Book Review of “Terminum”

terminum

Cover art for the novel “Terminum” by Lyla El-Fayomi

Disclosure: This is my first review of an indie SciFi book for Reedsy Discovery. In exchange for a free digital copy of a book, they ask that the writer craft a review of between 300 to 400 words in length and have it published on their site prior to a specific date. Basically, it’s free promotion for the book, Reedsy, and the reviewer.

I chose Lyla El-Fayomi’s Terminum to review because the premise was compelling. An experimental virus stops people from aging but at random points in their lives. However, the darker side is that some of those infected will be abruptly killed by an unknown side effect called Sudden Death Syndrome.

In investigating a cure, scientists Yasmine Holloway and Leo Genix suddenly become fugitives, being hunted down both by law enforcement and bounty hunters. They are thrust into the shadowy realm of a group of covert operatives who have, perhaps for decades, been aware of a conspiracy to hide the truth about the virus and to prevent them from ever delivering a cure.

Continue reading

Book Review of Iain Kelly’s “A Justified State”

justified

Cover art for Iain Kelly’s novel “A Justified State”

I’ve been following Iain Kelly‘s writing online for a few years now. He and I (along with a bunch of other folks) met while participating in a series of internet writing challenges such as this one. That’s where I found out that he’s the undisputed master of murder mysteries, only in his case, he actually created a series of novels in that genre to prove it.

Finally (given my meager budget), I was able to download a free promotional copy of A Justified State, the first novel in his “The State Trilogy”.

It was amazing.

The story is set slightly in the future in the UK, known as the nameless “state.” The nation is in a conflict with unrevealed adversaries in “The First Strike War,” which is the backdrop for everything that follows.

Police Detective Danny Samson, who lost his twin newborns soon after birth, and his wife a year later by suicide, is mysteriously assigned to investigate the murder of a local politician, who was the victim of a professional assassination.

Continue reading

Review of Max Barry’s Novel: “Lexicon”

lexicon

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).

Continue reading

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

moon of ice

© 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.

Continue reading

No NaNoWriMo

na

Logo for the National Novel Writing Month

Once again, in November, I will not be participating in National Novel Writing Month, more popularly known as NaNoWriMo.

First of all, I can barely stay awake, even though it’s not even six in the evening (as I write this). That means, I can’t think clearly. I’ve been trying for several days to finish a short story, but every evening when I get home from my slave job, I’m exhausted. My hours changed, so I have to get up at 5 in the morning. That used to be pretty normal for me, but as I get older, I have discovered that getting and then staying asleep at night is becoming more difficult.

Also, writing a novel in a month is either a challenge at best or torture and tyranny at worst. I did manage to write a 10,000 novelette in a week for a similar online challenge. It wasn’t chosen for publication, so now what do I do with it (actually, I have plans, but I still need time and a clear head to enable them)?

Continue reading

The Next Book I’m Reading

hype

Cover image for Dan Simmons’ novel “Hyperion”

After Dan Simmons lambasted teenage climate change darling Greta Thunberg on twitter, and came on the radar of Mike Glyer’s File 770 (which must still be experiencing technical difficulties, since I haven’t received any email notifications of new posts in quite a while), AND finding out that his signature novel Hyperion is a Hugo Award winner, I’ve been dying to read the book and learn more about him.

Yes, I think he went too far in his insults of a little teenage girl who is clearly being manipulated by adults, but he also stood up to the more leftist powers that be in social media and the science fiction creators and fandom community, and occasionally, they need to be stood up to. So I put a hold on it at my local public library and today it became available.

Continue reading

Review of Octavia E. Butler’s Novel “Parable of the Sower” (2000)

sower

Cover art for the novel “Parable of the Sower”

“THERE ISN’T A PAGE IN THIS VIVID AND FRIGHTENING STORY THAT FAILS TO GRIP THE READER”.

— SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

GRIPPING…POIGNANT…SUCCEEDS ON MULTIPLE LEVELS

— NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

This highly acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel of hope and terror from award-winning author Octavia E. Butler “pairs well with 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale” (John Green, New York Times)–now with a new foreword by N. K. Jemisin.

I’ve heard the name Octavia E. Butler for some time now, and have been meaning to read one or more of her books. She has an interesting background and is generally considered one of the most important science fiction authors of her generation, particularly as a woman of color. Sadly, she passed away in 2006, although the cause is attributed either to a stroke or a head injury acquired during a fall.

Here’s more about her:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Book Review of “Reviver”

reviver

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.

Continue reading

Amélie Wen Zhao’s Fantasy Novel “Blood Heir” Available November 2019!

blood heir

Cover art for the novel “Blood Heir” by Amélie Wen Zhao

If you read my February blog post “Blood Heir” and Social Justice (or is it vengeance) which echoed many other voices on the web, you’ll recall how author Amélie Wen Zhao was bullied on social media to pull her book Blood Heir from publication over what Slate.com author Aja Hoggatt called accusations of racism and being “anti-black”.

Tablet Magazine called her detractors a twitter mob composed of what’s been referred to as “YA Twitter:”

an online community composed of authors, editors, agents, reviewers, and readers that appears to skew significantly older than the actual readership for the popular genre of young adult fiction, which is roughly half teens and half adults.

The Tablet article goes on to say:

As Kat Rosenfield, a Tablet writer who is herself a published YA author, wrote in a deeply entertaining Vulture feature on The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter, in the summer of 2017, “Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons—sometimes before anybody’s even read them.”

Even though the author defended herself and explained the cultural context (her own) that inspired her novel, she was dragged through the virtual gutters and intimidated into indefinitely delaying the release of her book. She’s an excellent example of having apologized when, objectively, she really didn’t do anything wrong except cross paths with the YA twitter “powers that be.”

Continue reading