science fiction

Review of ‘The 9/11 Machine’

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On September 11, 2001, Dr. Donald Ellis lost his wife and daughter when the second tower of the World Trade Center was destroyed in a terrorist attack. Many who lost loved ones that day retreated in grief or plotted revenge, but Ellis retreated instead to an isolated warehouse where he worked on a strange machine. Though consumed by grief over the loss of his family, he was not plotting revenge. His objective was to perfect his ‘time travel’ machine to make the events of 9/11 ‘unhappen.’

He makes several trips to the past, some just days before the attack, and others farther back, in an effort to change the outcome of this tragic event, but each trip only results in greater losses and global upheaval.

The 9/11 Machine by Greg Enseln is a fascinating retelling of America’s greatest tragedy; alternate history and science fiction brought together in a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat as Ellis tries frantically to ‘undo’ history. The author skillfully melds actual events with speculative forays into what ‘could’ have happened in a most compelling tale.

I give the author four stars for a most interesting read.

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Review of ‘Nalakamataki!’

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A series of unlikely events, most notable being the crashing of a space station into the Data Center, where it was definitely not expected to crash. The thing that no one noticed; it could not have crashed where it did without intelligent help. Oh, and who are those strange people emerging from the lake speaking a strange language?

Nalakamataki! By Samuel Roberts is aptly termed ‘cross-genre’ science fiction, because it crosses a number of genres, sometimes effortlessly, sometimes a bit clumsily. There’s humor, pathos, fantasy, and science fiction, and it’s stirred together much like gumbo, where all the ingredients contribute to the whole, while retaining their own unique tastes.

I don’t know if the author would agree, or even approve, but I chose to call this new age experimental fiction. In most places, it flows steadily enough that it’s easy to follow, but the frequent character point of view changes can create a bumpy read. I also wasn’t too sure about the ending, or for that matter, the destination.

This was a fairly entertaining read. Not on a par with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but striving for it.

I received an advanced review copy of this book. I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Darknet’

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Jake O’Connell left a life of crime for the life of a successful Wall Street broker, but when his best friend is murdered, and his boss is arrested for fraud—claiming that a large hedge fund company is framing him—his life is turned upside down. At the same time, Jin Huang, a Chinese-American computer expert accused of illegal hacking in the U.S. who is now forced to work in Hong Kong, finds strange connections between deceased wealthy Chinese and financial transactions. When her cousin, who was investigating these strange occurrences, dies in a freak elevator accident, she is accused of killing him. She then finds herself on a target list generated by a dark web organization, a crowd-funded murder collective known as Assassin Market.

The lives of these two are entwined as they discover a global conspiracy that appears to be run by an extremely sophisticated AI that controls one of the world’s richest companies.

Set in the present day, Darknet by Matthew Mather is a chilling tale of a world that is threatened by human greed and the tendency to put too much faith in soulless machines. It starts on a high note and rises to a startling conclusion that will leave you breathless, and not a small bit leery the next time you insert a credit card into a computer-based reader. The human characters are richly detailed, but the most frightening character is the machine that lurks in the background.

I couldn’t put this one down until I’d finished it. Five stars for a fantastic read.

Review of ‘I Am Sleepless’

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Aidan is a 12-year-old Prime on the planet of Ethos. But, unlike other Primes, he possesses more than one ‘talent,’ and while others sleep, he spends his time working through the simulations designed to prepare the Primes to engage in the war against the dreaded Splicers. Aidan has done what no one before him has been able to do; he has reached Sim 299, a mysterious simulation that presents puzzles to be solved that hold the key to winning the war and preserving Ethos and the human race. But, Aidan has other challenges that promise to be as great as the final simulation. He must deal with the older coteries of Primes who are jealous at his abilities, and some of whom have sworn to do him harm; at the same time, he must avoid the unwelcome attention of the aloof and mysterious Director Tuskin who has his own objectives.

I Am Sleepless by Johan Twiss is a convoluted science fiction story that has lots of surreal action and tangled relationships. It is unlike most traditional science fiction; part space opera, part sci-fi thriller. The characters, human, prime, and ‘alien,’ are well-developed and the author’s world building is so complex, yet richly done, suspending disbelief is a snap.

You’ll find yourself rooting for Aidan and his allies as they work step-by-step through the byzantine puzzle that is Sim 299, culminating in an explosive confrontation with Director Tuskin and a profound moment of decision.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Mind Secrets’

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Michael wakes up in a strange hallway with no memories, with nothing but a knife in his hand and a strange woman calling his name—or, at least, he presumes it’s his name. What he does know is that he must flee. He encounters a man, Agent Cooper, who is chasing him, again, for what reason he does not know. After a struggle in the stairwell of the building, Michael stabs Cooper and makes his escape. Injured in the struggle with Cooper, Michael is afraid to seek treatment until a sympathetic nurse on a smoke break outside a nearby hospital takes pity on him and takes him inside to take care of his injuries.

