Book Review: The Last Hunter by JN Chaney and Terry Mixon

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Hey Space Cadets, I hope today finds you well! Things are fine here; the weather is changing and life meanders along. In the meantime, I finished this book again so here is my review! I’ve read this book several times, so I could write a better review. I hope you enjoy my rambling thoughts!

Title: The Last Hunter

Author: JN Chaney and Terry Mixon

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

eBook Price: $4.99 US

Audiobook Price: $21.99 US or 1 Audible credit

eBook-Audiobook Paired Price: $12.48 US

Obtained: (ARC for review, bought, library, etc.)

Pages: 502 eBook pages

Hours:

 

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Rating: 5/5 Grenades

5 Grenade

 

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 added my own twist! And not even much of one, since most of the books I read have kick butt descriptions (aka blurbs). If the blurb doesn’t catch my eye, then I tend to skip the book unless a friend recommends it. Generally speaking, my goal is to provide a spoiler-free review, so here goes nothing!

 

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

 

Two centuries after the Confederation staved off an invasion by the robotic Locusts, Captain Jack Romanoff faces mandatory retirement from an ever-shrinking Navy. Actions speak louder than words. The Confederation doesn’t think the Locusts are coming back.

 

But what if the politicians are wrong?

 

Snared in a scheme he doesn’t fully understand or trust, Jack gets his promotion, but it comes with a catch. With a crew of rejects, he must restore the most powerful warship humanity has ever built, after centuries of neglect and decay, before time runs out.

 

If he fails, humanity might not need to worry about history repeating itself ever again.

 

 

Characters:

The main character in this novel is Captain Jack Romanoff, who serves in the Confederation Navy. He is a man at the cusp of retirement, forced out by the dreaded up-or-out promotion scheme. His inability to get promoted is partly because of whom his dad is. Jack is the son of a former Grand Admiral of the Confederation Navy, and his dad burnt a lot of bridges with his abrasive style. However, Jack Romanoff’s career wasn’t only hindered by his parentage. He also had a close call with a civilian space liner while he was operating as helms officer. He was never able to recover from the damage that black mark did to his career. This isn’t a spoiler, since it happens so quickly in this novel, but it was alleged that this event made him more cautious than was appropriate for the admiralty. The only room for him to go in his career was the rank of commodore, a role where decisiveness was a prerequisite. Finally, it becomes very clear that Jack’s unwillingness to buy his promotion was going to hurt his chances for success.

 

Overall, it was fun watching his arc from someone who was defeated into someone who had a renewed purpose and vigor. We watch him become willing to do whatever it took to get the job done. I love a second chance story, and this is what the main characters adventure was. Clearly, I really liked this character. I enjoyed hearing his thoughts as he figured out how the world really worked. The Confederation Navy and its governing political body were different than Jack thought it was. This character was extremely believable, if a little naïve, throughout this novel. He was well-rounded, so you’ll get no complaints from me. He was a very sympathetic character, representing the common man, he was aspirational even. Everyone has adversity to overcome, which made him a relatable individual. Finally, I liked that, for once, Terry Mixon and JN Cheney described what he looks like. Heck, he even described the ridiculous nature of their anime-inspired uniforms. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series to see what happens with Jack.

 

 

Plot:

Unlike most of the military science fiction and space opera books that I love to read, this wasn’t an action-packed novel. Instead, this book took more of a dramatic start. We see the beginning of a mystery and some political intrigue. It becomes very clear that this is the start of a bigger series, so I was willing to ride with it. There was a bit of a slow start, from an action perspective, but I really liked getting to know the main character more, so I felt like it worked. That said, once the plot took off it never really lagged. I wasn’t able to read this book from start to finish in one setting because of its length, but I wanted too. That feeling didn’t change when I read the book again in preparation for this post.

 

Overall, the plot of this book was pretty straightforward. We see a man whose career is in decline, in fact he is on the way out when he’s given a second chance. Instead of being forced to retire, he’s stationed on a ship full of sailors needing a second chance in their military careers. The entire premise for this novel, which is shown on the blurb on the back of the book centers around a former battleship turned into a museum ship. His new command, the Delta Orionis, is in a state of terrible disrepair. His task is to bring this ship back to a state of readiness.

