Book Review: “The Collapsar Directive”

collapsar

Cover art for the anthology “The Collapsar Directive

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this anthology on the condition that I would write and publish a review. I have also had a short story and a piece of flash fiction published by Zombie Pirate Publishing, but none of my stories appear in the anthology I am reviewing, The Collapsar Directive.

Actually, the anthology’s title is taken from a story written by Adam Bennett, co-founder of Zombie Pirates, called “The Sword and The Damocles,” a tale about two interconnected intergalactic spacecraft. Like many of the short stories in the anthology, I found it to be “okay,” but not particularly remarkable. Of course “Collapsar” was published a few years back, and I know that many of the authors have since honed their writing skills.

Mel Newmin’s “Looking at the Face of God” had a nice twist to it, but I objected to the idea of releasing zoo animals back to the wild, since animals kept in captivity often lose their ability to fend for themselves in an untamed environment. Once the big reveal occurs, the results become interesting, but then science fiction does sometimes have the created confront their creator.

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Review of Octavia E. Butler’s Novel “Parable of the Sower” (2000)

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Cover art for the novel “Parable of the Sower”

“THERE ISN’T A PAGE IN THIS VIVID AND FRIGHTENING STORY THAT FAILS TO GRIP THE READER”.

— SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

GRIPPING…POIGNANT…SUCCEEDS ON MULTIPLE LEVELS

— NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

This highly acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel of hope and terror from award-winning author Octavia E. Butler “pairs well with 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale” (John Green, New York Times)–now with a new foreword by N. K. Jemisin.

I’ve heard the name Octavia E. Butler for some time now, and have been meaning to read one or more of her books. She has an interesting background and is generally considered one of the most important science fiction authors of her generation, particularly as a woman of color. Sadly, she passed away in 2006, although the cause is attributed either to a stroke or a head injury acquired during a fall.

Here’s more about her:

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What the Heck is a “Neffy Award?”

neffy

Screen capture of a portion of Mike Glyer’s online fanzine “File 770”

Having (finally) successfully subscribed to Mike Glyer’s File 770 online SciFi fan newzine, I find that most of what this rather prolific blog puts out doesn’t catch much of my interest. Of course, with WorldCon Dublin coming up next month, a lot of the content is focused there. They also put out a tremendous number of articles about various awards, again, most of which I don’t have an interest in.

However, I did pause to read Neffy Award Ballot Is Out. I’d never heard of the Neffy Awards, so I looked them up.

But before that, I took a look at the ballot, which lists science fiction and fantasy works nominated in a number of categories. They include Best Novel, Best Shorter Work, Best Book Editor, Fanzine, TV Show, Movie, Anime, and so forth. Needless to say, I didn’t recognize any of the names and most of the category entries. Oh, I have heard of “Game of Thrones” and I used to watch “Supergirl,” but that was about it. This reminded me that as a “fan,” I’m probably really lacking in keeping up with what’s current (to find out what I’ve been reading and watching lately, go to my Reviews page).

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Review of Rich Rurshell’s Short Story “Subject: Galilee”

world war 4

© James Pyles

I’m continuing my slow review of the stories in the Zombie Pirate Publishing SciFi anthology World War Four (which also features my short story “Joey,” but right now, that’s beside the point). Today, I highlight Rich Rurshell’s tale “Subject: Galilee.”

Much of the symbolism echoes Christian themes, but Rurshell’s story takes place in the far future. A war is raging between two corporate factions, Liberty West which uses robotic warriors called “Romans,” and Zhang Industries’ human combatants. In between them and a village of peaceful people as well as defected soldiers, is the mysterious armored and cloaked being known as Galilee. He came out of no where, possesses enormous, almost god-like abilities, reprogramming the Roman machines to serve him, his armor all but invulnerable, and seems to be the savior that the world needs, that is until both corporations decide to make him a target.

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Review of Mel Lee Newmin’s Short Story “Yuddh Ke Khel”

world war 4

© James Pyles

I’m continuing my slow review of the stories in the Zombie Pirate Publishing SciFi anthology World War Four (which also features my short story “Joey,” but right now, that’s beside the point). This evening, as I write this, I showcase the tale of Chinese fighter pilot Chen Fan’s mission to blow up a Russian fuel depot while being pursued by his arch-nemesis, Iraninov.

It reads pretty much like a standard aerial dogfight between to fighter pilots except the aircraft are really spacecraft capable of operating in atmosphere all the way down to the deck. Fan toggles between worrying about his plane’s damage, evading Iraninov’s attacks, and his moral consciousness at the imminent death of thousands of civilians, collateral damage of his mission, the latter a strange consideration for a hardened combat veteran.

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Review of Adam Bennett’s Short Story “Jackson’s Revenge”

world war 4

© James Pyles

Adam Bennett is the co-founder of Zombie Pirate Publishing and his short story “Jackson’s Revenge” is featured in their SciFi anthology World War Four (which also features my short story “Joey,” but right now, that’s beside the point).

