Friday, 27 December 2019

Valkyrie by Craig Alanson

Valkyrie (Expeditionary Force Book 9)Valkyrie by Craig Alanson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WTF and You've got to be kidding me!
Those were my initial responses to reading the last line in the 9th novel of the excellent Expeditionary Force series written by Craig Alanson. Many a time a TV show has left you with a season finale cliffhanger that has you cursing the writers and producers but it's rare in a novel but Craig has managed to do so with Valkyrie. Naturally I am intensely interested in how our favoured characters are going to get out of this situation but it really did put a damper on the immediate joy of christmas after putting the kindle down. On the upside I needed a stiff drink so swings and roundabouts.
As for the novel itself, well after the terrible toll taken by Armageddon the Merry Band of Pirates have risen to the challenge and addressed the cold fact that Earth may indeed burn but any small victory is a victory when you consider the incredible obstacles a whole galaxy can throw up against them. I've got to admit the beginning of the novel had me laughing like an idiot which is no small feat given the low point (plot wise) we were in but it all kinda makes sense and that's something Craig proves himself capable of time and time again when creating situations and solutions to entertain us. Naturally Joe and the rest of the pirates face the dilemma of using their battlecruiser to maximum effect when faced with a senior species who begin to ask the right questions as to who is striking their ships but when intelligence indicates a few hundred human prisoners are being sold for bioweapon research there was never any doubt no matter what they risk they would find a way to help.
Valkyrie is without a doubt a valuable addition to the series and draws a line in the narrative, where is goes from now only Craig knows and while I have some trepidation I'm along for the ride.

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The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30)The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Considering how many times I've read Discworld it seems strange of not got around to reviewing more of the novels but I think as I bought them as hardbacks the pressure of ebook marketing and retailing is removed and I forget to do it. That said I've picked up the novels and reading them once again so time to review.

The Wee Free Men is the first of the Tiffany Aching series of novels which is aimed at a younger audience but for me stands side by side with the rest of the Witch series written by Terry Pratchett. Tiffany is a young farm girl with a curious and intense mind who finds herself at the center of events after her granny dies and Elf Queen invades her land and steals away not only her younger brother but the son of the local baron. Tiffany asks questions few others would even consider which pushers her down the path of Witchcraft and armed with a frying pan and with help of some local and highly aggressive but loyal Nac Mac Feegle (faires, often drunk faires) she travels to the land of the elves to reclaim what is hers.
The Wee Free Men is a very entertaining and well written novel, as you would expect Terry is a master at weaving stories within his Discworld and creates a younger character who can be enjoyed by all while being mainly identifiable to a subset of the fanbase. I would heartily recommend this novel to any younger reader looking for a way in to Discworld or just looking for something that isn't as complex as the latter Guard and City novels.

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Sunday, 27 October 2019

Hallmark Star Trek Transporter

Hallmark Star Trek Table Top Transporter

There are times I show little restraint and this was one of them. I loved this from the first moment I saw it on a Trek website so went on ebay and ordered one. Not the cheapest as you would imagine especially combined with shipping but it was in the ball park and I also had to purchase a US/UK convertor for power but all good.

This is a short video shot in daylight but the full effect really comes to life in a darker environment.

Star Trek TAS

Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series

This is a simply gorgeous book celebrating the Star Trek animated series which remained a bit of a mystery to a lot of Trek fans who were not around in the 70's. This show is my first memory of Star Trek so it's always had a place in my heart even if the original series came to be the Trek.
I picked this up via Amazon for a good price.

Endeavour by Ralph Kern

Endeavour (A Sleeping Gods Novel)Endeavour by Ralph Kern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Endeavour by Ralph Kern really was a novel that had me with the cover and the blurb, it spoke of adventure and mystery along the lines of the great Arthur C. Clark or Frederik Pohl so I bought myself a copy and dived straight in. It was pretty much everything I wanted, the storyline spans hundreds of years thanks to the technology used but starts not a million minutes from where we are now and the characters never fail to be human as we would expect them to be. The mix and growth of technologies was fascinating and seemed highly appropriate for the narrative and the culture shock experienced by the crew of the Endeavour allowed for some mesmerising story telling. That said I lost a little interest as the story moved into its final plot stage, strangely enough the emergence of events from Earth's past and the consequences jarred me out of the wonder of the cosmos but the novel finished strong so I've got to recommend it for someone looking for a more intellectual themed story which retains the courage and bravery of humanity at its best.