 

While this was a fun story, it wasn’t action-packed. There wasn’t a lot of pew-pew space laser action that we expect from Terry Mixon, it was still one of his signature adventures. In the end, we did get an intense battle scene to make everything worth it. What’s even cooler is that, given how many more books there are in this universe, you know the payoff will be huge. I can’t wait to read the subsequent novels to see how these plot points play out further down the line.

 

In summary, there was literally nothing in The Last Hunter that I couldn’t buy. The military bureaucracy was everything I would expect, given my eight years in the Army and a lifetime growing up as a US Navy dependent. The plot for this novel worked, and it had everything you would want to keep you reading from chapter to chapter and book to book!

 

 

Worldbuilding: 

This is the first book in The Last Hunter Series, and I absolutely loved it. This novel had a very fleshed-out world that was consistent, made sense, and sucked you in. Seriously, everything was explained in a way that made sense. The universe was consistent, with just enough of the mundane facets of life thrown in to feel grounded in this reality. Everything made sense and sucked you into the story. Some of the details seemed inconsequential, but those hooks just make me think that the larger universe will continue to grow and expand. I loved the way they handled inserting new tidbits about the larger universe and history in such a way that you didn’t even notice. Okay, I noticed because I was looking for it but their insertion of the world-building was subtle. I loved reading about the military bureaucracy that is the Confederation Navy. We didn’t get the entire back story of the Confederation or the Confederation Navy. However, we didn’t need to know everything about the political intrigue going on.

 

I especially liked that they described the uniforms in such ludicrously anime-inspired uniforms. This was a change for Mixon, who normally writes kick-ass bubblegum space opera and I love it. However, I liked seeing all of the details from this new universe. Everything he added to the tapestry of this overarching universe, illustrating what the possibilities were for a post-Earth culture could be. There was never anything they described that I couldn’t envision, or that felt like it wasn’t “real.”  

 

Overall, everything in this universe felt big enough that I could picture it. Heck, I wouldn’t mind seeing more stories set in this world. I was picking up what they were laying down. There was nothing I couldn’t buy, seriously, nothing. I could envision myself there, in the Confederation. I’m not surprised, this is one place where Terry Mixon and JN Chaney always excel. These two have always built worlds that felt lived in, even when they’ve written books light on the details. What can I say, they nailed it with this book!

 

These two have upped the bar of excellence, adding more sensory input to the mix; sights, sounds, smells, and feelings.  They didn’t reinvent the wheel, building on the existing tropes of space opera and military science fiction. Instead, he brought it into the 21st Century! 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 Mixon and Chaney created. Like most 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. Well done, lads!

 

 

Description: 

I have to give it to these two authors, this novel was chock-full of visualization, and you could definitely imagine yourself in this world. They described things across the sensory spectrum; sights, sounds, smells and even how the world felt. This was done with perfection that only comes from seasoned writers and includes some solid editing. This is how it’s done, and I hope to get that good someday. While I could visualize all of the worlds, I would still love it if the authors shared artist’s renderings from this immersive world! The world was just so awesome that I wanted to SEE it as the authors envisioned it. If it’s only a tenth as cool as what I pictured in my head, it would be worth every penny. These guys balanced my desire for descriptive exposition and info-dumping was perfectly executed. The spaceships that we meet in this book were excellently described, and you could easily envision yourself strolling their passageways. Another huge plus for me was Terry Mixon and JN Chaney’s descriptive use of language. This comes from Mixon being a relic from another age, using words reminiscent of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. They balanced the explanation of this new world with the need to move a story along and then kicked the excellence up a notch.  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 their universe was evocative, and made me an uber fan of this series! The only slight drawback of how descriptive they were, it was a little bit distracting.  Seriously, it made you wanna take a moment and explore every nook and cranny, but that’s a sign of an amazingly built universe. This is such an awesome problem to have, that I almost feel like I’m being a pedantic jerk, but that’s what you’re here for!  In summary, I didn’t find any issues with the descriptions and was impressed by the literary skills of the authors. The drama was intense, the action was gripping, and the story was fun. Terry Mixon and JN Chaney brought it, they were definitely their A game. 

