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Atlas 3 by Issac Hooke


I felt like I was fighting with the MOTH teams. No, I don’t mean ATLAS 3 was immersive. I mean I was fighting Issac Hooke; his one dimensional characters, formulaic aliens, and an overwhelming urge to put down this book and never pick it up again. I had to fight harder than Rade Galaal against a room full of Slugs, Crabs, and Phants.. just to stay awake. These vile insectile aliens invade the Earth colonies on the moons of Tau Ceti II. I soooo wanted there to be more behind this thin plot. Sorry, but there has to be more to these aliens if they’re going to be this powerful. The humans never discover a weakness.

Spoiler alert, Hooke throws in some ‘good’ green Phants (they come in different hues) who join the side of the humans. This is the plot of every lame SF TV show in the twenty years. Hooke also relies too much on cliff hangers to build suspense. He has two teams on two alien ships trying to blow them up with nukes. So we jump back and forth between chapters, seemingly fighting the same fights over and over again. From one cliche to another. The book finally regains its footing when Rade’s girlfriend, Shaw Chopra shows up. Hooke finally gets down to finishing off this series. Hooke leaves the door open for more books, but as far as I’m concerned that door is closed.

496 pages

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Atlas 2 by Isaac Hooke


The quality of ATLAS 2 really fell from Atlas. It had a lot of science fiction but Hooke’s biggest weakness are his characters. I really don’t care for any of them. They all seem as interchangeable as the ‘bug’ aliens they’re killing. The main character is Rade Galaal. All the other characters have similar butch names and military ‘handles’ which makes it easier to separate these identical men. How come we learn so little about the aliens the MOTHs are fighting. Doesn’t an Outer Space SEAL team need intel? The battles on far-flung Geronimo were interesting but endless and by the middle of this second book I was bored by them. I hold out hope for the third book of the series.

482 pages

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First On Mars by Rex Gordon

First On Mars

After reading “The Martian” (soon to be a major motion picture) I was interest to read this book from 1957, which mines the same subject.. An astronaut (Gordon Holder) crashes on Mars and has to survive until someone (or something) saves him. It’s a pulp fiction, but authors in the 1950s knew how to write better, which offsets some of the bad science. In 1964 a movie was made: “Robinson Crusoe on Mars“, which used a lot of elements of this book.

Stanley Bennett Hough (The author’s real name) wrote a fun old-time Science Fiction tale that probably doesn’t hold up too well for the modern reader, but I miss this matter-of-fact writing style in modern SF.
201 pages

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Otherworld: Sea of Silver Light by Tad Williams


Continuing on with the Goodreads Serial Killer Challenge, I knocked off another series with Tad Williams’ Sea of Silver Light.  The Otherworld Series  is a fantasy/mystery/thriller, where an intricate online gaming network puts children who are using the system into mysterious comas.  There is a cast of heros, including an Australian Bushman, a South African woman, a blind woman, an Englishman with amnesia, and a couple of teenagers.  There are also villains – a serial killer and and the evil rich man who seeks his own mortality.

I greatly enjoyed the final book of this series and was impressed with Williams prescience in his Otherworld creation.  For a series that was written in 1990’s, the author truly had a vision of what today’s gaming networks might look like.

I’m so glad the Goodreads Challenge encouraged me to finish this series.  Sitting down with this book was like visiting with old friends again, and I enjoyed this novel from start to finish.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2001
1066 pages

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Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina

Storming Heaven

Storming Heaven is a work of historical fiction depicting the formation of the coal miner’s  union in early 20th century West Virginia.  Giardina presents each chapter with the perspective of various characters, including a coal miner, a union activist, a nurse and an immigrant.  Because of the style of narrative, the language of these people really comes across and it does take a while to read the Appalachian dialect comfortably.

That said, it was a very moving novel.  It’s a hard look back at a time when workers were treated as little more than slaves, held captive by the powerful companies they worked for.  Local law enforcement, rather than helping these poor men and their families, were recruited by the coal companies to serve their crooked interests.

Hope comes in the form of union organizers, but the coal companies are determined to fight back, using guerrilla tactics.  Giardina portrays the culmination of her story in the Battle of Blair Mountain, a true story of the 1921 West Virginia coal strike, and it’s bloody outcome.  Excellent book!

4 stars (out of 4)
Published in 1988
293 pages

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A Footpath in Umbria by Nancy Yuktonis Solak

A Footpath In Umbria

Thank goodness for armchair traveling!  This year, we have a college student and a high schooler who attends boarding school.  The extra expense means no summer vacations in our household.  But thanks to books like A Footpath in Umbria, I can experience a trip abroad from the comforts of my own home.

Solak and her husband decided to spend a year in Italy.  Her story is wonderful and I love the fact that she doesn’t gloss over the difficulties to accentuate the loveliness of the life in Italia.  From the beginning, she tells us of her troubles with obtaining a place to live, which you must have in order to receive the visa required to live in Italy.  I loved her interactions with the people she met there, from her charming landlord to the workers in the post office and library.  There were many times I laughed out loud, and, in spite of having traveled to Italy three times myself, Solak enlightened me on quite of few facts about life in that country.  In short, I loved it!

4  stars (out of 5)
Published in 2010
188 pages

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