Fantastic Schools: Volume Two Reviewed by Upstream Reviews

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Cover image for the anthology “Fantastic Schools, vol 2”

Back in 2020, my fantasy short story Sorcery’s Preschool was published (kindle version) in Fantastic Schools Volume Two edited by L. Jagi Lamplighter. A few months later, the paperback edition came out.

In brief, my short story involved probably the only magical pre-school in fiction (I can’t confirm that, but it does seem unlikely anyone else came up with the idea).

Two years is a lot of metaphorical water under the bridge and I’ve moved on to newer tales.

This evening (as I write this), Jagi emailed the Vol 2 authors letting us know that the book had been reviewed by Upstream Reviews. On their main substack page, they advertise themselves as “Reviewing only the best in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, & Thrillers.”

It’s quite a complement that we were reviewed. The page also says they were launched 8 months ago, meaning they’re quite new.

You can click this link to read the full review (I recommend it) but here’s what they said about my contribution:

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Review of Quantum Leap Ep 11 “Leap. Die. Repeat.”

Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Leap. Die. Repeat.”

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When Ben leaps into one of five people in an elevator at a 1962 nuclear reactor, he must figure which one triggers a bomb that kills them all. Each time the bomb goes off, he leaps into another one of them and the scene resets on a fine loop. If the loop runs out, Ben dies for good.—NBC

That’s the summary of Leap. Die Repeat

It’s fun to see Robert Picardo again (this time in the role of Dr. Edwin Woolsey). Sometimes the show draws an ace.

There are five people in an elevator going down to the control level for what is supposed to be a nuclear reactor that is part of a sustainable energy project. In the order that Ben leaps into them:

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Review of Quantum Leap Ep 10 “Paging Dr. Song”

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QUANTUM LEAP — “Paging Dr. Song” Episode 110 — Pictured: (l-r) Tiffany Smith as Dr. Sandra, Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

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I realized today that I’d forgotten to watch the latest episode of Quantum Leap Paging Dr Song. Why?

Maybe because the show is becoming less important to me. I don’t know.

Ben leaps into a first year resident Alexandra Thompkinson in Seattle 1994 on the cusp of a train accident that’s going to flood the hospital with wounded patients. Ben is also a black woman but the only reason we know this is we see her photo on the hospital badge and Ben makes some off hand comment about bras.

When Scott Bakula played Sam Beckett and he “leapt” into a woman, it was a big, big deal. But Ben’s clothing, this being the second time he’s leapt into a woman, looks perfectly suited to a man. You’d think at least once he’d leap into a woman on her period, or who had really large breasts he was not used to living with, or some guy would slap his/her ass.

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Review of Quantum Leap Ep 9, “Fellow Travelers”

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Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Fellow Travelers”

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So, Quantum Leap is back with the January 2nd episode Fellow Travelers. I was wondering how “controversial” the return episode would be but as it turns out, not that much (although some). I guess that part is yet to come.

Ben leaps into Jack Armstrong (you’re kidding, right?) a bodyguard for famous pop singer Carly Farmer (Deborah Ann Woll) or is that Carly Simon (one of the hats she wears reminded me of her)? Carly’s going to be killed, supposedly by her drug addict sister Jamie (Karissa Lee Staples) and Ben has to stop it.

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Book Review of “Progress Report” by Roman Lando

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Cover art for the novel “Progress Report”

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Author Roman Lando contacted me not too long ago and asked if I’d be willing to review his science fiction novel Progress Report. I said I was willing and he sent me a file compatible with my old Kindle Fire.

I was in the middle of another book at the time, but finally got a chance to dig into “Progress” starting a few days ago. In print form, it would be only 239 pages, so not a long read.

In broad strokes, the first and last third of the book is an action, adventure, techno-thriller involving an unlikely hero (patterned very much after the author) who is working with an alien and a covert agent to stop other aliens from starting World War III.

Unfortunately, in the middle third, there was a very long, expositional data dump along with a great deal of pseudo-science and psuedo-philosophy that took most of my interest away. Everything is told from the journal entries of the protagonist “Art” and Art is extremely “wordy.”

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Book Review of “The Ringworld Engineers” by Larry Niven

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Cover art for “The Ringworld Engineers”

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I decided to read The Ringworld Engineers (1979) mainly because I’d recently re-read my copy of Ringworld (1970) not long ago for the “jillionth” time. Well, maybe not that frequently, since I didn’t recall too much about the novel (I bought my paperback copy in 1976 and still have it. See the photo below).

It occurred to me after finishing Ringworld that I couldn’t recall reading any of the sequels. When I looked Engineers up, I didn’t recognize the plot. So I put in an order from my local public library and in due course, it became available for pick up.

