exploration, family, fiction, Review, science fiction

Review: Double Dipping

Yes, I’m going to review two books again this week. I’m not saying it’s going to become a trend, but you can expect to see it again next week as well. I’m relaxing, enjoying summer, and a little more time than I ordinarily have. So I get to read more. And I have some great books I really want to tell people about. Fortunately, I have this here blog to do that from.

Firstly, check out Mackey Chandler’s new series that begins with Family Law. Wow! I have been reading his stuff since April, which was raw, rough, but had a terrific story and cast of characters. Gradually, as the books came out, I saw improvements in his writing, until now. I’d stack Family Law up against any space opera you could name.

Family Law begins with a tragedy that leaves a young girl in the care of the only other adult she has even known. Only he isn’t her species. Gordon, the huge Derf, who looks more like a grizzly bear than anything human, is now left in charge of the preternaturally smart Lee, a girl who has never lived in a human culture. She’s ship born and bred. But by her parent’s request, Gordon adopts Lee as his own daughter.

Then the real fun begins… in space and on Earth, Gordon and Lee must work together to keep their family whole, and they have the resources to do it, from the habitable world they can claim, which took the lives of her parents. Loonie society on the Moon’s surface (and below) accepts them, but once on Earth’s surface, it’s a different story, and a family court makes a hasty decision that precipitates war between the USNA and the Derf.

I’ll stop there. This was such a fun read, and the sequel, Long Voyage of the Little Fleet, is just as much fun. The characters are warmly realized, with flaws, motivations, and weaknesses that make them sympathetic and heroic at times. The science of exploration, and economics, is explored in depth, which for me really makes the whole thing seem real. This is a world I’d love to live in. It’s not perfect, but it feels REAL.

And then, for something completely different. Leo Champion’s Her Majesty’s Western Service came out a couple of months ago. Despite his first novel, Legion’s, success, this one, he told me, had not been doing well. I was startled to see it hasn’t been reviewed yet.

Look past the bland cover, because this is a steampunk story that is well worth the reading. A deeply researched and carefully woven tale of adventure, subterfuge, and betrayed honor, it’s alternate history over a world you can still recognize. The characters have to put their own wishes aside and work together toward a common goal, and there are glorious airship battles along the road to perdition. You will feel the heat of the flames as the finale builds. The villain isn’t a cardboard cut-out, either, but he is deliciously ruthless.

I’m not a huge fan of most steampunk stories. I like the concept, and love the costuming. But much of the writing is overly dramatic and poorly executed. Champion creates a rich world peopled with believable characters, and gives his plot a drive that will pull you into it. He doesn’t attempt to emulate the floral Victorian literary style, which makes the prose clean and easy to read. I suspect most of my readers will enjoy it, and at the very least, I can leave his first review!