Book Review: Series – Central Galactic Concordance (1-3)

Book Cover from Amazon

Overload Flux (Central Galactic Concordance #1) by Carol Van Natta
Minder Rising (Central Galactic Concordance #2) by Carol Van Natta
Zero Flux (Central Galactic Concordance #2.5) by Carol Van Natta
Pico’s Crush (Central Galactic Concordance #3) by Carol Van Natta

SERIES REVIEW

A rousing combination of science fiction space opera and romance, Central Galactic Concordance has a bit of everything without burying the flavors. In addition, many of the characters have diverse racial and ethnic traits, something Ms. Van Natta strives for. This series is a hidden gem, and should especially appeal to fans of Sharon Lee and Steve Millers Liaden Universe. Each of the books within the series works well as a stand-alone.

 

Book Cover from Amazon

Overload Flux (Central Galactic Concordance #1) by Carol Van Natta

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON

Two loners fighting to stay alive discover they must now save the galaxy.
The only vaccine for a deadly galaxy-wide pandemic is missing … and the only ones who may be able to find it are a powerful talent on the verge of a meltdown, and a security specialist hiding her extraordinary skills in a menial job.

Brilliant investigator Luka Foxe must act fast if he’s going to save the civilized planets of the Central Galactic Concordance. For as a pandemic sweeps across the galaxy, someone is stealing the vaccine. To make matters worse, Luka’s hidden mental talents are out of control, leaving him barely able to function in the midst of violence and a rising body count. The convoluted trail leads to a corrupt pharma industry and the possibility of an illegal, planet-sized laboratory. In the face of increasing threats, he must rely on an enigmatic, lethal woman who has secrets of her own.

Mairwen Morganthur hides extraordinary skills under the guise of a dull night-shift guard. The last thing she wants is to provide personal security for a nova-hot investigator, or to be plunged into a murky case involving sabotage, treachery, and the military covert operations division that would love to discover she’s still alive. Worse, she knows that two more deaths won’t bother their enemies one bit. Their only hope for survival is to share their darkest secrets. With everything in their universe at stake, can they learn to trust one another?

 

MY REVIEW

A Science Fiction Romance combined with Police Procedural, and the first book of the ongoing Central Galactic Concordance series made up of stand-alone stories, some concentrating on romance and some concentrating on the police procedural. The series is at four manuscripts at this time of this review and growing – three novels and one novella.

The books has a solid mix of the typical well-loved tropes of Sci-Fi and Romance. Two damaged people not looking for love but finding love which may heal them. Bonus – The love interest couple never had a moment of “should I share my feelings” angst or a moment of staged arguing to keep them apart – the circumstances of the book provide enough barriers the author does not go with the very annoying brainless high-school angst in full grown adults. This is not an instant love romance but a slow discovery with the investigation into a murder taking the primary stage. In addition, both of the adults are intelligent but have different forms of intelligence to support each other in the Police Procedural part of the story.

Other tropes include one of the romantic leads having military background, an interstellar conspiracy which will continue to unfold as the series continues, and one of my favorite tropes of psychic powers (with unique worldbuilding in how this universe deals with and uses those blessed/cursed with the powers). About halfway through the book, another beautiful sci-fi trope is added with a trip in a space ship – both the combination of the long boring travel between the stars where the romance has a chance to grow further and then the flaming reentry to the next portion of the dangerous investigation into murders on the new planet.

Ms. Van Natta has taken a lot of the typical stuff we all love about science fiction, romance, and murder mysteries, and blended it well to create a new universe for what is a promising series based on the debut novel.

 

Book Cover from Amazon

Minder Rising (Central Galactic Concordance #2) by Carol Van Natta

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON

A covert agent asked to train a prodigy telepath discovers he must first keep the boy and his mother alive in a gleaming city full of danger.

An injured agent on the galactic capital planet must evade whoever is killing off his covert interrogations unit and make an impossible choice–save his own skin, or save an innocent woman and her prodigy son. Can he discover who is subverting the mission of the Citizen Protection Service, before they fulfill their dark plans?

