Tag Archives: adventure

Insert Punk Here (coming soon: Space Punk, by C.E. Lange)

30 Apr

Steampunk and cyberpunk get most of the attention these days, but SF author C.E. Lange promises a new subgenre with his novel Space Punk:

“Space Punk: One is space opera, adventure, science fiction, action, violence, vulgarity, and beautiful girls, all wrapped up into 15 chapters. The novel was inspired by an old PC game, early space opera pulp works, and spiced up with some R-rated action. What more could you ask for? This is not hard science fiction, this is space opera. This is Space Punk!”

And from the book description:

Apparently, in the future, we all go the Michael Jackson route--get super pale and lose our noses. Or is that leprosy? I'm sorry, that's uncalled-for.

Zane Abrahm drinks, chases women, has a heart but doesn’t use it, learns fast, and is a hell of a pilot, but he’s a horrible bounty hunter. He does it anyway, it’s the only life he’s ever known, and after three failed attempts to handcuff Victor Motisi, his world gets turned upside down and sent on an alcohol-fueled rampage across the galaxy.

Politician Sydney Metis thinks he’s playing both sides of the field by bringing Victor and a fleet of warships together in battle for his own gain, but no one can figure out who is playing who in this space adventure.

And that’s really not the half of it. Zane’s crazy pill-popping punk ex-girlfriend just found a way back into his life, and just when he fell for another chick. Of all the stupid scenarios that could have changed his life forever, the one that befalls him is a black hole of his own making, pulling him further in with each wrong decision. Guys wish they had the problems Zane Abrahm has. Zane wishes those other guys had them.

Review forthcoming, and until then, here’s Space Punk on Amazon–because, as you know, I don’t plug any other booksellers (Nook owners are so lame).

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More Miscorrection! (Panacea final verdict)

30 Apr

I’ve been a fan of B.C. Young’s LOST-esque Miscorrection series for some time now, and was thrilled to be able to read a copy of episode 4, Panacea, before it’s released.  So here’s what’s what:

Recommendation: When episode 3 (Felix Culpa) aired on the Kindle, I said that it was the most sophisticated installment yet.  But happy day, Panacea has surpassed it.  Young’s style is ever more self-assured and innovative.  Use of flashbacks gives the story depth, and builds up suspense as the main plotline moves forward.  Subtle twists enter the tale in Panacea, along with a couple great “aha!” moments.  But of course, as was both the best and most frustrating thing about LOST, for every answer we get there’s another question.  This is science fiction most certainly, but after reading Panacea I’m going to add “mystery” and “adventure” to the genre tally.

B.C. Young’s Miscorrection series has, as always, the Scattering’s full cyber-stamp of approval, and remains my favorite short story series to date.  You can’t buy this kind of entertainment for $0.99.  Oh wait, yes you can.

Reading Time: At roughly 1200 locations on the Kindle, Panacea is weekly tv drama length, meaning a read-through will take between 45 minutes and an hour.  Longer for me, because I went back to reread Felix Culpa first and see if I could pick up any clues.

Availability: The book’s not out quite yet, but the author is kind enough to give all of us Internet denizens a free peek on The Time Capsule: Miscorrection: Panacea Excerpt

The book will be available for the Kindle, the Nook (eww, gross), and on Smashwords in very early May (meaning, before May 3rd at the latest).

Make sure to check out the first 3 episodes of Miscorrection on Kindle TV before you jump into this one.  It’s like my grandfather once said: “I tried to watch that Lost show you like last night, but I didn’t know what was going on.  They were in a church talking about time travel.  Is that right?”

And if you care what I think, here are my previous reviews:

Kindle TV (Sunrise, Arrogation)

Happy Mistakes (Felix Culpa)

Knights in White Lab Coats (preview Miscorrection: Panacea)

30 Apr

For some reasons, scientists scare people.  It’s a cultural trope: mad scientists, evil geniuses, supervillains in high-tech bunkers underground.  And then we have people like Dr. Kevin Warwick of the University of Reading in England who calls himself a cyborg and says things about “cyborg ethics” like:

Thank you, IrishTimes.com, for making this eminent professor look like he's trawling for children in chat rooms. Thanks a bunch.

