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.

Friday, August 23, 2019

ReCO2nition: Oxygen Debt Part 1 By Mark Dowson - The Key To The Future Lies In The Past!

ReCO2gnition: Oxygen Debt Part 1 by Mark Dowson
The year is 2112 and the Earth is reaching the point of being unable to sustain life. Technologies have advanced, but unfortunately, those advances have not fulfilled the promise of making life better. For whatever reason, humans have stopped using fossil fuels as a means of producing electricity. A massive corporation, GIATCOM believed the answer was to go exclusively nuclear for power production. With a stronghold on producing technology as well as power, they are making all the profits and, as such, are willing to do anything to keep their position secure.
It is known by the United Nations Authority that there was a man, Dr. Ben Richards, who had come up with a way to use wind power that would have changed the course of human history had he not died under mysterious circumstances.
As GIATCOM has a stranglehold on tech and power production, it is in their best interest to see to it that nothing happens to change that position, not in their present or in their past. Enter Shui Feng, a shapeshifting android sent back to the year 2017 to make sure that Dr. Richards cannot bring his dream of making wind power the premier form of generating electricity in the future. As a countermeasure to Feng, the UNA sends Merisi, a shapeshifting cyborg to inspire and protect Dr. Richards to see his vision become reality.
The result of all of this is an amazing read with action from beginning to end, lots of twists and turns, and some interesting characters on a roller coaster ride that will either change the world for the better or leave the planet a nuclear wasteland.
What amazes me about ReCO2gnition is how many various bits of subject matter author Mark Dowson packs into his story. There are references to science, history, geography, religion, and the arts. All of that along with compelling characters and some great action scenes make this book one that should appeal to any Sci-Fi aficionado.
What Dr. Richards proposes is that stadiums everywhere undergo a refit to support wind generators and to maximize the airflow through those units. It makes a great deal of sense since most stadiums are only used periodically. If these places are refit, they will not only generate enough electricity to sustain them when in use, but produce enough excess to feed the power grid, not to mention making a nice profit for the stadium owners.. Richards' proposal will require a substantial initial investment, but the long term benefits could be staggering. It is no wonder that a company dedicated to producing nuclear power would try to find a way to stop it.
The story is spread out in locations in Italy, where Leonardo da Vinci performed his research and let his imagination loose in many disciplines. Mark's descriptions of the places the characters visit are vivid enough to say that one could actually visualize the landscapes and buildings.
All through the book are references to what is known as the SATOR square. No one really knows what it means, but it is commonly found around Europe. The SATOR square is a palindrome of five words that are a mystery of their actual meaning. Many have tried to solve this ancient puzzle and there are several theories as to its meaning, but in this story, it serves as a time portal between 2112 and the present. While GIATCOM and the UNA have discovered this, it remains enigmatic to those from 2017.
With so many things to be found in this story, a reader might think it is too complicated to tackle, but this is not the case with ReCO2gnition because everything in the story fits into place easily and is relevant to the action. That is not to say that the story isn't thought provoking, there’s plenty to think about as Mark not only entertains, but educates as well. The reader may not realize that he/she is learning though because the story is just that good.
As with any great story, there has to be characters that the reader can care about. In the case of ReCO2gnition, Mark has created several characters that one can have feelings for, and one that is so bereft of compassion it is terrifying.
Dr. Ben Richards is a genius. He came up with the wind power idea and wants to do his best to sell it. He is also a bit naive and shy at the same time. I would guess he has spent so much time working on his ideas that he hasn't really taken time to stick his head up and learn about life. This makes him an easy target for those that would stop him from seeing his dream come to reality. He is also an endearing fellow because he apparently doesn’t have any ulterior motives beyond his life's work. He doesn't seem to care about wealth or fame, but rather only how he can make the world a better place. Along with my observations, author Mark Dowson adds:
"The protagonist not only suffers from autism, but long-term PTSD stemming from the tragedy he witnessed of seeing his mother die in a Tsunami caused by climate change. He has the ability to use his self-motivated creative drive developed from his PTSD compounded by his innate divergent thinking coming from his autistic traits, as his strength to be able to develop creative ingenuity and leadership."
Dr. Richards is joined by Grazia Rossini, a beautiful former athlete turned reporter. She is interested in Dr. Richards' work and, as time goes on, she is also interested in his safety. There are hints that Grazia may not be all that she seems up front, but for the time being, she plays a key role in helping Richards stay safe. Along with her is Merisi, who seems to come and go at the most opportune times. I enjoyed Merisi's role as Richards' guardian angel. Merisi is a shapeshifting cyborg that shows up to save Richards and also helps guide him to safety from one of the most evil characters I have ever encountered.
The main antagonist in the story is Shui Feng, an android that has powers that include shapeshifting, superior strength, and the skills of a master assassin. There is no doubt that if it weren't for Merisi, Feng would have no trouble accomplishing GIATCOM's mission of securing their position by eliminating Richards. Feng has no redeeming qualities whatsoever and is a stone cold killer. This would not be unexpected from an android, but Feng is also artificially intelligent. He enjoys killing and seems to have ambition; a dangerous combination.
For me, I find the characters fascinating and, naturally want to see the "good guys" win.
 Author Mark Dowson demonstrates an appreciation for many disciplines in his work. He is well researched and has obviously spent many hours of studying to bring so much together in the pages of his first installment of what promises to be a trilogy of stories. After reading the first part, I cannot even come close to trying to predict which way the story will end, which makes me want to move on to the next book.
On Mark's website, one will find many bits of information showing what went into creating this unique story. If you are interested, go to markdowsonauthor.com to learn more about the inner ideas behind the book which will be released in October, 2019.
From Mark's website, here is a brief biography...
"Mark Dowson's own inspiration to write the trilogy has come from his knowledge and experience in carrying out his own personal wind energy research at a Masters of Science degree level. The story's foundation is based on his own factual research dissertation and has transformed and expanded upon these facts to create an exciting fictional mystery thriller. Mark has published a Wind research article for Amida recruitment based on his wind research. Mark has worked on some of the most prestigious renewable power generation projects in the UK as a practicing Commercial Manager for the past 15 years which substantiates his factual research being valid and reliable."
I give ReCO2gnition high recommendations for its action, characters, and the theme that hopefully will raise awareness of the dangers of climate change.