A millennium into the future, the Citizen Protection Service tests all children for minder talents, and recruits the best. Injured agent Lièrén Sòng is recovering from a near-fatal crash in Spires, the gleaming capital city of the galaxy. He should be preparing to return to interrogating criminals for the Citizen Protection Service, but he’s made unexpected friends with a woman and her son. The boy has strong telepathic talents similar to Lièrén’s, and his attractive mother makes Lièrén long for the stability of family.

Imara Sesay works hard as a road crew chief in Spires and part-time bartender to provide for her son Derrit. For him, she even breaks her ironclad rule never to get close to a customer, when she trusts Lièrén to teach her son how to control his growing telepathic talents.

However, new fatalities in his covert unit make Lièrén suspect he isn’t a lucky survivor, he’s a loose end. He should pull away from Imara and Derrit to keep them safe. But when the local CPS Testing Center shows a more than usual interest in the boy, Lièrén must make an impossible choice–protect the boy, or run for his own life. Can he stay alive long enough to save Imara and her prodigy son?

 

MY REVIEW

A science fiction romance with political thriller mix in. The romance takes time to develop (no Instalove here) – the hero is recovering from a major injury and is staying at a hotel until he recovers enough for his next assignment, and the heroine does not do transients for love interests because of her son. It takes forever for their first kiss, but the wait of this sweet romance is worth it.

While waiting for the romance to develop, the political thriller sci-fi plot holds center stage. The second book of the Central Galactic Concordance, Minder Rising works great as a stand-alone. With very little overlap with the first book, Overload Flux, the story introduces an entirely new group of characters giving a reader a new place to stand while looking at the political issues within the Concordance universe.

I really love and identify with the hero Lieren because of his naivety and trust. He believes the best about the universe and it has bit him. I hope we see more of him as he recovers from having the blinders removed from his eyes. He is a hero worth meeting.

And the heroine is awesome as a single mother working two jobs – one at a hotel bar and the second as a construction gang leader. The description of the see-through walkways and roads for the crystal capital city (tourist attraction) which she works on as part of the road construction crew set this firmly in the sci-fi area while also grounding the fantastic with a dose of reality.

Diversification – Hero is Asian descent and Heroine is African descent (sci-fi situation).

 

Book Cover from Amazon

Zero Flux (Central Galactic Concordance #2.5) by Carol Van Natta

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON

A couple investigating murder on a cold planet discovers their first challenge is staying alive. Forensic investigator Luka Foxe has begun a new life with Mairwen Morganthur (Overload Flux), and left his troubled past far behind. Only a plea from his old friend and mentor can lure him back to investigate a violent crime scene frozen in an ice cave. Unfortunately, Luka’s old friend knows far more than he’s telling, which could get them all killed, even with security specialist Mairwen on their side.

An unexpected ice fall reveals a hidden lab buried deep in a mountain and the find of a lifetime. Now someone is trying to make sure those secrets stay frozen in time, even if it means more deaths …

Hang on for a space opera murder mystery in the far reaches of deep space.

 

MY REVIEW

The novelette, Zero Flux, from the Central Galactic Concordance series revisits the characters introduced in Overload Flux. I think the novelette works as a stand-alone, but since I read this book the day after I finished Overload Flux I can’t really judge.

A science fiction police procedural with some action-adventure on the side and a breath of romance (our main characters are still deeply in love).

This time the murder mystery centers around a cold case – literally and figuratively – the murder happened over 20 years ago and has been frozen in-situ thanks to the ice planet. Several red herrings keep the reader guessing as the story unfolds, combine nicely with the danger of working in the ice and snow. Winter doesn’t like its frozen vignette being investigated and dumps several additional challenges on our hero and heroine; the cold is only the beginning.

Ms. Van Natta is doing a good job of slowly introducing readers to the Concordance universe; the worldbuilding is getting better each manuscript.

 

Book Cover from Amazon

Pico’s Crush (Central Galactic Concordance #3) by Carol Van Natta

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON

Trouble comes to paradise when a serial killer chooses a galaxy-famous college campus for his hunting ground. A galactic security specialist expects a quiet vacation visit to his daughter’s college campus. Instead he finds himself in battling for the safety of the students, with old friends and an ex-military squad-mate fighting at his side. Can they find a cunning serial killer before he finds his next target?

