Alex James is a freelance editor, proofreader, author and book reviewer who has a passion for science-fiction and fantasy!
His writing focuses on the themes of alienation and empowerment and is inspired by his experience with Asperger Syndrome. Other sources of inspiration include Star Wars, R Scott Bakker, Isaac Asimov, and his interest in politics.
Where to find Alex James online
Where to buy in print
Marcellus: The Mantle
by Alex James
The ultimate legendary hero and galactic warrior, Marcellus bears the Mantle; a cloak that endows him with immense foresight and strength. He commands the Marcellans; masterful soldiers that fight for justice. Sworn enemies of the Marcellans have now vanished. However, they have planted a saboteur in the depths of the warship. At this critical point, the powers of the Mantle begin to fade...
Roc Isle: Tempest
by Alex James
Lord Azure commands the Northern Army in a war against the Trade Lords, who are a class of evil conspirators. He expects victory for he is aided by veterans of war and Ankah, a battle strategist and master swordsman. However, his leadership is failing because of his son’s insolence. When Lord Azure learns his son has been manipulated by an unknown Dark Sorcerer he strengthens his resolve to fight.
Roc Isle: The Descent
by Alex James
In the North, Lord Azure of the Azure-Cloud Clan vows revenge on those responsible for ordering the assassination of his parents. Lord Azure will invade the South in reprisal, and to rid the land of the infidel. In the South, Ankah is a Knight Prentice. Frustrated that he is yet to be ordained, he wonders what his destiny is and why it is he wants to fight. This is The Descent!
The Antpod Faction
by Alex James
Alex James’ debut novel is a science-fiction spy story inspired by his experience with Asperger Syndrome. His character, Mase, embodies social differences and represents a force for change because of her unique blend of talents and weaknesses.
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Smashwords book reviews by Alex James
- The Phoenix Conspiracy
on July 01, 2013
The Phoenix Conspiracy by Richard L Sanders - 5/5 stars
I’ll get straight to the point here: fantastic, epic, galactic space-opera!
The first chapters pulled me in immediately. The story had an interesting premise. Intel Wing, the Empire’s investigation division, is assigned to look into a very unusual case. A decorated imperial military captain, Asari Raidan, has uncharacteristically destroyed several Rotham ships. Why would Raidan risk his position and his impeccable record just to destroy what appears to be several innocent Rotham Ships? Calvin Cross of Intel Wing is tasked to discover why.
The conspiracy angle was very unique. The reader sees the conspiracy (this shouldn’t be a spoiler since it is in the title!) through the perspective of Calvin Cross and his laid-back crew. This enabled us to learn a lot about Calvin and his crewmates. When Summers Presley, a beautiful by-the-book commander, formerly under Asari Raidan’s command, is sent to help Calvin Cross, on-ship tensions threaten to breaking point. Calvin Cross and his loyal investigative crew’s ideals clash with those of Summers Presley because she is a fleet officer of the empire and she is used to doing what she is told.
About a third of the way through the book the story became even more interesting. Characters are introduced, and more information is given to the reader to digest regarding strange galactic events. The book never ceased to amaze me. My eyes were glued to it from page 1 to the end. I don’t think there was one single moment where I drifted. The characters were believable and the plot was riveting and moved forward at a fast-pace.
I have seen a few reviews citing this book as being similar to Star Trek, but I failed to see much similarity. Yes the main characters are on a ship and there is a commander trying to solve problems … hmm. The Mass Effect video-game series was where I thought similarity existed: events of galactic importance hitting the main characters again and again, and added with a sweet mixture of unusual and very interesting characters.
I am very tempted to buy his next book and read it. It was one of the best sci-fi books I have read. If you like sci-fi/military/space-opera/thriller books that are un-put-down-able then read this book!
- Legends of Origin 1 - Sanctuary for the Devil
on July 18, 2013
Legends of Origin: Sanctuary for the Devil by Vanessa Finaughty - 5/5 stars
How did I find this book: I was looking for science-fiction (my favourite genre) but I didn’t want the usual space-opera/military science-fiction this time. I was looking for something a little different. It turned out what I wanted was a science-fiction adventure. It ended up being that this book wasn’t very science-fiction, but what attracted me was the speculative nature of the book: the origin of the human race.
