Notice...

The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.


***SPOILER ALERT***
Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

No Way Home Curated By Lucas Bale - Seven Stories Of People Who Are Stranded Away From Where They Want To Be

No Way Home: Stories From Which There Is No Escape Curated By Lucas Bale With A Foreword by Jennifer Foehner Welles

I am not sure how I stumbled on this book, all I can say is that it sat on my Kindle for quite a while before I was finally Able to get to reading it.

No Way Home is a collection of short stories that are well founded in hard science fiction all involving characters that find themselves in situations that leave them stranded far from their homes for one reason or another. The collection contains seven stories that are quite diverse in their settings. Here is a rundown of what the reader will encounter in this collection…
  • To Sing of Chaos and Eternal Night by Lucas Bale: A nameless soldier has had his consciousness uploaded into a heavily armored and well armed machine fights in an endless war. He dies over and over again with no hope of ending a conflict that if lost would see the end of human civilization.
  • XE, or People Are Crazy by S. Elliot Brandis: A volunteer astronaut is sent to a distant planet to explore and determine that it is suitable for human habitation and colonization. All he has to do is send a signal that is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ back to Earth and then he will be free to live out the rest of his life in peace and quiet. However, there is nothing peaceful or quiet when he discovers that he is not alone.
  • Grist by J.S. Collyer: After a series of war, a once green and living place becomes a place that the protagonist is eager to escape from.
  • Revolver by Michael Patrick Hicks: A young woman who has nothing left to live for goes on a bizarre crowdfunding show to raise money for her family. The audience is out for blood in this dystopian story and the young woman delivers, in spades.
  • The Happy Place by Harry Manners: A man and his family are relocated to Mars from his home in Nebraska. When the commander of his small colony goes off his rocker, their existence is threatened. In order to keep himself from going insane, he has to make regular visits to The Happy Place where he is grounded in reality.
  • Renata by Nadine Matheson: In the year 2049, an assassin is given an assignment to kill someone who has been dead some twenty years. Thanks to a rediscovered time travel project, he is able to travel back to 2014, but if he fails, he will be stranded creating a paradox that might result in his death.
  • Cold Witness by A.S. SInclair: A radio engineer working at an abandoned military base finds that as he explores more and more of the facility, be begins suffering from time shifts, and hallucinations to the point that he cannot tell reality from his dreams. What is his actual reality?

As I read this collection, I found that I was really enjoying the stories because of their complexity in such a short time to flesh out a complete story. The above listed authors are very skillful at cramming so much into so few words that if one blinks, one might miss some important thread of the story. When I was forced to put a story aside, I found that I had to re-read a great deal because of the detail contained within. These stories are not a casual read and will require the full attention of the reader.

I think my favorite of the stories was Revolver because of its utter absurdity to what things should be like but actually are like. The young woman is someone who has made many mistakes in her life and is expected to simply kill herself on live television. While this is happening, people are pledging money to egg her on and there are some very horrible people sending comments over the internet that include some very nasty name calling. The absurd thing is that the reader might be horrified at what is contained in this story, but on the other hand, being involved in social media myself, I can completely see the story being far closer to reality today than the fiction that is intended by the author. It is disturbing in that Hicks, seems to be holding up a mirror to our society and it has a filter that shows the ugliest parts of modern social interaction full of bigotry, hatred, and indifference.

While that one may be my favorite of the collection, the rest are equally compelling. I would recommend that this book is worth a look for serious Sci-Fi readers that are looking for a real roller coaster of a read.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah’!

Grunt Life By Weston Ochse - Realistic, Compelling, And Disturbing Hard Sci-Fi Reading

Grunt Life by Weston Ochse

This is another one of those books that was recommended by David Gerrold, along with one I reviewed earlier on this blog, Saturn Run.

Grunt Life is the story of Benjamin Mason, a soldier in Los Angeles on leave from the war in Afghanistan. He is also suffering from PTSD and the story opens with Mason standing on a bridge contemplating jumping off. Before he can jump and end what has become a seemingly intolerable existence, he is approached by a mysterious someone who tells Mason that he is already dead; that he had died in a house fire, and that he is needed for another conflict. Mason calls the man recruiting him “Mr. Pink.”

Mr. Pink is offering Mason a chance to join another army, a far better equipped one than he is currently in, and the stakes may very well mean that he will be helping to save the human race from an alien species called the Cray. There isn’t a great deal known about the Cray other than they have the ability to control minds to the extent that they can manipulate people into doing violent acts, particularly school shootings. They also use humans as antennae to transmit signals to other Cray that are apparently enroute to earth to stage an invasion, although the purpose for the impending invasion is not known.

The entire army is being put together by a corporation, since Governments are not willing to acknowledge that there is a threat, and even if they did, all the government backed militaries are not equipped to fight the aliens. Mr. Pink is a representative of the corporation known as Ombra Andre his entire army is made up for soldiers that have contemplated or attempted suicide after fighting in wars.

Once their very unusual training is completed, the squad heads to Mt. Kilimanjaro to fight at one of the major locations that the Cray have set up bases. Several plans and attacks are made with limited results, but Mason and his squad fight on.