Check out the trailer for ReCO2gnition...



Well, there it is...
Qapla!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Headless - A Collection Of Brilliant Brain Droppings from Michael Jan Friedman


Headess and Other Improbable Excitations of the Muse by Michael Jan Friedman

Back in October, 2018, Michael Jan Friedman once again took to Kickstarter to get funding for a new collection of short stories. It was a difficult campaign and actually came down to the last minute, but was completely funded by the deadline. I was one of the first to back the project.

As of a couple of weeks ago, I have received my electronic and print copy (complete with the author's signature). I finally found the time to actually sit down and read the new stories in Headless and Other Improbable Excitations of the Muse.

The book contains eight short stories that have varying themes in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. No two stories are similar in nature and each one has a twist at the end, or as mike puts it, "a curve-ball when he or she (the reader) is expecting the heat." He also promises that if he didn't get it right by adding a little surprise at the end of each story, he would do it again until he gets it right.

Well, Mike, there's no need to go back to the drawing board, you hit it out of the park! But don't let that stop you from doing more of these kinds of stories. Headless is just plain fun!

Each of the eight stories in Headless is a unique story that is entertaining and somewhat thought provoking if one cares to give them some thought. The stories are titled as follows, with a very short comment on each from me:

Headless: Don't lose your head if you want to keep your job.

Anteater, Doughnut, Casino: Three people walk into a diner and find themselves competing for their lives.

Cold Case: A God hires and private investigator to look into a very cold murder case.

Connections: Can a girl find her soulmate when she is way smarter than anyone else in the world?

The Company of Surrogate Beings: Where does a super-being find a home after being rejected?

Geocatchers: A tale of a misplaced reality.

A Spirit of Lost Women: A tale of love on the rocks and a solution gone wrong.

The Garvin Street Ghost: A man goes home in search of someone he knew long ago.

I thoroughly enjoyed all of the stories in the book, but I think my favorite is Geocatchers. It is a tale of a brother and sister who have been thrown out of their own universe and are on a search to get home. It just so happens that I am mentioned in this story, not as a character, but I am identified as a homeowner with a friendly dog named Buster.

