sci-fi

Review of ‘Hunting Nora Stone’

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Eddie Conrad is an ex-Navy SEAL, still recuperating after a year’s captivity in Syria as the only survivor of an operation gone horribly wrong. On desk duty, he is just marking time until he can retire and put the death and destruction behind him.

Nora Stone, a street urchin, nearly killed in an accident, was given a new lease on life. With many of her damaged limbs replace with enhanced cyber implants, she has been trained as a skilled assassin. But, Nora has gone off the grid, and a tactical team sent to retrieve her is mutilated in a most gruesome way. But, Nora, though she is eluding capture, is not really hiding. She seems to be sending her former masters a message – come and get me!

Eddie is strong-armed into taking the mission to find and neutralize Nora, but when he finally encounters her, rather than killing him as she did the previous teams sent to capture her, she lets him live, and gives him a message, ‘I’m coming for her.’ Eddie is puzzled. Who is Nora after, and why. His life is complicated when he learns of a plot by an unknown, shadowy group of powerful men to assassinate the president of the U.S., and plunge the world into chaos, and of the existence of a powerful cyborg, Tarsis, who has been sent, not to capture Nora, but to kill her.

Now, with Nora as an unlikely ally, Eddie must avert an international disaster.

Hunting Nora Stone by Colin Weldon is a riveting tale of international intrigue with overtones of high-tech science fiction that, despite a number of typographical and grammatical gaffes, will thoroughly entertain action junkies.

I received a free copy of the book. The typos notwithstanding, I was impressed with the pacing and plot, and give it four stars (with a slight minus grade because of the proofreading problems).

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Review of ‘Siphoners’

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Four strangers, Avanti, Donovan, Frederick, and Seth, all with the power to siphon the life from others, but with no knowledge of how they attained such powers, are drawn together when their powers start to spiral out of control, and bodies start piling up. When they meet, and begin to compare stories, they realize that some other-worldly power is pulling their strings, manipulating them like marionettes.

Siphoners by Evan Bollinger is a disturbing story, told in a series of seemingly disconnected scenes, that come together as muddy streams coalesce in a swiftly flowing river, they begin to get answers to their strangeness, only to discover that things are even stranger than they could ever have imagined.
A fascinating story, although it has a bit too much dialect for easy reading, and leaves out information that would aid the reader to get a clearer picture of the ‘alien’ menace lurking behind the scenes. If you like other-worldly horror, and the fusion of science fiction and paranormal phenomena, you’ll enjoy reading it.

I received a free copy of this book. An intriguing story, but for technical reasons (mainly the overuse of dialect in the dialogue), I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Andrea The Martian Robot’

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HWR-001-046-QF Andrea, one of the most advanced robots from Harrowgate & Webster, a small robotics firm, was selected to implement the first of three phases for the colonization of Mars by humans. Her job was to prepare the way for her human master, Adam, to arrive for phase two, and her main directive, ‘Human safety is a primary concern.’

When, three years after her arrival on Mars, Adam’s spacecraft is approaching, things begin to go wrong, and Andrea has to surpass her programming to save his life. The question for everyone, from Adam to Patricia Vicarro, director of the Mar’s Mission, is, just how far will Andrea go to fulfill her prime directive?

Andrea: The Martian Robot is a novelette by Anthony J. Deeney, author of Robots Love Blue. A stand-alone story, it nonetheless continues the theme of Blue, and explores the psychology of self-aware robots and human-robot interactions in a most compelling way. For fans of Isaac Asimov and his ‘Three Laws of Robotics,’ this story will resonate deeply. In a very short space, it explores profound issues that will leave the reader thinking about the future of mankind and technology in completely new ways.

I give this brilliant novelette five stars.

