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.
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.
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.
Screenshot from amazon.co.uk
© 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.
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.
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.
Screenshot of the “Magical Reality” page at Amazon
Screenshot of Amazon’s “Magical Reality” page including author’s list and review details
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 Aidan Reid’s novel “Yage.”
It’s been quite a while since I reviewed Irish indie author Aidan J. Reid’s mystery novel Sigil. The book introduced Father Tom Regan, a Catholic Priest with a nose for mysteries, and particularly the bizarre.
Yage is the second in the “Tom Regan Thriller” series, and this time, Reid takes it up a notch.
Based on his own drug use experiences under somewhat similar circumstances, Reid takes Father Regan to Peru, ostensibly to meet his young niece Louise, who has been hiking throughout the Peruvian region, but also to process his own crisis of faith, particularly in light of the conclusion of the Sigil ordeal.
What Regan finds is a mystery he didn’t ask for and one that puts the life of his niece at risk. Slowly putting the clues together, he finds that Louise is only one of a number of victims of a mysterious shaman, who is somehow tied to the Yage tourist trade, people from western nations who pay local companies to administer and monitor their use of a hallucinogen for a variety of personal purposes. Tom himself must undergo this challenge in his desperate efforts to find his missing niece. Along the way, he finds unlikely allies in the form of a local priest, other tourists, and another young woman he must use, and put at risk, in order to discover what happened to Louise.
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.