29 January 2019

Human scale wars fought by god scale AIs

Burning Eagle | Navin Weeraratne | military science fiction
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Navin Weeraratne has a winner here. 693 pages of action packed high tech military sci fi. The best word for what I did with the book is probably 'inhaled'. I was reading 5 pages every morning before my eyes were fully unglued. 

It has 3D printers, railguns, FTL, alien invasions, von Neumann catastrophes, nanotech, personal backup and posthumans. What more do you want? Characterisation, plotting, good editing, mystery and closure, intelligent economics, a hint of a sequel? Fussy, aren't you. You don't want romance and humour while you're at it? Ooh, aren't you the lucky thing?

The only thing that made me go nuh uh was manufacturing antimatter for fuel en route on a generation ship. Thermodynamics doesn't work like that, sorry. On the other hand, Arabs are Asians, bingo. I really liked that people in the book come from diverse ethnicites, without much more than a name to indicate it; no stereotypes, no token characters. 

I'll think of some more negatives when I come down from the high I'm on right now. Like the motivations of Sarasvati and what happened to her. But those are minor. 

Am I going to go hunt down The Hundred Gram Mission? Tautology.

And what you should be doing is going to your favourite online bookstore and buying this one right away.

Single-handedly taking on the aliens, with trusty AI sidekick in tow.

The Phantom Fleet Julien Boyer

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (I really liked it and recommend it!)

This is a cute piece of space opera, fast paced, with humour and a sly take on all kinds of tropes. The protagonist emerges as an... unexpected... person, very delightful. The trusty AI sidekick is well done, too. The end is deadpan not-so-happy-ending that made me laugh.

I was fully prepared to roll my eyes at laser beams lighting up the interstellar medium, spaceships that whiz between Mars, Earth and Moon within hours, but the author thankfully assures us these are artistic liberties. As long as there is no dodging between asteroids, I'm good.

Read it. It's fun.

Free on Smashwords.

4 and 5 star (or better) science fiction and fantasy stories

These are reviews of books I read in 2018 (mostly the second half of the year). As I went along, I’d write a quick review, always with the pious intention of posting the review very promptly. Alas for good intentions.

So, while each of these deserves a whole separate write up, some of them just got clubbed together here simply because the review is so short. Onward!

4 stars means I really, really liked it. 5 stars means I loved it. Read them all. You won't regret any one.


Tessili Academy | Robin Stephen
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Excellent fantasy, thoughtful, well executed. I want more, and fortunately, sequels exist. 

Get it here, free(!), on Smashwords.







Elysian Livian Grey
⭐⭐⭐⭐ [Note: adult content]

A short, sharp love story. Isla has a strange artistic talent, which others will kill for. Josh will protect her at all cost. Happy endings do exist, of sorts.

Find it here, free(!), on Smashwords.


Palimpsest Tais Teng
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A new concept in fantasy is rare enough. This well written gem, set in the far future, shows us an elf-human conflict with stubborn heroes and a subtly built up denouement that thrills and horrifies in equal measure.

Find it here (it's free! unbelievable) on Smashwords.




Pest control (a short story) | Jameson Kowalczyk
⭐⭐⭐⭐

A creepy little horror piece. You can guess what's coming fairly early, but it still manages to be creepy, because it's so well-written.

Find it here (free!) on Smashwords.


Tears | C. Price
⭐⭐⭐⭐

A well written short. It begins: “He was four the first time he saw his grandmother cry.” The end sneaks up on you, unexpected till almost the last two words.

Read it.

Oh, right. Here's where you get it. Part of the Killgrace series.

Even more 3 to 3.5 star science fiction stories

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, before going to the 4 star or better stories, I dug around to check if there were more in the 3 to 3-1/2 star stories, and surprise surprise, there are more books which I read in 2018, each of which is rated around 3 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good sales. So here are the last of the posts (hopefully!) with short reviews and links to find the books.

This is part 5 () of what is actually the same post, but broken up so that (a) it’s not too long and (b) I can label the post without losing any of the book or author names. This should (finally!) be the last lot of the averagely good lot before I rub my hands and get to the really good stuff.


The Interdimensional Dilemma of IAN and Betty | D R Brooks
⭐⭐⭐

An adventure story that includes: a librarian studying the phenomena (plural) of interdimensional bleeds, an interdimensional traveller, a bigfoot, Ancient Ones, vampires, werewolves, dhampirs, vampire hunters, Dr Frankenstein in an off scene role, a vampiric power struggle, blood and confusion, spelling and grammar mistakes, in order of importance.

All within a faux 19-century culture that charms and irritates in equal measure.

Find it here, free, on Smashwords.


Divergen Dreams | Tony Evans
⭐⭐⭐

A collection of short stories that ranges from slightly creepy to very creepy.

What can I say about a book the very first word of whose title is misspelled on the inside page? (I retained that spelling here.) All I can say is, it gets better than that. A lot.

