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“A Fistful of Credits”

Originally posted by Jim McCoy on February 6, 2018


I have to admit to being a bad boy. I had heard a lot about the Four Horsemen Universe but I hadn’t tried it. This is a bad thing for a guy like me. I love military SF. I love stories about mercenaries. I freaking love mecha combat and I can’t get enough of plucky little humanity stories. It was obvious that I needed an in to this universe and so I jumped at the chance to get a copy of A Fistful of Credit, an anthology edited by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey. I figured to be thoroughly entertained and to learn about this awesome universe. I wasn’t disappointed on either count. This anthology really rocks. I’ll get to each story in a bit, but I wanted to share a few thoughts on the anthology overall first.
Each story starts with notes about the author. I find this to be excellent. I love indie authors but I haven’t had time to read them all. The information about each author, what other things they’ve had written and published and where to find them was awesome. I’m not promising to read the all (I, like most of you, have limited resources of both time and money) but I’ll definitely get to a few at least. So good work there. Chuck Gannon’s preface is pretty awesome too, as it provides a gateway for those of us (yup, guilty) who haven’t had a chance to read the stories previously. I really wish I hadn’t need it, but I did.
I also want to get into the organization of the anthology for just a second. The first story is called “The First Alpha” by Mark Wandrey. I’ll get to a review of the story itself in a second, but for now I want to express a bit of frustration. This is an anthology set in the Four Horsemen Universe. The premise of the entire series is that humanity has been introduced to a wider universe full of aliens and can only survive by selling their services as mercenaries. When I opened this e-book I wanted to walk face first into a kick-ass mercenary story. I wanted a battlefield with bodies and explosions. What I got was a crime thriller. It’s a good story (more on that next paragraph) but I really don’t think that it was the right tale to kick off the anthology with. I was a bit disappointed here because it wasn’t what I was expecting. Overall, it didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment of the collection all that much but it was a bit jarring. Other than that, things seemed to flow smoothly, but honestly if I were to read AFoC again, I’d probably skip this one and come back to it.’
The First Alpha” by Mark Wandrey was a look into life on Earth in the Four Horsemen Universe (4HU). Things on humanity’s home planet are not good. People are broke to the point where most of them can’t afford a simple breakfast out. Crime is rampant and infrastructure is crumbling. Our “hero” is a guy named Zeke. He’s sneaky. He’s resourceful. He’s got a plan. This was an entertaining story with a surprise ending that I never saw coming but that made sense once I read it. Overall, I really enjoyed it once I got past the fact that it wasn’t a merc story.
Breach of Contract” by Terry Mixon is a detective story. It gives us an insight into the workings of law and justice in the 4HU and it really rocks. Of course, I’m partial to story featuring ass-kicking attractive women, but this one has plenty of action and just enough back story to hold everything together without bogging the story down into long reminisces that would make it drag. The tech is awesome. The search for vengeance is fun and the daring of our heroes Jackie and Anton make “Breach of Contract” a winner.
(Article truncated due to space limitations. Please read the article at the link provided.)

Castalia Publishing Blog Article “Castalia House Blog Picks of 2017”

Originally posted by Castalia House Publishing on January 11, 2018

2017. It was the year where the wild west of indie science fiction, building on the momentum of previous years, surpassed the traditional publishers. It was the year when Marvel Comics collapsed, shuttering comics shops in its fall. It was the year when Disney divided Star Wars enthusiasts. When passion project games scored big and loot boxes tumbled Electronic Arts’ stocks. And amid these highs, lows, and controversies, a host of writers and artists brought forth a cornucopia of excellent stories, games, movies, and more. Come join the Castalia House bloggers as we discuss the standouts of 2017.