Inside the hospital, Michael meets two teenagers and learns that they are ‘perceivers,’ people with the ability to tune into the emotions of others. Worse, he learns that the normal people fear them and that Cooper’s allies are enroute to the hospital to detain him. With the help of the two teens Michael escapes and enters the unknown world of the perceivers.

Mind Secrets by Jane Killick is a riveting sci-fi story that takes the reader on a harrowing journey as Michael struggles to recover his memories, a journey during which he discovers a startling and disturbing secret about himself.

Non-stop action that is not just a well-written sci-fi story, but an exploration of prejudice and betrayal that will leave you breathless.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Quicker’

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Ell Donsai has a nerve mutation that makes her much quicker than the average human, In addition, she has a way above average intelligence. Her differences make her reluctant to form close relationships. While at the Air Force Academy, she develops an affinity for gymnastics and ends up being selected for the U.S. Olympic team. Shortly thereafter, Ell finds herself in the center of a deadly terrorist plot, and she has to use her amazing speed and intellect, not just to save herself, but to save the people she has come to care for.

A near future sci-fi tale with a strong female main character, Quicker by Laurence Dahners is the first book in a series that I predict will have a long and successful run. Crisp dialogue, lightning fast action, and characters you either love or hate, but cannot ignore, this is the kind of science fiction that should be considered for a SyFy channel series.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘I Will Breathe’

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It has been eight hundred years since the Great War. Liberty has grown up in this world, her home in an airship built by her adoptive father. Since he died, Liberty has been focused only on surviving from day to day, her only responsibility to herself. Then, she is given responsibility for a small, child-like robot.  From this small, mechanical creature, Liberty learns about love and humanity—she learns to ‘breathe’ for her new charge, and in the process, learns to live.

I Will Breathe by Regina Puckett is a look at a war-ravaged future that will tug at your heart strings. She shows how one can learn to be human through the power of love, even love of non-human creatures. Puckett is a master at creating a believable future world and populating it with characters that you can’t help but identify with and have empathy for.

A quick read, you’ll want to read it again and again. A solid five-star book!

Review of ‘Modern Mythmakers: 35 Interviews with Horror & Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers’

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Modern Mythmakers: 35 Interviews with Horror & Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers by Michael McCarty is a gem. A collection of 35 interviews with some of the biggest names in sci-fi and horror fiction and film, this book is chock full of sage advice for those who want to write in these genres, or fans. It gives a down and dirty look at what drives or drove such greats as the late Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, and others who have given us books and films that have become classics.

This is a book that you’ll want to read again and again. It’s now in my reference library, and I proudly award it five stars–only because I can’t give it six.

Review of ‘Mutation Z: Drones Overhead’

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After an attack by zombie-hunting militia members kills Hunter Morgan’s wife and daughter, he is distraught, but barely manages to survive. He learns, though, that his friends were able to save the baby his wife carried. While visiting the hospital where the baby is being treated, he learns that instead of being treated, those infected with the Mutation Z virus are instead being sent to a secret government program where terrible things are being done.

Hunter is determined to bring the truth to light, but he must evade the militia and the authorities in order to do so.

Mutation Z: Drones Overhead by Marilyn Peake is the fourth in the Mutation Z series of chilling stories about government overreach and the unleashing of a deadly virus upon the world. While not quite up to the standards of the first three books, this story of Morgan’s efforts to get at the truth behind the government’s nefarious program and expose it to the world is still a welcome change from the usual zombie stories. A minor character in the first story, Morgan has quickly become the central focus of the stories, and as usual, even though many of the conflicts raised in this book are reconciled, the author has ended on something of a cliff hanger, which makes me anxious for the next book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Daedalus Code’

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Agents Phaedra and Aegus, agents of New Crete’s Intelligent Data Enforcement Agency (IDEA) are tasked to find five missing AI students. Their investigation leads them to a mysterious hacker known as The Cretan. With The Cretan’s help, they learn of a rogue AI program called the Daedalus Project that threatens the freedom of society.

The Daedalus Code by Colin F. Barnes is a short novella that tracks Phaedra and Aegus as they bore deep into the AI networks of New Crete, putting their trust in an unproven lawbreaker, The Cretan, and their lives and careers on the line.

