About Tom S.

A London lawyer who escapes at weekends to the suburbs with his wife and daughters. A lifelong science fiction fan he is looking forward to sharing his writing with whomsoever should like to try it.

Ebook Review – Guns of Seneca 6 (Chamber 1)

Guns of Seneca 6 (Chamber 1), by Bernard Schaffer


seneca6 1The Old West Rises Again.

 Get read for this trailblazing, gun-slinging, high-octane adventure of the Old West set on a distant planet in outer space. It’s full of bandits and natives, killers and lawmen, all set around a colony mining settlement called Seneca 6.
For years, peace was kept by Sheriff Sam Clayton, until the fateful day he ventured into the wastelands to confront the planet’s native people, Beothuk.  Now, twenty years later, an intergalactic Marshal has crash landed there while transporting one of the galaxy’s most ruthless, despicable criminals. It is only a matter of time before his brother, Little Willy Harpe, arrives to murder the Marshal and kill everyone and everything he finds inside Seneca 6.
A cast of characters readers will immediately feel familiar with rally to battle the invaders, including Jem Clayton, the Sheriff’s son, and legendary scoundrel, Doctor Royce Henry Halladay. Together, they’ll make a stand against the Harpe Gang and their weapon of unholy power.”

I was invited to review the first in the Guns of Seneca 6 series by the author and I’m grateful to him for doing so as I might not otherwise have tried it, which would have been a mistake.

The reason for my initial reticence was my unfamiliarity and frankly lack of fondness for the Western genre. The extent of my knowledge is drawn from Clint, snatches of facts unavoidably picked up over the years, that TOS episode where Kirk and co are mysteriously forced to act out a Western scenario as the Claytons, oh and of course Back to the Future Part III (let’s not talk about a Fistful of Datas). So as you can see, no great love for the Western here.

That being said I am a massive sci-fi fan, so cowboys in space? Might just work, I thought, and it does – at least for me.

The story is solid and the characters are well drawn. What I thought was done particularly well was the neat mixture of space and the good ‘ole dusty Western border town. Seneca 6 certainly fulfils the latter part, with just enough of it alien to do the job of the former with a few spaceships and off planet scenes thrown in. Most of the action though takes place on the planet, which is compelling enough to hold the reader, and we get to meet the various citizens who live the border town/cowboy lifestyle. In particular there are the Claytons and a Doc Halliday. The one thing I did wonder is if true Western fans might be irked by the use of familiar names, kind of like I might be if Kirk or Picard and co were names used in a sit-com – but it of course didn’t bother me here, if anything adding to the Western feel for me; that being said I do fervently hope Star Trek the comedy never comes to pass.

I thought the narrative of the Guns of Seneca 6 flowed well, developing the themes and characters of the story as it went along, and it held up nicely as we headed to the inevitable climactic stand-off. While I did find the discovery made by Jem to be a little obvious – but then I do tend to be the spoiler of many films with my “oh, I bet …” comments – overall I found the story believable and the key characters eminently likeable, particularly Jem Clayton. While they sometimes teetered on the edge of precipitous cliché, overall I felt the characterisations struck the right balance. The only thing that did jar a little for me was the ‘powerful weapon’. I didn’t think it sat that well in the narrative or was that necessary. I can see how it helped with certain points in the tale but I think that these could have been achieved in other, less incongruous ways. With my sci-fi six gallon on it was certainly an interesting concept but for me an underdeveloped one, almost a non sequitur, which led it for me to seem out-of-place.

All of that being said I did thoroughly enjoy the story and found it easy to root for the good guys against the bad guys. As I’ve already said I thought the mix of genres was handled well and as a non-Western fan the characters were able to pull me in and hold me. Well done Mr Schaffer, now reach for the skies…

I’d give the Guns of Seneca 6 (Chamber 1) an upbeat four and a half.


_4 1-2 stars




Get it on Amazon now.






