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Genre: Science Fiction Adventure, Space Opera
Larry G, USA
I always enjoy getting wrapped up in a good science fiction space opera and Birdie Down by Jim Graham is just such a book. It is full of action and intrigue which kept me glued to the pages.
The author did a great job of developing a story that was believable and realistic. The action scenes in the book were exciting and at the same time not so farfetched that you got lost in them. I found it easy to put myself into the story and follow the characters.
The character development was excellent and Jim Graham made each of his characters real and easy to identify with. I like it when characters have an everyday Joe personality and are easy to relate to.
I really enjoyed Birdie Down by Jim Graham and I highly recommend this book.
Jennifer L, Australia:
I really enjoyed reading this book. Well written, touch of humour, couldn't put it down.
Great book! Highly recommended!
Sarah B, Texas:
Birdie Down by Jim Graham is an interesting side story that takes place in Graham’s Scat universe. In 2210, rebels led by Sebastian Scatkiewicz (known as ‘Scat’) are protesting the corporate rule of space. As his team is reaching out to cause trouble on one of the worlds owned by the enemy Lynthax corporation, a ship containing the rebel and former police officer Andrew Goosen (known as ‘Birdie’) goes down and must be abandoned for the good of the rebellion.
Birdie now has the enjoyment of trying to run with/rescue a friend and college (Tillier Bing) who was hurt so that he doesn’t remember knowing Birdie, the entire rebellion he was fighting for, or even what he had claimed was his own name. If that wasn’t enough, the two of them are stuck in a swamp swarming with giant lizards and horrible spider-rat creatures so sickening that you wouldn’t even leave a hated enemy to fend with them.
For everyone who loved the first one, this book is not to be missed. As the story is slightly set aside from it’s predecessor, it should stand alone well enough, but as the two works fit together into an elaborate, well put together tail, there is no real reason to miss either one. I hear Jim has a third story in the works; I am eagerly awaiting getting the chance to read it.
The year is 2210, and things are just a bit different now. Earth has several planets and they are under corporate rule. The corporation then reports back to Earth. Lynthax is that company. As with many companies, Lynthax believe themselves to be above the law. They downsize and rearrange peoples lives in a careless way. Many found fault with Lynthax and decided to fight back. The rebellion is new and still unorganized, but willing to fight to the death to expose the ways of Lynthax. The rebels are looking for independence from Earth and they'll do anything to get it. They promised land to those who would join the rebellion and help them gain the independence. The first to join were ex-cops. They'd been fired from their jobs by Lynthax. Andrew "Birdie" Goosen is one of them. During one mission to shut down Lynthax information storage facilities, Birdie's shuttle is shot down. Now what? Read the book to find out more.
I am a geek fan if ever there was one for books such as this. I love 'seeing' into the future as to what others feel our world might include. Jim Graham didn't disappoint. His vision of Earth in 2210 seems to be right in line with where we are today. The story is age old, the oppressed fighting the oppressor. It's always been my habit to support the underdog and I'm no different in this instance. Birdie Down is a well crafted tale and action filled. You'll enjoy the way this story unfolds with no apology for what the rebels do in an effort to win freedom. It offers all the things a scifi fan would look for and includes some, to me at least, gory, horror film stuff too. Not over the top, just fits with the story.
I am delighted to say, there were no issues.
I gave this on 4 out of 5 books just because of the horror film quality in part of it (not a fan).
Birdie Down is a guns-blazing tale of a group of rebels in the Outer Rim, taking on the Lynthax Corporation. Scatkiewicz (or “Scat”) and his crew have hijacked a ship and attacked Corporation facilities on two worlds and are chased to a third. A group of rebels, led by Andrew “Birdie” Goosen, has crash landed a shuttle into the swampy jungle on the planet below. They must not only survive the Corporation forces searching for them, but also all the nasties that an alien world can throw at them.
Apparently this book was written for fun in only five weeks – if that is the case then Jim Graham has done a great job in a very short time. The start of the story thrusts the reader right into the action and there’s little time for character descriptions, but as the story moves on we get to know the crew better. Once the attack begins on Constitution, the action is exciting and non-stop, with plenty of alien creatures and gory bits.
This story is perfect for lovers of gritty sci-fi and fans of space opera will love it.
Warnings: Graphic violence, but not enough swearing for my tastes!
It is 2210 and a rebellion is underway in the outer reaches of human settlement. Earth doesn’t know about that yet, as the rebels have disabled the long-distance communication infrastructure. Scat (Sebastian Scatkiewicz) is leading a motley group of rebels—many of whom only recently switched to his side—against the powerful corporations that run Trevon and other planets in this region of space. Corporations hold all the power here; a few people want to change that and declare independence. But, the corporations have their own security forces and control all the communication systems. So, a handful of rebels have captured a space ship and are busy taking down those communication systems.
