Tag Archives: Science Fiction

08Jun/18

Social Media Central by Kevin Klehr

Kevin Klehr came to visit us on WROTE recently! To listen to his episode and find links to his work, check out Episode 163: A Good Femme Fatale!

Considering how relevant the role social media plays in our lives, I’m surprised I haven’t come across a book that deals with the phenomenon before now.

Social Media Central deals with one lonely man who doesn’t buy into the whole world-wide obsession and god-like status of media celebrities, but he gradually gets sucked into it after meeting Madeline Q, a fashion blogger, and her glamorous colleagues. The story is set fifty or so years in the future but frankly, we’re seeing elements of Klehr’s vision now. Klehr’s future world has no books, empty offices, most ordinary people shut in their own rooms to work, preferring to “mirror meal” (a chilling phrase if ever there was one) with friends instead of meeting them face to face. The exceptions were the glamorous ones, the media stars, the celebrities famous for being famous, who set the trends and tell people how to eat, what to wear etc. Again, not that different from now in many aspects.

Tayler is a lonely geek with a dim view of the whole on-line celebrity thing. I found it difficult to get to know him at first. There was a dispassionate tone to the dialogue which meant I didn’t feel I had full access to the Social Media world, but was looking at it through smeared triple-glazing. Having said that, Tayler was the easiest character to identify and sympathise with. I couldn’t get to the heart of who Madeline was, which was frustrating.

As the story progresses, the plot thickens when a girl’s body is found in a nightclub. No spoilers, but what follows is a lot of smoke and mirrors, some of which I didn’t get at all. Madeline isn’t who she seems, and her actions seem incomprehensible at first. The pace of the story was uneven in places, but I did find myself compelled to read to the end. Before that, I did struggle a bit, mainly because the characters (apart from Tayler) aren’t people I would choose to spend time with in real life.

I’ve since read some parts of the  book again, and have enjoyed it a lot more, although “enjoyed” might not be the right word. The world of Social Media Central is bleak, very well-crafted, and ultimately rather depressing, but with a whodunnit thrown in, and a dash of glamour, it does make for a compelling read, and I had definitely warmed towards the characters by the end.

One final note: A couple of reviews mentioned the “lack of LGBT content.” I disagree. The characters were diverse and fluid, without a lot of rainbow flag waving. It was subtly done, and a worthy addition to the mainstream as well as LGBT+ sci-fi genres.

BLURB

In an age where everyone lives their lives through a screen, no one has more celebrity status than fashion blogger, Madeline Q. In a chance meeting, Tayler, loner and geek, is introduced to her world of parties, fan worship, and seduction.

But as his own star rises, Madeline Q is arrested for murder. There’s just one problem—there is no corpse. Tayler soon learns that fiction blurs reality on Social Media Central.

17Apr/18

Seven-Sided Spy by Hannah Carmack

 

We recently had the pleasure of Hannah Carmack’s company at WROTE. To listen to her episode, check out Episode 150: I Guess What Changed Was Me!

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, the story is told by seven different characters, who all have code names and mutations, giving you at least fourteen names to remember. If you liked the multi-character aspect of Game of Thrones, this book’s multiple points of view and complex, espionage plot is for you.

Most of the story takes place in the dense backwaters of North Carolina, which means that the Cold War element of the story is primarily told, rather than shown. I struggled to find a sense of history. Unless I had been informed that the book was set in this time period, I may well have not picked it up.

Having said that, the writing was intelligent and the dialogue sparky and crafted well. I sensed a real affection between the author and her characters, as well as a sense that she knew what was happening, even if I hadn’t pieced everything together yet.

Because of the back and forth styling, the switch between POV’s and the numerous changes of name, I struggled to engage with a character. I appreciate that others will love this challenge, and for a first novel, it is a wonderfully ambitious mix of spy novel and science fiction.

Finally, I do love the cover. It certainly captures the myriad of characters, some stronger than others, and the kaleidoscopic nature of the work.

__________________________________________

BLURB

In the midst of the cold war, the CIA’s finest and most fatal female agent, Diana Riley, vanishes. Kidnapped by the KGB and taken to the backcountry of North Carolina, she and her team of unsavory partners are forced to undergo illegal experimentation.

But, when the experiments leave them horribly deformed and unable to reenter society without someone crying monster, the previously glamorous and high-maintenance spies must escape KGB captivity and avoid recapture at the hands of Nikola, a ruthless KGB agent with an intense and well-justified grudge against her former flame.

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.

08Dec/16

Review of Coming Home Again by Scott Roche

We were delighted to have Scott Roche on the podcast very recently. To listen to his out-of-this-world interview and find out more about his work, check out Episode 078: Scott Roche – Weird On Purpose

REVIEWcominghomeagain

Doctor Max Blair is stationed at a secure government research facility when he is told to evaluate a visitor from outer space. But this is no alien. He is Captain Michael Rogers, a US Airforce pilot who was abducted in 1948. Behind the growing attraction between the two men, the government officials consider any method necessary to unlock the Captain’s secrets, thus endangering the whole planet…..

This is a well-balanced mix of science fiction and romance. First off, don’t be put off by the romance bit. Roche neatly sets up the scene in the secretive government facility and doesn’t over-simplify the science or the language. It all sounds very plausible, and he’s obviously thought of everything, from the decontamination of the visitor, some background about his captors, and explaining why he looks like he does now, without the expected accelerated atrophy of the body. I was initially reminded of the film Forever Young, but this is, dare I say it, a lot more intelligent. The growing relationship between the two leads is subtle but constant, with an undercurrent of dread for the reader that their story may not end well (no spoilers!)

The author packs a lot in 51 pages. So much so that I sense a bigger story waiting in the wings. The writing is terrific, the dialogue believable and the relationships between all the characters enjoyable to watch as they develop. Because he packs such a lot in a short space, the climax kind of hit me before I was ready for it, and it felt a little speeded up, like a 33 vinyl on 45. Also, it left a LOT of questions. What happens next? How does the Captain react to modern-day living? He falls in love with the first man he meets but what happens when he hits the streets? How is their relationship going to survive the inevitable scrutiny of government and the world media? How will the world react to the story? So many questions and I would say enough for a sequel. I really hope the author reads this and thinks about it, because this story has the potential to run and run.

 

18Mar/16

Albert Nothlit

Earthshatter

March 18, 2016

It gives us great pleasure to announce Albert Nothlit as the guest on episode 049: Finding Strength in Weakness!
Join us as we discuss Albert’s latest story – his first full-length novel – