27 April 2019
Starship Blackbeard - Starship Blackbeard#1 – This is a brilliant series, the author has basically taken the entire concept of the old Colonial sailing days on the high seas, and the Royal Navy protecting the Colonies for the King from Pirates etc, and put it in space.
Captain James Drake of the Starship Ajax, has been wrongly accused of crimes, and as a result, lost his command, his ship, his commission, and is off to a penal colony to do hard labour. His loyal crew, however, has other ideas and mutinies to rescue him.
What follows is what can only be described as, a swashbuckling tale of high adventure of the very best sort.
This story seriously has everything you could want. Not only are there exceptionally good Characters, the Captain is brilliant, Drake is of Noble birth (as all good Captain's should be!), and has a very fine crew. However, due to the circumstances he finds himself in, he soon has to engage, and even hire Pirates as part of his crew, just to survive.
This leads to some rather amusing exchanges between the crew.
The ships, although they are starships, have ‘cannons’ and other equivalent gun emplacements similar to that found on the old sea faring vessels. This makes for some brilliant combat sequences as the ships launch into each other like the days of old. The only thing missing are the sails!
The story is not just about the Captain and the ships mutiny however. The larger story is about a race called the Hroom, a race that have been enslaved as they are addicted to white sugar, in its pure form. Once a Hroom eats it, they become addicted for life, and are hence known as 'eaters'.
The Captains Pilot and Navigator, a Hroom called Nyb Pym, has become an eater, and must be rescued, as the Captain believes as a part of the treachery that was played on him, caused the fall of his friend.
Starship Blackbeard is a fantastic first book to the series, setting up the story, the background, and all the characters. For those that remember back that far, the characters really remind me of the old Errol Flynn style of movies, where the Captain is a man of honour and noble breeding, and the villains are all corrupt, evil and have no honour at all, the word ‘Dastardly’ just fits perfectly. The Heroes and Heroines are swashbuckling heroes in the truest sense, full of courage and self-sacrificing to the core. There is even the friend who is with the Villain, but he is of noble breeding as well.
This is the start of what is going to be a truly brilliant series, and if you are a Sci-Fi fan, love a good read with outstanding characters, a bit of humour, some awesome technology and combat, and an exceptional storyline, then get into this.
Lords of Space - Starship Blackbeard#2 – In the 2nd evolution of this series, Captain Drake and Commander Tolvern are still on the run.
However they are making their way to Admiral Malthorne’s estate to gather evidence to try and gain a pardon for Drake and his crew. Having defeated the Pirate Vargus, they now encounter his Daughter, Catarina.
What starts out as a plan to free Drake and his crew soon turns into a mission to gain an item that could free the Hroom of their addiction to the sugar forever, but as Drake risks his life to get this, he realises that it may be very costly indeed, for if the Hroom are freed of their addiction, they may come after those that caused the addiction in the first place. And the Hroom outnumber Humanity immensely.
This series is exceptionally brilliant. Not only does it have the allure of starships fitted out like old fashioned naval ships, with cannons etc, but those that command the ships are also just like the aristocratic elite that once commanded the high seas also. Only those of the highest breeding are allowed to follow the path of command, and thus Drake (and his friend Rutherford), are of Noble birth.
Add to this that there are Pirate ships, full with Pirates that would sell their grandmother for a bit more loot and the chance at some booze. The combat scenes are beautifully detailed, with ships of war exchanging weapons like the battles of old, before they latch onto each other with harpoons and board one another with armed boarding parties.
It is just like a swashbuckling navy/pirate adventure, but in Space!!
Add to this the incredible political and strategic conflict that is also occurring that is going to destabilise the entire sector, and destroy entire systems, possibly all of humanity if the Hroom have their way.
In amongst all of this, there are the personal stories of the actual characters as well, Drake, Tolvern, Capp and Carvalho, who were added in as Pirate crew when the Ajax first mutinied and needed help, and became the ‘Blackbeard’. There is also the story of the other Pirates, such as the Vargus clan, and the relationship forming between the Captain and Catarina, much to Tolvern’s horror.
