© 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.
© 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.
© 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
Cover image for Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel “Red Mars.”
When reading author Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1992 Nebula award-winning novel Red Mars, I made a decision I rarely consider. I stopped reading before I finished. Yes, it was that dull.
The book is actually the first in the Mars Trilogy describing the colonization, terraforming, and the final result of turning the fourth planet into an Earth-like environment over several centuries.
So what was so dull about the novel? I mean, the first part deals with passion, jealousy, and murder, so you’d think it would be exciting.
It has to be Robinson’s writing style. Even during “the action,” the presentation and characters were about as thrilling as watching grass grow (especially in early March in Idaho). The story is told through the points of view of several of the 100 initial colonists of the red planet, but their lives, even aboard a spacecraft and on the surface of Mars, is so ordinary. I didn’t particularly like or relate to any of them.
Cover art for Richard Paolinelli’s novel “Escaping Infinity”
I’ve wanted to read and review one of Richard Paolinelli’s novels for quite some time now, since I previously reviewed his short story The Last Hunt which was featured in last year’s Superversive Press anthology To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity. I finally got my opportunity with Escaping Infinity, a 2017 Dragon Award Finalist.
As I got into Paolinelli’s book, I found it had some similarities to Australian SciFi writer Matt Reilly’s 2000 novel Contest. In both books, an innocent couple is thrown into a highly unlikely environment where they must solve a series of challenges in order to survive. In Reilly’s case, it was the location was the main branch of the New York City Public Library, and in Paolinelli’s novel, it’s a seemingly five-star hotel located in the middle of the Arizona desert, miles away from where any such structure has a right to be.
Peter and his friend and co-worker Charlie are driving to Phoenix for a business trip and become lost. Running out of gas and miles from nowhere, they come across an incredibly futuristic and opulent hotel called “Infinity.” Once inside, they realize the hotel and casino can provide a virtually unlimited supply of pleasures and experiences, enough to keep them there for a lifetime, which seems to be the idea.
Cover art for Neal Asher’s 2015 novel “Dark Intelligence.”
Disclosure: My short story “Joey” will be published in the upcoming Zombie Pirate Publishing anthology World War Four which also features the novelette “Monitor Logan” by best-selling author Neal Asher. Watch for the anthology on Amazon starting March 1, 2019.
I must admit that prior to being informed of the above, I had never heard of Asher or his works, though scanning his published novels, I was certainly impressed. Since we’d be “sharing” the inside of an anthology, I felt I should get to know his writing a bit better, and so selected Dark Intelligence: Transformation Book One (2015) as my introductory novel.
There was a superficial resemblance to Alastair Reynolds’ 2008 collection of short stories (all set in the same universe) Galactic North, particularly in the area of “medical atrocities,” but other than that, they’ve both described unique universes.
The novel is an ensemble piece, however the main protagonist, and the only one who speaks in first person, is a man called Thorvald Spear, who was killed in a war a century before by the rogue AI Penny Royal, or so it seems. Spear is revived with a strong desire to revenge himself on the supremely powerful Penny Royal, but as he continues to pursue her, he becomes uncertain if some, or any of his memories are truly his rather than images implanted by the AI in order to manipulate him.