Review: Aurora: Darwin, Amanda Bridgeman

This review is part of the Discover Aussie Fantasy feature, running during July on The Oaken Bookcase. You can find details of the feature and enter the giveaway on the Aussie Fantasy page!

Aurora DarwinAurora: Darwin (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Amanda Bridgeman (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

When a distress signal is received from a black-ops space station on the edge of inhabited space, Captain Saul Harris of the UNF Aurora is called in from leave to respond. But the mission is not what it seems. Female members of the United National Forces have not been allowed to travel into the outer zones before, but Harris is ordered to take three new female recruits.

For Corporal Carrie Welles, one of the Aurora‘s new recruits, her first mission in space seems like a dream come true. Determined to achieve the success of her father before her, and suddenly thrust into a terrifying mission, she must work with her new captain and the strained Aurora crew to make it home alive.

When the Aurora arrives at the station Harris and Welles soon find themselves caught up in a desperate fight for survival. Station Darwin is not what they expected. The lights are off. But somebody is home.


Series: Aurora #1
Genre: Science fiction Thriller
Published: Momentum Australia, May 1, 2013
Pages: 532
My copy: the publisher for review, thanks!

E-copies only: • • Momentum books

You can read a sample of Aurora: Darwin on the Momentum books site!


It’s been a while since I read a proper hard military sci-fi. Often they are cold, violent stories with few realistic characters, and while Aurora: Darwin doesn’t hold back with the violence, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with the crew of the Aurora before the action starts. I was even a bit disappointed when they arrived at the Darwin because I was quite enjoying reading about how the original crew were reacting to suddenly having three women in their previously all-male domain.

The story is told from two alternating points of view – Captain Saul Harris, who knows something is up with this mission even before he accepts it, and Corporal Carrie Welles, a young Aussie sharpshooter, new to Space Duty but desperate to fit in and prove her usefulness. The rest of the crew are various nationalities and backgrounds, including the two other women sent along with this mission as a supposed PR exercise.

There were a few things about this story that I didn’t really buy. Firstly, several of the crew members of the Aurora question orders, including Captain Harris. Now, I’m no military expert, but I’m fairly sure that orders aren’t there to be questioned and in the real Earthly armed forces you’d get your arse kicked pretty severely if you defied orders as much as Carrie does. Then there was the Darwin. If your crew had just been attacked by vicious hostiles of unknown abilities and you knew they were locked off your ship, why go back in after them? Especially when there’s backup on the way! I just couldn’t understand why they were so keen to get back into the Darwin and find the baddies, when they were pretty obviously out-gunned. I mean I realise it wouldn’t have been such a great story if they’d held back, but it just seemed like a really dumb decision to me. One last thing that I didn’t like so much was the ending – without giving anything away, the story peaks at about the 80% mark and I was rather underwhelmed by such an anticlimactic wrap-up after that.

Plot problems aside, I really enjoyed reading this story. The action scenes were great and although the character-building scenes slowed the pace a little at times, the tension was kept high throughout the story and it’s pretty nail-bitingly scary at times! The characters themselves are interesting and their relationships and banter are what made this story a really enjoyable read.

I’d recommend Aurora: Darwin to anyone who likes their sci-fi to be about realistic people, and not overly technical. There’s a sequel on it’s way later in 2013 – Aurora: Pegasus. I’ll be interested to hear what the Aurora‘s crew get up to next.

Warnings: Graphic violence, sexual situations

About the Author

amandabridgemanBorn and raised in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, Amanda hails from fishing and farming stock. The youngest of four children, her three brothers raised her on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC. Naturally, she grew up somewhat of a tomboy, preferring to watch action/sci-fi films over the standard rom-com, and liking her music rock hard. But that said, she can swoon with the best of them and is really not a fan of bugs.

She lived in ‘Gero’ for 17 years, before moving to Perth (WA) to pursue her dreams and study film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University (BA Communication Studies). Perth has been her home ever since, aside from a nineteen month stint in London (England).

