Category Archives: Science fiction thriller

Science Fiction Selections for 2015

photo A new year is upon us, and there’s lots of excitement on the horizon, especially in the science fiction book world.

I get to select five books this week to put on my shelf to read for 2015. I may not read them all in a row or at once, but throughout the year, adding others as I go along. The selection process proved interesting. Various factor were at work, and good science fiction was hard to find.

But first, I finished the Martian by Tony Weir and eagerly recommend it. What I learned is that humans have ingenuity if they just keep trying and remain focused. Yes, some of the chemistry got heavy and Mark’s personality included offbeat humor, but it’s wonderful to read a book where the characters are decent people. People from all over the world worked together for a common goal of saving a life, no matter what the odds or outcome. Makes me proud to be human. I like that feeling.

Enough said…I don’t want to spoil it for you.

So how to chose?

Goblin Emperor by Katherine AddisonWell, word of mouth is one way. My friend Lea recently suggested the Goblin Emperor, and that will be my fantasy pick. Lea knows books, especially scifi and fantasy, having 24,000 in her home, give or take.

I was skimming through Goodreads and bumped into The Rosie Project again, where someone recommended it as one of their favorites for 2014. They say you have to see a product more than three times to buy, and I remember seeing this title on several recommended lists. So, it went on mine.Rosie Project

Free is the price I can best afford and factors into my choices occasionally. Since I have recently offered Cosmic Entanglement in my series free through KDP Select, I now browse the free lists and websites for interesting Starship Magetitles. Starship Mage attracted my attention. I thought I would give it a try.

Sometimes after seeing a recommendation, I’ll read the summary to get a feel for the story. Departure is by A. G. Riddle, an author I have never heard of, but the blurb sounded intriguing. I may take off with this one. All the Light You Can See has been hitting the hot selection lists, but after reading that it was about Nazi Germany and a young, blind, Jewish girl, I gave it a pass. I’ve read enough about that shameful part of human history already. So, the summary or story blurb affects my choices also.Departure

Poor Man's Fight  by Kay ElliotTed Blasche (retired), my scifi military specialist, has been urging me to read a series that starts with Poor Man’s Fight. This is a self-published series that has been high in Amazon’s ratings and also suggested several times on my front page there…making it my military selection. I’ll give it a go. Thanks for the many suggestions, Amazon.

Ted is also in my writers group that recently had a spirited discussion on time and how it works. There were some back of the napkin drawings involved and various analogies with branching streams or electric currents. It sparked me to think that the past really isn’t a fixed event, but an entanglement of perceptions…that the past for each individual is different, and given events are perceived differently by each individual involved. New information can change the perception of a past event , so it’s not totally static. Also, how close you are to an event or how far away changes the impact and individual perception dramatically. If you experience a plane crash, that event is far different for you than for a disinterested viewer who sees it on a newscast and then goes about his daily business. We think of the past as static and absolute, while it really depends on the witnesses and how they record and perceive what happened.

Yeah, food for thought today. Have a happy New Year and may many great things happen in 2015.

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Indie Christmas Shopping

IMG_0193Christmas music in my ears, a pencil sharpened to make a list, eggnog at my elbow…wait, no…more like tapping notes on an iPad and trying to escape the Christmas mania by hiding out somewhere with a good read and coffee. I’m also thinking books make a nice gift (you’re welcome for the idea) or an Amazon gift card where a reader like me can go pick up a few novels that I have had my eye on throughout the year.

 Why am I tossing out ideas? Because I pose extra difficulties having a December 24th birthday. I usually feel like I kickstart the celebrations, or try to, but it makes for an extra burden on my holiday gifters. My family has at least twenty birthdays between November 11th and my husband’s, which is January 9th. So you see why I hide out this time of year, paralyzed and overwhelmed by all that needs to be accomplished.

 However, I did still find time to squeeze in some reading for this blog. Couldn’t let you guys down. My recent guilty pleasure is an Indie novel that has made a big splash at Amazon, mostly through word of mouth. Jennifer Wells confesses to attempting little promotion, which makes me insanely jealous, because I love marketing so much. (You did hear the sarcasm there?) I am still trying to figure out what I should do on the marketing side.

 So write a really good book, and sometimes the word will get out. At least, that’s step one. I’m certainly trying that approach at the someones_clone_front-cover_v2_finalmoment. Someone’s Clone was just published in paperback and Kindle. It took a year to write. As an introductory offer, I am putting it on KDP Select Countdown starting December 18 (.99) and it will run through December 25. I’m thinking it’s a good story to load onto a gift Kindle or iPad for holiday reading. Before or after Christmas?? I’m not sure which is best. I’ll let you know.