An imaginative story that is filled with action and future technology that science fiction fans will thoroughly enjoy.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Fireseed One’

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After climate change has so altered the world’s weather, populations are concentrated in the northern part of the globe, and divided into ocean and land domains that live in wary suspicion of each other. Varik Teitur is an 18-year-old sea farmer, struggling to keep his farm afloat after the drowning death of his father. One day Varik catches a thief in his father’s seed vault, and with this one incident he’s set on a path from which there is no turning back. He becomes involved with Marisa Baron, a spoiled, wealthy daughter of one of the most influential men in the land domain, who also happens to be an eco-terrorist. Maris entices Varik to accompany her into the hot-zone in the south, which holds the secret to Fireseed, a project that Varik’s father was working on before his death.

Fireseed One by Catherine Stine is an intriguing post-apocalyptic story. A fresh and different look at what the world might look like if nothing is done about climate change, and a chilling look at how human relations might develop. The characters, despite the situation, are as familiar as the guy working in the adjacent cubicle, or your next door neighbor. Stine has an authoritative voice and tells a great story.

Four stars for this one.

Review of ‘L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future: Volume 31’

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L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future: Volume 31 edited by David Farland presents 13 of the best science fiction stories from the Writers of the Future International Program, along with illustrations from the best of the Illustrators of the Future International Program from 2015. In addition, it contains three short stories by established sci-fi writers, and essays on writing by Hubbard, Orson Scott Card, and Bob Eggleton.

Science fiction fans will be fascinated by stories that span the universe of the genre, from fantastic futurism to the antics of mythological creatures lost in a modern setting. The illustrations, from outstanding graphic artists from around the world, harken to a time when pulp fiction reigned, and we were seduced to buy by the colorful covers screaming at us from the shelves in the local bookstore.

The stories in this volume, celebrating the 31st anniversary of a competition founded by L. Ron Hubbard as a way to attract more authors, showcase the immense reservoir of talent that exists for short fiction. Indeed, the universe of sci-fi stars is not, like our own, shrinking. New stars are being born before our very eyes.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Robots Like Blue’

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In an effort to improve performance, a developer installs programming in service robots to allow them to communicate with each other. Robot Robbie, one of hundreds of service robots is assigned to Lucy, with the command to ‘make Lucy happy.’ In the process, though, he begins to question his own existence and self-awareness. The more questions, the more he learns, the more he realizes that he doesn’t know.

Robots Like Blue by Anthony J. Deeney is an interesting sci-fi story in the style of Isaac Asimov and other pioneer writers in the genre. Well structured, with robot characters that are in many ways more human than the humans.

Fun reading for fans of sci-fi. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Code Breakers: Alpha’

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In a post-apocalyptic world, what’s left of humanity lives in a single domed city run by the shadowy Family. Periodically, the population is culled through the death lottery. All is running smoothly until Jerry Cardle, the man in charge of the lottery finds his name on the list. He discovers that a malevolent artificial intelligence has invaded the city’s systems, which could spell doom for everyone.

With seven days left to live, Cardle must get to the bottom of whatever is going on, but he has to go entirely off the grid to do it.

Code Breakers: Alpha by Colin F. Barnes is a well-written science fiction story of a dystopian future, complete with all the techie bells and whistles one might expect from the genre. In addition, the author does a good job of creating the characters who might inhabit such a dismal future.

Great reading. I give it four of five stars.

Review of ‘Sky Hunter’

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Air Command pilot Nova Whiteside is the daughter of a distinguished officer. She’s been assigned to a remote planet to fight in a war against rebel forces, but she finds more danger from within her own ranks. Sky Hunter by Chris Reher is an exciting science fiction/adventure story with action aplenty, and layer upon layer of intrigue and personal interaction.

The author does a masterful job of describing the different beings who are part of the Federation, as well as the rebel forces – but really nails it with the intrigue and underhanded dealings of those within the Federation who threaten Nova’s very existence.

In addition to the character strengths, the book also handles the future technology in a credible way, although the settings, especially those planet-side are a bit shallow. The towns could well be in Earth’s Middle East region, but this is a minor point that doesn’t detract from a well-told story. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Linkage’

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Lucas Ramsay’s birth mother died of a drug overdose. Drew Ramsay’s birth mother died in an auto crash that deprived him of the use of his legs. The two boys found each other in an orphanage and became inseparable. They were adopted together, and have formed a bond similar to that forged between men in combat—closer than blood kin.

They are now working together in an Arizona University, Lucas a research scientist and Drew a PhD candidate, under the supervision of Dr. Kleezebee. When their experiment goes awry, strange energy globes began destroying cities and killing people around the globe, and they find themselves accused of mass murder. Only Kleezebee can save them, but he turns out to be other than they’d previously thought. In the meantime, Lucas and Drew have to save the worlds (that’s right, worlds) threatened by alien invasion. Can they do it? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Linkage: The Narrows of Time by Jay J. Falconer is a first novel that has a little bit of everything—thrills, science, alternate universes, and close human relations, and enough excitement to keep you reading until the indeterminate end. I won’t spoil it by revealing the secret that Lucas and Drew uncover, but it will astound you. Falconer has done a great job on his first book, and I look forward to the sequel.