“There’s no point thinking that we’ll [transhumanists will] do a deal with the humans and be nice to them. This is a leap in intellectual performance so why should augmented humans listen to what humans have to say? Potentially this will split society.”

Not only does he look really creepy in this picture (left), but he kind of is a legit cyborg.  For the record, I’m totally on your side, Dr. Warwick– transhumanists ftw!  So… please don’t hurt me.

The hilarious Flight of the Conchords have a song that pretty much sums up the popular conception of what might happen when science goes too far.  See “The Humans Are Dead.

But this is getting off-topic.

“Panacea,” story #4 of the Miscorrection series, is not about robotic beings ruling the world, or shutting our motherboardf*cking systems down.  There isn’t even Mad Science in the conventional sense (oh, except for that crazy doctor shut up in prison for, you know, dangerous research and other assorted bad stuff).  What’s so refreshing about Panacea is that the scientists are good!  The title itself, after all, refers to a cure-all, not world destruction.

What a relief.  I was getting tired of cliches.

Doc Atrasti is a man on a mission.  Determined to turn the aforementioned crazy scientist’s research to good use, he enlists a favorite character from past installments (Daniel!) on a guys’ hiking trip–and by “guys’ hiking trip,” I mean a top-secret mission in the alien mountains of the planet Cormos.  At last, all those bio majors have decent role models to look up to.

I can’t give away the ending, but I can tell you that Miscorrection: Panacea will be out soon (May 2nd), with the opportunity to read it for free on the first day of the release.  See the author B.C. Young’s blog The Time Capsule for more details: http://the-time-capsule.com/2011/04/19/miscorrection-panacea-release-date-is/

This has been the 200th post of the Scattering, and no series deserves that honor (er… let’s just say it’s an honor) better.  Which is why I am officially awarding B.C. Young with the Scattering’s Linus and Cromwell Award for Science Fictional Excellence.  This prize is this terrible picture of my two most favorite misunderstood individuals in fiction and history.

Congratulations!  I hope this win does not negatively impact your sales, but I make no promises.

Z is for Zealot (review: Rogue Hunter, by Kevis Hendrickson)

29 Dec

Zounds!  In his novel Rogue Hunter: Quest of the Hunter, Kevis Hendrickson takes full advantage of that most-neglected letter of the alphabet when naming his characters: from the heroine, the zaftig bounty hunter Zyra Zanr, to his arch-villains, the sinister crime syndicate Zaragos.  Add some life-long vendettas into the mix and we’ve got a story zappy with zealotry.

[Is it just me, or is the letter Z looking really weird right about now?  Vocab vertigo, or something.]

Alliteration aside (see what I did there?), Hendrickson’s space opera has a lot more going for it than the somewhat cliche, overly-“futuristic” name choices might suggest.  It’s just what Wikipedia tells us a space opera should be:

A subgenre of speculative fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, generally involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities. The name has no relation to music, since it is by analogy to soap operas (see below). Perhaps the most significant trait of space opera is that settings, characters, battles, powers, and themes tend to be very large-scale. Sometimes the term space opera is used in a negative sense, to denote bad quality science fiction, but its meaning can differ, often describing a particular science fiction genre without any value judgment.

I’m no science fiction purist.  I got into a small-scale comment thread debate on a previous review I wrote about just this topic: science fiction versus Science Fiction.  First of all, Plantonic capitalization really doesn’t work for anyone but Emily Dickinson.  Second, who the hell cares?  Hard SF, Soft SF, Social Science Sci-Fi, Speculative fiction, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Slipstream, the “New Weird”–to flash back to my high school mock trial days, it’s a distinction without a difference, Your Honor.  A professor recently called me a “lumper,” rather than a “splitter,” and that’s just fine.  Let’s leave the minute categorizations to Linnaeus, shall we?

With that said, when I use the term “space opera,” I’m in that latter group–denoting a genre, not making a snide remark on quality.  I made a snide remark about Zyra’s name, and about her svelte and zaftic physique defying the laws of gravity (see above), but after the following colon I’ll be completely sincere: Rogue Hunter is a fast read, and an excellent adventure.