If you love your Mil Sci-fi, or just any Sci-Fi, then this is definitely for you, this is a must read for anyone who likes the genre, loves a good read with brilliant characters and a swashbuckling storyline!
Dreadnaught - Starship Blackbeard#3 – Blackbeard and her crew have the cure for the sugar eaters, but they are now enemy number one. Malthorne has started all out war with the Hroom Empire, so that he can set in motion events to gain more power for himself.
Drakes former best friend Rutherford has been sent to capture or kill Drake and end his Rebellion, but as he is chasing down Drake, he is attacked by a strange ship of unknown origin. In desperate need of help, he calls for aid, and Drake answers this call, and together, they defeat this threat. They discover that this threat is known as ‘The Apex’, and that they have been ravaging the Hroom Empire for some time.
It now appears that the galaxy is in turmoil, with humanity at odds between Drake and Malthorne, and now learning of the Hroom and the Apex.
In the meantime, Drake meets with a General of the Hroom and gives him the cure for the sugar addiction that is destroying the Hroom, unknown if he will use it.
All of this uncovers an another enemy, a Hroom Death Cult, set on destroying Albion at any cost, even at the loss of their own ships and lives. They have a fleet, and multiple heavy weapons and are aimed straight at Albion to destroy humanity once and for all.
This leads to a thrilling series of events, Dreadnought is just a fantastic read. The continued portrayal of everything in the old style as very ‘Formal’ British Officers of the Royal Navy with all the cannons and weaponry, as well as the Elite nature of the aristocracy. It makes for a really fascinating and fun read, the dialogue between Drake and the Pirates is very humorous. Malthorne makes a great baddy in his complete drive to just destroy Drake, and cause what appears to be war.
Whilst this is a fantastic book, my only complaint would be that it does lack a little depth with some of the back story for some of the characters. The actual characters are really good, but we know little about their actual back stories, such as why Malthorne has it in so desperately for Drake, the relationship between Rutherford and Drake is not really explained that well. They are long time friends, but Rutherford is at different times trying to kill Drake, plotting to help him, secretly working with him, at other times working with Malthorne’s fleet, but as a double agent for Drake, but none of it is ever really explained.
We know that Drake has a family, but we never learn anything about them, even though they seem to be such a driving motivation for a lot of his actions. The same goes for Nyb Pim, Drakes pilot, he has a background with Drake, but we have no idea why? And the Hroom overall – there has been this long standing history and war, but there is very little detail about this either.
Again, these are fairly minor points, it depends on how much depth you want to go into, because at the end of the day, the actual story itself is wonderfully well written, the battles are exceptionally well described, and this is what all good books should be – a lot of fun.
This is well worth the read – it just keeps getting better and better as more of the story unfolds around the Hroom, and the Apex.
Rebellion of the Stars - Starship Blackbeard#4 – This is the story in which the Drake and his crew must face off against Malthorne, who has now seized complete control of Albion, anyone who doesn’t stand with him is either labelled a traitor and jailed, or is executed.
With most of the fleet, and the fearsome Dreadnought, Malthorne is not just an idol threat, and with his ragtag fleet of pirates and misfits, Drake could be well out of his league this time around.
Rebellion was a fascinating read, although there were the standard ship battles, there was a lot of other types of combat, as Drake sets about destroying Malthorne’s other interest’s to try and weaken him, as well as use a lot of strategic and tactical manoeuvres, making for some really interesting sub-plots.
This is a book about the Rebellion as such, about bringing down Malthorne, and without the sheer firepower to do so straight up, Drake has to do it with strategy and cunning. As such, there are a lot of interesting little battles, ground battles reminiscent of the Rebel Alliance tactics in Star Wars type battles. Drake is also trying to get the cure to the Hroom, those that are willing to take it.
In the middle of all of this, there is the threat of the Apex looming, and Drake has realised that if Humanity is divided as it currently is, they will be devoured by this new threat. Worse, if they do not help the Hroom, the Hroom could well be destroyed, making the Apex even more powerful.
