The re-blast – Stefan Vucak’s “Against the Gods of Shadow”

Description by the author / blurb

By merging, Sargon and the Paleans seek to become a dominant political force within the Serrll Combine. Pizgor’s three systems are the only thing that stands in their way. Palean raiders are used in a clandestine operation to disrupt Pizgor’s commerce to the point where it will be forced to succumb. Pizgor makes a desperate plea for help from the Serrll government on Captal. Second Scout Terrllss-rr is tasked to find the raider base and eliminate the threat to Pizgor. While escorting a bulk carrier, Terr confronts a Fleet ship that is secretly working with the raiders. In the ensuing battle both vessels are badly damaged, but the encounter leads Terr to an eventual capture of a raider and the unmasking of the Palean supported base. Thwarted, the Paleans risk everything on a bold move that could destabilize the Serrll, forcing Terr into another encounter with an old enemy.


   “Against the Gods of Shadow” is the second part of the Shadow Gods Saga, taking place four years after it. The first novel was already a pure joy to read, and the reading of the second instalment of the series was in no way a joy diminished, but even a greater one.
   What I’ve written in the lengthy review of the first novel on my blog, that it ultimately appears to get entangled in its own complexity, does not occur in this one: the plot, albeit still complex, is laid out in a much more straightforward fashion and every piece of the puzzle fits neatly into the overall picture of diplomatic, economic and warfare scheming.   Continue reading


The rise of an epic – “The Road to Rebirth” by Dean F. Wilson

Description by the author/blurb

THE DYING BREATH. THE DYING WILL. THE DYING HOPE. After the catastrophe of the Call of Agon, Ifferon and his companions find themselves in the unenviable situation of witnessing, and partaking in, the death of another god—this time Corrias, the ruler of the Overworld.

With Corrias locked inside the corpse of the boy Théos, he suffers a fate worse than the bonds of the Beast Agon. Yet hope is kindled when the company find a way to restore the boy, and possibly the god, back to life.

The road to rebirth has many pitfalls, and there are some who consider such meddling with the afterlife a grave risk. The prize might be life anew—but the price might also be a second death.
road to rebirth

Review (for the review of the book’s predecessor, go here)

This second volume of „The Children of Telm“ immediately starts where the first one, „The Call of Agon“, left off: Ifferon and his companions must come to terms with the fact that they have been playing into the hands of evil when they believed they were fighting against it. „Ifferon watched as the knight wept and cast aside his pendant, an emblem of Corrias.“ They thought that Corrias, the god’s leader, had forsaken them, while it was them who fell short in their duty towards him. He, incarnated in the little boy Theos, was with them and they didn’t recognise him. Now Corrias died with his earthly vessel and thus seems dead the only force in the world Iraldas that could oppose Agon. But there is the hope of rebirth by an intricate ritual.

Continue reading

Second try – “Life II” by Scott Spotson

Description by the author / blurb:

Upon discovering a 1958 book titled “Account of Time Travel on Earth Using Wave Theory,” 42-year-old Max Thorning’s life is thrown into chaos. Seeking answers to the book’s cryptic clues, he discovers Dr. Time, a seemingly benign alien who has control of the Time Weaver, a remarkable device that can command any scene from the Earth’s past. Dr. Time offers him a choice to go back into Time, to any point in his lifespan that he can vividly recall. The catch: he can only bring his memories, and can only live the future one day at a time. Follow Max’s dilemma as he goes back to his 16-year-old self and tries to forge his destiny into a new one called Life II.
life II


It need be said at once: the science behind the time travel concept of „Life II“ is spurious. According to the science of the book, time is a wave, but the human body is made up of matter, hence persons cannot transport their bodies through time, only their brain waves – including their memories. That’s why it would be impossible for Max to physically travel back in time and meet his younger self. Instead, he replaces the brain waves, the personality of his younger self. However, since Niels Bohr it is established that waves and particles are just two sides of the same coin. Yet Dr. Time insists: „ … matter can never pass through time.“„Only waves,“ Max agreed.
But I realised the explanation of time travel in „Life II“ only serves to anchor some inner-story coherency. It would miss the point to probe for scientific plausibility. After all, its quite comical when, due to the book’s time travel concept, Max tries several times to assume the exact same body posture and psychic state he had at the moment in time he wants to return to – when he was making a significant catch in a lacrosse game. Continue reading

The flame of hope – Sylvia Engdahl’s “Defender of the Flame”

Description by the author / blurb:

Starship pilot Terry Radnor is puzzled and outraged when he is suddenly recalled from interstellar exploration to the desolate training base on Titan. His spirits rise after he volunteers for a secret project offering him extraordinary physical and psychic capabilities, yet before he can complete this new training, he is transferred against his will to the cruiser Shepard for a tour of duty he expects to hate. But Shepard’s mission turns out to be unlike anything he could have imagined. Advancing rapidly in his career, Terry finds fulfillment in love and in commitment to a cause–until an ironic twist of fate tears him away from everything he has ever cared about. He is forced to build a whole new life, far from all that has previously mattered to him, and only the effort to regain what he has lost keeps him from despair. Is there any hope that he can fulfill his pledge to protect the world whose safety is crucial–more crucial than anyone else knows–to the future of humankind?
Review (a slighter shorter version can be found here)