The story is fast paced and action packed, the rebels racing to stay ahead of the powerful Petroff and his security forces. They have lots of great gadgets and weaponry to keep sci-fi geeks happy. And the novel is chock-full of interesting characters: the creepy Petroff who leads from behind; the slightly psychotic security specialist Cummings who has several “enhancements,” including eye implants, that enable him to do his job better; and Lieutenant Alfred H. Day, a quintessential Englishman who figures that he may as well not be paid by the rebels as by his former masters. Everyone has a back story, most of which are cleverly stitched into the novel, and their own reasons for picking or changing sides.
The action descends from the skies to a wonderfully strange swamp forest brimful with dangerous wildlife as threatening to the people as their own weaponry.
All that is lacking is a better sense of why the rebellion is happening now and, especially, a better sense of why Scat is leading it and who he is. But, this is the second in a series, so no doubt that is old ground covered elsewhere.
Thomas C, Canada:
Birdie Down is Jim Graham’s second novel and a science fiction version of what Rudyard Kipling would have called a "ripping good yarn." What we have here is high adventure of the best kind with a motley collection of crashed revolutionaries and hostages struggling to survive on a jungle planet rife with bad weather, deadly creatures, and hostile enemy forces. The odd dose of rank treachery adds even more spice to the rich mix.
The book opens with some solid foundation-laying. Birdie Down is an episode within the greater story told in Graham’s first novel, Scat (see my review), and early chapters provide the tie-in. We soon reach the story’s heart.
Andrew “Birdie” Goosen, the Birdie of the book’s title, is flying a shuttle on a critical mission only days into a revolt against an oppressive corporate entity that dominates planets on the “outer rim,” the region of known space farthest from Earth. At the start, he has only one small problem: he does not know how to fly. This soon becomes apparent and government fighters shoot his craft out of the sky. In the process, they also down a shuttle filled with former hostages.
Birdie (and company) survives, only now he has a whole lot of big problems. Bad weather keeps the enemy temporarily at bay, but torrential rain brings on the planet's feeding season, a frenzy reminiscent of the one on the much drier world in Vin Diesel's, “Pitch Black.” The story unfolds as the crash survivors try to reach safe-haven located miles away through a flooding jungle erupting with ravenous fanged fish and swarming man-eating vermin. This is definitely not a tale for the squeamish.
The jungle journey is a thrill in itself, yet there is more to come as the scene shifts to a flooding riverbank where huge monsters and enemy agents await the unwary. It all climaxes in a final shootout between rebel rescuers and corporate forces. However, as so often happens in Graham’s work, the story takes a number of unexpected turns and some things are not what they appear to be.
Besides the suspenseful adventure, what makes this novel work so well is Birdie. He is an extremely likable character and comes across as the decent human being caught up in a nasty situation not of his making. He tries so hard to do the right thing that you cannot help but respect and admire him. Other characters are well drawn, interesting, and effective.
There are some minor indie glitches here and there, but none that impairs the pleasing classic-sci-fi feel this entertaining novel so consistently presents. If you enjoy desperate struggles to survive against long odds, this one is a winner.
“Birdie Down” is the second novel by Jim Graham, an English author living in Hong Kong.
The book is primarily an adventure yarn about a band of revolutionaries who are attempting to take down - or at lest destabilize - an evil corporation that more-or-less rules a number of colony worlds with an iron fist, squeezes them for labor and resources, and gives them no civil rights. You know, the usual. This is mostly inferred, and we don’t actually see much in the way of industrial level atrocities. In fact, we mostly only have the word of the protagonists to go on, but as any student of the East India Company or the 19th century Robber Barons can tell you: It’s plausible, and it makes for a good (if largely offscreen) giant for our Don Quixotes to go tilting against.
In the giddy opening section, our heroes zip about on a stolen space ship, launching lightning strikes on soft corporate targets among the colonies, and skipping away before anyone has time to react. This is complicated by their ship still having many of the crew they stole it from on board as prisoners, and a few other persons of interest as well. Complications arise, and we’re introduced to the heavy of the piece, the corporate hatchet man who’s tasked with anticipating their next attack and killing them. These scenes are brisk and exciting, and though we don’t get a *lot* of it, the scenes of the hero (“Scat”) and his arch nemesis attempting to outguess each other while random chance plays a part are genuinely engaging. There’s also one fairly brutal hand-to-hand combat scene which makes clear the stakes, and gets across the limitations of what lengths some of the characters are, and are not, willing to go to. It’s good stuff. Heck, after four years of the dross I’ve been reading, it’s great stuff!
