Tag Archives: #scifi

The Way We Fall, by Megan Crewe

It starts with an itch you just can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in. And then you’re dead. When sixteen-year-old Kaelyn lets her best friend leave for school without saying goodbye, she never dreams that she might not see him again. Then a strange virus begins to sweep through her small island community, infecting young and old alike. As the dead pile up, the government quarantines the island: no one can leave, and no one can come back. Cut off from the world, the remaining islanders must fend for themselves. Supplies are dwindling, fatalities rising, and panic is turning into violence. With no cure in sight, Kaelyn knows their only hope of survival is to band together. Desperate to save her home, she joins forces with a former rival and opens her heart to a boy she once feared. But as the virus robs her of friends and family, Kaelyn realizes her efforts may be in vain. How can she fight an enemy that’s too small to see?

After reading the Earth & Sky series, I had an idea what to expect from The Way We Fall. Crewe writes teen characters that seem realistic in the way that teens see themselves. In YA, a common trope is that the teens are as smart as the adults, if only they’d get a chance to shine. The teen (or teens) get the chance to “show up” the adults with their unique way of looking at things. I really enjoyed that after all the effort and angst that Kaelyn put into finding the link, her dad is like, “Yeah, we figured that out weeks ago.”

It’s not that I don’t find smart teens to be unrealistic- my own teen confounds me with some bit of logic from time to time. But teens are just too inexperienced to really shine in the way they they think they should. Which is fine, people need time to make mistakes and learn and grow. YA novels attempt to force the protagonist to grow up by inserting tragedy – often by the loss of a parent. I saw in the reviews that someone complained about one of the teens being a budding expert in botany. I do not find this aspect to be unbelievable at all – teens are definitely driven, with a single-mindedness that often confounds. With my own teen enrolled in an agribusiness and equine high school, with dual enrollment in a community college, I’ve seen teens that know a heck of a lot more than I do in those fields.

The setting and premise of The Way We Fall is an interesting one: An unknown virus affects the inhabitants of an isolated community, and everything goes sideways, including those responsible for keeping everyone safe. Nothing new there – people have been writing about that forever. The story ends without much resolved – a pet peeve of mine. But, it’s a common trope, so I grumble and move on.

Megan Crewe writes well, and the re-release doesn’t have any of the typos I’ve come to expect from Disney-Hyperion. Like most YA, the language and vocabulary is simple. Also like most YA, there is quite a bit of teenage angst. As often with series books picked up by a large publisher, the first is a true glimpse to what the writer intended, and later books seem to have the spark revised out. I’m definitely curious how subsequent books in the series fare. I’d rate The Way We Fall 3.75 stars, and I’ll read the next book in the series as soon as I can get ahold of it. With the entire series being available own Kindle Unlimited, that should be pretty soon.

megan-crewe

Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and son (and does on occasion say “eh”), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she’s spent the last six years studying kung fu, so you should probably be nice to her. She has been making up stories about magic and spirits and other what ifs since before she knew how to write words on paper. These days the stories are just a lot longer.

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Traveler in the Dark, by Deidre Gould

Sixteen hundred years ago, they fled Earth. Now their long journey may finally be at an end. None of them have ever walked on soil, felt rain, or breathed unrecycled air. Their resources nearly spent, they sent a last exploratory mission to a new planet. It’s ideal… but they are not alone. In the struggle for survival, they must make a choice. Sacrifice another species or accept their own extinction. And time is running out.
 

I liked the concept of Deidre Gould’s Traveler in the Dark. I found the story engrossing, and it was hard to put down as life’s demands took away my precious reading time. I found the portrayal of the multi-generational surveyors and their initial reaction to the alien planet after a lifetime aboard a spacefaring habitat to be quite believable, and in line with expectations based on my studies of human behavior.

What I did find a little hard to swallow was the “villain.” In Traveler in the Dark, the villain is not really a person or a group of persons, but a thought. An idea. Albeit an extreme form of environmentalism, it’s presented in such a way that rings true to extremist behaviors. The reader is allowed an almost child-like naiveté through the actions of Issk’ath. The trope of an alien intelligence trying to understand humanity, and humanity’s distrust of that intelligence has been done many times, and I enjoyed Gould’s take on the subject.