Review of ‘Rosetta’

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Tony Calanis Palermo had been a member of the clandestine Lunar intelligence service, but his misbehavior had caused his exile, and he found himself consigned to the role of able spaceman first class aboard a merchant starship. Unable to behave, he’s again caught, only now, he’s bound for long-term indenture on a sugar plantation—as much as a death sentence. There is, however, a way out. All he has to do is steal the key to the language of a long-dead race of Galactic aliens, and all will be forgiven. Piece of cake, right? Wrong! It seems that everyone else is also after the key, the Rosetta, that will unlock the technological secrets of the advanced alien race, and that everyone else is better armed, and all of them have Tony in their sights.
Rosetta by Stephen Patterson is space opera at its almost best. Riveting action, on the mark dialogue, and characters that, while you might not like them, you can certainly empathize with them.
A rollicking four-star weekend read.

Review of ‘The Solid-State Shuffle’

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A global seismic event has reshaped earth’s coastlines; whole cities and even some countries are underwater. When authorities ban salvage of the sunken cities, a new profession arises, underwater reclamation specialists—scavengers.

When Isa Schmidt and her crew, on their first major job in the Seattle area, find an item in a sunken bank vault, they know they have something valuable and important, they just don’t know what it is. Moreover, the item belongs to Seattle’s crime boss, and he wants it back, along with the head of whoever took it. Isa must figure a way to return the stolen item without being identified as the thief, a quest complicated by the fact that there are people who want to depose the crime boss, and use her as the patsy in the process.

The Solid-State Shuffle by Jeffrey A. Ballard is a hilarious piece of post-apocalyptic fiction that will have you in stitches as you follow Isa and her team in their sometimes bumbling efforts to return a stolen article, unmask the true villains, and stay alive. There are bits of violence, and the language is salty, but mostly, it’s just a pleasant, and rib-tickling read.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘Oddjobs’

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Mythical beings, demons and demi-gods really, have taken over earth, and at some unannounced future date will pull the plug on humanity. The British, being British, are determined that the end of the earth will at least be orderly. A special government organization has the task of seeing to the paperwork and other bureaucratic actions to achieve that. Morag Murray is assigned to the consulate in Birmingham as a new field operative, but she has a problem; in her previous job, she offended earth’s new masters, and is now marked for immediate death. While dealing with murderous starfish, a strange old woman with cats, and new colleagues who are anything but normal, she has to try and avoid her own inevitable death.

Oddjobs by Heide Goody and Iain Grant is a rib-tickling, heart-pounding book that I have a hard time categorizing. Is it fantasy or is it science fiction? After reading it, I’m still unable to decide. What I can say, though, is that it’s funny; funny and scary at the same time. The characters in this (unimaginable?) dystopian future are believable, even the aliens, because they behave in a consistent manner, they talk like people we’ve all encountered at one point or other in our lives, and the action flows, if not exactly in a linear manner, in a way that makes sense under the circumstances that the authors so skillfully describe.

If you want a tickle and a tingle all wrapped in one package, read this book. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Unearthed’

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After a global earthquake left the earth shattered, and communities isolated, a new social order was established to restore civility. Unfortunately, it also established a caste system where those at the bottom of the hierarchy have been left without hope, and are subjected to some of the worst injustices imaginable.

Blague, a Sin, the lowest of the social classes, is the leader of a rebellion intended to overthrow the existing social order, and restore hope and justice. When he leads an attack to seize an outpost belonging to the Heizers, the top class, and obtain access to a chemical that is important to their continued hold over society. The successful operation also emboldens Sin society to rise up against the Heizers, and brings Blague into direct confrontation with the Heizer ringleader, who also happens to be his brother.

Unearthed by March Mulero is an interesting story, taking a look at what can happen when those who are already at the top of the economic ladder are allowed to act without restraint. I had a problem, though, with the grammar and some of the sentence structure of the book. It could use another round of line editing, which would elevate it in the genre. As it stands, however, it fails to make the grade, and I can only give it three stars.

Review of ‘Intertwined’

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After failing his higher learning test, William Rose received an invitation from the Agency for Scientific and Technological Advancement (A.S.T.A.), offering him compensation if he’d be willing to submit to tests at their secluded facility. Once there, though, he finds that all is not as it first seems, and must try to save his parents from the mysterious Mr. Dark, win the girl of his dreams, and survive.

