Tag Archives: sci-fi

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?

 

03Feb/17

Book review: ZENITH The Interscission Project: Book 1 by Arshad Ahsanuddin

REVIEW

Here is a man who knows and loves his sci-fi. I’m guessing (and this is a pure guess) that the author has ingested Star Trek and Deep Space Nine and Stargate and any other space-related series on both telly box and the big screen by osmosis since he was out of diapers. Which is why, when I came across phrases like “it became obvious the mobile device was designed to lock out navigation control and retarget the foldspace drive to jump the ship to a specific set of coordinates – that’s if it survived the gravitic torsion of opening a foldspace gateway inside a planetary well,” I could nod my head and say, ‘yeah, that makes total sense.’

Of course, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but the point is that the author knows his subject so well, that it came across in a way that didn’t make me feel like a dumb schmuck for not totally getting it. There were a lot of instances like this. A lot of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff barely concealing a boiling undercurrent of emotions. And this book has a whole lot of it. Corporate intrigue, revenge, complicated love stories. This is as much a drama of human conflictions as well as a rip-roaring, time-warping adventure.

And it is an adventure on the high and stormy seas of deep space, elevating my heart rate when the tension is ratcheted up. Will they make the jump successfully? Will they ever see their loved-ones again? Who is the saboteur who seems determined to destroy the teleport project in its infancy? I found I was speed-reading just to see what was going to happen next – not because I’d had it with the geeky stuff, but because the book was so gripping. There were a few cornpone phrases (“no-one dies tonight” or something like that…) but I love all that gung-ho stuff. It made the characters human and familiar, in deeply unfamiliar surroundings.

And damn it all, if the author didn’t make his characters so likeable, and cunningly gave them great back stories. The brilliant and mysterious twins, Stella and Edward, Marty, the all-American pilot hero, Charles, his equally capable best friend, the slippery CEO, Henry and taut-jawed Trevor. I loved them all because of their vulnerabilities. And the author cleverly built relationship between them with actions was well as words. It wasn’t so much what they said, as what they didn’t say. There wasn’t a wasted word between them.

And finally, the love element, so heartbreaking, so subtly done. The characters’ sexual identity was dealt with then that was it. I didn’t notice the words, “gay” or “queer” or any of those other adjectives throughout the whole book. There was no feeling of “look, LGBT characters and everyones’ okay with it! Isn’t that great! Love is love!” There was no angst about being gay. No issues that I picked up at all. Everyone just got on with it. People were professional, and more concerned about inter-company relationships affecting their job performance rather than who they wanted to sleep with. I only noticed it because most books do seem to be about the issues surrounding being LGBT, or at least touch on them, because to ignore them isn’t right either. I didn’t feel the book was ignoring the issues, but that in this instance, they really didn’t matter. People are being murdered whilst they try to jump through space and time, for God’s sake! Let’s concentrate on that!

This book is the first part of The Interscission Project trilogy, so there are some unanswered questions, hopefully addressed in the next two books. If you want something science-y and genuinely moving, about humans wrestling with the convoluted mysteries of space and time, as well as those of head and heart, I really recommend this.

Please, Harvey Weinstein, pick this up and make it a movie. Put LGBT characters in the major roles, distribute it all over the world and watch your bank balance go interstellar.

It’s a sure thing.

Arshad Ahsanuddin, March 2014
ISBN:
9781927528402
Language:
English
Pages/Words:
245 pages/71k words

BLURB

Grounded after a rescue attempt in Earth orbit goes bad, Commander Martin Atkins of the Confederation Navy is approached by the Interscission Project, a consortium of civilian corporations on the verge of perfecting the technology to travel to another star. Despite his misgivings, the chance to get back in the pilot’s seat is too much to pass up, and he convinces his best friend and crewmate, Charles Davenport, to leave the military temporarily and join him as part of the crew of the Zenith, humanity’s first starship.