Yes, there is some seriously melodramatic melodrama–the beautiful Zyra becomes a bounty hunter to avenge her father’s brutal murder by Zaragos, and then (spoiler alert!) her fiance’s.  But the other defining characteristics of the genre–large-scale conflict, space travel, galaxy-wide conspiracies, alien races, epic battles and epic heroes–can be incredibly entertaining.  And in this case, the quest of our Herculean heroine Zyra Zanr is clearly the focus of the novel.

Far-flung, far-future stories necessitate a glimpse into the technology of our distant descendants (ye gads, I just can’t stop!).  Hard SF devotees won’t like the dearth of technical details in Kevis Hendrickson’s writing, but I’m satisfied with the glimpse I get–especially when the writing is so clever (I guess 52nd century humans don’t recognize the irony in an “Icarus Tech Propulsion Pack,” or the appropriateness of a computer hacker named “Logos”).

The technology involved is creative, but seems so natural as not to need exhaustive explanation.  And the ideas stick with you–I had a “wow, that’s brilliant” moment when Hendrickson introduced the cryo-chamber unit in Zyra’s ship:

As a matter of standard space-faring knowledge, cry-chambers were installed in every cruiser-class starship as a last-means emergency device.  Assuming that all other options had been exhausted to repair a starship, and flight controls or life-support systems were lost, the idea was that the ship’s pilot could activate the cryo-chamber unit, and put herself into suspended animation with the hope that somewhere along the line someone would locate the ship and rescue her, even if it took many years.

It makes perfect sense that, with distances of light years and parsecs separating spacefarers, cryogenics could be a practical tool.  Commonly-used, even.  I just never would have thought of it.

But like I said, Rogue Hunter‘s about the hunter herself: Zyra Zanr, the bounty hunter.  Here’s how she describes herself and her career:

“Bounty hunting’s a fancy way of saying: Look at me, I’m a dysfunctional human being and my life’s a wreck.  Get too close and you’ll be sorry!”

Sad for Zyra, but awesome for us–because a book about a polished, put-together bounty hunter would be no fun at all.

Zyra has some serious inner turmoil going on.  One the one hand, she’s an Alliance Space Marine Academy dropout in the fugitive business for some quick cash.  Bounty hunting’s a purely practical matter.

One the other, she’s fueled by revenge, that most enduring motivator.  Leaving a trail of corpses behind her, Zyra doesn’t make too many friends among the InterGalactic Police–except for space cop deputy Hunter, her ill-fated lover, who knows exactly how messed-up his fiancee is:

“Worse yet, you’ve finally pissed off the IGP… in your defense, I told the other back at the barn that you’re just a damn overly-committed zealot.  A hopelessly desperate, overly-committed zealot, but a zealot no less.”

Love you too, babe!

That sort of complexity makes me think twice about the title–and whether Zyra’s hunting rogues, or the rogue herself.  Dysfunctional and operatic as her life may be, I like Zyra, and I like reading about her.  What else do I need to say?  Oh, right:

Rogue Hunter: Quest of the Hunter is available as an ebook on Amazon for $0.99

This has been the 150th post of the Scattering.  Bully for me.

Verdict? Peace Warrior by Steven L. Hawk

12 Dec

I’ll get right to the point: Peace Warrior is a flawlessly-written science fiction adventure with sympathetic characters and a fast-paced plot.  Though billed as military science fiction, Peace Warrior cuts across genres and subgenres by incorporating cultural issues of nature and nurture, war and peace.  Complex heroes like Grant Justice and complex issues like these hit the page with the force of an alien mothership biting the dust.  Any description I write won’t do it justice (get it? get it?); Steven L. Hawk’s novel is something like War of the Worlds meets cryogenics and hippies on steroids.  All I can say is that it’s impossible not to get invested in the outcome of the story and the personalities of our protagonists.  No way around it–I’m with Team Human.

Reading Time: 6 hours on a flight from Birmingham to Los Angeles plus one lazy weekend.  But that’s just me.

Recommendation: SF subgenres like cyberpunk, steampunk, or the mysterious New Weird can sometimes be an acquired taste (not Christmas present material for the lay science fiction reader).  Peace Warrior outstrips niche readership for a general audience.  Steven L. Hawk absolutely blows away the common stigma that indie authors create lower-quality work.