From there, the book settles down a bit. The narrative divides, and we mostly follow a character named “Birdie” around after he crashes in the jungle on an alien world. He has a cripple and an wounded friend in tow. Here we have a fairly standard-yet-interesting survival story interstitially linked with a more interesting psychological drama in which the three men never quite trust each other, but never distrust each other quite so much that going it alone seems an option. The variations of this shifting power struggle could quickly get tedious, but the author strings it out just long enough to get across the personal dynamics, and then moves on to the more actioney stuff. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to some cavalier new characters, and we see the search and rescue efforts of Scat and Birdie’s other friends, while the arch nemesis character attempts to track the downed rebels. Again: these scenes could actually be pretty tedious, but Mr. Graham plays them clever. I give very high marks to an author who shows me something I haven’t seen before (Not easy. I’ve been reading SF all my life), and a sequence in which computer records of footwear are used to narrow in on the prey had me grinning from ear to ear. It was clever, it was unique, and - best of all - it made sense.
The action sequences are good. Graham is ex-military, and it shows. His soldiers feel like soldiers, if not American ones. The characterization is, on the whole, good. Most of the characters play their cards close to the vest, so to speak, which makes them interesting. I can’t stress how important that is, as these kinds of straight-ahead actioners frequently have the worst kinds of ciphers as characters.
The writing is, on the whole, easy, brisk, and engaging, and there are a few scenes - such as the brutal fight sequence I mentioned early on, or a crisp and mesmerizing death scene later in the book - that really jumped out at me as very solidly above the level of the rest. There’s nothing showy or distractingly artsy, however, and when the especially good writing comes up, it’s to emphasize the needs of the scene, never to just show off. The book clocks in at about 60,000 words, making it slightly longer than your average Hardy Boys detective book. Since most amateur SF novelists tend to pad a barely-short-story concept out to three or four hundred more-or-less meaningless pages, the restraint Mr. Graham shows is greatly appreciated. As a result, his narrative focus, and the impetus of the story remain clear and driving. The ending is solid, but leaves the door open for more adventures in the future.
I also enjoyed some of the odd perspectives one only gets by reading things from another culture. One of the major characters in the book is Canadian, and at one point he shows some very genuine shock and remorse when he comes across some American casualties. Though it’s not spelled out, there’s a nice bittersweet quality to it: these people are so very far from home, yet they came from friendly bordering countries. Given the distance, that’s more than enough to make them friends, but, alas…
The worldbuilding is good, and everything feels fairly well thought out. We never get a detailed explanation of how this universe works, but the snatches we are given seem consistent, and it makes sense to the characters, without being overly expositional, and without limiting the author with too many self-imposed rules. The technology is never fully explained, but it, too, is consistent, and kinda’ flashy. I particularly liked how *fast* travel between worlds was, and I liked that the space ships had to spin to simulate gravity. Nothing was particularly imponderable.
I enjoyed it. I really did. It renewed my faith in the online self-publishing concept as a whole, and better still, within fifteen pages I *knew* that it would. It gave me something no other E-book has given me thus far: I had a good feeling about it by the end of the second scene! I’m so impressed by this that I’m going to pick up his first book, and review that ASAP. That’s something I’ve never done before.
As with all self-published books, there’s a number of unavoidable problems. The most obvious of these are misspellings, some odd sentence structure here and there, the occasional overuse of one particular word for a scene or two, and the random results of an overzealous spellchecker (For instance, in one passage someone obviously means to say ‘this does not ogre well’ when obviously the author intended ‘auger.’) These are frankly unavoidable without a professional editor. I know, since I’ve had this problem myself. I had four sets of eyes go over my own first book, and a bundle of these kinds of things still slipped through. To the author’s credit, there’s far fewer of these than I’ve seen elsewhere, and only one or two of them were significant enough for me not to instinctively know what he meant. This puts his average way higher than mine.
Since this book is a sequel to a book that I haven’t read, parts of the opening section seemed a little disjointed. There was nothing in this that detracted from the story as a whole, but it felt a little bit like I was coming in on part two of a cliffhanger. This may not actually be the case, the author may simply have wanted to start out in an action sequence with everything going all higgledy-piggeldy, and leave it to us to piece it together as we go along. Certainly, that’s the way it ultimately played out for me, and it definitely contributes to the engaging off-kilter energy of the first bit. Still and all, I felt I was missing something there, and it didn’t feel like the kind of thing that more exposition could have fixed without ruining that part of the story. So: I felt a little lost, but the story as a whole washed over me and more than made up for it.