How did it start? Upon picking up this book I was immediately transported into a vast surreal world. I loved every moment of it. The snow falling down on the main character painted a very picturesque scene. I hoped the rest of the book would be this illustrated and would have background settings as unique and original.
0% - 80% Putting this book down never crossed my mind. The main characters were described very well. We learnt much about them: Liam, the defiant and insecure, but brave and determined person on a new planet, tasked with finding the Garden of Origin, where all humans were thought to have originated from. Chased by evil forces, he stumbles towards a monastery, where he meets Arthean. Arthean is incorruptible and protective, but also downright nosy and curious. The clash between these characters, and the ensuing adventure brought into being by external forces, is a joy to read.
The visual environments were well described. The character interaction pushed the story forward mainly, but it was done very tidily. There were no gaping holes or unusual happenstances in this story. The author has strong control over her characters and their limitations. Definitely the most consistent story I have read so far. Up to 30% through the story I was totally engaged. Around 50% it becomes interesting; there is more at stake than the reader at first is led to believe. At 80% I was awaiting the truth; what is the Garden of Origin?
Overall The most consistent and high quality book I have ever read by an indie author. I have read great books by indie authors where I have considered reading their second to a series. But this author made me wonder what other types of books she writes. The conclusion had slightly less impact than I had hoped. I felt some of the major events were explained away at the end rather than explained. The second book will likely answer most of the lingering questions. I’m not a huge fan of religious books; I picked this one up for its speculative nature; but this was a very engaging and enjoyable read. I recommend for fantasy adventure lovers everywhere. The unique angle is the origins of humanity, and the powerful bonds between the characters. This book is sublime. I would definitely consider looking into her other works.
- Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I
on Aug. 31, 2013
Union of Renegades by Tracy Falbe - 5/5 stars
This story is a beast - 180,000 words of pure epic fantasy. I read all of it. It took me a month. Every word was worth it!
The story starts off with an interesting premise; that of warrior-general Dreibrand, of the conquering Atrophane army. He yearns to explore the Wilderness, an exotic and unknown land to the West. But he is of a family cast into disrepute, and has to work hard to win the favour of Hordemaster Kwan, his superior.
The other main character was Miranda. I found her story strangely and unexpectedly compelling; beaten and oppressed by her petty, but physically intimidating, partner who is intent on using her to put coins in his pocket.
The beginning of the story certainly piqued my interest, and had enough elements to prod my curiosity. The next 80% is a fantastic build-up of events, where we see new characters and places interwoven with a mysterious race called the rys, blue magical beings.
After having been unable to stop reading this well-crafted and weaved story with multiple character viewpoints, I was really looking forward to some action. The build-up was great and certainly intriguing, but I wanted to be rewarded. And alas, I was. The last 10% was a fulfilling reward to a well-rounded story, and gives the reader satisfaction that they have read a great book. But unfortunately the reader feels they must read the next book to learn more about the characters, which made this technique a double-edged sword.
There were a few spelling and grammatical mistakes in this book, which intensified just before the middle, I think, but they did ease up for the second half of the story.
Overall this story is a pleasant world to be immersed in, and a thoroughly enjoyable read. The paperback set on the author’s website looks very tempting.
- The Phoenix Rising
on Nov. 01, 2013
The Phoenix Rising by Richard L Sanders - 5/5 stars
I needed to attempt the sequel after having read the first book. The writing style had the similar pace and excitement I have come to rely on.
This story answers some of the unanswered questions posed in the first book, but adds many more questions. I think I would have preferred the author to have answered all the pertinent questions related to this story in this book, rather than wait until the third book. However, these are sci-fi mystery novels, and the mystery did keep me hanging on, despite the lack of answers.
As for other criticism I did find it uncanny how the characters seemed to guess accurately what their adversaries were thinking, which made the action slightly less believable.
Overall this story is an intriguing, suspense-filled mystery that continues the story of Calvin Cross, Commander of a rogue Intel Wing craft called the Nighthawk. I think the military action scenes, the realistic portrayal of the characters and the intriguing scenarios they meet with are the most entertaining and aspects of this novel. Oh, and the fact that I can’t stop reading this series!
