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Review: Three by Ryk E. Spoor

Just some quick, slightly spoilery reviews on three novels by Ryk E. Spoor that I’ve been delaying writing while I Dealt With Things.

Spheres of Influence: The second book in Spoor’s Grand Central Arena series finds our heroine Ariane Austin facing with an enemy she is ill equipped to deal with, government bureaucrats. This book expands on the GCA universe quite a bit, showing the reaction back in Earth’s solar system as humanity finds itself in a first contact situation with the Arena’s many races, which range from hostile to nominally friendly, but all with their own agendas. We also get more details on the Hyperion Project, which produced the series’ literally designated antihero Dr. Marc Duquesne. In this novel we’re also introduced to Sun WuKong, another of Hyperion’s attempts to recreate the heroes of literature and other media, plus one Hyperion’s great failures, Maryanne Suzanna. Yes, “Mary Sue”. Designed to fit that stereotype and… er… less than happy about it.

Actually Suzanna is one of few weaknesses of the book. She’s built up as a major threat by Duquesne and other characters, but when we finally meet her she basically says “Hi” and heads off again. Admittedly this can be put off as Middle Book syndrome, but it was a little disappointing.

Ignoring that, SoI is a pretty fun book, keeping with series’ dedication to high adventure, high stakes, and Sensawunda. I’m looking forward to finally reading the next one.

Phoenix Ascendant: The third and likely final book in Spoor’s Balanced Sword trilogy, sees Kyri Vantage, last true Justiciar of the dying god of Justice and Vengeance, returning to her homeland with her friends to finally clean house of the remaining false Justiciars and defeat the forces evil that threaten to destroy the world.

With one caveat, I’ll say that I enjoyed the book and was satisfied with the ending, since it keeps with the trilogy’s philosophy of forgiveness towards truly repentant enemies. Unfortunately that caveat has to do with the final battle against the true power behind all of Kyri’s enemies, the evil shapeshifting god, Virigar.

Yep, same Virigar from Spoor’s early novel Paradigms Lost, whom Jason Wood nearly took out with a bucket of silver nitrate.

I suppose my problem was that I was listening to this as an audiobook rather than reading it. Throughout the trilogy Spoor made it clear the nominally AD&D based world owed a lot to such anime as DragonBall Z and Saint Seiya, so when the final battle with Virigar begins, it lasts at least five chapters that I recall, with many twists and turns and changes in the tide of battle. Unfortunately as it went on, I was less amazed than shouting “Oh, come ON!” as our heroes lost all of their previous Genre Savvy knowledge and assumed at least three or four times that surely he had to be dead this time. Suffice to say a fight against someone with instantaneous healing abilities and a tendency to gloat gets really, really annoying as it goes on, especially since I couldn’t skim pages.

That said, if you’re into those sort of tremendous battles I suppose you might find it fun, and aside from that the rest of the book was really good.

Boundary: Written with Eric Flint, this novel follows a disparate team of people, coming together to investigate evidence of the remains of an advanced alien base hidden on Mars’ moon Phobos, which is connected to a bizarre fossil find in the American Southwest.

Ugh. This one just left me cold. Nominally it’s a hard science fiction novel, and some bits such as the deciphering of the Bemmy language were well done, but none of the characters grabbed me and the endless Tom Clancy-ish infodumps were tedious to get through.

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