Review of “Forgotten Ones: Drabbles of Myth and Legend”

forgotten

Cover art for the Eerie River Publishing anthology “Forgotten Ones”

I’ve been downloading a lot of digital books that are being offered cost free as promotions lately. It’s a great way to read new material and it’s easy on my meager budget, especially since the libraries have closed (sounds dystopian, doesn’t it?).

Somewhere on Facebook (probably), I found a link to the Eerie River Publishing anthology Forgotten Ones: Drabbles of Myth and Legend. Although I’ve written a drabble or two in my time, and have had them published in various anthologies, I’ve never read a drabble anthology cover to cover.

I guess the concept never really appealed to me (ducks as objects by drabble authors are thrown at my head).

And that was how I started reading “Forgotten Ones”. I quickly picked up on each author’s source material in mythology and theology, but they just didn’t seem to float my boat. At heart, I’m a short story to novella writer. I thrive on character development, painting a scene with broad strokes, and then highlighting it with subtle pens and pencils. A 100-word drabble just doesn’t allow for that.

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Book Review of “Plastic Nightmare”

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Cover image for Aditya Deshmukh’s short story “Plastic Nightmare”

Aditya Deshmukh’s short story Plastic Nightmare reads more like a prelude to a novel than anything else. It certainly ended on a cliffhanger, and Deshmukh even states that there will be a sequel.

I really felt like the author didn’t give himself enough room to develop the situation or the characters.

Five years ago, police officer Razia lost her brother. To the rest of the world, it was a tragic accident, but accidents don’t happen in their future utopia. The result is that she has increasingly become obsessed with his disappearance, letting her career begin a long, downward spiral.

Her main foil seems to be her lover and her boss on the police force (not a good combination), and when what appears to be a serial murder impossibly occurs in a world with practically no crime, Razia starts making connections between the so-called “Scarlet Killer” and her brother’s vanishing.

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Review of “Echo Volume 4: The Last Edge of Darkness”

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Cover image of Kent Wayne’s novel “Echo Volume 4: The Last Edge of Darkness”

I finally got around to keeping my promise to Kent Wayne (pseudonym) and finishing and reviewing the fourth edition of his “Echo” series, Echo Volume 4: The Last Edge of Darkness Kindle Edition . It marks the conclusion of the physical, psychological, and spiritual quest of elite soldier, Crusader Kischan Atriya.

For reference, here are my reviews of Echo 1, Echo 2, and Echo 3.

In this final installment, Atriya finally arrives at the semi-mythical Mandala City. He has a brief reunion with his former tutor and mystical adept Chrysalis Verus, but the main action centers around his training (again) with Mandala City’s blind “Headmaster” Dake. The training physically disassembles Atriya on a daily basis in an effort to get him to “free his mind” (shades of “the Matrix”).

Actually, there were tons and tons of entertainment, literary, religious, and philosophical references. Wayne pulled no punches in pouring every last ounce of his own viewpoints and beliefs (which he makes very plain in the afterword) into Atriya, Dake, and most of the other characters.

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Book Review of Annalee Newitz’s Novel: “Autonomous”

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Cover art for the novel Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

“Autonomous is to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the Internet.” —Neal Stephenson

“Something genuinely and thrillingly new in the naturalistic, subjective, paradoxically humanistic but non-anthropomorphic depiction of bot-POV—and all in the service of vivid, solid storytelling.” —William Gibson

“This book is a cyborg. Partly, it’s a novel of ideas, about property, the very concept of it, and how our laws and systems about property shape class structure and society, as well as notions of identity, the self, bodies, autonomy at the most fundamental levels, all woven seamlessly into a dense mesh of impressive complexity. Don’t let that fool you though. Because wrapped around that is the most badass exoskeleton–a thrilling and sexy story about pirates and their adventures. Newitz has fused these two layers together at the micro- and macro-levels with insight and wit and verbal flair. Moves fast, with frightening intelligence.” ―Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

“Annalee Newitz has conjured the rarest, most exciting thing: a future that’s truly new … a terrific novel and a tremendous vision.” ―Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

“Holy hell. Autonomous is remarkable.” ―Lauren Beukes, bestselling author of Broken Monsters

“Everything you’d hope for from the co-founder of io9 … Combines the gonzo, corporatized future of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash with the weird sex of Charlie Stross’s Saturn’s Children; throws in an action hero that’s a biohacker version of Bruce Sterling’s Leggy Starlitz, and then saturates it with decades of deep involvement with free software hackers, pop culture, and the leading edge of human sexuality.” ―Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Walkaway.

“Wait! What?” -Me

Oh, here’s part of Amazon’s blurb on the book on Autonomous:

Their first novel, Autonomous, won the Lambda Literary Award and was nominated for the Nebula and Locus Awards.

My reaction to this novel and the glowing reviews it has received, more or less mirrors my response to N.K. Jemisin‘s award winning tome The Fifth Season.

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Book Review: “And Hell Followed – An Anthology”

and hell followed

Cover image for the Death’s Head Press anthology “And Hell Followed”

I don’t quite recall the original conversation I had on Facebook, but a little over a month ago, I agreed to review the Death’s Head Press anthology And Hell Followed. Jarod Barbee purchased a digital copy for me, and I downloaded it to my kindle device and started reading.