 

 

Narration:

I enjoyed this book exclusively in the audiobook format. It was well done; the accents were consistent, and I didn’t want to rip my ears off. There wasn’t a whole lot of range from the character accents, but the narrator did good! This isn’t a dig at Jeffrey Kafer, the narrator, as this was a story told by a singular point of view, so there just wasn’t a call for that many accents. What was there was well done. Seriously, I’d listen to more books by this narrator, and I even hired him to work on one of my series. His audiobook was of a professional quality, so I had nothing to complain about! He didn’t commit the Cardinal Sin, which is my only real requirement; he didn’t sound like a robot, he didn’t bore me, and he didn’t use accents that annoy the bejeesus out of me! Overall, I give him 5 out of 5 grenades for his performance.

 

 

Book Cover:

First, the usual disclaimer is that I’m colorblind so your mileage may vary. The first thing that jumped out at me was the typography used. The font and the color of the text jumped out as consistent with the rest of the series. I know that I’m reviewing the first book, but the next four are available for comparison. The stylistic lettering told you it was a Variant Publications novel, fulfilling its mission. The coloring used for the font is also nicely contrasted with the space image background. Even cooler, the pop of light just behind it catches your eye, even when viewing it as a thumbnail. I also liked seeing the main character on the cover in his trademark “historic” uniform, with the Confederation Navy space station aligned in the upper right of the image. Most importantly, the image looked cool! What I really liked about this image was that I knew it was a custom piece of art, and the level of detail in the high-resolution image was top-notch, this guy is setting a new industry standard! As I mentioned previously, this cover looks great across all mediums! It’s equally impressive on your Kindle, Audible App or other smaller devices, though it really shines when you look at the full-sized cover on the Amazon site! Overall, this cover really speaks to the inner nerd in me! There was a sense of the vastness of space that this image evoked, and I loved it.

 

 

Overall:

I really loved this book; it was a lot of fun to read. It is worth mentioning again, I’ve read this novel a few times and it never once felt like it was a waste of time. So, let’s dive into what I liked. I really loved that this novel felt like a cousin to the other books Terry Mixon has written. Seriously, right down to his main character, a ship’s captain, losing his former command to a broken spine. If there is a naval space god, they must surely hate Mixon for the hell he’s wrought! I also detected hints of the trademark irreverence that is part of the JN Chaney brand. This book felt like the perfect blend of their styles, and I think the whole became so much greater than the sum of their parts.

 

One thing that I really liked about this novel was the use of a museum ship as the main setting. It gave this novel a vibe that reminded me of the opening of the new version of Battlestar Galactica. In the opening of that television series, the main vessel started as a floating museum that was brought back to life because of an existential crisis. They did this in the movie Battleship as well, though that movie wasn’t as highly rated. What can I say, I like the trope of the old being new again. The Last Hunter pulled it off, even going so far as to bring uniforms that would make Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson blush. I know it was inspired by anime, but that touch added to the vibe of the floating historical relic. It spoke to the history nerd in me in a way that I really like. I imagine that at some point this trope will get old and the series will move past it, but for now it was a lot of fun.

 

 

Another part of this story that I loved was how Mixon-Chaney made use of the trope of an empire in decline. This was one of the main plot points, which added a layer of desperation to the struggle for the crew of the Delta Orionis. This novel opens up with the Confederation, and thus the Confederation Navy, fading away as corruption and inertia force the once mighty polity to shrink. The authors don’t dwell on this, more using this as a bit of seasoning on the glorious steak that is The Last Hunter. I suspect that this trope will have echoes across the series, but I hope that they don’t overdo this one.

 

Next, I felt like Commodore Jack Romanoff was the perfect viewpoint character. He was a lot of fun to see this world through. The man had just the right blend of morality seasoned with realism, allowing him to get the job done. This allowed him to keep the novel interesting and entertaining. I really loved seeing his interactions with his father, but it made me wonder if the authors had daddy issues. Wow, what a soup sandwich their dynamic was. But this isn’t a dig at the novel, but a fun plot complication to add to an already rich universe.

