The Starfarer (The Araloka Chronicles Book 2) by Petra Landon
I’ve said it in the past, but it bears repeating that; one of the most rewarding parts of being a professional reviewer is the opportunity to watch an author grow and develop within his/her genre. This is certainly the case, for me, with Petra Landon. The Starfarer (The Araloka Chronicles Book 2) is now the fourth Landon book I have read and I continue to watch her story-telling skills evolve and improve. Within her four books, we have two very distinct and different genres, the first being fantasy, with the Saga of the Chosen series and the second being Science Fiction in the Araloka Chronicles. While on the surface it might seem like they are two very different genres, the reality, on closer inspection, is that they are not. Landon writes about relationships, especially relationships between different and disparate people, including inter-species. This is what ultimately ties her four books together. The core of her writing is about love, commitment and the underlying ideals that underpin humanity. In two of her novels she has chosen to clothe these ideals in a background of fantasy and in two, in a science fiction background. For me, as a reader, this just makes her books more interesting and displays her innate story-telling ability.
In this latest iteration, of the Araloka Chronicles, we meet a new character along with many of the characters we met in the first of this series, The Mercenary. Star Captain Zh’hir Mu’raat is of the Ur’quay species. Once renowned and feared throughout the galaxies as one of the foremost space-travelling and honourable species, inexplicably several centuries ago, the Ur’quay chose to cut themselves off from the rest of the cosmos, in order to preserve and purify the Ur’quay line. This decision has been a disaster for the people of Ur’qia and now, short on food and facing extinction, as a species, Zh’hir has been sent out to find food sources and most importantly the fuel Ur’qia needs to survive – the ubiquitous skoal. When Zh’hir arrives in the Araloka sector of the universe, a sector his forebears were very familiar with, he discovers the sector at war with the evil Budh-Ketaari Empire, bent on galaxy domination. Linking up with the Kampuchan Alliance and the Hadari’Kor mercenary Zoran, Zh’hir is determined to use his people’s advanced technology and history of warfare to rid the galaxy of the Budh-Ketaari Empire.
When gathering samples of stoal on Terra-Agri-5, Zh’hir inadvertently collects more than he bargained for, in the form of a beautiful, young terran woman by the name of Sila Gatherer. The attraction between this young woman and the massive, Ur’quay warrior is instantaneous and it soon becomes obvious that Sila, as a person, is much more than they initially thought. Sila holds some secrets, within her, that will open Zh’hir’s eyes as to the wrongs perpetrated by his own forebears, centuries earlier.
I found The Starfarer (The Araloka Chronicles Book 2) to be a fantastic read, full of adventure, action and thrills, all tautly pulled together by author Petra Landon. A few things lifted this book up above the rest of the science fiction market, for me. The first of those is the underlying themes that run through the threads of the story. It is rare to meet characters such as Zh’hir and Zoran who are so beautifully drawn and also remarkably faithful to their morals and their beliefs in what is right or wrong. Warriors and fighters they may be, but they governed their lives and instincts by their respective “codes”. The camaraderie of the two vastly different, but ultimately similar forces, the Hadari’Kor and the Ur’quay was wonderfully crafted by the author.
Counterpointed against the violence and the battles was this dual love affair, between species, that occurred between Zoran (a Hadari’Kor) and his love, Saakshi (a Budheyan) along with Zh’hir and his passion, the young terran, Sila. I thought the romance and love scenes were incredibly sensitively written, sensual, without being smutty and just added to the entire story beautifully. The allegory from this story of the inter-species relationships, for me, was the idea that no matter what your culture, your skin colour, your religion, your creed, your physical characteristics; love is always love and love trumps all of it. I really appreciated that in the story.
The other underlying theme that resonated with me, especially in today’s increasingly separatist and isolationist world is learning the lessons the Ur’quay people had to learn the hard way – that separating yourself from the rest of the universe (read humanity here) is ultimately a self-defeating road. I almost expected Zh’hir to produce a cap from centuries ago that read – “Make Ur’Qia Great Again”. The author may or may not have intended that to shine through her work, but for me it definitely did.
Petra Landon has thrilled me again and I cannot wait to read more of her work in the future. I like my science fiction with lots of story and a minimum of confusing technology and technical expertise. Petra Landon’s Araloka Chronicles fills that requirement perfectly. I hope there are further sequels to both the Araloka Chronicles and the Saga of the Chosen, as I am still excited by both of these sagas however I am also anticipating where Landon’s muse might lead her in the future. I have no doubt it will be successful and highly readable. Make no mistake Petra Landon is one of the top indie authors, in my opinion, in the marketplace today, for sheer readability and excitement.