The story I picked to read is an Indie publication (Blue Bedlam Books), at least I think so. I have seen it promoted on Amazon as one of the top read books in science fiction for 2014. I read the blurb and it sounded interesting.

 Fluency is a story of mind to mind contact with an alien. Jane Holloway is an expert on ancient languages. Actually, she easily learns most any language as she has an affinity for understanding the written and spoken word.

 FluencyNASA has been monitoring an alien dormant spacecraft secretly for years, attempting to develop the technology that would enable humans to investigate it.

Because of her ability to understand language of all kinds, NASA recruits Jane to be an astronaut on a mission to explore the ship in case of alien first contact.

 When the mission finally reaches the ship, they discover the ship is not lifeless, but houses an unseen alien mind that soon communicates telepathically with Jane. At first, she is the only one of the five on the mission able to do this, and not everyone is convinced it’s not an act.

Problems start to happen in the alien ship, and the mission commander begins to doubt Jane’s independence from the creature’s influence and the creature’s positive intentions toward them. He claims the alien’s intentions are malevolent while Jane points out the creature helped save their lives. As events unfold, the remainder of the crew vacillate in their opinions. They are torn between wanting to believe Jane’s argument in favor of the alien’s good intentions and the captain’s accusations that it is dangerous.

As a reader, I wondered myself.

The story progresses, and a romance builds between Jane and Dr. Alan Bergen, an engineer and crew member…just to complicate things further.

Fluency is a good first novel by an Indie author who is already working on a sequel. The action builds as Jane and the others become involved in life or death problems on board the alien ship. Is the alien really on their side or just setting them up? The character of Jane and her feelings for Bergen, as he is called, make a nice counterpoint to the other interactions of the crew. The mission members soon discover that the ship carries a dangerous virus. The human explorers find that all former life on board are dead, except for the alien brain who controls the ship and invades Jane’s mind. Eventually, Jane discovers the alien does have an agenda, but not what anyone ever suspects.

An interesting story with an intriguing concept of interaction with an alien and first contact.

Happy Holidays, Jingle Bells…lock the door on your way out.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, Comets, ebook science fiction, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Science fiction thriller, space ship, space travel

Science Fiction Hugo Awards

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Excitement! The Hugo winners were announced this past Sunday. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie took the prize for best science fiction novel.

Made me happy. (See my March 12 blog that comments on the novel)

Ancillary Justice

Also, winner for best novelette is Mary Robinette Kowal for her “the Lady Astronaut of Mars.” Mary is formerly from the Northwest and keeps in touch. Recently, she was at Powell’s bookstore for a signing…and puppet show. Mary is an accomplished puppeteer also. She was reading from her recent novel, Without a Summer. Mary writes in the Jane Austen style and milieu, but adds steampunk magic to her stories. In fact there are rumors that she’s Jane Austen who has time traveled to the present day. Compare the photos of Jane and Mary at the end of the blog. Eerily alike?

But it’s only a rumor. *wink* I promised not to tell.

Charming and energetic, she was delightful company during a small dinner afterwards. She told us of plans that scheduled her to drive to a signing in Gresham the next day, and later that night she was meeting friends in Portland. It seems TOR authors do quite a bit of traveling. She is also the Vice President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Hmmm…

Shades of summerAs much as I like Mary and wish her well, I notice a strong presence of TOR, Orbit and Baen writers in the winning list once again. Is the Hugo a closed shop to big publishers only?

What about Hugh Howey, Ryk Brown or Christpher Nuttall? All with popular novels that are selling extremely well.

Is that a sniff of politics I smell? Collusion?

Either way, the Hugo awards have offered me a wonderful list of science fiction stories that I have read and enjoyed over the years…especially back in the day before the internet when word of mouth was the only other way you discovered good sci fi.

If anyone was talking.

Before this blog and others like it.

So here is the list for 2014. Check it out and enjoy all the great science fiction.Ancillary Sword

The 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, Loncon 3, has announced the 2014 Hugo Award winners. 3587 valid ballots were received and counted in the final ballot.

BEST NOVEL

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

BEST NOVELLA

“Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)

BEST NOVELETTE

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com /Tor.com, 09-2013

BEST SHORT STORY

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

BEST RELATED WORK

“We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY

“Time” by Randall Munroe (xkcd)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM

Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films;Warner Bros.)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM

Game of Thrones “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)

BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM

Ellen Datlow

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM

Ginjer Buchanan

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

Julie Dillon

BEST SEMIPROZINE

Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki

BEST FANZINE

A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher

BEST FANCAST

SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester

BEST FAN WRITER

Kameron Hurley

BEST FAN ARTIST

Sarah Webb

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award)

Sofia Samatar

The 2014 Hugo Award winners were announced on Sunday evening, August 17, at the ExCel Converntion Centre in London, England. The ceremony was hosted by Justina Robson, Geoff Ryman. Text-based CoverItLive coverage of the ceremony was provided through the Hugo Awards web site. Video streaming coverage was provided by Ustream.