The writing did suffer from a major issue though. The characters are briefly introduced by first and last name, referred to in dialog by other characters by first name (or nickname), and the author’s narration by last name. By the end of the book, I still had a hard time telling who was who. I found this handling of the names to be confusing, and not consistent with my experience as a sailor since most, if not all, space fiction is based on naval traditions and terms.

Considering my reviews in the past, I’d think that this book would be a four-star read, but for some reason, I just grokked this story. I’m eager to read more books in the series, but I’m afraid that they will pale in comparison. I’m not a fan of environmentalism novels—Ben Bova and Kim Stanley Robinson have both killed a story by being too heavy handed on the environmentalism. I’m gonna go ahead and award five stars. The story is not without its flaws, but I think it’s a solid read.

Deirdre Gould lives in Central Maine with her three children and husband. She’s also resided in northern Idaho, coastal Virginia and central Pennsylvania, but all of them just led her back home.The winters sure are cold, but that just means the zombies run slower. The area is isolated, but that just means the apocalyptic diseases don’t spread as quickly. And the storms are bad enough that no one thinks you’re crazy for “prepping.” It’s kind of ideal for a post-apocalypse writer when you think about it.

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Prime Meridian, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Amelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life. It awaits her.
 

With Prime Meridian, I expected a space sci-fi, but ended up with a life drama. I liked the dystopian world that Amelia lives in. It’s so poignant and tells a story we’ve heard time and time again in real life. She was on track for a stable life, and then everything went sideways. The years rolled forward, and she finds herself in a situation many of us face every day. But she still dreams of Mars.

Sometimes, it’s hard to like Amelia, but as in life, no one is perfect, except on Facebook. The relationship between Amelia and Lucía is so wonderfully written, and so “real,” I wonder if it is the fictionalization of actual events. I applaud writers that can pack so much story into a novella, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia does just that. The division between the haves and the have nots is perfectly realized in this novella.

Prime Meridian is a powerful novella, and although the cover and description led me astray, I’m glad that I got to read this excellent novella. Definitely a four-star read.

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, about music, magic and Mexico City, won a Copper Cylinder Award and was nominated for the British Fantasy, Locus, Aurora and Sunburst awards. Her second novel, Certain Dark Things, is a noir with Mexicans vampires. She co-edited the anthology She Walks in Shadows (winner of the World Fantasy Award) and is an editor at the magazine The Dark.
 

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The Burning Light, by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Disgraced government operative Colonel Chu is exiled to the flooded relic of New York City. Something called the Light has hit the streets like an epidemic, leavings its users strung out and disconnected from the mind-network humanity relies on. Chu has lost everything she cares about to the Light. She’ll end the threat or die trying. A former corporate pilot who controlled a thousand ships with her mind, Zola looks like just another Light-junkie living hand to mouth on the edge of society. She’s special though. As much as she needs the Light, the Light needs her too. But, Chu is getting close and Zola can’t hide forever.

The Burning Light, by Bradley P. Beaulieu has a lot of plusses on the balance sheet. The tale of Manhattan post-apocalypse is fleshed out in such a short story. The division of society we experience today continues in this futaure. Even the villain makes sense with a back story that makes her drive to eradicate Zola, and the Light believable. But, what the heck is the Light? Is it a drug? Is it some sort of AI gone rogue? Is it an ancient evil bent on enslaving humanity? Is it angelic grace from the TV show Supernatural? After reading, and ruminating on the story, I still have no idea what it was.

While the characters were written well, and they all passed the sniff test, they weren’t relatable. I wasn’t able to connect with any of them. I didn’t care if the light did whatever the light was trying to do. I didn’t care if Chu killed the junkies or Zola. The ending was a letdown. I’m not sure if the author intended the ending to be happy or sad, or what… I didn’t get it.

I’m glad that TOR is producing more novellas, and they seem to have a decent digital price point. I think The Burning Light shows just how difficult it is to create a deep story within the constraints of short fiction. Despite my complaints, I’d still recommend reading The Burning Light. I’d rate it at four stars, and I look forward to reading more novellas from TOR.

