Book Review: The Brittle Riders by Bill McCormick

RGB Trilogy Color I Synopsis: In a far future, Earth had already been visited by an alien race called the Sominids, who came here for the express purpose of drinking and having sex with everyone they could. When one of their infamous parties resulted in the moon being cut in half, and killing everyone who happened to live there, they quietly left. Their encounter with the Sominids had taught the human race many things, primarily that faster than light travel did not exist. Denied the stars, the human race began to dwindle in numbers and terminate all of their space programs.

A thousand years after that, a scientist named Edward Q. Rohta circumvented anti-AI laws, laws which had been on the books for millennia, by creating organic creatures to provide manual labor. Instead of dying after ten years, as promised in the company brochure, they would develop flu-like symptoms and go into hiding. Eventually, fed up with the mistreatment they suffered at the hands of humans they rose up and killed every man, woman, and child on the planet.

This is the story of what happens next.

The Brittle Riders; Apocalypses are funny that way.

Review: The Brittle Riders (Book I) by Bill McCormick was an unexpected pleasure to read. While I love science fiction and fantasy, it took me a while to immerse myself in this new and creative world. This debut novel commences with a preamble establishing the atmosphere that caused the apocalyptic demise of humankind. We’re introduced to Edward Q. Rohta, who is a brilliantly arrogant geneticist (and avowed hedonist). Since the “Plato Wars,” the creation of artificial intelligence was forbidden. Howbeit, Rohta circumvented that law by developing organic hybrids designed to assist humans. The transgenic beings he created were categorized as pseudo-humans and granted no rights. Rohta continued his research, creating more mutated and intermixed species called gen-o-pods, selling them as international slave labor and sex slaves. After fifty prosperous years, a succubus visited Rohta, stating that her contemporaries had studied humanity and deemed humans unscrupulous and indecent creatures that were a blight on their world. War soon followed.

Once the humans were defeated, the gen-o-pods constructed new communities and rid themselves of anything that was reminiscent of their human creators. However, like in all societies, not everyone desired a world of peace. Instead, they launched a war of their own, enslaving other brands (species) they deemed inferior. Xhaknar and Yontar (super soldiers), devastated the new world, and decimated numerous brands.

So, what happens when a succubus, a wolfen, a badgebeth, a rangka, and a braarb walk into the haven bar for a meeting over a few flagons of skank? No, seriously, that’s what happens. What comes next is an intriguing tale regarding those fringe dwellers of the wasteland, and an unfathomable plan by “the dead one,” Geldish.

The Brittle Riders is a well-crafted and intricate tale about these unlikely ‘heroes’ on a quest to free Arreti (formally earth) from its new, tyrannical leader. Author McCormick interweaves the backgrounds and the histories of their brands into an engaging, multi-layered plot. It isn’t merely a good vs evil story. Both concepts are interspersed with gradations of each, creating a compelling tale that you won’t want to stop reading.

As an added benefit, there’s a meticulous accounting of all brand names and descriptions, as well as the new measurements of time, days, years, etc. I referred to it a few times, but after I was well into the story, I didn’t need it. However, it’s always a pleasure when an author includes such details for the readers’ benefit.

The Brittle Riders is full of multidimensional characters, great battles, and the complexities of seeking new allies amongst sectarian brands to benefit the whole of Arreti, whilst rectifying wrongs of the past. In some places, the prose appeared a tad stilted, but once the story unfolded, it flowed quite well. There’s also some adult content, but not overly so. It’s used to demonstrate the turpitude and maleficence of integral characters. Definitely a “Zanubi” of a story, well worth 4.5 stars.

“La’Kyee Shhak.” You’ll understand once you’ve read it.

Shiva XIV by Lyra Shanti

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Synopsis: Prophecy rules, science rebels, and the fate of all depends on a boy named Ayn.

Predestined to become the great messiah of his people, Ayn must save his galaxy from disease and war. But when an unknown enemy threatens everyone he loves, the destiny he thought was his spins out of control.

A coming of age story amidst galactic turmoil, Shiva XIV has action, romance, mysticism, and magical creatures. Join Ayn and his friends as his journey to become a heroic legend unfolds!

*Adult themes, intended for mature teens and up.

Review: Shiva XIV by Lyra Shanti is an interesting mix of science fiction and fantasy that blends both genres without an overly complicated plot. This unique tale begins with the birth of Queen Amya’s son (Ayn) who is proclaimed by the High Priest of Deius as the Neya Bodanya. This is a messiah, of sorts, and the second coming of The Great Adin.

Immediate conflict arises from not only within the holy order ruling Deius, but also the factions against the religious aspects and implications of such a proclamation. Whereas Deius has been ruled by The Council of The Holy Dei, many of its denizens reject the council and prefer science to that of religion and prophecy.

Regardless of this opposition, Ayn is groomed as the Neya Bodanya, and sheltered within the confines of the temple. During this time, his interaction with his mother is minimal, while the High Priest, Meddhi-Lan, raises him as more of a son than a student.

The Uh-Ahm galaxy was in turmoil due to the draining of plasmic energy, which is their power supply. After the decimation of one world (Hun), many people turned to their spiritual leaders for guidance as others sought a scientific explanation, thusly fracturing the already brittle filament in which peace and cooperation had been tethered throughout the galaxy.

Ayn is extremely conflicted and apprehensive regarding his importance to the Un as a whole, and his ability to shoulder the responsibilities of his position. His dubiety and confusion is amplified by his inability to accept an abnormality from his birth.

After reaching his fourteenth year, a devastating event separates Ayn from not merely his home, but also his planet. The way this event takes place, had me re-reading a few sections to see if I’d missed anything. I hadn’t. The subsequent events introduce Ayn and his new companion, Zin, to a new world and the struggles that come with it.

Although this is science fantasy, most of the elements appear more a futuristic version of Earth. This is especially so once we experience Xen. With the pawnshops, trains, vending machines, lounges, hotels, etc, it’s like two teens escaping to New York in hopes of becoming stars. However, there are a few species mentioned, hover cars, and the like that keep you in the sci fi element.

Shiva XIV was an enjoyable read with a few interesting characters. Many questions and hints are woven into the plot to cause the reader to wonder what might happen next, and what some characters true relation might be.

Although I love male characters that can also be sensitive, there was quite a bit of crying and pouting. Some of it is understandable, given Ayn’s age, naivety, and inner struggles. However, it started losing its effectiveness when the tears were so prevalent.  In addition, the overuse of exclamation points was a bit jarring. It took a bit of getting used to, but didn’t take away from my reading experience. I’d like to see how Ayn’s story unfolds and where some of the treacheries, alliances, and instant love romances lead.