The 2014 Hugo trophy base was designed by Joy Alyssa Day

See the Final Ballot Details for a full breakdown of votes, subsequent placements, and nomination counts.

So, time traveler or not?  you decide.Jane-Austen-waxwork

Jane Austen/Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary_Robinette_Kowal_at_2008_Nebula_Awards

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, Aliens in Science Fiction, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Hugo winners, magic, military science fiction, modifying humans, Robots in science fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Novelettes, Science fiction thriller, space ship, Steampunk, Transhumanism

Science Fiction: More Marketing and An Exciting Military Series

IMG_0165Word of mouth..still a powerful means of getting your book out there, but there’s no way to control it except by writing a story worthy of mention.

As Mark Coker says, “Content trumps all.”

I am still figuring out the best path in which to offer my books that is both cost effective and energy efficient. As a counterpoint to Coker’s idea of spreading distribution access to your book across distribution lines, Hugh Howey has a thought provoking blog entitled. http://www.hughhowey.com/no-more-shitty-baskets.

Once again, I enrolled Caught in Time in Amazon’s KDP Select and this time tried the Countdown Deal. I did very little marketing on my own and was pleasantly surprised at the results. There are hordes of readers who have found the website for Countdown deals, and also sign up for daily offerings of free books through other websites. Avid readers are cleverly pursuing cost effective ways to satiate their reading experience.

As much as I honor Coker’s efforts, for my genre, or maybe just my books, they are not selling in Smashwords. Two books have been listed there for over two years and sales are dismal. I’m not sure why as they are listed on Apple iBookstore, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Scrib’ner and now, libraries. While Smashwords sets my books on other shelves, Amazon helps me market and seeds the entire globe with them. And I am selling well there. I sell in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, India, Canada, Australia and more.

It makes me dizzy. It thrills me.

So the word is spreading and not always in American English.

Which brings me to this week’s selection suggested by fellow writer Ted Blasche. Ted just recently published a gem of a short story in VFW…or Veterans of the Future Wars, an anthology of short story military science fiction. Ted holds the rank of LTC USA (retired), and is in the process of writing an exciting military science fiction series that will eventually reach publication.

Aurora He leaned forward at our last meeting and with eyes alight recommended I read Aurora cv-01 by Ryk Brown. If you check out this series, you’ll notice there’s lots to it. Within days, Ted was on book#8 and intravenous feedings so as not to have to stop reading in order to eat.

Aurora follows a well known storyline. The influential senator’s son, Nathan Scott, rebels against his father and enrolls in the space academy where he is noticed by Captain Roberts. There is competition for the spot of helm with a smart and feisty female, Cameron Taylor but Nathan’s unorthodox strategies win him the helm position. Anal and by-the-book Cameron is paired with Nathan as his navigator. Sparks fly between the two competitors.

Unexpectedly, the unit is shifted to a brand new, top secret ship, named Aurora, and ordered out for a trial run and shake down cruise to Jupiter. To Nathan’s chagrin, a one night stand from his father’s party shows up in uniform in a security position on board the ship. But Nathan can’t be distracted by complications at the moment.

Upon arriving in the orbit of Jupiter, Captain Roberts unveils a prototype jump engine on board and receives orders from Earth Command to jump to the Oort Cloud to test its effectiveness. Captain Roberts also informs the bridge that the Jung, a powerful enemy, has recently conquered yet another system, and Sol system is the last remaining free system left in the galaxy. He speculates that within a few years, the Jung may attack Sol system with the intent to take it over. However, the trial jump lands them in the lap of an unexpected Jung fleet and they’re immediately engaged in battle.

Hit and barely functioning, the Aurora inflicts damage on an enemy ship that appears to be inoperative, but a boarding party finds surviving soldiers have activated an anti-matter self destruct sequence. Tension, non stop action ensues as the boarding party scrambles away, one brave soldier staying behind to give the Aurora more time to escape the imminent explosion. In desperation, the Aurora jumps as the anti-matter explodes in the nearby ship, kicking the ship 10,000 light years across the universe, landing it in the middle of yet another unexpected battle. Immediately, the Aurora’s crew is attacked by a huge unknown alien ship. Winning, the fight, Captain Roberts gets mortally wounded, leaving Nathan, three weeks out of the academy, as captain. Now the ship is badly damaged and again involved in active combat, but this time thousands of light years from Earth.Rings of Haven

As you can see, Ryk Brown provides breath taking action. Young Nathan scrambles to save what’s left of the crew and try to figure out what’s happening in an unknown sector far, far from home. He needs to fix a damaged jump engine that is limited in how far it can function and get home so he can warn Earth of the Jung attack…but first…he needs to survive.

