Tag Archives: #scifi

Zero Limit, by Jeremy K. Brown

For war hero Caitlin Taggart, mining work on the Moon is dirty, low pay, and high risk. But no risk seems too extreme if it helps her return to Earth and the daughter she loves more than life itself. Offered a dangerous, long shot chance to realize that dream; Caitlin will gamble with more than just her life. By leading a ragtag crew of miners on a perilous assignment to harvest an asteroid, Caitlin could earn a small fortune. More importantly, it would give her clearance to return to Earth. But when an unexpected disaster strikes the mission, Caitlin is plunged into a race to save not only herself, but also every human being on Earth.

Let’s talk about Zero Limit, by Jeremy K. Brown. Definitely a high-stakes read. In a story in which everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Disaster after disaster. Failure after failure. But that’s every space disaster story I’ve ever read or written. At some point, you get this almost “disaster fatigue,” where the scene is set, and you’re like, “who’s gonna die in this chapter?” The first disaster was all “Whoah!” but then subsequent ones were less and less “Whoah,” until they were commonplace.

I’m not sure when this story was written, but as with many scifi stories, Zero Limit critiques the current political brouhaha, and takes it to the next level. The xenophobic actions of the U.S. president sever all travel between the Earth and the Moon, setting up the protagonist for the dangerous prospect that tips over the first disaster domino. And oh boy, do those dominos fall. Did I mention disaster fatigue? There are definitely correlations with current U.S. border policy, and the issue is played out to a conclusion, but, and this is the most important part, the author doesn’t hit us over the head with that plot point. It’s there, and the reader is allowed to draw whatever conclusions they wish. Science fiction allows us to explore the topics of our time, and for many people, U.S. policy is in the forefront of their minds.

The writing is solid, and the writer did enough research that nothing jumped out at me, and I mostly had no problems suspending my disbelief. I did find the constant “stuff going horribly wrong” aspect a little hard to swallow, but what is a space disaster without disaster? All in all, I give Zero Limit 3.75 stars. It’s a good read. I’ll probably check out Ocean of Storms, co-written with Christopher Mari. It, like Zero Limit, are free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Jeremy K. Brown has authored several biographies for young readers, including books on Stevie Wonder and Ursula K. Le Guin. He has also contributed articles to numerous magazines and newspapers, including special issues for TV Guide and the Discovery Channel, and recently edited a collector’s issue on Pink Floyd for Newsweek. He worked for 10 years for WWE, serving as Deputy Editor of WWE Magazine and as a member of the company’s television writing staff. Jeremy published his first novel, Calling Off Christmas, in 2011 and is currently at work on another novel. He lives in New York with his wife and sons.

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Extinct, by RR Haywood

The end of the world has been avoided—for now. With Miri and her team of extracted heroes still on the run, Mother, the disgraced former head of the British Secret Service, has other ideas… While Mother retreats to her bunker to plot her next move, Miri, Ben, Safa and Harry travel far into the future to ensure that they have prevented the apocalypse. But what they find just doesn’t make sense. London in 2111 is on the brink of annihilation. What’s more, the timelines have been twisted. Folded in on each other. It’s hard to keep track of who is where. Or, more accurately, who is when. The clock is ticking for them all. With nothing left to lose but life itself, our heroes must stop Mother—or die trying.

Minor spoilers ahead.

Who doesn’t like a time-travel science fiction book? By book three, we know that the opening scene of Malcolm running through the bunker will actually happen at the very end of the book. And the scene was underwhelming. It was as if the book was done, and some editor was like, “Uh, we don’t have one of those scenes that doesn’t make sense until the end,” and one was shoehorned into the book.

I think that Extinct is the worst of the trilogy. The British Secret Service guys return from book two, and they’re just boring. Every chapter that featured them I just groaned. They started getting interesting in the last 25% or so, but the ending was lacking. If this weren’t the conclusion of the trilogy, then the ending would work, but there are so many characters that are left dangling.

And what the heck is up with Mother? There is absolutely no reason for her to behave the way she does. She’s evil for the sake of being evil. Her motivations are far-fetched, and her motivations don’t even make her hate-able – she’s just a pathetic trope.