Oblivion: Ad Magnificum Volumina by Jordan Farrell
Author Jordan G Farrell takes us, his readers, on a fantastic journey through both time and space, in his epic science-fiction adventure, Oblivion: Ad Magnificum Volumina. Husband and wife, Justin and Jessica Forsythe are important people in the settlement of Gabrellium, a human outpost on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. Earth had long been destroyed by man’s folly (the purge) and those few survivors set out millennia ago to find habitable lands to develop in and flourish. Justin is the head of security and responsible for protecting the ice-workers who are required to terra-form the massive ice coating that covers the surface of Europa. It is within these ice structures that humanity now survives. Jessica is a scientist responsible for many of the cutting-edge developments on Gabrellium. When the impossible happens and a baby is naturally born to a people that, for millennia now, have produced offspring by atomic printing them, Justin, Jessica and the settlement’s leadership are clearly concerned. This single event sends them on a search for the truth that will ultimately make them rethink everything they’ve ever believed in.
I love science-fiction and usually I prefer more of the fiction, with only a background of the science. In this case, Jordan G. Farrell has brought something unique and splendid in Oblivion: Ad Magnificum Volumina. The story itself is fantastic enough on its own, but what I found, as a non-physicist (in fact a total science dummy) was that even the complicated science seemed to make some sort of sense to me, which is as big a tribute as I could pay to this or any author. What I would usually skim over, with most of it flying over my head, I found myself reading avidly and trying to assimilate the science behind it. But, this is much more than just a science-fiction adventure, at its core this book is a scathing examination of humanity, its excesses, its self-destructive bent and its sheer bloody-mindedness. Much of the story is action orientated and reads almost like a “boy’s own” adventure story, which is marvellous and yet lurking in the background are deep philosophical arguments that the reader cannot help but get drawn into. This is one of the best science-fiction books I have read in a very long time and I cannot recommend it highly enough to, not just fans of the genre, but to all action/adventure junkies and those that like a bit of deep-thinking “meat” in their reading. My biggest pleasure was to see that Farrell left the ending open for the possibility of a sequel. I look forward to it and hope he writes it.
Aeon Rises by Jim Cronin
The Skutarans were a warlike group of aliens at the best of times, but when one of their most eminent scientists, Keldon Ankara is publicly humiliated and disgraced by the ruling council, for the direction of his research, he determines to escape and use that research to build an invincible army to return and vanquish the Emperor and rule, himself. Relocated on Earth, Ankara has a plan to infiltrate the brainwaves of millions of earthlings and raise an army to return and claim his homeland. In Aeon Rises by Jim Cronin, Justin Madrid, is a normal earth teenager (or so he thinks), in all respects; a typical geek who longs for acceptance amongst his peers, but cannot, for some reason, participate in the video and internet games so popular with those his age. His blinding headaches and nausea, when he looks at a computer screen are a big cause of concern for him. Justin must soon understand that he is not who he always thought he was, as he, his best friend Kevin, and a beautiful, young, Zarminan alien Myah will be pitched into a battle to save millions of earthlings from the evil machinations of Keldon Ankara.
This is not the first Jim Cronin book I have read and Aeon Rises continues a fine series of excellent science fiction stories from this author. What I particularly like about this author is that his science fiction is never way too outlandish or technologically complex for mere mortals such as myself to understand. Cronin instead focuses on the characters, their relationships and their trial and tribulations. In Aeon Rise, he has created a wonderful trio of three young characters who many will find the ability to identify with. Our hero Justin is a typical geek and along with his best friend Kevin they can quote almost any line from a series of genre films e.g. Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings etc. etc. When you throw in the idea of Justin having to deal with discovering his true identity and also the beautiful, romantic possibilities of the young Zarminan, Myah, you have all the elements of a wonderful young adult, science fiction tale. The idea of the triad bonding opened up all sorts of possibilities, for the future, for the author and I, for one, hope he chooses to explore these in his next books. This is a highly recommended read, from me, for basic science fiction buffs and young adults, alike. I loved this story.
DRUM ROLL PLEASE!
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CHANGING THE WORLD – ONE READER AT A TIME