Legend of CorinairI don’t care if the scenario has ever been done before, I was breathing heavily through several action-packed episodes. The storyline has some great twists and turns and enough emotion and character development for most military scifi readers. The one screaming flaw was the disruptive changes in point of view. I would be reading in one point of view and suddenly flip to another, then within two sentences flip back. When you’re trying to fight a battle, this can become annoying. But other than that, I agree that this is the start of a fine new series and if military scifi is your interest…welcome aboard…and hang on.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Hugh Howey, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, space ship

Science fiction: Time Travel and Robots

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Two books on robots and time travel…perennial favorites.

But first.

Are you curious about social media and want some hard numbers? Check out this interesting blog by Jeff Bullas as to, who and how many, are on our favorite websites.

http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/01/17/20-social-media-facts

So robots and time travel:

While blogging about time travel recently, several readers commented that The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein was one of their favorite time travel novels. I hadn’t read it.

So I did.

Door into Summer

And really enjoyed it. I recommend it strongly to time travel enthusiasts.

Dan Davis, a brilliant electronics engineer, creates the invention of a lifetime…a robot that does almost anything called Hired Girl. His best friend, Miles, becomes a partner and they hire a curvaceous Belle Darkin to handle the administrative side of the fledgling company. Dan immediately falls in love with her.

The salesman inside Miles wants to get the product out the door and make money right away while the engineering mind of Dan wants to make sure it will work. His fertile imagination already has two more robots on the drawing board: Windows Willie and Protean Pete, named after his sidekick cat, Pete.

Pete accompanies Dan everywhere. Well, almost everywhere.

And when Miles and Belle collude to take over the growing company, Dan nosedives into depression at their betrayal, and signs up with Mutual Insurance to take “the Big Sleep.” Then he changes his mind, but keeps the contract on him. Half drunk, Dan goes to confront Miles and Belle about their deception. After a scuffle and threats, Dan is knocked unconscious where the two discover his ticket and bundled him off into the cryo crib to get rid of him, sending him thirty years into the future.

Heinlein deftly uses cryogenics to get Dan into the future where he discovers a time machine that will transport him back into his past to right the wrongs done to him.

Time travel like this can be tricky, but Heinlein weaves a delicious story of revenge that satisfies at all levels.

The character of Dan is especially well drawn as he continually has new ideas popping into his inventive mind on how to make life easier for the average housewife, even years in the future. And the machinations of time travel and how to use it are a fun read. The exploits of Miles and Belle are also interesting as you read how Dan tries to thwart them.

Fruit of the Gods

Dan’s robots assist the ordinary person, making his or her life easier. They have no independent intelligence. However, in Fruit of the Gods by Gary Naiman, robots have evolved in intelligence and form the army that supports twelve global corporations called the Consortium.

This science fiction dystopia peeks into a future where nuclear war, political terrorists and a devastating earthquake plunge the world into chaos, poverty and starvation. Humans roam about unemployed, and economies have collapsed. Only the mining of algae off the seabed and conversion to a food called “manna” prevents worldwide starvation.

The Consortium is the ruling body that dispenses the manna and tries to run the world efficiently through robots. With all this unrest, underground rebels led by top scientists plan to bring down the Consortium.

To avert a takeover and bring down the insurgents, the current leaders bring in their top spy. Enter 0021, or Lucinda, and her robot companion, Gog, who are sent to ferret out rebel activities, but instead uncover the truth of what is really happening.

While Naiman’s Amazon reviews are glowing, it took me a little while to warm up to the story. It was well written, I just struggled to follow hints and clues as to what was happening.

Still, it moved along well and is an interesting story along the lines of IRobot by Asimov. If you like robots, dystopia stories and spy games, then you will like this.

 

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Quantum Theory Noir Thriller: hard science in science fiction

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Grab your chisels ladies and gentlemen. For those of you who have been mumbling that McCartha has gone soft, this week’s review is for you.

It’s all about hard science fiction.

For what is the most challenging, the most difficult to get your head around, the least understood of all the science theories?

Quantum Theory.

You bet. It changes even as you look at it, and a cat-in-a-box can be both dead and alive until the observer decides it’s fate.

Schrodinger’s Gat attempts to explain Quantum Theory, Probability and Permutation as the main characters manipulate events at every toss of a coin.

Welcome to a hard science novel that tackles a challenging subject and gives lectures along the way. Yes, throughout the book are serious science lectures where the author warns you that if you’re after story only, you should skip the next several paragraphs of dense science theory.

Of course, when anyone says, “Don’t read this, or look away,” that’s when I dig out my glasses.

