Category Archives: environmental issues in science fiction

Science Fiction: On the Edge

I live in Oregon and the whole region around me is a-twitter about the coming total eclipse. I live an hour away from the coast area that lies in its path. However, my husband is not a fan of big crowds, so I expected we would view what we could from home. Then a week ago, he ups and says, “It’s a once in a lifetime experience. We have to go see it.”

A million people converging on the area, and he plans to drive somewhere to view it somehow. Details were sketchy.

Heaven help me… And it did.

I was moaning about this turn off events while bringing in the garbage cans, when my neighbor (doing the same) offered an invitation to join her and her husband at their place in Pacific City. We can leave a day or two early and hopefully miss some of the traffic. They are fun to be with, and what at first sounded like a disaster, is turning into whaeclipset could be a very memorable weekend.

It is exciting to be in a place where such a unique astronomical event occurs.

Something to tell my grandchildren about. If that ever happens. Something to mutter in my old age, “I remember when…”

***

This week I finished Edge of Dark by Brenda Cooper. It was nominated for the Campbell Award. I must mention that it is tied to previous books The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep. I was unaware of this until I encountered a rant by a reviewer on Goodreads. Frankly, it didn’t disrupt the story for me at all. In my own series, several of the books are separated by spans of time and are also stand alone stories about future generations of the originals.

What makes this book worth reading is its approach on the issue of transhumanism. Each chapter is titled with a character’s name and represents his or her viewpoint. (three main characters)

Charlie stands for the environmentalist. He is a ranger on a planet called Lym that at one time had been mined and polluted. Under the rangers’ care, the wildlife and environment are being restored. The wildlife, however, can be very dangerous and the planet represents raw nature.

Nona comes from the Diamond Deep, an immense space station out in the depths of space. Her mother is dying, her father dead. Both were too late to receive the cocktail of life, now given to their daughter. Upon her father’s deathbed, she promises him to see a sky and watch a sunset. As her mother is dying, she reminds Nona of this promise and asks her to talk to a powerful relative, Saryana. Reluctantly, Nona does and learns that she owns her own spaceship and an inheritance. She’s rich. Saryana directs her to Lym and hires Charlie to be a tour guide for the young woman so she can experience what a planet feels and looks like.

Charlie expects her to be a spoiled rich spacer, but of course, I smiled as I watched a bit of impossible romance bloom between them.

Nona’s best friend is Chrystal who lives in the High Sweet Home, an outer ring space station. She lives with three others: two men, Yi and Jason, and her friend Katherine. They are scientists living in a commune and breeding genetically modified stock.

Outside beyond the dark are the banished cyborg and artificial intelligent robots that call themselves the Next. Far more intelligent than humans, and physically able to modify themselves, they do not need to eat, sleep or breathe. They are powerful beings who want to return and claim portions of planets, such as Lym, for the metal resources there. They capture the High Sweet Home and take Chrystal and her group, destroy their human bodies, and download them into robot bodies that resemble their original form to use as liaisons with the humans.

Chrystal’s chapters are chilling. They are first person narratives where the reader experiences the emotions of a human mind forced into a powerful mechanical body against her will. Not all survive the transformation, and in fact, Katherine doesn’t make it.

The Next make the three, Crystal, Yi and Jason their ambassadors and lure Nona out to the Diamond Deep to save her friend. Charlie is persuaded to go as Lym’s ambassador. Since he’s never been off planet, adjusting to space is a challenge for him.

Brenda Cooper neatly presents all sides of the artificial intelligence debate. Charlie is the human who wants to keep his planet pristine and natural. Nona is the child of ship and station who only knows life in space. Chrystal experiences the vicious prejudices of the terrified humans who call her a thing and refuse her humanity. Even her own mother repudiates her. And Jhailing is the robot who teaches Chystal to survive her difficult transformation. She learns to speak to the other robots using a kind of mental telepathy. No longer does she need to eat, sleep, or breathe. Her powerful body can pick up a human and kill him with a throw. As many humans who are repulsed by the robots, an equal amount are intrigued with the thought of becoming a robot in order to gain immortality, great intelligence, and the strength of such a form.

