Thursday, November 12, 2015

Battle of the 2013 Books, Bracket One, First Round :: 23 Years on Fire by Joel Shepherd vs. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

The third match in the first round of Bracket One of the Battle of the 2013 Books features 23 Years on Fire by Joel Shepherd doing battle with The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord. The winner will be the book I (Jackie) most want to continue reading after 25 pages.

23 Years on Fire:  Pyr; 2013; 438 pages; cover illustration by Stephan Martiniere; cover design by Jacqueline Nasso Cooke. The novel 23 Years on Fire is the fourth book in the military science fiction Cassandra Kresnov series. Joel Shepherd has written nine science fiction and fantasy novels.

23 Years on Fire begins with Ari, creeping through a dark city on planet Anjula, then entering Vice President Moon's apartment to steal security codes. He plans to overthrow the government with help from his fellow terrorists that are, at the same time, entering the atmosphere in their pods. The 56 pods are transporting manufactured GIs (which include Cassandra Kresnov, part of the "elite six") who are created for war.

While Ari continues his quest to control the security systems of the city, Kassandra and her warriors break out of the pods on their "jumpjet" vehicles, landing on roofs and working their way into the government buildings, hoping to take over the city as quickly as possible.

Kassandra enters a building with a few of her elite group. They separate and Kassandra goes alone, fighting and destroying with her amazing guns and incredible agility. The government workers are experimenters, doing genetic manipulation on the GIs. They are actively breeding, creating, and killing these GIs in the name of science. Kassandra and her elite GIs and other GIs plan to eliminate this government program, by taking control of the island city.

The Best of All Possible Worlds:  Del Rey; 2013; 306 pages; book design by Victoria Wong. Keren Lord's debut novel, Redemption in Indigo, was published in 2010 and won the Frank Collymore Literary Prize in Barbados.

The Best of All Possible Worlds, galaxy-spanning science fiction epic, begins with a third-person narrator. Dllenahkh, who is on an off-world meditation retreat from his home world. A messenger tells him that the people on his home planet have been destroyed, all poisoned. Very few Sadiri females are left from this race because the females don't meditate off-world, thus most of them were on the planet when it was attacked.

Dllenahkh's people, the Sadirians, have discovered that the Ainya people from planet Ain were responsible for poisoning the Sadirians.

The Ainya people, also called the "taSadiri," are the same race as the Sadirians, but do not practice the mental disciplines like the Sadiri. This offshoot group left planet Sadiri to settle on planet Ain, although they felt they were ousted from the homeworld, which might be the reason for their poisoning of that world.

Chapter 2 changes voice to the first-person viewpoint of biotechnician Delarua, the Second Assistant of Tlaxce Province on planet Cyrus Beta. Delarua must work with the Sadirian Counsellor Dllenahkh, who left the meditation world and has moved to Cyrus Beta, which is a planet that has been described as "a galactic hinterland of pioneers and refugees."

Other male Sadirians join Dllenahkh on the planet Cyrus Beta. The Sadirians have an agenda.

Second Assistant Delarua takes Dllenahkh on a tour of the Tlaxce Province. Delarua deduces that the male Sadirians' goal is to procreate with genetically-compatible Tlaxcian women, hoping to increase the Sadirian race. Delarua calls Dllenahkh out for being an arrogant race. Dllenahkh seems impressed that Delarua is so astute.

Delarua arrives at work one day to find he has been demoted from Second Assistant to Civil Service liaison, which mostly involves working with Counsellor Dllenahkh and the Sadiri people. Delarua is not happy to relinquish his biotechnician job to the famous Dr. Freyda Mar. Delarua has two months left before his career takes a detour.

The Battle: An epic science fiction novel The Best of All Possible Worlds battles against the fourth book in a science fiction series 23 Years on Fire, which puts a lot of pressure on the beginning structure of the latter book-in-a-series.

The Best of All Possible Worlds introduces two interesting people: Dllenahkh and Delarua. Delarua is a humorous, fun-loving, blunt guy, who tells-it-like-it-is, which is very refreshing, and his bantering humor keep me engaged in the story. I like Delarua, and his first-person observations help move the story along without getting bogged down in too much foreshadowing.

The arrogant Dllenahkh is faced with the possible extinction of his race after the Ainya poisoned his home world and killed most of the females on the Sadirian planet. The two plots intertwine as do the lives of these two characters, Delarua and Dllenahkh. I want to know more about these people as well as other curiosities (like who are the Caretakers) that were mentioned within the first 25 pages of the book.

Despite how much I, Jackie, have enjoyed these chapters so far, I was greatly upset that these two main characters have names that begin with the same letter. It's always easier for me to keep people straight when names are not similar.  Fortunately, I didn't have any other issues with this novel.

In 23 Years on Fire I had problems with how the author introduced the back story, since we are reading the fourth book in a series. I had to decipher and remember too many acronyms: VTS, VR, CNS, NCT, CDF, FSA, NCT. I also had to figure out too much military tech vocabulary: tacnet, armscomp, optocam, UAVs, AMAPS. Finally, after trudging through 19 acronym-filled pages, the story began to get interesting.

Following Ari from page one, I didn't realize that he was part of the "good guys" until Kassandra entered the story. I had to do a reversal in thinking, deciding that I should now be on the side of Ari and Kassandra instead of rooting for the "innocent" sleeping city.

My curiosity grew about the details of the GI soldiers. However, I did not find out what the difference was between "straight humans" and GIs. I’ve deduced that the GIs are manufactured (cloned?) people, which is fascinating because (just a guess) they must "awake" as an adult soldier. I have no idea how they wake up as a fully-functioning adult—or if they do. One of the soldiers was a series 47, 4-year-old.

When introduced to Kassandra, I do become interested in the story. Kassandra and her modified human GIs made me realize why the attack was necessary. She has great insights. Commenting on why the government scientists on Anjula were experimenting and genetically messing with the GIs without questioning the humanity of their actions, Kassandra says, "All human psychology has a natural inclination toward consensus." Good observation, but it’s not a new concept.

I feel 23 Years on Fire would have stood out better had I previously read the first three books in the series.

In conclusion, after reading 25 pages of each book. I (Jackie) found 23 Years on Fire failed to garner my attention until about 20 pages into my reading. Although I’m interested to know more about the GIs, I was disappointed with most of the pages I read. Too many acronyms, for me, cluttered the beginning of this book.

The Best of All Possible Worlds caught my attention from page one. Although my only complaint so far dealt with both main characters having names beginning with a "d," I am intrigued and want to know more.

THE WINNER: The Best All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

The Best All Possible Worlds advances to the second round, to take on either The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi by Mark Hodder or Mage's Blood by David Hair.

To see the whole bracket, click here.

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