Nathan: Like Jon said, 2017 was an excellent year for science fiction novels, with such stiff competition for readers’ attention as Richard Fox’s Iron Dragoons, Brian Niemeier’s The Ophian Rising, Vaughn Heppner’s A.I. Wars, and Jay Allan’s Blood on the Stars. For my pick, I’ll go to the other breakout series of 2017, Mark Wandrey’s and Chris Kennedy’s the Four Horsemen Cycle, for Cartwright’s Cavaliers. After graduating from high school, Jim Cartwright is too fat and slow to join the family interstellar mercenary company. After his mom bankrupts the company and steals any stipend he might receive, Jim has to go to work reviving the family business, with nothing more than a company of museum pieces and a squad of crusty old sergeants. If he can pull himself together under the tutelage of his NCOs and rise to the challenge, that is. If he can shake a lifetime of failure. Wandrey combines the spirit of Heinlein’s juveniles with Ringo’s military science fiction action and a touch of anime giant robot madness–just a touch–to create a rousing coming of age story peppered with love, railgun fire, and other distractions. At the same time, Cartwright’s Cavaliers provides the deep world-building and intrigue to anchor the entire Four Horsemen Cycle–a playground in which the best indie and traditional mil-sf writers have flocked to play in.

(Article truncated due to space constraints. Please use the link to read the whole article.)

Papa Pat Rambles: Review of “The Good, The Bad, and The Merc,” Seventh Seal Publishing
Originally posted by Papa Pat Patterson on December 11, 2017

If you read the review on Amazon, please click the ‘helpful’ button. I’m trying to recover from a rather harsh series of days starting in August and extending into November.

Close examination of my Amazon review reveals that I presented 10 ‘notable stories,’ singled two out for exceptional praise, and said nothing about six. What’s my justification for that?

It’s all a matter of taste. None of those stories were awful; if they had been, I would have said so. It’s certainly NOT a defect in the authors; I’ve read & reviewed work by most (if not all) of them in the past. Reading these six, today and yesterday, just didn’t ring any bells for me. If any of the authors want to contact me to get any specifics, feel free, but I MIGHT not have anything to offer; it might be just an impression.

Reviewing anthologies is HARD. I couldn’t review several of these short stories without giving away an important part of the plot, so sometimes, I just hinted. That being the case, I decided to limit my reviews to the stories I had the best reaction to. YMMV.

Now, here’s the text of the four-star Amazon review:

I obtained this book through the Kindle Unlimited program.
As long as they keep writing books in this series, I will keep reading them. I like the fact that with the anthologies, we get to read the works of LOTS of authors, and I hope this is a trend that will continue. It might even help to bring back the short stories as published in the Golden Age, and hook new generations of 14 year olds.
Overall, this book seems grimmer to me than prior books. Lots more good guys get killed. Cliff hangers with unrevealed horror. That sort of thing.

Notable stories:

‘The Beach,’ by Phillip Wohlrab. It’s good to see medics get some respect. I’ve wondered if the wonderworld of advanced technology and self-administered nanobots would leave any room for the field medic. The answer is YES, and an even greater need exists. Since the weapons are so deadly, an assault requires a LOT of medics. Everything has to be done right now, and too many are DRT. If we can get you stabilized and on the medevac, though, you are probably going to make it.

‘Velut Luna,’ by Chris Smith. I love this story, in every different set of clothes it wears. Snotty street kid, given a chance to do some good before they die or get sentenced for hard time. A family is forged out of the mild steel and hot flames. Particularly good scene here about the teaching taking place over slicing vegetables. I REALLY liked that scene!

‘Keep the Home Fires Burning,’ Jason Cordova. Tribalism in space, rotten intel, stupid team members, loyalty, and hope for the future of the clan. It’s told in a series of flash-backs, but I had no problem following the story.

‘Vvremya,’ Mark Wandrey. Down-and-out team risks it all on one last throw of the dice. Some authors delight in doing horrible things to their characters. Is the Horrid Little Planet going to produce treasure? Make sure you read the fine print before you sign the contract !

