Tag Archives: sci-fi

04Jun/19

Ithani (The Oberon Cycle Book 3) by J. Scott Coatsworth

The third and final part of the Oberon Cycle trilogy, the first books being Skythane (Book 1) and Lander (Book 2) The books must be read in order, the first concentrating on building the world the author has created, and the second adding more characters to those already introduced.

The worlds of Oberon and Error have been lovingly crafted right from the get-go, so I felt I knew the characters and their surroundings, the curious alien foods they eat and the commodities they treasure. There is an excellent glossary in each book too, reminding the reader of what unusual words mean if they get stuck as I did on occasions. And the size of the glossary alone is testament to how meticulous the author has been in creating these worlds.

The writing was flawless in all three books, with colourful, almost cinematic set-pieces and rounded-out, diverse characters. As with a lot of fantasy/sci-fi novels, there were a LOT of characters, which is always risky as sometimes it can be hard to connect to them all. And yes, I did have a job remembering all of them, and what their dynamics were. There were places where I had to re-read to ensure I was following the plot correctly.

But in this world, the world of Oberon, everyone had their role, and there wasn’t one character that I felt didn’t really need to be there. They were an engaging lot as well, even the bad guys. I don’t want to give too much away, to be honest, fearful of letting a spoiler loose by accident.

What I can say is by the end of the trilogy, a lot of the characters, Jameson and Xander, Quince and Robin, almost felt like friends. Their dialogue was approachable and very natural. I love the mix of pronouns, the diverse genders and sexualities; it really was a rainbow cast, and with cool tech to boot.

Also I saw echoes of our own world and warnings for the future of what we stand to lose if we aren’t responsible for our planet (but not in a heavy-duty, worthy way) but in the end it was just a really good story from start to finish. I think I said in my review of Skythane that Scott’s writing made me fall in love with sci-fi again.

And at the end of this trilogy, I’m glad to say I’m more in love with it than ever.

BLURB

Time is running out.

After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson, and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani—the aliens who broke the world—have reawakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.

The ithani plans, laid a hundred thousand years before, are finally coming to pass, and they threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing friend and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin, and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.

Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny, and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the ability to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani rise….

18Apr/19

Empire Of Light (Voyance #1) by Alex Harrow

Alex Harrow was recently on WROTE! To hear their interview and check out their work, you can find them on Episode 200: Wait Wait This Is A Thing!

Empire of Light has a lot of warnings, including for for graphic violence and explicit sex. The danger with trigger warnings is that the reader will then read the book and think, so where was that violence then? Or where was the sex?

For the former, the author wasn’t kidding. From the get-go, this book has crunchy action scenes, lots of blood and flailing fists from our tough-talking main character, Damian, hitman and mercenary. 

On paper, he doesn’t sound too promising, but I sort of liked him by the end. If Quentin Tarantino had made a sci-fi, it might be something quite similar to this, shot in monochrome with flashes of blood and fire. Turns out Damian has a soft and squishy side, although he does his best to hide it. I would like to take him out for a beer and tell him how to keep in touch with his emotions.

I really enjoyed this book, despite the dizzying pace. It’s well-written, though I would have appreciated a few more calm moments to get to know the characters more.  It has balls-to-the-wall fight scenes, and a man torn between saving his lover and lusting after the man (Raeyn) who has threatened to kill him if he doesn’t do what he wants. There isn’t much in the way of complicated emotion, but we get the picture. Damian is a bit of blunt instrument. In fact, most of the characters are, apart from the blind woman, who I would have liked to get to know a bit. I loved Raeyn’s sense of style, and slinky Aris who seemed to oscillate from good to bad to good again. 

I wouldn’t say the sex is hugely explicit (though it depends what kind of books you usually read I guess) but the language can be coarse (it would be odd if it wasn’t, TBH) and there is an aura of blood-drenched lust running throughout the whole book. 

Good world-building, and a fast-paced, visceral plot. My one quibble would be the last few pages, where a LOT seemed to happen, and it felt as if there were at least one climax too many (if that’s possible.) I felt a bit breathless reading it; not in a sexy way, but in a “please make this stop” way. I fear some subtleties might have been lost in translations, but all in all, a wild ride, and a huge amount of “fist-in-the-face” fun.