There is a lot of political and fascinating reading in this story, however, some things were still lacking a bit.
Again, there was not a lot about the Hroom Empire, their past, just any real background to sort of flesh them out a bit, which would have been nice. After 4 books, Tolvern and Drake are still making silly eyes at each other and acting like love sick teenagers, but nothing ever happens, and it is getting a bit annoying now as far as character development goes, and what happened to Vargas and her brave new world? She has just disappeared! This has been one of the only minor downfalls of this story series, the character development has not been wonderful, and the story would have been even better if there had been some decent character growth along the way.
Having said that, there is a good amount of story development with the actual arc, just not those involved. The space battles, and the fighting on the ground has been exceptional and is beautifully described, immersing you into the story.
Overall – this has been a great read, just a few minor hiccups.
Sentinel - Sentinel Trilogy#1 – The second trilogy in the series starts off on a space station with a crew discussing the Apex. They are in complete hiding, and have been hiding for some time. The crew stations crew have split into factions during this time. Those that want to remain hidden, and those that want to try and contact the outside world. Of course their mission is to hide and protect the area unless they find Apex, and then destroy them, as they are protecting this particular quadrant of space.
You wonder if you have the right book for a while as there is no mention of our heroic crew or the Blackbeard or anything else for some time, until eventually, Jess Tolvern and Blackbeard are back, of course heavily damaged and on the run from Apex, because when is Jess not in a heavily damaged ship.
This series is set some time after the events of the first series, the Hroom Empire is still trying to pull itself together from sugar addiction, even though they have the cure, not everyone wants it. They also have Apex running through their territory destroying them at every opportunity. Humanity has come together under a new King, with Drake as the military leader aboard Dreadnaught, and as mentioned, Jess is Captain of the Blackbeard, with Capp, Carvolo, Nyb Pym and the rest of the main characters.
Whilst there is a sort of peace between the Hroom and the Humans, the threat now is Apex, this predatory Bird like species that hunts its prey and then kills them in very gruesome and graphic ways, generally whilst they are still living. If you are a bit squeamish, there are parts of this book that you are not going to want to read.
This was a real step up for Wallace, the next evolution in the series, in which we went from simple human vs human vs Hroom battles and nothing to grisly about it, to now Apex who like to ritualistically capture, cut up and eat their captives (the higher ranked the better as more power is obtained (they believe).
Wallace has created this rather incredible species with a deeply involved background. The only disappointing thing is that we end up learning a lot more about Apex than we do about the Hroom, even after 5 books, we still have not really learnt a huge amount them, their culture etc. It would have been interesting to have this developed a little more.
The story focusses a lot on the new Sentinel Station crew, and as stated earlier, the various factions that have developed during their extended isolation, and the resultant power plays that are occurring as a result. The discussion of the Sentinel crew and their original mission is rather interesting as it provides some rather interesting background into what happened when humanity originally left Earth.
The Second trilogy has moved more away from Pirates, and regaining respect and lost careers, and has moved towards bloodthirsty Avian’s that are hell bent on conquering the galaxy at any cost, you will certainly have a much healthier respect for larger birds after reading this series!.
This is a great first book in the next Trilogy following on from the Blackbeard series.
Dragon Quadrant - Sentinel Trilogy#2 – This is the next continuation in the series as Drake and his forces continue their battle against the Apex.
The Apex are this bird like species, and trust me, after you read some of the stuff that they do to people, you will never look at birds the same way again. They are a truly evil race. The Apex are ‘Apex Predators’, who take particular pleasure in not just hunting their prey, but then capturing their prey so that they eat them in the most gruesome way possible, piece by slow little piece. This is probably a good time to warn some people that this book is not for those who are a bit squeamish.
However, there are several things that do happen within this book. The war with the Apex begins to heat up, it is like a complex chess game, with Tolvern and the Blackbeard being like a Knight, and the Hroom are a combination of Pawns and Rooks/Castles depending on which ships they are. Although Drake is obviously the Queen for the Albion forces, with the power of Dreadnaught, he is not around to help, still coming (or so Tolvern hopes). Added to this, the Albion side have almost a 2nd Queen in the Sentinel station, like a converted Pawn. With the secret weapon within its hull, the Apex have no idea what might hit them.