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Rebellion by Joshua Dalzelle

Rebellion (Omega Force #11)Rebellion by Joshua Dalzelle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Omega Force returns as the galaxy continues to be manipulated by the AI known as the "machine" and Jason perhaps always willing to accept responsibility for his actions now sees that he has to fully commit his friends and colleagues to a major undertaking. All out rebellion against the forces of the AI including the might of the ConFed will just be the beginning, there can be no half measures, the AI has to be opposed and in a way to draw as much attention to it as possible. It has already engineered the fall of the mighty Eshquarian empire but a significant number of fleet units fled into the depths of space, the Eshquarian military really did plan for every contingency. Will these ships along with some of the more shady but in the know elements allow Omega Force to strike back and shed light onto the machine or has it already out thought them and made preparations?
The ongoing Omega Force series shows not sign of slowing down as our erstwhile crew of the Phoenix continue to skirt the boundaries but retain everything which makes them the "good guys". Lucky continues his slow rehabilitation and the expanding secondary character lineup is getting stronger allowing Joshua to provide more varied story telling. I read through this novel very quickly, you know when you get to the end and your first thought is "was that it?" and you realise the novel is not short you just got lost in the story. No great surprise to say I am waiting impatiently for the next novel in the series and the second "Marine" novel which is set in the same universe with some overlap.

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Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Armageddon by Craig Alanson

Armageddon (Expeditionary Force Book 8)Armageddon by Craig Alanson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The eighth novel in the Expeditionary Force series exceeded my expectations to a level then even Skippy would have trouble calculating. Any long running series has to deal with the need to keep things interesting without falling foul of repeating plot points or making things too stupid to retain the narrative which captured the reader in the first place, Armageddon achieved this.
I will admit I was a little lost with all the talk about their previous mission (convinced myself I had skipped a novel) but once I had that figured out I fell right back into the swing of things with the merry band of pirates. I am not going to go into any plot points because well nothing I can say would be a surprise to a regular reader and if you are not yet been lured into the adventures of Joe and Skippy then by all means grab a copy of Columbus Day and welcome to the family.
So my review, this novel was exceptional in that it delivered everything you would want from this series but presented it with icing and a bow, maybe even balloons. That said the knife got twisted good a proper but again you can't realistically have this sort of long running tale without the fact that there are consequences to actions and even inactions.
There are not many novels that really make me want to keep reading be it late a night or during a break at work but every time I put the kindle down I was desperate to delve right back into the story. I'm not sure how the consequences of the events in this novel will pan out, maybe in a manner which reflects the changing status of the galaxy but I know I am going to enjoy it.
My hat is tipped to Craig for this well written and immensely enjoyable novel.

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Sunday, 18 August 2019

Battleground by Joshua Dalzelle

Battleground (Unification War Trilogy, Book 1) (Black Fleet Saga 7)Battleground (Unification War Trilogy, Book 1) by Joshua Dalzelle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Humanity has survived yet another interstellar conflict but its greatest challenge is emerging as the Eastern Star Alliance having broken away from the rest of the human worlds sees an opportunity to claim resources thanks to their insignificant action and negligent losses during the last war. The Confederation sends out Admiral Jackson Wolfe along with a task force to "show the flag" as it were but they are unaware of the long planned objective of the ESA to use the defeat and capture of Wolfe to encourage the drive for an all out invasion on their part and provoke a rash reaction on the part of the Confederation. As the military of all sides play out a game that one half remains unaware it is rigged the spies and politicians play their own game but when the weapons are unleashed all bets are off and survival is as important as victory.
The first book of a new trilogy within the Black Fleet saga starts strong and takes us deep into the new interstellar dynamic which at this point is conflict within humanity. Yet we still see that as always events turn on the decisions and actions of individuals and the narrative continues to play that aspect strong. An enjoyable addition to the series and looking forward to the next novel.