BLURB

Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As the revolution gains traction, Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one moment and kiss him the next. But Aris slips further away from Damian, and as Aris’ control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

21Mar/19

Imminent Dawn by R. R. Campbell

Imminent Dawn (Empathy Book 1) is a complex and involved debut sci-fi novel, first in a series, with a large cast of characters and several different POV’s. There’s no doubt it is well-written and evenly-paced, with great world-building and realistic dialogue.

For me, the number of POV’s were a bit of a stumbling block. I’ve read a lot of books, the the ones I’ve enjoyed most have been the ones with a single or double POV. Once it gets to more than that, with equally important characters, It has to work harder to keep my attention. 

I found this with Imminent Dawn, which at times seemed over-complicated for what it was. Essentially, one woman is used as pawn by a powerful corporation, whilst an investigative journalist and a company employee, each with their own agendas, try to outdo each other in order to achieve their ambitions.

It took a while to unpick all of this, and because of that, I found it difficult to engage with the characters. For me to want to read about a character, I need to care about them or hate them. It was a shame that I didn’t find a particular character to root for in this book, as I was too busy trying to figure out what exactly was going on.

I believe this is down to personal taste though, rather than a fault of the author. Others will find much to enjoy in the characterisations of the enigmatic and ruthless tech magnate, and will relate to Chandra and her predicament. They will enjoy unpicking the complexities of the plot, and will rejoice in subtleties that I may well have missed. In short, I think this novel has far more to it than I was able to glean from it, but I only have a finite amount of time to figure things out before I have to move on. It’s a shame, but as a book reviewer, it’s life.

Finally, this is a solid sci-fi novel, confidently written, with plenty for avid sci-fi readers to enjoy. I really hope they take it on board and run with it.  

BLURB

Four people. One study. The internet-access brain implant to bind or destroy them all.

Art-school dropout Chandra would do anything to apologize for her role in her wife’s coma—including enroll in the first round of human trials for an internet-access brain implant.

At first, the secretive research compound is paradise, the perfect place to distract Chandra from her grief. But as she soon learns, the facility is more prison than resort, with its doctors, support staff, and her fellow patients all bent on hatching plots of their own, no matter how invested they might seem in helping her communicate with her wife.

Making matters worse, a dark wave of uncertainty crashes down on the compound, forcing Chandra to become an unlikely but pivotal player in conspiracies stretching from the highest levels of the North American Union government to the lowest dredges of its shadowy hacking collectives.

To save herself and her wife, Chandra and her newfound friends from the study will have to overcome the scheming of a ruthless tech magnate, the naïveté of an advancement-hungry administrative assistant, and the relentless pursuits of an investigative journalist, all of whom are determined to outpace the others in their own quests to resurrect lost love, cover their tracks, and uncover the truth.

A twistedly delightful clockwork of intrigue and suspense, EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn is an electrifying sci-fi debut from author r. r. campbell. 

08Mar/19

M.D. Neu

March 8, 2019


It gives us great pleasure to welcome M. D. Neu back as the guest on Episode 206 – What Would Grace and Frankie Do?

Join us for a very different format – we are talking MARKETING with author MD Neu. Which begs the question: #WWGaFD?

Follow Marvin and support his work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

Bio:

M.D. Neu is a LGBTQA Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Alfred Hitchcock, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Rice, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.

Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.

When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric his husband of twenty plus years.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

Or right here:


February 8, 2019


It gives us great pleasure to welcome M. D. Neu back as the guest on Episode 202 – Stop Feeding the Beast!

MD (Marvin) Neu returns to talk about his latest release, A New World – Contact. We also discuss aliens, religion, global politics, and refugees – a very timely and entertaining discussion! #WWFD (Wanna find out what that hashtag means? Listen to the blooper at the end of the show!)

Follow Marvin and support his work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

Bio:

M.D. Neu is a LGBTQA Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Alfred Hitchcock, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Rice, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.

Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.