The reader gets a glimpse of the frightening things that the shadowy, more advanced robots can do, including shape shifting and duplication and wonder at their true purpose in returning. The humans are given a choice of Uphold, Allow or Help as the council votes on their human response to the approaching fleet of Next.

The Spear of Light continues the story. Also, Cooper just released in June, The Wilders.

***

 Monday the world will go dark in the middle of the day. A reminder of the frailty of the human species in a powerful universe.

But it will only be for two minutes, and the sun will return.

President Trump will tweet something, and somewhere a terrorist or protester will commit a violent act, and we’ll return to the insanity of our vulnerable world.

With only science fiction to warn us that we should behave better or face the consequences.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, Alien worlds, artificial intelligence, Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, environmental issues in science fiction, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Hard science fiction, modifying humans, Robots in science fiction, science fiction science, space ship, space travel, Transhumanism, Uncategorized

Review of Dome City Blues: A science fiction murder mystery

Image 1How do you buy your books nowadays?

Do you saunter down to the local bookstore and browse the shelves, picking out twenty-five dollar hardback or fifteen dollar trade paperbacks?

Or do you open Amazon and check out the suggestions on the front page, then click on best seller and free lists by Indie publishers at $2.99 to $4.99 or free?

Or do you grab a cup of coffee and open your iPad email to see what books certain ad sites are offering for free or discounted ?

Or do you check out your books at the library?

I must admit that I do all the above. Lately, however, I have been picking up books off the ad sites more and more. Stashing books on my Kindle takes up little room, and they don’t degrade over time or have overdue fines.photo

I used to concentrate on the list from the Hugo and Nebula awards. I thought that a popular vote had to result in a good book. Often this was true. Now, I notice that the books presented mostly are from traditional houses with a strong marketing team…TOR, Orbit, etc. and seem to repeat certain authors.

Don’t get me started on how disappointed I have been lately with the Nebula offerings I have read.

Still, as you can tell from my blog, if I like a particular author, ( Bujold, Asaro, Lee and Miller, Lynch, Gibson etc.) I quickly pick up their next book in the series in any of the above ways.

Powell's booksAlso, word of mouth or blogs (similar to mine) still impact my choice. Powell’s has a dynamic science fiction and fantasy reading group, so I often ask fellow readers what they are reading and will buy several books after our lively meetings. Powell’s also offers special deals and pricing on various books, but are constricted by purchasing through the catalogue. (there are exceptions) I must admit, they support local authors and have a robust author signing schedule.

Jan’s bookstore also offers used books with good prices and partners with Kobe for ebooks. They are friendly and helpful, but I’m getting lazy and don’t often drive across town for a book as much as I used to.

A lot of fans attend conferences and conventions to discover or support authors. Portland has Orycon and the Willamette Writers Conference. I used to attend every year, but more as an author for the panels than as a place to suss out my next novel to read. Still, a lot of traditional authors sponsored by bigger publishers with a bigger budget than mine go that route with great success.

Studying how books are bought can help an author decide what marketing path works best for his or her situation. Putting a book in a bookstore hasn’t worked for me. Attending conferences can get expensive and exhausting. Orycon is getting insular with the same locals appearing on panels and no top selling names as in the past. There is a definite traditional publishing bias and a bit of snobbery against Indie publishing. So, I quit going. Things may have changed since I last went, but I’m skeptical.

Last time I went to Willamette Writers, there was little to no science fiction offered on the panels or by interviewing agents, and I paid over five hundred dollars to attend. (that didn’t include the dinner). Now, I’d rather spend that on a good cover and editing. What is working for me is publishing more books and ad sites. It’s a spiral both ways. The more books you sell, the more your name gets out, the more books you sell.

Of course, the critical factor is to write a really good book. It helps to have a good marketing team with a lot of money to splash around and get the word out at the launch. I don’t, so I have to build slowly. I doubled sales and income last year from the previous year, and am on track to double again. Right now, sales are great. But I need more reviews…especially if they’re good. (hint)

So remember, it’s a long game now, and persistence and patience often are a winning combination.