Peace Warrior is available as an ebook on Amazon for $2.99.

I’m with Team Human (review: Peace Warrior)

12 Dec

There’s nothing like enslavement by brutal alien overlords to bring people together, right?

Or at least in most science fictional scenarios.  But in Peace Warrior, author Steven L. Hawk takes that classic story set-up and turns it around.  Excepting John Lennon (rest in peace, btw), most of us probably can’t imagine a world without war, hatred, poverty, misery, and all-around horror headlining the news every night.

Grant Justice is one of us.  He swears up a storm even when he’s not directing military maneuvers in one of earth’s endemic wars.  He’s a good guy who can handle a gun who happens to die in a particularly gruesome manner (insert description here of shattered bone and bloody, ragged stumps where limbs used to be.  Oh, and drowning).

But 600 years from now, when a young N’mercan scientist resurrects him with the power of cryogenics, Grant Justice is a social deviant, a dangerous “Violent” far removed from the Peace-loving culture of the distant future.  And seriously, those future humans need to chill out.  “What the fuck?” are entirely acceptable first words for a guy whose consciousness has been drifting in a deathly abyss of memories for the last six centuries.

But the world Grant wakes up to isn’t anything like what he remembered.  And it’s probably more of a shock than waking up in 1410 would be.  At least people swore back then.  But Hawk has created a world where world peace has been achieved and beauty pageant contestants have to think of some new cliché to talk about (insert gasp!).

Peace isn’t just some geopolitical goal either—it’s a lifestyle.  Welcome to Planet Pacifist, where the “verbal violence” of a bewildered “What the fuck?” is enough to excommunicate a time traveler from society.  Oh, and where an alien race called the Minith enslaved earth’s entire human population to die in the millions mining for natural resources—and did it without quashing a single rebellion.  Why?  Because there weren’t any.

The appropriate response here would, indeed, be: What the fuck?  I mean, ABC has a Catholic priest becoming a terrorist to fight alien subjugation (and it’s awesome).

Humankind’s last hope is the revived warrior with the violent psyche of a twenty-first century human, good ol’ Grant Justice—and while the name reeks of cliché, Peace Warrior doesn’t.  There are a very few weak points (the Grant-Avery love interest subplot happened a little too fast, perhaps), but Hawk makes his story, characters, and future world entirely plausible.

Good science fiction tells a captivating story, making readers empathize with believable characters and tense with anticipation as the story builds to a climax.  Peace Warrior does all this, hands-down.  The book had barely started before I was entirely invested in the success of Grant and his army of Violents.  Example: the other day I was reading in my sister’s room while she painted.  When I cheered out loud, she asked simply: “Did Grant kill another alien?”  Hell yes he did!  And I, well how could I not be with Team Human?

There’s nothing like good storytelling—but great stories go deeper than that.  Science fiction can take us into the far future, but the best SF reflects the present world too, incorporating contemporary social issues and ideas into the plot itself (there’s nothing worse than a preachy novel, after all).  Peace Warrior is a damn good story, even as Hawk raises complex issues about Nature vs. Nurture and the role of violence in society.

I’ll be concise to sum up, because I think that’s how Grant would want it: Rebel humans are super badass, and Peace Warrior is a great book.

Peace Warrior is available as an ebook on Amazon for $2.99.

Verdict? The Quest for Nobility

23 Nov

Debra L. Martin and David W. Small’s science fiction/adventure novel has a lot going for it: believable lead characters, a classic coming-of-age narrative, and an interesting mixture of both high-tech science fiction and fantasy elements.  The incorporation of Arthurian lore and Stonehenge mythology was a pleasant plot twist–although, I really think Darius, Dyla, and Elasius would have been better served collaborating with a historian rather than an anthropologist.  Just saying.

Speaking of our young heroes–the teenaged Darius, Dyla, and Eclasius bear some resemblance to the Harry Potter Generation’s own favorite trio.  But that doesn’t mean The Quest for Nobility is derivative: the setting has less to do with spell-casting than aristocratic in-fighting.  For the SF reader, that’s par for the course.