Edward Harlen is a brilliant young engineer, and a key player in the construction of the Zenith to take advantage of the untested technology of foldspace drive. But Edward has his own agenda in joining the project, and a bitterly personal score to settle with his boss, Trevor Sutton, a vendetta of which Trevor is entirely ignorant. But when Edward’s sister Stella enters the picture and manages to secure a position on the project, all of Edward’s careful plotting is upset, and she might spell the downfall not only of his plans for revenge, but of the entire Zenith mission.

The spark of attraction between Edward and Martin is a complication that Edward can’t afford, but of which he can’t let go. For Edward knows the secret at the heart of the Interscission Project, the hidden potential of the technology that in the wrong hands could become the ultimate assassin’s weapon: the ability to rewrite history, not just once, but many times. As an unseen enemy moves to destroy them, and the body count multiplies in their wake, Martin and Edward must choose whether they will allow the possibility of love to challenge their destinies, or will they instead take up arms in a war to control the most ancient and terrible power in the universe.

Time, itself.

30Dec/16

Review of Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists by Angel Martinez

The heavenly Angel Martinez is a regular visitor to the WROTE Podcast, and a prolific writer of sci-fi fiction. To find out more about Angel and get links to her work, check out her latest interview with us. Episode 079: Flash Fiction Takes Flight!

REVIEW

Taro has recently won the lottery, and with his winnings has invested in several properties around the world. As he travels, familiarising himself with his new circumstances, he becomes aware of strange happenings in the night. Every morning, the mess he has made during the day is conveniently tidied away. When these events follow him from property to property, he is driven to enlist a ghost hunter to help him either solve the mystery, or prove that he needs psychiatric help.

When Jack Montrose appears, he isn’t the hero Taro hopes for, but a gangly eccentric who is just as strange as the turn Taro’s life has taken. Their awkward friendship is hilariously realised as Jack becomes Taro’s travelling companion, and attempts to understand why these strange events keep happening.

This book was a treat from start to finish. I instantly liked Taro, whose unexpected good fortune leads him way out of his comfort zone. And Jack, the eccentric genius, was a memorable character; sweet, awkward and brilliant, bruised from an abruptly ended relationship and wary of being hurt again.

Everything was unpredictable, including the story taking me to some very unexpected places. The author has obviously researched each destination, but has not fallen into the trap of sounding like a travel blog. The answer, when it is discovered, is delightful. I can’t say any more than that without massive spoilers.

This was a highly entertaining and intelligent read, with enough science to satisfy geeks and a sparkle of magic and a dash of folklore. Chemistry fizzed between the two MC’s, but it wasn’t laboured at all, and Taro’s sexuality was dealt with, subtly and sensitively. The whole thing just worked from start to finish. It wasn’t a long read (36,000 words) but for me it was just the right length. A fun-packed read that punches way above its weight. 

19Aug/16

Prisoner 374215 by Angel Martinez

PRISONER

Angel Martinez is one busy bunny, being being a chief collaborator with Mischief Corner Books, a prolific writer of sci-fi novels and having time to visit us on more than one occasion! Find out more about Angel and her work on her latest episode with us. Episode 069 – Now With Bonus Content!

REVIEW

What an unusual gem of a book this is. Set in a bleak future, it is the story of an unnamed prisoner, kept in solitary confinement and treated with nothing but contempt. His only companion is a prison guard he has called Scar, but this man barely speaks. Sometimes he offers a tiny bit of comfort, but the prisoner thinks he is imagining it. He dare not hope otherwise.

As we gradually discover who the the prisoner is and why he is being treated so badly, a chink in the granite armour of Scar seems to be widening. This story is so beautifully told, not flinching away from the brutality of the situation, but crafting a gradual relationship forming between prisoner and guard. I did not dare to hope that this story would end well. I was not disappointed with the ending. It is well worth checking this story out. Amidst the grey cells and hideous cruelty, hope dares to flourish. I cannot say more without ruining the surprise.

A very rewarding and cleverly told tale.