Ebook Review – The Rider

The Rider, by Austin Cunningham


the riderTaking place across the utterly fantastical locales of the universe as seen through the eyes of several characters, The Rider is a new science fiction epic wherein humanity finds itself in the throes of a centuries-long war against an utterly inscrutable alien opponent. In a bold gambit to end the battle once and for all, the world’s top minds gather to enact the impossible: the creation of a perfect interstellar pilot, otherwise known as a rider. But what results is as shocking as it is profound, and this startling series of events all takes place against the backdrop of war and discovery, of person and triumph and tragedy, of memories and times of trial and joy. And so, from the titanic battle to the introspective struggle of the individual, The Rider carries forth all this and more, for, in the grandest tradition of true science fiction, the novel raises a number of philosophical and religious questions. After all, it is said that the universe is as wonderful as it is mysterious, and so see it all first hand with one of the finest novels written in years: The Rider.



The Rider. Well where do I start. It was certainly ambitious and I can say in places enjoyable, but I did find it hard work.  That being said I was hooked enough to want to see the end, but this may have been strongly influenced by my doggedness to finish what I had started.

I should clarify that I got this through Goodreads a while back now as an early review copy, and I have an inkling that since I read it the author might have pulled the book to rework it.  If so good on him, as I think there is an awful lot of good stuff there to work with and it could be truly great if presented in the right way.

Objectively it should have been a breathtaking piece of hard sci-fi spanning a vast universe, tackling issues of humanity, prejudice and man’s penchant for total war and blind vengeance.  The difficulty though, as ever, is that the devil is in the detail, and in this instance the Devil was hanging around a lot.  It was like that scene in Matrix Revolutions where Keanu is surrounded by Agent Smiths as far as the eye can see.  There was just too much detail and dense text in this tale, and in my opinion it weighed down the story and the reader.  I found to my shame that after about half way I was skipping over swathes of text that just seemed to go on and on, way too long, about a perception of something, or a description of another.  It was clear that the author was not only intelligent but also had great vision, and he had endeavoured to set this out in loving detail.  Sadly it had the unfortunate effect of bringing the narrative too often to a crashing halt, both at key moments and indeed not so key moments.  Now of course detail is not a bad thing, and many of the truly great sci-fi authors recognised for the mastery of their art weave incredibly intricate and detailed worlds and set pieces, and the Rider is clearly modelled on such work.  However, for me, it just tried too hard, and suffered for it.

That being said, overall I did find the writing style and quality to be good.  There were occasional errors in the proof reading that started to irk after a while but I put that down to the early release character of the file.

The story was certainly an interesting one and the second act characters were well drawn. I think it was only when we turned our main focus to the character Ajax, which then did not waver for the rest of the story, that the book almost lost me – and we’re talking just by my fingertips here.

I’d give it two and a half stars as I did come away having enjoyed the idea of it, and of course others may disagree entirely with my views on the breadth and span of the book. Frankly I think it could be cut down by up to a third and still keep all of its deep, rich tone and grand ambition whilst making it far easier to read and enjoy.

On this occasion, whilst a very good effort, I think it was disappointingly a bridge too far, with the execution leading to the book almost suffocating under its own weight.

_2 1-2 stars




Ebook Review – Phoenix Earth, Season 1

Phoenix Earth, Season 1, by 7-11 Press


Phoenix EarthAfter the final cataclysm claimed Earth, and seeding failed on Mars, the surviving humans had only one choice—seek out a new planet or die. Eventually, the surviving humans discovered Malakar, a small planet millions of light years away. In time, the two races merged, creating a new breed called Maluan. However, racism soon spread throughout the planet and the human and Maluans faced total extinction by evil Malakarans known as Creks. In a politically charged move to sweep the planet clean of all non-purebloods, the descendants of the human race are forced off Malakar to relocate to a planet dubbed X67 by Malakaran authorities. What unfolds is a maniacal scheme to destroy the Maluans and humans before they reach their new home, forcing them to leap at the speed of thought to a dead planet no one has seen in more than five hundred years: Earth.

Phoenix Earth follows the lives of an eclectic group as they bond together to stay alive and begin anew as they discover new alien races and struggle to help Earth rise from the ashes”


I was invited to review Phoenix Earth, Season 1 by its authors/creators and I am grateful to them for the opportunity.

I was certainly intrigued at the outset by their proposed concept of an episodic approach to the story telling, akin to a season of sci-fi on TV.  They also have the strap line on their website that reading one of their tales is like watching a movie in terms of time commitment, so I was keen to test this all out.

