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Assault Troopers (Extinction Wars Book 1)

Science Fiction Book Review

Science Fiction Book Review

I’ve read and reviewed Heppner before with the Lost Starship series.  That series was a B, B-, as far as quality of science fiction was concerned.  After about a hundred pages of this tripe, I found myself looking back at that B writing in a wistful sort of malaise.  This book turned into a task for me that I felt I had to knock off the honey do list.

The premise was interesting if unimaginative.  Aliens show up above earth and nuke us all to hell.  The only survivors are those that are nowhere near cities or even villages.  Our survivors are from ultra remote places like Antarctica and nuclear submarines.  Due to their isolated lifestyles, they are pretty hardy folk with an abundance of attitude.  One would think this would make for some interesting characters, right?  Sadly, wrong.  These characters were pulled directly from the vanilla wafer box.  Read it a week ago and can’t even remember the name of the main character.

Our team of Saltines figures out a way to take over one of the ships that is hell bent on the last remnants of mankind’s destruction.  In so doing, they introduce themselves to the players on the Galactic stage, all of whom fit nicely in different flavor douche bag molds.  Our main character arranges a way to extend humanity’s existence provided that we play the role of mercenary soldier.  So, our first experience with aliens turns into a Blackwater scheme.  There is something to aspire to, yay us!

This mercenary group then goes through their training stage.  This is when I almost put the book down in disgust.  It felt like the training session in Ender’s Game but boring and meaningless.  It was similar to reading filler, like a sci-fi version of a Cosmo sex quiz.  Once we got through this painful interlude our team is sent on their first mission.  The mission is a success but every success comes with high casualties.  The problem with this is that these casualties are meaningless to the reader because they are just random numbers that have generated no empathy from the reader or from our protagonist.  This makes our main character either a ruthless psychopath or a poorly developed automaton.  Pretty sure it’s the latter.

Not going to spend anymore time on this as it’s unnecessary to get cruel.  To summarize, the characters are weak and the plot is a derivative meandering through a river of mediocrity.  If offered to read this one, even for free, take the pass.

The Lost Command (Lost Starship Series Book 2)

Science Fiction Book Review

Science Fiction Book Review

This series is my first attempt at reading anything by Heppner but I don’t think it will be the last.  It’s easy reading that doesn’t ask the brain to stretch too deep into pondering life questions but for the quick getaway, this is a good series.  Like a lot of modern sci-fi, Heppner makes no attempt at going deep into the science.  Much of it is just assumed and recognized as something that will all be figured out by the time we hit that point in the future.  He does pay a a campy homage to one of the old sci-fi guard, Keith Laumer, in naming the wormhole-like travel after him with his Laumer-Points.  The science is not a necessity to the story though, and the story is a good one.

Since this is the second novel in the Lost Starship series it’s worth spending a minute to set the stage.  In the first round, our author introduces us to Captain Maddox, an intelligence officer with preternatural intelligence and reflexes.  He’s good at his job and because of that, his mentor the Iron Lady (who in my mind’s eye I see being played by Judi Dench in the movie version), takes him way out of his comfort zone and sends him on a mission to find the Lost Starship.  Dun duh dun.  The reasons are hazy at first but become clearer throughout the novel as we find that there is a new threat to humanity in the form of the New Men.  The New Men evolved from a colony of eugenicists right out of some Eichmann wet dream.  The group went on a space walkabout several hundred years ago and ended up on a distant rock in a distant galaxy.  They got to work on their embryonic alchemy and several hundred years later, they are making their way back to the Commonwealth to stir up trouble as the new supercharged Aryan bungholes.  Cool idea.

Maddox is tasked with putting together a team to go find this lost starship that has superior technology from another space faring race that existed back when we were still planting crop for the first time in the fertile crescent.  This technology is meant to give us the edge in the upcoming confrontation with the New Men.  Maddox goes out and builds a made for TV crew that have all the qualities you’d expect in building some drama.  There’s the rule following starship lieutenant that was brought up on the tough streets of Detroit, there’s the fighter pilot ace with a drinking problem, the brilliant doctor with an attitude and the sexy yet incredibly tough mechanic/muscle.

No surprises with the supporting cast.  Sadly, they were too predictable and a little two dimensional for my tastes.  Each character seemed to have one strength and one weakness.   It was like Heppner went to the sci-fi attribute wheel, let it spin, and picked one good trait and one bad for each.  He spends some time developing each of these characters in both novels but unfortunately they never get much more depth.  Maddox, our main character, on the other hand is an interesting character bit in a bit of a humble braggy way.  The flaws built into Maddox are not really character flaws but more from his mysterious genetic background.  This is interesting but at the same time a bit of a cop out.  Flawed characters are always more identifiable because of the flaws in ourselves.  At the same time, it requires a certain vulnerability from the author that the greats are comfortable with but with which others struggle.

In the second novel, our team has successfully found and turned over the lost starship, the Commonwealth has had their first skirmishes with the New Men and have been soundly routed and our heroes from the first novel have moved on to bigger and better things.  The book opens with a major battle with the New Men in which the Commonwealth gets their asses kicked once again.  This results in another call to Maddox to come in and save the day.  The lost starship stopped communicating with the governmental bureaucrats mainly because they are governmental bureaucrats, go figure, and Maddox is given the mission of not only cleaning up the mess but trying to bail out the survivors of the first round of the Commonwealth’s Alamo.

This second installment has a little more spy craft in it, a little less character development but a lot of fun plot lines and teamwork between the major players.  Heppner does a good job of keeping you riveted but not the best job of making the story memorable.  It’s catchy escapism and well worth the read and I will absolutely buy the third novel in the series.

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