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.

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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 Codex Alera

Title: Furies of Calderon

Author: Jim Butcher

Nutshell: Alera is a gorgeous land, filled with civilization a la Ancient Rome. Men and women work the land to produce a living, aided by the furies. Not the claw-handed furies of Greece, but elemental spirits that live in every facet of the world. Tavi, however, is the only person in the entire country to be completely without furycraft. He lives, of course, in the Calderon valley, the roughest frontier of Alera, where only furycraft keeps the residents alive. Tavi gets by mostly on determination, nurtured by his aunt and uncle, hoping someday to enroll in the Academy in the capital. But as he and his uncle go out tending sheep, they are attacked by a Marat, a barbarian from beyond the mountains. In trying to warn the garrison guarding the path, Tavi unearths a twisted plot to overthrow the First Lord of Alera.

Read-alikes: The Legend of Eli Monpress reminds me of this one, though it’s a bit lighter overall. Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive is similar in style of writing and theme, and although the world is very different, the concept of everything having some kind of soul is the same,if carried much further. I don’t think I’ve read any Rome-based fantasy worlds other than this one, but Patrick Rothfuss can match him for richness and diversity of civilization.Read More »