Intertwined by Cooper Eaton is an interesting book. The premise, a shadowy organization physically and mentally manipulating citizens, is interesting, and revives thoughts of the US CIA’s MK-Ultra program. The execution, however, needs work. The author confuses verbs, laid when lay would’ve been the correct word, and this is just one example of several I found while reading the book. Character dialogue is also weak. Everyone in the book sounds like everyone else, and few of the teens sound like teens.

With a little more line editing, this could be a pretty good story, and I think, with time and experience, this author will develop a writing style that does not detract so much from what is an otherwise compelling story.

I give him three stars for this first effort.

Review of ‘Transitory’

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Nate Maddox, taking a well-earned holiday on a distant moon, is reliving events from his past, when a stranger with murderous intent interrupts his vacation. With the help of mysterious strangers, he tries to determine the identity and motives of the killer, while evading him, only to learn that his true enemy is closer than he’d ever thought.

Transitory by Ian Williams is fun-to-read, escapist entertainment. Great dialogue and interesting action, and the aliens are intriguing—though their motives are a bit difficult to define. A good way to spend a lazy afternoon.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘It’s About Time’

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A small fishing boat with two occupants disappears in Japan’s Devil’s Triangle. Years later, a famous quantum physicist is assassinated just before making an important speech. His bodyguard and fiancée, Angela Mercy, failed to protect him, and while pursuing his killers is caught up in a strange cloud of fireflies and is mysteriously transported to . . . the future. There, she’s enlisted to stop a merciless tyrant on a quest for immortality and world domination.

It’s About Time by Lyle Howard is a time travel mystery, that’s actually more about the mystery than the phenomenon of time travel. Filled with gory action scenes and snarky dialogue, it will almost make you ignore, if not miss, the sci-fi elements. The book is also full of surprises and twists that sneaks up on you like a green mamba dropping from a banana tree.

A fun read. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Eric Olafson: Captain Black Velvet’

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Eric Olafson has been assigned an important mission, rid Freespace, a buffer zone between the Big Four Allies and their minions, and those who want to remain independent, of pirates. He’s undercover as a female pirate known as Captain Black Velvet, which, when added to the danger he faces should his cover be blown, causes him some personal anxiety and problems with his self-image.

The main enemies he must vanquish are the Kermac, a race with a voracious appetite for conquest. For Olafson, this is a do or die mission – quite literally. Little does he know, though, that his mission is not quite so simple. He finds himself in the middle of a battle that spans the cosmos, and it will take all of his wiles to survive.

Eric Olafson: Captain Black Velvet by Vanessa Ravencroft continues the adventures of Eric Olafson, a freebooter and adventurer with a Viking heritage, and a Viking mentality. An eclectic cast of characters of all species are melded together into a starship crew that makes Star Trek look like a commuter ride on the Washington, DC Metro system.

I received an advanced review copy of this book, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I give it five stars.

 

Review of ‘The Other’

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Cora Frost is a PhD, studying UFO phenomena and their impact on cults. Jade Whitaker is a social worker; adopted, she is trying to find her birth mother. The paths of these two women cross in New Mexico where Cora has gone with a colleague to study The Astral Plane cult, a group of UFO enthusiasts living on in a secluded compound.

Upon arrival, Cora learns that one of the cult members has murdered her two infants, and the compound is surrounded by heavily-armed police and military forces. She manages to sneak in, where she’s introduced to two green-skinned creatures who are not aliens, but time travelers. She’s asked to secrete them away to keep the authorities from getting their hands on them. One of them, Paloma, has a special affinity to Cora.

The Other by Marilyn Peake follows these three women as they get to know each other and try to avoid the authorities.

An interesting story, it ends on a depressingly inconclusive note, and, while it provides ample background on the three characters, leaves many questions unanswered. I was a bit disappointed in the ending, which wasn’t exactly a cliff hanger, but more or less just an end to a story that was just getting interesting. The author writes extremely well—the prose is enjoyable in itself, but in this story, she ended far too soon.

