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Monday, July 2, 2007

Review: GAMES OF COMMAND

GAMES OF COMMAND
By Linnea Sinclair
Science Fiction Romance
Bantam Books

OPENING NOTES FROM REVIEWER: I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews for all potential readers. Knowing major chunks of the plot takes the fun out of the read.

So, looking at the elements…

COVER ART: I can only dream one of mine gets such a great cover. The artist is Stephen Youll. It’s got "pick me off the shelf now!" factor. Dark, other-worldly landscape. Spacecraft in blast-off mode. Competent-looking, uniformed female captain, front and center. And who is that hunk behind the female MC? ::: flips through a few pages :::: Oooh, that’s got to be Admiral Kel-Paten.

INITIAL IMPRESSION: Dialogue is used effectively as an opening hook. “You might want to sit down.” You bet I did…book in hand. I was drawn into the MCs world, feelings and situation. I understood her past, her current dilemma--and her concern about her possible futures. Or lack of one.

MAIN CHARACTERS: Captain Tasha “Lady Sass” Sebastian is intelligent, strong-willed, self-assured, and always up for a party or at least a pitcher of iced gin. I like her immediately. She’s coffee-fueled. She makes me root for her and she makes me laugh. Admiral Branden Kel-Paten is cold, calculating, angry, aloof, and impossible to read. But that’s how he’s wired, quite literally. Like, Tasha, I start out with a healthy dose of skepticism and suspicion. As I learn more about him, his past, and his present, I am thrown off balance and then won over, like she is. It takes time. He’s a difficult individual to get to know but the discoveries are more rewarding because of his complex layers. In the end, I cheer for these two. I am upset when their world—make that universe--falls apart. I need them to have a happy ending.

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: Doctor Eden Flynn is a strong enough character to be an MC in her own right, and Jace Serafino, pirate and outlaw, is equal parts worthy hero and enigmatic scoundrel. The two main female characters are close friends and conspirators. The two main male characters are often at violent odds, and I found myself on Kel-Patent’s side every time.

VILLAIN: There is no stand-out villain. It could be Kel-Paten. It could be Serafino. Or an important Triad politician. Or the Faction. Or any of a number of questionable characters. Not knowing who the real enemy is half the fun.

OTHER CHARACTERS: There is a cast of effective and memorable personas, not the least of which are two who share the adventure with, and the affection of, the MCs. They aren’t human. They’re Tank and Reilly, a fidget and a furzel. These are not silly alien sidekicks. They are very recognizable and entertaining entities who play an important role in the outcome of the story. The other various crew members, friends, and past acquaintances are also well drawn, even in brief appearances.

WORLD BUILDING: An appropriately complex array of shifting alliances and enemies, influential organizations, ancient religions, legends and a certain unknown menace called The Faction. Good descriptions of setting throughout, from the spit-and-polish corridors of Kel-Paten’s flagship, Vaxxar to the refuge of a lush forest or an orbiting “raft.”

CONFLICT: Conflict exists on almost every level, but central plot themes focus on issues of trust versus perception. The animosity between the two male leads is sometimes intense. The romantic conflict is realistic. The characters have a deep chasm separating them and no talents for bridge-building. Or do they?

ROMANCE: The sexual tension begins as a faint flicker and allows the reader to develop an emotional investment before it becomes an ion flare. It’s through the MCs sexual encounters that their paradoxes are revealed.

READABILITY: Major Snarf Factor. Shall I explain? Last summer, I started reading a best seller but couldn’t get past Chapter Six. Not because it isn’t well-plotted, intriguing or effective writing, but because I simply didn’t have the time to finish it, and no motivational Snarf cracking their proverbial whip and chanting, “Must read more!” In contrast, I picked up GAMES OF COMMAND on Tuesday night and finished it Saturday afternoon, despite three fourteen-hour days at work. I made the time to finish it. I couldn’t put it down. It was a white-knuckle “what happens next?” adventure. I was Snarf-driven. This book should have a warning label: Addicting Substance. Determined by the Surgeon General to Result in Severe Sleep Deprivation.


EVIL AUTHORS GUILD STAMP OF APPROVAL: The Evil Authors Guild exists to encourage writers to inflict appropriate amounts of terror, angst and emotional torture into their characters’ lives, and to leave them twisting in the wind at every opportunity. Enthusiastic approval.

NEAT, CATCHY LINGO:
McClellan’s Void. Just the tag elicits mystery and foreboding.
Neverwhen. Suggests a place that can’t be described in physical terms, like Anne McCaffrey’s “between” or Never Never Land.
Psy-Serv. *suppresses shudder*

SECOND READ: What fun! All the subtle hints and nuances suddenly jump off the page. Kel-Paten’s personality quirks have deeper meaning. Tasha’s offhand comments crackle with irony. Little things that seem like visual details become major icons. This one is written for a second read. Maybe a third, a fourth…and beyond.