Dome City BluesLast week, I talked about the trend of blending genres. When the author no longer has to figure out what section of the bookstore to place his book, or abide by a publisher dictating genre rules, then he or she can write a story that mixes genres. Science fiction romance, science fiction murder mystery, etc.

So I took a sharp right turn from my usual fare and picked up a book from an ad site. The title Dome City Blues by Jeff Edwards caught my attention. The title says it all. Mike Hammer meets Blade Runner.

I was in the mood for it.

David Stalin is a retired detective and war veteran. He lives in a fun place controlled by an artificial intelligence (even gets his coffee) under a dome that is one of several that cover parts of Los Angeles. His world is badly polluted and humanity lives mostly in domed cities.

The story uses the gumshoe detective trope and decorates the action with futuristic trappings. A beautiful, distraught prostitute pleads for David to investigate her brother’s case and clear his name so she can receive compensation. It appears to be an open and shut murder with a video of him confessing to the crime of killing young girls and ripping out their hearts before he records himself blowing out his own brains.

At the moment, David is still grieving over his wife’s death where they were working a case together and she got killed, put on ice, and partially sold for parts. He has isolated himself from others, except for an old war buddy who was shot in the spine during a fight and David saved him by carrying him out. Now, this friend, John, can only walk encased in a robotic exoskeleton, but has an obsession to find a way to be whole again.Angel City Blues

David picks at the case and gets drawn in deeper. Hacking into police files uncovers a similar murder of a young girl and a public self-confession several years ago. David takes on the case, uncovering more dead young girls with missing hearts. Getting too close, he is drugged and set up to take the fall for the murder of his main suspect. With a prominent citizen dead and all evidence pointing at him, he becomes a man on the run from the police. A shadowy figure also puts out an underground contract on his head. So, all the punks and criminals are out to kill him and collect.

The case becomes more complex as an underground movement called, “the Convergence” becomes involved. They are fighting a war against the blending of man and machine. David connects with this underground resistance force that is trying to stop this next step in evolution.

While some reviewers criticized Edward’s technology, saying the convergence of man and machine will happen sooner than he predicts, I disagree. Technology is moving faster and faster, but only recently have we been able to get a robot to walk as well as a human. And many have been working a long time on the problem. We are complex creatures. Even though, we’ll have automated driving, it will also take awhile to get a complete infrastructure that supports hovercraft and self-driving cars. Considering this was written in 1992, I think Edwards did a good job of portraying a futuristic world.download (1)

Besides, not all famous authors accurately predict stuff. Right Bradbury? (Martian Chronicles) And how long has it been since we’ve had any manned flights? Forty, fifty years?

I just hope we aren’t as polluted fifty years from now as Edwards expects. Global warming aside, electric cars and environmental activism make me more optimistic than portrayed in the book.

There is a lot of dramatic action, especially toward the end, and a good dollop of emotion, both in the anger of a lost love and the terror of being hunted. Even though I got irritated at the constant smoking that the main character indulged in, I enjoyed the story.

If you like the Blade Runner style of writing, you might want to check this one out. I have no  affiliations with the author, but it is now available for $.99 and was a decent deal.

And if you like the science fiction murder mystery genre, check out my Someone’s Clone. It’s a bit of a genre blend also. (see at right). Murder, time travel and clones.

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Filed under artificial intelligence, Book reviews, Cutting Edge Science ideas, downloaded personalities, Dystopia Earth, ebook marketing, environmental issues in science fiction, Implanting humans, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Robots in science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, Transhumanism

Discovering New Fantasy Authors

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Part of marketing is not only connecting with your readers but connecting with other authors. To that end I have discovered a new exciting fantasy author and asked her if I could do an interview. She graciously said, “yes” so here it is for your enjoyment.

Interview with D. Wallace Peach

 SWM: I have recently read a new fantasy author that I find exciting and different. She recently interviews me at http:www.mythsofthemirror and now I want to return the favor. As a science fiction author, I wanted to know what made her decide to write and why fantasy? So I asked her.

