Deathstalker Rebellion: being the second part of the life and times of Owen Deathstalker by Simon R. Green
The second of the Deathstalker series is divided into two major parts, each centred around one group of rebels, though other members of the extended cast may appear. In the first, Owen and Hazel head to Golgotha to attack the Imperial taxation office, crippling part of the empire and adding funds to the rebel accounts in one stroke. Also, they hook up with the rebel underground on Golgotha, teaming up with the Suzie Blues (a group apparently destinied for a bad fate) and one Alexander Storm, an old friend of Jack Random. Who may not, in fact, be who he claims to be (Jack, that is).
Regardless of who he is, Random heads off to rescue slaves from the plant producing the new stardrive that the Empire is counting on. He takes Storm and Ruby Journey with him, and again they hook up with the local rebels, but in addition to the best troops House Wolfe can send against them and the top battle-jesuits of the Church of Jesus Christ, Warrior, the whole planet seems to be fighting them.
This planet is actually the biggest problem for the story. Its seasons are measured in days, which is an interesting concept, particularly when we learn that it was caused a century ago by a hacked weather satellite system. No one can fix it, which the story makes sense of, but we are never told why it isn’t shot down and replaced by a new one. Also, life on the planet has adjusted and now lives and dies by the seasons, just as it would if they were their natural selves. Problem is, there just hasn’t been enough time for anything to evolve to deal with those conditions. Even insects and bacteria would have died off in the first couple of winters, each coming less than a week after spring. The planet would be, at best, devoid of native life.
But, yeah, space opera; don’t sweat the science too much, if things slow down have a man with a blaster come through the airlock. Also, it’s Simon R. Green so he’ll probably have a blaster and a sword. Mindless fun. Mildly recommended, with a bonus recommendation for fans of Green’s other works.
Secrets of the Fire Sea by Stephen Hunt
Sequel to The Court Of The Air and The Kingdom Beyond The Waves. The main setting is Hermetica City, the main settlement on Jago Island, in the middle of the titular ocean. Hermetica is aptly named, being closed off by domes and airlocks from the inhospitable surface of the island, home to savage, bear-like Ursks. The humans who live in Hermetica share space with the more civilized, but still bear-like, Ursines, who hold the island to be sacred ground and want all humans removed.
Hannah Conquest is the child of Jackelian scientists who were killed when their submarine sank on the way home from Jago. Hannah has been raised on the island by Archbishop Alice Grey of the Circlist Church. Hannah and Alice both hope that Hannah will pass the necessary exams and become a priest, but then Alice is killed, apparently, by an Ursk that broke through the city walls and found its way to the Cathedral where they lived. With Alice’s protection gone, Hannah finds herself in a danger much more personal than Ursk attack.
Back in Jackels, Jethro Daunt, consulting detective, is hired to investigate Alice’s death by the Circlist Inquisition. Daunt used to be a Circlist Parson; in fact at one point he was engaged to be married to Alice. He wound up defrocked, though, as the Circlist church is an atheist church and Daunt came to not so much believe in gods as to be haunted by a variety of old gods, such as Badger-Headed Joseph. These gods are actually still with him. Also with him, and far more materially helpful, is his assistant, Boxiron. Boxiron is a Steam Knight (sentient clockwork being) head installed on a Jackelian robot body–to the Steammen an abomination like unto Frankenstein’s monster. For Daunt, though, he’s an invaluable friend, as well as an ace lock-cracker and, when in high gear, an unstoppable fighter.
Daunt and Boxiron take passage to Jago on the submarine of Commodore Black (has appeared in all of Hunt’s books I’ve read so far) with the protege of Professor Harsh (appeared in Kingdom), who is going to Jago to consult their massive transaction-engines (steampunk computers). They all get caught up in Hannah’s story, the history of the island, and the machinations of the Ursines and the local politicians. The result is a mess that even Commodore Black may not be able to get out of.
I greatly enjoyed the first two books of the series and with the addition of Daunt and Boxiron this one takes things up a notch (pun only understood by those who read the book). They’re great characters, Daunt driven by the training the Church gave him and the conflict between his atheistic preferences and the fact that he basically can’t deny the gods that speak to him. Boxiron, rejected by almost everything he loves, would almost rather be dead, but he knows that if he goes prematurely Daunt will also soon die, and probably of something that Boxiron could have saved him from. And Hannah refuses to just hang around playing damsel in distress when her brain can get her out of almost any trouble. Of course, trouble can come from unexpected directions . . .
Cracking good fun, and highly recommended. And you don’t need to have read any of the other books for this one to make sense.