Book Review: Powered (Mech Wars Book 1)

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Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m a member of the TRMN. It’s a fan club for the Honor Harrington Universe by David Weber, and they do contests for their members all the time. There is a reading contest going on recently, and we get bonus points for reading authors who are on the TRMN Author List. And, if those authors will be at the 2017 Honor Con, we get even more points! So, you’ll see my next several reviews on books by Chris Kennedy, Marko Kloos and David Weber before I get back to Richard Fox’s Ember Wars stories.  This book looked so good, I made an exception and jumped it to the top of the cue!  I’m also working on book four of The Sleeping Legion Series.  Finally, if you haven’t read it, Operation Breakout is live!

But enough about me, onto this specific review. Now let’s get to it!

 

Title:  Powered (Mech Wars Book 1)

Author:  Scott Bartlett

Narrator:  Mark Boyett

Price:  $2.99 USD (Kindle Edition) & $17.95 for Audiobook Add On

 Obtained:  I received this audiobook from the author as an ARC copy.

 Pages:  239

 

 Rating:  5/5 Grenades

Summary:

First, let me say that none of what I’ll say in this section couldn’t be found on the back copy of the novel.  Heck, I cribbed this summary from the back, and then I add my own twist!  And not even much of one, since his description was so spot on!  Further, I wanted to provide a spoiler free review, so here goes nothing!

The Steel Universe is a dangerous and chaotic place, and after fleeing the Sol System, humanity is tired of losing. Enter the mech. After the mysterious discovery of an alien mech inside a comet, Darkstream Security can finally complete its own design. They assign Chief Gabriel Roach with the task of whittling down hundreds of bright young recruits to form a team of elite mech pilots, which he will command. Their mission is simple, protect human colonies from the large and ferocious Quatro. A single Quatro can take down an entire squad of traditional soldiers. Bigger than a draft horse, more muscular than a grizzly, with jaws that splinter bone. And zero fear. They almost defeated humanity before, and now they’re back – in numbers we didn’t know they had. But Roach is the perfect one for the job. Almost too perfect. The Quatro took from him the only woman he ever loved, and now, he’s determined to make one thing clear: it’s them or him. If you like mechs, explosions and plenty of gritty combat, then you’ve come to the right place!  This first novel is a brilliant introduction to the Mech Wars, an epic military science fiction series.  To give you an easy comparison, if you enjoyed the Four Horsemen Universe by [Mark Wandrey] and [Chris Kennedy], then you’ll love this novel!  There are other mech books out there, but I won’t recommend books I haven’t yet read.

 

Characters: 

In this novel, we get to interact with a large cast of character and to be honest it didn’t feel so large until I sat down to write this section.  All of the characters were flushed out, and three-dimensional that I thought were a lot of fun to get to know.  They’re all so flushed out at this point, maybe we should advance him to four-dimensional!  I felt like I could relate to them as people, and I would love to hang out and drink a beer with them.  Here’s a summary of the main characters.

Jake Price:  He’s the son of a former Darkstream soldier, who follows his father’s footsteps, despite his father’s reluctance to support the decision. He’s consistently scored at the top of the leader board for the lucid dreaming simulations, which brought him to the attention of the Darkstream Corporation. Once he’s recruited, he’s quickly assigned to the mech pilot unit.  Now all he needs is for the company to invent a viable mech robot. Further, I really loved Jake’s character development throughout the story.  I can’t tell you more about this character without spoilers, so I’ll leave it right here!

Gabe Roach:  He’s a grizzled veteran of the UAF and a Chief in the Darkstream military forces. He is the stereotypical military badass, with a duffel bag full of regrets. He’s the kind of guy you’d want on your side in a firefight, though he’s a bit of an ass to his own subordinates. After losing someone very close to him, he takes the risky job of helping his employer start the new mech unit in training the new recruits. You get to see a moderate amount of character growth from him, though given his age and experience, you can imagine that most of his growing happened years ago. He was, however, by no means a static character. Overall, I really liked him.

Lisa Sato:  She is a junior enlisted soldier for the Darkstream military, and is a true believer.  She’s trained all her life on the lucid dreaming, or just lucid, simulations and has reached the pinnacle of combat training. Unfortunately, she learns the hard way that training on dream simulations does little to prepare her for real life combat.  In this novel, Powered, we see her grow as a soldier and as a person.  I’d give an example, but I promised a spoiler free review!