- Symbol of the Order
on March 08, 2014
Symbol of the Order by LD Dailey - 4/5 stars
This story was only 3,990 words long so the review will be short. This was certainly an interesting and mildly exciting very short story. I was intrigued by the main character, who seemed to a master of disguise and a spy. We see saracens and crusaders, and there is a bit of symbolism at the end, hinting that some characters weren’t as they appeared to be. It was also useful to learn of the viewpoint of the spy. I give this four stars because I still felt I wanted more than the story offered, and the sentences didn’t flow as well because of grammar and punctuation, at first. Despite this, the story was simple and easy-to-understand, intriguing, and I really liked the imagery I got from it.
- The Crusader
on March 19, 2014
The Crusader by JP Wilder - 5 out of 5 stars
I actually downloaded the entirety of this book believing it to be the sample. I read the ‘sample’, enjoyed it, and was going to buy the book before I realised I already had read it all.
The story is 11,000 words, and I was very impressed. It read like a fantasy of the crusades. I particularly liked the heathen sorcery and Dark Men (assassins) aspects of this short story. I found it to be a twist that the Dark Men fought for the Crusaders and not the Saracens.
The story has a lot of fighting and a bit of betrayal. The action was fun to read, and I liked how it ended.
This book was free when I downloaded it from Smashwords. My only annoyance is that I felt I would have to download another book to read the continuation of this story.
Overall, if you like fantasy or the crusades then give this an immediate read!
- Return of the Star Ancestors, Volume One
on May 18, 2014
This boldly starts with the destruction of Atlantis. The description was simple but effective. There wasn’t too much complication or explanation, and it was quickly over with.
Moving onward I found that the novel reads like a factual book. There are more than a few interesting debates and possibilities discussed between the many characters, of whom were only briefly introduced. I was engrossed with the theories on how humanity had evolved and the proposition that we descended from Star Ancestors. There are interesting links between Atlantis, Egypt, and the Star Ancestors.
As a study into the origins of humanity, and the ideas the author placed to pose an alternative vision, this is a must read. As a novel, I was disappointed. After the well-built introduction I felt there were not many events or developments before the conclusion is reached. However, the conclusion of the story did answer all of the pertinent questions in the novel, and there was a slight feeling of satisfaction and peace as the main characters settled near the end.
Overall, this is an interesting read. If you’re curious about the subject matter then I would definitely recommend reading this.
- Legends of Origin 2 - Orion's Harvesters
on May 20, 2014
Legends of Origin 1: Sanctuary for the Devil (Sanctuary) was a fantasy adventure. This book was more of a first-contact science-fiction adventure, fast-paced and action-oriented. The new science-fiction allies, enemies, and technologies blended in very well with the established traditional fantasy setting. Though I preferred the character development in Sanctuary, the plot development was much more exciting in this book.
At the beginning, we are re-introduced to Liam McAskill, the brave-hearted and naive hero. A gigantic continent-sized spaceship, controlled by the obscure T’Acan aliens, is hovering over Africa. Liam and his unseemly friend Jack set out to learn why.
After the storyline twist, there are a few very exciting chapters where new characters are introduced and the action and adventure is non-stop. I found Xano to be the most interesting, and hoped to learn more about him. There were many humorous moments in this book, especially during a funeral scene later on, where a clod of dirt hits one of the main characters during a serious conversation about the enemy.
What made this sequel complete for me was the disturbing incident that occurs near the end, and which sparks multiple debates about possibilities. There is also a return to the debates surrounding the origins of humankind, which, though not complex, were very interesting and nicely tied the story in with Sanctuary.
Overall, I thought Liam McAskill’s innocent ardour and his quest to discover the origins of the human race through adventure, made Orion’s Harvesters very fun to read.
- The Phoenix Crisis
on Aug. 06, 2014
This is the third book in The Phoenix Conspiracy series. I am hooked on it because of the strong blend of science-fiction/mystery and the straight-forward writing style.