At its heart Phoenix Earth, Season 1 was an engaging tale about struggle, rebirth and rediscovery, with all of the excitement of new frontiers, new technology and space battle against aliens.  So that was me happy.  That being said it lacked a certain sophistication and was a little too predictable in places.  It also dealt with certain things rather too conveniently and simplistically (for me at least).  At the risk of spoilers I’ll just mention: that syringe; the journey to Phoenix Earth; and then that underwhelming “it is done” moment.  Hopefully that’s jumbled and cryptic enough that you’ll get it all only once you’ve read it!

Now I am the first to accept some of my favourite sci-fi show episodes do similar things, in particular having everything in the balance as the clock ticks around to the last ten or five minutes of the episode, seemingly impossible to wrap up, and then?  Well suddenly it is, all is well and the heroes all end up laughing over a meal or drink at the end.  That’s all fine, and perhaps a symptom of the need to meet the philosophy of quick but exciting reads, but it did leave me a little bit ”what???” at the close of proceedings.  As this was a novel I think they could have dealt with things slightly better than they did.  Moreover, whilst I could see past these niggles because it was my kind of story, I anticipate some readers might not.

Other points that stuck with me: at the outset I did find the holocaust imagery a little too in my face, with express references too regular and a little clumsy.  However, it’s fair to say it wasn’t gratuitous and was clearly relevant to the story line, and it also didn’t last for too long, with the approach soon becoming more nuanced, which was, I think, a far more effective way to make the point;  I thought the structure of the initial chapters with flashbacks mixed in with ongoing action worked very well to maintain the momentum of the action whilst filling in back-story; and as to what happened when they got to Phoenix Earth, it was all very like the first few episodes of Stargate (Atlantis and SGU) – great stuff.

I found the characters almost universally likeable, but it was a shame there wasn’t much in the way of discord in the ranks which you could see might easily have been the case given the trauma suffered by the people crammed into the ships, and what you’d expect to be their innate self-preservation mechanism looking out for themselves and their families – that’s an episode all by itself.  There were of course the really bad guys, but these had a little too much boo hiss about them.  As for the key cast, there were a couple who were clearly meant to be stand out main players, but the whole ensemble tended to merge together a little too easily and some of the key characters were perhaps not as developed as they might be.  This is likely a product of the scale of the tale being told though, as there would be lots of people playing their part, but then I return to the episode format issue. Even with BSG and the overall arc it had to fulfil, time was taken to give characters their time to breathe and develop, and in some cases even to die (oh and come back, sort of…).

Now I may have misunderstood the episode format they were aiming for, but at its core this struck me as not being that much different from any other chaptered book, or indeed other tales I have seen serialised as now seems to be increasingly common place (something not entirely unwelcome and a look back to how it used to work of course - Dickens can’t have been wrong).  However, rather than what I expected to be a series of ‘episodes’ through which an arc or two ran, this was to my mind more of a complete tale with one chapter following on from the next in the traditional way. Now I should point out I make no criticism by pointing this out, as I found the story very entertaining, and but for the daily annoyance of work and of course the demands of two beautiful baby daughters I couldn’t put this down.  Now of course text is an entirely different beast than produced for TV dramas, and dare I say it by and large a little more sophisticated.  In fairness it was a very decent effort to produce something novel (ahem), but if we were to draw parallels with TV I could very easily see this as a decent two/three hour pilot for a show, with the episodes kicking in thereafter, rather than what I had initially assumed would be the format – but hey.

The bottom line is that I couldn’t really care less about the niggles and critical analysis as I had a great time reading it and it was beyond doubt a solid four stars for me – almost but not quite with an extra half.  I enjoyed very much spending time with what was left of humanity and their Maluan progeny and I’m definitely going to look up season two and see how things develop, and maybe even end – last time I looked it was being touted as a second and final season. A big thumbs up from me, go buy it and give it a chance.

_4 stars




Get it on Amazon now.



To serialise or not to serialise

So to serialise or not to serialise that is the question.  Whether it is a  truly new trend or just something I’m only now cottoning on to, it does seem that serialisation is becoming more commonplace in indie publishing.

