Book 1. The Martian Marauders
Loved it! (originally published at Amazon and Goodreads, June 20, 2012)
by F. T. McKinstry, author of the Chronicles of Ealiron series
This story opens up with a startling image of men in a spacecraft looking down on the smoking remains of the Himalayas. These men are human, and numb — because they just dropped the bomb that destroyed their homeworld. Under orders, of course. Jack Commer and his three younger brothers are treated as heroes, or at least formidable warriors, for having done such a thing. But they don’t feel like heroes. They have issues. And when they discover that their fight is far from over, we get to see what they’re really made of.
Human beings tend to hate and fear what they don’t understand. This has not changed by 2034. When creepy things begin to happen on Mars, the new home for mankind’s survivors, no one knows what’s real and what’s simply the stress of losing Earth to war and militaristic hardball. Now Jack and his men are facing the heretofore undetected, indigenous race of Mars, elusive, arcane creatures who are capable of things that are difficult to understand. This has the feel of futuristic swords and sorcery, the universal conflict between masculine and feminine forces in a psychological context.
The author’s use of weaponry and technological systems is outstanding. Shatterguns, super bombs, death rays, spaceships, terraforming and advanced mind control are well thought-out, believable and nicely integrated into the action and politics of the story. But technology is always under development, it rarely works just as you want it to when you need it most — and when it does, it often introduces new problems. This is good science fiction in that the technology reflects the strengths and shortcomings of its inventors.
The early parts of this tale are subtly shadowed by uncomfortable questions about events such as Uranus sailing by the Earth like a hockey puck or the moon exploding, irreversible cataclysms that have left an indelible, collective scar on the human race. But as it unfolds, a clever if not beautiful way to heal begins to reveal itself. This requires the heroes to be open-minded and to view what begins as evil, weird, and too different to accept -– not to mention dangerous -– in a more evolved light. The rub is that these are the selfsame trigger-happy soldiers who, until now, have only contributed to the problem.
Enter the shock of grief, the confusion that comes with knowing things are not as they seem, a wicked human warlord — and the indecipherable wiles of a gorgeous, intelligent woman — and Jack Commer is put to his greatest test as a warrior and a man. For he is not a perfect hero. He melts down, makes crazy decisions and throws his weight around with love and hate until it seems certain he’ll doom everything. But somehow, his charming histrionics open paths that would have remained closed had he not punched a hole in the sky.
This is a tale of hope, regeneration and evolution; anything is possible, the heart will prevail, and sometimes it takes a cataclysm to show us what’s important. I’ll certainly be looking forward to seeing what these characters get up to in the next book, Jack Commer, Supreme Commander.
Book Review: The Martian Marauders (April 26, 2012)
by Turner at The Nerdasaurus Rex
I downloaded an eCopy (is that a word yet? If not, I am totally calling “TM” on that phrase) of the novel, The Martian Marauders, by Michael D. Smith off of Amazon for kindle.*
It took me longer to read it than something of similar length due to real world issues (read: I have a job and I would like to keep it), but that doesn’t really have to do with the content of the book, itself.
Smith’s book takes place in the not-too-distant future as man-kind realizes that Mars, the planet a vast majority of the human population migrated to after the Earth was made un-livable due to futuristic weapons wreaking havoc on the planet, was once the home for Martians… and now those Martians are seemingly set on taking the planet back.
A lot happens – a lot of action, a lot of developments, a lot of discoveries, and a lot of characters are introduced – in this book and it is all done with the goal of a trilogy in mind. I was entertained and liked how everything wrapped up by the final paragraph, although the trip, at times, seemed to hit turbulence.
The book immediately gets you up to speed on both where the human race is and where the main focus of the story is going to be focusing in the first few pages. I think that the idea that mankind is no longer on Earth due to our own actions was both believable and a good choice, just as I felt that tying what had happened on Earth with the main characters, directly, was beneficial for helping make sure that readers understand how important these characters are to the universe they are in.
The non-action parts that helped explained how human society had changed (and, coincidentally, not changed) were, for me, nice. I found myself liking how certain important buildings on Mars were named after famous people from “history.” I liked how Earth was “destroyed” (for lack of better terms) because of an even called the Final War and even though the USSF won, it didn’t come without cost. So, I really liked how the author made sure that we got parts of the story that helped us, as readers, piece together the major parts of mankind’s history up until that point.
