fell upon us all. The Horus Heresy. 


The Horus Heresy was the death of hope for humanity for in it the favored son of the Emperor, the Primarchs Horus, rose up and split the galaxy in two with his civil war. The Horus Heresy has long been a time of myth in the 40K universe but now those myths are coming to life in the 40+ book series being written. 


So what should you read? Where should you start? Well if you want a deep rabbit hole to jump down into I recommend picking up Horus Rising and encountering the Imperium as it should have been and witnessing the tragedy of the fall. If you’re wanting to get your feet wet first then picking up Let The Galaxy Burn would be a great start as it gives you multiple WH40K short stories to choose from. If you want to commit but don’t want a 40 book saga and want to see humans to connect to rather than superhumans then Gaunt’s Ghosts is for you! If you’re more of a mystery sort of person then consider Eisenhorn. 


Really most any book series you encounter in the WH40K universe will draw you in and be an excellent starting place. They’ve made their universe easily accessible. However please do remember that in the grim future there is only war. Take that to heart and be careful to not grow too attached to your favorite characters. War is hell, but the Emperor protects. 

Three Years Of Reviewing! 

Three years ago today I started the fun journey of being a book reviewer by sharing this photo of my bookshelves on Instagram:
 I hadn’t yet chosen the name RedStarReviews or created my website, I just knew I owned and read a lot of books and wanted to talk about books with likeminded people. Shortly after launching my Instagram profile I decided on the name RedStarReviews for various reasons, launched my website, joined Twitter, and started a Facebook page. The response and communication from likeminded lovers of books has been amazing and deeply appreciated! 


Three years later and I’m still here discussing books with people that love books! I’ve had the chance to meet authors, be a beta reader, review books prior to publication, and just share my love of books with people around the world. My bookshelves have changed and my collection grown, while my love for books has deepened. This is one of the joys of my life. I am so thankful for this opportunity and so happy for each of you that have taken the time to take part in the conversations and book tags and everything. 


My goals are to continue on! Life gets busy and puts a lot of claims to my time but I intend to continue shooting for my weekly comic book review, in January I’ll be working on VintageSciFiMonth yet again, February months will be devoted to clearing out my currently reading pile, return to finding and sharing one indie or small publishing co book a month, and just carry on with reading, reviewing, talking about, and enjoying books and the community!  


Thank you for being a part of three wonderful years! A special thanks to my wife who supports me in all things and believes in me always, and to our little puppy who loves books! Here’s to many many more years! 

RedStarTravels

Sorry for all the sounds of silence you’ve heard from me lately! My wife and I are currently vacationing in the amazingly beautiful country of Ireland! 


This vacation has been a dream come true. I’ve wanted to visit Ireland for ages so I am thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to visit. 

Every where you go you see something more beautiful than the last place you just saw! The level of green just can’t be explained. It can only be experienced. The people of Ireland are amazingly friendly. This country is incredible and if you’ve considered visiting you should! I’ll be home soon and updating the website more, but for the next few days I’ll be wandering around the country! Cheers!

Like Fire From Heaven

Children Of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn has an interesting premise. I should know as I’ve added the book to my to be read pile five times. Other commitments and scheduling kept separating me from this book so this time I didn’t just add it to the pile I picked it up and started it and I am glad that I did! 
The interesting premise is imagine a world in which the gods are dead or dying and their protective magic is dying alongside of them. That magic is all that stood between humanity and an ancient force that attempted to overthrow the gods and is angry at years of being banished from the mortal realm. What if that ancient force found a way to send parts of its essence through the barrier and implant its essence within four unborn children. Would those children of fire grow to become champions of the gods and fight off the ancient force? Or would they become its pawns and unleash it into the world?


This is the intriguing concept within this story, and what a story it is! Epic in nature, vast in scale, ambitious in its grasp, and overall very well done! The author introduces many POV Characters right from the start and continues to do so quite frequently for the first quarter of the book, but does it in such a way that it isn’t confusing and it actually adds to the story. The story itself hurtles forwards skipping years at a time as the characters grow and develop. The inevitable clash that you see building up doesn’t disappoint when delivered. This is a fast paced, well told, interesting story peopled with compelling characters who face repercussions to their choices. This is a story you rush to finish and then grab the sequel like I did. 

Midnight Burning Burns Bright In The Starry Sky

I can’t think of a better way to return to my Stars In The Sky Indie/Small Publishing House reviews than with a review of Karissa Laurel’s incredible book: Midnight Burning!


Midnight Burning is an excellent story that is extremely well told! The pacing keeps you turning page after page, not wanting to set it down. The characters are so fully realized that you care about them from the start and continue caring after you set down the book. Their conversations and interactions are so perfectly well done and that draws you more deeply into their world! 


And what a world!! Set primarily in Alaska this story is a mystery, adventure, urban fantasy, magical, Norse God filled tale! Yes I said Norse Gods! In Alaska! An easy way to get me to want to give a book a try is to set ancient deities within it, but then you have to convince me of the reality of it to keep my interest. Karissa does just that. 


On top of all the details above let me add that the lead POV character is excellently realized and a very strong character to see this world through! You are immediately brought into her life and world and see everything through her eyes and heart. This is a book you’ll deeply enjoy and will have a difficult time setting down! I can’t wait for the sequel which is available in July! You can find Midnight Burning here: Midnight Burning

I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of this bright star in the sky of books! My puppy and I loved it.