This is a well written story that is quite compelling on many levels. First and foremost, the author explores just how many returning vets suffer effects of fighting in war. Then there are the interactions between the people involved in the story. The characters are well developed with background enough to make the reader become invested in them. Mason himself has been through a lot, enough for him to attempt to take his own life because of what he has seen and what he sees as his future. When he is given a new direction by Ombra, he fights and becomes a hero, and example for the other soldiers that inspires them.

I should caution you though, if you are considering reading this story, there are many graphic scenes of violence against both humans and Cray. The descriptions are very detailed and could be disturbing to the unwary reader.

For me, the most appealing aspect of this book is that the characters were real to me. They were just regular people with extraordinary problems in an extraordinary situation.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah’!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Legacy Code Bundle By Autumn Kalquist - Excellent and Engaging Sci-Fi

Fractured Era: The Legacy Code Bundle (Books 1-3) (Fractured Era Series) by Autumn Kalquist

The girl’s basketball team from the school in which I work made it to the state tournament last weekend. So you ask, what does that have to do with Sci-Fi? Well for me it meant spending roughly twelve hours on a school bus over three days riding back and forth to Lincoln, Nebraska where the tournament is held, which further means that I had the opportunity to get some reading done to pass the time. As an aside, reading helps to pass the time on a long trip very well. At an my rate, I read most of Autumn Kalquist’s bundle of Fractured Era stories during the ride to and from Lincoln. I could not have chosen better because these books held me mesmerized for the entire time.

The Legacy Code Bundle consists of three books that are set in a dystopian future in which the entire population of Earth, or at least what is left of it, has been forced to leave in search of another place where they can settle and rebuild civilization. There are several ships in which the people are traveling that have become generational ships moving from planet to planet gathering resources to make jump gates to traverse the light years.

Life aboard the ships is hard for the majority of the people as they used are assigned work mostly based on what their parents are. Some are workers that have hazardous jobs that often leave people maimed or even dead, while others inherit the commands of ships after serving as a kind of police force to uphold the rules that govern the fleet. At the head of everything is the president and a board that come from the various ships that meet when necessary. There are many aboard the ships that are not happy with their situations and become rebellious. Such people are considered traitors and the penalty for treason is being “airlocked,” or ejected from the ship after being summarily found guilty and stripped naked to preserve resources.

The specifics of the reason that the feet took to space some three-hundred years in the past are not specifically spelled out in this series at this point because most of the stories are centered on individuals rather than past circumstances.

The first of the three books is titled Better World and centers on a young woman who has just turned eighteen and is so unhappy with her life that she has decided to airlock herself. Maeve is stopped from committing suicide by her friend, Dritan, a fellow worker. She is determined to end her misery caused partly by the conditions on the ship, and partly because she is ridiculed for not being paired (married). One of the major reasons she is not paired is that she prefers the company of her own gender. When the opportunity arises, she volunteers for a mission to the planet Soren to begin setting up operations to gather raw materials to build a jump gate. The chances of surviving the mission are close to none, so she will probably accomplish what she has set out to do.

Legacy Code is the second book of the trilogy. This volume takes place a few years after the events of the previous book, but there is no mention of Maeve, but Dritan is prominent and we learn very early in the story that he has been paired with a woman named Era, a woman of some importance on the ship; she is an archivist, one of the people in charge of safeguarding the accumulated knowledge of humanity for use when the fleet reaches a new planet suitable for colonization.

Following a hull breach on the flagship of the fleet, the Paragon, a further investigation shows that it was not an accident and the crew that Dritan is working on is suspected. While Dritan himself is a loyal member of the fleet, happy to follow the rules and even happier that he is about to have a family, being on the team that made the defective repairs casts doubt on him. When one of Dritan’s crewmates attempts to assassinate the president’s daughter, Dritan steps in and talks the would be assassin down, but he is considered guilty by association and sent to work on the planet.

Meanwhile, Era goes to have an exam for the health of her unborn child and finds that the fetus has the “Defect,” and will have to be aborted. Following the exam, Era does some illegal research in her capacity as archivist and learns that there is a small possibility that her baby can be saved, which only manages to get her secretly airlocked.

An explosion on the planet causes a cave in in a cavern in which Dritan is working trapping and leaving him injured with little hope of rescue. All but given up for dead, Dritan remains determined to survive and escape almost certain death by keeping Era and their unborn child as his motivation.

The third and final book (so far) in the series is Paragon which picks up at the same time that Legacy Code ends. In this segment of the story, we learn that Dritan was sent to the planet to actually be killed and that the explosive that caused the cave in was no accident. We further see that there is corruption at the highest levels of the fleet’s government while those in power want to insure that they maintain power.

Era’s best friend, Zephyr works to find out why Era supposedly comitted suicide, which is the story that is being circulated. Zephyr knows better and her former boyfriend Tadeo is blocking every attempt to learn the truth. At the same time, Tadeo is also charged with looking into the activities of the traitors that were on Dritan’s crew and finds that they were plotting to destroy the Paragon with explosives that were smuggled onto the ship. Later when Tadeo figures out that there is actually a bomb planted on the most sensitive part of the ship, it becomes a race against time to prevent a major catastrophe, including the destruction of all of the accumulated knowledge of the human race.