The weapons that the Martians used were also, for me, interesting – primarily the weapon called a scattergun that has an incredible effect on organic material, causing it to solidify and break away like shards of glass (at one point, the sound of someone dying as result of being hit by a scattergun was likened to the sound of china hitting the floor). I think that weapon has great potential if this story were to ever get on the small or big screen if the right special effects people get to work on it. Likewise, the Ice Beam weapon that makes a brief appearance is another attack used by the Martians that, while deadly, is decidedly a different way to vanquish an enemy and seemed appropriate for the alien beings.
While I appreciate the dynamic that having a group of brothers brings to any situation (I, myself, am one of three boys born to my parents) – and while I feel that each brother was given a chance to show their personality in the first book – I personally felt that having so many Commers (the last name of the family in-focus in the story) all with their first names starting with “J” was very, very confusing – particularly early in the story. I don’t know if the author was trying to make a reference to the story of the Sullivan brothers who died in World War II, but I personally think there were just too many Commers running around for most of the book and, because of that, characters couldn’t be developed quite as well as they possibly could have been – and, as a result of that, I really didn’t feel too much of an emotional pull when things started getting really crazy later on.
At times, I got irritated with how the main characters spoke during times of action – but that’s really just me being nit-picky on dialogue. I suspect that the author’s preferred means of sharing how a character reveals something is via dialogue instead of narrative or action, and that simply is just a writing style difference. A lot of interesting things happened once the Martians and humans had a battle on Mars and a lot of that was conveyed through the verbal exchanges between characters instead of a narrative by the author. My personal tastes didn’t prefer that – but to think that military men in the heat of battle wouldn’t be shouting things to one another as the battle progressed is ridiculous on my part. So, while this is under the “Bad” category, please keep in mind that I’m just saying that I would have liked less chatter in certain parts is all.
I felt, as a lead character, Jack Commer was lacking. I know that’s pretty rough to say and some strong language in writing circles, but I’m just being honest. I think he showed flashes of brilliance, but he was supposed to be this strong, leader character and it felt like (especially late in the story when he needed to be stepping up) he was having a breakdown or his cool was snapped. Yes – he was dealing with some stuff that, for any person, would mess with your head (and I’m not just talking about being on the front lines as mankind was going to “war” with a Martian species), but at one point I found myself wanting Jack to “man up” instead of just freaking out about whatever had just happened. Now, when it really counted, he got his head straight and saved the day – but even then, he got an assist from another character.
I found the cover of the book a bit misleading… but at this point I’m just desperate to find a third point to make in this section.
- Totally hinted at, but never truly experienced in the story, the threat of the Alpha Centaurians and the massive war-machine that mankind was battling in far-off space really, for me, was something that makes me eager to read Book 2 of the trilogy. From the very brief descriptions and details given in the first book, the AC threat is a whole new monster that could be a darker turn for the series – and that interests me greatly. Michael Smith was able to generate a good level of interest in a foe/character that we haven’t even SEEN yet with just subtle hints and tidbits… not unlike how Spielberg teased/terrorized his audience with little to no actual views of the shark, itself, in JAWS back in 1975 (and from me, that’s a damn good compliment). I can only hope that once the readers follow the story into the fray against the Alpha Centaurians, it won’t disappoint.
- By the end of the story, Jack and Joe Commers became the focus of the heroic side of things and I felt like they play off each other very well. In addition, the author did a great job conveying the connection two brothers have with one another and making the two of them different enough to be their own person. At times, I wondered why Joe wasn’t the focus of the story, but the author does a good job giving the two Commers brothers enough time as the focus of different chapters so they both get ample development.
- There were a lot of characters in this story and Mr. Smith does his best to make sure you get a little bit of who they are through narrative, back story and even verbal exchanges. I found that the majority of the minor characters all seemed to be either likable or detestable – from Harri McNarri to the Commers’s parents – which, to me, says that the author isn’t afraid to be ambiguous about that and it shows courage, as a writer. For example, I hope that Captain Daniel Henderson has an unfortunate mishap with an airlock in Book 2 for being such a snooty S.O.B.