Each story is fresh with interesting characters and some that a reader can find oneself caring about in pretty short order. Each story is unique and no two people are alike. This is a book full of variety and fun. What does tie all the stories together is the author's great sense of humor, which is apparent in the swerves that happen in each story. They are worth the wait.

While Headless can be read in an evening or two, I recommend that readers not go too quickly through this collection. Read slowly and savor everything that Mike has to offer. It will be worth it.

Well, there it is...

Qapla!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Viperob Files by Al Hodge - Sci-Fi Thriller Full Of Twists And Turns That Are Spellbinding!


The Viperob Files by Alister Hodge

Just a few weeks ago, author Al Hodge contacted me and asked if I would review his novel, The Cavern. I said I would give it a go and read it, and was amazed at the quality of the writing and how gripping the story was. I wrote my review and if you click on the title, you can read that review. After posting my review of The Cavern, Al contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reading his newer novel, The Viperob Files. As much as I enjoyed the previous story, I couldn't say no. 

Viperob Files is set in a dystopian future in the year 2194. Owing to the overuse of fossil fuels, global warming has taken full effect,  melting the polar ice caps and causing ocean levels to rise 100 meters. A vast area of Australia (known as Australasia in the story) has been covered by ocean water submerging once bustling cities. This inland sea has created a completely new coastline and a series of islands still above water. On one of these islands is a corporation called Viperob that supplies military drones to the central government. Everyone living on the island works for the corporation in some way. While the adults work, the children go to school to attend classes and military training to prepare them for following in their parent's footsteps as Viperob employees. But kids will be kids and as they do, they tend to push the limits of what is allowed.

The story opens as Ethan and his friend, Jaego, dive on the submerged remains of homes and businesses in search of treasure. Meanwhile Ethan's father, Nickolai, learns that there is a software bug in Viperob's system that could allow foreign interests to take over operation of the drones sold to the Australasian government. Realizing that this could destabilize what is left of the national government, he makes plans to get the information into the right hands. This is not an easy task because Viperob has it's own highly trained military-like force that is fiercely loyal to the corporation.

Enter Lieutenant Harris, a ruthless, psychopathic officer in Viperob's security force who is assigned the task of retrieving the drone control files and eliminating anyone who has knowledge of them. He will use any means necessary to complete his task including torture and murder to achieve his end.

When Harris kills Nickolai, Ethan takes on the task of getting the information into the right hands. He has to get the Viperob files off the island, thus making Ethan and his friends Harris' target. 

One of the many appealing aspects of Viperob are the well developed characters in the story. Ethan and Jaego are joined by a third youth, a young woman named Gwen. These three young people have spent their lives, up to this point, learning to live within the confines opposed upon them by the corporation, and didn't know that there was anything else. In their mid-teens, they are beginning to realize that there has to be a better way of life and begin questioning their existence as part of Viperob. They have been trained well and when they are charged with getting the damning files off the island, they are pretty skillful at doing what needs to be done, and they are well aware of the consequences they face taking on the task, and the consequences of failure.

The parents of the youthful trio are more or less going through the motions of being loyal to Viperob, but are not above taking risks to get ahead. Viperob appears to be aware that the little transgressions take place, but are willing to turn a blind eye to them until they threaten the corporation.

Harris is, by far, one of the most evil characters I have ever seen in my lifetime of reading. He has no feelings for anyone, no compassion, and no end to his cruelty. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He is like a machine, a weapon that has been pointed in a direction and he will not give up or accept defeat. One cannot help but hate this character.

Hodge is masterful at making all of the characters come out of the story and become real people a reader can care about.

Along with great characters is the skillfulness that Al displays with world building. Viperob provides everything its employees need to maintain a subsistence level existence. Everyone has a place to live, food to eat, and a job. But there is very little beyond the absolute necessities provided. The living spaces seem to be little more than over-sized walk-in closets, the food is of adequate nutritional value, but not very appetizing. Those that want extras have to pay dearly for them. In order to have a better quality of life, many turn to taking bribes or trading on the black market. What keeps the people in the story in line is the threat of being banished from the island, which seems to be a certain death sentence. Outside the walls of the company is a great expanse of wasteland where survival is nearly impossible. Then there are also the monsters that are on constant patrol.

