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Reading ListJeff Soyer on 18 Nov 2014 11:11 am

Originally written in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and published as Digital Knight, Baen Books has just released a revised and expanded version titled, Paradigms Lost, by Ryk E. Spoor (Amazon link). According to the author’s preface, he made a few changes to existing stories to clarify a few incidents. The major difference is that he’s added about 50% new material. This should make this revision well worthwhile to readers of the original book (which I have not read — this review is based solely on this one). Paradigms Lost is a roller-coaster of a ride through an alternate Earth where vampires, werewolves, and other creatures all go bump-in-the-night. It is a very enjoyable read.

What makes this book so special is the way Spoor’s marvelous writing skills have created an overarching mythology tying them all together into a common history predating modern man.

In addition, the author has given these ancient beasts, beings, and Gods some very human characteristics in terms of their personalities, actions, and reactions. That’s not an easy task to do with monsters that want and can tear a human to shreds in seconds. That, I think, sets this collection of stories (held together by the threads of several characters) apart from all of the run-of-the-mill horror stories I’m used to reading.

The main three protagonists of Paradigms Lost are: Jason Woods, a computer geek who sees data patterns that others miss, and has an uncanny ability to derive the correct answers from them; his girlfriend Sylvie, a gifted psychic who can sometimes see into the near future; and Verne Domingo, who at first glance (but not in a mirror) might be a vampire, but turns out to be much more than that. There are several antagonists who also appear throughout this series of stories.

Jason seems to draw events to him and (via helping others — including the government) always seems to wind-up in the middle of anything “weird” happening. Peculiar murders, disappearances, incidences; they all seem land on his doorstep. Monsters battle humans or other monsters; Jason discovers the clues and answers.

This IS a horror novel and there are some wonderfully epic confrontations that move at break-neck speed. The good news is that while the violence is certainly spelled-out, this is not the festival of gore that has consumed much of the rest of the field. I’d have no problem recommending Paradigms Lost to youngsters. There are a lot of different critters to reckon with, names and origins and such, but nothing a fan of H.P. Lovecraft couldn’t handle.

Ryk E. Spoor has written a fine collection of horror stories with superb characterizations, fine (and often witty) dialogue, and enough action scenes to satisfy all but the most bloodthirsty consumer of the “weird” tale. BTW, I want my own Aris. You’ll discover why you want one of these little critters, too, near the end of the book.

Given that there are a few unresolved plot lines in Paradigms Lost, I suspect that a sequel is in the works. The highest compliment I can give is that I’m anxiously waiting to read it.

A reminder that if you find my reviews useful, please indicate so on Amazon (where I cross-post them).

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 15 Nov 2014 05:01 pm

New, from Bantam Books, this is the third book in the FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare and wanted criminal (*wink*) Nicolas Fox series. The Job, by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg (Amazon link) is fast paced and fun, with nicely breezy dialogue. O’Hare and Fox team up again and hatch a plot worthy of the best from Mission: Impossible. Indeed, The Job would make a terrific movie.

How do you go about taking down and financially ruining one of the world’s largest narcotics dealers? Especially when no one has any idea where he is or what he even looks like (these days)? Only one way — lure him to you. Big problem: He has a tendency to be very cautious and deadly. He even murdered the plastic surgeons who gave him an entirely new body and face. Another problem: Fox seems implicated in a series of thefts of great artwork and authorities everywhere are looking for him. Can O’Hare really trust him? Sorry, no plot spoilers allowed.

The plan O’Hare and Fox puts into motion is big, complex, and expensive. Good thing the bill is being footed by the U.S. Government! There’s plenty of action to keep you turning the pages, and while I can’t say that the characters themselves are given much of a description — “Hollywood star looks…”; would that be Cary Grant? Or Dom DeLuise? — their personalities certainly come through loud and clear with the brisk, witty dialogue the authors have given them.