- Hopefully, this point won’t spoil too much of the story, but after I concluded the story, my mind wandered a bit (like it tends to do) and I wanted to know why the author decided to go with that particular set of physical features he gave his Martians? Were there physical advantages for the lidless eyes, the skin-color and the other features he chose? I, as a nerd, would find those points and that kind of information interesting bits to add to the Martian side of the story in the future books.
As the first book in a series/trilogy, I felt that it did a good job of setting up the rest of the series and establishing the universe, who the main players are and how we all got to this point. As it can be difficult to describe action in ship-to-ship combat, it will be interesting to see how that aspect of space warfare is conveyed by the author, or if he elects to just keep battles limited to blaster fights on planets or in spaceships.
Based on my desire to read about the Alpha Centaurian threat in the upcoming books and how things have set up nicely for everything to get darker if the AC’s are half as insane as is hinted at in Book 1… I’m going to give this a 4-star rating with an asterisk because alone the story would probably get a 3 ½-star rating… but because I am honestly looking forward to Book 2, it gets that extra little something to bump it up to a 4.
For more info on the story from the author himself, or for links to purchase the story in eFormat, check out his blog here.
* – I purchased the book through Amazon because, for some reason, it was hard to find on any other eBook service. I have found that Amazon is easier to use and purchase from, although I’m still new to eBook shopping.
The Martian Marauders by Michael D. Smith (May 25, 2013)
by Bob Milne at Beauty in Ruins
Given the dearth of science fiction in my reading over the past year, I was really excited to give this one a read. I actually started it three times, but decided it was the kind of book I wanted to dedicate myself to, to immerse myself in, and thoroughly enjoy, rather than just sampling chapters as opportunities presented themselves. That meant a long wait for a review – sorry, Michael! – but certainly made for a better read.
Let me set the stage for you. Beset by astronomical disasters, humanity has deliberately raced towards an unhealthy advancement in space exploration. Leaving the ruins of Earth behind them, they have actually found themselves a new disaster, arising from conflict with the Martians they somehow managed to overlook in their desperate race for colonization. This is a dark, paranoid, and largely somber swashbuckling adventure, one that draws the reader in and does a superb job of demanding we sympathize with damaged heroes and traitors. The sci-fi elements are exceptionally strong, especially in terms of military technology, and the development of the Martians as a truly ‘alien’ race is fantastic.
What really makes the story work, however, is the eventual shift that Smith orchestrates – a shift that encompasses both characters and the reader, transforming the weird into wonderful, and desperation into hope. It’s an exciting, action-packed story, but one that’s also thought-provoking and intelligent. A great read.
Martian Marauders by Michael D Smith (August 21, 2013)
by Joseph Spuckler for Author Alliance
The Martian Marauders by Michael D. Smith is the first book in Smith’s Jack Commer Series . Originally from the northeast, Smith now considers Texas his home. He’s written fifteen novels and is known for using humor to examine complex physiological themes. Smith is also a professional artist and has sold numerous drawings and paintings.
The solar system isn’t what it used to be. Pluto went flying out of orbit. The gas giants are gone. The moon has been destroyed and the earth has been evacuated. What is left of the human race lives on Mars under the government of the United Systems Space Force. The USSF is at war with the Alpha Centurians, who are blocking mankind’s access to other systems. Making the last of the evacuations of earth, the Typhoon, commanded by Captain Jack Commer, witnesses the damage…damage from their ship when they were ordered to bomb their own home world. The Himalaya Mountains are now a glowing crater.
The crew of the Typhoon is comprised in part by Jack’s three younger brothers: Joe, Jim, and the excitable John. The brothers are called heroes for their actions but they don’t feel like heroes; they only feel numb for destroying their home world. On their return to Mars, the Typhoon is attacked by a saucer-shaped ship. Who would attack? Alpha Centurians? Why an impractical saucer- shaped ship? Although Important questions, the brothers are needed back on Mars for more urgent matters. Ruins on the surface indicate that the planet, Mars, may have had been inhabited before human colonization. And the adventure begins.
The book reads like a 1950s space serial, updated to include advances in modern science. The destruction of most of the solar system does not seem beyond belief, nor does the destruction of a habitable earth. General Scott, commander of the USS, is exactly what you’d expect from a supreme military leader. General Douglas, The Alien Hunter, is stereotypically flamboyant, reminiscent of Dr. Stranglove’s General Turgidsom. To round out the story, there is a villain whose middle name could be Hubris.