Yes, the tale mentions war and other planets, so the action is set sometime in the future and could definitely involve the aftermath of a fourth world war, but it also takes place in a bar and the weapons involved were merely pistols and swords, so I could easily imagine that the scene was sometime after the American Civil War. That’s a good thing, since it means the story is pretty much universal and you don’t have to be a hardcore science fiction fan to enjoy it.

Bennett’s short story is a study in misdirection, and the reader doesn’t get to find out the meaning of “Jackson’s Revenge” until the last several pages.

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Book Review: Neuromancer

neuromancer

Cover art for William Gibson’s novel “Neuromancer

I imagine that I’m supposed to feel guilty about reading “old” science fiction. After all, William Gibson’s inaugural SciFi novel Neuromancer is 35 years old and, according to one commentator at File 770 when criticizing award-winning science fiction writer and legend Robert Silverberg‘s criticism of award-winning science fiction author N.K. Jemisin, one of Silverberg’s many faults was that he hasn’t read any science fiction created within the past decade. Gee, I hope I’m not ruffling anyone’s feathers by going “old school.” On the other hand, the book did win a Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo, so there is that.

Gibson’s “Neuromancer” probably launched the cyberpunk genre, and although some of the references are older (television, pay phones), it’s held up very well. Today, science fiction publications are loaded with references to artificial intelligence (AI) but in the 1980s, it must have been a rarity, although I’ll never know why everyone assumes a programmed, non-human intelligence must presuppose a personality or even intent.

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Review of Gregg Cunningham’s Short Story “War Pig”

terraform moon

Image found at NASA Spaceflight.com forums

“War Pig” was written by Gregg Cunningham, a fellow contributor to the Zombie Pirate Publishing anthology World War Four(2019). After reviewing Neal Asher’s Monitor Logan and Sam Phillips’ Cold Fusion, I thought I’d round things out with Cunningham’s story.

It does have to do with the fourth world war and an interplanetary battleship called a “war hog,” only this “hog” is also capable of time travel, which makes things kind of confusing.

We start out with our protagonist and a (more or less) sapient robot named a “Floyd” on the surface of a terraformed Moon thirty years into the war. The war hog has been destroyed and it looks like Commander Redux (although the highest rank he can ever remember is Sergeant) is just trying to survive. Then, through (apparently) a series of flashbacks, we see how Redux got into this mess in the first place, especially when a younger version of himself is put on trial by an older counterpart, and then the older Redux sacrifices his life so that the younger self can steal the war hog at an earlier point in history and try to fix whatever he got wrong.

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Review of Sam M. Phillips’ Short Story “Cold Fusion”

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Sam M. Phillips – Photo taken from his website

“Cold Fusion” was written by Sam M. Phillips, co-owner of Zombie Pirate Publishing, for their anthology World War Four(2019). After reviewing Neal Asher’s Monitor Logan, featured in the same book, I received encouragement from a few of the other authors, including Phillips, to keep going.

So here I am.

The story is remarkably short. I went through it in just a few minutes, but that doesn’t mean comprehension is easy. The nameless protagonist is dying of radiation poisoning, but beyond that, the imagery is so hallucinatory, that it seems the poor fellow is already mad, stumbling across the multi-colored snow-covered countryside, body parts falling away like leaves, knowing his moments are numbered.

It’s also quite possible he’s become insane because he’s responsible for the cold fusion weapon that has destroyed, what? Everything?

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Review of Neal Asher’s Novelette “Monitor Logan”

neal asher books

Cover images of several of Neal Asher’s novels as found on his website.

“Monitor Logan” is a novelette written by bestselling science fiction author Neal Asher for the Zombie Pirate Publishing anthology World War Four (2019). Since my short story “Joey” also appears in the anthology, I can’t review that book or any part of it on Amazon (goodreads may be another story), but I can review Asher’s tale on my blog.

This story takes place in Asher’s Polity Universe, though in terms of chronology, I don’t know where it would fall. I was first introduced to Asher’s work and the Polity via his novel Dark Intelligence which I previously reviewed.

The title “Monitor Logan” might as well be rendered “Marshall Logan,” and this wee missive could easily be an American western. Lawman rides into town after the previous lawman is gunned down. Town’s run by corrupt mining corporations that enslave an indigenous population to do their labor, while paying off a local gang of bandits. Lawman comes to punish the guilty and protect the innocent, but he’s got a secret agenda and a thirst for revenge.

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but recall the 1973 film High Plains Drifter, which is the first western Clint Eastwood starred in that he also directed. If you’ve ever seen that movie, you have a lot of the plot to “Monitor Logan.”

Asher again presents us with his affinity for sapient artificial intelligence, human/droid alliances, human/alien hybrids, high technology in low tech settings, devastating weapons of war, and what I refer to as “medical atrocities.”

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