All the while, Dritan continues working against all odds to get himself, and other survivors, out of the cavern.

While the story is great, I found that the characters in the story were all quite compelling in some way and with not a lot of background information on any of them. Almost all of the female characters were strong and self motivated. Maeve, for instance, only wanted to be in control of her own destiny, which was almost impossible while on board her ship. SHe did have a small support system in Dritan, who genuinely cared about her and didn’t want to lose her friendship. Era was in line to become the head of the Archives on board the Paragon until she was found out by the authorities. She was very determined to find the truth behind the dreaded “disease” that would cost the life of hers and Dritan’s child and finally paid for her quest with her life. Tadeo and his superior officer were knee deep in activities that were nothing more than simple corruption and became characters that one could have a great deal of contempt for, but in Tadeo’s case, he somewhat redeems himself by risking his own life to save the Paragon, and thousands of lives that would have otherwise would have been doomed, and might very well have sealed the fate of what was left of humanity. The one constant thread through all three books was Dritan. He is a person of very good character, falsely suspected of being a traitor and taking the consequences that went with those suspicions as just being his turn to do his part on the planet. One can only wonder, at this point, how Dritan’s attitude might change if and when he returns from the planet and finds that Era and his child are gone.

Not only are the main characters well written, but we get a very good picture of the supporting characters as well. Some are loyal to the cause, but are quickly becoming disillusioned because of the lack of answers, while others cover themselves with lies and treachery in various forms.

The writer also demonstrates great skill in giving the reader a feeling of extreme loneliness in a crowded situation. Whether it is because of a character who is looked down upon for not being paired when others think they should be which is indicated by being tattooed with one hand of an infinity symbol and being tagged as a “half,” or when a character is looking for answers, or when the preference of companionship is looked down upon.

All in all, this is a fine series of books with stories that should hold the attention of the reader. While on the aforementioned bus rides, the time went by like nothing as I read for the entire time finding myself surprised when we finally reached our destination.

While there have been no sequels since the publication, the end of Paragon is wide open for the story to continue, and it is my sincere hope that the author sees fit to continue the saga soon. I have also discovered that there are a couple of short stories that serve as prequels to this trilogy and am planning to read and report on those at a later date. Until then, I give these three stories my highest recommendations for excellent Sci-Fi reading.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Starbound: Eleven Tales Of Interstellar Adventure - Stories Compiled by Audrey Faye - Just Excellent

Starbound: An Anthology Gathered by Audrey Faye

Not long ago, Golden Age of the Solar Clipper author Nathan Lowell posted in his Facebook feed that he was included in an anthology along with a number of other authors that had written some good Sci-Fi stories. If Nathan says it’s good, it most likely is and Starbound delivers in spades. I have always enjoyed short story collections and loved this one.

Audrey Faye asked the authors included in this volume to contribute stories that centered on strong female characters. Most of the stories included are prequels to works that also include, in the author’s words “dragons, smugglers, vampires, aliens, a street ruffian mathematical genius, a princess desperate to save Earth, and more.”

Here is a rundown of the stories included:

Passage Out by Anthea Sharp: A young woman and her friend have given up hope of escaping Earth, but thanks to her talents of observation, she finds a better life.

Blood Ties by Christine Pope: Just trying to make a living, Miala and her father take commissions from shady customers for computer software, this latest one has some surprising consequences.

Raising The Dragon by Sara Reine: Aja Skytoucher takes an alien refugee home with her and soon learns that raising a dragon can be both difficult and rewarding.

Exile by Nathan Lowell: Set in his Golden Clipper universe, Nathan writes about a two young women that are on the run almost before their Academy graduation party is finished.

Arcturus 5 by Debra Dunbar: Xella finds herself in a life threatening situation while trying to mediate a trade dispute that goes terribly wrong.

A Tale Of Two Ships by Audrey Faye: A newborn baby and her mother crash on an out of the way planet, later another ship also crashes and a woman discovers her purpose in life.

Carl Sagan’s Hunt For Intelligent Life In The Universe by C. Gockel: In this story, a young girl grows and is watched over an alien intelligence for her entire life without knowing it.

Blue Light by Phaedra M Weldon: An investigator stumbles into a situation that could leave her burned.

Treason’s Course by LJ Cohen: A soldier finds herself in a quandary when treason might save an entire civilization.

Silent Witness by Colleen Vanderlinden: Aria is set to become the ruler of her people who Witness and record events of other beings. When a planet that she has been Witnessing is about to be obliterated, she faces a difficult choice.

The Final Sunrise by Shawntelle Madison: When her spaceship is invaded by thieves, a single vampire is faced with saving her ship and surviving.

All of the stories are short enough to read in a single sitting, the longest, as I recall, is just a little over an hour of reading time. All are well written and for me were quite compelling. Every story in the collection is annotated with a bit of information on where to locate further stories in the series that follow.

If my recommendation is not enough, the price of .99 cents on Amazon for the Kindle edition should be even more of a motivation to give this collection a look.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!