Sural Xiong

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Smashwords book reviews by Sural Xiong

  • Cripple-Mode: Hot Electric on Feb. 19, 2013

    Cripple Mode: Hot Electric is a sci-fi novel that brings in elements of action, thriller, the occult, astrology, religion, politics and cloning all in one neat, package. This account is well written and easy to follow despite the technical explanation of space travel and station life in the universe of Cripple Mode. J.L. Dobias has a great start at a first novel. The main character, Travis, is a twenty-three year old male, suddenly finding himself in the body of an sixteen-year old girl. Being in the wrong body is the least of her problems as she fights for her life against evil. Her situation seems bleak as the story unfolds. She's a clone and is the granddaughter of an accused mass murderer. It's difficult enough to get used to her gender swap without having to prove her worth. Through the knowledge she has from her former self she eventually earns her place on the space station. A large portion of the book involves some world building, because this is the first of a trilogy. So, with the mechanics and rules behind JumpSpace technology there's a bit of ground to cover. This is tied neatly with the reasons for Travis's apparent transformation. The book is an epic length. Filled with some interesting female characters. The world building reminds me a bit of Dune. It's all gathered in a well-written easy to read if somewhat long package that leaves you wanting to know what will happen in the next book. Sural
  • The Foretelling: Quest of the Auras on March 07, 2013

    The Foretelling:Quest of the Auras by Jessica Acosta Wow all this and free too. It's easy to see why this book is free... It's so darn good you have to buy the next one. No. Really. You have to. I loved this book! It started out with the characters on a nice simple normal camping trip in the Nevada desert near Las Vegas. Jamie, James, Brandon, Kyle and Tim are enjoying the clear night air. Jamie wakes up with an odd feeling maybe from a dream and starts to wander away from camp in the dark after having thought she saw something fly overhead. Her brother Brandon wakes and decides that he needs to go with her if she really needs to walk. They eventually stumble across a cave and fall in. (Yea I know, usually it's Timmy who falls in the well.) There they find a strange object and are attacked by something that slashes them badly. Rushed to the hospital; they eventually recover and then the strange things start happening. At first it looks like their going to be really sick but then they heal quickly and get sick again. This all takes a long time and almost drags on. Don't be tempted to quit even though you might have to wait till half through the book to find out what's going on- it's well worth it. At that point you get whisked into a secret world hidden from man where all the answers to the questions and the solution to the mystery are presented to Brandon and Jamie. Or are they? You'll have to read to find out. Best part is I think this book is still free. There are some few misspelled words- but I've caught more in traditional published works of major authors so I didn't let them slow me down. They were actually incorrect word usages possibly the result of auto-spellchecker guessing at what word should be there. That makes it more difficult to locate especially if someone has been staring at the same novel through many consecutive reads writes rewrites and edits. The number of characters I fell in love with in this story are too many to mention. The description of setting and the world that the author builds are tremendous especially for first novel efforts. I recommend this to everyone young and old - fantasy and science fiction lover- romance adventure-coming of age. There's something for everyone. You won't be able to put it down. And; yes. I'm going to buy that other book. Sural
  • Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms on March 22, 2013