Bradley P. Beaulieu began writing his first fantasy novel in college, but life eventually intervened. As time went on, though, Brad realized that his love of writing and telling tales wasn’t going to just slink quietly into the night. The drive to write came back full force in the early 2000s, at which point Brad dedicated himself to the craft, writing and learning under the guidance of writers like Nancy Kress, Joe Haldeman, Tim Powers, Holly Black, and many more. Brad and his novels have garnered  many accolades including two Hotties—the Debut of the Year and Best New Voice—on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination for The Winds of Khalakovo.

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Space Combat

This is sort of a reply to Linn Fergus’ recent post on space combat. My friend, Eric Larson, and I discuss a variety of things, and space combat happens to be one of them. He helped come up with this treatise. Here are the seven prompts worked into these 990 words: Terrible Minds, #SoCS, A Beautiful Mess, #52weeks52stories, The Writing Reader, Write on Wednesday, and #FFC2018. This isn’s officially part of Days Until Home, but it could be…
 

“There is a lot of space, more of it than humans can comprehend. If every person in this room had a billion children, each child could have their own area of space a billion miles wide, and we’d still have plenty of space left. So fighting for control of space is stupid. Armed conflict is most often a result of scarcity of resources, and space is a resource we have in unfathomable abundance. Why risk death, and spend resources for any piece of space, when you can just go have this other,” Jeremy Thompkins waved his hand to the side, “empty space next door?”

He leaned forward, and gripped the lectern. “What is scarce, and worth fighting for, is land. Rocky moons that we can reach are a major hassle, and we need rocky moons to make everything from space stations to underwear.” Jeremy paused as a smattering of laughter rippled through the room. “‘Hassle’ doesn’t quite cover it; these moons are like winning the lottery. These are the resources people will continue to fight over, and die for. Which brings us to the only space worth fighting for: orbital space.”

“Controlling orbital space around a moon or planet controls the resources below. From orbit you can knock out most communications, much of their surveillance of the surface, and even hamper their ability to navigate. Not to mention dropping kinetic projectiles on their infrastructure with devastating effect.” Jeremy’s knuckles turned white for a moment as he gripped the lectern. Hopefully, he thought, none of these fresh-faced contracts will experience what I did in Australia. He continued, “Sixteen days is the record that a population on the surface has held out while an embargo force controlled orbital space above. That was because the besieging force was limited, and they wanted to capture as much of the infrastructure intact as possible. No sense having to take time building new stuff if you can just use their stuff. Which was only partially successful in this case since the defenders engaged in “scorched earth” tactics – destroying or sabotaging their facilities before surrendering. This has been the last resort tactic of a retreating defender for centuries.”
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The Good Guys, by Steven Brust

Donovan was shot by a cop. For jaywalking, supposedly. Actually, for arguing with a cop while black. Four of the nine shots were lethal—or would have been, if their target had been anybody else. The Foundation picked him up, brought him back, and trained him further. “Lethal” turns out to be a relative term when magic is involved. When Marci was fifteen, she levitated a paperweight and threw it at a guy she didn’t like. The Foundation scooped her up for training too. “Hippie chick” Susan got well into her Foundation training before they told her about the magic, but she’s as powerful as Donovan and Marci now. They can teleport themselves thousands of miles, conjure shields that will stop bullets, and read information from the remnants of spells cast by others days before. They all work for the secretive Foundation…for minimum wage. Which is okay, because the Foundation are the good guys. Aren’t they?

So I feel it necessary to emphasize that I got an early copy via NetGalley. I think that perhaps the publisher should’ve waited until after another edit before making ARCs available. I must assume that the edited version to come out in March 2018 will have fixed many of the issues I encountered. And issues there were many. Including editing notations within the body of the text. Indies are universally panned for the slightest faux pas, and there is this feeling by both readers and publishers that indie publishers are somehow not good enough to get a traditional publishing contract. There are a lot of people who see self-publishing as garbage. While I’ve read some really wonderful indie books over the years, I’ve run into some real clunkers. Stories full of clichéd storytelling, bad formatting, and an overall inferior product. Those books don’t usually end up on this blog. For every 100 books I do read and review, there are probable 25 or so that I don’t finish.