She is a writer and a film buff. She loves most genres, but is particularly fond of the Spec-Fic realm. She likes action, epic adventures, and strong characters that draw you in, making you want to follow them on their wild, rollercoaster rides.

When she’s not writing, she loves to travel and partake in a little photography.

(Bio and image from Goodreads)

Review: This Green Hell, Greig Beck

Title: This Green Hell (Goodreads)
Author:   Greig Beck (@GreigBeck)

Rating: ★★★★☆

In the jungles of Paraguay, Dr Aimee Weir and her team are in trouble.

While drilling deep into the Earth a contagion strikes, their camp is quarantined, but workers start to vanish in the night. 

Is it fear of contamination – or has something far more lethal surfaced? 

Alex Hunter – code name Arcadian – and his Hotzone All-Forces Warfare Commandos are dropped in to the disaster area to do whatever it takes to stem the outbreak. But for the mission to be a success, the Arcadian must learn to master his violent inner demons long enough to confront the danger that not only threatens his own immediate survival, but that of mankind.


Series: Alex Hunter #3 of 4
Genre: Science fiction thriller
Published: Pan Macmillan Australia (print) April 2011, Momentum Books (electronic) August 2012.
Pages: 326
My copy: Momentum Books for review

Paper copies: • • Book Depository •
E-copies: • (epub)


Dr Aimee Weir, deep in the Paraguayan jungle, is on the verge of making a discovery that could change the world – a source of renewable energy from bacteria deep within the earth that produce natural gas from carbonates. When the samples are brought up though, the bacteria begins to feed on any carbon available – including human flesh. On top of that, an ancient evil has been disturbed and is gradually picking off the workers at the drilling site. Can the Arcadian and his team get in there in time to get the survivors out?

This Green Hell is actually the third Alex Hunter book. I wasn’t aware of that before I started reading it, but the fact that I haven’t read the first two didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book. There is a potted explanation of the Arcadian project and references to previous stories in the first few chapters, so I had some idea of what was going on as This Green Hell got under way. Basically, Alex Hunter was a soldier, brought back from the brink of death by a procedure to his brain that has given him enhanced senses, strength and speed (a bit like Captain America, I suppose). Unfortunately it has also made him slightly unstable, and his commanding officer is protecting him from the military scientists who’d like to dissect and study him. He’s an operative in the HAWCs, a marine-style division in the US military.

Alex himself is pretty bad-ass, but also seems quite tortured and prone to losing control in violent ways. His romance with Aimee may rekindle in this book, but I thought she should just stay the hell away, personally!

This book is certainly not for the faint-hearted. There’s plenty of grisly descriptions of the melting-death disease unearthed at the drill site and also the general ripping apart of people that the undead priest is fond of. I’m not usually a huge fan of blood and guts and it was perhaps slightly overdone in this book, but not enough to put me off completely. The detailed descriptions aren’t all grisly though, and the descriptions of the surroundings really put you right into the action. I mean, this is the tropical jungle, here. It’s steamy, sweaty and full of bugs, and you certainly get that feeling while Aimee and the drill site team are at work.

The action is a little slow in the first half of the book but the suspense builds up so well that by the time it all starts happening, it was very, very difficult to put the book down. There’s a bit of a cliffhanger ending which is slightly disappointing after all they had just been through, but the next book is due out very soon so there’s not long to wait to find out what happens next!

I’d recommend This Green Hell to those who enjoy military thrillers with a sci-fi twist, and who don’t mind a bit of blood and guts in their violence.

Warnings: Extreme violence and horror themes. Sexual situations. Language.

The Alex Hunter series

  1. Beneath the Dark Ice (2009)
  2. Dark Rising (2010)
  3. This Green Hell (2011)
  4. Black Mountain (TBP December 2012)

What did others think of This Green Hell?

  •  “This Green Hell is a smart, delightful read with a big heart.” – 4 stars – Coeur De Lion Publishing
  • “I love a great action/adventure thriller and Greig Beck is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in this genre. This was an edge of your seat nail biter for me the whole way through.” – The Speed of Write

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