But we do get to see Harry killing Nazis, so that’s great. Sigh. The Harry/Emily angst is cringe worthy as well. Konrad is the stereotypical nerd with no redeeming qualities other than- I don’t know- running the portal? Messing up so that the team has to rescue him? Another sigh. Many plot points were hard to suspend disbelief. I know, I know, I’ll buy into time travel, but not plot X…

Extinct wasn’t bad per se, it just felt rushed, and the story wasn’t fully formed. The ending was bunk, and the villains were passé cardboard cutouts of the villain trope. A disappointing three stars for book three. Since they’re all free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, they’re still worth the read.

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RR Haywood was born in Birmingham, England but has spent most of his life living on the beautiful south coast. He has had a passion for reading for as long as he can remember. One of his favourite genres is Post-Apocalyptic fiction and he has worked his way through every book he could find. Some were great and some not so great and what he wanted was a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day detailed exploration of what would happen. This desire to explore the world after such an event gave birth to The Undead, which is now the UK’s bestselling zombie horror series, compared to The Walking Dead and many other great works. This underground smash-hit series draws readers from all walks of life with compelling characters, incredible descriptions and breath taking action sequences that have had readers gripping their kindles, laughing out loud and crying real tears.

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Day Killer, by Clara Coulson

Cal has spent the past three months recovering from his injuries in the wake of the violent scandal that nearly tore DSI apart. Now back in Aurora after a stint in physical therapy, Cal’s trying to get his life back on track, his mind back in shape, and his attitude back in check before he returns to active duty in a few weeks’ time. But when a mysterious vampire shows up half dead at Cal’s apartment, and an old rival warns him that the dangerous Black Knights are plotting a major attack against Aurora, Cal finds himself caught in the middle of an off-the-books case that has the potential to end his career—and his life. With enemies closing in from all sides, and his DSI colleagues left in the dark, Cal has no choice but to trust his instincts, a vampire he just met, and the very man whose savage attack traumatized him forever. Because if he doesn’t, Aurora will fall, and millions of innocents will fall with it.

I knew Day Killer would be awesome. I have yet to read a Clara Coulson City of Crows novel that I didn’t like. I did like that Cal is almost solo in this adventure. I like Erica and Cooper, but it was fun to see Cal do his thing. With the DSI taking a back seat to this adventure, Day Killer is all Cal all the time.

Without spoiling anything, I’m looking forward to reading Cal to be awesome in book six. There has been this rather annoying self-deprecating angle to Cal that while it works as a character flaw, just grates on the nerves. Since the timeline of the books is compressed, it seems as if Cal has been with the DSI a lot longer, and I keep forgetting that he’s the baby crow.

Book five wraps up the main story nicely, teases a little something something about Cooper, and sets up a new world of Cal. I think I liked Day Killer more so than Doom Sayer, and am looking forward to reading Spell Caster this summer. I’m gonna say that this one is the best of the bunch, and five stars is the only rating possible.

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites. In the publishing sphere, Clara is currently occupied with the City of Crows urban fantasy series, and its companion series, Lark Nation.

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Lost Boy, Found Boy by Jenn Polish

In a futuristic world, Neverland is a holomatrix, Hook is a cyborg, and Tinker Bell is an automated computer interface. Peter is desperate to save his lover from a military draft that, unbeknownst to him, Mir volunteered for because they are desperate to be able to fly. So, naturally, Peter programs an entire island—Neverland—as a refuge where Mir can fly without having to fight in a war. But he doesn’t locate Mir right away; instead, he fights for control of the island with automated interface Tinker Bell, and in his attempts to find Mir, others arrive on the island. But Peter’s single-minded focus on Mir generates repercussions for everyone.

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows that I enjoy fairytale retellings. They’d also know that I try to read diverse stories and authors. I’ve had some pretty good reads with Nine Star Press in the past (check out my review of Dali), so when I saw Lost Boy, Found Boy on NetGalley, I figured I’d give it a try. While the idea of Neverland being an escapist virtual construct in a dystopian future of endless war totally jived with the Peter Pan fairytale, the execution fell flat. I think that one of the issues with the story was that the author tried to stick every possible LGBT character that they could.