Sci-fi story pits man against intriguing Martian enemy (originally published at Amazon, May 22, 2012)
by MarkusRex82 at Amazon
“… A lot happens – a lot of action, a lot of developments, a lot of discoveries, and a lot of characters are introduced – in this book and it is all done with the goal of a trilogy in mind. I was entertained and liked how everything wrapped up by the final paragraph …”
Surprising readable and compelling Sci-Fi (originally published at Barnes and Noble, February 22, 2012)
by Mike_ [not the author] at Barnes and Noble
“… Michael D. Smith’s novel jumped into the fast lane by quickly establishing main characters and how and why the reader should find them of interest. The book is set in a reasonable future milieu that encourages exploration and the pondering of ‘What if?’…”
Broke my prejudice against Science Fiction Fantasies (originally published at Amazon, March 22, 2014)
by Lawrence C. Dishman at Amazon
When I first composed a review for “Martian Marauders”, I was one third of the way through it and found that I smiled with each page. Science Fiction is not a favorite reading genre for me: with few exceptions, most of the offerings seem scattershot and unfocused, introducing new creatures and human characters with each chapter and leaving the reader’s brain clogged.
Michael D. Smith’s novel jumped into the fast lane by quickly establishing main characters and how and why the reader should find them of interest. The book is set in a reasonable future milieu that encourages exploration and the pondering of “What if?”
Now that I’ve completed the book, I happily report that my initial reactions were accurate. I really enjoyed “Martian Marauders” enough to make me anxious to continue with more of Michael D. Smith’s adventures.
Off to a Good Series Start (originally published at Amazon, January 21, 2015)
by Toni V. Sweeney at Amazon
This was a very difficult book to review, not because it isn’t good, because it’s definitely that—in fact I liked it so much I went on to read the second book in the series—but because there’s so much going on. It’s like trying to watch three ping-pong games at once. Summarizing the plot is just as complicated…
Earth is currently in the Final War with Alpha-Centauri. Pluto and several of the outer planets have been pulled out of orbit and destroyed, the moon is gone, and after removal of all its inhabitants to Mars, the USSF (United System Space Force) has demolished Earth and made it uninhabitable.
In the center of this chaos are the four Commer brothers. There’s Jack, the eldest, a 30-year-old near-virgin with daddy-issues. Jack’s also captain of the Typhoon, and had the dubious honor of dropping the Xon bomb on his home planet. Second brother Joe is co-pilot of the Typhoon, a womanizer who likes to brag about his conquests, and in doing so wonders if he might have let Ms Right get away. Then there’s Jim, and baby brother John Jr., who, it appears, would be more at home on a psychiatrist’s couch than as the pilot of a battleship. John Jr. won’t obey direct orders, talks back to his commanding officer, has an attention-span of zero and apparently the only thing between him and a court martial is his senator father’s influence. In fact, John Jr. shouldn’t be trusted with anything more dangerous than a toothpick, as later actions will unfortunately show.
Immediately, the Typhoon and her crew are given a new assignment which coincides with their deployment on Mars. Confirmation has been made that there was indeed a Martian civilization and several groups are protesting further “destruction” of the relics and remains by Terran colonization. Abruptly, the Earthlings find themselves not only worrying about further attacks from Alpha-Centauri, but also from the Martians who now appear, led by a very disgruntled traitorious earthling named Sam Hergs, an anti-space protester and petty criminal gone big-time, who’s declared himself their Emperor. The Martians are able to share a collective mind which begins to spill over into Earthling consciousness so Jack and the others are aware of what they’re thinking and what they’re planning…the problem is they simply can’t believe it and refuse to admit it.
The discovery that the devastated Earth is being terraformed for re-habitation by a group of scientists who elected to stay behind during the transportation, that they’re being assisted by the Martians…and the most beautiful woman Jack has ever seen is not only the daughter of one of the scientists (and a scientist in her own right) but has also been brainwashed to be the new Martian Empress further complicates matters. Jack’s in love, determined to win Amav for his own…and make peace with the Martians and save the solar system while he’s at it.
In spite of my rather rambling synopsis of the plot, I enjoyed this novel. As I said earlier, because of that, I went on to read Book 2.
I’ve read a couple of other reviews which were unfavorable but I have a feeling those readers were looking for something other than what they got, and perhaps didn’t quite “get” the story.
As for myself, I found the characters very complicated, indeed some times maddening, but always interesting. Their actions were so unlike those of the typical space heroes that I wondered if perhaps this was a satire in spots. Indeed, since a good bit of the exposition is through their thoughts—and what thoughts they are!—it could possibly be. Whether it is or not, intentional or not, The Martian Marauders is an entertaining, enjoyable, sometimes laughable, once or twice appalling, adventure. One warning, however (and a possible Spoiler), Author Smith has a habit of creating characters you may come to like…and then killing them. Be prepared.
I’m looking forward to the next zany, confusing, galaxy-sweeping, hairbreadth adventure of Jack Commer.
Warning: You Will Want to Read the Entire Series! (originally published at Amazon, February 21, 2015)
by Linda B. Nightingale at Amazon
Various reviews here have summarized the story. I won’t repeat the details here. I’ll just say that there is much more to this book than is implied because you wouldn’t want a plot spoiler anyway, and no one had done that. I loved Jack. His ineptness with women was charming in a way, and his shaky fate with Amav was both intriguing—will he win the girl of his dreams—and amusing. From the first paragraph to the last, the characters and their tale will keep you turning pages. I read the book in one day. That’s a record for me. I got into Martian Marauders and couldn’t put it down. There are many smiles on the pages of the book—like the interview with Huey Vesperine. I actually laughed aloud, yet I shed a tear or two earlier. Mr. Smith knows his stuff, both the craft of writing and the technology required to fabricate an enthralling sci-fi. I’m on to the next in the series! Join me in following the adventures of Jack Commer. You won’t regret a single second.
Book 2. Jack Commer, Supreme Commander
Deep, Character Intensive, Fast-paced Sci-fi (originally published at Amazon,September 10, 2012)
by F. T. McKinstry, author of the Chronicles of Ealiron series
Book Two in the Jack Commer series begins with a promising if not challenging journey into the enemy territory of Alpha Centauri to end the war with the United System Space Force…or so Book One left us happily thinking.
But all is not right with the crew of the Typhoon II. Space travel is getting to them, particularly Jack Commer, the newly appointed Supreme Commander of the USSF. He has issues, and many question whether he is qualified for his new title, let alone a mission to make peace with a hateful, fanatical empire. He questions himself. He has alienated his beautiful new wife Amav. The cracks are showing, driving everyone into isolated cesspools of personal angst, nasty little secrets and idiosyncrasies artfully reflected through diary entries and interactions with the Martian crew members, who are both fascinated and bemused by human behavior.
Things further deteriorate when they rescue a group of refugees who claim to have escaped Alpha Centauri clutches but are in fact being controlled by a hive mentality that forbids individuality, brainwashes its members into glassy-eyed submission, and punishes any digression from the self-proclaimed divine will of a megalomaniacal Emperor. A well-done and disturbing development happens when the crew begins to convert. This brings them down into the depths of human depravity and delusion, including the only three who have not succumbed: Jack, Amav, and a twelve-year-old refugee named Bobby whose mind has cracked.
When they are all captured by the Alpha Centaurians and sentenced to brutal torture and death, all seems lost. Here, this story triumphs through what I thought was not only an intense, visceral description of slimy aliens, messed up belief systems, and shocking threats but also a brilliantly executed series of plot twists that kept me turning the pages, none the wiser, until the end when love, cleverness, and fortitude save the day. With the help of some unexpected protagonists, Jack Commer once again shines through his opaque atmosphere of personal issues to become worthy of his stature. It’s a great tale about the value of love and the universal need of living things to be conscious and free. I’ll be looking forward to Book Three, Nonprofit Chronowar.
Irreverent, Satiric, and Good Space Opera (originally published at Amazon, January 21, 2015)
by Toni V. Sweeney at Amazon
In the second book in the Jack Commer series, as the title indicates, much to his sometimes dismay, Jack is now Supreme Commander of the USSF. He’s also newly-wed, and on his way to Alpha-Centauri for peace negotiations. It’s difficult enough being a surviving Commer brother. It’s even more difficult being newlywed. It’s a quadruple problem having your very intelligent bride on the same ship as you and one of your crewmembers lusting after her. It’s even worse when the Martians onboard can’t adjust to Star Drive and get violent and have to be sedated.
