Review of Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”

starship

Cover art for Robert A. Heinlein’s novel “Starship Troopers”

I decided to re-read Robert Heinlein’s 1959 classic Starship Troopers (I probably last read it sometime in the late 1960s or early 70s) because science fiction writer Neal Asher‘s book Prador Moon (which I recently reviewed) was unfavorably compared to it by a few Amazon readers.

I must say Heinlein doesn’t disappoint. “Troopers” remains timeless, or nearly so, but as I understand it (I wouldn’t have picked up on this as a teenager), even in the late 1950s (and so much more now), the book was considered to have numerous controversial elements.

Yes, the idea that only military veterans are allowed to be full citizens with voting rights does go against the grain. However, this novel was Heinlein’s breakout book from “Young Adults” novels. Thus, Heinlein injected (supposedly) his personal perspectives into the world he created. His reasoning relative to citizenship is only a soldier, who is willing to give up his (all ground troops are males and most Navy pilots are females) life for the many of society has the moral and ethical perspective to casts a vote in that society. It’s also why he advocates for a volunteer only Army rather than a draft or compulsory military service for everyone. A volunteer willingly enters that world and can quit at any time during training. If the volunteer makes it to soldier, goes into combat, and remains, then they’ve established themselves as that ethical/moral model.

Continue reading

Book Review of “All Systems Red”

wells

Cover art for “All Systems Red” by Martha Wells

First the “official reviews” including praise for the author’s other works:

“I love Murderbot!” ―Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice

“The Murderbot series is a heart-pounding thriller that never lets up, but it’s also one of the most humane portraits of a nonhuman I’ve ever read. Come for the gunfights on other planets, but stay for the finely drawn portrait of a deadly robot whose smartass goodness will give you hope for the future of humanity.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

“Clever, inventive, brutal when it needs to be, and compassionate without ever being sentimental.” ―Kate Elliott, author of the Spirit Walker trilogy

“Endearing, funny, action-packed, and murderous.” ―Kameron Hurley, author of The Stars are Legion

“Not only a fun, fast-paced space-thriller, but also a sharp, sometimes moving character study that will resonate with introverts even if they’re not lethal AI machines.” ―Malka Older, author of Infomocracy

“We are all a little bit Murderbot.”―NPR

“Wells gives depth to a rousing but basically familiar action plot by turning it into the vehicle by which SecUnit engages with its own rigorously denied humanity.” ―Publishers Weekly starred review

“I already can’t wait for the next one.” ―The Verge

“Meet your favorite depressed A.I. since Marvin.” ―B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

“A great kick-off for a continuing series.” ―Locus

“Wells imbued Murderbot with extraordinary humanity, and while this is a fun read, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not a profound one.”―LA Times

The Cloud Roads has wildly original world-building, diverse and engaging characters, and a thrilling adventure plot. It’s that rarest of fantasies: fresh and surprising, with a story that doesn’t go where ten thousand others have gone before. I can’t wait for my next chance to visit the Three Worlds!” ―N. K. Jemisin, author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

And as far as author Martha Wells’ awards:

Continue reading

Review of Denton Salle’s Novel “Black Earth Rises, Hall of Heroes Book Three”

black earth

Cover art for Denton Salle’s novel “Black Earth Rises”

Black Earth Rises is the third book in a series by Denton Salle, but it stands very well on its own since I haven’t read the first two novels.

Denton asked me to review his book and was aware of recent difficulties I’ve had reviewing books by people I know. He assured me that he’d understand me being forthright and fair about my review, and I have been.

For being a supernatural urban legend thriller, the story is pretty standard, up to a point. Two college buddies from very different backgrounds, the women in their lives, coming up against frat jerks, all seems normal.

Then the frat jerks turn out to be werewolves and there is a sinister school being operated by an evil sorceress in the bowels of a Texas university near Dallas. But this school also has an old graveyard haunted with the unexpected, both evil and good.

A good Catholic boy named Jim gets pulled by his frat friend Mike into an Orthodox religious group (most of which are Mike’s family) of an ancient order sworn to protect our existence from occult dangers. They live an uneasy peace with the “Otherworld” by a compact signed untold centuries ago…but not all of the Otherworld creatures are obedient, or perhaps they just didn’t sign on the dotted line.

Continue reading

Book Review: “Prador Moon” by Neal Asher

Prador Moon cover art

I’ve previously read and reviewed Neal Asher’s “Polity series” novels Dark Intelligence (2015) and War Factory (2016), both part of the “Transformation” trilogy.

