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Xenowealth: A Collection

Tobias S. Buckell. Tobias S. Buckell, $14.99 trade paper (194p) ISBN 978-0-692-55326-8

Fans curious about the background of Buckell’s Xenowealth tetralogy (lastly The Apocalypse Ocean) have crowdfunded this collection of nine glimpses into an exciting future. First, technologically superior aliens “pacified” Earth and brought it into the Benevolent Satrapy, a tightly controlled empire of 48 worlds. Then, rebels whom the aliens had scattered through the stars established the totalitarian League and plotted to exclude or else exterminate their masters. Finally, the Xenowealth evolved into a system that would let humans and aliens live together. Most of these stories feature Pepper, a cybernetically enhanced mercenary who usually intervenes with a maximum of deadly force whenever he imagines human values are threatened. Sometimes he fights cruel alien monsters, and sometimes men whose obsessions have made them even more dangerous. Buckell draws on his experiences growing up in the Caribbean to effectively describe what life feels like for powerless people at the fringes of massive events, and these taut but thoughtful scenes of the human race’s uncertain progress reward careful reading. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Cook Out

Pat Riley. CreateSpace, $12 trade paper (322p) ISBN 978-1-507875-81-0

This taut thriller from Riley (Executive Deception) provides a moving look at the human toll of the Iraq and Afghan wars. Bobby Schrader, who was wounded in Iraq, lies dying in a hospital bed in Landstuhl, Germany. In Hope Mills, N.C., news of his injuries reaches his parents, Joanna and Robert. When they arrive in Europe, Joanna and Robert learn that Bobby died before they were informed he was injured. Another pair of bereaved parents begins to plot revenge against the leaders who sent soldiers into battle unprepared. Meanwhile, Raleigh journalist Rudy Ryan has been assigned to write about all the North Carolinians who died in Iraq, and he begins traveling the country, collecting sad and infuriating stories. His research keeps expanding, and he comes to believe that the war has had a broad negative impact on American society. Riley balances the two story lines nicely, building up to a genuinely surprising resolution. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Yria Dane

Julien Kade. Mill City, $19.99 trade paper (434p) ISBN 978-1-63413-327-2

A routine missing-person case transforms into something terrifying in Kade’s mystery set in Annecy, France, in 1952. Brothers Satordi and Marin Biertempfel have worked as PIs in their town for 13 years, with hundreds of successful investigations to their credit. Satordi’s meeting with a new prospective client, tavern-owner Haulmier Guloe, leads the detective to expect another success. Haulmier’s 17-year-old daughter, Ambrielle, who has worked as a prostitute, has vanished, “carrying a massive stash of stolen loot she’d taken from her father.” After getting Haulmier’s assurance that he won’t harm Ambrielle, Satordi accepts the assignment. The inquiry becomes more complicated when an old missing-person case gets renewed attention. Press coverage of Orisia Laroque’s vow to continue searching for her sister, Yria Dane, who went missing in 1941, leads Ambrielle to look into that disappearance. Despite some odd phrasing (“I look to Haulmier, then conduct a reply”), Kade manages to sustain interest and generate some genuinely spooky moments. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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