The Job is is a fun, pleasant way to spend a few hours and I recommend it highly.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 13 Nov 2014 03:46 am

The Cthulhu Mythos are real! Ostensibly written for the “young adult” market, Billy Lovecraft Saves the World, by Billy Lovecraft, Curiosity Quills Press (Amazon link) is wonderful fun. I’m 60-years old, and as a long time H.P. Lovecraft fan, I loved this book. Well written, endearing characters, scary, but with a big-sized dollop of humor thrown in, I believe that you will get a kick out of this story, too.

Billy Lovecraft is 12-years old. His parents are killed in a plane crash caused by a terrifying creature. His parents were famous for creating a popular role playing game based upon their explorations of the mysteries of ancient and strange out-of-this-world creatures. The last thing they did before their deaths was to send their son, Billy, a photo of the strange critter sitting on the wing of the plane they were in.

Billy enlists the help of some nerdy kids at his school, forming a detective squad to investigate the how and why of his parents’ deaths. Plunged into a dangerous world of magical chants and hidden enemies, the children use their natural talents to seek answers. Along the way, the forces of supernatural creatures and their human slaves fight them every step of the way with a fiendish plot to destroy the world. The future survival of Earth is at stake! What makes this story so satisfying is that while being a loving tribute to the body of horror writings by H.P. Lovecraft, it’s tamed with the humor, creativity, and updating by the author. Scary but funny; you just know that everything will work out all right. Everyone reading this will wish they grew up in the home that Billy did.

Aimed at the young adult market, I’m not sure that there are all that many kids who would even know who H.P. Lovecraft is. None the less, they will eat this novel up because it has all the elements they regularly encounter in their online dungeon and dragon games. Oldsters such as myself can appreciate the story itself, as well as the honor that the author has given to one of the early masters of horror fiction.

One tiny quibble — or piece of advice, if you will — is that the protagonists are listed as being 12-years old. They don’t seem, speak, or act it. One of them can read and translate Latin, while another can design plasma weapons. While you read the book, just figure that they are really 14 or 15-years old and it will seem more realistic. Aside from that, the author does a fine job of fleshing out all of the characters (human or otherwise) in this fun book.

Billy Lovecraft Saves the World is a fun read. The writing is crisp and the action is fast paced. I recommend it for kids up to age 90. You’ll love it and hope (as I do) that it is only the first of a series for these brave detectives. Bravo!

As always, if you appreciate this review, please find the one I cross-posted on Amazon and give it a “helpful” thumbs-up.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 03 Nov 2014 11:55 am

Finally! Good news: Open Road Media is releasing a Kindle edition of Quozl, by Alan Dean Foster (Amazon link). Quozl is a lighthearted science fiction tale of a race of alien “rabbits” who land on Earth, go into hiding, and finally reveal themselves. Adults and young adults will enjoy this pleasant novel of first contact (both of the humans, and the Quozl) and how the Quozl are finally introduced to humanity at large.

The planet of Quozlene is overpopulated. A multi-generational interstellar ship is programmed for Earth. Unbeknownst to the Quozl, Earth already has an intelligent (well, somewhat) species occupying it. The Quozl land in a nearly deserted area of a national forest, burrow into the ground, and hope they won’t be discovered for hundreds of years.

The Quozl are rabbit like, in many ways including — you guessed it — their sexual appetite. This is mentioned, but not elaborated upon, throughout the story. Hence, I consider the book appropriate for teenagers. The aliens forbid anyone to leave the underground burrow. One curious, young Quazl sneaks out — and first contact is made with a young boy.

What makes Quozl such a satisfying book is the way Alan Dean Foster as developed an entire history and culture for the aliens, yet doesn’t let it bog-down the story. All of the characters, human and alien, are fleshed out (furred out?) and you wind-up caring for all of them. The author also deftly handles a story that covers many years.

Quozl is a nice diversion from all of the heavy, militaristic science fiction being produced these days. I enjoyed it, and I think that you will, too. My hope is that in the distant future, when humans finally do encounter aliens, that the meeting will be as pleasant as the one in this enjoyable story.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 01 Nov 2014 12:30 pm

As soon as a new book in this series comes out, I buy it. That should tell you something right there. You get a lot of reading for just 99 cents for your Kindle and you can’t beat that. The Ninth Science Fiction Megapack (Amazon link) is here and I recommend it with reservations.