DWP: Hi Sheron. Thanks for inviting me to gab about books and writing – something I never get tired of doing!Diana

When I was a teenager, I actually tried my hand at a book. I wrote eighty pages with an old manual typewriter and gobs of White-Out. As often happens to our dreams, life got in the way, and it wasn’t until much later that writing reemerged as a possibility. My husband and I were living in Vermont when he took a yearlong job in Connecticut on our way to Oregon. By then the kids were grown and I had two successful careers behind me. I used that interim year to try two things I’d only dreamed of: I flipped a house and wrote a book. Well, one house-flip was plenty, but I’m working on book #9.

Why fantasy? I’ve had a special affection for the genre since reading Tolkien as a teenager. Add to that, I’m a lazy person and thought that fantasy would save me the hassle of research. I had the terrific idea that if I didn’t know something, I could just make it up. Needless to say, I was clueless. I spend hours researching the minutest details in order to bring my worlds to life.

SWM: What kind of fantasies do you write?

sunweilderDWP: You won’t find elves, dwarves, and quests for magic amulets in my books (at least not at this point). I’m still experimenting with the genre, and each book is different from its predecessor. Myths of the Mirror is quite gentle in nature where The Bone Wall is a gritty, post-apocalyptic ordeal. I’m now finishing a book that overlaps “traditional” fantasy and urban fantasy.

I like writing stories with twists, unexpected elements, and complex plots. I’ve dabbled in magical time-travel and human-animal melding. About half of my books are stand-alone reads. The Dragon Soul Trilogy will be out this summer, and I’m working on the first draft of a tetralogy. My readers never know what’s coming next!

SWM: Describe your style of writing. Both how you write (daily activity) and the types of words.

DWP: I like rich, deeply-drawn characters, and though I work hard at developing compelling plots, it’s the characters who ultimately bring them to life and give them a sense of reality. When I write, I fully enter my characters’ heads and hearts. I “live” their emotional trauma and physical stress, and the real world fades away. To write with this intensity, I need big chunks of time, 6-10 hour stretches, 4-5 days per week.

Types of words? I love finding the perfect word and putting words together in interesting ways. I’m captivated not only by the meanings of words, but the sound. Even down to the number of syllables. (Yes, I get a little nutty). I read my writing aloud several times in the course of editing to get the flow of the language just right. There are paragraphs that I’ll revise 20 to 30 times before I’m satisfied.

SWM: You just published The Bone Wall. Tell us a little about it.bonewall

 DWP: Basically the book is an exploration of what the world will be like 300 years after greedy corporations completely wreck it. The story plays with the idea of “brokenness:” physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. It asks whether healing is possible, and if so, what will that look like? How far do we need to fall before we risk the climb? Bone walls are the tangible, psychological, and metaphorical graveyards we build when we act without compassion.

The story follows identical twins, Rimma and Angel, who have grown up in a domed community called Heaven. When their dome fails, the remnants of a “broken world” sweep in to plunder and rape. Thrust into a savage and unfamiliar existence, Rimma and Angel take radically different approaches to survival. While Angel chooses hope, forming relationships and strengthening the communities around her, her sister, Rimma, remains blinded by vengeance and unwilling to adapt. Though their choices pull them apart, unbreakable magic prevents them from leading separate lives, until…

SWM: You’ve made a switch from traditional publishing to self-publishing. Why?myths of mirror

 DWP: I wanted more control. Working with a publisher was a great way to get my feet wet, and I don’t regret it for a moment. I needed the help, and at the same time learned quite a bit about the craft through the editing process. But traditional publishing is a slow endeavor, and I can get books to print faster if I’m not in someone else’s queue. I also wanted more control over promotions and pricing, which is key to building readership. It’s an experiment that I’m thoroughly enjoying.

 SWM: How can we find information about you and your books?

 DWP: That’s easy. I love chatting with readers and writers, so never be shy about contacting me.

