Book Review: ‘Five By Five 2: No Surrender’

September 17, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in Books, Reviews, Sci-Fi | Leave a comment
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Five sci-fi novellas by five sci-fi authors is what Five By Five 2: No Surrender is all about. This anthology pulls together authors Aaron Allston, Kevin J. Anderson, William C. Dietz, Brad R. Torgersen and R.M. Meluch for a collection of entertaining stories. Click here to check out our full review.

Five By Five 2: No Surrender is available in eBook formats (KindleKoboNook,Smashwords) and in print.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

Five By Five 2: No Surrender

September 17, 2013 at 12:00 am | Posted in | Leave a comment

Five By Five 2: No Surrender is the anthology sequel to Five By Five. Both books collect together five novellas by five different authors with the common theme of military science fiction. The anthologies also have a strong Star Wars vibe going with the authors. In this collection, there are stories by Kevin J. Anderson, Aaron Allston and William C. Dietz, all of whom have written Star Wars books. Also in the lineup is Brad R. Torgersen and R.M. Meluch. The tales range from soldiers on future battlefields dealing with the unknown concept of peace, to tiny robotic revolutionaries struggling for their survival. It’s a nice mix of stories and styles that provides a lot of entertainment.

The first story in the anthology is “Legio Patria Nostra” (The Legion is Our Country) by William C. Dietz. Star Wars fans might recognize Dietz from the Dark Forces Trilogy, though he has written a ton of books outside the franchise. In this story, he explores a handful of characters in an intriguing sci-fi setting. The galaxy is split between warring factions such as the Hudathan Empire, the Confederacy of Sentient Beings and the Ramanthians. Amidst this war, there’s Captain Damien Chozick, a member of the Legion, and a soldier motivated by greed. On the other end of the spectrum is Captain Dean Smith, a religious man on the rebound with his faith and a soldier committed to his troops. These two men get into battles with cyborg warriors, alien bandits and ultimately each other. There is a lot of nice world building and character building to suck the reader in. It’s a good story and a fun read.

Next up is “Prisoner of War” by Kevin J. Anderson. The story takes place in the world created by The Outer Limits episode called “Soldier”. Fittingly, it stars two soldiers, Barto and Arviq, comrades in a never ending conflict that no longer has sides or reasons other than ‘kill the enemy.’ On desolate battlefields, they deal with lasers, mines and robots without question and without fear. That is until Barto and Arviq get farther than any attack has ever gotten before. Driving deep into enemy territory, they discover a bunker filled with beings unlike any they have ever seen. It is there, deep underground, far from the battlefields, that they discover something so foreign to their concept of life that they can’t quite understand it: peace. It was interesting to see a story that explored the idea of individuals who are literal prisoners to the life of war. All in all, this was a solid story.

From there, the tales move on to “Reardon’s Law” by Brad R. Torgersen. This story follows a female military cop named Kalliope ‘Kal’ Reardon who is sent into the Occupied Zone known as Oz. It’s an isolated area of space where a defeated army lies licking its wounds from a galactic war it lost. Hitech, prototype battle armor has been disappearing in Oz and it’s up to Kal to find out where it’s been going. As can be expected, things don’t go quite as planned. While it’s a neat concept and mostly a good story, it did have one flaw going against it. There are two story threads that are interwoven together. One is set in the near future, while the other is in the past. The result is that in one chapter you’ll see where the characters end up, and in the next, you’ll see how they got there. While this might work in some situations, here it just spoils the surprise and catapults you into action with characters you don’t know yet. It would have worked a lot better if the chapters were just told in order, thus building up and developing the characters, then plunging them into action. However, there was one other issue, and that’s the ending. Instead of resolving the story, it leaves everything hanging as a way to tease readers into reading the series the story is a part of. I don’t mind short stories and novellas trying to spur reader interest in a larger series, but leaving a story incomplete with no real ending and no resolution to conflict that was setup in the story is not the way to go about it. The ending really left my disappointed in the story.

Then there is “Dagger Team Seven” by R.M. Meluch. This story has a lot going for it. The world that is created is pretty awesome, the plot development generates a ton of interest in the story and characters, and the overall story is complete and satisfying. The premise is a future where humans discover a portal off in distant space that is funneling in an aggressive, hostile species nicknamed the Rutogs. The soldiers fight with semi-sentient spaceships called Daggers which are formed into elite teams very similar to SEAL teams. They are expected to deal out damage far in excess of their small numbers and they act well behind enemy lines. The main character, Zack Cade, is a part of Dagger Team Nine. He and his team are sent through the portal, known as The Intersection, to take out the Rutogs homeworld and end the war once and for all. But there’s a tantalizing mystery element that’s thrown in and really elevates the story. With the great hooks and story elements, this was a really good story.