I’ve given most of the books in this series five stars, but this one I’m dropping to 4. There isn’t quite as much of a mix in different types of stories, and there seems to be a lot more of the older (1950’s to 1970’s) ones than usual. Still, for only a buck, you can’t lose.

Here’s a round-up of the better ones (sans plot-spoilers):

Near novel length, The Spires of Denon, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, concerns intrigue at an archeological dig on a distant world where, far in the future, descendants of Earth explore an old, abandoned human colony. There are secrets to be discovered, and some of them involve the participants, themselves. Typically excellent Rusch storytelling.

Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog, by Brenda W. Clough, relates what happens to one mail order business owner when he discovers that his best customer is…

Luvver, by Mack Reynolds. A pleasure craft makes an emergency landing on a quarantined world.

Frog Level, by Bud Webster. A student could learn a lot by hopping a freight train — with the right teacher.

Shifting Seas, by Stanley G. Weinbaum. Now we’re really talking climate change!

Rock Garden, by Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Searching for life in the asteroid belt, and a computer that understands English less than Siri does.

When They Come From Space, by Mark Clifton. Another novella, probably about 70,000 words long. As an editor, I would have cut about 5,000 of those. Nonetheless, this is a wonderfully cynical look at governmental bureaucracy, the control of media over politics, and an alien exploration committee that knows how to exploit both. My favorite quote from it (there are several) is: “You’re in the government now. First rule of government of the people, by the people, for the people: Never tell the people!”

Waiting For The Coin To Drop, by Dean Wesley Smith. Time travel for historians. Time travel for prisoners. What could go wrong?

Beyond The Darkness, by S. J. Byrne. Another version of the multigenerational star ship from Earth with a revolt against the ruling class. Pretty good, though the ending seems rushed and could have been expanded to make this a full length novel.

The Loch Moose Monster, by Janet Kagan, is my favorite story in this collection. Colonists on a planet “unpack” the “condensed” DNA samples from Earth and bring them to life. Well, it seemed a good idea at the time… Lots of fun, and I wish I could be there!

My Fair Planet, by Evelyn E. Smith. An alien hires an actor to instruct him on how to be human. I chuckled more than once while reading it.

My second favorite story here is Preferred Risk, by Frederik Pohl and Lester del Rey. Novel length, it was written many years ago, but thanks to Pohl’s skill, reads perfectly fine today. It’s also one of the few “action” stories in the book. What happens when one “company” runs the world? It controls every facet of your life, insuring your health, well being, and there’s still a bottom line to be met. Oh, and then disaster strikes! Typical Pohl at his best.

There’s also two good, in-depth interviews by Darrell Schweitzer of authors Dan Simmons and Frederik Pohl.

A handful of the stories are hopelessly ancient. For example: to read about plant and animal life on Mars when we know that there isn’t any. These should have been left out of the book. One example will suffice: Before Eden, by Arthur C. Clarke, takes place on Venus. Here’s a quote from the third chapter of the tale, discussing the weather: “The weather was fantastically clear, with visibility of almost a thousand yards.” I didn’t bother reading any further than that.

I want to mention one more story in the Ninth Science Fiction Megapack. It is For I Am A Jealous People, by Lester del Rey. This is an old, novella length retread of War of the Worlds, with a religious twist, and not a good one. The story itself isn’t bad and has some action in it. However, (and I say this as a non-religious person) the ending and premise will be deeply insulting to devout Christians and Jews. I’m not politically correct under anyone’s definition. However, I believe in playing fair, and I do believe that the media, writers, and in this case, editors, seem to feel that it is perfectly fine to beat-up on the Christian faith. That’s just wrong. If this story had been scornful of gays (for example) or women or African Americans, the outrage would be immediate. There was no legitimate reason to include it in this omnibus.

Having said all of that, this latest entry in the series is still a very good bargain. Lots of good reading for less than a cup of coffee. Buy it and have fun.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 28 Oct 2014 10:23 am

Curiosity Quills Press has a hit on their hands as far as I’m concerned, with Operation Chimera, by Tony Healey and Matthew S. Cox. (Amazon link.) This entry into the science-fiction field offers likable characters, a good plot, and non-stop action including one of the best (and longest) space-battle scenes I’ve read in quite some time.