When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric his husband of twenty plus years.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

Or right here:


April 20, 2018


It gives us great pleasure to welcome M.D. Neu as the guest on Episode 160 – Cross Gender, Cross Culture, Cross Economics!!

This week M.D. Neu joins us to chat about his works, with a deep look into the immortal vampires from his novel The Calling, as well as how our books are discovered, and the reality that LGBTQA is cross culture, cross gender, cross economics!!

Follow Marvin and support his work:

Bio:

M.D. Neu is a LGBTQA Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.

Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man, he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.

When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric, his husband of eighteen plus years.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

Or right here:

23Feb/18

Beneath The Surface (The Outsider Book 1) by Rebecca Langham

The beauty of science fiction is there no real rules other than the science has to stand up, and it has to sound plausible, even if it isn’t. I’ve read more varied books under the “science fiction” label over the last few months than I ever have with romance, which is why I love it.

Beneath The Surface is a meaty read, an involved novel with a plethora of secondary characters surrounding the two main protagonists, privileged Lydia and sharp Alessia, her Outsider counterpart.

This story could have been written in a simpler style, and it still would have been a good read, possibly a little easier to get through. There seems to be quite a bit of set-up, when really, the story just needed to get on with it. Having said that, the author has done a great job in lovingly creating the world inhabited by the humans and Outsiders, and whilst doing so, keeping relevant with various issues troubling the world today. The refugee crisis and alienation of races seem horribly familiar, with the aliens being almost too human so at times. It didn’t seem too preachy, but if you’re looking for escapism rather than realism, this may not be the book for you.

There is a lot to pick over, and it would take me a couple of readings to pick up all the subtleties. Like I said at the start, it is a substantial read. At times I felt it seemed longer than it should have been, and it took me a while to warm to the characters but the last third of the book was definitely worth waiting for.

Finally, I thought the book was well-written, a serious sci-fi novel for far less frivolous readers than myself. I stand in awe of the world the author has built and the gravitas of the overall book. It will be very interesting to see where the series goes from here.

BLURB

When a change in collective conscious sends the Outsiders, a group of aliens, to the shadows below the city, humans reason that the demonization of their peers is simply more “humane.” There’s no question, nor doubt. Just acceptance.

Lydia had embraced that sense of “truth” for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a powerful governor, she has been able to live her life with more comforts than most. Comforts can be suffocating, though, and when the opportunity to teach Outsider children in their private, “humane” community becomes available, she takes it.

What she finds beneath the city is far from the truth she had grown to know. There she meets Alessia, an Outsider with the knowledge and will to shake the foundation of all those who walk above ground. The two find a new and unexpected connection despite a complete disconnect from the technological world. Or perhaps in spite of it.

Still, it takes a lot more than an immutable connection to change the world. Lydia, Alessia, and a small group of Outsiders must navigate a system of corruption, falsehoods, and twists none of them ever saw coming, all while holding on to the hope to come out alive in the end. But it’s a risk worth taking, and a future worth fighting for.

16Feb/18

Lander by J. Scott Coatsworth

The scene was set in Book 1: Skythane, and the danger with second books is that the plot can fall a little flat, but that is not the case here. Wisely, the author has created another world out of the old one, with the occupants of Oberon and Titania having to get used to their new reality.

Not everyone is happy with this new world order, and conflicts from the last book rear their ugly heads. The good news is that Quince makes a discovery laced with tragedy, and Xander and Jameson’s fledging relationship suffers a knock when an old flame arrives on the scene. Amidst all the fantasy elements, there is a good old human story of love, of struggle and torn loyalties.

I loved how human these characters are. Having got to know them in the first book, I really cared about their various predicaments. There is an element of fairy tale as well as sci-fi, which stops the plot from being too tech-heavy, with panoramic scenes to enable the characters to spread their wings. And it had a very welcome dash of corporate intrigue which was a great foil to the fantasy element. It is a very visual book, as the last one was, and painted in vivid colours. I could definitely see the climax being directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) It had that kind of cinematic feel.