Jack has all five factors going against him.
When the Star Drive of the Typhoon II goes out and they’re having to use regular power to get them to their destination, the crew is bored and bickering, questioning themselves, each other, and their mission, until they discover an Alpha-Centuarian ship in distress. Aboard are a group of humans ostensibly escaping their massacred colony. Among them is a twelve-year-old who’s so catatonic he can only communicate through writing science fiction short stories set during Earth’s War Between the States. The adult members are, for all extents and purposes, converts to the Alpha-Centaurians, stating they are returning to Earth, not as refugees, but to convince everyone that the aliens are not the villains they appear, and Earth should surrender rather than negotiate peace.
Whatever the fugitives have seems to be contagious, for one by one, the crew members succumb to their rants, raves, and prayers, and defect…even the Martians and Joe. Alone in the Typhoon II with only his wife and the boy, Bobby, Jack wonders how long he can hold out. He begins to question everything he’s ever thought or believed… and then another Alpha-Centaurean ship appears…and this one isn’t seeking peace or converts…it simply wants Earth’s destruction…
I think I liked this novel better than the first. It’s full of the irreverence, satire, and whirlpool thoughts of the first but even more so. Again, it’s another which really can’t easily be summarized…it has to be read so you can see for yourself. There’s a cliffhanger, but I finished reading with the supreme confidence that Jack Commer, Supreme Commander, would prevail…as he always does…
On to the next…
Not Disappointed! On the Contrary! As Good as I Expected (originally published at Amazon, August 15, 2016)
by Linda B. Nightingale at Amazon
I read the first Jack Commer (Martian Marauders) and was looking forward to this book. I was not disappointed. If, and I hope there is another book, I will be in line to buy it. This book is touching in parts, and a witty space adventure, Jack facing a peace mission with his new wife, in his new position, Supreme Commander of the USSF, the latter of which he did not want. I needn’t recap the blurb or inadvertently give away a plot point. Suffice to say, read the series.
Book 3. Nonprofit Chronowar
An Excellent Addition to the Series (originally published at Amazon, September 7, 2013)
by F. T. McKinstry, author of the Chronicles of Ealiron series
Book Three in the Jack Commer Series, Nonprofit Chronowar, opens with an intriguing mystery involving Joe Commer, the passionate younger brother of Jack, Supreme Commander of the United System Space Force. Tormented by women and unable to cope with having rendered Earth uninhabitable in order to end the Final War, Joe somehow spontaneously time travels to Earth from 2036 to 2020, a date preceding the War. In so doing, he crashes a convention for a committee designed to soothe the suffering on Earth escalated by the early stages of the solar system’s destruction. Having quit the Space Force in misery and disillusionment, Joe commences to compromise the timeline by ranting about the terrors to come. Here several characters are unwittingly drawn into a bigger picture.
The characters in this story are full of realistic flaws, bearing all the insecurities, fears, addictions and neuroses the human race is prone to, especially under stress. The author uses a creative manifestation of time travel, the origins of which no one in the story understands, to weave together past and future events into a unified whole in which the main characters become aware of who they are and what they’re capable of. They are expanded by contact with the future; and healed by contact with the past.
To keep things lively, in the background looms the threat of war from the Alpha Centaurians, a cruel, bloodthirsty race bent on destroying humankind with advanced technologies that affect time-space and infiltrate consciousness. Their influence is introduced in subtle ways. Religious cults, Martians, Martians reincarnated into humans, beautiful women, madmen, lovers and a mysterious telepathic cat–it is not obvious who is friend or foe, delusional, misplaced in time or put there to wreak havoc. As the story unfolds, a fascinating, unnerving explanation is revealed for the seeming instability of time-space, bringing the characters together amid the chaos of impending doom to fight for a new dawn on Earth.
It’s about Time … and about Space … (originally published at Amazon, February 8, 2015)
by Toni V. Sweeney at Amazon
One minute it’s the year 2036 and Joe Commer is about to consummate his lust for Huey Vespertine’s wife Jackie…the next, he finds himself at the podium of the 2020 CTESOPE…The Committee to End Suffering on Earth. What follows is a comedy of errors as well as numerous tragedies as Joe realizes he isn’t in love with Jackie but with her sister Ranna, who is head of CTESOPE and also will die in the mass evacuation of Earth shortly before Joe and Jack drop the Xon bomb on the planet.
