5 stars (and then some!), anthology, Book Review, Carol Van Natta, Cassandra Chandler, Deborah A. Bailey, Greta Van Der Rol, Honey Phillips, J.C. Hay, Kyndra Hatch, Melisse Aires, other worldly creatures, pets, Pets in Space, S.E. Smith, S.J. Pajonas, scifi romance, Veronica Scott
Review of Pets in Space 6
Reviewed by K J Van Houten
Pets in Space 6 Anthology. Summary: can’t recommend this strongly enough! 5+ stars
Pets. Space. Hero dogs. What’s not to love? This is the 6th Pets in Space anthology, raising money for the Hero Dogs charity that matches support dogs with veterans and first responders. Maybe that’s why so many stories in each anthology star pets and unusual creatures that are also worthy of being called heroes.
Below is my brief review for each novella in PIS 6. One thing that struck me is that all of the stories here seem to be part of larger series, providing hints at past stories or peeks at things to come, even if some are presented as standalone here. I didn’t really feel lost at not knowing some of the background hinted at. I know I’d have gotten more out of some of these short novellas if I’d previously read within their series though. All of the stories here were really enjoyable! And I’ve got a few new-to-me series to start! Definitely recommend these, especially if you’re looking for an introduction to some of the participating authors and their series.
Behr’s Rebel by SE Smith (Book 2 in Marastin Dow series)
Smith’s novels are often a hit or miss with me, but her novellas for PIS always score a home run! I fell in love with the ‘pets’ Pi and Chummy instantly — and fell hard. How could I not love a cuddly pair of telepathic, telekinetic fuzzballs. One of them can also predict danger in the near future. That is pretty important when you’re paired up with a sarcastic but charming human pilot and the Marastin Dow rebel leader she was hired to break out of prison. I want an entire series of Pi and Chummy’s adventures with their ‘pets’.
Star Cruise: Time Loop by Veronica Scott (Part of the Sectors series)
Return to the Nebula Zephyr cruise starship, setting of previous stories in Scott’s Sectors series. I love this series so much, I was excited to jump into this story. This was a Groundhog’s Day type of story, with the heroine repeating the same day in which she has to suffer through a staff meeting, getting through her first trideo film acting experience, meeting the man of her dreams, and saving the entire ship from being blown apart and everyone on board dying. With only her pet moyed — which seems like a cross between a PERN dragonette and a turtle to me — sharing the repetition with her. Satisfying mix of love and adventure, typical of the Sectors series which I am always eager to read. And reread.
The Cyborg with No Name by Honey Phillips (Part of Cyborgs on Mars series)
The story revolves around the scientist who designed robotic horses to aid cyborgs with terraforming projects on Mars. What happens when an ex-engineer and her robotic dog encounter a wounded cyborg Ranger with amnesia? They must solve the mystery of who is he, what happened to him, and why is his health not recovering as it should. This may be my favourite story in this Cyborg on Mars series — it comes across as a sweet and slightly steamy love story that doesn’t try to do too much within a novella format. Makes me want to return to reading the series.
Escape from Nova Nine by Carol Van Natta (Part of the Central Galactic Concordance series)
What do you do when you’re on the run from a captain that wants to use or sell you, only to get kidnapped and find yourself imprisoned on a remote mining station? If you have special empath abilities like Zach Lunaso, you try to keep your head down while plotting escape and making friends with local hordes of griffins living in the mines. Doesn’t hurt if you fall in love while you’re at it! Van Natta’s Central Galactic Concordance series is a favourite of mine, so loved getting back into her universe of minders. I did feel the ending was a bit rushed, as I’d have liked to see villains suffer more, but it was still an excellent and fun read.
Trade Secrets by Cassandra Chandler (Part of The Department of Homeworld Security series)
I know it’s difficult to develop a romantic relationship between strangers in a novella, and I did feel this one was rushed. But I guess that’s part of life when you’re a human meeting aliens for the first time — and not just one species. Then you’re whisked away with said aliens and a ‘not normal’ kitten to an alien warship to find yourself helping solve problems that threaten the safety of Earth, a secret moonbase, and more. Not to mention revealing the secret that aliens really are among us. This was a fun and light-hearted read.
