Book Review: Contest

contest

Cover art for Matthew Reilly’s novel “Contest.”

Sometime last summer, I wrote a short piece of fiction on this blog, and one of the comments made about it was that it was vaguely reminiscent of Matthew Reilly’s novel Contest.

Intrigued, I discovered that my local public library system had a copy, so I checked it out and started reading (however, I forgot to write a review until now).

Actually, the novel was originally self-published in 1996 when Reilly was age 19. Then Cate Paterson, a commissioning editor from Pan Macmillan, found a copy of in a bookstore and subsequently signed Reilly to a two-book deal. Apparently, Reilly had success with later novels as well.

Reilly is an Australian, but he chose to set his tale in New York City, specifically the main branch of the New York City Public Library (which was featured at the beginning of the 1984 film Ghostbusters), and his main characters are New York natives, which is where he starts to get into trouble.

Actually, I liked the book, but he introduced plot holes big enough for me to walk through, and he occasionally called things like the trunk of a car “the boot,” not keeping it straight in his mind that the people thinking these thoughts were American.

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The Last Invader

cybercafe

Exterior shot of the Suyash Cybercafe in Mumbai, India

Twenty-seven-year-old Alicia Vasquez rapidly manipulated the keyboard in front of her at the cybercafé in Mumbai, not far from Mahim Bay. She’d left Ranbir at a local cinema watching that superhero movie while she arranged for the two of them to join the next Chadar Trek. The fellow who’d died of a heart attack a week ago in Ladakh had put off most of the tourists, at least temporarily, so she was able to get a discount.

However, that man, wasn’t just a man, he was resistance, like her, and his death wasn’t accidental. Alicia would use Ranbir as a pawn, planting an electronic signature on him indicating he was the agent, not her. If the ancient alien machine hidden in the Tibb Cave detected the sign and attacked, she’d have time to plant the detonator, ending the ancient alien invader’s resurrection forever. Long live the human resistance.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 148.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Mumbai, India. Mumbai, formerly Bombay, has such a long and rich history, there are many stories that could be told. I looked up news items for Mumbai and came up with Dead trekker’s family urges caution from “The Times of India.” Apparently, a 35-year-old man participating in the Chadar Trek, a ten-day hike across a frozen river bed at extreme altitudes with temperatures reaching -35 degrees F, and with hazards such as oxygen deprivation, perished of a heart attack near Tibb Cave.

With no disrespect to him or his grieving family, I used this as the jumping off point for my wee tale of the potential revival of an ancient alien threat and the long-lived human resistance attempting to eradicate the last strongholds of the extraterrestrial machines.

Find out more about the trek at MountainIQ.com.

Oh, I used the Suyash Cyber Cafe as the scene for my story.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

By the way, now that my first two short stories have been accepted for publication, I’ll probably have less time for many of these online challenges, as I’m redoubling my effort in creating tales to submit to anthologies and periodicals. I’ll still be around from time to time, though.

Being Published in the Anthology “World War Four”

zpp ww4

Promotional image for Zombie Pirate Publishing’s “World War Four” anthology

Fantastic news. On the heels of receiving an email saying that my first story was accepted for an anthology on Sunday morning, yesterday, I received the following:

Thanks for contributing to WORLD WAR FOUR. When we started Zombie Pirate Publishing in 2017, we could not have guessed at the enthusiastic support we would get from writers around the world. WORLD WAR FOUR received more than forty submissions. We thank you for your contribution.

We really enjoyed your submission Joey and would like to inform you it will be included in the publication released March 1st. Congratulations!

Yes, Adam Bennett and Sam M. Phillips at Zombie Pirate Publishing accepted my short story “Joey” for their World War Four (yes, you read that right) anthology, due to be published March 1, 2019.

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The Girl He Left Behind: A Short Space Opera

girl

– Kelogsloops @ Instagram

Twenty-five-year-old Lance Andrew Cain immersed himself in Miranda’s psychedelic beauty, his love’s long, white mane sensuously lifting and waving in a thermal updraft, while globules of incandescent plasma rose with her, surrounding her, isolating the both of them from the ravages of the Lorav Nebula, and cold space beyond.

He raised his hands, as from each fingertip, a monarch butterfly, wings painted in the hues of precious gems, soared away from him, dancing around her alabaster form, her full, pendulous breasts, kissing the crimson that shaded her eyes, her cheeks, her lips. He was in an ecstasy of longing, and unfulfilled, his spirit remained suspended between paradise and mundane.

Then the officer saw the twin white chevrons on the sleeve of his royal blue jacket and remembered, and remembering thus, his darling’s vision froze, stuttered momentarily, and then vanished back into digital oblivion. Once again the Lieutenant JG in the service of the Fifth Legion of Garissann, aboard the space cruiser “The Dread of Issac,” was alone.

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Melting

sinking

© Kayla Erin

“Why are you doing this to me?” Charlotte was terrified as she felt herself slowly dissolving. Where was she? How had she gotten here?

“I promise, it’s for the best.” His voice was soothing, melodic, and sensual. His touch…she could feel hands, but not hands, caressing her body, touching her everywhere, probing every part of her.

“Please don’t.”

He didn’t stop. She hated him, hated what he was doing to her, but it was so much more intense than any sex she’d ever had, even with her husband. How could she hate it and it still felt so exciting?

“Stop it! Don’t! Please! She climaxed three times, wailing and writhing, and then what she felt became more intense, but in a completely different way.