Last, but certainly not least, is Aaron Allston’s “Coffee Black Sea”. The title is a play on an old Greek saying Wine-Dark Sea. The story is also a sequel to “Big Plush” which was in the first antholgoy, Five By Five (if you haven’t read it, Aaron’s story alone is worth the price of the eBook, combined with Kevin J. Anderson’s story and Stackpole’s, and it’s worth buying the physical book, too). Both stories have an extremely neat setting. The stars of the book are tiny, sentient machines called Dollgangers. They’re about nine inches tall and made by humans as laborers and entertainment devices. However, with the Dollgangers’ advancement in sentience, they begin to resent the ill treatment of their owners and gain a desire for freedom. In this story, the ‘ganger revolution continues with the adventures of Bow the Giant Slayer. Having helped secure a temporary freedom for his people on the planet Chiron, Bow sets his sights on a larger avenue of freedom that could secure their independence indefinitely. What ensues is his mission to get it. I’ll admit that the first story, “Big Plush” was better as this one is very focused on combat and missions and doesn’t allow a lot of time for character relationships, but it was still a fun story. Allston sneaks in some of his penchant for humor and even some fighter combat and ground operations that might make some people think of his Wraith Squadron stories. The uniqueness of the characters is especially appealing and allow for a lot of neat imagery. Definitely a story worth checking out.

With five novellas of different flavors and fancies, Five By Five 2: No Surrender is an anthology that delivers some good storytelling. It’s definitely worth the price of an eBook, and if you’ve plan on picking up both Five By Five and Five By Five 2, I’d be inclined to opt for the physical copies, but I’m a bit of collector. Regardless, this is an anthology Star Wars fans looking to broaden their horizons should give a try. For sci-fi fans, it’s a good anthology to get your dose of warfare, aliens, character and world building. I give it a four out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

‘Five By Five 2: No Surrender’

September 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Posted in Books, eBooks, scifi/fantasy | Leave a comment
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Five By Five 2: No Surrender is the sequel anthology to Five By Five. This anthology features authors Kevin J. Anderson, Aaron Allston, William C. Dietz, Brad R. Torgersen and R.M. Meluch. There are five novellas in the collection.

  • LEGIO PATRIA NOSTRA—by William C. Dietz. The insectoid Ramanthians have occupied Earth, and the Confederacy of Sentient Beings needs assistance from the xenophobic Hudathans in order to survive.  But some Hudathan relics have been stolen, and the Hudathans won’t join the Confederacy unless Legion Captain Deacon Smith can get them back.  And that’s going to be difficult because the thieves are ex-legionnaires—and they have a platoon of heavily armed cyborgs! A Legion of the Damned® story.
  • PRISONER OF WAR—by Kevin J. Anderson. Set in the world of Harlan Ellison’s classic Outer Limits episode “Soldier,” this is a tale about a set of warriors in a never-ending future war, men bred for nothing but the battleground—and how they cope with the horrors of…peace.
  • REARDON’S LAW—by Brad R. Torgersen. When expensive, classified shipments of military hardware go missing, Conflux Armed Forces policewoman Kalliope Reardon is called in to work the case.  She gets way more than she bargained for, as the trail takes her far outside the boundaries of the civilized galaxy, and into the heart of occupied enemy territory.
  • DAGGER TEAM SEVEN—by R.M. Meluch.  The evidence is clear and damning—A.C. Cade was a fraud. Cade’s son makes himself into the man he used to believe his father was—a pilot of an elite Dagger Team, defending Earth against a desperate alien invader which has no use for humankind and absolutely nothing to lose.
  • COFFEE BLACK SEA—by Aaron Allston. The saga of the Dollgangers from “Big Plush” (Five by Five Vol. 1) continues. Bow, BeeBee, Lina, and new ’gangers escalate the risks of their quest for survival…by turning their eyes to the stars.

Five By Five 2: No Surrender is available in eBook formats for just $4.99 (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Smashwords) and in print.


