T. K. Toppin: Author Spotlight & Double-Header Review of THE LANCASTER RULE/TO CATCH A MARLIN

Initially, I was introduced to T. K. Toppin via the weekly blog hop Science-Fiction Fantasy Saturday. Over months, I developed really beneficial relationships that helped me grow as a writer (and reader), and I’ve always valued T. K.’s insight and input. I’d also always enjoyed the snippets she provided and I finally got a chance to sit down and see if the visually detailed, quick paced peeks held up in their lengthier format. Boy, did they.

I also got the chance to read two of her books–one which she is vocally proud of, and another, earlier work which she felt warranted a warning as my preface (there were some pov shifts). The warning was entirely unnecessary.

Cover LancasterRuleThe Lancaster Rule, the first in the trilogy, published April 2010 (Champagne Books)

The year is 2332, when two renowned pod-hunters resuscitate her. To save her life, Josie Bettencourt’s father tricks her into sleeping in his secret life-sustaining pod.

The world loathes her kind – pod-survivors. When death is certain, an ex-military and friend to the pod-hunters, Lorcan, saves her life. Josie becomes smitten with him, but he is still in love with his dead wife. She is soon arrested and taken straight to the Citadel, the heart of the Lancaster regime where they have ruled tyrannically for over fifty years.

Now, young John is in power, hoping to make a change, to erase the wars, famines and unimaginable terror. When Josie meets the frighteningly powerful John Lancaster, she has to ask, is he really the so-called tyrants’ spawn? She soon discovers who the true tyrants are by unravelling a deadly plot to take over the world. And, she realizes that her life in this new future are indelibly linked to the one she left behind.

Despite noted POV shifts, The Lancaster Rule is a novel of truly engaging scope. Not only is the span of time which it covers interesting, but the distance in the presented world it covers, and the reaches of the character’s actions are equally engrossing.

What I found most intriguing about the book was how Toppin dealt with her characters, which was to treat all of them–even the “bad guys”–with dignity. That is, she presented them in a way, and directed them in a way that showed humanity includes a sliding scale; most of us are motivated by the same things: love, honor and security. What differentiates us is how willing we are to give up any of those three things. And how much of each one we’re willing to sacrifice.

The plot kept me interested, though at some points I felt as imprisoned as Josie (our main character), which resulted in some drag. For the most part, however, I enjoyed the pace of the novel.

Similar to To Catch a Marlin, the settings of Lancaster Rule are so detailed and presented in such a well paced progression that they seem almost mundane. That’s a feat considering both novels are set around 300 years in the future, equip with floating cars, world government orders and international space police.

Regarding the POV switch, the readability of the book was no affected in the least. In fact, I seemed to notice that when the POV shifted to the closer viewpoint of first person, it was typically when Josie was emotionally or mentally estranged. I found that very interesting, and it actually worked for me, though I think that was unconscious on the author’s part.

TCaM Cover 180dpiPublished by Ring of Fire Publishing – October 2012.

What wouldn’t you do to catch a criminal?
In the tail end of the 24th Century, Special Inspector Michael Pedroni pursues a beautiful and elusive vigilante, Jax Marlin, in a wild cat and mouse chase that will take him from Earth to the Bacchus Dome and beyond.

Jax Marlin is not your average criminal; she seeks out evil-doers and law-breakers, doling out justice in whatever way she sees fit. But lately, she finds she’s been gift-wrapping criminals specially for her favorite copper.

Four of the world’s leading criminals are determined to form an alliance. Jax is determined to stop them. Hot on her heels, Inspector Pedroni finds himself questioning the difference, if any, between her justice and his. More than that, he wonders why, when he’d had her in his grasp, he was unable to slap on the restraints and bring her in.

Both want the same thing–to stop criminals. But the growing attraction each has toward the other becomes a dangerous hindrance.

When I began reading Marlin, I expected there to be quite a bit of action, as the action in Lancaster was riveting and strategically delineated, but I was surprised to see that most of the action kicked off halfway through the book. However, the cat and mouse game that led to that action was a welcome surprised. I enjoyed following Special Inspector Pedroni, and bouncing back and forth between his frustrated obsession and Jax’s playful, yet equally deadly determination.

Again, Toppin treats her characters and their situations with dignity. I appreciate that the author took the time to explain where Jax’s need to put bad guys away came from, as well as why she is such a talented criminal. I also appreciated how Toppin developed the relationship between Jax and Pedroni; black and white is never fun, and the grey that these two characters wrestle with is a lot of fun to read. It wasn’t just the chase between them, but a mutual gut-deep need to stop bad people from doing bad things. And beyond that, they both struggled with limits and lines—which to cross, how far to go. These are always the questions that suck me in as far as good characters are concerned.

As noted before, the settings here were truly magical–unbelievable in scale and beautiful in design. I couldn’t get enough of the action, and while some small, deep, dark part of me wanted Pedroni and Jax to have a traditional HEA, the ending provided was a perfect fit for the characters and the plot. I couldn’t have asked for more…outside of an even longer novel. Luckily, I have a couple of novellas to keep me company.

I certainly recommend both books to any lover of SF, fantastic drama on a huge scale and believable, endearing characters.

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3 thoughts on “T. K. Toppin: Author Spotlight & Double-Header Review of THE LANCASTER RULE/TO CATCH A MARLIN

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