Saturday, March 28, 2015

MASSIVE MONSTER BOOK REVIEW: The GFL Series (5 books) by Scott Sigler

Closing out Scott Sigler month with reviews for the five Galactic Football League books that are currently out: THE ROOKIE, THE STARTER, THE ALL-PRO, THE MVP, and THE CHAMPION.

Quentin Barnes grew up on Micovi, a planet of the Purist Nationalists, and is part of a culture marked by their belief that non-Human races are spawn of Satan. Quentin Barnes is a football player, and a good one. He's just gotten his big break-- the Ionath Krakens want to buy his contract, making him a quarterback for a Tier Two team. This is Quentin's dream, a chance to play big-league ball, to work his way toward a Galaxy Bowl Championship, and maybe find his parents.

The only problem: the Ionath Krakens are a multi-race team. His teammates will only have a few other Humans, and he's going to be rubbing elbows with Sklorno, Ki, Quyth, and Creterakians. Is the potential for galactic acclaim and his dreams of football glory worth having Satanic creatures for his teammates? And will Quentin even survive the brutal contact of the Galactic Football League?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Aliens and humans alike play positions based on physiology, creating receivers that jump 25 feet into the air, linemen that bench-press 1,200 pounds, and linebackers that literally want to eat you. Organized crime runs every franchise, games are fixed and rival players are assassinated.

Follow the story of Quentin Barnes, a 19-year-old quarterback prodigy that has been raised all his life to hate, and kill, those aliens. Quentin must deal with his racism and learn to lead, or he’ll wind up just another stat in the column marked “killed on the field.”

The Rookie is set in the  later part of the 27th century. Not exactly a modern-day setting. Humanity has changed. The whole galaxy has changed. But there's one strong tie that will let today's readers really associate with this series:
It's a religion to some of the characters. I mean, literally a religion. I know some people today who almost see football as a religious experience. I guess it isn't that different from the now, right?

As always, Sigler's writing style is clean and easily read. Even with the introductions of whole new races and even a new form of Humans, it's easy to sink into this futuristic universe. He manages the "learning curve" well, easing the reader into the universe with snippets of sports shows and other little tidbits that flesh out Quentin's world. Even for the football-dumb (like me) it's easy enough to get through the games.

As an added bonus, the ebook version has a couple links that will help the reader understand the game. I didn't go into them myself, but it's good to know he thought of those who don't really "get" the game.

My Thoughts
I abhor football with a passion. I picked up The Rookie because I'm a big fan of Sigler's work. I thought I'd give it a chance.
I made the right choice. This was a wonderful book. Granted, my dislike of football was tested right at the beginning, with Quentin being smack in the middle of a game, but I knew the book wasn't just going to be about the games themselves. I was quickly rewarded with rich culture and conflict between races and with Quentin's internal struggles.
Honestly, I think I'd be okay watching a GFL game or two. There are no hold barred in this evolved version of the sport. True, I am far more interested in Quentin's development as a character and what's going on in the world around him rather than what's on the field, but Sigler manages to make each game mean something. GO KRAKENS!

Would I Recommend This Book?  Very much. Sigler has written the beginning of a series that has this football-hater rapt with attention. I CARE about what happens to Quentin and the Ionath Krakens. That is no mean feat, so imagine what actual football fans will get out of it. I give The Rookie a clean 4.5 of 5 stars. (Can't give a full 5 because of some typos, but one typo made the moment pretty funny. It's a technical failure, not a craft failure.)
Quentin Barnes has led the Ionath Krakens from Tier Two to Tier One in the Galactic Football League. This is a dream come true! Unfortunately, the nature of the GFL's seasons only gives the Krakens a few weeks to rest between games. The Krakens are battered and desperate to remain in Tier One. But the offensive line has taken a few losses, and Quentin is having a hard time not getting sacked on every play. The Krakens are faltering, and Quentin is determined to keep them in Tier One.  
Is he going to keep the Krakens afloat with a shattered team?
That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from
Nineteen-year-old second-year quarterback Quentin Barnes has overcome racism and unified his team. He led the Ionath Krakens to a lower-tier championship, a championship that earned them promotion into the meat grinder known as "Tier One."

