Star Wars: Scoundrels

Title: Star Wars: Scoundrels

Author: Timothy Zahn

Nutshell: This book is very easy to describe in a nutshell:

Han Solo Does Ocean’s Eleven.

For those of you not sold, or not familiar with Ocean’s Eleven (Get thee to the library. Get, I say!) Han Solo is looking for work between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. He would go pay Jabba with his Rebel Reward Credits (trademark!) but, alas, they were stolen. By a pirate. Stupid pirates. He’s approached by a man with a job: Break into the most secure vault on the planet, owned by a high-placed member of Black Sun, the criminal syndicate which makes Jabba look forgiving and generous by comparison. All Han has to do to be set for life is come up with a team, bang out a plan, and pull off a heist. In two weeks. Say it with me: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this….”

Read-alikes: Most other Star Wars books involving Han Solo (There’s a trilogy named for him you could start with). Most other Timothy Zahn novels (although the Icarus Hunt is the one most like an actual heist). I confess, the only other titles I can come up with are actually movie titles like Ocean’s Eleven and Leverage. Read More »

Randoms

Title: Randoms

Author: David Liss

Nutshell: Zeke Reynolds was standing between the Neko and the advancing army of robots, his Browncoat duster billowing. He only had seconds before the robots attacked, and he couldn’t think of a single pithy quote to shout. Raising his fist, he shouted the only thing that came to mind: “I’m Batman!”

Alright, so that’s not how it happened. But its way closer to the way Earth’s first contact went than anyone would expect. Turns out, being a geek when aliens arrive on earth is a huge bonus, and Zeke is as geeky as they come. Good thing, too, because the aliens take him up to their stellar academy to represent Earth. If he does well, Earth could join the unified sentient races and be granted an end to all disease. If he does badly… his mother could die.

Read-alikes: Alcatraz Versus the Evil LibrariansRead More »

All Fall Down

Title: All Fall Down

Author: Ally Carter

Nutshell: Grace should probably be your typical Army brat. She gets into scrapes, has moved more than a dozen times, and knows way more than the average team about international relations. Instead, Grace is crazy. Her mother died in a fire three years ago, and her mind cracked from the trauma. Now, living with her grandfather in the US embassy to Adria, she is haunted by visions of her mother and surrounded by people who love and support her.

Or is she? You see, Grace doesn’t remember a store fire, tragic but accidental. Grace remembers a bomb. And a man with a gun. A man with a scar. A man that everyone claims does not exist.

A man Grace just saw in the streets of Adria.

While everyone around her tells her that she’s crazy, Grace must face her fears and her nightmares to stop her mother’s murderer from killing again.

Readalikes: The Gallagher Girls Series by (surprise!) Ally Carter. The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz.Read More »

The Cobra Trilogy

Title: The Cobra Trilogy (Cobra, Cobra Strike, Cobra Bargain)

Author: Timothy Zahn

Nutshell: The Cobra Trilogy covers three generations of  super-soldier. In the first book, small town boy Johnny Moreau wants to change the odds in the war against an alien menace to the Human worlds. He undergoes surgery to become a super-soldier, with servo-assisted, ceramically strengthened muscles and bones, built in lasers, and an implanted computer loaded with an acrobatic skill set to help drive them. He fights the war with the Trofts, and then afterwards deals with the political ramifications of a segment of the population having been turned into un-retireable weapons.

In the second book, Jonny’s twin sons Joshua and Justin impersonate each other on a covert mission. A planet populated by humans has been discovered far from human-controlled space, but intel suggests they are hostile. The inhabitants don’t seem hostile at first. In fact, they seem unnervingly peaceful. Unsettlingly peaceful.  And a strange bird explorers find on a different planet may hold the key to getting back home safely.

In the third book, Justin’s daughter Jessica is made the first female Cobra and sent to surveil the formerly suspicious planet, but she is unexpectedly shot down. Somehow, as an obvious offworlder in potentially hostile territory, she  must escape the planet. Od course, she thinks she’ll be able to complete her mission on the way.

Read-alikes: Michael A. Stackpole and Jerry Pournelle both write similar planet-based military SF.Read More »

Top Ten: Elantris

Title: Elantris

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Nutshell: Sarene arrives for her wedding in the country across the ocean from her home to find that she is now, officially, a widow. Her marriage treaty stipulates that if either member dies before the marriage, they are held to have been married, to preserve the treaty. So, Sarene attempts to live in this new country, as an unwed widow. She learns to navigate the mercurial and restrictive court, meddles in politics, and does what she can to make this new home a better place. There’s plenty for her to do. All the royalty are holding secrets, and some of them are her concern.

Raoden, Sarene’s betrothed, woke on the day of his wedding a dead man. He was possessed in the night by the Shaod, a transformation that has made his body blotchy and hairless. He is thrown into the City of Elantris and left to his misery. Once, the Shaod was a glorious thing, and those chosen by it were escorted into Elantris with revelry. Once, the Shaod transformed people into glowing marvels, people able to harness magic. Once, the Elantrians ruled the land with benevolence. But no longer. Now Raoden is locked in the city with packs of starving, miserable, feral people, and he too must try to live in his new surroundings.

If that was not enough, Hrathen, a high-ranking priest from a bloodthirsty religion, has just arrived in the city, and he has thirty days to get everyone to convert. Or his fellow priests will invade and slaughter everyone.

Read-alikes: I’m afraid I have nothing for you, other than more Sanderson titles.

Read More »

Top Ten: I Jedi

Title: I, Jedi

Author: Michael A. Stockpile

Nutshell: Corran Horn’s wife has been kidnapped. Ordinarily he would go rushing off after her, swoop in to her rescue, and they would kick rear end and take names all the way out of the enemy base. But Corran doesn’t know who kidnapped Mirax or where to find them. The galaxy is a huge place, and only a few New Republic intelligence officers know where she was before she was kidnapped. That information is highly classified, of course.

In addition, there’s some evidence that Mirax was kidnapped by someone who thought she was associated with the Jedi. Which means it might take a Jedi to rescue her.

So Corran joins Luke’s Jedi academy, to connect with the Force and his Jedi heritage. But soon he discovers that being Luke Skywalker isn’t his destiny. If he’s going to save Mirax, he’s going to have to be a Jedi on his own terms.

Read-alikes: Just about any other Star Wars book is like this one, especially the X-wings series.Read More »

Top Ten: The Icarus Hunt

Title: The Icarus Hunt

Author: Timothy Zahn

Nutshell: Jordan McKell is a small-time smuggler for a crime lord. It’s not an ideal line of work, but it pays the bills. He’s between smuggling runs when he gets approached for a regular shipping job. Since he’s supposed to be an out-of-work shipper in between runs, he does what any good out-of-work cargo hauler does: he takes the job. He’ll explain it to the crime lord later.

The job does have a couple of oddities. First, the cargo is an entire ship, so he’ll have to fly it. Second, the ship is one of the ugliest, worst-designed ships in the galaxy. Third, he isn’t allowed to choose a crew. Besides his own partner, he has no say in the choice of crewmembers that are helping him. Fourth, there is something fishy going on. This small freight job might be a lot more like smuggling than he was planning. And fifth, one of the crewmembers is dead.

Read-alikes: Michael A. Stackpole’s science fiction is quite similar, as is Aaron Aliston’s. Avalon, by Mindee Arnett has many of the same features.Read More »