OVERALL RATING: I don’t rate novels on a number scale. Each novel is unique and, just like sightseeing in a strange city, you learn about the literary ‘points of interest’ as you get to know the territory. This one has adventure, excitement, shiny technology, a gritty underbelly and a variety of surprises. GAMES OF COMMAND is a Las Vegas. Definitely, a Las Vegas. And just like Vegas, if you haven’t ever been there, my advice is that you should make the trip. Soon.

13 comments:

  1. Great review, Laurie! Now I want to read. :)

    Oh yeah, thumbs up for including an Evil Author Rating--can I please steal that for when I (eventually) get around to writing reviews of what I read? %-)

    Oh yeah, and I think you should link this review to the Toasted Scimitar for Misc Week. :P

    ~Merc

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  2. Great job on the review, by the way.
    :o)

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  3. Curious question for you, Laurie. I critted all of Draxis for you and I know you write other Sci-Fi and you always have romance. But, I don't remember you mentioning reading any other Science Fiction Romance, other than Linnea's. Why is that?

    For the record, I only read Linnea Sinclair and Susan Grant in addition to the older novels by the greats like Ann McGraffey.

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  4. Well, goodness. I'm all a-flutter, though for a while I thought you'd neglect to mention Tank and Reilly. Tank IS on the cover, you know. He's much miffed he wasn't mentioned in your cover art critique. >^..^<

    Yes, Tank is real. ;-) Check my dedication page.

    I hope you find my other books equally as fun. It's pretty much the reason why I write: fun. Saturday afternoon at the movies fun.

    Thanks again! ~Linnea

    ps: I do have deleted and never included scenes on the Alien Romances blog: http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/

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  5. Merc, by all means use the Evil Author's Stamp of Approval on your reviews. Very important endorsement there, you know. LOL

    Kimber, thanks for your comments and compliment. Regarding your question about why I don't talk about other Sci-Fi Romances I've read, it's because I don't read many. Most leave me cold. Either too much Sci-Fi, not enough Romance or the Sci-Fi is more like FOAP (Fantasy on Another Planet). I picked up GAMES OF COMMAND because of the buzz--some of which was your buzzing. ;) I read a few pages and my thought was...Yes! Now, this is my idea of a Sci-Fi Romance.

    Linnea, thanks so much for your comment. My apologies to Tank for failing to mention his presence on the cover (front and back!). I better hope he doesn't Go Blink! and whack me upside the head with a paw for my oversight. You can tell him his sudden surprise appearance on the Vaxxar bridge--you know the one--was one of my favorite scenes in the book. :) Whew! Hope I'm back on his good side now. Nice fidget.

    I've been gobbling up those deleted scenes. I think I only have one or two yet to read. What a great idea that was to make them available to Kel-Paten's...uh, make that your fans. heh heh. :) *blush*

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  6. Laurie, it's just the right balance, isn't it? Balance is such a subjective thing too. Makes it impossible for an author to please everyone.

    For example, my favorite Susan Grant book is STAR KING. I gave it a 'Sensual' rating for the love scenes. I was stunned when I read a review which gave it a 'Highly Sensual' rating, or the equivilant. After thinking about it, the difference was the love story was so well developed and well balanced from my point-of-view that the graphic content didn't jar me out of the story.

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  7. You have written one of the best reviews that I have ever read. I also loved this book, and with your review many more people will discover this wonderful novel. Linnea Sinclair has other books out at this time that are as wonderful as this one. I adored "Accidental Goddess"( Too Cute, and Keep you up at night type story, exciting, scary and Hot too!) "Finders Keepers" is sooo wonderful, (This is one of my comfort books, and is a good novel/friend to always return to)!Gabriel's Ghost( Oh my Goodness!) What a book, and , again, what a protective hero and smart heroine. I am surprised that I get any sleep when reading L. Sinclair!

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  8. Kimber, that it is. :) I was totally hooked.

    Susiq2, thanks so much for your kind words about my review. I think my reviews are a little offbeat, so glad to hear it struck a chord with another fan. :)

    Thanks also for your assessment on Linnea's other novels, but I still can't decide which to dive into first. Maybe I should just put them in alphabetical order. :)

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  9. Laurie, my agent adores your review style. She felt it was extrenely well done and professional. Take a bow. ~Linnea

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  10. Wow. Thank you very much. :) *more blushing*

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  11. heh, well there's nothing for me to add; like your style of reviews and very nice site you run here. You may want to think about creating a librarything profile, and adding your books and reviews there as well:

    www.librarything.com

    I'm at
    www.librarything.com/profile/david-de-beer

    let me know if you pop up there and then I can "watch you"

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  12. Thanks, David. I'll definitely check that out.

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