Along with the global warming problem comes mutations of some animals. Prominent in Viperob are the Tri-Claw creatures that patrol the coastal areas. They are described as trilobites that stand on six legs, move very fast, and have very large claws that are capable of cutting their prey in half with little effort. Oh, and these trilobites are the size of Volkswagens! They are the stuff of nightmares. 

When Al sent me the book, he described it as a young adult novel. The story does center on how the three kids end up tasked with getting the damning files to the proper authorities and prevent further hardship on Australasia. There are a couple of scenes of torture in this story that might be disturbing to very sensitive readers. Readers below the ninth grade level may want to avoid Viperob.

This is another excellent book from Al Hodge, it is exciting from the very first page all the way to the end. It is full of twists and turns that made me want to read on and on, I simply did not want to put it down. This story also has a wide open ending that screams for a sequel and I look forward to reading it when, and if it gets written. High recommendations for The Viperob Files!

Here is a brief biography from the author's web page...

"Alister Hodge is a Sydney based author, writing within the genres of horror, science fiction and young adult. He is also an Emergency Nurse Practitioner and a Clinical Lecturer at the University of Sydney. As a mental break from providing healthcare in a busy Emergency Department, Alister leaves behind the everyday traumas and horror of the real world, by creating new ones for post-apocalyptic and dystopian landscapes.

Aside from fiction writing, Alister has authored numerous journal and textbook publications, and is the co-creator of an app to support triage nurse development in Australia and the USA."

Well, there it is...

Qapla!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery: The Way To The Stars by Una McCormack - A Character Study Of Tilly


Star Trek: Discovery: The Way To The Stars by Una McCormack

While I have enjoyed all of the four Discovery tie-in novels released to date, I think this one is my favorite. Una McCormack's novel, The Way To The Stars is Tilly's story. For those of you who may not be familiar with Discovery, Tilly is a talkative young woman who is also quite brilliant in her own right. She is also the first character to ever drop an f-bomb on a Star Trek show. There are no f-bombs in the novel though, just a great story about a young woman who is trying to find her own way in life.

In her quarters on board the Discovery, Tilly tosses, turns, and sighs repeatedly until her cabin mate, Michael Burnham asks her what her problem is. Tilly is at first reluctant to burden Burnham with her worries, but after a little goading, Tilly tells Burnham that she is very worried about beginning the command training program the next day. Burnham is a little confused as to why this is a problem for Tilly, and with a little more encouragement, Tilly tells the story of her past.

16-year-old Sylvia Tilly lives in Paris with her grandmother, Adele, and step-grandfather Quinn. For the most part, Sylvia is a happy young woman who does pretty well in school showing an aptitude for math and science. Her grades are adequate, but unfortunately not up to the standards imposed on her by her mother, Siobhan. Sylvia's mother is an up and coming star in the Federation's Diplomatic Corps and envisions Sylvia following in her footsteps. Sylvia has attended numerous diplomatic functions with her mother and has little to no interest in pursuing a career in that area. Despite this, Siobhan enrolls Tilly in a school that specializes in training diplomats.

Being an intelligent young woman, Sylvia does pretty well in school while continuing to pursue her own interests in science. When Siobhan learns of this, she forbids Sylvia to do anything but study the school's diplomatic curriculum. She will not listen to any arguments and, as a result, Sylvia experiences a number of failures. At the end of the term, Sylvia 'escapes' from school to strike out on her own to find out who she is and what she wants to do with her life.

The rest of the story is the several adventures that Tilly finds herself involved in leading to an appointment to Starfleet Academy.

Oh, the things we do to our children, even when our intentions are good.

Unfortunately for Tilly, she has been instilled with a ton of self-doubt by a mother that is overbearing. Siobhan will not even listen to her daughter and consider what her talents and interests are. Tilly's father is a very gentle man and is always full of encouragement, but he isn't around enough to counter the bullying that Tilly is subjected to from her mother. What this does, in effect is undermined everything Tilly is about and fills her with insecurity and a fear of failure. Every new situation that this girl faces is about pleasing someone else, mostly her mother in this story. I feel so bad for this young woman that it hurts. Left to her own, and given the proper encouragement, Tilly would probably become an incredible scientist, making great strides in whatever field she chose. On Discovery, we see some of what she is capable of. McCormack did a brilliant job channeling Tillly's character as we see her on the show, and placing her in the book.