Captain Calvin Cross of the renegade stealth ship, the Nighthawk, is torn between choosing a meeting with Raidan of the obscure Organisation or Princess Kalila, and he can only choose one of them because the rendezvous for each meeting is too far apart. Both profess to have vital information that needs to be divulged to Calvin personally.
The Phoenix Crisis ventures outside of the comfort zone of the Nighthawk and successfully manages to keep the plot structure consistent. I initially wasn’t very interested in the new characters: Zane, Blackmoth, or the other characters of the Phoenix Ring. However, their parts in the overall story grew in significance and did recapture my imagination. And although I think Captain Nimoux’s deductions are a bit too coincidental, I do like the idea of a renowned intelligence operative and wanted him in more after his last scene. Despite these minor flaws, I was enthralled to see a reopening of thrilling action scenes and complex sub-investigations that relate to ships in the previous stories. The final four or five chapters are nothing short of sensational, and are very well written. The darker element in this series continues to return, which I also like.
Overall, this third book is a tremendous continuation of the series, and rounds up the factions and plots very clearly. The mystery, action, realistic characters, and excitement make this series a must for science-fiction space-opera fans. I will be reading The Phoenix War!
- Legends of Origin 3 - Creator Species
on Aug. 12, 2014
Creator Species is primarily about the monk Arthean, whose faith in the Creator of All is tested. The doubt and fear of the Harvester aliens’ power has tainted him. Now, more than ever, the desperate and impulsive Arthean needs the support of his bold and confident friend Liam if he is to remain strong and faithful.
I was pleasantly surprised at the return to the amazing Tridor Monastery, which gave more scope for visually imaginative description. I enjoyed the presence of the new characters, even if I didn’t feel a connection with all of them. The pilot Blake’s sense of humour was a good contrast to Arthean’s sulkiness. I also found the Harvester aliens to be more sinister, devious, and interesting.
Half way through the story there was a good build-up to a mini-adventure into the catacombs, with debate, maps and interaction. All of a sudden, a particular informative conversation explained what I felt was too much at once regarding the Harvesters’ fears and plans. I also thought the adventure went in circles sometimes when the main characters would remember some fact they had initially forgotten the first time.
About 80% through, there was a really absorbing and energetic debate about the origins of aliens and humanity. From there, the energy and the action completely captured my imagination with new ideas and concepts. Creator Species is definitely worth the read. It is an enjoyable continuation of the series, and I certainly want to read Legends of Origin 4!
on Sep. 04, 2014
Artifact was only a thousand words and I found it free on Smashwords. What I liked most about it was the setting; metal arachnids, violet-pink eyes, a race called Pulsars, humming insects and lizards, etc. The concept of the story was rather good as well. Noon is a Pulsar who wants to find answers about his race by finding artifacts, and is reprimanded for going off on his own.
Bit of very minor criticism: the atmosphere was described very well and I did like the style, however I felt it went a touch too fast, condensing the feelings and motivations too much. There weren’t many errors apart from serious ones that interrupted the flow of the text.
Overall I would strongly recommend that the author continues work based in this or a similar world, because I would definitely want to read it.
- Wizard of Ends
on Oct. 09, 2014
Lashlor Leaflin’s code of honour, in vowing not to use magic unless absolutely necessary, makes others accuse him of being a fake wizard. His calm composure and righteous determination are valuable assets when he is hired to protect the Queen from a very powerful and dangerous sorceress called Assassa. Assassa spearheads a conspiracy to seize the throne from King Lanaran of Ends.
A King, Queen, Wizard, and evil Sorceress are classic and well-known fantasy stereotypes, but Wizard of Ends cuts straight to the action and the threat posed by Assassa. All of the characters have been injected with an ample dose of dignified humour: “Someone had indeed tried to murder him while he slept,” after having no memory of said act but a sore throat.
Overall the Wizard of Ends is a fast-paced refreshing magical adventure, with a streamlined plot and various colourful wizards, sorcerers, necromancers, and magical beasts. The final battle is a complex confrontation between several magic-users harnessing creative spells. Lashlor is a unique character whose reputation and petty fears will make the next adventure just as refreshing as this one was!