Earth, along with some allies, is fighting an interstellar war against the Draxx Alliance, a reptilian race that believes the entire universe belongs to them. As a plot, there’s nothing especially original about this. What sets Operation Chimera apart from similar themed novels is the deft execution by the authors. First and foremost, the writing is excellent and the characters are believably well fleshed out — warts and all. They are carefully introduced during the opening chapters.

As part of the war effort, a dangerous and secret mission is proposed. The mission is so risky that the military asks for volunteers both from their own ranks, and from civilians. A new aircraft carrier style star ship is built for the voyage. The story details the adventures of six pilots fresh out of the officer’s academy. They comprise one of the fighter squadrons and their mettle will be tested all through the book. I enjoyed the fact that there’s no one “star” of the story. Rather, authors Healey and Cox gave all of the protagonists equal weight.

I’m not going to reveal spoilers. I will tell you that the main battle scene runs over a hundred pages and that there’s no way you are going to want to put the book down half-way through it. Plan your meals accordingly! The obstacles for both the squadron and the star ship are many, and they keep coming one after another and piling up, making Operation Chimera such a wonderful read. Incidentally, the authors give “hat-tips” to other SF authors throughout the book, including to Isaac Asimov and his robotic laws. Nice touch!

Fortunately for all of us SF fans, this is just the first book in what I hope will be a long series.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 26 Oct 2014 10:07 pm

The first of a trilogy of novellas, The Whispers, by Lisa Unger (Amazon link) confronts us with the question of, “Why do bad things happen to good people,” and is there a purpose behind such events? Eloise Montgomery suffers the unthinkable, losing her husband and oldest daughter in a terrible automobile accident. She herself suffers injuries and awakens from a 6-week coma. Her youngest daughter suffered no physical effects but has withdrawn into herself by not speaking or responding to outside stimulus.

Thus begins this intriguing series following the new life forced upon Eloise. And then the visions start! Audible and visual phenomena of women being abused or worse. She finds herself successfully assisting the police in two investigations. She does not want this new “gift” and must reflect upon why it was given to her. Cryptic parts of the answer come from, shall we say, visits from her deceased husband and child.

Lisa Unger is a good writer and her characters are vivid and complete. Her descriptions of the mental anguish experienced by Eloise exert a powerful tug on your heartstrings. The story ends on an upbeat note. Naturally you are left wanting more. Fortunately, the next installment of this series is due out in November. I guarantee you I’ll be reading it.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 15 Oct 2014 04:32 pm

I always enjoy stepping into one of David Weber’s stories. I know it will be interesting and well written. A Call to Duty, by David Weber and Timothy Zahn (Amazon link) doesn’t disappoint. Set in the Honor Harrington universe, but many years before she arrives on the scene, the people of Manticore are rebuilding, following a devastating plague. With no wars being fought, some of the politicians would like to dismantle the Royal Navy and dedicate additional resources to other endeavors. The process begins. Fortunately, it doesn’t get too far.

Enter a young man flirting with trouble, Travis Uriah Long. Finding no structure in his home life, he enlists in the Manticore Royal Navy. Travis doesn’t find as much discipline or structure as he was hoping, and falls afoul of certain senior officers. Fortunately, others are on his side, or at least give him the benefit of the doubt. Showing a talent for learning star ship mechanics, he eventually finds himself assigned to a ship reconstruction crew lacking — you guessed it! — discipline and structure. The story takes off from there, with Long serving on a star ship that goes on rescue missions, and later battles pirates. For the sake of brevity, I’m simplifying things in the extreme. The book is much more original than that.

Likeable characters, good action scenes, intrigue, and tough decisions all factor into a grand space opera and a welcome addition (as the start of a new series) in the Honor Harrington universe. Just don’t go looking for her.

Confession: I didn’t read the entire book in one sitting; I took a few minutes to grab a bite to eat.

You’ll enjoy A Call to Duty. I certainly did!