However, as the chess pieces move about, it is like they are being controlled by 3 or 4 separate players who haven’t played the game before.
On the other side, the Apex know exactly what they are doing, and move to take both the Station, the Hroom fleets, and Blackbeard.
Dragon Quadrant is a book that is full of dramatic little battles, and the moving of all the pieces into place for the final showdown in the final book. However, whilst it does mean that you have to read the 3rd book for the obvious conclusion, this book provides some good insight into the Hroom (finally), the fate of the Singaporean Empire, how they split from the original empire all that time ago and what became of them, and even more fascinating, it gives a very good insight into the hierarchy and structure, even some of the culture of the Apex.
Wallace has done an incredible job of bringing to life this alien race that is a violent, predatorial species with that seeks to be the greatest apex predator in the galaxy, and has set about not just conquering any other species they have met, but annihilating them, devouring the bodies of their victims, and salvaging what the fleet needs to move on to its next conquest. They have multiple ship classes for just this use, from smaller craft, right up to enormous ‘harvester’ class vessels that are used to scour every living being off the planet.
This is a really good book, a brutal look at how hard war is, the true struggle that each of the crew has to face to survive against an unforgiving and relentless enemy that will stop at nothing.
The character work is very clever again, especially that about those that have worked on the Sentinel station for too long, have become set in their ways, as people would.
It is incredibly realistic, making this a very good read, adding a level of depth to it.
This was a brilliant sequel not just to this series, but to the overall series, and is a must read. It sets up the final for Shattered Sun beautifully, making this an outstanding set of books.
Shattered Sun - Sentinel Trilogy#3 – So after all the battles and engagements, the liaisons with the Singaporeans, and the treaties with the Hroom, this has all lead to this final book. The Hroom have come to support Tolvern, but she is left hanging at her moment of need by McGovern, and decides that the need of Sentinel 3 is too great, taking the Hroom and Blackbeard to assist them. Unbeknownst to her, there are games afoot in the Hroom fleet, and Mose Drys is no longer in command of his fleet. Further to this, Admiral Drake and Dreadnaught are a long way off before they can support them.
What follows are several chapters of incredible story telling as Humans, both Albion and Singaporean and Hroom, fight for their very existence against the unrelenting and devastating forces of the Apex. The Apex are there only to destroy, to collect bodies for their sacrifices and to feed upon, the more and the higher ranked the better.
This is a book of grim determination, against horrifying odds, knowing that to lose, is to not just potentially have your ship destroyed, to die, but to possibly be slowly eviscerated and eaten, and watch those you care and love also be eaten as you watch. The Apex are unforgiving, don’t surrender, don’t stop, and seem to have more ships than should be possible.
However, as Wallace builds this story to its climatic end, he plays on the one thing that Apex does not have, the resolve to survive that is buried deep within each of the Humans and Hroom alike. The courage to face up to this enemy together against insurmountable odds. Wallace does an exceptional job of building this story, not just from this book, but from the previous two books as well.
We also get the fun of seeing a Star Leviathan unleashed in this book (sorry minor spoiler, but I won’t say anymore), and it was incredible the descriptions of this amazing star creature in all its glory. Wallace had previously described the creature, but we had not seen one in full swing until now.
As with the other stories, he has continued to grow the characters (maybe not as much as some other Sci-Fi Space Operas), allowing us to engage and become attached to each of the main characters.
There are still several unanswered questions however, so I do expect that we will see another series (a certain Pirate Captain has still not turned up, nor has her secret system, and there are other things not finalised)
Overall, this is a great end to this trilogy, with some spectacular and outstanding starship combat, as well as some closure to some aspects of the story. This is exactly what this type of book is meant to be about, swashbuckling fun, with a bit of seriousness, good characters, and some stunning combat, both in space and hand-to-hand.