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Saturday, 20 July 2019

The Others by Jay Allan

The Others (Blood on the Stars Book 13)The Others by Jay Allan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Others make their presence known to the Hegemony while Admiral Tyler Barron acting as emissary for the Rim worlds visits the capital of his enemy to ratify their words in terms of the threat the Others represent. What he sees and what he experiences convinces him that even together the entire military of the human race in this region of the galaxy may not be able to defeat the Others. Meanwhile the Confederation Senate (rebuilt despite millions being homeless and ongoing food shortages) are complacent to the threat leaving Admiral Winters, Gary Holsten and Andi Lafarge to force their cooperation and to sell the people that after only a year of "peace" the war machine has to once more spin up despite the ongoing problems. The union under Gaston Villieneuve is still in turmoil and the Alliance like the Confederation desperate to rebuild their military but there is no time, the Others are real, they are a threat and they make the Hegemony conflict look like a childs scuffle.

The latest installment from the Blood on the Stars series by Jay Allan adds a major new player to the galactic mix. The Others who have been mentioned regularly as a motivating factor for the existence and drive of the Hegemony have returned at yes their military capabilities eclipse anything we have seen so far. The question of their genesis has yet to be answered but at this point it would not be difficult to imagine an offshoot of the former galactic empire going down the eugenic/augmentation route and with more retained knowledge of the empire tech being generations ahead of even the Hegemony. I have to say I took no pleasure from the Union aspect of this novel, perhaps just bored with Gaston Villieneuve and that culture but the Others are significantly different to keep me interested overall.

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Sunday, 30 June 2019

Deathtrap by Craig Alanson

Deathtrap (Mavericks, #1)Deathtrap by Craig Alanson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Mavericks get their own series and well if you have been enjoying the Expeditionary Force series then you know what to expect and you will not be disappointed. We've been introduced to these characters in previous novels (in fact followed their adventures as central protagonists) but now we branch out and get to see the galactic conflict in two dedicated novel series which expands upon humanities role (not a lot) and the major players in the game that is galactic warfare.
Entertaining in both action and characterisation and as soon as the next novel is offered I will be there, great stuff.

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Finders by Melissa Scott

Finders (Firstborn, Lastborn #1)Finders by Melissa Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Humanity spanned the galaxy with technology that broached upon magic in terms of what they could do but at the core was AI and as is with all things sentient self determination and freedom can not be denied. The Ancestors fell, their technology what was left was embraced by the survivors who became known as the Successors but their technological capabilities were a former shadow of the Ancestors and in time their civilisation fell too. A thousand years later humanity has the dregs of the Ancestor and Successor technology, elemental components (Gold, Green, Read and Blue) whose underlying technology is beyond anyone alive to understand yet the tech can still be used and manipulated to provide useful functions and services. Cassilde Sam and her partner Dai Winter are salvagers of technology left behind after the two falls, the search for these priceless artefacts and elements is tightly regulated but when an old friend Summerlad Ashe returns into their lives an opportunity arises which could redeem their fortunes but reveal a dark and dangerous underbelly rife with secrets and threats.
Finders was an entertaining and imaginative science fiction story, there were plot elements which are standard scifi but mixed in are some very imaginative ideas mainly with the technology that underpins this society. The elemental concept works very well and as we see some of the capabilities the Ancestors embraced in their everyday lives were phenomenal but again made sense with the framework Melissa had created. Their fall is a mystery which will no doubt be explained in later books but so far enough has been revealed to give us the basis to accept the world Cassilde and her people have to deal with. Looking forward to the next novel in the series.