When ex-military sniper and current personal security specialist Jerzi Adams visits his daughter Pico’s quiet college on the paradise-like planet of Nila Marbela, he doesn’t expect emergency evacuations and rogue robots. Nor does he expect to renew a friendship with former squad-mate.

Explosions, sabotage, and assaults used to be Andra De Luna’s daily routine, but she gave it up for a professorship at a prestigious university. Now she’s flung back into that world, with an entire floating campus of students to protect.

When the hunt for a cunning serial killer leads Jerzi’s old friends Luka and Mairwen (Overload Flux) to town, there’s trouble in paradise as the body count starts to rise. Either the world of academia has gone from merely cutthroat to downright deadly, or more sinister forces are in conflict, with the campus as a battleground. Without an improvised miracle or two, no one’s going to make it out alive.

 

MY REVIEW

The third novel (with a side trip of a novellette as 2.5) in the Central Galactic Concordance has two romances – one older couple and one younger couple, plus both couples from the previous novels of the series. While this book could work as a standalone, I found the multiple story threads hard enough to follow knowing the complete background.

I think Ms. Van Natta bit off a little more than her present authorship skill set allowed her to work. The battle scene focuses in on each of our various characters at least once – so the battle jumps around between the seven main characters plus one of the villains. Also several minor characters are tracked, though their POV is not used. A very ambitious attempt by Ms. Natta and comes just shy of actually pulling it off seamlessly – the seam definitely shows on this one. It’s still worth buying the story even with the clunky – because she keeps the battle action constantly moving.

On the plus side, the series has had four couples and I love the fact all of the characters are different people. Even with the massive battle scene, each character’s strength and weaknesses are used. Ms. Van Natta uses each character well. Even better, some of the couples have the female be the strong, military member of the couple with the male being the thinker, and other couples have the male being the protector and the woman being the brain. And for every romance in the Concordance Universe, even with the psychic powers, we get to see the romance develop – no Instalove.

Oh and I *love* the practical engineering class and the related projects … plus the real world applications during the battle. This added bit perfectly brings the science fiction to the fantastic forefront while simultaneously grounds the story in reality.

I look forward to reading more of Ms. Van Natta’s Concordance Universe. Each book has been a different emphasis, a different romance, and another slow reveal of the worldbuilding in the Universe.

Author Spotlight: Liana Brooks

Amazon Cover

I’ve been following Liana Brooks since back when I worked for Breathless Press, and she published a superhero series of “Even Villians…” I’ve watched her moved to Alaska, then to the West Coast.

Then (gasp) she has moved to South Carolina in 2019 following her husband’s military career. I may actually get to meet this magical writer of romance mixed with genre – ranging from historical to science fiction, superheros to time travel. I do hope she comes to ConCarolinas in June. I will be all over that like icing on a cinnamon roll.

If you like your genre with some romance or your romance with some genre, check out her works.

You can also check out my I’m-not-a-stalker previous posts on her books and her blog below. I find her blog thought-provoking and useful for writing. I also follow her on Facebook and am one of her patreons. Nope, not a stalker at all – just a superfan.

Other Cool Blogs: Liana Brooks June 23, 2016
Other Cool Blogs: Liana Brooks June 26, 2016
Other Cool Blogs: Liana Brooks
Other Cool Blogs: Privilege
Book Reviews: A Time & Shadows Mystery Series
Book Reviews: Even Villains Fall in Love

Editing Rant: Possession is not Romantic

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No, no. NO!

Possession is not romantic.

Slavery romance is not a kink I have, and it is one I don’t think is ever healthy for the participants. Avoid it. Period!

In a recent romance, the prince kept saying “mine” – and, f-no, not when the female has been ripped from her home and enslaved. Don’t care if it is insta-love, don’t care is the woman is super-strong-were, don’t care if the prince had his own problems and has my sympathy, don’t care if the prince wants to free her – the possessive term, while sexy when both sides have the option of agreeing to equal possession is NOT okay when one is wearing a slave collar and the other holds the leash (even though he really, really doesn’t want to).