 

Speaking of characters, one of the things that I really liked about this novel was the use of so many secondary characters. These people only added to the story, rather than distract from it. While we have one main point of view character, Commodore Romanoff, he can’t be everywhere and see everything. To fill that void, Chaney and Mixon gave us a supporting cast of characters from across the spectrum of jobs and personality types. They allow us to see the universe from a more holistic view. Normally, you might just shrug it off as the needs of the plot, but these authors went above and beyond to ensure that their secondary characters were believable and fleshed out. I could easily see any one of them getting their own stand-alone novels and not feeling like I was being cheated.

 

And given the genre of this book, how could I not cover the military culture of the universe? It was spot on, just what I’d expect from two veterans. This story was told by JN Chaney, a proud veteran of the US Air Force and Terry Mixon, who rode dinosaurs with George Washington in the US Army. Even cooler, Mixon went on to work with NASA and helped Buzz Lightyear fake the moon landing! Together, this dynamic duo created a compelling interstellar naval force, but again… the author spent some time working for NASA, and it shows. The place where this novel really shined was the characterizations, nobody wearing the uniform felt like cookie cutter clichés or parodies. The way these two portrayed how their characters handled the developments of this book was superbly done! There was never a moment where I thought… “that’s not how I would act.” I believe that the characters responded as expected to the situation they found themselves in.

 

While this novel wasn’t grim or dark, there was a level of gritty realism to it, it was one of the things that enjoyed about this book. The authors considered the role of logistics and how it affects the battlespace. This isn’t always a sexy thing to think about, but these two made it a cool part of the plot development. From the beginning, we see the character running out of supplies and having to creatively solve the issue. We even saw this as a central plot point that tested moral limits as the crew grappled with solving this issue. Further, he has the sailors of the Delta Orionis constantly on the lookout for their consumable military tech; missiles and bullets, etc. Then they end up with a lack of personnel for the massive vessel that is Hunter. No detail was forgotten or taken for granted in this book and I’m here for it! It cemented that little attention to detail, making me love this novel even more.

 

Another place where this novel shined was with the pacing. The political maneuverings were intense and believable. The characters responded as you’d expect in those circumstances. However, they didn’t let it derail the plot. They kept the story moving along, constantly introducing new complications just when they’d come to some sort of resolution to the old one. I know that this sounds trite, but it really served to illustrate the skills these two authors brought to the table.

 

I really loved how compelling this novel was. It really made me want to fly my own Hunter Class spaceship. If I hide the ship from my woman, can I still be the captain? Let’s be real, my fighting days are over, and any semblance of command authority left when I hung up my stripes. Sigh, think she will at least let me be the first officer? But hey, I could forget that while I read this book and pretend I was still my own man! I could be young and spry again, capable of chewing lead, spitting out bullets and walking through fire. Definitely gave me a case of the feels, and I found myself wanting to be a part of it all.

 

Finally, I really liked that the aliens in this series were still somewhat of a mystery. We know that they’re out there, somewhere, building robots to conquer the galaxy in advance of their potential arrival. Well, we think we know this. But the mystery that is the Locust is part of the fun, we get to explore and learn about this threat right along with the main characters. We know they’ve got drones and motherships, but not much else. I sense a “yet” being added to that statement, I just can’t foresee these two authors letting that cash cow of a plot bunny go free. I wouldn’t want that as a reader and I wouldn’t do it as an author.

 

In conclusion, I loved this novel, and I would happily give it 5 out of 5 Grenades. I would comfortably suggest that someone use some of their hard-earned money on this novel, though it is available on Kindle Unlimited as well. This book has become a new favorite for me, right up there with Terry Mixon’s Empire of Bones Series. If you’re looking for your next hit of literary crack, you won’t go wrong with this series or these two authors.

 

 

If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out!  You won’t regret it!  Well, unless it keeps you up all night and you’re late to work… and then your boss fires you, because you became a book addict and a rabid Terry Mixon and JN Chaney fan.  And then you track them down, climb into their window in your skivvies and they shoot you with grapeshot.  Okay, the fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT kill you.  Be warned, but enjoy the high!

 

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

brown_bess

JR

–> As usual, all images came from Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.

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