Book Review(s): “Djinn,” “Dust Storm,” and “Distress Signal”

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a book review and I have a long list of books I want to review. I’ve read them all, but for one reason or another haven’t gotten around to reading them. These three books struck me enough to push me out of my excuse-filled rut. So herewith, for your reading pleasure, a short review of three short stories.

This trilogy of short stories by Cedar Sanderson, writing as Liliana Begley, are a masterpiece of world-building and characters in a very short number of pages. All three stories are what has been called “tactical romance” – stories where the adventure, action, and science are front and center, but romance manages to sneak its way in and surprise everybody, including the characters. In these stories, you could say love blooms in the desert (thank you, I’ll see myself out).

The planet Sumire is a dust bowl. Nothing grows and those who have colonized it have a very difficult time just surviving, never mind thriving. Dust storms and giant dust devils abound, killing everything in their paths. Yet there is something going on in the desert of Sumire, something that someone wants desperately to hide – desperately enough to kill to keep secret.

In Djinn, we meet Seona, a graduate student on a research trip to Sumire (yeah, yeah. Grad students do stupid things for faculty advisors… it’s part of the game). When her flitter crashes, narrowly missing a man named Henry, Seona discovers that her research trip might well have been doomed from the start. Henry is her only hope for survival in the face of an oncoming dust storm. But who exactly is Henry and why is he lurking around in the desert? And why is he interested in Seona’s work? Surviving what Sumire is throwing at them is Seona’s and Henry’s first priority. If they can do that, then Seona can ask her questions… and hopefully get some answers.

Dust Storm picks up where Djinn left off. Lyndi, a Space Patrol officer moves in to make an arrest in the attempted murder of a graduate student. She picks up an unexpected partner who’s also interested in Lyndi’s target. Lyndi has her suspicions, but before the new partners can make an arrest, a monstrous dust devil threatens to destroy the town and everyone in it, while another suspect makes a run for it in the face of the approaching dust storm. Now Lyndi has to put her trust in a man whose name she doesn’t know and hope that he listens to her when she explains the perils of their current situation.

Finally, everything wraps up in Distress Signal and Sumire begins to reveal its secrets. Koldo, a young Space Patrolman, braves dangers he’s just left on the surface of Sumire to answer a distress signal coming from another part of the planet. Is the signal a trap or something else? What Koldo finds will provide answers to all the questions raised by the first two books. Sometimes, you just have to trust your instincts.

Adventure, villains, alien life forms, and romance. What more do you need? If you’re looking for a brief escape, I highly recommend the Sumire trilogy. These three stories do need to be read in order, but it takes less than an hour for each story. So you can treat yourself to one at a time and spread out the fun, or you can indulge yourself and binge all three at once. Either way, I promise you’ll enjoy the ride.

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