Book Review Triple-Play – ‘Departure’ – ‘Kill By Numbers’ – ‘Illuminae’

Books Entertainment Reviews

My book stack is starting to get a bit tall again, so I’m glad to be able to pull out three science fiction standouts and offer them up for your consideration. Two of them have strange (but amazing) twists in their overall plot and the other offers up a ship facing three problems — a crazed AI, zombie-like infected crew members, and an enemy ship chasing it down with extreme prejudice. Take your pick — you can’t go wrong.

Departure by A.G. Riddle


I was having strange flashbacks to the LOST television show while reading Departure — both involves plane crashes in remote locations and characters who may or may not be involved in a conspiracy that begins to reveal itself as the survivors struggle to find food, shelter, and a way to communicate with the rest of the world.

I want to be very careful here because revealing the twist in the tale will simply give away too much. What I will share is that I got drawn in fast by two of the five primary characters — they’re likable and well-developed. The remaining three are just cryptic enough that it was fun wondering whether they might know more… or less… or nothing at all… about the current situation. Riddle delivers a believable situation here — how would plane crash survivors behave when their lives remain in danger even after the crash? What would constitute normal behavior versus shock? The first half of the book slowly but surely reveals some fun mysteries that only make you want to read one more chapter. And then another. I finished the book fast because I just couldn’t wait to see how things resolved and to learn the big mystery. Totally worth it, too… with plenty of second-guessing and shaking of my head when I realize I was totally off target on many aspects of the story.

I hate being vague with a review, so if you want just a little hint of the main story, take this little blurb from the inside book jacket and use it as you will: “As [the survivors] begin to piece together the truth, they discover they have the power to change the future and the past — to save our world… or end it.” How about that for a hook?!

Illuminae: The Illuminae Files_01 by Jamie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff


I received a review copy of this book in mid-summer and it immediately caught my eye — unusual formatting on the cover, redacted text, and unusual wording on the back copy blurb convinced me to sit down and give it a shot. I’m glad I did.

I’m fairly confident this book will get labeled as some sort of YA story, but don’t write it off yet. Told through a collection of emails, text messages, transcripts, and other… unusual… bits of storytelling, this story boy follows Ezra and his ex-girlfriend, Kady, as they are evacuated (on two different ships) from the planet Kerenza after it’s attacked by a corporate fleet looking for reasons that will be discovered later. Ezra is on the military ship, Alexander, and Kady is on the scientific vessel, Hypatia. These two ships, plus the freight, Copernicus, are on the run… making a break for a jump point where they can hopefully get word out about the horrific attack.

But running for safety is the least of the small fleet’s concerns. A strange sickness has popped up on one of the ships, and the Alexander’s AI, AIDAN, seems to be experiencing some severe technical glitches. As Kady and Ezra are conscripted and put to work, they begin to communicate back and forth… and start to discover some very disturbing events that could leave the fleet stranded and ultimately destroyed.

It’s a fun read. The mix of story-telling through classified documents, interviews, and even transcripts of the AI’s “thoughts” are presented as a sort-of “after the fact” collection of documents, video transcripts, emails, and more. It’s an interesting way to tell a story, and I’m sure this is going to be a popular book with a younger audience… although adult science fiction readers are sure to enjoy it as well.

Bonus: Be sure to check out the book’s website as it has videos and other fun stuff to watch and review (ship schematics, character bios, etc.).

Kill By Numbers by Loren Rhoads (out now)

Kill by Numbers

Blame it on Han Solo and Captain Malcolm Reynolds, scoundrels operating on the outskirts of civilization — I do like a good science fiction tale that revolves around questionable characters. That’s probably why I’m so crazy about Loren Rhoads ‘In the Wake of the Templars’ trilogy of books that began with The Dangerous Type and the former assassin Raena Zacari. There’s not an upstanding citizen to be found, but there are plenty of shades of gray in this tale of revenge that has Raena escaping from a twenty-year-long imprisonment (where she hasn’t aged physically) and being reunited with a colorful assortment of thieves, smugglers, and psychopaths. Book 1 ends with Raena joining a crew of misfits onboard a ship she has stolen… and still running from her past.

Kill by Numbers is the next book in the trilogy, and it picks right up with Raena and crew (she’s not the captain, though) as they discover they’re one of the few older ships left after a major technical bug is found in the drive systems of most current ships. The reporter who blew the lid on the glitch needs a safe ride off his current planet because, of course, plenty of folks want to kill the messenger. Add to this the fact that Raena is experiencing very strange flashbacks where events in her life are happening with slight (or major) changes in their outcomes. This story builds on some information from the first book, including a certain race’s technical accomplishments, and I didn’t see the twist at the end coming. Raena and her crew are quickly becoming some of my favorite scoundrels, and I cannot wait to see where this story goes in the conclusion, No More Heroes, out in early November 2015. Only a few short months to wait and see how this wraps up… and hoping Rhoads isn’t completely done with her misfit crew.

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