I give Linkage four stars.

Review of ‘Hal Spacejock’

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Hal Spacejock is an incompetent space pilot at best, and his ship, Black Gull, is barely space worthy. It’s all Hal can do to stay one jump ahead of his creditors, and he doesn’t have enough credits to even buy an extra pair of boots, or adequate provisions. All he has going for him, in fact, is Navcom, the ship’s navigational computer with an enigmatic personality, until he takes a mission to pick up some robot parts and deliver them to a strong-willed, but vindictive man who gives him 24 hours to deliver or face the consequences. To add to his problems, his employer sends a robot, Clunk, along as his copilot.

Hal Spacejock, book one in the Spacejock and Hal Junior series by Simon Haynes is a hilarious romp through space that will leave you wilted from laughing as Hal and Clunk get up to some almost unbelievable shenanigans in their quest to survive enemies coming at them from all quadrants. How they accomplish an impossible job against insurmountable odds is something you’ll have to read the book to learn.

If you like science fiction with a strong dose of slapstick humor, this is definitely the book to read. A four star read.

Review of ‘Hard Wind’

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Logan Collins, a former Confederate soldier, was languishing in a Mexican jail. When a group of strange men release him, rather than freeing him, he discovers that they’re taking him to a mysterious ‘government’ man named Lawrence for purposes they will not explain. Collins escapes, but is recaptured. He later learns that this man, Lawrence Rothelson IV, is part of a powerful cabal seeking the means to leave the planet, and that he is the key to them doing so. Collins, a drifter, rebel, and general outlaw, finds his faith tested when he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Claire, also a prisoner.

Hard Wind by Guy Stanton III, is the third in a series of sci-fi/westerns with a religious bent, or what the author calls Christian Speculative Fiction, featuring the traditional shoot ‘em up action, science fiction a la Jules Verne, and a religious message interwoven in the story.

The author writes well, and has a clear understanding of the genres; thus he does an effective job of blending them. At times, though, the dialogue drifts into patterns more appropriate to the late 20th century, and the main character learns things rather more rapidly than is totally credible. The ending, while satisfying as far as it goes, seemed just a tad too pat, and left things hanging. While I found this an enjoyable book, being the third in the series, I expected it to match the level of Ice Wind, and it missed the mark. Having said that, I still recommend it as an entertaining weekend read. I give it 3.5 stars.

Review of ‘The Brightest Light’

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Kade Traskell, who lives on the Skyland of Girinbult, was once a member of the Skyway Men, but he’s been exiled to the metal working community for a decade. Finally, he’s been given a job and a chance to redeem himself—or so he thinks. But, as soon as he arrives in the target area things begin to go wrong, and he learns that he’s been set up.

Not only must he worry about being a target of the Skyway Men, but he must also dodge the mysterious Green Sea Raiders.

The Brightest Light by Scott J. Robinson is science fiction adventure at its finest. Non-stop action and double dealing from page one as Kade desperately tries to learn who to trust. Hard-hitting dialogue and bigger than life characters in a fictional universe where no one can be trusted. A page-turner that you’ll not want to miss.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. Another five-star offering from a superb sci-fi writer.

Review of ‘Ice Wind’

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Taran Collins is a long way from home. Home is Earth, but he finds himself on a strange planet chasing bad guys—or, in his current predicament a female thief, Zayri LaRarque—and he’s stranded in a desert where when it rains, the sand bursts into flame. When it does in fact rain, Taran takes the only escape route, a strange city buried in the sand, and then finds himself on one of the planet’s four moons where he discovers people much like himself who are enslaved by a race of human-animal hybrids. He is given the mission to find Zayri, ally with her, and deliver his people from slavery.

If you’re a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter on Mars, you’ll enjoy reading Ice Wind by Guy S. Stanton III. In this book Stanton has Taran, like John Carter, a Civil War veteran who finds himself on a strange planet far from Earth, facing similar challenges and through his fighting ability and faith, dealing with seemingly insurmountable odds with a combination of humor and derring-do that is typical of the merger of Western and Science Fiction, but, unlike Burroughs, he includes a dose of religion in the story—in a very subtle way that does not at all detract from a nicely structured adventure yarn.

The only negative aspect of this story is some unconventional grammar in the narrative that if cleaned up would elevate it to the top of its class. Unfortunately, because of the grammar issues I have to give it three stars.