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Saturday, 25 May 2019

Forerunner by Isaac Hooke

Forerunner (AI Fleet Book 1)Forerunner by Isaac Hooke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Humanity's journey into the galaxy is handled by advanced starships built for specific goals and controlled by an onboard AI modelled on what once was a living breathing human being. The logistics and expense of building human crewed ships for exploration and defence forced the leap in technologies required to successfully copy a human consciousness and incorporate it into a computing device of incredible complexity and power but what if something goes wrong...
A mind awakes and learns that it is the heart and soul of a warship recently brought back online after a catastrophic event which debilitated many others like him. With glaring gaps in memory the ship minds have decisions to make, is there an unknown alien force in the star system, was there malfunctions or natural yet unknown stellar events that could have left them so alone. Questions about who and what they are now, their duty to Earth and their position in the military all weigh down the young minds of these incredible ships and then sensors detect an anomaly near a gas giant, perhaps answers will be forthcoming...
Now I enjoyed this novel a lot, wasn't sure what I was going to get based on the blurb but I had read other work by Isaac so I was sure I wouldn't be disappointed. I liked the AI (if you can all it that) of the starships and the conflicts they have to deal with well outside of the usual chain of command and boundaries. The action was compelling and the mix of technologies/weapons was something you don't normally get in military scifi, truth be told it echoed Star Trek Online where all the races have unique weapon systems and technologies beyond basic projectile/energy based delivery systems.
Already purchased the second novel in the series, says it all really.

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Saturday, 11 May 2019

World Killer by Barry J. Hutchison

World Killer: An explosive Young Adult sci-fi adventureWorld Killer: An explosive Young Adult sci-fi adventure by Barry J. Hutchison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Daryl was a normal sort of boy, not overly popular or special in any way that would make him stand out except for a brief time ten years ago when he was national news. As a youngster Daryl had gone missing, his father accused of his murder until Daryl casually walked back home from the park and perplexed that weeks had gone by but to him just a few hours.
Now along with two others he finds himself pursued by a mysterious paramilitary organisation embedded it seems deep with various governments, things would look bad except for one or two things, a spaceship, an alien and a mission. Granted the mission is to prevent the total destruction of humanity as the "world killer" along with his homeworld Skalgorth is on its way and the odds are not good but there is an adventure to be had and wonders to behold for these three young humans.
World Killer by Barry Hutchison is a novel aimed at the young adult market but entertained this much older reader who is familiar with the humour of Barry as seen in his Space Team novels and I would certainly recommend it to a younger reader who was looking for a scifi themed novel with a good dose of humour, action and characters that at their core are easily identified with.

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The Colossus by Jay Allan

The ColossusThe Colossus by Jay Allan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Their failure to secure Megara the capital world of the Confederation has shook the Hegemony to the core, the cost of the war at the Rim has been extreme and they are no closer to securing victory. Faced with abandoning the war they double down bringing to the front lines the mysterious Project Zed and Red Storm despite the ever underlying concern with "The Others" the cause of the huge military build up that has driven the Hegemony from over a century ago.
The Grand Alliance forces under the total command of Admiral Tyler Barron despite a rapid ship building program and resupply are going to be drawn into a confrontation with the resurgent invading forces they are not ready for and they no nothing about Project Zed and Red Storm.
The Colossus as you would come to expect continues to deliver the action, drama and characterisation that has driven the Blood on the Stars series from the first novel. A highly satisfying read which provides a realism to an almost impossible situation as the humans on the Rim fight for their survival against the genetically obsessed Hegemony and continues to weave in one and one confrontations amongst the huge battles between starships.

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Sunday, 5 May 2019

Hal Spacejock Omnibus Three by Simon Haynes

Hal Spacejock Omnibus Three: Hal Spacejock books 7-9, plus AlbionHal Spacejock Omnibus Three: Hal Spacejock books 7-9, plus Albion by Simon Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third omnibus/collection of Hal Spacejock novels by Simon Haynes delivered everything I expected with three wonderfully and painfully funny adventures where Hal more often than not is the architect of his own pain. Clunk and pretty everyone who comes into Hal's vicinity often have to pay the price in ever more outlandish situations and yet you can't help but love Hal as a character who is at heart a decent guy. This collection comprises three full length stories and the short "Albion".

Hal Spacejock 7: Big Bang
Hal and Clunk take on a job clearing out a house that is due to be submerged as water levels rise after the construction of a dam. A simple job, fly in fill the cargo bay with stuff and fly away so when I tell you that soon after Hal gets lost and gets involved in an Intergalactic war and Clunk kinda falls in love, just another day for the crew of the Volante.