McCormack's story is a fun read providing deeper insight to Tilly's character. The author is also sensitive to what parents can do to their children when the parent's agenda is to control instead of nurture. In the story, once Tilly is outside the influence of an overbearing mother, she shows a lot of personal growth that could take her in numerous directions. In the case of Tilly, getting out on her own was probably the best thing that could happen for this young woman. All is not easy for Tilly when she gets away from her mother's influence and away from the diplomatic school, she is forced to prove herself and does a great job of rising to the occasion numerous times.

When her father finally comes on the scene, Tilly gets a great deal of encouragement and advice to standing up to her mother. Alas, it is too late and the damage has already been done though. Tilly will spend the rest of her life having to prove to herself that she has what it takes to do whatever she sets her mind to. It is also important her dad explains something that Tilly has blamed herself for a number of years, only adding to her self-doubt.

Outside of a good character study, the story is immensely engaging and well-paced. It is an easy read despite the complicated relationships between characters. The story focuses on Tilly, but develops several characters to the point that a reader can relate to them all, even Siobhan.

Una McCormack has penned a number of books set in the Star Trek universe. In the past, she has shown a vast knowledge of the stories and characters within that world. With this novel, set in the Discovery timeline, she further demonstrates that she is adept at understanding characters that are not as well developed in canon. Were I a writer for the show, I would definitely keep The Way to the Stars in mind as I wrote Tilly-centric episodes.

Most of the stories so far from the Discovery timeline have been character studies giving we readers some backstory and a deeper understanding. This is an excellent look at what might have gone into the makeup of Tilly, one of my favorite characters on the series. I recommend this book to fans of Discovery as a way to better understand one of the most energetic characters on the series.

Well, there it is...

Qapla!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Invasion by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant - Exciting Prelude To An Alien Invasion Saga


Invasion by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant

One morning while having coffee and scrolling through my Facebook feed, I found an advertisement from a website called Sci-Fi Bridge. The ad promised that if I sign-up with them, I would have a chance at receiving some outrageous number of free sci-fi/fantasy books at no charge. Further, I would get four novels at no charge just for signing up. What the heck, why not? If I were lucky enough to be selected, I would have enough reading material to keep me busy for quite some time. If nothing else, I would get four stories for nothing. Since I had just finished another story for a podcast, I selected a novel and dove in.

I chose Invasion by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant which promised to be an engaging story about an alien invasion from outer space. Well, it turns out that Invasion is the first in a series of books that are about an alien invasion. At least that is what I am hoping, because this first book in the series is not about an invasion at all.

The story opens in the not too distant future, with news reports explaining there are numerous objects headed for Earth from the vicinity of the planet Jupiter. The story has been confirmed by numerous sources including NASA. That's the what, but there is no idea about the why. As one might suspect, panic ensues and is soon followed by much mayhem.

The Main character, Meyer Dempsey, is preoccupied with three things according to the book; those being drugs, sex, and business. His business is most on his mind as he plans a trip to Los Angeles. Meyer is in the movie business and makes regular trips to L.A. for business, and to have an illicit rendezvous with his ex-wife, Heather. When the news reports the approach of the alien objects, Meyer is setting up a meeting with Heather and a shaman who will administer them something called Ayahuasca, a powerful drug that Meyer uses to be focused for important meetings. In the middle of his phone call with Heather, Meyer learns of the objects on an approach vector with Earth and that they happen to be decelerating as they approach. Meyer believes, as often happens in film, when there is an alien invasion, the first places that are in danger are the world's big cities, and there aren't many bigger than New York.

Meyer has also believed that one day there would be some kind of disaster threatening the population of the planet and he was determined to be prepared. He believes he is well prepared because he has had a mansion under construction in Colorado. It is complete with an underground bunker that would allow him and his family to survive for a long period of time. While the above ground structure is not quite complete, the underground facility is ready to be used at a moments notice. It is well stocked with food, water purification equipment, entertainment and communications facilities, and enough weaponry to sustain a small war if necessary.