The Good Guys may have well been one of those poorly published indie works that so many people poo-poo. The story premise wasn’t bad: A team of secret underpaid people track down rogue magic practitioners in modern America (and Europe) and give the smack-down to those that don’t come quietly. Yep, read that story time and again – and by better authors. I’ve been told that the author of The Good Guys, Steven Brust, is quite popular. I’ve never read any of his other works before. But The Good Guys was terrible. Not terrible enough to DNF, but it was a grind to finish reading. Many of my complaints were likely the result of some very poor formatting and/or editing. The POV seemed all over the place. I’m not sure if there was just some missing scene break art or what, but I found myself having to re-read to figure out whose POV I was reading. On top of that, of the many character POVs, one was in first person, while the rest were in third-person perspective. The singular first-person perspective makes sense at the very end of the book, but while reading it, it’s just annoying. I’d rather read the exact same story from Clara Coulson. A much more polished manuscript, and frankly, a better story – one not full of dated clichés, and views better left in the 1950s.

My suggestion is to skip the overpriced TOR ebook (I just looked, $13? What the fucking fuck, TOR?), and get all four City of Crows books by Clara Coulson. Coulson’s stories are better, and for only a dollar more, you get a much longer and more satisfying read. I would probably check out another book by Brust, but if it’s a stinking turd like this one, I’m out. I’m not just disappointed by this book; I’m offended that anyone would put it out there. Two stars is my rating, and unless the rest of this review is unclear about how I feel, don’t waste your money on The Good Guys.

Steven Karl Zoltán Brust (born November 23, 1955) is an American fantasy and science fiction author of Hungarian descent. He was a member of the writers’ group The Scribblies, which included Emma Bull, Pamela Dean, Will Shetterly, Nate Bucklin, Kara Dalkey, and Patricia Wrede, and also belongs to the Pre-Joycean Fellowship.

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The Sigma Imperative, by Greg Dragon

Human/synth relations are suffering… And Dhata Mays is stepping in. Two years after stopping a wicked serial killer, former detective Dhata Mays is called in to investigate a kidnapping. After all, he’s the new “fixer” in town. But when Dhata discovers that there’s more at stake than a missing woman, he knows he’s up against an evil entity that might destroy everything. With help from his partners, Dhata uncovers a plot that not only involves genocide, but a brand new model of android. It’s the final hour and time is running out, but can Dhata Mays pull a hat trick, and bring an end to the synth crisis?

So, you got a fancy e-reader for Christmas, and are looking for great sci-fi to fill that precious storage… Use one of those Amazon gift cards you got and purchase Greg Dragon’s The Synth Crisis series. Personally, I think seven bucks for all the books is a steal. (For those of you that rock the dead tree versions, $36 is nothing to energize your reading.) Greg’s past experience as a relationship blogger shines through with realistic depictions of character interactions, especially when examining xenophobia, substance abuse, and the lengths someone will go to protect what’s important to them.

I’ve worked with Greg in the past on fiction collaborations, and it was his action-packed writing with flawed protagonists who present as real people that attracted me to his writing. From space opera to futuristic urban mystery to fantasy, there doesn’t seem to be a genre or topic that Greg is unable to tackle. Whether it be futuristic Tampa, Florida; a spaceship on a mining mission; galaxy-hopping soldiers; or an urban gangster getting what’s his, Greg Dragon writes it all. (And to be perfectly honest, I’m a little envious of his writing chops.)

After two paragraphs, I haven’t even talked about The Sigma Imperative. (Which like The Unsung Frame, and The Judas Cypher, the meaning behind the title is revealed in the last third of the book.) This is because I don’t need to. Anyone who has read the first two books in the series already know that the third book is going to be awesome. Anyone who has read Greg’s other works, but hasn’t read The Synth Crisis, knows that they’ll enjoy it.

Like books one and two, I devoured The Sigma Imperative in quick order. Greg continues the five-star writing, and I dare say that The Sigma Imperative (and the first two books) is a Netflix original series just waiting to happen. I can easily see each book being a limited-run series. Go order it, and the rest of Greg Dragon’s work. You will not be disappointed.

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Greg Dragon has been a creative writer for several years, and has authored on topics of relationship, finance, physical fitness and more through different sources of media. In particular, his online magazine has been a source of much pragmatic information, which has been helpful to many. As a result, his work continues to grow with a large and loyal fan base.

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