Told in the first person,using the voice and ambience of a Dashiell Hamnet novel, Schrodinger’s Gat is a simple story that  explores the quandary of fate versus free will and the puzzle of parallel dimensions.

Interested?

Yes, please.

Schrodinger's GatFailed writer, teacher and divorced father, Paul Bayes succumbs to depression, tosses a coin and lets its outcome direct him to step in front of an oncoming Bart subway.

There are several depression ridden moments…be warned.

While moaning over his life in true Hamlet fashion, he is still male enough to notice out of the corner of his eye, a pretty dark-haired girl watching him and when the coin comes up tails and he begins to step forth, she yells, “No!” and runs away.

Flummoxed, he hesitates just long enough to miss his train, and instead he takes off and chases her to begin a wild ride into the realm of quantum physics. For Tali, can locate tragedies and prevent them from happening. She dices with fate at the toss of a coin and the possibility of breaking free from the grip of fate fills Paul with hope…until the future begins to punch back.

This two-hundred and eight page story is full of action, but is also a mind-bending romp into the hard science of Quantum Physics.

You wanted it.

And if you haven’t had your fill yet,  this fascinating link shows how the dreams of science fiction writers have turned into the reality of present day science. http://www.buzzfeed.com/microsoftmsn/10-science-fiction-technologies-that-are-now-real

Check it out…science fiction technology becomes real day technology.

 

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Filed under Alternate Universes, Best selling science fiction, blog information, hard science, Hard science fiction, Quantum Theory Noir Thriller, science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, Science Fiction Mystery, Science fiction thriller, time travel

Publishing in Today’s World

IMG_0174I have mentioned how publishing is opening up and fragmenting in many directions. Let me give you an example of this through a specific author.

One author who is taking advantage of a host of these new publishing opportunities is Irene Radford, a.k.a. C.F. Bentley, a.k.a. Phyllis Radford, and other names more numerous than found on a wanted poster.The Dragon Nimbus

Phyl has published fantasy successfully for years with DAW through her dragon and fairy series using the traditional publishing template. She also has several cosy mysteries and science fiction novels in her arsenal there. Check off traditional publishing.

Lacing Up for MurderShe took back her rights from a traditional publisher for an interesting series called Guardians of the Balance, a fantasy that follows the descendants of Merlin through time, and has now self-published through the Bookview Cafe Co-op using the services of Amazon. Check off self- publishing.Guardians of the Balance

As a member of a writers’ co-op, she puts a hand in there in exchange for formatting, and other book services. Check off working with a writers co-op.

Of course, through the author’s group, she got this review, so check off networking too.

In addition, Phyl works with a small publisher, Sky Warrior Book Publishing that has just published her science fiction story The Lost Enforcer with co-author Bob Brown. 

Talking with Phyl, she recounted the excitement of writing via e-mail with occasional face to face collaborations. She and Bob have been working a long time on this particular story and faced an interminable wait on publishers such as Baen. With the advent of new publishing opportunities, she has teamed up with Sky Warriors to finally put out this exciting story. Check off small hybrid publisher.

At a recent Northwest author’s group that meets every other month, Phyl asked me to review her newest endeavor, The Lost Enforcer. She had noticed I review science fiction books.

I was glad to oblige.

Now reviewing for a friend is a tricky business, but I had read and enjoyed a number of the dragon books and the Guardian series. So, I jumped right in.

Unfortunately, the cover really put me off. The title is unreadable, the picture hard to decipher and the inside formatting poorly done. The first chapter page or the prologue should always start on an odd page! That’s basic formatting. Sometimes smaller publishers are just getting in the game and are still learning how to put together a book. But often, they will let the author work with them.The Lost Enforcer

But don’t judge this book by its cover. The story is quite good.

Gears and LeversAmong these accomplishments, Phyl has edited several anthologies in the Steampunk Genre, the science fiction genre, and the beer category. Yes, How Beer Saved the World reflects a series of delightful short stories on a favorite beverage.

Because of her editing skills, the reading experience for The Lost Enforcer is unimpeded by grammar, punctuation or other technical roadblocks and the story line has been given a critical eye.

For a self-published style book, this is critical.

I know, you need to stop and catch your breath now just by reading about the many avenues of getting a story out that today’s author can take advantage of, and Phyllis Irene Radford typifies how one author can go in many directions depending on what works best for her at the time.

The Lost EnforcerThe Lost Enforcer is an intriguing story where enforcer Jakai Del Quint, from an advanced civilization of the Galatic Core, pursues failed warlord and arch criminal Dorno Ban Zant to a sleepy isolated planet at the edge of the galaxy…called Earth.

A violent space battle results in Jakai hiding his seriously damaged ship and activating a cryo chamber with beacon. Dorno Ban Zant also crashes on the planet and slowly begins to build a power base among the primative natives.

