Book Review: Stardoc by S.L. Viehl

Stardoc by S.L. Viehl

Title: Stardoc

Author: S.L. Viehl

Series: Stardoc #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil leaves Earth and accepts a position as a physician at Kevarzanga-2’s FreeClinic. Her surgical skills are desperately needed on a hostile frontier world with over 200 sentient species–and her understanding of alien physiology is nothing short of miraculous. But the truth behind her expertise is a secret which, if discovered, could have disastrous consequences between human and alien relations… -Goodreads

The Review:

I freaking loved this book. And it is somewhat tragic that it sat on my shelves collecting dust for 16 years before I finally picked it up (16 years!!!! I can’t even wrap my head around that fully). The story may not have been the most original, creative, or exciting, but I tell you what – it was EXACTLY what I’ve been craving and I enjoyed it to pieces.

I love sci-fi books of all kinds – from the heavy militaristic battle novels filled with endless technical jargon to the fluffy feel-good space operas, but the ones that always seem to make me phone home are the ones with the most creative alien creations. I guess you could say I prefer the xenobiology sci-fis, and the more convincing the genetic makeups, the better. Not only did Stardoc include a vast array of aliens, but Viehl (who happens to be a retired surgeon for the army) upped the game even further by including medical treatment of these aliens (which means she really had to dig in to the specifics of their biological workings and how the environment affected them), and I ate up every single detail. Not only was it an amazing creative undertaking, but it also added an exciting medical drama angle that kept me turning pages late into the night. Superb.

If all that wasn’t enough, the story often sat on the verge of being a bonafide space opera (my favorite two words in spec-fic). The characters were well developed and their interpersonal drama balanced perfectly with the rest of the story and provided an excellent way to get emotionally invested. A vast majority of the story takes place on one planet, but there are so many dynamics that it didn’t ever feel stagnant (although I’m totally looking forward to more space travel and new aliens in future books).

There’s only one story component that kept me from giving Stardoc a full 5-star rating, and that was the inclusion of a very odd rape scene. Like, really odd. Mostly because of how it was handled – the author sort of showed her cards a bit for me on what’s to come, and I can sorta see what she was trying to do, but 100% the content wouldn’t fly in today’s market had it been written more recently. I don’t really want to spark a debate on rape scenes in books, so I’m going to leave it at that and suggest you just venture in aware it’s a component. It’s literally the only thing that kept Stardoc from hitting perfection for me on all accounts.

Series status: Enjoying this series has now become my #1 reading priority. I’ve already cracked the spine on the next book (and it’s awesome!).

Recommendations: I can’t endorse this book as the best sci-fi I’ve ever read, but it hit all the right notes for me and has become one of my new favorites. It includes and excellent mix of medical drama, aliens, relatable characters, and just a hint of mystery.

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by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Push by Eve Silver

pushTitle: Push

Author: Eve Silver

Series: The Game #2

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars

Release Date: June 10, 2014

The Overview: It’s either break the rules or die. Miki Jones lives her life by her own strict set of rules, to keep control, to keep the gray fog of grief at bay. Then she’s pulled into the Game, where she—and her team—will die unless she follows a new set of rules: those set by the mysterious Committee. But rules don’t mean answers, and without answers, it’s hard to trust. People are dying. The rules are unraveling. And Miki knows she’s being watched, uncertain if it’s the Drau or someone—something—else. Forced to make impossible choices and battling to save those she loves, Miki begins to see the Committee in a glaring new light. And then the Game crosses a new boundary, pushes harder into Miki’s and her friends’ lives, and there’s nothing in the rules that can save them now.

push 2

The Review:

I was really looking forward to Push, especially after the awesome direction Rush was headed when it ended. It promised to focus on all the things I enjoyed about the first book and move away from all the things I didn’t. Instead, Push kind of stagnated around all the same issues without much of a story progression at all. Heck, I’d even go so far as to say it regressed a little. I’m disappointed to say it was not the action-packed amazing novel I’d hoped it would be.

I had a lot of issues with the relationship development in the first book – a seemingly smart, independent girl who fawns over a guy despite the fact that she thinks he’s a total asshole – and was hoping the change in direction of the story would get the main character away from that codependent focus. It did not. The first half of the book, which I thought would be packed with adventure and excitement (the good stuff) was like reading one big long soliloquy about how much she hates him, how much she loves him, how much she misses him, and what she needs to do to get him back. Here I am thinking she’d grown enough to stand strongly on her own, but evidently the story couldn’t progress until she smoothed out her love life. Sheesh.

If I had been able to get behind the relationship in the first place, the huge focus on it probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much. I live for a good love story, and even expect it from my YA novels, but in this case, it just didn’t work for me. Even after all this time, I still can’t see a compelling reason why the relationship started and why it’s continuing. It could be just me, though. So if you enjoyed the love angle of the first book, no doubt you will enjoy it here. I just found a lot to be desired.

If this series took place entirely within The Game, it wouldn’t be too much for me. There are thousands of teen drama love stories out there, but only a handful of really cool takes on what it would be like to live in a video game. The concept is still my favorite part of the story, and I think it would have benefited Silver to pour more of her focus into it. As it were, some of the story was set in the alternate existence, but not enough to really progress the main overall conflict of the series (unless the main conflict is the romance, in which case that’s certainly getting enough attention). There was one single ray of hope in the form of an added plot element within The Game – one which I can’t even talk about because it’s a spoiler – and it added a fascinating wrinkle to the story. All I have to say is, if I read on it will be because of that single interesting plot point.

Overall, I hoped for more…. but I seem to be in the minority yet again.

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by Niki Hawkes