‘The Last Guardsman,’ by Stephanie Osborne. He’s the very last of his bloodline, but that’s not a problem, because he just has this one tiny job left to do, and then he retires, marries, and has lots of kids. He’s very mindful of the need to leave a legacy.

‘Unto the Last – Stand Fast,’ Robert E. Hampson. Unless I am mistaken, this story calls upon the memorable resistance of Swiss mercenaries who died protecting members of the French aristocracy in 1792 during the French Revolution. Somewhere around here, I have a picture of myself standing in front of the Lion Monument in Lucerne, Switzerland. Beside the appeal of this aspect of the story, I liked the combination of humans and aliens into a more-or-less unified church, complete with schisms.

‘Under The Skin,’ Marisa Wolf. The Depik are a race of assassins. They have the ability to become transparent to all forms of detection. In fact, they are TOO perfect; like Superman, they need Kryptonite. That appears to be contained in their aggressive family structure, which appears to serve driving them apart, rather than uniting them. And, they are cat-like, at least in this: they like to play with their prey.

‘Angels and Aliens,’ John R Osborne. Pastor Jim wants to know about God, and how aliens fit in with people in God’s creation. That could be a real problem for a mercenary company, but Jim also has an uncanny ability to read people, and thus provide comfort in the format they need. Is there room for a theological discussion in the middle of a firefight? I would argue that there is no better time to discuss the meaning of the universe. This was truly a superb story.

‘Life,’ Chris Kennedy. Zeke is a slave. He was captured during the first Earth mercenary wave, known as the Alpha Contracts, although Zeke never heard that term. Instead, he’s been doing slave work. After a gladiatorial contest gets the attention of his new master, he gets to work on biological solutions to life and death. He’s a little bit weird, though; decades of hard labor captivity will do that to you.

‘Lessons,’ by Kacey Ezell. To the best of my knowledge, Kacey Ezell finds it impossible to write a bad short story. In fact, she can’t do mediocre, or even good. Everything of hers I’ve seen has been brilliant; she finds a way to put us into the person of the universe’s most frightening and loathsome beasties, and makes them something that we want to buy as fluffy toys for our grandchildren. “No, Eliott, don’t pull on that string just yet. That makes her fangs grow, and she might bite you by accident. You can pull that string when you wear your welder’s gloves, okay?’ If I am not mistaken, this is another tale of the Depik race, the super assassins of the galaxy. In an attempt to weaken his rival, a semi-rogue Depik steals the newborn cub of his clan leader, and abandons her to die. Ezell makes us EXPERIENCE the physical and emotional pain the newborn feels at being abandoned. Instead of conveniently dying, however, the cub finds food, and a mentor. And she not only survives, she thrives. I don’t know if the Depik have archived legends, but if so, there is likely a body of work dealing with the appearance of a savior/destroyer, who will transform the race into something unimaginable.

For one reason or another, these are the stories I found noteworthy. There are others that you may enjoy as well.

My one suggestion for improvement: include a Bestiary (or whatever term describes sentient aliens) with each volume of this series. I’m not obsessive enough to remember the characteristics of each race, just based on their name. My PREFERENCE would be a hypertext link whenever an alien race is on stage. And, if you REALLY wanted to blow us away, give us a picture along with the descriptions. And print up trading cards for sale. You KNOW there is game potential here, so you are going to have to do it sooner or later.

Injustice Book Review: The Golden Horde by Chris Kennedy

Originally posted by Alfred Genesson on August 7, 2017


Cower not, fierce reader! This day we look at the latest book of the Revelations cycle, or the Four Horsemen universe. I can hear someone say, “But that came out last week!”  What can I say? I fell behind in my reading. Anyway, enough about my slacking. To the review!

After his first entry, Asbaran Solutions, I had thought that perhaps Chris was the weaker writer of the pair, though still quite competent. This book proves that he just needed to find his ground. With this, he most definitely does. Perhaps it was the characters of the first book that kept me more distant, but this drew me in.