Reading time: 2 – 3 weeks.  The pace of the plot can be slow at times, but mainly because Martin and Small need some exposition to set up the background for the society of Otharia.

Recommendation: I’d probably classify The Quest for Nobility as Young Adult fiction–not because the ideas or writing are simplistic, but because I can see the characters appealing to a teenage audience.  We all like to read about ourselves and ourselves, after all.

The Quest for Nobility is available as an ebook on Amazon for $2.99.

Now Reading: The Quest for Nobility

16 Oct

High-tech feudal societies aren’t uncommon in science fiction (I’m thinking Dune, and that bizarre tv show Kings from a few years back–what was with that, anyway?).  Debra L. Martin and David W. Small take up the setting with The Quest for Nobility (March 2010), which follows royal twins Darius and Dyla Telkur of Otharia–proper aristocratic SF names, in any case–fleeing from a kingdom coup on their home planet to benighted Earth.  From Amazon:

The idyllic life of royal teenagers, Darius and Dyla Telkur, from the planet Otharia takes a horrifying turn when their parents are murdered. With their cousin appointed as Regent until Darius comes of age, it doesn’t take the twins long to figure out that he’s bent on stealing their throne one way or another. To escape their cousin’s wrath and a false murder charge, they flee to the only safe place they know where no one will find them – the forbidden and quarantined planet Earth.

Safe on Earth for the moment, the only way for them to return home is to find an ancient 10K traveling crystal left behind by their Otharian ancestors who visited Earth 1500 years ago. Enlisting the help of a London university archeologist, they begin their search for the crystal from clues buried deep within the Arthurian lore of Merlin and Lady of the Lake.

What they find instead is evidence of a secret trade pact between Otharia and Earth that was established centuries ago. Before Darius and Dyla can understand what it means, they’re in jeopardy again; this time pursued by those on Earth who want the secret to remain hidden. Who is behind the trade pact and what is being traded are the questions the twins need to figure out while trying to stay one step ahead of the Earth assassins.

I can only speak for myself, but any kids smart enough to team up with a University social sciences professor have my vote… if they were living in a democracy, at least.  Trade conspiracies and ancient mythology are smart plot choices as well as alien feudalism, and I’m anticipating good news for Darius, Dyla, and their readers in the next review.

Verdict? View, by Ed Morawksi

21 Jul

Junk science?  the Scattering thinks not, after reading the fast-paced adventure View, Air Force veteran Ed Morawksi’s novel of psychic-turned-military-spy.  Weaving in technical details, historical romance, and the twisting conspiracy expected of any top secret government project, View is an exciting science fiction drama with likeable and all-too-realistic characters in the midst of a head-spinning story.

Morawski’s style makes the novel engaging and entertaining from the start, giving us the hilariously insubordinate ex-sergeant Max Leszek as a guide through the various dimensions of both the United States government remote viewing project and the fabric of human consciousness.

Reading time: Hard to say, if only because View is extremely hard to put down.  One week or less, depending on how long you can extend your lunch break to keep the pages turning.

Recommendation: Accessible to a general, generally non-scifi audience.  This speculative novel reads like a classic adventure story with a unique spin on what Morawski calls “a tale of paranormal romance.”

View: A Tale of Paranormal Romance is available as an Amazon ebook for $5.00 as well as on plant pulp for $15.99.

Verdict? Pale Boundaries, by Scott Cleveland

7 Jul

The jury’s in:

Pale Boundaries is a great example of how a creative author and strong writing can bring realism to a literally out-of-this-world concept.  Realistic characters live in a world of realistic technology–Cleveland’s description of Terson Reilly’s hydrojet made me feel I knew its propulsion systems inside and out, and I don’t even drive a car.

In fact, I don’t know that I’m even comfortable calling the novel science fiction: the adventure, detail, and high-seas action puts me more in mind of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt than any literary spaceman.

Reading time: One week at a leisurely summer pace (though maintaining that gets hard about halfway in, when the real action starts to build)

Recommendation: For general fiction readers, not just SF fans

Available: In both paperback and ebook form– and at the $0.99 Kindle price, readers get a major return on their money

For more commentary, see:

The more things change… (review 1)

Beyond the Pale (review 2)