- Another Tiring Day of Magic
on Nov. 06, 2014
Another Tiring Day of Magic is a short story about Alice, a witch whose incompetence and feelings of inadequacy stifle her magical growth in a wizarding school. She is mocked by her peers, and feels frustrated.
Alice must go through a series of lessons to prove herself, but she will soon be faced with a big challenge.
This short story is extremely well-written. Alice’s personality shines through the pages, and you really feel sorry for her predicament. It’s set in a vibrant magical world where magical ley-lines surge. It’s a very well thought-out story, and I will be reading more from this author.
- Editors' Bible
on April 22, 2015
Editors’ Bible by Vanessa Finaughty – 5/5 star
Editors’ Bible is a valuable compendium for any aspiring editor who wants to learn what to look for and to grasp the basic know-how in conflicting areas of punctuation and grammar. While most editing guides leave it to the reader to research these things, I found it refreshing to have them spelt out.
While editing, most of my skills have come straight from this guide, which has given me a foundation for future progress. The main focus of the Editors’ Bible seems to be on editing fiction, with useful tips from the perspective of the author and the editor.
Some of the US/UK spelling lists were overly extensive, and are more useful as reference lists, I found. Sometimes the rules seemed a bit one-sided, though there were justifications stated for these.
Overall, I’d recommend this guide specifically for those starting out in editing, like myself, and those who will be editing fiction or getting their fiction edited. The author’s writing made absorbing the information easy. The Editors’ Bible is easy to refer back to as well, being split up into easily accessible sections.
- First Contact (Terran Chronicles)
on June 10, 2015
A science-fiction wholly concerned with humanity’s first encounter with an alien race, First Contact is an interesting study into the human psychological response. The author uses a plot-driven story that spans numerous countries, environments, and people, while constructing a believable and yet mystifying alien race: the Gamin.
Numerous asteroids in space are soon suspected of being an alien attack and Earth finds itself paralysed and without response. Leaders of governments, motivated by self-interest, are in no cohesive shape to tackle the perceived threat…
First Contact starts with a detailed space battle, which was well-described and exciting; I felt I was really there, seeing the ships blast one another into submission using different tactics. The main narrative involved George Stanton, his wife and son. When George’s city is met with devastation, his family is left with nothing, until the Gamin aliens arrive with a massive spaceship, and then oddly start “recruiting” human workers. Wanting answers about the destruction of his city, George and his wife Lisa choose to work for the Gamin, whose alien ability to construct basic infrastructure is efficient. Through George, the reader sees Sharz, a Gamin, first hand. Sharz resembles George and Lisa in many ways, being kind, compassionate, and understanding. The Gamin relay messages through televisions to contact the human race directly. George’s perspective was what I liked most about First Contact because it focused purely on relations between humans and the Gamin.
First Contact is written in the present tense, and it took me a bit to get used to liking the style. It simplified some scenes and situations too much. However, further reading led me to conclude the tense wasn’t really the problem; it depended on the character and the focus of the plot. My enjoyment of First Contact was not consistent. There was a lot of explaining and many action scenes left my attention span wavering, especially with sub-characters Hayato and Radclyf. A lot of questions are posed about the Gamin, but few of them are answered. Most of the time, the reader is left with characters’ assumptions about Gamin motives, since they are not overtly hostile, social or co-operative.
When I had read 75% I realised that First Contact was extremely addictive and easy to read. The subject matter was very interesting, especially the ideas. Based on this fact, and my expectation that the sequel will be even better, I would certainly consider reading more from this author.
- A Day's Venture
on June 24, 2015
A Day’s Venture is a humorous adventure that unfolds the interesting layers of the Underworld in a powerful and original imagining of it. Anime fans will love the humorous incidents and the imaginative fantasy beasts. A stalking spider; a shy cobra; a silent scorpion; an exuberant cat; and a busty succubus ... the characters’ personalities are delicious slices of reading!
- The Wild
on Aug. 29, 2015
The Wild is the short story about feline humanoid Nekona, a ditsy and greedy humanoid whose innocent misunderstanding of what is rude frequently gets her into trouble.
When the tribe learns that a city on the horizon is up in flames, they fear they may be next to taste of Queen Arcona’s wrath. The tribe leader orders Nekona to take part in an upcoming tournament and … Nekona doesn’t remember the rest.