One treat with this story is that it isn’t just centered on one character, we see a return from one featured in the anthology as well. And while you don’t need to have read that story for this one, it’s a nice treat to see some aftermath from a determined and tough character.


Read more at: http://injusticegamer.blogspot.com/2017/08/injustice-book-review-golden-horde-by.html.

Memorials, and Winged Hussars by Mark Wandrey

Originally posted by Pat Patterson on August 2, 2017


And here’s the review of “Winged Hussars,” by Mark Wandrey:

I usually immediately forget the names of cover artists; however, having read multiple volumes in this series over the past month, I recognize the work of Brenda Mihalko and Ricky Ryan, and say : bravo! Even the choice of the font (looks like war metal) contributes to the picture. Author’s name & book title are both easily read, and the mecha and armed furry critter are nicely framed.

When the aliens made contact, the earth was dismayed to discover that they really didn’t have anything to trade in exchange for the advanced technology available through the Galactic Union. Fortunately, before we dwindled into insignificance, it was discovered that we could fight. Since this was a rare condition among the vast majority of the alien races, good mercenaries were always in demand. Details are, at this point, somewhat sketchy, but we DO know that there was skullduggery involved; of the 100 mercenary companies to head into space with a contracted mission, only four came back, Coincidentally, all four featured a horse on their unit flag, and thus began the story of the Four Horsemen.

The Winged Hussars had ‘lucked’ ( luck = preparation+opportunity) into an alien ship, and came home better prepared than they had been when they went out. Their missions were largely space-based, unlike the other three Horsemen, who tended to specialize in ground-based combat.


Read more at: http://habakkuk21.blogspot.com/2017/08/memorials-and-winged-hussars-by-mark.html

A Closer Look at “Gilded Cage,” by Kacey Ezell, and RED on Friday

Originally posted by Pat Patterson on July 7, 2017


This is going to be a shorter post than usual.

First, somehow, I forgot today is Friday. No excuse. Just forgot.

And along with that, I forgot it was therefore RED Friday. I always want to remember that, because it matters.

Right now, there are thousands of sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers who cannot be with the rest of their families on this summer day, because they are doing their part in the Armed Forces to keep us safe in our homes.

They are Deployed.

So: RED: Remember Everyone Deployed. Wear RED on Friday. Until they ALL come home.

And now, a CLOSER LOOK at “Gilded Cage,” the creepiest story in the ‘Fistful of Credits’ anthology I reviewed this morning. There are others that deserve a closer look; in fact, I’d have to confess that they ALL deserve a closer. Particularly …no, not gonna go there. I was going to mention ‘Legends’ by Christopher Woods, but if I did, then I’d also mention…STOP THE MADNESS!

See, this is why I LOVE the short story form as a reader, but I hate it as a reviewer.  Whenever I review a collection of short stories, it almost always takes me longer to write the review than it does to read the stories. If you are a reviewer, you know what I’m talking about. Otherwise, you think I’m nuts. How hard is it to review a few thousand words?

So, I’m going to give you an AUTHENTIC review of ‘Gilded Cage,’ and let you see for yourself.

Here’s what I wrote this morning:

This is, in my opinion, the CREEPIEST story in the book. The protagonist does all the wrong things for all the right reasons, and there is never any point at which a reasonable observer would shout “LOOK OUT! DON’T DO THAT!” It brings a different point of view to the understanding that humans have in the scheme of things in the new universe.