A hundred years pass and one day a young female Northwest hiker, named Cody, discovers and frees Jakai from his hibernation, activating a beacon that alerts covert alien “observers” and the U.S. Military.

Both alien ship and U.S. Military arrive on the scene to investigate the beacon’s signal and exchange fire. Cody and Jakai are both scooped up by the alien ship and taken to a nearby hidden space station for evaluation of what to do next.

Jakai, intent on completing his mission to bring Ban Zant to justice, escapes the alien station with the young American girl in tow, and together they search for the alien criminal, while fleeing an inquisitive and increasingly alarmed US government.

Ban Zant turns up as a powerful Mid East potentate about to take over that volatile area of the world, using chaos and war in an attempt to establish rule over Earth.

The result is a combination science fiction and modern day political thriller. I found this an enjoyable fast-paced story and if you like modern day science fiction, you may too.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, fantasy series, first contact, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, Science Fiction in modern day, Science fiction thriller, Self-publishing, The future of publishing

Adrift in the Indie Sea

IMG_0165More and more authors are offering quality low cost books to the public. The advent of e-books over the past few years and the increase of tablets and technology have brought a flood of new writers offering interesting and fresh stories at good prices. Also, a large number of older authors are pulling retired novels out of the closet, reclaiming rights and re-igniting interest in past work.

Now the problem becomes how the bewildered reader sorts through this mass of books to find a good read.

The public reader has become the slush pile.

Amazon has done a great job of helping authors market their books. Reviews are key and Amazon Select and Prime offer ways the reader can sample new authors without bankrupting the piggybank. They have a new program called Countdown where the author puts the book on a program that starts out with a deep discount and following a set plan, the price escalates over a period of days.

One of the goals of my blog is to suggest books that I think science fiction readers will like. Because I am also swimming in the Indie Sea, so to speak, from time to time I pluck out a book and suggest a new Indie author that I have enjoyed, and also hope you will sample my own offerings.

Strings on a Shadow PuppetToday I’m suggesting Strings on a Shadow Puppet by Thomas L. Evans, a debut novel.

Strings offers my two favorite genres: military science fiction and spy thriller. The writing is clear and well written. There are very few errors of writing, which is especially welcome in a new fiction author. The characters are compelling and the action, when it comes, exciting.

Lieutenant Commander Alex Fotheringday lives with the shame of a coverup over  an attack he instigated on a civilian merchant ship. Fortunately for him, a few years in a  backwater planet on duty and now he has negotiated to command of The Hunter so he can “put things to right” and find out who is behind a network of pirates and mercenaries roving the system. He has set up a deal with his father’s opposition, Admiral Lord Li Yu Benjamin Rippavitch in the highly decorated “Ripper’s Raiders” to command a stealth military ship and search out the leader of the insurgents.

His Imperialist father is not pleased.

The crew for the Hunter is an odd assortment from Able Technician Francis Maria Harpur, a “natural” with no tech implants to a plugged in techno junkie Chief Petty Officer Sinclair, known as Sinner, who is a Wirehead and cyborg. The XO is a gorgeous woman named Samantha Smith who works naval intelligence for the Ripper and his TOMO (Tactical Ops and Marine Officer) Leftenant Rascoine Lord D’Ascoine, also known as Razza Dazza, who is also an Imperial Hierarch of Alex’s vaunted social standing.

Several more round out the crew. The first ten chapters introduce the crew and take a lot of time explaining the political set up and detailing the ship. There is a lot of time spent training in simulations even after lift off, and a lot of time digging through research and mining data for patterns and information trying to uncover the enemy…

or spy on each other.

For the hard science geek, Evans sounds very knowledgeable about military hardware and future technology. A bit too much detail for my taste, but his descriptions lend an authentic feel to the story.

It isn’t until chapter ten that The Hunter finally takes off, tracking down leads and trying to ferret out who the mastermind of the pirate’s network is. However, once the action does start, it is engrossing.

Several alternating chapters reveal the activities of the Waylang terrorists who are following orders of the Dalang, who is the enemy Alex seeks. Part of the gang is comprised of alien shapeshifters and how they go about killing and stealing is interesting.

The plot takes twists and turns as everyone appears to be spying on everyone else and no one is who they say they are.

I enjoyed the story and recommend it for any reader who likes military scifi. My main complaint is that the cover and the title really don’t reflect the military aspect of the story. And most of the action is on board a ship or asteroid. I know that the author is a fan of the Japanese shadow puppetry, and there is a shadowy “puppet master” behind the scenes that Alex is trying to ferret out, but for the most part for me, it was a military mission. Unless you read the story, you don’t realize the odd shapes on the cover are the shape shifting aliens and that could put off the avid military scifi reader.