See How They Run by JC Hay (Part of the TriSystems: Smugglers series)
What’s it like to secretly be attracted to one of your closest friends and coworkers? Jesusa Baker accidentally overhears that her best friend, April’s, life may be in danger due to a spacefarers disease that has caused the death of some of their family. Baker sets out to find a solution — involving stealing lab mice from a medical research facility, and getting back to the ship they work on only to end up in quarantine with April and the mice. To make life more interesting, the research facility has sent bounty hunters to retrieve the mice at any cost. Caught between life and potential death from multiple threats, what can they can do but fall in love! Hay does a great job of fitting this novella into his series without it needing a lot of backstory to fall right into it.
Suri’s Sure Thing By S.J. Pajonas (Part of the Kimura Sisters series)
There are some things in life you can be sure of — a stable job, a bonded animal companion, a loving family, and a best friend. Then fate comes along and messes it up. There’s the ex-boyfriend who wants to get back together for his own secretive reasons, the father who wants to control her life and starts making ultimatums, and the friend who may or may not want to be more than friends. Not to mention a loving dog who wants to stay at her side no matter what — even if that means stowing away on a space shuttle! I loved this friends-to-lovers story and wish it had gone on longer. I’d like to see the ex-boyfriend suffer consequences, too!
The Thunder Egg by Greta van der Rol (Part of the Dryden Universe series)
Drew is a historian, traveling around the Empire seeing places of old that he’d only read about, and collecting souvenirs. How was he to know the Thunderegg geode he bought wasn’t what it seemed to be? Afra is captain of her own small freighter desperately looking for cargo. She was not looking to find a hurt man with a strange flying creature in a dark alley. She was not looking to take them on as passengers, helping Drew discover what sort of creature he’d found and return it to its home. She most definitely was not looking to fall in love! But I fell in love with this story. I wish it were longer, just the types of main characters I like best. Once again I’m reminded that I haven’t read enough of this series.
Worlds of Fire: Metamorphosis Deborah A. Bailey (Part of the Worlds of Fire series)
Being a student near the end of studies can bring on a mix of feelings — ready to prove you know more, can do more, than the elders around you think, yet also afraid of making it on your own or not measuring up to family expectations. Even worse when you are attracted to the gargoyle shifter magistrate who is your mentor for transmutation, the final exam you need to pass, and then you accidentally ingest an elixir that throws your life into jeopardy! This story has a more paranormal feel to me, caught up in a world of shifters, alchemy, and elixirs. although there are certainly a few SF elements so it’s more of a hybrid. This felt like a glimpse, enough of a peek into the world Bailey has created to catch my interest, so I will be looking at her series for more!
Stranded on Grzbt By Melisse Aires (Start of the Far Star series)
First story in a new series and I’m already hooked! Three women and a teenager find themselves abducted by aliens, then unintentionally stranded on a bustling trade world. Each are very different personalities and don’t always get along, but manage to pull together when they need to. Their adventure lead them into encounters with some interesting creatures such as a nanoscoot and a telepathic cat breed. Of course, this adventure also leads a certain woman into the arms of a very handsome and helpful alien! The ending definitely sets up for more stories to come.
Escaping Korth By Kyndra Hatch (Part of the Before The Fall series)
Life as an agronomist should be peaceful, but that’s not Liana’s fate. Snatched from the terraformed world she was studying, she finds herself a prisoner on Korth, caught in the war between humans and Korthans. The Korthan cyborg interrogator seems familiar, his mogha companion not really scary, and the strange rainbow-coloured spyder-crab creeping around her cell is rather cute. Now if only the other Korthans didn’t want her dead! Or is there a way to escape even as human warships appear in the sky? I will definitely be reading this series. Hatch presents a lot of story in a small number of pages, has interesting characters and creatures that I want to know more about!
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