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 15 Oct 2014 03:18 pm

I’ve read and enjoyed two of James Wesley, Rawles’ other books in this series. Thus I looked forward to the latest, Liberators (Amazon link, due to be released October 21). Most of the action takes place in Canada during “the Crunch” when most of the worlds’ economies have collapsed, with ensuing disorder, scarcity of food and fuel, and governments in disarray. There are several books in the series, all taking place during the same years, but with different characters in different parts of the world. Liberators is certainly engaging. You just hope it never becomes non-fiction.

All of the books in the series can be classified as “prepper” novels in that besides providing you with a possible futuristic history, they also offer advice (via the characters’ actions) on how to prepare for an emergency, and the breakdown of government — be it at the local or national level.

I’ve rated the book slightly lower than previous ones for a few reasons. First, there seems to be more exposition rather than plot actions in contrast to previous works in the series. Fiction is best when it is of the “show, don’t tell” modal.

Secondly, the occupation of Canada, first by European U.N. forces is believable enough. However, once they are “sent packing” as it were, the occupation by China is a bit more far-fetched. I can’t see a country with little oil production of its own being able to transport so many troops and ships/planes or helicopters/ground vehicles overseas.

Liberators also seems to have an extra-heavy dose of Christianity infused in the characters, making them seem rather wooden. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember a single person of another religion (or lack of one) taking part in the story.

Still, it’s a fun read that I hope never comes true.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 25 Sep 2014 10:42 am

The full title of this layman’s guide to understanding the theory of relativity is What is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter. Published by Columbia University Press, author Jeffrey Bennett uses his young adult, classroom lectures to aid in understanding the profound equations and theories that revolutionized our picture of how the Universe works. I’d like to write that this is a welcome addition to the field. I can’t.

There’s nothing especially wrong, or inaccurate, about this volume, just that there’s nothing new or original about it. The gold standard of books explaining Einstein’s theories of relativity has — at least for me — been The Universe, and Dr. Einstein, by Lincoln Barnett, first published in 1948, and revised in 1950. Long out of print, but used editions readily available on eBay and other sources, it clearly made relativity accessible to the average reader.

While Einstein (and Barnett, in explaining Einstein’s work) use railroad trains as illustrative examples, Bennett has updated that by using rocket ships, instead. Other than that, the book adds nothing new to the discussion. On the plus side, he does give an original view of black holes, and what could happen if a spaceship ventured too close to one. On the minus side, he does little to illuminate the conflicts between the theory of relativity and the quantum theories. Barnett’s book touches on that, a bit.

Bennett’s writing style is okay, though not exciting, and the illustrations are nothing special.

Although Barnett’s book is out of print, might I instead recommend to you, Einstein’s Cosmos, by Michio Kaku, which does a much better job of presenting — at a ‘consumer level’ — both theories plus Kaku’s typically interesting speculations.

 

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 18 May 2014 12:22 pm

To add to your science-fiction reading list: This year’s Nebula Award winners have been announced.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 20 Apr 2014 02:57 am

The full and official list is here.

Here are the novels:

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)

Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)

Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK)

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia (Baen Books)

The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books)

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 25 Feb 2014 06:37 am

Some 45-years ago, the Boyscout troop I was in went on an overnight camping trip in late November. It rained and then snowed and we were huddled in our tents, and half of us got the stomach bug. Thinking back on it, that was a walk in the park compared to what The Troop, by Nick Cutter (Amazon link) faces as the five of them and their scoutmaster begin a weekend camping trip on a small, deserted island off the coast of Prince Edward Island.

The short review: Frightening, relentless, graphically gory.

The long review: There are two ways to handle a horror story. One is with subtlety, the other is with head-on violence and gore. If you’re preference is for the latter, this is a disturbingly good read. If not….

All seems well as the troop settles in for their first night on lonely Falstaff Island. Then, an escapee from a military-financed biological research lab arrives. Gaunt, starving, and dangerous, the zombie-like character carries within him a genetically engineered, highly infectious parasite that will leave a trail of blood and guts.