The story lagged slightly in the middle of the book, but soon picked up again when Jessa, Jameson’s former fiancee, is thrown into the mix. She could have been given a bigger role, as she was a strong character, but I loved her kick-ass feistiness. The big message of this novel seems to be “seize the day” although it never actually says that. It was done beautifully and it’s hard to say which book I enjoyed more, the first one or this one. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

BLURB

Sometimes the world needs saving twice.

Xander and Jameson thought they’d fulfilled their destiny when they brought the worlds of Oberon and Titania back together, but their short-lived moment of triumph is over.

Reunification has thrown the world into chaos. A great storm ravaged Xander’s kingdom of Gaelan, leaving the winged skythane people struggling to survive. Their old enemy, Obercorp, is biding its time, waiting to strike. And to the north, a dangerous new adversary gathers strength, while an unexpected ally awaits them.

In the midst of it all, Xander’s ex Alix returns, and Xander and Jameson discover that their love for each other may have been drug-induced.

Are they truly destined for each other, or is what they feel artificial? And can they face an even greater challenge when their world needs them most.

08Feb/18

Skythane by J. Scott Coatsworth

Having read The Stark Divide, I was already confident in this author’s world-building technique and ability to tell a rip-roaring tale. Skythane is the story of Xander and Jameson, ostensibly on a mission to find supplies of pith (a mind-altering drug) but they find themselves at the centre of a race to save the planet from destruction.

First of all, a quibble, albeit a small one. As ever, the essential and comprehensive glossary is at the back of the book, where I only discovered it at the end, where it would have been useful at the beginning.  Also, some of the names could be confusing for some. Xander is a skythane (winged being) and Jameson is a Lander (without wings.) Tander is a mining colony where Jameson used to work, and Slander refers to a city slum area.

Having said that, most of those names only appear a few times, and the important ones are Xander and his Lander companion, Jameson, who are both ADORABLE, and have such chemistry, I was willing them to get together. Also high on my love list was Quince, the capable skythane who hides the pain of a lost love behind a brusque exterior as she tries to keep the boys on track to focus on what truly matters, the prevention of Armageddon.

There are a lot of characters to get one’s head around, but whether you will enjoy this is purely down to how much you trust the author to keep everyone in check and give them enough to do. And the author does. He makes sure they all have stories of their own to tell in future books, keeps them all in check and steers the reader safely through a complex and alien environment.

I loved the way the way every creature, every fruit, plant, the technology, the weather,  food cooking methods, the weaponry, the transport, the cities, religious structure, every little thing has been carefully crafted and molded into a truly believable, fantastical, terrifying world, full of conflict but at the same time, alien and beautiful. Add in divided loyalties, a burgeoning romance and peril from sinister pursuers, and you have science fiction in its purest sense. I loved it.

BLURB

Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnson, a handsome, cocky skythane with a troubled past.
Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.

Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them together.

27Dec/17

Brobots by Trevor Barton

This is an extremely likeable book, with two engaging leads and a host of affectionately-written, secondary characters. At first, Jared seems a little nondescript, but soon grows in strength after he finds Byron in a dumpster and begins the quest to find a replacement battery to switch him back on.

The book was fairly slow to get going, but there is a lot of corporate intrigue to set up first, plus the familiarisation with Brobots (the company’s) AI technology.

The book gained in purpose as it went along, developing into an interesting story about how the humanoid robots fair when they are unleashed from human bondage to set out on their own. Their first stop is to a “farm” set up by the mysterious Susan, where they begin to learn about what it is to be human. In doing so, the humans teaching them learn more about themselves as well.

It was a clever plot, and one that I can see easily developing over the next two stories. It mainly deals with Jared and Byron, their burgeoning love, and the problems that an AI/human relationship come up against. In the background, Byron’s AI friends are also adjusting to life as free sentient beings, making mistakes along the way.

I guess at first I was slightly uncomfortable at the way the sentients seemed almost too human. It seemed a bit of a cop-out, but the author was at pains to describe the feelings they experienced though the medium of technology and science, and it was well done without being too technical. Also, the author has a style of writing that I haven’t seen since the 80’s, that of varying points of view within the same chapter, sometimes even the same paragraph.