‘Five By Five’ Gets a Sequel

June 14, 2013 at 7:02 am | Posted in Books, eBooks, Sci-Fi | 1 Comment
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Kevin J. Anderson and Aaron Allston have revealed some news lately on a sequel to their sci-fi anthology Five By Five. Simply called Five By Five 2 right now, the new anthology will feature five sci-fi stories by five different authors. For Star Wars fans, the extra cool factor is that most of the authors are Star Wars authors. The lineup for Five By Five 2 includes authors: Kevin J. Anderson, Aaron Allston, William C. Dietz, R.M. Meluch and Brad R. Torgersen. According to Kevin, it should be out in about a month.

If you haven’t read the first anthology yet, it’s now available in paperback, digital and audiobook formats. It’s a really good read and has one of the best Allston stories I’ve ever read (click here to read our review). For Five By Five 2, Aaron will be continuing his story with “Coffee Black Sea”.

“Coffee Black Sea” continues the story of the Dollgangers from “Big Plush.” Bow, BeeBee, and others grapple with the question of ‘ganger survival on… and off… their world. -Aaron Allston

Aaron also mentioned that Five By Five 2 will be the first follow-up in what will now be a series, which is very cool to hear. As always, we’ll keep you updated as new news comes out.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

Book Review: ‘Five By Five’

November 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Posted in Books, Reviews, Sci-Fi | Leave a comment
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Are you a fan of Allston, Stackpole, and Kevin J. Anderson? Are you looking to expand your horizons beyond Star Wars? Then look no further than the sci-fi anthology Five By Five. How good is it? Click here to read our review and to find out.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

Five By Five

November 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Posted in | 1 Comment

Five By Five is a sci-fi anthology by Aaron Allston, Kevin J. Anderson, Loren L. Coleman, B.V. Larson, and Michael A. Stackpole. Each author contributes one story and together they form a nice eBook packed with action, adventure, and wonderful stories. For this review I’ll cover each story, but not necessarily in the order they appear in the book. In this case, I’m saving the best for last.

First up is “Shores of the Infinite” by Loren L. Coleman. Coleman is not an author I’m familiar with, and this tale is part of The ICAS Files, a series of short stories set in a universe created by Coleman.

It’s a universe at war, with technology-enhanced humans are in a fight for survival against an infestation of bio-enhanced machines. Each side being a dark reflection of the other.

Central to the conflict are the ICAS troopers, aka the Alliance Interservice Duty military. These soldiers are augmented with high-tech weaponry and special armored suits known as Interservice Combat Assault Suits. The capability of thus technology is barely explored in the first published short story, Cold Dead Fingers, and is likely to develop alongside the rest of this new universe as I get into more detailed storytelling.

In “Shores of the Infinite”, readers are introduced to a battle on a far off planet called Rho VII. It’s a place where cyborgs wage war against humans, harvesting them for spare parts. The narrative of the story follows two characters. One of them is Sgt. Marcos Rajas who leads his unit of ICAS troopers into battle against the cybies. It’s through this character that readers get introduced to the technology of the universe. The other character is Tevin, a member of local street gang, and now a survivor. He’s struggling to help out other survivors as well dealing with his own deteriorating situation.

While the story is creative, and I really liked the idea of cyborgs harvesting humans for spare parts, there are a few serious flaws with the story. For one, there’s a lot of confusing jargon. Partly it’s used to make the story feel more military like, but it’s also a matter of all the new technology that’s used. Being just a short story, there’s not enough time to get properly introduced to all the new aspects of the universe and this particular military unit. Another flaw is that the story in itself is incomplete. There’s sort of a beginning and definitely a middle, but there’s no end and no resolution to any of the characters or battles that are setup. It’s more of a window into a larger story that takes place somewhere in the middle. As is, it was the weakest of the stories included in the anthology and the only one I didn’t really like.

Next up is “Out There” by Michael A. Stackpole. For X-Wing fans, this is one story you might want to check out. Mike sets up a galaxy where an alien race named the Qian have reached out to Earth for help in a war against the Zsytzii. A group of starfighter pilots are formed called the Star Tigers. This group of ace pilots get thrown into their first foray of combat and Stackpole slips into prose that’s very reminiscent of the good old X-Wing stories with lots of space combat and dogfights. Instead of X-Wings there are Shrikes, and instead of Wedge there is Captain Greg Allen and Colonel Nick Clark. Woven into the story is a layer of politics and mystery. Captain Allen is the son of the President, but also a person whose recovering from a traumatic injury and possibly not quite himself. Then there is the Qian who harbor intentions that no one is really sure about. While the story lays out some of these ideas and included a full fledged dogfight, it’s very much a setup for a larger story that I hope Stackpole will fully develop. It’s an intriguing story and I’d love to read more.