All Meyer has to do is gather his family and fly to Colorado in his private jet to ensure his survival. Oh, he also advises Heather to begin making her way to the mansion. His family consists of his second wife, Piper, his daughter Delilah, and his son, Trevor. Unknown to everyone, Delilah is pregnant with her boyfriend's, offspring. The boyfriend, Raj, also becomes part of the family by choice, and under the orders of Delilah. With his family gathered, they start their trip to the airport, but there will be no flight to the Colorado bunker, the FAA has grounded all air traffic so it looks like a cross country trip in an advanced minivan.

As the family cross the country, they run into numerous obstacles that change their situation, oftentimes looking quite hopeless of ever reaching their destination.

What we get in Invasion is more of an adventure story with a few elements of Sci-Fi, but we never really get an invasion. This is not the story of aliens invading the Earth and laying waste to the landscape. Rather it is the story of what Meyer and his family encounter along their way to their secure facility in Colorado, as well as a little of what Heather goes through in her attempt to reach Meyer's bunker. But that is not to say that it isn't a good solid story, it just seems to me that it might have been mis-titled.

In fact Invasion, in itself is a great story, fun to read, and immensely engaging. I didn't want to stop reading at any point because once the action gets started, it proceeds at a blinding pace right up to the end. We get the final payoff as the objects finally reach the planet. The book ends on a real cliffhanger that made me want to go right to the next installment, a book titled Contact.

Invasion is not a story that stands on its own. Readers will find it necessary to move on to the next book to find out what happens.

The characters in Invasion are an interesting lot. Meyer, Piper, and his children (Meyer's children with Heather) are a somewhat dysfunctional family until they are forced together by the crisis. Meyer himself is all business and mostly all about himself for the most part. He starts out in the story as not being very likable. He will always default to what is best for himself when things get tough. But one thing I can say about Meyer is that he understands survival and it is his selfishness that pulls him and his family through some very tough situations. I kind of warmed up to Meyer as time went on because he began to widen his focus and show a genuine concern for his immediate family, and especially caring deeply for Heather and her safety while she was out of touch. But he never dropped his tough-guy persona except to Piper.

Piper is Meyer's sort of trophy wife. She is young and very attractive and seems to have a great relationship with Meyer's children. She has apparently lived a sheltered life and is quite naive when it comes to the more brutal side of life. She has a tough time adapting when people start behaving outside of her experience. Piper is not dumb, by any means. As time goes on, she quickly learns that she has to do things that are well outside her comfort zone to survive. She experiences a lot of growth as the story unfolds. Piper is completely devoted to Meyer and does her best to be a good companion.

Trevor, Meyer's son, is completely obsessed with his step-mother and often fantasizes about her. He is often embarrassed by this and comes across as a little shy. He does have a lot of his father in him and will arise to the occasion when needed.

Delilah and Raj have a secret, and they want to keep it a secret. The only problem is, Delilah is not getting the prenatal care that she needs to have, and the trip across the country, along with keeping her secret is causing her a lot of stress. She even gets involved in a few conflicts that are not healthy for her. Raj just seems to be there, somewhat oblivious to the demands of fatherhood. He tends to take risks and it seems unusual that he has little or no concern for the fate of his family back in New York.

My favorite major character in this story is Heather. She is an actress and comedienne and is famous in her own right. She is always ready with some off-handed remark and is hilarious, even in grim situations. The best thing about Heather is she is not afraid of Meyer and all of his power and has no problem putting him in his place when needed, which is probably why her and Meyer are not still married. She adds a interesting and funny dynamic to the story even though her role in the story thus far, is rather limited.

Truant and Platt
Invasion is the first book in a series that is seven books so far. I can see myself investing time in this series if the rest of the books have the same energy that this one does. If that is the case, then you can expect more positive reviews on this blog. I will say that I recommend this story as a well-constructed one with interesting characters thrown into fascinating situations.

I will say that when I finished the Kindle edition of Invasion, there was an offer to get the next book, Contact at no charge. So, I urge you to watch for my review of the second book in the Alien Invasion series.

Well, there it is...

Qapla'!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Cavern by Alister Hodge - Great Story Not For The Faint At Heart


The Cavern by Alister Hodge 

Not long ago, I received an email from Alister Hodge asking if I would be willing to review his new book, The Cavern. His email included the Kindle file, so how could I say no?