Done badly, this can be catastrophic, but done well, it can really immerse the reader into the minds of the characters, all of which are experiencing new sensations. On the whole, it worked, and after the initial shock, I got over it and wasn’t jolted out of the story.

The love scenes between Byron and Jared were also convincing, although some poetic licence had been taken, especially with regard to … er … dousing electrical components with liquid, for example. Their love was sweet, Byron being a big lunk still learning the niceties (or otherwise) of human behaviour. There was some humour and some tension and not too much sentiment. The romance element was pitched just right, and didn’t get in the way of the other aspects of the plot. The author answered all my questions as they came up, and didn’t leave anything dangling. This is a carefully thought-out book, with a highly creative plot and characters to root for.

Without spoilers, I can say the ending was interesting, satisfying, and led neatly into the next book. If it’s as good as this one, readers will be in for a treat.

BLURB

Brobots is substantial science fiction with gay characters told across three continuous books.

Rod burners. Scaff dawgs. Laggers. Bucket dumpers. Lerps. Duct monkeys. Tin knockers. Lumbergs. Artificial big guys. Product of a troubled firm. Brobots.

They’re easy to treat like trash. But they’re not so easy to ignore; especially the ones experiencing “the wake up.” The idea was that they could work hidden in society’s plain sight, allowing humanity time to get used to the fact of sentient machines.

But it’s all too easy for others to take advantage of those who live on the edge. What they, and their allies, must do is work out who, and why, before it gets too late.

Plug them in. Wish they never end.

Brobots Book 1:
Jared takes home a cute man he finds in a dumpster and then gets drawn into a world of robots, parenting and conspiracy.

Artificial intelligence can’t be programmed. It has to be grown. Some machines are learning who they are, and humans could do with a bit of that, too.

01Aug/17

Shax’s War (Brimstone Book 3) by Angel Martinez (Audiobook)

REVIEW

For the purpose of review, this is the second series I’ve started in the middle, and as such, I have to make the assumption that most readers will have already read the first books.

I’m reviewing this because it is the audio version, narrated by Vance Bastian. It doesn’t take long to realise that I have to give this audiobook my full attention. NB: It isn’t a book to be listening to with your kids. The voices of Shax and Ness are immediately captivating, so much so that even driving is probably inadvisable, especially during the love scenes which, though infrequent, are S-T-E-A-M-Y.

Martinez writes good sex, that’s for sure, but she also creates memorable characters, cracking dialogue and fantastic story-telling, bought to life by Vance’s narration. A cocktail of caramel, cream and tequila, garnished with jalapeño is probably the nearest you will get to tasting the audio delight of this book. As a novella, it is a fairly quick read, but as an audiobook it is a fat n’ juicy 3 hours plus.

The story is basically a rescue. Shax the demon and Ness the angel are an established, loving couple, despite their obvious differences. When Shax plays dirty during a Trauma Ball game, it sets in motion a chain of events that leads Ness into danger and Shax on a desperate mission to rescue him from bad humans who want to harvest various angelic parts for their own purposes (eternal youth, etc.) Meanwhile, Ness is getting through his ordeal with the aid of a friend called Leopold, a sweet, pink hedgehog….

Anyone who loves Vance Bastian’s voice may find it hard to concentrate on what he’s saying, as opposed to how he is saying it. The audio quality is excellent and his narration first class, but because his voice is like a duvet made of honey and gossamer, seducing your ears, it almost upstages the book.

Almost, but not quite, because Martinez’s observations and comedic timing are pin-sharp and brilliant, as well as hilarious. I loved curmudgeonly Shax, angelic Ness and queenly Ivana, as well as Leopold, who may or may not be a figment of Ness’s vivid imagination. There are a few too many characters for me to follow properly, making the plot a little more convoluted than it probably needed to be. The problem with an audiobook is, it isn’t as easy to re-read if there is confusion, as you can with an e-reader or novel. But it’s a small quibble, because there is so much to enjoy here, it is almost an embarrassment of riches.

