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4.2 out of 5 stars
Swarm (Star Force Series Book 1)
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163 of 184 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2011
I have been reading science fiction for half a century. I read Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov in first edition. In all the years that have passed I have never before read a book that I would realistically compare with Heinlein. Now I have. When you pick up this book, physically or digitally, be prepared to be unwilling to put it down until you finish it!

Swarm is just sufficiently full of true science and seasoned just enough with fiction to pass muster as something Heinlein would have written. Joe average is quite literally yanked out of his calm, pleasant life and forced into a life or death situation not only for himself but for all of humanity. In classic science fiction commonly the protagonist was an egg-head who was fully up to date on the newest radio technology, in this case a computer science professor has to shoulder the responsibility of saving the world.

Heinlein was convinced that a well-educated American engineer or scientist could take on the most advanced tyrants in the universe. More, he was convinced that given a hint of whatever was behind the technology of that tyrant, American academics and engineers could reproduce and even better it. His optimistic view was overshadowed by the post-apocalyptic mood that seemed to grip scifi writers in the waning years of the 20th century. B.V. Larson has recaptured that indomitable spirit exemplified by Heinlein that sees the best of American scientific culture and the self sacrificing nature and courage of professional soldiers as a force that makes humanity far too much to chew for any alien invader.

The highest complement I can give is due this book. I squirmed with the lead character as he faced the death of his family and again and again the horror of total war. In the end though Larson make me feel good to be an American and a human being. I ache to read the next in what I sincerely hope is a long series.
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162 of 187 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2011
I was surprised to find that I did not like this book, given the overwhelmingly positive reviews. I've concurrently purchased and read quite a few of the other similarly priced indie sci-fi ebooks written at the same time, and I enjoyed all of them, and found them almost all high quality, well written, and entertaining. However, this one was the one that I felt underperformed by a fair margin - even given the low price ($2.99)

The book is fast-paced, but at great cost to the characters. As an adult reader, I found none of them believable - they all seemed to me oversimplified caricatures of a teenage boy's fantasy reality. This is coming from a reader who loves action, no less.

In particular, I found the protagonist's development completely unrealistic. A schoolteacher by background, becomes a military genius on his very first battle, manages to forget the graphic deaths of his two kids within days, and is found busily carousing intimately with a too-conveniently placed naked early 20s female sidekick in that time. This oversimplified character and plot development is so cliche and unoriginal that I thought only kids would be able to overlook it. The descriptions of the female sidekick pretty much sum up the level of writing in this book - in the midst of a high-tension, life-or-death scenario, generous wording is given to pay particular attention to her shapely form, state of undress, and appealing features. Oh yes, and she's naked pretty much the entire first few days they're together. Seriously? This sort of writing is straight out of a low-budget "B Movie" script - it was a shock to me to encounter such banality in sci-fi book.

The rest of the book is also greatly oversimplified for a fan of hard science fiction. If you like reading stories with detailed, unexpected and deep twists, this definitely is not one of them - I could predict every encounter and the outcome way before it even happened. I'm doubly surprised so many reviewers here found the "challenges" imaginative. When the key idea of the protagonist is to repulse an alien attack with no more complexity than aiming all your weapons at one spot instead of all over the place, I'm not impressed. (That was the main strategy for the initial few encounters, and is responsible for major successes!) I'm not expecting something as original and well done as "Ender's Game" here, but I was beyond underwhelmed with the military strategy demonstrated in this book.

I suspect I would have enjoyed this a lot more as a 13 year old male with little experience with hard scifi and the reality and complexity of adult human interaction. But let me be absolutely clear here - this is not even close to what the old masters of scifi (Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, etc.) would produce in terms of quality, despite what some other reviewers have implied. One idea in a single sentence from those authors has more depth and complexity than anything found in this work.
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72 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2012
I read this book and was impressed by the first chapter. It was well written, thoughtful and totally conveyed the hero's feelings and that made me feel something for him. It also fatally flawed this story.
I read one five star review here where someone compared this writer to Heinlein. Heinlein had a deep understanding of empathy and how it moves a story; the dynamic that brings the reader into a story. This writer made me hate this guy's guts by the end of the second chapter and if any moniker would be an apt description it would be the Anti-Heinlein.
I read lots of this stuff and long for something that I will be able to turn off my brain and read. I hated the hero so much, I couldn't. If this guy represents humanity, I'm rooting for the aliens.

Spoiler.........

Let me lay this out. His adolescent children are eviscerated; chopped into bits while screaming and a few hours later he starts hitting on girl. Together, a few days later, they decide to go back to his house and steal his dead kid's furniture and clothing to set up their new place. A week later (yes a week) he might occasionally think about them. But only for a minute or so.
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66 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2011
Having read a number of books now from this author, I felt safe in just grabbing this one without reading the synopsis or the reviews. My faith was justified as this turned out to be a great book. A real page turner. I sat down and read it in an afternoon and was left wanting more. Larson states that he may turn it into a series if it does well enough. I hope it does!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2012
I bought Swarm on a whim since it had a lot of positive reviews, the premise piqued my curiosity and it was on sale. Swarm is an easy to read, fast paced story that has a nice level of intrigue in the first quarter of the book or so, and once the initial chaos settles, the book becomes heavy in military action for almost all of the remainder. The story is told from the first person perspective of Kyle Riggs and suffers by having numerous characters that lack depth or that you do not care for, especially his young female shipmate. There are a few breaks between the constant fighting, allowing for some more extrapolation in what is happening outside of the battle zone, but overall the book serves as a good setup for a story that has more to say. The book is not without flaws, but overall it is simple and enjoyable novel. I mostly enjoyed reading Swarm, and if I could, I would give this 3.5 stars. I am looking forward to continuing this series, though personally hope that Larson offers more plot progression and less action. I will know soon enough and am looking forward to it!
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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2011
Great escape reading. I love a book that has you cheering for the individual. Well written, with good character development. There is enough time spent on the main character in the begining to invest you in rooting for his survival.