All of my books are available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=d.+wallace+peach

Excerpts and links are on my website, Myths of the Mirror: http://mythsofthemirror.com/books-by-d-wallace-peach/

Follow my blog to learn about new books and promotions!: http://mythsofthemirror.com/

I’m on Goodreads as well. Here’s my Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7068749.D_Wallace_Peach

That about does it. Thanks again, Sheron, for the interview. This was fun, and I look forward to hearing from your sci-fi/fantasy fans!

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Filed under ebook marketing, environmental issues in science fiction, fantasy, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, Post Apocalyptic, Self-publishing, time travel

Superstar Science Fiction Marketeer

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Along with recommended science fiction and fantasy, I have been recently discussing self publishing and marketing.

 And…no one is more at the forefront of marketing for the Indie author than Hugh Howey.

I first became aware of Hugh Howey when I downloaded a free, self-published, short story off of Amazon called Wool. WoolAt the time, I didn’t realize it was a short story, but I had heard a bit about it and it showed up on my Amazon’s “suggested for you” list.

Seemed like an odd title, but it was free and intriguing noises were being made about it.

Wool2 There followed on Amazon a longer sequel of 126 pages called Wool 2: Proper Gauge for .99 and then a 106 page story called Wool 3: Casting Off for .99, a little longer at 166 pages Wool 4: the Unraveling was $1.99, and finally a 259 page novelette, Wool 5: The Stranded for $2.99.wool3

 Hugh Howey says in July 2011 he wrote the first short story, never marketed it, never mentioned it on his blog, but readers clamored to know more about the world with the silos. Offered free, many downloaded, read it and wanted more.

 So he wrote more.Wool4

Five more.Wool5

 The stories were bundled into an omnibus called Wool Omnibus Edition 1-5 for $5.99.

 Hugh Howey was on fire.

 WoolFollowing this success, he continued with The Shift series, much in the same vein as WoolFirst Shift at 236 pages, Second Shift at 266 pages and Third Shift at 282 pages all collected together and in 2013 offered the Shift Omnibus. Wool went to hardback, published by Random House, UK in 2013 and Ridley Scott Productions is discussing making a movie of Wool.

 Then, Hugh Howey opened the doors to his Silo world, and authors from all over are now writing stories and novels in the Silo Universe. Wider distribution came with audiobooks. Also, Shift can be found in Scribd’s subscription listings.

 This is where it becomes apparent that “content is king,” and some stories fire the imagination of their readers and take off to become mega hits if the author is paying attention to the new trends.

 And Howey was.

 It was an undefinable, combustible mixture of great storytelling, fresh marketing approaches and being at the right place at the right time.

 Hugh Howey has been very clever and innovative in how his stories were released out into the mad maelstrom of the new publishing world.Shift

 Then one year ago (2013), he published his novel, Dust, also through CreateSpace, that wrapped up his Silo trilogy.

 “Wool introduces the world of the silo, Shift tells the story of its creation and Dust brings about its downfall.”

DustDust is a full novel of 464 pages. Sold in paperback ($14.78), Audiobook ($12.33) or Kindle ($5.99). I happened to grab it out of my local library in the paperback version. Before you yell cheapskate too loud, I did buy the Wool version first and then accidentally found Dust in my library. *snatch*

 As a finale to an exciting trilogy, it delivers. Once again the reader encounters the determined Mayor Juliette who understands more than anyone the horrors of the silo and desperately tries to save her people. Dust also brings back the grittiness of life in the silo with the good, the bad, and the clueless that live there.

It’s a story of the human spirit that never gives up, that adapts and copes in order to survive against horrifying odds.

But you have to start at the beginning. You have to start with Wool.

 And then, you’ll be hooked.

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Filed under Alien worlds, Best selling science fiction, Disaster Fiction, Dystopia Earth, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, environmental issues in science fiction, Hugh Howey, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, Post Apocalyptic, science fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing, The future of publishing

Comet Ison: Not Science Fiction

IMG_0174If the name Ison means nothing to you….then you need to read on.

If it does, then you might want to read on anyway.