Perhaps more creatively, is how the author has given the middle-school-aged boys not just a terrifying, but palpable danger to defend against, but also a quietly sadistic, psychotic from their own ranks to contend with. The portraiture of him is chilling and makes for pages of graphic prose that are almost too difficult to read. Of course, like commuters rubbernecking an accident on the other side of the highway, we have to look anyway.

Added to all of that, there’s the mystery of “why?” no rescue comes from the mainland, and you have a thoroughly scary read that will keep you turning pages.

The Troop is well written, if grim; don’t look for any humorous breaks in the tension. If graphic gore isn’t your thing, I don’t recommend this book for you. If it is, you will (as some of the characters do) feast.

Although the protagonists are young teens, this book is for adults.

Note: If you find my reviews helpful (either convincing you to buy or not buy a book) please indicate so on Amazon (where my reviews are cross-posted.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 11 Feb 2014 05:55 am

When you die, you simply wake up in another world, possibly in another universe. It’s not reincarnation in the classic sense, since you usually arrive at the age you were at, at “death,” and your memories are intact. Earth is an original-born world, not one of the steps along the way. Eventually, when it’s time to really die — if you’ve “earned it” — you wind up on a strange, squalid world known as the City Unspoken. That’s the premise of The Waking Engine, by David Edison. This big book is a heady mixture of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror, with an ambitious plot: Something has gone wrong with the machine that actually allows the mix of creatures from various worlds to finally rest in peace. The City Unspoken is becoming overcrowded, out of control, and various forms of ennui, or insanity, are rising.

There are numerous subplots, and a remarkable array of characters; some human, some not so much. As a world builder, the author has excelled in The Waking Engine.

The main protagonist of the story — a young, gay man from New York named Cooper — awakes in this strange world and quickly becomes enmeshed as a pawn in the machinations of numerous different factions. He begins to develop some powers that aid his survival. He’s a smart aleck, but not so smart in other ways as he often ignores what precious little, good advice is given him.

Okay, a book review is supposed to be more than a plot summary. I wanted to like the book, but there are a few flaws in it that make that difficult. Firstly, other than Cooper, nobody in The Waking Engine is remotely likable. There’s a huge cast of characters whose only concerns are for themselves. There’s also a tremendous amount of cruelty in the story between characters — even those few that purport to be “good” and helpful. It’s not easy to read page-after-page about people you simply don’t care for. Even the two beings that initially find Cooper and take him in exhibit their worst selves when Sesstri kicks Cooper and calls him a turd, and Asher abandons him in the City. Later, they’ll regret that.

There are so many subplots that even scenes that should have moved along quickly get bogged-down in the details and keeping track of all the players is a full time task.

There are some good points. The descriptions of the various parts of the city are excellent and you find yourself in total immersion to this strange universe. The courtship scenes between Cooper and his poorly chosen, brief lover, Marvin, are nicely erotic without being pornographic (sex is at a very bare minimum in the story). Much of the book’s dialogue is well crafted.

In the end, I believe The Waking Machine would benefit if it went through another edit, and also if David Edison would inject a little more humanity into a few of the minor protagonists — regardless if they’re human or not. Three stars out of 5.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 06 Feb 2014 06:42 am

Without trying to be political, it seems that as the mood of the country becomes more polarized and angry — and I’m not pointing any fingers — there’s been a large uptick in novels about a new civil war, or in this case, a second revolution. The Second Revolution, by Gary Hansen (Amazon link) is better written than many of them and presents a clear case where action is needed. Though there isn’t an actual revolutionary war involved, there is an uprising against a stunningly corrupt president.

The Second Revolution is a fun and action-packed read with some very likable characters. The main protagonists, a crime victim named Jake, his “sudden” girlfriend Monica and her preacher father, Clive, are fully developed and human. Nothing cardboard about them.

They get caught up in the events of the day and react as many would. The current President of the United States, a politician named Singleton, is trying to pass a draconian tax overhaul. Two congressional opponents are assassinated. Then, a reporter is murdered. All fingers point to President Singleton who — using the killings as an excuse — orders the confiscation of all handguns in the country.

I don’t give spoilers in my reviews but you can bet that half-the-country doesn’t like it one bit. The book raises the question of what are the moral limits to protest, to civil disobedience, and finally, to open revolt?