As there is little swearing or graphic sex, this book would also be appropriate for teens.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2014
I purchased this based on all of the positive high star reviews and not the few who give it a thumbs down, I've found that no matter how good something is, there are those who sit around with nothing to do and see how much they can slam it. Well, this time they were right! It is very juvenile, the characters are cardboard, our lead character doesn't react like a real person would who had just lost his family. I only made it through four chapters, and even that was hard, I just kept hoping it would get better... it didn't. I was hoping for a series story that I could get into. I've been lucky and found many series that were excellent, just not this one.
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45 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2012
Imagine you are a single father. When your wife, the love of your life, passed away she left you with two wonderful children, apples of your eye. Your peaceful family life is sundered when you suddenly see them ripped from their beds by a home invader who cuts them open like fish and tosses their broken bodies to the ground like so much garbage. It happens in an instant. If at any time in the next few moments you find yourself ogling a nubile half naked undergrad instead of mourning your children there is something seriously wrong with you. Let's say then that through some cosmic twist there is a chance that your children could be revived! A typical scene that might unfold would involve you being all stressed out, moving between bouts of crying for the last two members of your whole family and moments of pacing feverishly while you anticipate the results of the operation to save their lives. Let's say instead that you don't do that. Instead you go back to ogling the sexy undergrad girl who is not only totally naked now but also bound by wrists and ankles. You even give thought to a "ratio" that expresses the duration of a relationship with said hot stuff as a function of how sexy she is and how different your ages are. Believe it or not that is what the author has his hero do. That he doesn't see the glaring sick mistake in the priorities of his protagonist, shows how trapped in his adolescence the author is. I have a theory about why that is. The rest of the story shows the "hero" learning to control a spaceship that has kidnapped him, as he learns that he has to treat the ship just like a computer program. He realizes that he has to give it explicit orders, that any vague questions will go unanswered and orders that aren't explicit will result in bad consequences. You'll notice the author really gets off on this, because he keeps having the "hero" make the mistake of speaking vaguely to the AI, suffering for it, and then explaining to the reader "Oh that's right! I must speak to it like I'm writing a program!". This happens over and over again until the reader wants to shout "I get it already." My theory is the author is a stereotypical computer geek who has a love of programming as well as an unsatisfied libido. That's the only way someone could have written something this bad. I can't talk about the rest of the book as I wasn't willing to waste another moment of my life on it, and yeah I can still write a review on it. You don't have to watch more than the first half hour of Starship Troopers to know you've been ripped off.
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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2011
This book surely has some nice concepts and ideas (like for example the way the main figure solves this certain problem of lacking a real screen or some kind of visual output as we are used to).

Nevertheless, it really seemed like a book written for a younger public (but still above 16 I would suppose).
By this, I mean that it lacks the depth, details, plot twists and the genuine feel of a real good SF novel.

It's difficult to pinpoint, but I really feel that there are some really awkward turns in the story; not the mention the entire mood of the narrator (the main character telling about his horrible "abduction").

It rather feels like some kind of short story for use in some SF Omnibus:
And it sure uses some fairly old ideas (like in the older works of Heinlein or Ron Hobbard I'd venture...).

*** Possible SPOILER ALERT ***
People are abducted and then subjected to horrible and (most often) very fatal tests (alien abduction theme)
The survivors will then attack some unknown foe ("We want brains" ... not for food, but to take decisions...)
The main hero's kids both die horribly right at the beginning, but he's still capable of going on like nothing's ever happened (No need to worry...).
Inevitably, there's also some very cute (naked) girl (the sidekick!)...
And last but no least: a group of strangers bombard themselves to some kind of government or group of space marines....

Generally, it lacks some depth (like some other comments already mentioned), it feels written in a hurry at some points, but generally it still makes for some very acceptable reading:
I would recommend to view it like reading a "good-price" pocket book while on vacation.
Also, it is important to note that the price indeed reflects this: it won't break the bank.

Perhaps I was expecting too much after reading some SF Space Opera spanning several volumes...
So you have to consider that it's indeed entertaining for being a stand-alone book.
Although I'm not sure it would really make it as the first book of some new space-saga.

Pascal P.

EDIT:
I upgraded to 3 stars because I got a comment (from Murphy Mac) asking why I gave only 2 stars for something I myself called entertaining. And since I indeed agree with his comment and because I myself think that I underrated this novel... let's add a star and elevate it to a more correct 3 stars.

REMARK:
Indeed, it is not bad at all.
Only, for me personally (and given I already said I preferred to read "space saga" stories) it did not rate very high.
Still, I have to say that it's quite an enjoyable read for a standalone novel !
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2011
In reading many of the reviews here, I was wondering if I was reading the same book. "I Robot" this is not. In fact it is not even "Transformers". I found the story to be completely lacking in context and the characters not compelling. <<SPOILER ALERT>> I couldn't even find compassion for the loss of the main character's two children (and I'm a father). Was this a book or a video game? Even at the cost of a few dollars, I found this to be a total rip-off.
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