Book Review of “Dream Park” (1981)

dreampark

Cover art for “Dream Park” by Niven and Barnes

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I had originally read Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes in the early 1980s, not long after it was first published.

I decided to re-read it because I was looking for material from which to construct my one-on-one role playing games I play with my thirteen-year-old grandson.

Long story short, the novel was too involved for me to mine anything useful for what I had in mind. But having only a vague recollection of the book, the re-read was thoroughly enjoyable.

Imagine a future where role playing games have evolved with such sophistication, they can be played out live in a huge, high-tech amusement park. Games are big business because Dream Park, which puts a bunch of money into them to begin with, recoups its dough with movie, book, and other game deals based on the live-action game. The players must be in relatively good shape since, although lives are never lost and most of the danger is simulated, they must still withstand the stresses of “camping out” in a (simulated) wild environment for several days amounting to hard labor. There are also personal and professional reputations on the line.

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Book Review of “OceanSpace”

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It wasn’t until I started reading Allen Steele’s 2000 novel OceanSpace that I realized I’d read it before, and probably not too long after it was originally published.

As I was reading certain scenes, I recalled having read them before. The saving grace was that I didn’t remember what came next, so it was usually a surprise until I got there.

Two-time Hugo winner Steele put a great amount of research into his writing as evidenced by extensive list of sources at the back of the book. I’m also a sucker for diagrams and Steele’s invention of the sea platform Tethys 1 and 2 were great.

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Review of “Rogue Protocol,” Part 3 in “The Murderbot Diaries”

rogue

Cover art for the novella Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

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I’m continuing to thoroughly enjoy Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series having just finished Rogue Protocol, the third novella in the collection (and still incredibly overpriced, even for such quality). I’ve already reviewed All Systems Red and Artificial Condition.

Side Note: I’ve mentioned this before in one of the previous reviews, but even though the security unit/murderbot has no gender, even though partially organic, I can’t help but hear her voice as a “her.” Maybe it’s because I’m aware that the author is a woman, or maybe it’s because Wells projected a “female” personality into her voice during the writing, but that’s how I think of “her.” I know some people are going to object to this (for gender identity reasons), but for this and other reviews, the SecUnit is a “she” to me. That’s what I’m going to call her.

In this “episode,” our SecUnit who sometimes goes by the name of “Consultant Rin” when posing as an augmented human security consultant, continues to pursue clues as to her past and the lost portions of her memories. To that end, she stows away on another robotic spacecraft, convincing its AI that she belongs there, and travels to a station orbiting the planet Milu. There, she plans to travel to an abandoned orbiting terraforming station that is not what it appears to be.

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Book Review of “Jack of Shadows”

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After my last two books and especially Nnedi Okorafor’s missive and it’s aftermath, I decided to “play it safe” and revisit some old ground.

I remember reading Roger Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows soon after it was originally published in the early 1970s and recalled enjoying it.

After so many years, that’s all I recalled, but apparently this Hugo and Locus Award nominee had gone out of print for some years. Nor could I find a copy in my local library system. Finally, it was republished as part of the “Recovered Classics Book Series number 23”. I downloaded it from Amazon to my Kindle Fire and there it waited for me.

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Book Review of “Binti: The Complete Trilogy”

binti

Cover art for Binti: The Complete Trilogy

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I previously mentioned that as part of Women in SciFi Month and in response to the twitter hashtag #FiveSFFWritersWhoArentBlokes, I collected the names of some female authors I’ve never read to essentially broaden my horizons.

Today, I just finished Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Complete Trilogy. As it’s a collected trilogy (plus one additional short story), it’s publication history is from 2015 through 2019.

To understand my review and the work in general, I’ll present a few bits of info. First, the author’s bio as presented on Amazon:

Nnedi Okorafor was born in the United States to two Igbo (Nigerian) immigrant parents. She holds a PhD in English and was a professor of creative writing at Chicago State University. She has been the winner of many awards for her short stories and young adult books, and won a World Fantasy Award. Nnedi’s books are inspired by her Nigerian heritage and her many trips to Africa.

That’s the short version. Now the professional reviews of this trilogy posted on Amazon:

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Book Review of Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Cyroburn”

cryoburn

© James Pyles

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I feel like this book review requires a bit of an explanation. I thought “Women in SciFi Month” was in March, but according to this, it’s in April, so I’m not late.