In no time at all, thanks to Heuristic Time Transtion, which everyone knows exists but all deny, Joe, Ranna’s lovestruck assistant Urside, his girlfriend Mandy, and various other participants are hopping all over the Space-Time Continuum, trying to find themselves, and each other, and make certain everyone who should survives the destruction awaiting the Earth in three years…
Meanwhile, back in 2036, what about this Celestion business?
…and what does Ranna’s cat Churchill have to do with any of it?
Again, this is another Jack Commer novel which is difficult to synopsize. We learn Joe has resigned from the USSF. He’s now partners with Huey Vespertine in a GaiaNet radio show. The Alpha Centuari-Earth peace is holding…or is it?
The rest of the gang, from Martian Emperor Dar to Jack himself and all characters in between, as well as some newcomers, are all in attendance, First and foremost, however, it’s Joe’s story and he runs with it…sometimes slightly amuck.
Don’t take my ramblings at face value. Read this entry in the series for yourself. It’s by far the best because it re-examines some of the things happening in the previous two and gives a little more explanation.
I’m not a fan of time travel stories because they’re usually so futile, but this one definitely has a ray of something that could be sunlight at the end of its tunnel. It ends as abruptly as the previous novel but indications are it’ll pick up immediately in the next, which I’m looking forward to reading.
I hope the title, Collapse and Delusion, is a misnomer.
This novel was supplied to the reviewer by the publisher and no remuneration was involved in the writing of this review.
Book 4. Collapse and Delusion
Colorful Characters, Nasty Aliens and an Interesting Plot (originally published at Amazon, September 27, 2016)
by F. T. McKinstry, author of the Chronicles of Ealiron series
Collapse and Delusion, Book Four in the Jack Commer Series, starts off innocently enough, at a wedding where we get re-acquainted with the characters in the series. The author does a good job including refreshers about events in the previous books without big info dumps, thus setting the stage for a swift and nasty decline into scifi mayhem, including hostile aliens, dastardly plots, cool weaponry, and interesting, fleshed-out interpretations of things like time travel and programmed consciousness.
In contrast to the technical aspects of this story are a group of colorful, entertaining characters: commanders, engineers, badass women, sleazy journalists and politicians, and the redoubtable Alpha Centaurians, an alien warrior race with unsettling characteristics, pissed off attitudes and hidden agendas. These characters clash against a backdrop of a series of programmed time-space shifts and the utter collapse of the vast, Alpha Centaurian empire, in which every citizen is part of a collective mind.
Things get ugly when Supreme Commander Jack Commer and his wife Amav journey to meet their son, who was abducted as an infant by the Alpha Centaurians. Now a recalcitrant young adult who was raised by the enemy as part of a warriors’ brotherhood, he has written a novel, popular across the cosmos—but is not what it seems. During this stressful visit, in which they’ve planned a reunion party with their friends and colleagues, the Commers are pulled into a war for control over the shattered Alpha Centaurian empire, a battle that involves an unlikely bunch of would-be overlords. In the resulting chaos, everyone scrambles to take sides between collective bliss and perfection—and the scarier choice of individuality and free will. Just when it seems there’s no good place things can go, a twist involving the surprising transformation of a tormented protagonist makes for a satisfying ending.
Appropriate Title, Great Story (originally published at Amazon, January 13, 2017)
By Toni V. Sweeney at Amazon
Early in this fourth entry in the Jack Commer series, someone is asked how he manages to understand what is going on. His answer is that he simply accepts the chaos and believes everything will turn out all right as predicted.
One is reminded of the poem by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…” for indeed there’s a lot of blame being tossed around in this story, and a lot of panic as well. Most of it surrounds Phil Sperry, for this is Sperry’s novel first and foremost. He’s the main character this time around, and finally gets to prove exactly what kind of man he is.
The title Collapse and Delusion is most appropriate, for delusion is its byword and also describes a good portion of the plot…but it’s a delightful delusion, filled with wild humor. One might compare it to The Three Stooges in Space, or It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World…I mean, Universe.
This is easy to say but more difficult to prove without going into a summary of the plot, which is definitely a difficult task. Suffice it to say somewhere within all the fun is the defeat of the Centaureans by the USSF, in a way that’s clever, unique, and totally laughable…so no spoiler there.
