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review 2017-09-12 22:48
"Drysine Legacy - Spiral Wars #2" by Joel Shepherd
Drysine Legacy - Joel Shepherd

"The Drysine Legacy" carries straight of from "Renegade" but manages to crank up the complexity and broaden the scope of the story to include even more aliens and to get deeper into the AI threat.


Like its predecessor, it's a long book but the pages fly by and the story never drags. I always wanted to know what would happen next.


I felt that this book was less character driven than the last one. The intricacies of the plot dominate the book and drive most of the action. Yet the characters DO continue to develop and their relationships shift in realistic ways.


The action scenes (and there are many of them) are outstanding: easy to visualise, massive in scale and very fast moving.


I particularly enjoyed getting to see various aliens in the story develop so that I understood more about their point of view and their motivation. In some ways, I found it easier to empathise with the aliens than I did to get inside the heads of the Marines.


The AI in the story is well imagined and avoids the clichés and simplifications that picture AIs as just big computers who are scarily smarter than us. This AI has a strong personality that is hard ignore and impossible to second guess. In some ways that's much scarier than Skynet. I found myself liking "her" and then realised that I had no way of knowing if I was just being conned. Which is exactly the dillema for the human crew.


This is well written space opera on a massibe scale that continues to deliver excitement and action as well as big ideas and intriguing characters.

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review 2017-08-13 18:36
"Renegade: Spiral Wars, Book 1" by Joel Shepherd
Renegade (The Spiral Wars) (Volume 1) - Joel Shepherd

I finally reached the point where I'd read all six of Joel Shepherd's excellent Cassandra Kresnov books and I found that I missed his wide ranging imagination, his sharp-edged politics and his characters: strong, passionate, sometimes flawed but always believable.


So I went looking to see what else he'd written and found the Spiral Wars series (four books so far)


When I read the blurb, I hesitated:

"A thousand years after Earth was destroyed in an unprovoked attack, humanity has emerged victorious from a series of terrible wars to assure its place in the galaxy. But during celebrations on humanity’s new Homeworld, the legendary Captain Pantillo of the battle carrier Phoenix is court-martialed then killed, and his deputy, Lieutenant Commander Erik Debogande, the heir to humanity’s most powerful industrial family, is framed with his murder. Assisted by Phoenix’s marine commander Trace Thakur, Erik and Phoenix are forced to go on the run, as they seek to unravel the conspiracy behind their Captain’s demise, pursued to the death by their own Fleet. "

Long timescales like this often make it hard for me to connect with the action. The politics sounded triumphalist and the interstellar distances involved are huge. I wondered how Joel Shepherd would keep the intimacy and intensity that was a strength of the Cassandra Kresnov series in an undertaking like this.


The answer, of course, was through the strength of his character development. It turned out that "Renegade", the first Spiral Wars book, was just as intense as his Kresnov books but it was also refreshingly different in scale and in focus.


So what's good about it?


This is a great example of what Space Opera can be when the author has really thought through the worlds, the species and the history involved and yet never resorts to info-dumps but has the confidence and the control to reveal the intricacies of this universe a little at a time, through the experiences of the characters, as needed to make sense of the action. Every good space opera needs lots of action, lots of technology, lots of weapons, lots of culture clashes and complex political intrigue and lots of desperate, how-can-they-possibly-get-out-of-this? moments. Joel Shepherd delivers on all these things with flair and originality and at a pace the made the 400+ pages fly by.


The intensity of the book comes mainly from the characters. There are a lot of them but they are presented clearly and without confusion. They're also not static. They come with backstories that are artfully revealed. They have distinct personalities and ethics and goals. They are changed by the decisions they make and the experiences they have. This increases the emotional impact of the book. It makes you care who lives and dies. It goes beyond the "only you can save the galaxy" hero quest into something personal and therefore much more real.