Actually, thanks to Cora Buhlert (she and I are very different people but she’s one of the few folks who doesn’t take it personally) and the twitter hashtag #FiveSFFWritersWhoArentBlokes, I compiled a list of female SFF writers I want to read (a lot more than five). I’m usually against “you have to read these authors or you’re racist, sexist, misanthropic, whatever…” but I am also aware there are tons of science fiction writers I simply don’t know about. After all, if not for twitter, I’d have no idea Adrian Tchaikovsky even existed, let alone have read and reviewed his novel Children of Time (it has issues but overall, a great book).

Because my list is alphabetical, I started with Lois McMaster Bujold. I found out that a bunch of her books were at my local public library just a few miles from where I live. I shot on over but hadn’t looked any of them up first. I set aside anything that looked like fantasy and drilled into her science fiction works. I settled on Cryoburn because the blurb was interesting:

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Book Review of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s “Gray Lensman”

gray lensman

Mass market paperback cover for “Gray Lensman”

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Gray Lensman by E.E. “Doc” Smith (I bought the cheap kindle version) is the fourth book in the Lensman series following Triplanetary, First Lensman, and Galactic Patrol.

After my binge read of James S.A. Corey’s nine-book The Expanse saga, I realized I hadn’t read a Lensman book in over a year. Part of the reason was that they’re hard for me to read. They’re really old fashioned, to the point of being almost farcical.

But they are also an important part of science fiction history and the development of the classic space opera.

This particular book was originally published in serial form in Astounding (later Analog) magazine in 1939. It made it to book form in 1951 and to the paperbacks I became familiar with in the 1960s.

As I’ve mentioned before, in the mid to late 1960s, while all the other guys were reading the Tarzan and Lensman books, I was absorbed in the Barsoom and Skylark books, by Edgar Rice Burroughs and E.E. “Doc” Smith respectively.

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Book Review: “Swirling Darkness” by Sam M. Phillips

swirling

Promotional art for Sam M. Phillips’ “Swirling Darkness”

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Sam Phillips is an author, poet, and a co-founder of Zombie Pirate Publishing with Adam Bennett. They published some of my very first short stories and have been a lot of fun to work with.

Sam is branching out as an individual author and I recently read two of his books, Infinity and I, published by the aforementioned Zombie Pirate, and Swirling Darkness published as part of the Underground series by Black Hare Press

The description for his anthology is:

INFINITY AND I is a collection of seventy brand new science fiction stories from Sam M. Phillips, the co-founder of Zombie Pirate Publishing. Inside you’ll find surreal space journeys, bizarre aliens, futuristic technology, rogue AIs, and a girl who just wants to be loved. Follow a huge array of exotic characters across the galaxy as they use inter-dimensional drugs and fight battles on faraway worlds. Action, drama, and science combine with the complexity of the human soul in the year’s most exciting new sci fi release. Open up a portal and step into the depths of a unique mind with INFINITY AND I: Seventy Science Fiction Stories!

As an aside, I should note that my novella Time’s Abyss is also part of the Underground series.

Sam publishes his poetry on his blog Big Confusing Words. That’s important to know for my review as you’ll soon see.

The blurb for “Darkness” states:

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Book Review of “Leviathan Falls”

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Cover of the novel “Leviathan Falls”

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This is it. I just finished the ninth and final book in the Expanse novel series Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey (really Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). I checked it out of my local public library like all the others. It’s a new book, so I put a hold on it December 1st and finally got my hands on it February 9th. I have to give it back after two weeks, so I’m pushing things a little.

The quality of the series held up, which is important. I’ve read a lot of book series that started out great and then fizzled at the end. That’s usually because the author (or publisher) decides that they’ll make more money on more books people like, but don’t have a clear vision of the end from the beginning.

I’m not sure Abraham and Franck did either when they wrote the first in the series. Some things got a little repetitive in some of the stories. It seemed for a while that going from an earlier book to a later book meant the disasters got bigger and worse. That didn’t happen this time around, but there’s definitely a resolution. There’s not a lot of room for the characters to reappear in the long haul except Amos and maybe Jim. No, no spoilers but I’m not above dolling out a few hints.

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Third 5-Star Review of “Ice” on Amazon

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Hooray! Frankly, I’ll take just about any sort of review on “Ice” just so it’s noticed, but I love how all three (so far) are five-stars on Amazon.

Click on the link to find the review and read it. If you’ve read “Ice” and haven’t reviewed it on Amazon and Goodreads, please, please, please do so. Even if the review is less than complementary, I’ll learn more about how to improve my writing.

Here’s my “blurb:”

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