Peter is a trans boy, who has a romantic interest in his enbyfriend, Mir, and they live in the “boys” section of their space ship. Tinker Bell is a sentient machine (computer program?), identifying as female, who is in a relationship with the lesbian “Wendy.” Captain Hook is a cyborg who has unrequited love for Peter.

Each chapter begins with what I can only assume are Tinker bell’s “thoughts,” but I mostly skipped over them. It started out as a paragraph, and by the end of the story was several kindle pages. With non-human characters, I thought that perhaps the author would explore transhumanism or technological singularity, but that didn’t pan out. (ha ha, get it?)

The story was convoluted with this dystopian space war and before they could get drafted, they enlisted so that “they could fly.” The motivations and the world that they lived in were sparse, and perhaps worldbuilding would’ve improved the story. I also think that the sheer volume of LGBT characters was just too much. I think that that more than anything would be a turn off for cis and/or heteronormative readers. Which is a shame, because as LGBT characters and fiction become more prevalent, people grow more accustomed to the idea, and those that see LGBT persons as “other” become more accepting through mere exposure.

There were just too many checkmarks in the “needs improvement” column for Lost Boy, Found Boy. It’s hard to quantify my feelings on this story with a star rating. I really did not enjoy the story, and with so many issues, it should be a two-star rating, and thusly, not reviewed on this blog. My ire isn’t up enough to give it two stars, and rage-blog a two-star story like I’ve done in the past, and some of the flaws I perceived might be plusses to an LGBT reader. I think in the end, I’ll award Lost Boy, Found Boy three stars, and say that I’m disappointed at opportunities missed.

Hi hey hello! My name’s Jenn Polish (they/them pronouns, please!), and I write things! Welcome! Welcome to the strange inner workings of my nerdy, dragon-loving, superhero-oriented, lesbian fairy tale-spinning mind. I’m a New Yorker (Queens pride!!) who’s been writing about as long as I’ve been playing basketball (so, a long time). When I’m not writing, I’m teaching writing — and learning a lot about it, because my students are absolutely brilliant — at CUNY LaGuardia Community College. In addition to teaching writing, I am immensely proud to teach in the Theatre Program at LAGCC.

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One Way, by S.J. Morden

ONE WAY opens at the dawn of a new era – one in which we’re ready to colonize Mars. But the contract to build the first ever Martian base has been won by the lowest bidder, so they need to cut a lot of corners. The first thing to go is the automatic construction… the next thing they’ll have to deal with is the eight astronauts they’ll sent up to build it, when there aren’t supposed to be any at all. Frank – father, architect, murderer – is recruited for the mission with the promise of a better life, along with seven of his most notorious fellow inmates. As his crew sets to work, the accidents mount up, and Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all. As the list of suspects grows shorter, it’s up to Frank to uncover the terrible truth before it’s too late.

A murder mystery set on Mars? Yeah, I’m in. NetGalley has been pretty bad lately, so it was nice to see a book in my wheelhouse. The science was hard enough to interest sci-fi nerds, but not so technical that it was like reading a service manual. It’s pretty easy for the reader to figure out “whodunit,” but watching the characters figure it out was fun to read. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I pretty much knew whom the murderer was when the crew wakes up on Mars. The writer tries to deflect, but I held on tight to my suspicions. There are these “classified documents” that adorn each chapter, and while they do dump information, I felt that methodology of info dumping and foreshadowing to be distracting and unnecessary.

The book is compared to Andy Weir’s The Martian, and although One Way happens on Mars and stuff goes sideways, they are very different stories. Publishers like to compare their new acquisition to a genre standard, but the fans know the difference between a murder mystery and a survival story. Publishers also like to tout things like the author was “trained as a rocket scientist” to lend credibility. Often, this is to get around some flaw in the writing or story. I live in a community that has an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where they literally train rocket scientists, and they’re about the dumbest bunch of entitled hacks I’ve ever met. This doesn’t seem to be the case for One Way, but since we’re comparing it to Andy Weir’s The Martian, Weir never worked as a rocket scientist, and had to do extensive research to get the science right – and for the most part, Weir’s writing was accurate.