Frankly, Asher has written so many novels, just within this one series, that I was stumbling blind when I read those two, and although I enjoyed them, I couldn’t figure out how everything fit together.

I needed some sort of context to make sense of the universe I was experiencing. Although it’s not the first “Polity” book Asher (metaphorically) penned, Prador Moon records the first encounter between humans and AIs in the Polity and the Prador.

It’s not a complex novel, but it does introduce some of the key elements presented in all of these stories, including “Augs,” “AIs,” “Golems,” “runcibles” (basically stargates), and of course, the utterly ruthless, crab-like Prador.

Continue reading

Book Review of Galactic Patrol

Image captured from Amazon

In some ways, E.E. “Doc” Smith’s third Lensman novel Galactic Patrol feels like the first “real” Lensman novel. I suppose that’s largely due to the character Kimball Kinnison having a central role in the book. He is the Lensman hero I think all of my friends looked up to when these books were popular when I was in Junior High in the late ’60s. Of course I also think these novels were better consumed over 50 years in the past by boys between the ages of 12 and 14 than they are by a fellow in his late 60s today.

It also hung together a bit better than the previous two (“Triplanetary” and “First Lensman”). That said, most of the book felt incredibly episodic. It was like a television show where the season hadn’t been plotted out cohesively from start to finish. A great deal of the action bounced all over the place, introducing seemingly random characters, planets, and events throughout the first two-thirds of the story.

Eventually, Smith was able to tie (most) things together showing relationships in the last third, but even that seemed rushed.

Continue reading

Review of The World of Science Fiction 1926-1976: “But What Good Is It?”

Cover image of Lester Del Rey’s “The World of Science Fiction 1926-1976

Finally finished The World of Science Fiction 1926-1976 by Lester Del Rey and I must say it is both very informative, and for long stretches, pretty boring.

This is one of two (probably) reviews, and today’s write up is the most “controversial” of the two.

The book was published in 1980 so 40 years of science fiction have passed since Del Rey opined “But What Good Is It?” in the 34th chapter. To Del Rey, the purpose of science fiction was to entertain, but then he remarked on page 348:

What disturbs me more is the whole concept of purpose as applied to any literature. To the Marxists, intent upon subordinating everything to the good of the state, the arts must serve a direct purpose of life — usually propaganda, I’m afraid. But why people in this country accept such Marxist ideas is a puzzle.

Del Rey died on May 10, 1993, about 13 years after penning this tome, and I’m glad he didn’t see what’s happening to field of science fiction today.

Continue reading

Edited Means Moving Forward

Screenshot from my computer.

Yes, it’s a bland image to be sure, but writing fiction isn’t all fun, games, and glory. Once a story is accepted, or in this case two, it doesn’t mean what you’ve submitted to the publisher is perfect. It just means that it’s a good story (well, I hope that’s what it means).

It also means that someone is going to go over your story with the proverbial fine-toothed comb, pointing out issues, everything from word usage to punctuation.

Continue reading

Lyla El Fayomi’s “Terminum” Revisited

terminum

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

You may have read my review of Lyla El-Fayomi‘s novel Terminum about ten days or so ago. As I mentioned in the original review, I wrote it for Reedsy Discovery at their invitation. Today, my review went live. I was surprised at the response.

Ms. El-Fayomi made her name unavailable on the review and presumably in Discovery. She wrote this comment by way of an explanation:

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: Despite the large area it occupies, the lengthy review of Terminum featured on the Reedsy book page WAS NOT written by a professional in the field. It is simply one man’s opinion. Please treat it as such. You may find your reading experience to be entirely different from his.

In spite of her obvious intelligence and education, I don’t think she understands what a book review is.

Continue reading

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

Review of “Mission: Outbreak by Michael Gilwood

mo

Cover art for Michael Gilwood’s novel “Mission: Outbreak”

Starting Mission: Outbreak by Michael Gilwood, when I read that 200 year old human remains are found on one of Neptune’s moons, I was somewhat reminded of James P. Hogan’s novel “Inherit the Stars,” which I’d consumed some decades ago and remembered enjoying.

But afterward, there was a significant section of exposition which, I suppose, was necessary to cover a long stretch of history in a shorter span of pages.

After that, I found Gilwood’s novel was a sort of mix between the original Star Trek television series, and something written by E.E. “Doc” Smith.

That’s not necessarily bad as far as it goes, but not only did it seem familiar, but too often repeated as a science fiction trope.

Captain Philip Wakefield and our heroes on the starship Excelsior visit an alien planet in search of clues of perhaps humanity’s origins, as well as evidence that the Earth has been visited before by extraterrestrials.

Continue reading