Now the concept itself is nothing new.  It was a favourite of Dickens and Dumas to name but two, and it has been done numerous times since, with the writers only later binding up their bits to make the wholes we now all know so well.  Indeed the advent of portable, personal devices and time poor readers arguably makes it all the more an attractive format – short enjoyable parts of larger tales neatly encapsulated in bite-size chunks.  Plus, let’s be honest, it is a useful marketing tool, and it can also give breathing space for the author whilst maintaining profile. Financially it works too, often times the initial parts are offered for free, or at a really low price to hook the masses, but then subsequent parts are priced more traditionally.

Now I’ve seen complaints about this process.  Rip off some shout.  Too short others cry.  The naysayers take the view it is all a cynical ploy to extract cash. Now of course in some cases this will be true, but the kicker is that whatever the financial model the story is still king.  If a story grabs you and you want to see what happens next then that is just great story telling.  So-what if you then have to pay for the follow ups; what is the difference between a free first morsel of a serial and a free sample of a novel? Time and sweat has still been expended creating those words, and if people are willing to pay for follow up then that’s great.  Surely the best form of attack is not to make a lot of noise but rather simply not to buy.  If appropriate the approach will then wither of its own accord.

Bottom line is good stories are good stories. Even the oral tradition saw its espousers rewarded in some way. Perhaps with a warm place to sleep or good food – barter is barter. It works both ways, there is after all no such thing as a free lunch.

Now I take the point that mathematically you may end up paying a bit more for a serialisation overall as opposed to a single ebook of the same length, but authors are not daft and neither are readers – once complete we do see some binding up their collections and pricing them competitively. There is therefore a choice, and this retains the ability of others to dip into the series via the serial releases or to take a punt on the whole lot in one go.

Either way I see no reason to think serialisation in any form is at risk from the boo hiss brigade. They are now too long in the tooth for that.  Ironically the only ones that can do it harm are those of us who consider it as an appropriate release medium for our work. The cardinal rule is unchanged - as authors we need to ensure we always produce a quality product, something to make the people come back for more, otherwise we’ll just spoil it for everyone. But then this is not just a feature of serialisation, it’s a risk that runs through all indie publishing …

Ebook Review – Revolution

Revolution, by Paul Palmer-Nelson


Rev coverIn 1947 something not from our world crashed in a remote desert – in 2032 its legacy will threaten mankind’s very existence.

30 years from now a small organisation watches over Earth separately from the influence of nations.  Armed with technology hundreds of years more advanced than our own designation 115 picks his own ideology and decides mankind has had it’s day…”


I found Revolution on Smashwords a little while ago now, when I started trawling for interesting looking sci-fi books to read on my Kindle app.  I was intrigued by the potential for the story as it had the makings of a great human/alien mash up, and, yes I admit it, I was drawn in by a tantalising half-reference back to an old weather balloon from all those years ago

As it turned out it was not the most subtle or nuanced of stories but an in your face action tale with plenty of action, explosions and alien tech.  Being a not very subtle or nuanced character myself I must say I loved it.  There were lots of booms and the brother on brother aspect of the tale gave the story some character – albeit there was not much depth to it all and things did turn a little too TOS soft focus for me when the love interest came into play and the pace of the story suddenly and incongruously seemed to slam on its brakes a little too hard.

Whether or not it was intended, the story appears to draw massively on classic games from my youth – mainly the XCOM Enemy Unknown turn based work of genius (recently rebooted of course – twice) in that the team of soldiers in the tale draw heavily on alien tech, purloined by the shadowy organisation that runs them as agents, for everything from armour to weapons and transport – but there were also elements of the original Syndicate in there which saw us in charge of clone cyborgs walking the streets raising all kinds of havoc with the civilian population.  Both are firm favourites of mine so Revolution hit all the right buttons.