Aside from possession terms, the romance had the perfect use of insta-love, woman is super-strong-were, romantic hero (a prince) has problems which create great sympathy, and a story overall was way too big for the 62 pages it was stuffed into.

But romance is about equals coming together. Both of them bringing something to the plate. I love it when a strong man and strong woman say “mine” to each other. If only one side (usually the male) says “mine”, and the other side doesn’t immediately agree that – yes, I am yours but I also own you in equal measure – then the power dynamic is off.

Watch out for this in your writing. I see it far too often where someone holds leash-level power and stakes a “romantic” claim to someone who isn’t in the position to say no.

That’s slavery. Not a relationship.

In this month of the celebration of love AND black history, learn to tell the difference.

Writing Exercise: Out-Of-Alignment

Alignment by Pajamas
Acquired from the Internet Hivemind

WRITING EXERCISE: Today’s writing exercise comes in two parts. First write a scene, a hundred to two hundred words, nothing long. Should have a Point-of-View character (POV); may have other characters as well. Second, redo the scene by changing the POV character’s alignment. Define the old alignment, and then state the new alignment being attempted. Have the scene remain the same as possible, only change the motives and what the reader sees through POV character.

How does the morality/ethical code of the character change how the story unfolds? How important is the internal mindset of the POV to how the story unfolds? How hard is it for the other characters of the scene to judge the character’s intentions?

Alignments are a concept from Dungeons and Dragons and other roleplaying games. They help form a character’s personality for non-actors playing in the game. Lawful good are goody-goody while chaotic evil are psychotic. If you are not familiar with the concept or want to try something outside your comfort zone, change the basic moral code of the POV character. For example: will do anything for money; refuses to do actions to upset people; will only act in a legal manner; just don’t make me dress up; etc.

***

My Attempt – Text Flash: Dream Dancing

Chaotic Good Version

I don’t like the room, a tight classroom where the girl-woman-child-female is compressed into a desk, the tabletop pressing her knees into her body and her neck and arms constrained. The blackboard screeches as chalk writes a dozen formulas, while an overhead projector burns like the sun, flashing words slightly out of focus and too fast to read on a white board covered with half-erased scribbles. All the other children in the classroom are much smaller, middle-school age and chatting up a storm, making the sole adult at the front – a faceless being – inaudible in the din.

Slipping into the dream, I sweep all of the distractions away, expanding the desk so the woman full-grown is behind a business desk. As she relaxes, I change the scene once again so the overhead light becomes a disco ball, and the woman is at a table next to a dance floor. My hand is nut brown against her pale skin as she accepts and joins me on the dance floor. 

Her head tilts up, smiling in confidence as we dance around the dream room. My suit and her flowing gown touching only around the legs and at the wrists. Her alarm interrupts the dream just as I had been leaning down. Outside the window, behind a screen, I watch her fall back onto her pillows and scream in frustration. She isn’t alone, but this is the first night of many. (words 240)

***

Lawful Evil Version

The dream room of the woman doesn’t suit my purposes. The tight classroom twists in from all directions, compressing the female a school desk with the tabletop pressing her knees into her body and her neck and arms constrained. Across from her, the blackboard screeches as chalk writes a dozen formulas, while an overhead projector burns like the sun, flashing words slightly out of focus and too fast to read on a white board covered with half-erased scribbles. All the other children in the classroom are much smaller, middle-school age, and chatting up a storm, making the sole adult at the front – a faceless being – inaudible in the din.

Slipping into the dream, I sweep all of the distractions away, expanding the desk so the adult woman has a moment is behind a business desk, unlike her day-job but something she aspires to. Before she fully relaxes, I change the scene  again modifying the overhead light into a disco ball, and the woman sits at a table next to a dance floor. My hand is nut brown against her pale skin as she accepts and joins me on the dance floor. 

Her head tilts up, smiling in confidence as I lead her around the dream room. My suit and her flowing gown touching only around the legs and at the wrists. Her alarm interrupts the dream just as I had been leaning down. Timing is everything after all. Outside the window, behind a screen, I watch her fall back onto her pillows and scream in frustration. She isn’t alone, but this is the first night of many. (words 269)