I received a free copy of this book, and I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Last Train to Nowhere’

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Inspector Thomas Sullivan is a policeman on Beta Prime, a place where life is cheap. He’d once been a Space Marine, and a member of the elite SP unit, until a commander made a stupid mistake that cost his comrades their lives, and him to require prosthetic limbs and a bionic eye, and ended his military career.

When a member of the SP is killed in an isolated mining town, Sullivan is requested by name to investigate. He’s shocked when he learns that the SP commander is none other than the man who cost him his career, and once he arrives at the scene of the crime and begins his investigation, things only get worse. He uncovers an illegal cloning operation, and murder most foul–cloning is a serious crime on Beta Prime–and that it’s probably being run by an arm of the government. But, someone, someone on the inside, is stealing and dealing in clones, and clones are being allowed to run loose among the human population without their knowledge.

With his assistant, Josephson, a severely damaged young cop, and Sarah, herself an illegal clone that Sullivan has hired, ostensibly as an assistant, but in reality, to keep an eye on her, Sullivan has to contend with a mysterious ringleader of the theft ring, government jurisdictional disputes, and corrupt colleagues who are in it just for the money.

Last Train to Nowhere by K. C. Sivils is an interesting blend of crime noir and science fiction, with elements of humor and suspense common to both. The characters are fascinating, fully formed and possessed of complex motivations, and the scenario, if you’re willing to accept the existence of interplanetary travel, quite believable.

As a fan of both genres, I found this fusion concept, as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock would say, quite . . . fascinating.

I give this book four stars.

 

Review of ‘Suri Five’

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After her mother died, Suri allowed herself to be consumed by anger at everyone and everything, except her brother, Tommy, with whom she submerges herself in the Game, an interactive battle simulation that they are both expert at. What she doesn’t know until too late is that a secret government agency has designed the Game to identify and recruit fighters for the not-so-secret cyber war between the US and China. They make a copy of Suri’s brain, from which they construct an AI replica, Suri Five, which is deployed into the Web, resulting in the almost complete destruction of China. But, things go awry when Suri Five then turns her wrath on her creators, threatening to destroy everything unless they give her Tommy. Now, Suri must save the world by killing–herself.

Suri Five by Jacob Whaler is a riveting techno-thriller that follows Suri as she dives into the Web in an effort to defeat an AI that is more ruthless and capable than she is, even with the help of Richard, a new kid in her school who is not intimidated by her alpha-bully status. Well-paced, this story will keep you on the edge of your seat as Suri comes to a devastating realization–in order to save the world, she must sacrifice the thing that is most important to her. I found the font and spacing in this e-book a bit problematic, but the plot and writing were first-rate.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘First Strike’

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The only son of a famous admiral, Second Lieutenant Michael Sheridan finds himself, along with a group of untried Marines, fighting for survival on a distant planet in Earth’s war with the Kurgans. Worried about the noncombatants caught in the crossfire, Sheridan quickly finds that nothing is as he has been led to believe.

First Strike by Richard Turner, although a science fiction story set in another galaxy, is a tale of man-to-man combat that will get your pulse racing. It deals with the human dimension of warfare in a most provocative way. All in all, a nice read.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Darkest Voyage’

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The war for peace has gone on far too long, and hopes for galactic peace grow ever dim. General Vuro, head of Prossia’s military must choose an option that, though necessary, is likely to produce an outcome that pleases no one.

Darkest Voyage by Raphyel Jordan is a space combat epic that almost makes my list of recommended reading. The theme is okay, but the editing and grammar leaves much to be desired. The characters are almost there – a bit predictable, and wooden in places. The author has a grand idea, but it’s executed in a less than grand style. He nonetheless shows promise.

I received a free copy of this book, but regrettably, I can only give it three stars.

Review of ‘Immortal Shadow’

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Jibbawak, a Shadic, rises from slave to become ruler of the planet Lan Dar. But, one planet is not enough for him. He wants to become an immortal ruler, so he runs Lan Dar with an iron fist in his quest. Then, resistance to his rule comes from an unlikely source, Adam, a teenager from Earth who has been transported through a portal to Lan Dar. Impressed with Adam’s knowledge of the science and technology of Earth, Jibbawak makes him his slave, and forces him to help increase Lan Dar’s technology. His aim; conquest of Earth and all the rest of the universe, and immortal life for himself. But, he should’ve been careful what he wished for.