Praise done with, I can see that for all the same reasons I enjoyed it some readers might find the story a little too simplistic and without much, if any, depth.  The ending was also more than a little clichéd – but then so are most of the great action movies.  However, just like those movies whilst you might come away having enjoyed the explosions and seat of your pants action, as things subsequently start to replay in your mind hours and days later, you begin to pick them apart because of the incredulity of some sequences or the way the narrative too loosely hangs together, and in places may even break apart.  This is in no way a fatal flaw but one that may see some readers turned off if they’re more than just casual sci-fi readers, scratch too deeply beneath the surface of the tale, and/or don’t buy into the feasibility of humanity reverse engineering alien tech so completely and yet fail to iron out such a big flaw.  One other critique I should make is as to the nuts and bolts of the writing. Whether it was a lack of any editing, or simply a poor job having been done, the need to provide a polished product was not entirely appreciated here.  There were sadly numerous spelling mistakes, grammatical and formatting errors, all of which did detract a little from the reading.

Overall though I can say, without reservation that I thoroughly enjoyed the story and even with the irksome textual issues I would still give it a solid four stars.  As I said, not all may agree with me but then I think I am solidly in the demographic Nelson was targeting and I can forgive a lot if the story is as engaging as Revolution and its flaws don’t render it unreadable.  Check it out and let me know if you agree.

_4 stars




Get it on Amazon and Smashwords now.







Ebook Review – Portal to Adventure (John Smith World Jumper)

John Smith, by E. Patrick Dorris



“Waking from a traumatic brain injury in a field hospital during World War I, amnesiac “John Smith” quickly realizes he is not like other men. John can alter the way time flows around him and can even travel to parallel worlds, through portals seemingly activated by the power of his own mind.

Hurtled by accident through the first of these portals, John discovers an alternate Earth still trapped in an ice age and populated by mammoths and other strange creatures. Stranger still are the human cultures John finds, some primitive but some advanced in ways not seen in the 20th century Earth he left.

As John tries to come to grips with his abilities and situation, he is catapulted through a series of cliffhangers and pulp-like adventures. Complete with airships, plenty of peril, and a princess to rescue, Portal to Adventure is a fun romp of a tale that could have been written at the turn of the century.”


From the outset this was an interesting and intriguing novel, and this is how when I began reading it I thought I’d end up finally describing it. However, as the tale wore on, for me at least this held true and it did start to wear.

The style is very reminiscent of late 19th / early 20th century writing with a gentlemanly narrative throughout, punctuated occasionally with dialogue contemporaneous to whatever was going on at the time in the scene. This was no issue for me as I liked the tone it struck and I’m a big fan of narrative. Where I started to become weary though was the sheer scale of the detail and convolution in some of the inner dialogue and analysis of scenes. In addition, the almost constant asides made by the narrator too often jerked me out of the flow of the story. Too many times he alluded to some future happening, as he described something happening in the here and now, which unless further books deal with simply will never have happened and therefore don’t fit the narrative. I also was slightly disconcerted by the lack of any real direction and purpose in the narrator’s actions. Yes the narrator himself gave himself purpose apparently based on some deep set moral code, and perhaps knowledge not yet accessible because of his apparent amnesia, but on the surface at least there was no apparent design or structure. At least Sam Beckett had something specific to achieve each time before he leapt. Here John Smith simply decides he needs to go all out to save someone who decided to help him out, with no knowledge or understanding of the why’s and wherefores, with various different races of people running around who are subject to an unknown society structure ruled by an unknown race for an unknown purpose and ends. Some may of course say that this is the whole point, as John’s appearance in strange lands without any knowledge is how it would happen. Whilst I wouldn’t disagree with such logic, I think the execution was what spoilt it a little for me.

One other quibble I have is that I found the abilities John manifests a little too convenient. Clearly the author recognised this issue as in fairness he tries to expressly deal with it in the narrative, but to my mind this apparent self awareness by the character just flags the issue ever more clearly.

However, all of that being said rest assured that I took a lot of enjoyment from the concept of the book, and I was able to finish it without too much teeth gnashing towards the end. Although it is clearly meant to be part of a longer series, and ended on a cliff hanger of sorts, I’m not sure I’ll be so compelled to pick up volume 2 – which is a shame as I thought the concept had a lot of promise. A key difficulty I think for me is that even the Sliders had a point of reference in their own worlds to try and understand the new ones they journeyed to. In this book it is not clear if the worlds are parallel in time or not, and how or if they indeed are comparable to our own. It is also not clear what the apparent recurrence of one particular character is all about. Clearly these questions are meant to be the hooks to stay tuned but I’m not sure they’re enough given the disjointed feel I was left with at the end.

