Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hard Bitten - Chloe Neill

Hard Bitten
Chicagoland Vampires
Chloe Neill
New American Library


Note: If you haven’t read the first books in this series {SOME GIRLS BITE, FRIDAY NIGHT BITES, and TWICE BITTEN) this review contains serious and unavoidable plot spoilers.

Merit has been a vampire for less than a year.  In that time, she’s been both embraced and betrayed by human friends; she’s helped to broker a fragile peace with the shifter community; and she’s been named Sentinel of her House.  Her relationship with Ethan, the Master of her House, and the vampire who turned her, has become infinitely more complicated lately.  And, since the shifters were essentially forced to go public recently, public opinion has taking a decidedly negative turn.  Taking a meeting with the Mayor of Chicago seems fairly tame in comparison.

The Mayor has heard a tale.  A tale of a vampire party, called a rave.  During that party, according to a witness, three human girls were brutally murdered by the vampires.  The witness is a criminal, though, and not terribly reliable.  Nevertheless, he orders Ethan and Merit to investigate the matter and, if they discover such activities are real, to put a stop to it.  As an added incentive, if they fail, the Mayor will execute an arrest warrant on Ethan.  The arrest of the Master of one of the three Houses of Chicago would be not only a pr disaster, but would bring the wrath of the Greenwich Presidium (GP), the governing body for vampire affairs.

As it happens, the leader of the GP, Darius, has just arrived in Chicago.  He thinks that the issue of raves (if they exist) is a problem for the human authorities; not something to concern the Houses.  If Ethan persists in meddling in this issue, Darius will put the House in receivership.  That means bringing in an outside person to dictate every decision, large and small, in an effort to put the House “back on track.”  Merit and Ethan agree: despite threats by Darius, the stories of out-of-control vampires need to be investigated, and the source of the behavior found and eliminated. 

The issue of the raves was touched on in the last book (TWICE BITTEN,) so it was good it see it developed here.  Merit, born in Chicago to a new-moneyed family, has a great many useful contacts to use in her investigation.  The search begins quickly, and is interesting.  The story bogs down in the first half of the book, with Merit repeating her findings to other characters.  Of course she has to tell them, but she’s relaying information already known to the reader.  It’s a bit repetitive.  In this case, a bit of patience bears great rewards.  The second half of the book – the end game, in particular – moves very fast, and contains many twists.  I expected almost none of it; and will begin the next book very shortly.  Well done, Ms. Neill! 

Rating: 8
May 2011
ISBN# 978-0-451-23332-5 (trade paperback)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Waking Gods - Sylvain Neuval

Waking Gods
The Themis Files, Book 2
Sylvain Neuvel
Del Rey

Science Fiction

NOTE:  If you haven’t read the first book in this series (SLEEPING GIANTS) this review contains some pretty serious plot spoilers.  And you have missed a terrific read.  So, go back, read the first book, then continue here.  It’s ok; I’ll wait.

The events of the first book (SLEEPING GIANTS) are ten years in the past.  Despite all of our worst fears and best hopes, nothing much has happened with regard to Themis in that decade.  That sense of security shatters in an instant when a huge, metallic figure appears in London’s Regent’s Park.  It didn’t land; it simply appeared.  This one looks to be male, and is slightly larger than Themis.  Is it friend, or foe?  It stands, unmoving, for weeks.  There’s no radio contact, no movement, no smoke signals, nothing.  The most exciting (or terrifying) part is that there must be drivers inside.  At least two.  Two aliens in a giant metal robot, just standing, immobile, in the middle of London.

No one should be surprised to find that the giant metal figure piloted by aliens comes equipped with some kind of invisible, electronic shield.  Nothing touches it.  Suddenly, it moves.  It raises an arm, emitting a blast of energy that utterly destroys a good portion of London.  There’s no rubble; there are no bodies; no smoking ruins.  Everything and everyone in the path of the energy weapon is simply, gone.  Empty space, right down to the dirt.  Shortly after, more robots appear, in cities all over the world.  The excitement is gone, largely replaced by terror and dread.

Kara and Vince are back, of course, as the only people who are able to pilot Themis.  They’ve continued studying her, and have made some advances.  Just not enough to repel dozens of robots just like her.  Judging by the abilities of the newly-arrived robots, they’ve got some catching up to do.  Dr. Rose Franklin is back, and having a few issues of her own.  We find out how that’s possible, and more about where the robots and their pilots come from in this installment.

Like the previous book, the story is told here in the form of broadcast transcripts, field reports, interviews, and diaries.  I’m still surprised by how much immediacy this format gives the story.  We get multiple points of view, and multiple opinions about these events.  Each new take on things propels the story forward in a very natural, organic way.  There are bumps in the road; some of them are fatal.  These setbacks force the characters to soldier on, despite hardships, giving each character added depth and realism.  This one ends with a cliffhanger.  Usually, I dislike that method of storytelling, but I’m so involved with the storyline that I’ve embraced it here.  I’m more than anxious for the next novel.

Rating: 9
April 2017

ISBN# 978-1-101-88672-4 (hardcover)