Tess Notaras:  She is a gray haired, retired Darkstream soldier, who is disillusioned and jaded.  She’s got nothing nice to say about the company and thinks they train soft soldiers, unlike her training in the UAF military.  She befriends Lisa, and seeks to shepherd her into the promised land of competency, and is flushed out. She doesn’t have any real growth, but it’s the first book in a series, so I’m willing to cut the author some slack here!

Quatro:  This is the alien species that inhabit the Steel System, and I envision as a cross between a horse and a bear.  Humanity thinks they’re not fully sentient, merely apex predators and that’s all I can say without spoiling bits of the plot.  Let’s leave it at saying you’d feed them your Granny to get away from these hulking monstrosities!

Meddlers:  This was the alien species that was never present, but lurked in the backdrop.  The created the Amblers and the Gathers, robots that seemed to collect resources for some unknown reason.  The humans in the system took advantage of this, never wondering about who or what built these machines and whether or not they would come back.

Overall, I will give these characters 5 out of 5 Grenades and can’t wait to see where the author takes these character throughout this new series!

 

Plot: 

Like most of the military fiction, I love to read, this was an action-packed novel.  The story is set in a world where humanity is post-Sol System. The premise for this series has humanity having used worm holes to permanently colonize the Steel System, under pure capitalist society run by the Darkstream Corporation.  It was a good set-up and well-executed premise that held my interest from the first minute of audio.  There were more characters than I normally like, but it was so seamless that I didn’t even notice until I sat down to write this review.  The author balanced the action, with the exposition and world building, so the story never felt flat.  Even in the audiobook format, the novel was easy to follow.  I really loved the premise of this plot, and more importantly, I enjoyed how he executed it.  The pacing was excellent, and there was never a slow moment.  I couldn’t ask for anything more; the unique premise, perfect execution, and incredible pacing!  I again give Scott 5 out of 5 Grenades!

 

World Building:

This is the first book in the Mech Wars Series, and I absolutely loved it.  Whenever I get some cash, I’ll be buying Scott Bartlett’s entire back catalog! This novel had a very flushed out world that was consistent, made sense and sucked you in.  I loved the way he handled inserting new tidbits about the larger universe and history in such a way that you didn’t even notice.  He did it so well that I was able to start with this series, even though it’s an offshoot of his earlier Ixan Prophecies Trilogy.  You never felt like you were missing anything to understand the world, and made me want to become part of the larger world.  I was hooked, and now I want to know it all!  Maybe it’s time to start considering Scott Bartlett Worlds Support Groups?  Scott described the world with just enough details to let me picture it.  However, I struggled to visualize the Quatro aliens.  Since they were so vital to the world, Scott created it was a bit irksome, but maybe it was the audio?  Since I didn’t read it too, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.  Another part of the world that Scott Bartlett built that I really loved was the concept of the lucid dreaming. Basically, this was set up like a dream based virtual reality simulator.  I think the idea has a lot of merits, and I don’t think I’ve ever read this idea anywhere. Give the man points for creativity!  Further, I found his decision to use naval ranks for the Darkstream military interesting.  They were serving a dirt side garrison and policing role, which made that choice stand out, but it didn’t distract from the plot, so I merely note it here for those who care about such things.  Overall, the world building was well done, and I was sold on the way it happened.  It felt believable, and the characters fit within the universe Scott created.  It was a fun ride that made me wanna suit up…which is the goal of action/adventure authors!  Like much of the stories I read, this one didn’t take itself too seriously, which allowed you to focus on the fun which is why I read in the first place.  I still give the world building 4.75 out of 5 Grenades. If I could’ve pictured the Quatro better, it would’ve been a perfect score for me.