In summary then an interesting read, and certainly worth a try, but I’m not sure if I’ll be heading through the next portal with Mr Smith in a hurry.

I’d give this two and a half stars.

_2 1-2 stars




Get it on Amazon and Smashwords now.




Kindle All Stars offers Fan Fiction opportunity

Just a quick one to highlight the exciting opportunity for Fan fiction currently being offered by Kindle All Stars. See Bernard Schaffer’s blog for details but it looks like anyone with a penchant for any out of a vast myriad of sci fi and fantasy canon can get involved and submit their tale for consideration. I confess I’ve had a cross series Star Trek tale in me for some years now so it’s full steam ahead to see if I can get it down in time and get it submitted for critical review. Wish me luck !

Ebook Review – Memories with Maya

Memories with Maya, by Clyde Dsouza



Cutting through genres, Memories With Maya touches on today’s hard science focus: Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Transhumanism and Technological Singularity, and how these disciplines will affect Human emotions, relationships and our very evolution as a species.


Memories with Maya was a book I was invited to review by its author Clyde Dsouza, and I’m grateful to him for the opportunity.

It is an intriguing tale that at its core deals with the often tricky complexities of human relationships and loss. Overlaid is a neat story about two clever guys and their ideas for the next big thing in “augmented reality” – what some of us will remember as VR but what the world will more likely come to know as Google glass or some such like. Fortunately there is not a lawnmower man in sight.

I found the story to be a good one grounded in an interesting concept and not too long. However, for me, the shorter length was a slight draw back. I think the book might have benefited from letting the story breathe and grow little more. Whilst I left it with good thoughts I was also left wanting more, which is no doubt a plus for the author and his writing style. I think my issue was that I felt there was a level or dimension to the story that could have been made more of and I noticed it. That’s not to say the book as it stands is not good. As I hope is clear, I think it is, and I’d definitely recommend it. That being said it probably would have earned itself a 15 rating in old BBFC classifications given some of the ‘adult’ themes but again this was well done, not sleazy or titillating and in places tender and evocative of the relationship which was at the core of the tale

If I was to be hypercritical I think the two threads of the narrative didn’t quite mesh or sit as comfortably together as they might, and the key moment when things changed was a little out of the blue, with the aftermath too quickly dealt with. Nevertheless I think it worked, certainly well enough for the story to be very readable, compelling and enjoyable. What we end up with is a relatively traditional tale about a boy and a girl mixed up with an interesting take on where technology might be headed, and the many possibilities and ethical dilemmas it might bring.

I commend the story and give it a solid 3 and a half stars.

_3 1-2 stars




Get it on Amazon (Kindle and paperback) now.



Ebook Review – Vale of Stars

Vale of Stars, by Sean O’Brien


Vale of Stars
Jene Halfner awaits the end of a hundred-year-long, deep-space colonization journey begun by her ancestors generations before.  She has spent her life preparing for
planetfall on Epsilon Eridani III, taking care of the growing number of victims of interstellar radiation aboard Ship.  What
she will find upon arrival will change her perspective on life, and she and her
descendants will live to face the incredible challenges their new world holds.  

As generations pass, the women of the Halfner line uncover stunning secrets about their original mission, their new home on
Epsilon Eridani III, and the future of the human race.  Secrets that will challenge what they believe in, who they trust, and their perception of the ones the love.


I received Vale of Stars as an early reviewer on LibraryThing.

I thought it was an interesting and enjoyable novel which struck a nice balance between the intrigue of space travel, the adventure of new worlds, and the predictability of human nature – with a twist of genetics thrown in.

One thing that I wasn’t overly fond of was the way that the generation jumps that occurred, about four times in the narrative in all, took you away from the story just when you started to feel comfortable with the characters.  That being said, I did find this device to have been relatively well executed, with enough references to the earlier generation(s) to hold the thread together.  In all honesty I found Jene and Sirra far more likeable than Yallia (Kuarta’s character I felt was too shallow and quick a stop on the way for me to really invest), but that may have been a deliberate contrivance by the author and reflected the differing circumstances each found themselves in. Yallia was very much a figure representing change and transition, with her rage unsettling her and her time.  The others were at different ends of the spectrum of change and therefore easier to enjoy as characters.  The jumps were also a good way to advance the story to its ultimate conclusion.