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The Secret of NYU Flight 4

project mogul balloon

Project Mogul was an US Airforce secret project to detect nuclear test acoustically with microphones mounted on high altitude balloons – Photo found at factrepublic.com

“Weather balloon my ass,” groused Bill Brazel, who was the first to find the wreckage. “Ain’t no weather balloon with all that machinery attached.”

“You settle down and eat your dinner and don’t stick your nose in the government’s business.” Bill’s wife Ethel sat down at the table with her own plate of stew.

“Trying to keep me out of trouble?”

Her face softened into a smile as she patted his forearm. “Just don’t want my husband getting mixed up in such things.”

“You’ve always been so good to me.” The cowboy smiled back.

The new Ethel’s thoughts drifted to the pod hidden in the corner of their basement, feeding off of the corpse of the original woman. Tonight it would duplicate and replace Bill. Tomorrow, they’d go to work on their neighbors, all thanks to the alien spores which had been inadvertently captured by the failed high altitude balloon.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image/location and use it as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Roswell, New Mexico. Naturally, my first thought was of the 1947 Roswell UFO Incident. While the government claimed it was a weather balloon that had crashed, by the 1970s and beyond, conspiracy theorists spread various ideas about one or more alien spaceships having been found near Roswell, and that the government had covered it up.

Actually, there was a government cover up, but no aliens were involved. It was a balloon that had crashed, but it was part of Project Mogul which “was a top secret project by the US Army Air Forces involving microphones flown on high-altitude balloons, whose primary purpose was long-distance detection of sound waves generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests.” The object that crashed was “a Project Mogul balloon, probably NYU Flight 4 launched June 4, 1947. Unlike a weather balloon, the Project Mogul paraphernalia was massive and contained unusual types of materials,” so it could have looked alien to the untrained eye.

I also leveraged the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If the alien takeover began near Roswell just over 70 years ago, would there be any humans left by now?

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Oh, ranch foreman Bill Brazel was the first person to find the wreckage, but the dialog and everything else about the scene in which I depict him is fictional.

The Visitor’s Invitation

strange moon

Image credit: Google Images

It happened just that fast. One moment, the three brothers, having just reloaded their Celestron NexStar telescope back in the camper, were about to put out their campfire and call it a night, and the next they were facing the phenomenon.

“This couldn’t be because we’ve been observing the object.” Forty-five year old Jake was the oldest and the first to get the amateur astronomy bug when he was in high school. “I mean, it’s not that close.”

“Not yet, but…” Terry forgot what he was about to say at that moment as he continued to stare at the glowing sphere. At thirty-nine, he was the “baby” of the family, but also the only one whose marriage lasted.

“But nothing. It’s got to be from the object.” Stan worked as a chemical engineer, so was the brother who came closest to being a professional scientist.

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The Next Soldiers

nuclear winter

Depiction of the effects of a nuclear winter” – Found at the New York Times

Abracadabra,” enchanted fourteen-year-old Elazaro Motyka as he sat under an almond tree overlooking the Port of Haifa, but the sea breeze blowing into the park overlooking the old University was still too cold. Even the magic word his American neighbor taught him didn’t work against the last vestige of nuclear winter, but he hadn’t expected it to.

It had been thirty years since the last war. He managed to avoid most of the stories his zayde told him of whether it was India or Pakistan that fired the nukes first and then pulled in the Chinese, Europeans, and Americans, blah, blah, blah. It was bad enough that they taught about it in school. The present worried him a lot more than the past.

That made him rather atypical among his classmates, since most of them loved to listen to any of the people who were alive during the Third World War. It was a reminder of the last time that even in stupidly killing millions, humanity had been free.

“Hey, Elazaro!”

He looked down to see Inaya making the arduous climb up the hill to his lookout. She was a grade behind him but liked to brag that she was more mature than he was, as if that made her better than him.

“Hey, Inaya. Did you bring lunch?” On days when they didn’t have school, they met in the park to eat and talk.

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Going Up

swing

Image credit Gamze Bozkaya via Unsplash

“Get back here, Deric! Do it now!”

The minute Enoch Fischer noticed the boy was missing, he knew there’d be trouble, but he didn’t suspect that not only had some fool strung up a swing at the edge of the cliff, but that the fifteen-year-old would use it.

“Relax. I’m fine. Can’t I have some fun once in a while?” The boy turned his head around as far as he could, but Enoch still could hardly hear him.

“That’s not fun, it’s suicide. Get off this instant.”

“Poor choice of words on your part, Dad.” He was laughing, taunting his adoptive father the way he had since he was able to walk. At the apex of the arc out into empty air, Deric pulled himself up by the ropes, twisted, and then falling, grabbed the seat with both hands. On the return swing, his legs were low enough to drag on the dirt and grass pulling him to a stop.

“You should have seen the look on your face.” He stood and swatted dust off of his pant legs, still laughing at the effect his stunt had on the older man.

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The Amazing Adventures of Clayton and Julia

hanger

Empty aircraft hangar in Algiers, Algeria – Photo credit unavailable.

“The hangar lacks any conventional aircraft, but then, we didn’t come here for conventional aircraft, did we?”

“Clayton, you’re out of your mind. You don’t even know if it will fly.”

“My dearest Julia, it’s been sitting in this rust trap for over half a century, but I’ll bet my right family jewel this thing will take us to the stars.”

“Don’t call me dearest. I’m your co-pilot, not your girlfriend.”

“Figure of speech, love. Figure of speech.

He liked the way she complained when he teased her, but then his manners with women had always been lax.

“How did you find this again?”

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