Ison is the name of a spectacular comet that has entered our solar system and is headed toward the sun. On November 28, 2013, it will approach perihelion with the sun (closest point: 700,00 miles above the surface) and one of three things will happen:

It will survive and head out towards Earth, it will break up into pieces like the Schumacher-Levy Comet did, and pieces of it will continue towards the sun, or it will disintegrate completely due to the sun’s enormous gravity and heat. It may not survive…

Most Sungrazing comets don’t.

touching-crystal-thumb-1This exciting event happens just around the time of the launch of my sixth book, Touching Crystal, and yes, Chapter One starts with a comet streaking  out from behind the sun and crashing into Thanos, Alysia’s smaller moon. Richard Steele and Trace Walker have to cope with the aftermath of changing weather and disrupted economies. But more than that, there’s alien crystals and invaders involved.

Exciting stuff…and very timely.

I would like to say that I planned Comet Ison coming at this time, but of course, I didn’t.

Serendipity.

Here’s an interesting link on 12 cool facts about Comet Ison.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/11/21/comet_ison_12_cool_facts.html

It’s less than two miles across in the rocky core…1.2 miles (size of Manhattan) and shrinking as it casts off huge amounts of gas and water. The tail is five million miles long and the coma (front part) is 100,000 kilometers in size. The tail has recently split into possibly three tails and the front has sprouted “wings,” which indicates that pieces may have come off.

If it does survive the sun and comes around out of the backside, it could reach a velocity of 225/sec or fast enough to cross the Continental US in twenty-five seconds.

But…

New Image of Comet ISONThe closest it will get to Earth is on December 26 (hmmm…) at forty million miles away. (phew!)

We should be able to see a spectacular show, and even now, it’s brightening up enough to be seen with binoculars and the naked eye at certain times.

Then, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. It’s called a Perihelion Comet and they don’t come back.

So be alert, and check the skies for a once in a lifetime event.

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Humans on Alien Planets: Science fiction recommendations

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Recently I attended a seminar on advanced book marketing put on by the Northwest Writers and Publishers Association. The speaker was Cheri Lasota and her book is Artemis Rising.

 She did a great job, giving out a number of worthwhile comments on how to market your book.

The one I want to revisit is Dean Wesley Smith’s QR code card. These are plastic cards that are sold like books with the code on the back that can be scratched off and the book downloaded. Here’s a link where Dean talks about his experience in this new marketing technique

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=5343

Also, The Greener Side will create cards with, say, your cover on the front and a blurb on the back. You supply the URL that you want to send the reader to and they can download the book. They run about 250 cards for $150. You sell at your ebook price, or whatever you choose.

It’s just another interesting new marketing technique to reduce the volume of paperbacks or hardbacks that you might carry around. Someone says that your book sounds interesting; you whip out one of these cards, and using the code, it’s theirs.

Recently I talked about humans living on an alien planet in Embassy Town and it brought to mind Sheri Tepper’s Grass. Although this came out in 1990, it is a distinctive novel that fits in with my recent discussions of alien worlds…and has gotten a lot of acclaim since being published.

Besides, I thought anyone named Sheri must be an interesting read.

Don’t you agree?

GrassSo I present Grass as a “gateway” book to the many novels of Sheri Tepper.

The human race has spread out over several wolds, yet a plague is threatening to wipe out all humankind.

Except one planet appears to be immune.

The planet is called Grass because the only plants that grow are various grasses.

Tepper opens by saying,

“Grass! Millions of square miles of it…a hundred rippling oceans, each ripple a gleam of scarlet or amber, emerald or turquoise..the colors shivering over the prairies…Sapphire seas of grass with dark islands of grass bearing great plummy trees which are grass again.”grass photo

And so builds a strong sense of place both exotic and strange.

On Earth, a splinter group of the Catholic Church called Sanctity dominates. They send Lady Marjorie Westriding her husband Rigo and children Stella and Troy along with Rigo’s mistress and a few priests to Grass in hopes of finding the cure for the plague.

It’s a covert operation because the natives are not forthcoming with any information about their planet or the alien indigenous species that inhabit it.

For good reason.