Immortal Shadow by Anderson Atlas is the third book in the Heroes of Distant Planets series. It contains a lot of action that will appeal to young readers—although, some of the violence is quite intense. It was an interesting story, albeit somewhat predictable.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘I am Sleepless: The Huntress’

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After the discovery of Sim 299, Aidan and his group are put to the test. Director Tuskin destroys the sim system, forcing Aidan and his coterie to escape the training complex and venture into the outside world for the first time in their lives. Their quest is endangered, though, when Tuskin sends the Huntress, Sheva, to recapture them.

I Am Sleepless: The Huntress by Johan Twiss is the second book in the ‘I Am Sleepless’ series. It picks up where the first book ended, and ups the ante for Aidan and his friends as they experience an unknown world and new adventures, with Sheva breathing down their necks. This is an excellent book for young adult readers, packed with suspense and adventure in a fantastic, but almost believable world.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘The Chalice of Death’

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The Chalice of Death is an e-book reissue of three of acclaimed sci-fi author Robert Silverberg’s early work. Published originally as pulp fiction in the 1950s, these three novellas showcase Silverberg’s ability to quickly produce action-driven science fiction with complex characters and believable worlds.

In ‘Chalice of Death,’ Hallam Navarre, the Earth advisor to an alien monarch, is sent to find and retrieve a fabled weapon that is thought to convey immortality upon he who possesses it. In order to find this mythical weapon, Navarre must find the planet Earth from which his ancestors sprang, and which once controlled a vast interstellar empire. What he finds when he finally does find Earth is that he must make a choice; the ‘chalice’ does exist, but it’s not what he thought. Instead, it is a capability that will determine the fate of two worlds, only one of which can survive, and he must choose which that will be.

‘Starhaven’ is an artificial world controlled by criminals. Johnny Mantel is a fugitive who has travelled there to find safe haven, but upon arrival he learns that even sanctuary comes with a price. Is it, however, one that he is willing to pay?

The final story in this series is ‘Shadow on the Stars.’ Band Ewing is on a mission to Earth to save his colony from marauding aliens. Upon arrival, he finds himself in the middle of a much wider war, one that spans time as well as space.

Silverberg is a multi-genre author who got his start writing for the sci-fi pulp magazines that were widespread during the 1950s. Each of the stories in this volume was originally published, sometimes under different titles, either in one of the pulp magazines or a pulp paperback. They demonstrate his ability to turn out highly entertaining stories almost on demand, while at the same time breaking with some of the traditions of the era, such as bug-eyed aliens and never-ending space battles. His characters have depth, and their situations are much more complex than the standard story of the period.

Sci-fi fans, especially those who are old enough to remember having read some of the popular magazines and paperbacks from sci-fi’s golden age, will thoroughly enjoy this collection.

Even though Silverberg is a Nebula Award winner, these are early stories, written while he was developing his craft. I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Reaper’s Run’

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US Marine Sergeant Jill ‘Reaper’ Repeth’s legs were blown off below the knee in combat. Recuperating aboard a luxury liner, courtesy of the ‘Wounded Warriors,’ she notices that they have begun to regenerate. Furthermore, others on the ship are experiencing miracle cures. Rather than being welcomed, however, their government has quarantined the ship off shore, under the guard of warships. Reaper knows something is amiss, so she plans her escape, leaving the ship just before it’s blown out of the water, killing all left on board.

She finds herself on the run, from a government that is determined to stop the so-called plague, and in the process is transformed from a wounded Marine to a freedom fighter.

Reaper’s Run by David VanDyke with Ryan King is an action-filled apocalyptic thriller that pits the indomitable will of an individual determined to survive against the ignorance and fear of a government dominated by those who desire to gain power over the masses. This is the first full-length offering in the Plague Wars series, and it has enough action and thrills to satisfy even the most hard-core action junkie.

The ending will leaving the reader hungry for more.

I give it four stars.