Now, Quentin and his teammates have to compete against the greatest football teams ever assembled, and do far more than just survive each game. As he rebuilds the team in his own image, Quentin's true quest for a Tier One championship begins.
My Thoughts
The Starter expands wonderfully on the foundation laid down in The Rookie. Quentin still has a lot of growing to do, and he makes some amazing strides during this novel. New plots unfold, filling the world outside of the Krakens' locker room. We get a little less football play in this book, when compared to The Rookie, but it's no less intense. We get to see some real depth with Quentin and the relationships he's forming with his teammates, and he gets put into some very touch dilemmas, torn between his team, his sport, his dreams, and his friends. It is a wonderful mix of life and thought, action and desire. I can't help but applaud Sigler on this wonderful follow-up to the first book.
Would I Recommend This Book?  Yes yes yes! After reading The Rookie, I was much more comfortable with the setting, races, and even the sport in The Starter. We get to explore more of this future universe and its inhabitants. Quentin is a very real 19-year-old, and being in his head is thrilling. I give The Starter a Tier One 5 out of 5 stars!
The Ionath Krakens only barely avoided being sent back to Tier Two football last season. now, with six months to rest, with new players, and new determination, Quentin Barnes is ready to strive toward the Krakens' next goal, a Galaxy Bowl Championship.
But Quentin's life is getting more crazed. He's dating the frontwoman of his favorite band, his teammates are having issues with one another, and suddenly, someone new is coming into his life, someone he's been missing for a long time.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Seven centuries into the future, aliens and humans compete for the greatest prize in the universe: the Galaxy Bowl trophy. Quarterback Quentin Barnes enters his third season at the helm of the Ionath Krakens.
He’s re-shaped the team in his image, and the time for excuses is over — it’s win, or be replaced. Quentin’s championship quest carries he and his teammates across the galaxy in a brutal twelve-game season fraught with injury and death. But he faces more than just on-field challenges. As he enters a free-agent year, several franchises vie for his services.
Will he play for a new team, or will he remain with his beloved Krakens. And then there’s the slight distraction that someone, somewhere, is trying to assassinate him – and he doesn’t know why. 
My Thoughts
Sigler is constantly bringing in surprises. Considering that this series is about a football player, it could be so easy to get bogged down in nothing but the football. That simply doesn't happen here. Quentin's life is the story, and while football is a huge part of it, and it's THE driving force behind Quentin, it's not the epicenter of the book. Oh, it's close, and the football games do get my heart pounding (a serious surprise for me, who is STILL not a football fan despite these books). But there's so much world going on around Quentin that it would be a crime to ignore it. No, Sigler masterfully avoids getting lost in the sports. He balances on- and off-the-field action perfectly.
As for the surprises... there are a ton of them in this book, but none of them feel out-of-place. Even the big shocker at the end of the book made perfect sense in context of the book and the rest of the universe and plot around Quentin. I cannot get enough of these books! 
Would I Recommend This Book?  Absolutely. I'm so totally drawn into this series that I am praising my kindle for already having the next one on it. The thought of having to pause between books is agonizing. I'm just glad I got into the series after the fifth book has come out so I don't have to wait between them... I'm going to hate it when I finish the fifth book and I'm forced to wait. I give The All-Pro a supportive 5 of 5 stars.
The Ionath Krakens, led by quarterback Quentin Barnes, found themselves under attack by pirates as they traveled to the next game of the GFL championship. They were only going as spectators, but this attack is doing more than just robbing them of watching another game. This could mean their lives.
Now, he finds himself facing an off-season dealing with the mysterious Prawatt, a race known largely for deep hatred of the Sklorno. There are more than a few Sklorno on the ship. Only playing along with the Prawatt's deadly game can earn the Krakens their freedom to return home in time for next season.
Even if they do get home, there are issues with the Krakens' defensive line. Quentin wants a GFL championship. Could the Prawatt be the key to getting the ring?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Set in a lethal American professional football league seven centuries in the future, THE MVP puts huge humans on the field with four alien races, creating a game that is faster, stronger and deadlier than anything we know today. Star quarterback Quentin Barnes has spent three seasons putting together a hard-hitting, hard-fighting team that combines rookies, rejects, discarded free agents and seasoned veterans from all five species. He has fought against racism and bound his team together through shared sacrifice, blood, tragedy and victory.
But this season, Quentin faces the biggest challenge yet – the deadly threat of the mysterious Prawatt, who seized the ship carrying Quentin, and his teammates. As THE MVP begins, the Ionath Krakens face certain death at the hands of this unknown race.
My Thoughts
The MVP is an excellent, high-tension addition to the GFL series. Again, Sigler keeps the possible repetition of football season after football season with fresh takes on games and more than a few surprises. He is not about to let the GFL get stagnant. Tools and hidden tricks he's clearly been holding onto since The Rookie come into play here, bringing yet more intrigue to the universe Quentin and the Krakens call home. The addition of a new race, the Prawatt, who so far have only been hinted at, is a welcome addition to the lineup. Don't get me wrong, I don't think I could get bored with the already-established Ki, Sklorno, Creterakians, and the HeavyG, but it's a nice treat to get answers about this new race. Sigler has been teasing about them, and that teasing finally comes to fruition in this book.
Yet again, Sigler has managed to get this still-football-disdaining reader on the verge of cheering at the action. And here, I'm talking about the football games themselves. I keep holding my breath in the final seconds, waiting with anticipation for the last play to end. If that isn't a feat, I don't know what is. Well done, Mr. Sigler!
Would I Recommend This Book? Highly. The MVP is an addition to an already-great series that lives up to its predecessors and surpasses it. Sigler has consistently been outshining himself with each book in the series, letting even someone who did NOT come into this series for the football bask in his mastery. There could very well be something here for just about everyone. I give The MVP a romantically-confused 5 of 5 stars.
Quentin Barnes may well be the most celebrated individual in the entire galaxy right now. But the victory rings hollow. Right after his crowning moment of glory, Quentin received word that his sister Jeanine and friend Fred were being forced to fly their ship into the Portath Cloud. That Cloud is the most dangerous place in the galaxy, with only seven ships out of scores that have wandered in. If Jeanine and Fred are still alive, Quentin needs to go after them.
But to do that, he's going to need a ship. And he's going to need to leave without his gangster team owner, Gredok, finding out. Will Quentin even be alive for the next GFL season?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