Finally - and again this is not a criticism - I don’t want to give the impression that this is the best book I’ve ever read, or that it’s high art, or anything. It’s not. It is charmingly and refreshingly free of all pretension. It’s a straight-ahead Science Fiction Adventure Novel very much in the 1950s-1970s pulp mold, which is honestly a pretty good and rare thing these days. It is by no means the best thing I’ve ever read, and it is patently unfair to use the same standards for judging amateur work one uses for judging professional stuff. Even so, had this come out back in the day, I could easily see this as having been one half of an old Ace double. The old Ace books may have been the burger-and-fries of the SF world, but honestly who doesn’t like those now and again? Particularly when the only alternative I’ve had available for four years is stale bread and papier-mâché fruit. We’re not talking anything here that will change your life, but I can honestly say this book is head and shoulders above anything else I’ve read by an amateur.
I tell you this three times, I tell you this three times, I tell you this three times: this is the best amateur SF novel I’ve read, this is the best amateur SF novel I’ve read, this is the best amateur SF novel I’ve read.
Go get a copy now.
For a book written in five weeks, it ain't half bad. It has all the elements a sci fi story requires, lasers, star ships and rebels. It reminds me of a space opera than anything else. The characters are not developed to a point for me to invest myself in them. They seem to be very stereo-typical.
Graham should be congratulated on writing and publishing this book in record time. I would hope he can keep up the pace and should have a large collection of work in no time. I was not particularly impressed by this story. It did not find it very interesting to me. At some points, I found it very annoying. Within the story is a laser rifle the author calls a PIKL. It stands for Pulsed Impulsive Kill Laser. In the entire story, the term PIKL is overly used. I would hope that in that vast universe there would be other types of firearms.
The story line is done well and resolves in a way that will allowing the characters to continues in other books. I believe a sequel is in the works. I can say that Birdie Down is not a must read but it's not something to avoid. Graham shows potential and talent and will only get better at his craft.
Peter J, United Kingdom:
Have to admit, wasn't keen on the first chapter or so. Bit too much tell rather than show for my taste, trying to keep up a fast pace. It settles down, we get to know the main characters and it's worth sticking with it. Read this book and watch this author.
5 weeks? i Hate you Jim :-)
Shain K, USA:
If you like SF this is a fantastic read. Great Pace and a wonderful story line.
Rebecca M.D, USA:
Jim Graham's Birdie Down is an engaging read that, despite a few flaws, is well worth checking out if you are a fan of what I might call swashbuckling science fiction. The book follows the progress of the inter-planetary revolution begun in Scat (which I have not yet read as for some reason I got hold of "Birdie" first. I plan to go back and read the first book next time I'm in the mood).
The story and the characters are engaging, although I didn't get "grabbed" until probably 50 pages in--getting a little close to my limit. Mr. Graham has created a consistent world, and largely avoids the "Bat utility belt" approach to solving SF problems (you know: when all else fails, pull out some amazing high-tech device to solve the problem). At times, however, I found it hard to keep track of things. The author creates a very real feel by using the acronyms and nicknames for things that would be common to the characters. I might recommend, however, that for those of us with shorter attention spans, he might want to occasionally throw in the full-length version, as I at times found myself a little lost.
A few other issues brought this book down from four stars to 3 or 3.5. First and largest, the changes of POV need more markers, especially as there are enough characters that it's not always easy to remember who is on which side. This (like the issue with jargon) was exacerbated by the piecemeal approach I took to reading the first hundred or so pages, which allowed me to forget too much. Things definitely were better after I was grabbed and read straight through the second half of the book, but I still needed more markers. As an aside, that's an issue that's worse with e-books. If I'd been reading a paper book, I'd have just flipped back to check out what I couldn't remember.
My second criticism is that the book needs better editing. I was at times distracted by minor errors of spelling (typing) or word use. If you are less anal than I about such, you probably wouldn't notice, but I did.
Finally, I was unsatisfied with the ending. Although the story is brought to a resting point, I thought it left too many loose ends (a couple of them brought up just in time to be left), making it a little too clear that a sequel will be coming--and must be read if you really want to know how things will work out in the end.
Despite these criticisms, I will reiterate: I enjoyed reading Birdie Down and can recommend it as an interesting read, and I plan to follow the development of the Revolution.
SGL, Amazon review:
Goosen was likely to bring a man back from the dead, Scat not so much.
I began reading this book prior to reading Scat. I had a difficult time getting into as I simply didn't have the foundation. That foundation is Scat the first book in the series a. I recommend reading it first as this (Birdie Down) really isn't a stand alone book. It fits snugly with in the first book, after the background has been spelled out . and the characters given life with out it's simply not the enjoyable read that it is..
Mitch W, Amazon review:
Good read and the set the start of a decent series. Will read the next Birdie book in the series.