To his credit, the author does not pit one political party against another. In fact, no political labels are ever used in The Second Revolution, nor are ideological ones. Instead, there is simply a corrupt president violating the Constitution, and what are the American people going to do about it?

Gary Hansen’s The Second Revolution will keep you going. It IS fantasy, since I wonder if Americans have grown too complacent to even fight for their rights. When England and Australia confiscated its citizens’ firearms, there was nary a whimper. I would hope, should this tale come true, that it will be different here.

Just a reminder that if you find my reviews helpful, please indicate so on Amazon.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 03 Feb 2014 04:58 pm

Short review: A superbly entertaining science fiction novel with a fascinatingly complex and well thought out plot.

Okay, you need more than that to pay the price of admission, right? I don’t blame you!

The long review: The Flight of the Silvers, by Daniel Price (Amazon link) is the type of novel that all science fiction authors should aspire to write. According to the author notes, Mr. Price spent three years writing this marvelous story and it shows; oh gosh it shows itself in the intimately drawn characters, with all of their flaws, insecurities, strengths, and especially their personalities.

The Plot: Here’s another thing that’s wonderful about this book; I can reveal much of the plot without giving out spoilers. That’s not easy to do with the average (in every sense of the word) SF book I’ve reviewed.

Chapter one: Our universe comes to an end! Trust me, that’s not a plot spoiler — it’s the beginning of a harrowing ride for six protagonists who are “saved” by a trio of mysterious . . . humans (”quote–unquote”) and are transplanted into an alternate universe, an Earth mostly like our own but also different in many disturbing ways. In this new, alternate universe, a “split” from our own, the inhabitants have discovered time manipulation through technology. However, our six characters don’t need this technology because each of them have an innate, or genetically programmed ability to shape, or read, or alter, or communicate with, or predict the future. Thanks to mysterious benefactors, they wind-up in a laboratory where they are the subjects. That’s a gross simplification that doesn’t do justice to what Mr. Price has written. They’re aliens in an alien Earth. (Thank you, Mr. Heinlein!)

Six young individuals who are torn from OUR universe and wind-up in another, scary one where they are not welcomed and are hunted down by many who want to kill them. Through the course of the book, their variously specialized skills are slowly realized and developed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there are a whole bunch of folks who would like to eliminate these intruders into their universe. You have the equivalent of (our) FBI regarding them as criminals and killers. You have a rogue (our universe) saved guy who is trapped in a time-loop and hates several of our story heroes and lives to hurt them. You have the mysterious “saviors” who help or hinder our gang-of-six. You have “tribes” in this alternate Earth with their own special powers, trying to kill them. You have someone who might be trying to help them, or might be the ultimate enemy. Man-O-man, they have almost everyone against them! Perfect plotting. Our friends from the original (our) world have more hurdles than horses in a steeplechase, maybe the highest one being themselves. They don’t get along that well with each other, or listen much to each others’ advice.

Flight of the Silvers is a wonderful accomplishment; great sci-fi with fabulous characters and a marvelously plotted story. Don’t “speed read” this book. Slow down and savor the whole story as you’ll benefit from carefully dropped clues. There are slow parts, where the characters interact with each other. That includes self-and other- hating, loving, introspective individuals trapped in an alterverse they don’t belong in, and illumination of their makeup. Other parts of this finely written story move along at break-neck pace. This is how great novels are supposed to be. Alternate universes, time travel and manipulation, paradoxes galore, and great story telling all in one large but fast moving tale.

This is a big book, satisfying in itself, but just the first part of a series. It ends at just the right place in that some momentary security for our six protagonists is reached. But, there is a whole lot more to come and I’m an impatient kind of guy. Please, Mr. Price, write the next chapter (book) swiftly and surely, because anyone who reads this first installment is (like me) anxiously going nuts to see what happens next in your alternate universes.

The Flight of the Silvers is a great read for any science-fiction fan, as well as anyone else who just enjoys a mind-expanding story.

Just a reminder that if you find my reviews helpful, please indicate so on Amazon, where I cross-post them. It helps my standing there. Thanks!