Two characters, in particular, made the book for me. The first is Trace Thakur. She leads the Marines on the Pheonix but she is a legend throughout the Corps. She comes from a warrior cult with strong ethics around service. She is strong, experienced, lethal and much loved by her people. There is more to her than just being a warrior. Her mission is driven by her personal interpretation of honour and justice rather than by her instructions from her superiors. She is the second in command, yet she has far more leadership and combat experience than Erik Debogande, until recently a newly minted Lieutenant Commander who many believed was appointed because of his family connections and who is now acting-Captain. The dynamic between Thakur and Debogande is tense and plausible. Watching Erik struggling to rise to the challenge of being in command of the Pheonix is one of the best things in the book.


Of course, I also loved the depressingly plausible politics, the diversity of the races involved and the hints of important things being hidden by the powerful, that need to be uncovered by the brave.


I'm hooked now. I'm already looking forward to the rest of the series.

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review 2017-04-24 21:06
"Originator - Cassandra Kresnov #6" by Joel Shepherd
Originator: A Cassandra Kresnov Novel - Joel Shepherd

"Originator" is the sixth and (apparently) the last Cassandra Kresnov book. I'm sad to see this series end. I've enjoyed every book. Each one has taken me deeper into this world, Each one has seen Kresnov grow and become more complex, more powerful and yet, somehow, more likable.


*Originator" has all the things that made the other books compelling: political intrigue, battle scenes, humour, philosophical musings on what it means to be human, and a perfectly paced plot


As befits the last book of a series, it brings together a number of characters from earlier plot lines and fully completes the story arc in a satisfying way, without making everything so neat and tidy that is seams false.


In this book, Cassandra finally brings into focus the idea that she and the other GIs really are a separate, physically superior, species and not just a synthetic imitation of humanity. She has to decide what that means. The plot of the story herds her into a position where she is forced to choose between loyalty to her own species and loyalty to humanity. Her response is original, life-affirming and fundamentally Kresnov.

As we edge towards the possibility of independent AIs, I can only hope that they'll be like Cassandra Kresnov when they grew up.


I'm addicted to Joel Shepherd now, so, with no more Kresnov to read, I'll be starting on his "Spiral Wars" trilogy, but it will have to be pretty damn good to push Kresnov off the top of my "THIS is what Military SF SHOULD be" pile.



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text 2017-04-08 23:20
I've just started "Originator" book six in the Cassandra Kresnov series
Originator: A Cassandra Kresnov Novel - Joel Shepherd

"Orgiinator" is a biiggish book (520 pages) and it's the last Kresnov book, so I've been saving it until I had some time. With Easter coming up I thought I'd crack open the audiobook.


I'm a little over an hour in and I'm wondered why I waited so long. These books have just gotten better and better and I was pretty excited about the first one.


I love the way Joel Sheperd effortlessly mixes fast paced, action-packed military SF with complex politics and extended insights into how individual psychology and social dynamics interact.


The good news is that I have another twelve hours to go.

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review 2017-01-19 23:02
Petrodor (A Trial of Blood and Steel #2)
Petrodor - Joel Shepherd

This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

Title: Petrodor

Series: A Trial of Blood and Steel #2

Author: Joel Shepherd

Rating: 2 of 5 Stars

Genre: SFF

Pages: 525

Format: Kindle Digital Edition








Sasha is now in the city of Petrodor. Various political factions are vying for the role of leading a new army against the Serrin. The Serrin in Petrodor are playing their own game, unfortunately for them, they don't understand humanity nearly as well as they think. And the humans allied with the Serrin are split as well. Then once the Priesthood gets involved, all bets are off.


Sasha must navigate allies, enemies and some who are both at the same time.



My Thoughts: 


I've given this series 2 books worth of my time. I simply didn't like this one either.


Narrowed it down to the fact that I don't like one single character. The story was intriguing, the political, religious and species aspect of things were well done and complex and the fighting was fun to read about.


But without even one character to like or root for, it wasn't worth it. So I'm dropping this. I'm kind of hesitant about trying his Cassandra Kresnov series now. Sure glad I discovered him with his Spiral Wars series and not this.


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