But I digress. I enjoyed One Way. I knocked it out in two days, which is a testament to how much I enjoyed it. The ending isn’t wrapped up in a pretty bow, but it is satisfying. I look forward to reading No Way. Four stars, and recommended to science fiction and/or murder mystery fans.

Dr. Simon Morden is a bona fide rocket scientist, having degrees in geology and planetary geophysics. Unfortunately, that sort of thing doesn’t exactly prepare a person for the big wide world of work: he’s been a school caretaker, admin assistant, and PA to a financial advisor. He’s now employed as a part-time teaching assistant at a Gateshead primary school, which he combines with his duties as a househusband, attempting to keep a crumbling pile of Edwardian masonry upright, wrangling his two children and providing warm places to sleep for the family cats. As well as a writer, he’s been the editor of the British Science Fiction Association’s writers’ magazine Focus, a judge for the Arthur C Clarke awards, and is a regular speaker at the Greenbelt Arts Festival on matters of faith and fiction. In 2009, he was in the winning team for the Rolls Royce Science Prize.

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Fate of the Stars, by Arwen Paris

When the fate of the world rests upon you… Allison Delaney wants to spend her senior year healing from the loss of her father, to leave the shadows of his death and her junior year break-down behind. A Labor Day beach party seems like a good place to start…but there’s more danger lurking than anyone could imagine. Death is coming to Earth if the pods of infectious creatures aren’t stopped. But only one human can help… To live or die is no longer a choice. Eenoki is a protector of life but must have a sentient host to fight the invasion. A teenage girl would not be the best choice, but out of desperation Eenoki invades Allison’s mind and body, granting her unnatural abilities and strengths – and helping her escape certain death when the first wave of pods land. As destruction rains down on Earth’s population, Allison realizes to save everyone, she must make the ultimate choice: Reject her human side and bond with Eenoki to become the Earth’s Priestess – or be killed along with the rest of humanity.

Sigh. ALIENS INVADE EARTH! If only there were a human that a helpful alien entity could occupy and be the savior of mankind. What’s this? A 17-year old girl who just suffered a tragedy and is wise beyond her years because of it. She’s an outcast because of something she did? No worries, the smoldering hot guy is secretly in love with her and will abandon all reason to help her on her quest to get rid of the aliens.

Don’t worry, another alien race comes along and wants to not only rid the Earth of the alien invasion, but DESTROY HUMANITY to save the galaxy. The melding or possession or whatever won’t quite work, so the 17-year old girl will only have some of the powers required to defeat both alien interlopers. She’ll have just enough power to be a threat to other humans, but not accepted by the aliens, even though this sort of thing is how their religion works.

Like young adult readers see things, everything in Fate of the Stars is in black and white. Good and evil. Popular and outcast. The writing is at times concise, but other times, it’s rather purple. While I could understand why young adult readers might relate to this, the fact that the story happened to Allison, instead of her driving the story was a disappointment. The story was campy, but in a good way.

Allison was understandable in the beginning, but became more and more angsty and annoying as the story progressed. The rest of the humans are cardboard cutouts, including the best friend and smoldering hunk. There was just so much waffling in this story. The story sets up a bunch of great ideas, and then pitches those ideas out the window in favor of YA cliché.

I think that the series has some great potential. Fate of the Stars is Arwen Paris’ debut novel, and that shows. It’s not a dig on the author, and I suspect that more novels in the series will only get better as the author figures out what she wants to write. I dissed the story in the first two paragraphs, but that’s because I’ve read this exact same story by other authors, and they did a better job. I’m confident that with a few more books to her credit, Arwen Paris will be an excellent author. I’d totally read the next book in the series, and look forward to what this author has in store for the future. Three and a half stars.

Arwen Paris is the author of young adult fiction. Her debut YA Sci-fi Urban Fantasy novel FATE OF THE STARS released September 1, 2017. The second book in the Fate of the Stars series RIVAL is coming in 2018. The actions packed pages of her novels are filled with characters that are forced to face fears they never expected. When she’s not writing, you can see posts of her (too many) vacations that keep her sane. Arwen lives in Washington, has a big crazy family & after the day job, she writes Fiction For the Fearless – #F3Fanatic

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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.

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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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