 

Description: 

I have to give it to the author, this novel was chalk full of visualization, and you could definitely imagine yourself in this world.  The only scenes that were confusing and difficult to envision were the alien species known as the Quatro.  I wouldn’t mind it one bit if the author shared artists rendering of these creatures!  Another place where Scott went lite on the details was on how everyone looked.  I know this is the current trend, so I reluctantly accept it, but I don’t personally like it.  A huge plus for me was Scott’s descriptive use of language, he balanced the explanation of this new world with the need to move a story along.  This book didn’t have a single place where I couldn’t picture the scenery and the equipment, which added to the world that felt tangible and I enjoyed it.  The author’s description of his universe was so evocative that I began imagining myself in the mech suit fighting with Gabe and Jake.  It was a little bit distracting, but it’s a sign of an amazingly built universe.  I didn’t find any issues with the descriptions, except for the previously mentioned alien species.  Like many authors these days, Scott Bartlett was lite on the details of what the various characters looked like.  I don’t really like this trend, but the action was so gripping that I just didn’t care.  I wanted the action, the adventure, and the PEW PEW!  Scott brought it, this was definitely his A game.  I give Scott 5 out of 5 grenades in this category.

 

Narration Quality:

I’m still relatively new to the whole audiobook revolution, so my experience is limited.  I know that I hate accents that seem too cheesy, and despite narrators that sound like robots.  With those pesky caveats, I will review the narration quality of this novel.  The audiobook was well done, and the accents were consistent.  The narrator, Mark Boyett, did a fantastic job narrating this book.  I would definitely listen to more books by him, and with Amazon’s recent audiobook price increase, that is saying something.  Let’s be honest, the recently increased price of audiobooks has taken them out of the range of impulse buys.  Even at the new price, I would listen to more by this narrator!  He didn’t bore you, or make you zone out because of his monotone.  His performance didn’t feel robotic like a machine was reading the novel to me.  You’ll often see that from me because it’ll drag me out of a book so fast I can’t listen to it anymore. With Mark Boyett, it felt like a friend was sitting with me reading an amazing story that he couldn’t put down.  Only he made kind of cool voices, with believable accents that didn’t yank you out of the story.  Overall, I give him a 5 out of 5 grenades for his performance.

  

Overall:

I really loved this book, and it made my morning walks extremely enjoyable.  This book I “read” entirely via the audio book.  I didn’t even buy the eBook, just loaded the audiobook into my Audible and went to town.  The production quality of the audio narration was top notch, and the story was compelling.  Gave me a case of the feels, as I found myself getting angry at the injustices perpetrated by the Darkstream Company.  I mourned the loss of the brave warriors killed in battle, and drank a few shots in their honor!  This was my first novel by author Scott Bartlett, and I’m sold on his writing style.  What first caught my eye was the fantastic cover, it was amazingly compelling.  I like how Scott made this cover fit with those for the other two novels in this series, they really work together.  The military culture shown in this book was spot on, though the author did slip once on the rank structure.  I’m not sure the average reader would even notice, but it jumped out at me.  He also had a moment where he mentioned the character Lisa Sato’s emotional reaction to her first kill when it was actually her second in the book.  However, I couldn’t find any other issues to complain about, so I call it a win!  Moving right along, the ground combat Scott described was visceral and immersive, just what you want from the military science fiction genre.  I’ve never considered mech combat in my worlds, so I’ve not had reason to think about what their tactics might be.  It was clear that the author HAD spent the time reasoning this out because the battle scenes were believable.  I never felt like the author missed a chance to get creative with the tactics.  Such a detailed portrayal of the tactics is rare, especially when coming from a civilian.  Seriously, the author weaponized the awesome power of the PEW PEW for this gripping novel, and hooked me from the first page!  He wove the action in such a compelling way that you wanted to jump into a mech as well.  Basically, Scott had me hooked from the beginning and kept it going throughout the whole novel.  This is a book I would happily recommend, and an author I will definitely read again.  Buy the novel!  But hey, it’s easy to spend someone else’s money!  I give this novel a 5 out of 5 grenades!

 

If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out, you won’t regret it!  Well, unless it inspired you to create your own mech.  And on the journey of discovery, you end up accidentally creating a sentient robot. And then that robot starts a computer system and calls it Skynet.  Well yeah, I guess this could be bad for you.  Or maybe you’ll be okay?  You could do better than John Connor, right?  On second thought, be warned, fanboy/fangirl syndrome just MIGHT kill you.  Be wary, you were warned and if you have to go out like that at least enjoy the view from the end times!

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

JR

> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are videos used by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Powered (Mech Wars Book 1)

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