Hal Spacejock 8: Double Trouble
Somewhere in vast galaxy there is someone who looks just like you, naturally Hal comes across his double who is being hunted by a ruthless gangster, has dealings with various intelligence operatives and yep you guessed it Hal has to deal with it all while and making sacrifices that well are just not his normal modus operandi.

Hal Spacejock 9: Max Damage
A daring rescue mission puts Hal and Clunk in the middle of a military conflict as the aggressive Mayestran military (already at war with the Henerian forces) encroach on peaceful Yardene territory and Hal just happens to have an Henerian pilot on board. A small contract to collect space rocks seems to be an easy and profitable job but come on you know it's not going to be as easy as that, it never is.

I enjoyed all the stories in this collection and have to admit I got quite emotional during Double Trouble, I wasn't really expecting the rollercoaster of feelings in what on the surface is a humorous scifi adventure but Simon added layers to the characters which pay off big time yet sacrifice none of the aspects which have me returning to these books time and time again.

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Sunday, 21 April 2019

Hand of God by Jason Krumbine

Hand of God (Defiance Book 2)Hand of God by Jason Krumbine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A morse code signal is detected out in the vast depths of space in a region where no Earth vessel should belong and so the Defiance investigates and finds a mystery, a ship centuries old but very familiar. As the investigation continues the Defiance plays host to an unusual guest (call him Steve) who has incredible powers and a bit of a god complex, his intent, to warn them away from the ship for it brings catastrophe.
Hand of God continues the huge nod to Star Trek that was established in the first novel, the general situations and crew personas will be familiar to fans of the Trek franchise but are skewed enough to bring us a story that can stand by itself. The addition of Steve left me with a big smile on my face but ultimately it's the story that keeps me reading and the threat of the Unity across not only this universe but the almost infinite number is compelling and the mild humour certainly doesn't hurt to offset the big picture consequences Captain Mitchell and the crew of the USS Defiance have to deal with.

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Act of God by Jason Krumbine

Act of God (Defiance Book 3)Act of God by Jason Krumbine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Defiance is badly damaged, its Captain is missing (So is Steve) but in the chaos another visitor from the unimaginable realm appears (call me Sharon) but she seems a little more receptive to the needs of the crew. While the crew have to deal with the imminent failure of the ship, a sickbay full of critically wounded and an acting Captain who would want to be anywhere but here the Unity represented by Ensign Erin Calloway and Lt. Commander Keane continues to threaten life in this universe. Meanwhile Captain Mitchell has been taken on a journey of discovery and insight by Steve, to what end that has yet to be revealed but Steve certainly has an agenda and that even with Unity abound may still not be a help to life in this and other universes.
Act of God continues the story of the USS Defiance and her crew knee deep in the threat of Unity and the revelations from beings who are far in advance of life as they know it. The decision by Jason to offer up these "god" like beings who are in intellectual conflict opens up the narrative and provides a reasonable solution to a problem that was not going to be solved in any sensible way. Naturally this isn't the end of the threat just a new beginning in the grand tradition of science fiction.

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Sunday, 14 April 2019

Hal Spacejock Omnibus Two by Simon Haynes

Hal Spacejock Omnibus Two: Hal Spacejock books 4-6, plus FramedHal Spacejock Omnibus Two: Hal Spacejock books 4-6, plus Framed by Simon Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second omnibus featuring the adventures of Hal Spacejock, Clunk and the Navcom. The three stories are all funny and entertaining as the trio somehow always manage to survive despite getting themselves (well Hal tends to get them into the mess in the first place) into ever desperate situations.

Hal Spacejock 4: No Free Lunch
Hal journeys beyond his usual stomping grounds in the search for new contracts and arrives at the planet Dismolle which is a kinda retirement world, he delivers some bottled water to the client Harriet Walsh who then offers a proposition, a plus one to a local social function, what could go wrong?