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 03 Feb 2014 03:26 am

The best offer you’ll have all day:

M. David Blake’s magnum opus, the 2014 Campbellian Anthology, is now available for download! This book attempts to collect in one volume representative works by most of the writers eligible for this year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. We don’t have them all—there were a few we couldn’t get—but all the same, this book contains more than 860,000 words of fiction by 111 authors, and best of all, it’s not merely free, it’s DRM-FREE.

Download links at the link, for different file formats. Note that this is a limited-time offer.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 21 Jan 2014 08:17 am

This series has become a staple purchase for me. The Eighth Science-Fiction Megapack is a terrific bargain for just 99-cents. Hours — and I do mean hours — of enjoyable reading. I wasn’t crazy about the very first one, but following that, these books have presented a very nice, representative mix of the genre. Some stories are older, but most are of recent vintage, culled from various sci-fi magazines and collections of originals.

Several stories deserve special mention:

The True Dark, by Pamela Sargent is really a horror story that reminded me of Serling’s “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” but it’s way scarier.

Robots Don’t Cry, by Mike Resnick, is a superb account of a robot that remains loyal to a child long gone. It might seem a bit dusty in the room you’re reading it in

Way Down East, by Tim Sullivan, is the story of honoring an alien’s last wish. A humorous, though melancholy story (there are several in the collection).

Consequences of Steam, by Michael Hemmingson, is a time travel story — always a favorite of mine — about needing more than one try to ‘get it right’ in a desire to live in the past.

Outside Looking In, by Mark E. Burgess, is an action tale of the old theory that our universe might just be a lab experiment in some other universe. Clever ending.

After All, by Robert Reginald, is a weird (but in a good way) post-post-apocalyptic story about a survivor and his unusual friends.

Monkey On His Back, by Charles V. De Vet, reminds us that you can’t escape your past, especially a mercenary one.

My favorite, and worth the price of admission all by itself, is The Survivors, by Tom Godwin. This is a harrowing account of abandonment on and having to survive on a hostile, alien world type of story, but very well done, and if it takes a thousand years — revenge is still sweet. Nearly novel length, if you enjoyed the Genellan series by Scott Gier, you’ll love this entry.

The Eighth Science-Fiction Megapack is a winner!

Just a reminder that I cross-post these reviews on Amazon. If you think these reviews are helpful, please indicate so on Amazon as that helps my “ranking” there.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 21 Jan 2014 07:20 am

You’re just a teenage boy, doing the things boys love to do. Then, someone tries to poison you. You’re framed for a fire that injures your friend, and further attempts are made on your life. The killer? It’s you! Copied, by S.M. Anderson, from Curiosity Quills Press (Amazon link) is a first-rate thriller with science fiction overtones that explores several ethical questions including the issue of genetic engineering, human cloning, and the prospect that a corporation can “own” a clone because they own the DNA of that person.

More importantly, Copied also examines the theory of nature vs. nurture regarding two identical clones. The protagonists of the story — very likable ones — Alexander Mitchell (”Xan”) and his friend Lacey (a remarkably bright, teen girl) are determined to figure out just who and why someone would want Xan dead.

I don’t give spoilers, and there are plenty of clever plot twists and action that keep the story moving at a fast pace. Incidentally, while there is certainly room for a sequel, the story is self-contained and a very good read for all ages. I recommend it.

Incidentally, if my reviews help you decide to purchase a book, please do indicate so on Amazon, where I cross-post them.

Reading ListJeff Soyer on 02 Jan 2014 08:52 am

Having been laid-up with a bad back for a few days now, I can attest that at least it takes your mind off of other problems. But, the benefits don’t end there:

Being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading, scientists have said.

The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.

Granted, the study was a small one, but interesting. Details of the “why?” at the link.

I am very thankful that my parents instilled in me a love of reading at an early age, with the entire Wizard of Oz series, The Hardy Boys, A dramatic history series whose name I can’t remember, and more. By my early teens I had discovered science fiction and was hooked.

Most of my apartment is crowded with (other than old computers) books. I love the feel, smell, touch of them. Having said that, I also love my Kindle. It’s so . . . portable.

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