This is sci-fi concerned about philosophical and societal questions. Sci-fi vocabulary and back-frame, rather than forming constitutive parts of the story, play the role of „tropes“, as the author explains. The sci-fi-frame, one realises, permits Engdahl to readily address the issues she is intent on sharing with the reader. Continue reading

A blast – Stefan Vucak’s “In the Shadow of Death”

Description by the author / blurb

 A backwater system in the Deklan Oligarchy, the Four Suns hides a sinister plot to destabilize the Serrll Combine government. An Envoy is sent to uncover the scheme before the Serrll explodes into factional warfare. Having ‘volunteered’ as a military aide to the Envoy, Second Scout Terrllss-rr uncovers a link between slavery and local government’s plans to cede the Four Suns. That knowledge marks him for death. Fleeing, his survival blister crashes on Anar’on, the fabled world of the Wanderer nomads. Terr is found in the deep desert, lost, without memory, without a past. To restore himself, Terr undergoes training in the Discipline. Facing the god of Death, he receives more than he bargained for.

Review (a shortened version can be found here)

 All that really need be said about this novel is this: it’s simply gorgeous. There is no coveted goal in novel writing it doesn’t attain: an intriguing plot, well-drawn characters, atmospheric descriptions, pacing attuned to storytelling… Any one of these elements could be picked out and without exception the praise of its full implementation has to be sung for „In the Shadow of Death“. Thus, reviewing this work amounts to the awkward task of providing a critique for what shouldn’t reasonably be criticised. There is, however, no complete review without critique.
In consequence two aspects shall be highlighted and put to exalted scrutiny: descriptions and plot construction.  Continue reading

The sleeping spell – Scott Spotson’s “Seeking Dr. Magic”

Description by the author / blurb:

Chaos reigns around the world. Strange creatures, accorded the title “Phantom Ninjas” by the media, are leaping off tall buildings and somersaulting back up without any scratch – and then disappear. There follows more spontaneous acts of magic, confounding the world. Who – or what – is responsible? In the middle of the mystery arrives Detective Hetfield, a private investigator just recently retired from the FBI, who is accustomed to fame as a star witness in the murder trial of a beloved actress. Hetfield, seeking ever more celebrity to boost his profile, uses the media to put forward the theory that a person of extraordinary magical powers is behind all the incidents, and labels him Dr. Magic. Hetfield gets much more than what he bargained for when that powerful being does exist – in the form of a young man long disillusioned with his past – and cruelly takes him up on his offer.


Seeking Dr. Magic” is not a bad book. The language is concise and flows easily, except for two or three instances when it is the very effort at conciseness that appears laborious: “Dr. Magic focused intensely by placing his thumbs and the next two fingers outwards from this thumbs on each hand, on his temples.” Else the editing has been crafty and careful. And though the idea behind the novel, a young man with super powers struggling to come to terms with his identity, is by no means original, original is his way of “looking for an opening” towards the citizens of Earth with the strangely comical incidents mentioned in the book blurb. The structure of the novel is reasonably tailored to its shape, with a limited set of scenes and few characters. The book, it has to be repeated, is by no means of poor quality. Continue reading

A classic in growth – Dean F. Wilson’s “The Call of Agon – Book One of the Children of Telm”

Description by the author / blurb:

THE LAST LINE. THE LAST WORDS. THE LAST CHANCE. Ifferon is one of the last in the bloodline of the dead god Telm, who mated with mortal women, and who imprisoned the Beast Agon in the Underworld. Armed with a connection to the estranged gods in the Overworld and a scroll bearing Telm’s powerful dying words, he is tasked with ensuring the god’s vital legacy: that Agon remain vanquished. Fear forces Ifferon to abandon his duty, but terror restores his quest when the forces of Agon find his hideaway in an isolated coastal monastery. Weighed down by the worries of the world, but lifted up by the companions he encounters along the way, Ifferon embarks on a journey that encompasses the struggles of many peoples, the siege of many lands, and discoveries that could bring hope to some—or doom to all.
Review (for shortened version, click here)

Agon, the outcast of the gods, is filled with hatred for the world, Iraldas. In his imprisonment he nourishes desires of vengeance. It is said Agon believes the hatred that is ravaging his insides can only be quenched if he destroys the whole of Iraldas. From eternal loneliness he wants to receive final satisfaction. But he cannot set his plan into motion as long as he remains bound by the spells of the gods. He must be called by a formulae of dark magic. And truly it happens that the world is threatened by his calling. Continue reading