Set in the Australian Outback near the small town of Pintalba, The Cavern opens with the discovery of a cave system revealed by a sinkhole on a nearly defunct sheep ranch. A young couple arrives on the scene and pays the owner of the ranch to be the first to explore the discovery. As they move about underground, they discover a beautiful cave setting complete with an underground lake. The couple also discovers more than they bargained for when they are attacked by a strange creature.

When another team hears about the new cave system, they lay their plans to also explore and map the discovery. The team is joined by Sam, a vacationing paramedic who will go along as medical support for the team that consists of his girlfriend, Ellie and Ellie's brother, Max. It is originally planned that Sam will remain at the base camp ready to go into action if there is a medical need for him.

When the crew stops for refreshments at a Pintalba pub, they are warned by the proprietor A veteran named Jack, to stay away and leave it alone. When asked, Jack wouldn't tell the explorers why they shouldn't venture forth. The team of explorers thinks he might be hiding some secret, or maybe he's just a crazy old man who is imagining something. Never the less, Sam, Ellie and Max are determined to be the first to explore and map the new cave system. Of course, they are unaware of the previous couple that also wanted to be the first.

While Sam's team sees all the beauty that they expect to see, they also learn that the cave system connects to a string of opal mines that harbors a horrible secret. There are monsters there that are vicious, relentless, and also have a peculiar intelligence. It isn't long before everyone is in a fight for their lives and it would seem to be a losing battle.

There is no shortage of excitement in The Cavern. It is a fast paced horror story that will keep a reader on the edge of their seat as one is taken on a rollercoaster ride of terror by Hodge. If the descriptions of the monsters aren't enough, their attacks are given in detail to the point that a reader will be thankful to stay on the surface of the planet and never venture below. Much of what is described must come from the author's experience as a professional medical practitioner. That is to say that the detail is stunning and horrifying.

Hodge also captures the flavor of what it might be like to be underground in a cave. Both the peaceful and serene feelings one might have, as well as what it might be like if one is trapped and unable to move when moving through narrow passages. There were several scenes that had me holding my breath as I read to the resolution of several situations.

The story concludes with an open ending that might be begging a sequel. While I would call this more of an adventure-thriller, there are hints at science fiction in several places in the book and am looking forward to and hoping for a continuation that will carry forth from the ending to show what the monsters are and where they came from.

The characters in the story are well developed to the point that I felt that I would like to know most of them. Each has their own dynamic and are believable as real people. Sam, the (more or less) main character is a bit of an adventurer, but he doesn't care for the idea of exploring caves, and he is really repulsed at the idea of scuba diving underground. Yet, he faces and defeats his fears in favor of helping others that might be injured. He is a likable character, and as most of the others in the story, has a sense of courage.

The most surprising character is the bartender, Jack. In the story, he is kind of a curmudgeonly old man, but not in such a way that he will put people off. He is a veteran and seems to know a great many things, especially about the monsters that he has encountered in the past. When the monsters are discovered, the cavers decide that they have to be taken out of the picture, but none of them have the right weapons to do the job. Jack is the one who comes up with the firepower to take care of business, but also displays a load of grit as he takes on the creatures. Jacks scenes were my favorite in the story and I think that many will also find him an inspiration.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys medical drama and monster driven thriller stories. As a fan of Sci-Fi, I enjoyed The Cavern immensely and didn't take long to read it; it only took me three sittings to get through it. I was very eager to get back to it when I was forced to put it down. I could have read it in one sitting actually thanks to the relentless action in the book, it never really lets up.

I will add this, owing to the graphic descriptions of the monster attacks, and how the author goes into great detail on how the attacks take place and the results of those attacks, one might consider whether they can handle this story. There is very little left to the imagination.

The following is from the author's Amazon page:

Alister Hodge is an Emergency Nurse Practitioner, who lives in Sydney with his wife and two daughters. He is also a Clinical Lecturer at the University of Sydney, the author of numerous journal and textbook publications, and the co-creator of an app to support triage nurse development in Australia.

As a mental break from providing healthcare in a busy Emergency Department, Alister leaves behind the everyday traumas and horror of the real world, by creating new ones for a post-apocalyptic landscape.

Well, there it is...

Qapla'!