Find it here on Smashwords. It's still free, last I checked.


The Sapphiran Agenda | Marcha Fox
⭐⭐⭐

A gentle look at sentient telepathic mobile plants that find herbivores horrifying, and carnivores that eat anything (including humans) easy to get on with and even control. Now, what happens when one meets a human it can deal with?

Yes, I call it a gentle story despite its being gory and displaying sneaky cunning in equal parts. 

Free, here, on Smashwords.


Residential Aliens | ResAliens Press
⭐⭐⭐

I liked two out of the five stories, Petition and Plague Ship. The other 3 were weak at best. Hence, overall 3 stars.

The collection seems to be strongly religion-themed. If that’s not your scene (and it’s not mine), the intrusive presence of Christian mythos and themes does detract from the stories.

Find it here on Smashwords.

Yet more 3 to 3.5 star science fiction/fantasy stories

So, before going to the 4 star or better stories, I dug around to check if there were more in the 3 to 3-1/2 star stories, and behold, there are more books which I read in 2018, each of which is rated around 3 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good sales. So here are, in two more posts (hopefully the last lot of) short reviews and links to find the books.

This is part 4 of what is actually the same post (previous post here), but broken up so that (a) it’s not too long and (b) I can label the post without losing any of the book or author names.


Three very short stories | A.S. Morrison
⭐⭐⭐

They have a very 70s feel, hallucinogenic almost.

The first one starts hinting the conclusion, but by then it's almost over so no spoilers after all. Classic sci fi.

The second one is disturbing in its implications.

The third one is mystical, a parable, almost.

It's on Smashwords, here, free.


Viridian System Sampler 8 Short Stories | Jemima Pett
⭐⭐⭐

This is a sampler from the ‘Viridian star system’, where asteroids are mined for orichalcum, no less, and the miners go for recreation to a planet with a double fast rotation, two suns and three moons.

Far in the future, yet it has male miners hiring female 'miner-suppliers' for company, sex and service, from what can only be a pimp. Eyeroll and loss of stars!

Well written shorts despite that major drawback, they do draw you in, and you may be tempted to read more about the system in the rest of the books in the same world.

It's free on Smashwords, here.


The Mighty Peculiar Incident at Muddy Creek | Ian Thomas Healy
⭐⭐⭐

A mashup of western and sci fi, featuring train robbery and time travel. Not bad at all. We find that the guys with the technology indistinguishable from magic need not necessarily be smart enough to use it to best effect.

The first in the Muddy Creek Tales series, it is free on Smashwords, here.




Tempus non fugit | Alex Drinkwater, Jr.
⭐⭐⭐

What would happen if ageing slowed, to say, 1 in 10? 

Great North Road by Peter Hamilton takes one view, Tempus Non Fugit takes another.

A cautionary tale, which makes it a bit grim, but overall satisfactory.

Free on Smashwords, here.

02 January 2019

Still more 3 to 3.5 star science fiction stories

These are more books which I read in 2018 (even though I downloaded some the previous year; yes, my backlog is not funny). Each is rated around 3 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good sales. So here are short reviews and links to find the books.

This is part 3 of what is actually the same post (previous post here), but broken up so that (a) it’s not too long and (b) I can label the post without losing any of the book or author names. So it might extend to one or two more posts. Please continue to bear with me.


The Crack | Lee S King
⭐⭐⭐

What if her occult-seeming pickup line really is true? Are there really rifts between dimensions? 

Unfortunately, I can't seem to locate the book on Smashwords any more; the author may have taken it off.


The Licence | Myfanwy Tilley
⭐⭐⭐ and 1/2


Corruption is possible in the Bureau of Parenting, Marriages and Dying. So what if you're not really qualified to be a parent?


A very clever if not exactly ... edifying piece! Plenty of twists and turns.






The Eye of Renithi | Aaron Clausen
⭐⭐⭐ and 1/2


This is a story of Mars. Not the real one, but the mythical one of Burroughs. Which is probably why the cover is a black and white image of Mars itself. A dying planet with hot deserts, barbaric Martian worshippers of a horrific goddess of death, and greedy colonial Earthmen tomb raiders.


In the tradition of King Solomon's Mines or Indiana Jones. For which I have less patience from the 21st century.

Withal, well written and atmospheric. 



The Intervention | David Horn
⭐⭐⭐ and 1/2

The parents of an addict in a dystopic future stage an intervention, which results in his being committed to an institution. You can guess he's addicted to something mild that creates frissons in a conformist society, but the end is still a wry surprise.






The Implant | Troy Dennison
⭐⭐⭐ and 1/2

A funny take on unearned, instant knowledge. The narrator keeps getting implants that give him instant knowledge, like language or karate, but without the skills. The whole thing is an eye-rolling sitcom till the bleak end, whereupon it becomes face-palming sitcom.




Next time, a few 4 star stories!