    Lodestone Book One: Sea of Storms by Mark Whiteway This is a really good book with some outstanding characters and world building. There are some interesting though sometimes confusing elements about the Lodestones, which I'm no way going to try to be expert about. The important thing to this type of fiction is that the author try to maintain the rules he's built into his system-or at least have good reasons for any deviations. I think,without going into real in-depth analysis of the working of the lodestones, the author does a fair job of keeping things real. There is an prologue to story and it almost confused me. I at first thought the whole Kelanni religious order stuff might be based around Kal and had to read back to realize that it existed before. Then I wasn't sure if they had the lodestones before him or after the Keltar obtained theirs- I'm thinking maybe after and he may have played a role in that but later there is mention of a Kel Stones almost as a separate thing- by a character in the real story so I'm still a bit confused. That might get cleared up for me later in this series of books. The world of the Kelanni is one of a world with three suns- I don't remember any moons. The actual orbits and movements of the suns and the planet are still muddled in my mind and an orbital diagram might have been helpful. It's possible, since it seems that the large red sun never sets, that the Kelanni world is like the moon orbiting a sun instead of planet with only one side facing the big red sun, Ail-Mazzoth. There are two smaller sons that move around the sky and those are what confuse me the Ali-Gan yellow sun and Ali-Kar white sun. I don't understand how they orbit and what the relationship is to the Kelanni world and Ail-Mazzoth. My confusion asside: This seems to be a story about Shann who is a young girl living in a small village where the Kelanni religious orders Keltar are extracting tribute in the form of slave labor. Her parents were taken some time in the past and she lives with relatives and has dim view of the religious leader and the Keltars. I would guess that explains why she tries to help someone who seems to be attempting to save the tribute slaves from being taken by the prophet's Keltar's. Her attempts lead to her having to go on the run from the Keltar. We learn somewhere along the line that Kelanni have tails. It's sort of almost in passing and not much time is dwelt upon the subject. Later it becomes a major plot point so it might have been useful to have the tails mentioned- as in having some purpose to remind us of their existence before the plot point arrives. There are more major characters in the book with Keris a Keltar who initially assists in the pursuit of Shann. Alondo and Lyall are the rebels-Lyall is the one Shann helped. Then there is a large beetle like bug named Boxx; he's a Chandara and they live very long lives. At some point it's difficult to tell who's story this is but since it starts with Shann and ends with Shann I will call it her story. They all eventually get together and begin a convoluted escape from the prophet and his Keltar. As things unfold the escape route makes perfect sense as they work together in a mission to save all of the Kalanni from the Unan-Chinneroth, the one "without a tail". Pretty important that tail everyone takes for granted. On the other hand it could have been the one without a nose; so, even without many mentions about the tail this does work. The quest takes them to the other side of the planet- which may be freezing cold- or not- depending on those orbits of the other suns. This is a good fantasy and fair Science Fiction -I think it could use a bit more explanation in some of the science- a bit of romance with a strong female character. I recommend this to anyone except the few nitpickers who 'have' to know all the facts about how lodestones work (or shouldn't) and orbits of planets and suns. It's good for a couple nights entertainment and a good prelude to: THE REST OF THE STORY- there is a volume containing books 1-3 available. Sural
  • Sholpan on April 04, 2013

    Sholpan by Joe Vasicek I never know what to expect with novellas. I certainly didn't know what to expect from this one. But it was free so it was worth a try. I had hopes at least that it wasn't going to digress into erotica, which it could based on the small blurb that was there. One issue with novellas is that they have more wiggle room than short stories and less development room than novels. At least with short stories you forgive the lack of room to develop characters and you can move on to the next short story because generally short stories come in groups- except now with e-books that's not so much a rule. Stella is quite an interesting character. She has a potential to be strong but she's young and in some ways naive though mostly sometimes just annoyingly softened by way of her upbringing. She's intelligent and she's been apprenticing on a ship as an astrogator so she is going through the motions, but her heart doesn't seem to be fully into the direction she's following. In some ways it seems she might be interested in being a housewife, her father has encouraged her to do more just as a fall back. It's on a break from her apprenticeship when she and her brother Ben are on their way to the surface of Kardunash IV where she intends on meeting her boyfriend Lars. We learn that her family owns a merchant-ship the LLEWELLYN and she was born in space-on a space station. This is all important for later. The Hamaji battle fleet show up and her entire life is thrown into chaos. She's captured and doesn't know where her brother Ben has ended up at and she's been pressed int servitude as a major Hamaji general's concubine. Hence the worry that this could go all erotica on us. It thankfully doesn't. Another important thing is that Stella has made sure that she is versed in many of the languages including the one primarily used by the Hamaji. As things evolve so does Stella and when put to the test we see that her beliefs and convictions are more than just following what her father thinks she should do. Stella proves to be a person of strong character and we can't help but be left with the notion that whatever she decides to do it will always be what she thinks is right. Overall in the limited space allowed Joe does a great job of introducing us to his universe and his characters and even keeping it entertaining for all. I recommend this for a quick read for anyone who likes Science Fiction and adventure- if you're looking for erotica you'll be disappointed. Sural
  • Gabriel: Zero Point on April 10, 2013