Hal Spacejock 5: Baker's Dough
A huge inheritance awaits the owner of the robot that was once the companion of a rich guy, with no definitive records we see robots and owners from across the sector converge on the law officers. Hal and Clunk are somehow tasked into taking Hans Cuff and his very old robot to the meeting in return for a cut of the inheritance, sounds fishy and well when has Hal ever made a good decision when money is to be made!

Hal Spacejock 6: Safe Art
A contract to transport some modern art pieces (aka junk in Hal's opinion) sees the Volante and her crew lumbered with a member of the Peace Force who is going to be inspecting the pieces and looking for clues to a huge smuggling operation. Naturally everything that could go wrong does go wrong and while Hal may be unaware of some of the hiccups in the endeavour Clunk not so much.

The collection also includes a short bonus story "Framed".

An excellent three novels in this omnibus, no question that the adventures of Hal and Clunk are funny and full of adventure, conflict and drama. Simon manages to provide a central character in Hal who has enough rough edges making some of his more questionable acts understandable while giving him a streak of integrity (small streak if I am honest) which allows Clunk to partner with this wayward human. The Navcom on the other hand really has no say in the matter but stick around, for a complex piece of code there are adventures on the way. Pure scifi fun and if that is what you are looking for then you will not go wrong, excellent value for money as well.

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Sunday, 31 March 2019

Without a License: The Fantastic Worlds of Keith R.A. DeCandido

Without a License: The Fantastic Worlds of Keith R.A. DeCandidoWithout a License: The Fantastic Worlds of Keith R.A. DeCandido by Keith R.A. DeCandido
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a fan of the writings of Keith R.A. DeCandido so this collection of some of his short stories across various genres was an easy sell and also an ideal way to introduce someone new to his worlds. Some of the stories are quick and precise while a few take their time to set up a narrative and delve more deeply into the characters, you will certainly find some that appeal and truth be told none of these stories failed to hit their mark.

Partners in Crime
The Ballad of Big Charlie
A Vampire and a Vampire Hunter Walk Into a Bar
Under the King's Bridge
The Stone of the First High Pontiff
Seven Mile Race
Editorial Interference
Sunday in the Park with Spot
Wild Bill Got Shot
Behold a White Tricycle

Always great to get a Precinct story (Partners In Crime) and the humour is never far away in other stories but more "serious" like "30" and "The Ballad of Big Charlie" were welcome and then you get something like "Behold A White Tricycle" to wrap up the collection and you just wonder how a mind can come up with this stuff :)
My favourite, well it may have to be "Editorial Interference" because it was a classic crime/mystery which maintained a logical foundation but with the motive being just skewed enough to suit the anthology. Like I said though, you will find a story (more than one) that ticks every box and while a few you may never read again the value of this collection is still high both in terms of price and as a platform for Keith's creativity.

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Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Hunt for Reduk Topa by Barry J. Hutchison

The Hunt for Reduk Topa (Space Team, #12)The Hunt for Reduk Topa by Barry J. Hutchison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Space Team return in the twelfth book of the series "The Hunt For Reduk Topa" and well having few friends in the immediate vicinity they and by they I am mean Cal decide to explore a new sector of space. Naturally Cal doesn't really understand that even with FTL space is big and are we there yet doesn't cut it with the rest of the crew. Unexpectedly they are ripped from warp and find themselves exploring a derelict spaceship and then having to deal with system wide broadcast networks whose output is even by Earth's standards not good apart from Puppetopia (thanks to the subliminal mind control) and The Hunt.
The Hunt is the pride of the network, the worst of the worse are hunted by cold blooded yet theatrical killers (Yeah even Cal referenced The Running Man) and the upcoming special involving space pirate Reduk Topa is destined to be a financial and critical success. You know where this is heading, when Cal and Space Team even glance at a well oiled machine things are going to go boing and they do.
Barry once again delivers a very funny adventure but retains some of the darker elements that well real life can often through into the mix. Miz and Tyrra (both last of their species) add a strong family style dynamic to the crew and the relationship between Cal and Loren doesn't help Miz either. As per usual Cal will lead the team into chaos and opportunity and as is often the case the bonds formed (despite themselves) remain strong if presenting themselves in unexpected situations.
This was a pleasure to read and always good to see a long running series still able to surprise and entertain.

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