The Wild was informative, in that it was entertaining and fun, and left me with a wholesome feeling of fulfilment after having read it. Nekona’s innocence offers a glimpse into happiness and an appreciation of oblivious souls that is often forgotten about.
- The Phoenix War
on Sep. 05, 2015
The fourth book in the sci-fi space-opera mystery series, The Phoenix War focuses on political upheaval on Capital World, Captain Nimoux’s ingenious struggle to escape from imprisonment to warn the Empire of the replicants, and fear of a Rotham invasion.
At 40% through things really get going, with Calvin Cross ordered by Queen Kalila to investigate the DMZ (de-militarised zone) to discover any troublesome evidence that the Rotham Republic intends to start a war against humanity. Queen Kalila must know whether to split her forces to confront the Rotham or to deal with what could be imminent civil war. Meanwhile Officer Summers is commanding the Nighthawk ship on the search for Isotome weapons.
The Phoenix War displays captivating and increasingly distinctive characters in a plot that continues to grow more engrossing. The writing style is snappy, but cuts to the real issues at hand, and showers the text with impacting dialogue. There was a shocking moment that had my mouth agape, since it was so horrible and “real”. And the author does reward the reader in the last 10% with some space action.
Criticism: It took me a while to really get into The Phoenix War (40%) because there was a lot of political build-up and that a lot of the themes I’d read were frequently repeated in the characters’ thoughts. This acted as a helpful reminder of what had already occurred in the series, some of which I had forgotten, and I was totally engaged in the subject matter. Yet, it extended too many scenes and delayed the real action, which could perhaps shine a new light of perspective on new events, rather than ruminating on the old.
Overall, I suggest any reader who likes mystery, sci-fi, or space-opera to start reading this series immediately because so many of Richard L Sander’s works are enthralling, eye-stinging reads.
- Earth - Last Sanctuary (Universe in Flames book 1)
on March 25, 2016
Earth — Last Sanctuary is the first in a science-fiction space-opera series where pilot Chase is the main protagonist and must use his incredible piloting and strategic improvisation to survive the decimation of the Star Alliance by the Obsidian Empire. The immediate parallel to make is with Star Wars, but don’t let the terms put you off, for there were many resonating influences that shaped Earth – Last Sanctuary: Independence Day, Star Trek Original Series (in that there was a protective moralist deity); and maybe there were ideas borrowed from the Serenity film or Farscape series.
I liked the moral thread running through the novel, of letting go of money, fame, and lust for power and to embrace foremost the development of the human race through technology. This ideology was a prerequisite for eliminating poverty, to cure illness, and save the environment. Its idea does stem from the basis of putting the needs of the many above the needs of the few, but the author delivered this new ideology in a convincing way.
My analysis was extremely positive. I loved the connection between characters Chase and Earth pilot Sarah Kepler and the way Alliance technology was introduced in a simple and yet absorbing way. It made perfect sense why the Alliance would be as developed economically and militarily when compared with what Chase sees as “human recreational activities”, which involve movies, sex, and food. In this way Earth seems to have prioritised the development of entertainment. Because Chase’s point-of-view showed he didn’t at first understand human indulgences, and for all his similarities to humans in language and appearance he was emotionally detached. This made me empathise with the author’s message, seeing the setting as a bridge that must be crossed for human and humanoid happiness.
Minor criticism: there were a few instances in the final space battle that were reminiscent of the attack on the Death Star in Star Wars A New Hope, and a single line “They’re up to something, I can feel your presence now”, made me think I knew where the series was going, however the author dispelled such notions at the end.
The dogfights were astounding, the space battle strategy imaginative, and there was a conceivable chance either side, Alliance or Empire, could have prevailed. There were easily relatable characters, a writing style that makes otherwise complex terms easy to digest and understand. Some of the writing, especially when Aphroditis spoke, was so impassioned, I felt the words speak to the soul, the writing was that powerful. It was as if I was there! Don’t turn Earth – Last Sanctuary down if you see it anywhere. Actually, if you’re reading this review, download or order it now and begin reading. You won’t regret it.