I urge everyone to read this funny…yes, confusing and delusional…but satiric literary madness for yourself and enjoy. Afterward, recommend it to a friend…but don’t try to give him a synopsis. That’ll spoil the pleasure of his own discovery of Michael D. Smith’s series.
There are a couple of new characters and plenty of old ones. Indeed, the first chapters are a bit like a disorganized family reunion in which most of the members have a grudge against each other but within a few minutes are all friends again.
It’s a hoot, a blast, bitingly satiric, and funny as all get-out. I highly recommend not only this entry, but the entire series.
This novel was supplied by the author and no remuneration was involved in the writing of this review.
Book 5. The Wounded Frontier
A Terrible New Enemy (originally published at Amazon, February 1, 2019)
by F. T. McKinstry, author of the Chronicles of Ealiron series
After the collapse of the Grid, the vast collective mind of the Alpha Centaurians, humans and Martians in the United System Space Force now find themselves included in a new Grid, one they are told is completely voluntary, but who believes that? This book begins with Jack Commer and his crew embroiled in the nasty climate of resistance and hostility that accompanies widespread change. Called out for their dark histories, vilified and threatened by haters and the establishment, the crew escapes with their lives as they attempt to embark on an important mission to investigate an anomaly in a distant but familiar star system.
Following is the sort of mayhem at which this author excels: bickering, confusion, shock as everything that can go wrong, does, complete with crashing, exploding and vanishing ships, domestic disputes, and questionable solutions, all hanging under the shadow of a vast, unassailable sphere that no one understands. Add in a couple of ancient but expertly retrofitted human robots in the form of Draka Sortie, the suspiciously appointed President of the United System Council; and Jack’s most talented engineer, Laurie Lachrer, and things get even worse, bringing to bear the author’s penchant for smug, obnoxious villains you love to hate.
These books have a great, campy 70s scifi vibe — but without the cheesy special effects: the high tech is well done, sophisticated and interesting. The robots do an alarming amount of damage before the crew figures out what’s going on, and by then it’s too late. Now under the control of an alien race called the Wounded that devours star systems for the energy rush, our heroes must find a way to outsmart the Wounded’s robotic henchmen before the demise of both the Sol and Alpha Centaurian star systems. The conclusion, characteristically wild and unexpected, involves some fallen companions and a mythical dimension where space warriors go after death, no less, making for yet another fun read.
Trip to Mars, a Childhood Prequel to the Jack Commer Series
After the explosion of the Xon bomb, World War IV has rendered the planet uninhabitable. Jack Commer and the crew of the Typhoon I have been chosen to spearhead the evacuation of Earth’s surviving population to Mars. To hasten their mission: a radioactive ray has caused a crack in the Earth’s crust and the planet will explode in a few days.
Sounds like a SYFY Channel disaster movie, but it’s actually a tale concocted from an 11-year-old’s imagination. Young Mickey Smith wrote and illustrated this story when he was in the 6th grade. Many years later, his adult self took the gist of the plot and made it into the Jack Commer scifi series.
Having read both Mickey’s version as well as that of the grown-up author’s, I was amazed by the depth and detail that 11-year-old put into his story. One can sense that here is a budding author in the making…and one would be correct. The story shows a surprising grasp of drama, tension, and adventure which will be reflected in later works. The illustrations also show a very good grasp of artistic technique.
I recommend A Trip to Mars for both youngsters and adults alike.
This graphic novel was supplied by the author and no remuneration was involved in the writing of this review.
Book Review – Trip to Mars by Michael D. Smith (July 12, 2019)
By Maryann Miller at maryannwrites.com
When I met author Michael D. Smith, Mike or Mickey for short, at a book festival in June, I was intrigued by his book Trip to Mars. I also enjoyed visiting with him and getting a brief introduction to his other artistic work. He has written numerous books and has been painting and drawing for many years. Do visit his website to see all that he’s accomplished.
REVIEW: I love this book. Maybe because I got to know Mike, and he was such an entertaining table buddy at the book festival, but I really think it’s because of the story and the wonderful illustrations. I was impressed that the story was written by a boy of eleven. It is very well written, and Mike shared that other than some editing for grammar, the words are the same as when he first wrote the story.
Quite an accomplishment I think, and adults will enjoy the book as much as young readers.
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