The human settlements are based on South American estancias with a strong English Manor flavor. The main sport is a variation on the fox hunt. The native Hippae with their associated Hound are capable of mentally controlling those around them…

And they’re not nice.

But they are the analog to a horse that humans ride to these “hunts.”Raising the stones

The Foxen are the elusive hunted ones.

Bizarre goings on and murky associations among humans and indigenous aliens form a compelling and unique story.

Be aware that Tepper has feminist and Eco friendly leanings that form a philosophy in the story.

And yet, this is an intriguing book that you’ll remember years and piles of books later.

I know I did.

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Filed under alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, environmental issues in science fiction, Science Fiction book review, Science fiction world building, Uncategorized

Best Selling Science Fiction: A Matter of Taste

IMG_0165Steam-punked!

I was wading through my list of ten novels that I proposed to read this year (see Jan/Feb blog) and pulled Ganymede off the pile. Cherie Priest is a local Seattle author whose novel Boneshaker was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula award (2012). She also won the Locus award for Best Science Fiction. (2011) A local author, an interesting cover, a strong recommendation on Amazon…

I was willing to try it, and put it on my list.

Although currently living in the Northwest, I have lived a large part of my life in the South, so when the story started with a New Orleans madam, I was intrigued. Fairly quickly, I realized that this is the sequel to Boneshaker and that is when doubt began to creep in. Steampunk! It’s the hottest genre around here, but I’m old fashioned. Give me a ship, stars and an alien and I’m happy.Ganymede copy

Still, I read on… until the zombies showed up. Zombies are not science fiction in my world, and I put the book down. Apologies to Cherie Priest who I can guarantee has sold many more books than I have, but…zombies are another matter, and not science fiction by my definition.

So I picked up In the Company of Others by Julie Czerneda. And barely put it down until I reached the end of the 564 pages in the novel.

Loved it!

In the Company of OthersHumanity has reached out and not found any intelligent alien lifeforms. So, Earth begins terraforming worlds for millions of eager explorers. One low-level fungal plantlike form  has been found, the Quill, an iridescent strand of matter that wraps around a human wrist, bringing a pleasant feeling and comfort, until for some unknown reason it mutates and turns deadly.

And spreads rapidly throughout the worlds.

Any humans landing on terraformed worlds are killed violently and mysteriously. All the new worlds are banned.

Earth closes down in quarantine, leaving eager immigrants and stationers stranded on various space stations. Frantic ships who Earth turns away are forced through desperation to impale themselves onto the outer ring of stations. Most stations are destroyed through riots and diminishing resources. Only a few survive.

Humanity chokes and stagnates.

Dr. Gail Smith, brilliant scientist, hopes to wipe out the Quill. After intensive study, she finds clues that suggest one human, Aaron Pardell, may have survived the Quill and provide the key to understanding and destroying them. Her search leads her to Thromberg Station.

Chapter one starts with a bar scene and resulting riot in Sammie’s Tavern when the “Earther” woman  enters looking for Aaron Pardell.

Aaron now lives by himself on Thromberg station, a found child, raised as an “Outsider” in his now dead father’s ship, the Merry Mate II that is welded to the station’s outer ring. Stationer, Immie (immigrant) and Outsider (ships attached to the ring) all jockey back and forth through several riots and uprisings trying to survive the intense crowding and limited resources. Aaron is accepted by a small group from Outward Five even though touching him brings on intense pain for both Aaron and whoever touches him. He is an odd young man with gloved hands and strange sensitivities. His large, muscular best friend, Hugh Malley, protects him as well as he can since they both were orphaned early and rely on each other to survive.

The book bubbles with plots of station politics, of intrigue by the University that funds Gail’s project, with the military who guards her and with her own secret plan to search for the answer that will clear out the Quill and open the stars for humanity. Within all these plots are stories of both stressed and tender relationships that show the lengths that humanity will go for each other as each dreams of a better future. And a story of a fascinating alien lifeform that functions unlike any human alive, and so is very misunderstood and difficult to figure out.

A great read. True science fiction detail and world building with complex human emotion.

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