With that said, the series has just begun and I look forward to reading the next one.

As you can see, my blog’s main purpose is to present to the scifi and fantasy reader stories that I found exceptional in the hopes that you will not have to wade through a public slush pile of books to discover that sparking gem.

However, there are many great novels that never parade past my sight, and those I do recommend are purely personal opinion. You might not like them. I tell you how I chose what I do…

The rest is up to you…

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A Stunning Space Opera

IMG_0174Thirsting for an old fashion kickass space opera with a gritty detective trying to track down a missing rich Earth girl turned Belter rebel as things get weirder and wilder?

Welcome to Leviathan Wakes: Book One in the Expansion Series.

James S. A. Corey is the pen name for Daniel Abraham who wrote the fantasy series The Long Price Quartet, starting with A Shadow in Summer.A Shadow in Summer

Which I enjoyed.

So, I had expectations.

In Leviathan Wakes, two main protagonists form the structure of the story. The first is Detective Miller who works for the Earth company Star Helix Security on Ceres station built on a large astroid deep in the Astroid Belt.

Detective Miller is a Belter who is a cynic and a nihilist and doesn’t have faith in the moral judgement of others. Control of information is how you get others to do what you want and he doesn’t trust anyone else to decide what needs to be done. His current partner is an Earther who is not well received by those of Ceres and he struggles to understand why he is not accepted among them. Living in the Belt creates humans with different mind sets and tension develops between the “Inner Ring” of Mars and Earth and those whose lives have never touched ground or breathed natural air and live in the “Outer Planets.”

Jim Holden is XO on the Canterbury who watches his ship, a civilian ice hauler, blown up when he takes a team to investigate a mayday signal from a stranded ship Scopuli. It’s a setup. Furious, he believes that people should be given the truth and trusts mankind to do the right thing.

An idealist.

So, he broadcasts on full power, “My name is James Holden, and my ship the Canterbury was just destroyed by a warship using stealth technology and what appear to be parts stamped with Martian navy serial numbers. Data stream to follow.”

And starts an interplanetary war.

At first Mars is suspected of engineering a war they most likely can win. But the answer isn’t that simple as big private corporations become involved along with Earth’s daunting military. Events turn strange when Eros station becomes infected with an alien pronto virus and the stakes for humanity escalate as the virus mutates human biomass into different alien forms.

Full of action with interesting characters, I couldn’t put it down. My expectations were met, and exceeded. Along with an interesting mystery story, a bit of romance, some dramatic space fights, threatening aliens, Corey investigates how much and what kinds of information are safe to share.

Leviathan WakesWhich was good since the Northwest was under siege from a massive snowstorm, and I had nothing to distract me and nowhere I could go. I curled up and just enjoyed the story.

Opposite from Scalzi, (see previous blog) Corey’s acknowledgement is a short third of a page and uses first names only when he thanks his New Mexico Critical Mass writers group. It is in an author interview provided later that you realize the George mentioned is George R. R. Martin and the Walter is Walter Jon Williams. The group is more like the science fiction writers’ mafia.

The idea of a writers group is one the fledgling author should consider. Being in a writers group has benefitted me immensely, and while we are yet to be powerhouse names, their ideas and suggestions have been invaluable. A thoughtful and supportive group is an asset to any writer and I recommend joining one.

Also in the interview, the questioner asks Corey how much research did he do on the technical side of things, and how important was it to be realistic and accurate. This is a dilemma most space opera stories have to face. The science has to be believable, but it shouldn’t get in the way of the story. Corey calls it the “working man’s science fiction.” In fact when asked how the Epstein drive works, he answers, “Very well.” And leaves it at that.

It’s a tricky rope to walk when writing about possible future technologies and science. I agree with Corey, that the story is the thing and the science and technology should be believable enough not to interrupt the story.

Because after all, science and technology constantly change. What may seem impossible today, may be probable tomorrow.

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Innovation and Writing Trends in Science Fiction

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I put The Human Division by John Scalzi on my reading list, not realizing it offered the opportunity to discuss current writing trends.

The Human Division takes place in “The Old Man War” universe after Earth realizes it’s been used to supply soldiers and bodies to fight an alien filled universe for the Colonial Defense Force.

The Colonial Union, an association of dozens of planets with a population of billions, took old people from Earth who were ready to die, downloaded their brains into green heavily augmented bodies and inducted them into the military to fight enemy aliens. Upon agreeing to the procedure, the new recruit understands that he will never see Earth again. Everyone he ever knew will consider him dead.