B.V. Larson’s “The Black Ship” was a surprising jewel in the anthology. Like Coleman, Larson is an author I’m unfamiliar with and I didn’t know what to expect. In his story of pain and triumph, he lays out two separate narratives that later crash together with devastating consequences. On one hand there’s an experimental ship crewed by Mechs. The Mechs are synthetic beings who utilize human brains. The captain of the black ship (as it has no name) is a little unstable and has a habit of terminating his chief engineer for a new one. He utilizes a disconnector device that can shut down any Mech, taking them offline so he can then remove their brain and replace it with a new one. The ship keeps a stockpile of brains on hand in case replacements are needed. The engineer is the primary character in this thread of the story, and it is through their eyes that we experience their fear of being disconnected and struggling to fulfill the wishes of a insane captain.

The other part of the story follows a wanderer on the planet Faust. It’s an extremely harsh planet covered with deadly plant life. Colonized long ago by desperate pioneers, the inhabitants are now a scattered and primitive lot. Few wander outside their strongholds to brave the harsh plant life that populates the landscape. That is except for Gersen. Gersen comes across a pleasant village and a pretty girl. Through twists and turns, the story is part Lost In Space, part Star Trek, and part Twilight Zone. It’s a tale of strangeness and horror on an alien world. I really enjoyed it.

Kevin J. Anderson’s contribution is the story “Comrades In Arms.” Like some of the other stories, it picks up on the common theme of cyborgs. In this case the Earth League is at war with the alien Jaxxon, a group of insectoids who use psychic powers to form objects and weapons. Both sides are fighting over a worthless planet called Fixion. The main character is a soldier who is terribly wounded in combat and is offered the chance to go back as a Deathguard. The Deathguard are cyborg berserkers who are unleashed on the battlefield to wage their own personal wars against the enemy. Yet the enemy becomes a lot less clearly defined when one Deathguard goes haywire and befriends a Jaxxon. Together they embark on an entertaining adventure that spurs on a political subplot. Mixing combat with an exploration of diplomacy and psychology, “Comrades In Arms” was one of the best stories in the anthology.

However it was not the best. That honor goes to Aaron Allston and his novella “Big Plush.” I call it a novella because it felt longer and more fleshed out than the other stories. In it he explores a group of tiny synthetic beings who are determine to assert their independence from their giant overlords: humans. It’s a tale of revolution and personal identification as Bow, the tiny protagonist of the story, deals with issues that could seal the fate of his people. “Big Plush” is an emotionally engaging story with a fascinating setting and intriguing characters. Honestly, the price of the anthology is worth for just this story alone. Combined with all the others, it’s a great deal and well worth purchasing. Easily a five out of five metal bikinis.

Five By Five is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords for just $4.99.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

‘Five By Five’ Update

October 15, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Books, Sci-Fi | Leave a comment
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Five By Five is now available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Aaron Allston posted that he’ll have some notes on the writing process for his story available soon.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

New Release: ‘Five By Five’

October 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Books, Sci-Fi | Leave a comment
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Aaron Allston has just announced that Five By Five is out. Five By Five is a military science fiction anthology featuring stories by authors Kevin J. Anderson, Aaron Allston, Michael A. Stackpole, Loren L. Coleman, and B.V. Larson. The eBook is available from Kobo and Smashwords (coming soon to Amazon and Barnes & Noble). Aaron posted the contents of the anthology on his site along with brief descriptions of the stories. You can check them out here.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

‘Five By Five’ Update

June 4, 2012 at 12:02 am | Posted in Books, Sci-Fi | Leave a comment
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Tosche Station’s coverage of Origins Game Fair included this tidbit from Q&A panel with Aaron Allston…

“He also completed a short story called “Big Plush” for a military anthology that also features Kevin J. Anderson and Mike Stackpole. Should appear in ebook form sometime within the next two months.”

That military anthology being Five By. Last week Allston revealed the cover, and now we have a rough estimate of when the anthology will be coming out. As always, we’ll keep you updated as we find out more.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

‘Five By Five’: Allston, Stackpole, KJA

May 28, 2012 at 8:43 am | Posted in Books, Sci-Fi | Leave a comment
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In case you didn’t know, there’s an upcoming science fiction anthology featuring a list of heavy hitters: Aaron Allston, Kevin J. Anderson, and Michael A. Stackpole. Stackpole mentioned the upcoming anthology back in September at DragonCon. Continue Reading ‘Five By Five’: Allston, Stackpole, KJA…

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