Whilst not necessarily a novel tale at its most base level, it certainly had enough interesting elements built on this foundation which elevated it above a typical colonisation tale, and at times was thought provoking.  It might be said that the overall message, or perhaps warning, of the novel was sometimes a little heavy-handed, but nevertheless it never entirely subsumed the story so as to make it unreadable.  I found it to be a genuine page turner and was disappointed when it had ended. A sign of a good read.

Rounding up the critique, there is an awful lot in the story struggling for attention. Moreover there are one or two threads which seem a little out-of-place, and elements of the story and characters which were not so well sketched out and so did not sit so well with the rest. For example, the apparent socialist bent of the colonists was never truly explained or explored, and the evolution and ultimate purpose of the flight team was frankly as unexplained as it was baffling.

The very real feeling the story leaves you with is that it is desperate to mean something, but realises that it has to tell a story and so its message is constrained.  This apparent tension pervades the writing to some extent, but in no way spoils the story.

Overall I found any issues that I might have with the book in no way acted to the detriment of the reading pleasure or the enjoyment I got from the story.

Put simply I really enjoyed Vale of Stars and give it a solid four stars.

Get it on Amazon now.  Also available in paperback.



Ebook Review – Far From Home

Far From Home, by Tony Healey



Follow the adventures of Captain King and the crew of the Defiant, pulled through a black hole, far from everything they have ever known.

If you liked Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, and Star Wars then you will LOVE the Far From Home series, a 12-book epic adventure unlike anything you’ve ever read!”


The basic story of Far From Home is not complex and is in fact abundantly clear from its title.  A ship and crew somehow lost and far from where they should be.  OK, so far so ST:Voyager, the question is whether it works and whether it is readable.

From its description it appears that the plan is for 12 instalments, each building on and developing the story.  So far Part 1 is available as a free taster, Part 2 is a snip at 66p and Part 3 comes in at an increased £1.02 (prices correct as at date of posting).

I thought I’d review parts 1 and 2 together as this seemed the most logical, at least for me, as after reading Part 1 I was compelled to find out what next.  However, partly as it wasn’t available straight after I’d done with Part 2, I haven’t yet read Part 3.  Whilst I’m keen to read on I haven’t gotten around to it yet.  This then perhaps takes us some way to answering did it work – I think it does, but perhaps not flawlessly.

As to a more detailed consideration, from the outset I’ll declare I am slightly partisan as being a lifelong fan of the Star Trek universe I was attracted to the story, filling as it does a gap keenly felt since the end of the ST:Enterprise series.

Whether it was the author’s purpose, I know not, but the story is very derivative of the ST universe, even borrowing the name Defiant and drawing on other very Trek names and concepts.  As I mentioned, the whole far from home story line is very Voyager, even down to the Female captain.  However, without wishing to spoil, there is a definite spatial difference in their predicament.

As a story it certainly has a lot of potential.  It will be interesting to see which way it goes, and I can see the characters shaping up nicely with a good chance of interesting developments as they all try to pull together, or perhaps fall apart.  I must say though that I’m not sure where the flyboy introduced early on will fit in, and the revelation we were subjected to towards the end of the second volume jarred slightly – you’ll know what I mean when you get there – but in fairness if you’d had your wits about you as you read it did not entirely come out of the blue, unlike its delivery by the character concerned!

Whilst I, unreservedly, very much like the story it does run the risk of being too closely compared with the long established Trek universe.  Whether this will be unfavourably so I think will depend on the knowledge and fanaticism of the reader.  I can see some diehard ST fans becoming annoyed by the too oft similarities.  Whilst I’m not in that category I confess it did on occasion slightly irk.

That being said my honest view is that I greatly enjoyed the two parts so far and am quite sure that I will be hanging in there with King and her crew for as long as they’ll have me. Down with the Dominion (Draxx of course)!


4 stars

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Far From Home