The human DivisionBut now, in the Human Division this lie is revealed and Earth is mad about the deception and may sever all ties from the CDF. The third factor is the Conclave, an association of four hundred alien species once enemies, now formed into a single political unit that wants to dominate all worlds. The Colonial Union wants to prevent the spread of their power and dominance, but needs Earth to supply soldiers.

Pretty standard plot.

What is different here is that Scalzi first presented this novel in an electronic episodic format that he has now turned into a hardcover book.

The first episode/chapter begins with a planned secret meeting between an alien race, the Utche and a Colonial Union ship, the Polk, out in deep space for some clandestine back door negotiations. The Polk arrives three days early and surprises an unknown ship that is setting a trap to disrupt the supposedly secret meeting. The Polk gets fired upon and destroyed; everyone on board is killed, including an important Earth diplomat.

With sixteen hours before the jump plus four hours at the incident spot before the Utche are scheduled to arrive, the CDF calls in a “B” team to find the Polk’s black box and try to learn what happened.

Enter Harry Wilson, wisecracking hero and ex CDF, and Harte Schmidt, junior ambassador and sidekick. Their leader is the abrasive Earth female ambassador, Ode Abumwe. Eight are on the team to find the black box, learn what happened and conclude the negotiations successfully.Th Last Colony

Expectations are not high for a successful completion of the task. Black boxes are notoriously hard to locate in deep space…the black color, and well, Abumwe is not a smooth diplomat.

But the “B” team is the underdog, the misfits, who everyone roots for and how they accomplish their goal makes for an interesting and exciting story.

Chapter one.

The episodic format while interesting has its weaknesses. After the chapter or episode completes, the reader can easily put the book down. The next episode is a piece in the puzzle, but stands alone, often in another point of view or event somewhere else.

One of the techniques many writers often try to employ is to have your chapter ending leave the writer wanting to turn the page, desperate find out what happens next. We don’t want the reader putting down the book. We want the light on under the covers at midnight with an avid reader muttering that he or she has to get sleep while compelled to read on to see what happens next.

That’s what we want. Sometimes it happens.

So the episodic format jerked me around a bit. I easily could put down the book. But then, I would pick it back up because of Scalzi’s plot and characters.

The bantering dialog between Schmidt and Wilson was brilliant…except for the writing style. Whatever big name editor guided Scalzi to use “said” for most of the dialog tags was an idiot. It was very disruptive.

Here’s an example from the first chapter:The Ghost Brigades

“Let’s hope the rest of our people made it to the other escape pods,” Blair said.
“But Evans said–”
“Evans said what he needed to shut us up and get us off the Polk,” Blair said.
Several minutes later he said….”

Now, I was at more than one writing seminar at Willamette Writers a few years back when “professionals” encouraged writers to use “said” for all dialog tags. They claimed it disappears and the readers won’t notice.

Well, it doesn’t. It’s annoying if used too often. I got annoyed.

The current writing style mandates “show, don’t tell.” No one is supposed to even use dialog tags any more. It’s all behavioral clues.

While I agree with this to a certain extent, there are times when you have to tell and get on with the story.

Also, adverbs no longer are allowed. Banned.

Here are examples of each:

Tell:  Luke was angry.
Dialogue tag with adverb: “What did you do now?” Luke asked angrily.
Show: Luke stomped into the room, threw his coat on the sofa and yelled, “What did you do now?”

Okay, the energy is better with just behavioral clues, but notice the word count. Sometimes for the sake of the main plot and the mounting word count, you have to tell and move on. At other times, the action needs to be rich to engage the reader more and the writer should use behavioral clues and show in detail.

But current editors swoop onto any “tell” like an eagle to a mouse and start shaking a finger. A little leeway, please.

Another popular mandate of current editors is to use only the active verb and not anything passive.

“ing”, “was” “had” are a few of the culprits here. Scalzi has four or so “wases” per page and doesn’t flinch from using had or ing words. And Scalzi isn’t the only best selling author to do so.

I would not call his writing passive. It’s full of twists and turns, battles, witty dialog and strong human interaction and relationships.

Plus “ing” may be a participle verb that needs a “was.” If you are describing action in the past, you might need a “had”…otherwise your grammar is incorrect.

Example:

She was skipping home. (lots of action here)
She had skipped home as a young child, now she walked sedately.

Okay, enough style ranting.

In The Human Division each story isn’t of equal quality. On this necklace of a novel, some chapters are diamonds while others are quartz.

While each chapter contains a complete story, when I reached the end of the novel, I still didn’t know who, or what was trying to manipulate a war. I finished without a conclusion. That was not where I wanted my cliffhanger.

Now I’m clutching the edge, ready to fall and hoping he’ll get the next book out before life intervenes or I don’t care any more and fall off the cliff.

Other Scalzi books I recommend:

ps: Redshirts won a Hugo, Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale were nominated for Hugo

Red Shirts

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