What intrigued me about this particular horror anthology, was that the theme required authors to craft tales based on the Book of Revelation. Yeah that one. The last book in the Christian Bible. The one that foretells the end of life as we know it on Earth and the second coming of Jesus Christ…

…and a whole bunch of very, very horrible sounding events.

I just finished reading it earlier today, and I must say, it didn’t disappoint. The general quality of the tome held up pretty well. Usually in anthologies, there’s some fluctuation in quality from one story to another, and while each missive was quite different from the next, all of them were engaging and entertaining.

More than a few creeped me out.

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Review of Max Barry’s Novel: “Lexicon”

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Cover image for Max Barry’s 2013 novel “Lexicon”

I just finished Australian author Max Barry‘s 2013 novel Lexicon and I think it’s terrific.

I first became aware of him and this novel by reading a 2014 article he wrote for Gizmodo called How to Write a Great Science Fiction Novel in 7 Easy Steps and, as far as I can tell, “Lexicon” is the first SciFi novel he ever published, though he’s written other books before.

The novel is intriguing in that words are used as weapons, and they can ultimately kill. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but as it turns out, there are certain individuals who, properly trained, can analyze the personality “segment” of people around them, determining which words (which in the book are all nonsense words) will influence them.

But it’s worse than that. A teenage girl named Emily Ruff, who is a runaway and homeless in San Francisco at the beginning of the story, is recruited by a mysterious group of people and begins training at an exclusive prep school in Virginia (think “Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Children” except the children are especially persuasive, but not mutants).

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Review: “The Norton Book of Science Fiction”

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“The Norton Book of Science Fiction” cover art

A little while ago, I checked out The Norton Book of Science Fiction from the library because it contained the late Mike Resnick’s classic SciFi short story Kirinyaga. I reviewed that story, but went on to read some of the other tales the book contains.

First of all, it was edited by the legendary Ursula K Le Guin and Brian Attebery, who back in 1993, were both young. I got a kick out of Attebery being in Idaho, which isn’t where a lot of folks would think a SciFi guru and associate of Le Guin would be found.

The anthology features notable science fiction short stories published from 1960 to 1990, which is a nice cross section of the evolving genre.

Le Guin wrote what is no doubt an insightful but overly long introduction, which I skimmed through. I also didn’t read all of the stories, and skipped the ones I was already familiar with such as Harlan Ellison’s “Strange Wine” and Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Lucky Strike.”

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Review of Brad Linaweaver’s Novel “Moon of Ice”

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© James Pyles

When I wrote about the recent passing of SF author Brad Linaweaver, and then reviewed his original novella Moon of Ice, a few of the people who knew Brad contacted me and shared a little of their experiences with him.

I was also gifted with a copy of the full length novel which I finished recently.

In a way, I’m not sure it was an advantage to have read the novella first. I was able to pick out seeming inconsistencies in the older material. A large part of this had to do with the novella being told from the point of view of Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, while the novel had several primary voices, but most of all Hilda, Goebbels’ daughter.

In the novel, Goebbels’ long suppressed journals are on the verge of being released to the public by Hilda thirty years after the end of the second world war, and not long after her father’s death. In this alternate universe, the Nazis developed the atomic bomb and subdued Europe and England, but were prevented from conquering the U.S.

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Book Review: “The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century”

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Cover art for the anthology, “The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century

Note that I’ve previously reviewed individual stories presented in this anthology, such as Brad Linaweaver’s novella Moon of Ice, Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Lucky Strike, and Susan Shwartz’s Suppose They Gave a Peace. This review applies to the entire book.

The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century is a 2002 anthology edited by Harry Turtledove with Martin H. Greenberg. As the title suggests, it’s an eclectic collection of short stories and novellas crafted by various science fiction luminaries over a span of nearly fifty years.

As with all anthologies, it is pretty uneven.

Ward Moore’s “Bring the Jubilee” was the toughest to slog through. It’s depressing and seems to be overly long, including details that may not have been necessary to tell the core story. Also, it’s hard to believe that the Confederate Army could have won the Civil War based on a single engagement, one that our hero managed to change by sheer ineptitude.

Both “The Lucky Strike” by Kim Stanley Robinson and “Suppose They Gave a Peace” by Susan Shwartz were anti-war stories, the former being Robinson’s wish fulfillment of a world with no nuclear weapons, and the latter, an alternate history that bore little difference from the actual one, as told through the eyes of one family.

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Short Story Review: “Suppose They Gave a Peace” (1992)

Cover art for the anthology, “The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century

The latest tale I read in The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century edited by Harry Turtledove and Martin H. Greenberg is Susan Swartz‘s 1992 short story Suppose They Gave a Peace.

It’s an anti-war Vietnam era tale as seen through the eyes of a family in Ohio in the early 1970s. Frankly, it reminded me of the old sitcom All in the Family, set in the same era and, at least in the beginning, with the same stereotypes.

Dad’s a World War Two and Korean War vet who is a total conservative. Mom’s a peace loving Quaker. Daughter is a radical college protestor, and son joined the Marines and is serving at the U.S. embassy in Saigon.

The alternate part of this history is that McCarthy won the election rather than Nixon. It didn’t seem to make much difference since the Fall of Saigon was just as ghastly.

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