Sure enough, the book was a stranger to me.

In Ringworld, Louis Wu is recruited by a Pierson’s Puppeteer named Nessus along with a twenty-year-old girl named Teela Brown and a Kzin ambassador to Earth called Speaker-to-Animals. They were to explore a then undisclosed space object in exchange for a ship that can travel far faster than anything humans or Kzin had.

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The Future of Quantum Leap and Other Stories

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Promotional image for the television show “Quantum Leap.”

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If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know I’ve been watching and reviewing the 2022 continuation series Quantum Leap starring Raymond Lee, Caitlin Bassett, and Ernie Hudson. As far as I can tell, the series was originally green lit for eight episodes but was recently given an extension for a full 18. We know the description for the already shown episodes of course, but episodes 9-18 remain undefined at IMDb.

This is probably good since the show has introduced a collection of mysteries such as why Ben (Raymond Lee) leapt in the first place, what his relationship is to the mysterious Janice (or Janis) Calavicci (Georgina Reilly), and the secret around the leaper from the future Richard Martinez (Walter Perez). All that and, in the episode O Ye of Little Faith, Janice shows up as a hologram to warn Ben about something, but he leaps before she can tell him what…or who to be worried about. Eight episodes is just barely enough to get all that started.

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Book Review of Redux: the Lost Patrol, A SciFi Time Travel Novel

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Some weeks ago, author Gregg Cunningham asked if I’d mind reading and reviewing his novel Redux: the Lost Patrol, A SciFi Time Travel Novel. To that end, he sent me a PDF formatted ARC copy.

I started to read Part One of the novel “War Pig.” I’ve read War Pig at least twice and so burned through it a third time. Then I hit Part Two “The Lost Patrol.” I was most of the way through Chapter 1 “Time” all the while feeling like I’d read this before. Then I checked Amazon and saw I had bought the book last May. Yikes.

I checked my reviews and I hadn’t published one, but when I checked the digital book on my Kindle Fire, I found my notes. I feel really dumb. I’d read Gregg’s book months ago, but never wrote the review.

Sorry about that, Gregg.

Well, it’s never too late so here we go.

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Book Review of “Network Effect,” The Fifth Novel in the Murderbot Diaries

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Cover art for Martha Wells’ novel “Network Effect”

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I finished Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel yesterday morning. It’s the fifth entry in the Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells. It’s also the first novel-length book in the series, with one through four being novellas or novelettes  (my reviews on the rest of the series can be found here).

It won the 2021 Nebula award and a bunch of other accolades and in this case, they were well deserved (In my experience, that’s not always the case). We continue to see Murderbot evolve becoming, in their/her own way, more “human” though I’m sure she would deny that.

Oh, even though technically Murderbot has no gender, I always hear her voice in my head as female, so I’m going to go with that. Probably has something to do with my knowing the author is also female.

Given the novel-length of the story, we’re able to go back and forth in Murderbot’s experiences. We start out seeing her as a fully autonomous SecUnit providing security for an archeological team, which definitely needs it. The story begins with a bang because we are then thrown into more back story on Murderbot and the supporting characters. This includes her close relationship (I hesitate to say “friendship,” although I think it is) with Dr. Mensah and interestingly enough with her teenage daughter Amena (relationships are confusing because this is some sort of “group marriage” where Mensah is Amena’s “second mother”).

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Review of Quantum Leap Ep8 “Stand by Ben”

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Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Stand by Ben”

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I just finished watching the new Quantum Leap season 1, episode 8 Stand by Ben. I suppose that’s a play on the title of the 1986 film Stand by Me starring Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix. This episode certainly milked  a lot of teenage angst films from the 1980s.

Except Ben leaps into July 10, 1996 into a 16-year-old kid named Ben “Klepto” Winters as he and three other teens steal a car and escape a juvenile detention boot camp. The kids are happily planning what they’re going to do with their futures when there’s a blowout and the car tumbles down a ravine. Miraculously, they’re all okay, but this is just the beginning.

Oh, Spoiler Alert!

Addison shows up and explains that in the original timeline, the kids are reported missing on a school nature hike and die of heat exhaustion. The real story in the timeline is the kids walk away from the car wreck, split up to go their separate ways and die of the same death. The school covers it up, and the head of the school Sullivan (Eric Lee Huffman) files an insurance claim for his wrecked vehicle. So much for the kids.

What? After the kids boosted the car in front of everyone, the school couldn’t have called the cops and have the car pulled over? That’s the first thing I’d do, especially since each of these kids is identified as a juvenile criminal. Of course there could have been other reasons as outlined below.

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