Book Review: “SS-GB” (1978) by Len Deighton

Cover art for the 1978 novel “SS-GB”

Disclosure: I checked the hardback copy of this novel out from the public library.

Just finished Len Deighton’s 1978 alternative history novel SS-GB: Nazi-Occupied Britain 1941. I recall reading it decades ago, but remembered almost none of the content.

This isn’t actually science fiction, just a sort of “What if Nazi Germany won World War 2 and occupied Great Britain?” The tale centers around Scotland Yard Inspector Douglas Archer, a well-educated man who is fluent in German and works with the SS who have headed up Britain’s police agencies. He seems to get along with his superiors, unlike his partner, Sgt Detective Harry Woods, and many other of the nation’s beleaguered citizens, who chafe at the occupation.

While investigating was started out as a murder, Archer is plunged into a world of political intrigue, conspiracy, and assassination. It only gets worse when SS Standertenfuhrer Huth arrives from Berlin to supervise the investigation. Only then, does he learn the Germany’s secret atomic weapons development project is headquartered in Britain, and the dead man was a nuclear scientist. He also falls into a plot to free the King of England from imprisonment and clandestinely transport him to America, which has remained carefully neutral during the war.

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Book Review of “Reviver”

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Promotional cover image of Seth Patrick’s 2013 novel “Reviver.” Note: Not the original cover or title.

I probably wouldn’t even have read Seth Patrick’s novel Reviver (2013), but I noticed on the back cover a small review by SF author Neal Asher. I’m familiar with Asher’s work and even share the Table of Contents with him in a recent SciFi anthology, so naturally I was intrigued.

A few weeks back, I was at the local branch of my little public library, and although I was already reading two books, found myself stuck there with my books and my beloved laptop still at home. So I started wandering the stacks. This library is small enough not to differentiate between general fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, so they are all intermixed. I was randomly strolling through, occasionally picking up and reading the summaries of various novels, when I happened upon “Reviver” and noticed Asher’s name on the back cover. I figured, what the heck.

This is Seth Patrick’s very first novel, and I can only imagine he went through quite a few iterations before he arrived at the final product I consumed. It was a terrific mix of horror, mystery, and a hint of speculative fiction. I know there are purists who detest that sort of thing, but I never was one for the extreme blood, guts, and gore of modern horror. Yes, there is graphic imagery in the novel, but nothing I couldn’t handle, and the psychological horror totally hooked me.

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Book Review: Neuromancer

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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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Book Review: “The Berlin Project”

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Cover image for Gregory Benford’s novel “The Berlin Project.”

Just finished reading The Berlin Project, a novel by physicist and science fiction author Gregory Benford, and it was fabulous. Really top-notch alternate history, which was given enormous depth by the fact that Benford has met many of the people who were involved in the Manhattan Project during World War Two. His father-in-law is Karl Cohen, who is the book’s protagonist and in real life actually was a chemist on the project.

The novel’s premise is that at the Manhattan Project’s beginning, America’s secret effort to produce the Atomic Bomb, Cohen develops an alternate and faster method of producing weapons grade uranium for “the bomb,” allowing us to make a nuclear weapon in time for D-Day.

Not only are the technical details amazingly accurate, but the characterizations of the people involved, particularly Cohen and his family, are absolutely credible and “real.” Small wonder, since by marriage, they are Benford’s family, too.

As I imagine like most readers, I thought the climax of the book would be dropping the bomb on Berlin in 1944, killing Hitler and ending the war, but I was wrong. True, that was a pivotal moment about three-quarters of the way through, but it was the aftermath to that event that made all of the difference in changing the shape of alternate history going forward.

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First Amazon Review of “World War Four”

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Screenshot from amazon.co.uk

As my regular readers know, my SciFi short story “Joey” is included in the Zombie Pirate Publishing anthology World War Four which also features an exclusive short story by best-selling science fiction author Neal Asher.

I just found out that WW4 received its first five-star Amazon review at their Amazon UK site. Five stars. Terrific news.

Okay folks in the U.S. and other nations, time to weigh in. Looking forward to hearing what you think.

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Screenshot from amazon.co.uk

Girl Power and the Role (or lack thereof) of Men

© James Pyles

My 3 1/2 (closer to 4 actually) year old granddaughter loves books and she loves being read to. She knows her alphabet really well and can spell her first and last name. She’s a smart kid.

I love reading to her and my wife often takes our granddaughter to the local public library to check out books, lots and lots of books. The other day, I came home from work, and after my granddaughter woke up from her nap, she wanted me to read to her. Two of the library books she chose were Ladybug Girl and the Rescue Dogs by Jacky Davis and Red Riding Hood Superhero: A Graphic Novel by Otis Frampton.

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The Reviews of My Anthologies are in

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From cover image for “1929: A Zimbell House Anthology”

I didn’t think this would happen so soon, but the three anthologies I’ve been published in so far this year have started to get a bit of buzz.

Pixie Forest Publishing’s “Magical Reality” featuring my short story “The Dragon’s Family” has three 5-star reviews (and ratings on goodreads) on Amazon and goodreads.

Zombie Pirate Publishing’s “World War Four” containing my short story “Joey” has a total of 29 goodreads‘s ratings (no reviews so far) with a total score of 4.93 (out of a possible 5.00).

And even though it only became available for purchase yesterday, Zimbell House Publishing’s “1929” received a single 5-star rating on goodreads, although to be fair, the rating was from the publisher.

First Review of “Magical Reality” Anthology

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Screenshot of goodreads review

My short story “The Dragon’s family” is featured in the Pixie Forest Publishing anthology Magical Reality and guess what? It got its first review, both on Amazon and on goodreads. Yes, five-star review praising ALL of the stories within its pages, which includes mine. Yes, I’m thrilled.

Keep ’em coming, readers.

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Screenshot of the “Magical Reality” page at Amazon

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Screenshot of Amazon’s “Magical Reality” page including author’s list and review details

Book Review: “Red Mars”

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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.

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Book Review of “Escaping Infinity”

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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.

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