    abriel:Zero Point (Evan Gabriel Trilogy) by Steve Umstead Sometimes the problem with a short intro story to a trilogy; is that it’s difficult to fully capture the nuances of the character that shows up in the real story. Having not read the rest of the story I can’t make a judgement. I love Trevanian and especially his Shibumi and I love Ludlum and his Jason Borne series. But these are not really the type of book I particularly go out of my way to pick up. The reason I mention them is that the story of Evan Gabriel- in this short brought them to mind. We have the focused killer who has a little bit of heart somewhere buried under his hard core. The trick for them is to not let on to too many people or it might compromise your effectiveness. This story takes Evan from not so humble beginnings - at the top of his class at the academy- to his ultimate final evolution to the super soldier. There’s an element in this story that I found predictable- maybe not everyone will. I can’t say because it’s a spoiler. Anyway the story seems to revolve just on the edge of trying to explain Evan’s motivation for being where he is in this military program- while at the same time making it clear that he’s more hijacked into it than anything. The disturbing part is that his superior is painted as a rather ruthless individual who will do anything at all costs to ensure the security of the federation. We really don’t get a chance to see much of how good or evil that thought may be though we see a bit of life in Evan as he struggles with the whole concept. I’ll assume that in the later stories that we see where Even’s heart lies in this matter. I’m not at all sure about Biermann. Anyone who loves those thriller suspense novels with the spies and agents of exceptional ability should love these stories. It will be interesting to see how Evan makes it through all this and if he can retain his humanity. Sural
  • Star Wanderers: Outworlder (Part I) on April 10, 2013

    Star Wanderers Part 1: Outworlder by Joe Vasicek One thing about building worlds in science fiction is that there is really no wrong way to build. It’s mostly a matter of building a believable system with some consistency that adheres to its own rules. I have read Sholpan -by Joe Vasicek- which had an interesting take on prisoners being pressed into slavery and sexual submission- I was impressed by it and decided to give Outworlder a try. Its a short read and well worth the try. The Outworlder story is short and sweet. It seems a bit disjointed in that we jump into the story and rely on flashbacks to bring us up to speed. I’ll try to decipher. Some catastrophe may have taken the home-world Earth and now there are settlements far and wide that have been looking for the new Eden which will match the patches of earth they have brought with them as their model. We start with Jeremiah on the Station Megiddo- though really Jeremiah has started from Edenia; raised by his parent to the age of 18 upon which time they have given him the old star-ship Ariandne. It seems Ariandne is some sort of family heirloom given to him so that he may leave Edenia and spread his seed elsewhere. The society of this future relies on the notion of sending the men away from home never to return so that there is a strong cross sampling of genetic material through the vast new plane of existence. In a nut shell Jeremiah is expected to find himself a wife and a new home. The problem is that he’s not really all that enthusiastic about it and even his sister, Sarah, is having a hard time letting him go. His parents are more like the mother bird, all too willing to thrust the chicks out of the nest and watch them flounder and fly. This is how Jeremiah makes his way to Megiddo- despite warning that something is wrong in that sector and ships have not been returning- Jeremiah is looking to make some trades. To do this he’s been told he needs to dock and meet with the Station Master. With some trepidation he does so. The reader is quick to discover that there are language troubles when traveling afar, but Station Master Korha knows just enough Outworld creole to get Jeremiah into trouble. There seem to be some problems on the station, which are indicated as potential danger to Jeremiah. If we believe Korha, then it is these problems that have precipitated his urgency in trying to dump his entire household of five daughters into Jeremiah’s hands. Jeremiah senses some sincerity in the girls being in danger and he hesitates too long. We’re about to learn that Ariandne is not a large vessel and as a bachelor Jeremiah has been content to keep his living quarters quite cramped. I’m not sure whether that’s a blessing here, but it does limit his choices and he ends up with what he feels is the eldest of the group. Of course with great sense of danger and threat he has to quickly retreat to his ship and cast off from the station before he can have second thoughts about what he just did. Unsure if he’s been hastily married, yet at the same time sure that shouldn’t be the case- there are some complicated implications in the social structure of things that might bite him later if it’s so. Jeremiah tries to convince himself that he’ll find a good place to drop her off where she can make a life for herself. Mostly figuring he’s unworthy because he once promised his sister he’d never leave knowing full well he would have to go.(He figures he’s just a bad person.) If I could tell him, I’d let him know that being in close quarters with a lovely single woman and trying to keep your distance is a losing proposition. Compound that with the language barrier. Apparently Noemi does not know any Outworld creole. This creates a tense situation and clearly keeps Jeremiah clueless about what he’s in for. I at first felt sorry for Noemi- in many ways because Jeremiah is clueless and conflicted. But, it seems that Noemi might be a bit smarter than average. My understanding is that there might be an installment in the series of stories that takes this from her point of view. I’m definitely going to look into the other stories to this series. Interesting almost social side step story that should engage anyone who like science fiction and social commentaries. Sural