After his most successful season yet on the field, Quentin’s sister — his only family — is lost in the Portath Cloud, an area considered to be the “Bermuda Triangle” of the galaxy. To save her, Quentin and his teammates must first escape team owner Gredok the Splithead, and acquire a ship capable of surviving the unknown dangers that await. Quentin’s leadership and intelligence are put to the test as Becca, the Tweedy Brothers, Denver and more risk their lives to save his sister.
Set against the backdrop of a professional American football franchise seven centuries in the future, the Galactic Football League puts huge humans on the field with five alien races to create a game that is faster, stronger and deadlier than anything we know today. Quarterback Quentin Barnes has grown from a racist, small-town standout into a proven leader, a uniter of peoples, and the Galaxy’s most-famous athlete. Willing to do anything for his team, his Ionath Krakens have bound together through shared sacrifice, tragedy, devastating losses and thrilling victories.
The GFL series combines science fiction, crime and blistering sports action to create a non-stop, pulse-pounding adventure that you can’t put down until the last second ticks off the clock.
My Thoughts
Sigler has done it again. He's taken an already highly intense series and taken it up to yet another level. He's cruel to his characters, putting them in worse and worse situations, but he does it so skillfully that you can't help but cheer for them and wonder what miracle is going to get them out of it. This... this is, I think, the hardest of the series to speak on without giving spoilers. So
The football season DOES happen, and holy crap, is it epic. I don't know how Sigler has managed to make it even more insanely interesting than the last four seasons of the GFL books, but he has. We get taken into some serious nail-biting situations, some hopeless problems, and the gangster background of the GFL comes even more into play. And we have a new threat, a galactic one, one that makes football seem like just a game, even to Quentin. This is another fitting addition to the GFL series.
I do have one small gripe for this one. All the hubbub about saving Jeanine leads to... nothing. Don't get me wrong, the first third or so of the book revolves around rescuing her, but then... she just sort of falls to the wayside. In the last half of the book, she's mentioned maybe twice. It bothers me that she could be so suddenly unimportant to the point of not even being mentioned. There are 13 weeks of the football season where Quentin doesn't even bother to think about his sister. I know he's focused on football, but come on! She's not just part of your life during the off-season, Quentin!
Would I Recommend This Book? Very much so. Despite a gripe (see the spoiler section for info, or if you ignored it, just know I had a gripe) this was still an amazing book. It's right in line with the first four of the series, and holy cow, does it leave you wanting the next one! Each book gets taken to a new level, and this one is no exception. I give The Champion a color-changing 5 of 5 stars.

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