Read more at: http://habakkuk21.blogspot.com/2017/07/a-closer-look-at-gilded-cage-by-kacey.html

A Fistful of Credits and Reading Problems

Originally posted by Pat Patterson on July 7, 2017


I have reading problems.That most definitely DOESN’T mean I have a problem trying to read, usually.
Sure, in the minute or so after I wake up in the morning, my eyes don’t focus very well. So, when the first thing I do is reach for my tablet, I often can’t focus on the text well enough to read what it says.Mostly, however, I regard that as a feature, and not a bug. I use that interval to get out of bed. And one I am out of bed, I can do other things. Take a shower, etc. Go downstairs. Greet the cat. Whatever.So, as I said, that’s not what I refer to when I say I have reading problems.The other day I mentioned getting into trouble in the second grade because I was so captivated by the book I was reading, that I didn’t have a clue that reading time was over. And when the teacher finally broke through my concentration on the story of Old Yeller, it was only the first time of many that my immersion in text resulted in discontinuity with the rest of the universe.Of course, since almost all of my internet friends are readers and writers, they understood, and many had had similar experiences. And I’m not sure if it’s causation or merely correlation, but many of them also report that they have one or more cats who interfere with them currently, as they read or write.I wish I could go back to 1961, and announce to Mrs. Bowlin: “One day, you will be replaced with a cat.” There is a certain resonance to the idea: my old, fat, white female second grade teacher is now represented in my life by my old, fat, black Manx cat, SugarBelly. It’s a pretty good trade-off, for me.Now, my most recent discontinuity event was also my introduction into the universe of the Four Horsemen. If memory serves, when I was looking for material, I heard that ‘Fistful of Credits’ was introduced at LibertyCon, so I grabbed it up. The stories are perfect, the intro material needs some work, because the links to the two prelude stories don’t work (this isn’t true.see the comments for a retraction), and editor Chris Kennedy’s publishing website is still printed in Latin with pictures of generic people smiling.Nice work on the cover! An appropriately mecha-looking suit with a pistol, and the titles are legible and don’t obscure the background. The cover is attributed to Brenda Mihalko and Ricky Ryan; I’m not familiar with either of them, but they did good work here.Fourteen stories. some of them by writers I’ve been following for a while, some new to me. All deal with human mercenaries in a universe dominated by other races. Some of them presuppose knowledge of the Four Horsemen universe, which I did not have; others could be stand-alone stories without reference to an outside context. NONE of them REQUIRE the reader to have experience with the earlier works, although they will certainly generate interest in most novices (like myself) to go back and read the foundation stories.….

Injustice Anthology Review: A Fistful of Credits

Originally posted by The Injustice Gamer on July 5, 2017


Cower not, fierce reader! I am safely returned from LibertyCon and have already begun my readings from the weekend. This is one regret of my con: I neglected to grab a copy and get the authors there to sign it. But, there’s plenty here to digest, so let’s get to the feast!

The book opens with a well written Preface by Chris Kennedy, and a Foreword by Chuck Gannon. Both are engaging and fun, but Gannon knows we aren’t there for him, so get on to the stories.

The Last Alpha by Mark Wandrey- This is an interesting tale of a long delayed return home. There’s gangs, corruption, and urban renewal at its finest. Complete with a family reunion of sorts.

Breach of Contract by Terry Mixon- A little story of revenge, espionage, and sibling rivalry. This is the first story we see the Peacemakers appear.

Paint the Sky by Jason Cordova- Mr. Cordova knocks it out of the park with a story of a desperate merc company with few resources and fewer men, just starting out. It turns to a more personal story as the mercs learn the true extent of the protection mission, becoming a matter of honor.

Surf and Turf by Jon R. Osborne- Here we meet Bjorn and his Berserkers, filling a garrison contract on a pleasant ocean world that has a lot of species on it, including a sizable human community. It opens with a glimpse of daily life, that is, boredom.Then we get a lovely invasion attempt by giant crabs. There’s some cool backstory as well.

Stand on It by Kevin Ikenberry- We’ve got a story of a failing company, the Marauders, getting in over their heads. The company’s fate is delivered by the past, and the future of the company is sealed. Looking forward to Peacemaker, his first novel in the horsemen universe.


Read more at: http://injusticegamer.blogspot.com/2017/07/injustice-anthology-review-fistful-of.html