I recommend you listen at least twice, because you’ll find a lot to enjoy, not only from the sci-fi-tastic plot, action, adventure and colourful characters, but to wallow in the audial delights of the US’s male answer to the Cadbury’s Caramel Bunny. When a dream-weaver meets a cunning linguist, the result will always be a smorgesbord for the ears.

BLURB

Brimstone Series: Book 3
Next Book: Beside a Black Tarn
Preceded by: Fear of Frogs

The boys desperately need a vacation. With the not-quite-ill-gotten gains from the Frog incident, Shax takes the Brimstone’s crew to the exclusive resort planet, Opal, for some much needed rest and relaxation. The resort has everything a demon prince and his crew could want, but an incident on the Trauma Ball court sends Ness stalking off in anger and sends events swiftly spiraling out of control.

Shax will need every bit of his cunning and his legendary luck to save his Ness as he’s drawn into a web of criminal experiments and…pink hedgehogs?

Novella: 40,500 words/178 pages

THE BRIMSTONE SERIES
Potato Surprise: A Brimstone Prequel
Hell for the Company
Fear of Frogs
Shax’s War
Beside a Black Tarn

25Jun/17

Review of Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields

Out-of-this-world guest J.S. Fields joined us very recently on our show! To hear more about her and get links to her work, click on Episode 117: And She Really Liked Ladies!

REVIEW

I’m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to science fiction. I like familiarity, something to grasp at like a life buoy when the science becomes a little too … sciency. I like names I can pronounce, characters with Earth-like problems, and a setting I can almost identify with. Not quite, but almost.

Ardulum has none of these things, and as a result, I struggled with it. Names like Ggllyll and Mmnnuggl kept cropping up, as well as the occasional use of non-binary pronouns (zir/ze) and this made it a challenging read, especially for a novice science-fiction reader.

Having said that, the quality of the writing shines through. The author’s ability to keep the reigns of a complex plot, packed full of technical detail and vulnerable, believable characters, is testament to how much skill she has. Neek is an (other-)worldly wise, legally paid pirate, travelling through space, delivering goods across the galaxies. Exiled from her people by daring to voice her scepticism over the existence of the Ardulum, ancient people who enriched the lives of her ancestors before vanishing into legend, she is destined to roam the star-systems as a disgraced non-believer. Enter slave child Emn, who could be the one person to bring her peace, or is she?

There is a lot to take in, from the complicated relationships between the protagonists to the large cast of secondary characters. The author knows what she is doing. That much is obvious. The plot is sure-footed, lifted up by confident writing with sure knowledge of the science involved. As I said, I’m a novice, and this book scares me to death and makes me feel just a bit stupid for not fully grasping it. This isn’t intentional on part of the author. Her intellectual approach to the story is just way above my pay grade. The hardened sci-fi readers will lap it up. It has everything they need, from slick gadgetry to crunchy violence, a strong main character and enough tech-talk for buffs to argue over for years. I said before that I struggled with the occasional appearance of non-binary pronouns, but that’s a personal thing. If they work anywhere, they should work best in a sci-fi setting. It shouldn’t put readers off, but it’s worth mentioning.

So I wish I was able to “get” this more. The time, love and craftwork put into constructing the book is obvious and I appreciate it. I hope seasoned sci-fi readers give it the attention and praise it no doubt deserves.

 

BLURB

Ardulum. The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps.

Neek makes a living piloting the dilapidated tramp transport, Mercy’s Pledge, and smuggling questionable goods across systems blessed with peace and prosperity. She gets by—but only just. In her dreams, she is still haunted by thoughts of Ardulum, the traveling planet that, long ago, visited her homeworld. The Ardulans brought with them agriculture, art, interstellar technology…and then disappeared without a trace, leaving Neek’s people to worship them as gods.

Neek does not believe—and has paid dearly for it with an exile from her home for her heretical views.

Yet, when the crew stumbles into an armed confrontation between the sheriffs of the Charted Systems and an unknown species, fate deals Neek an unexpected hand in the form of a slave girl—a child whose ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of that of an Ardulan god. Forced to reconcile her beliefs, Neek chooses to protect her, but is the child the key to her salvation, or will she lead them all to their deaths?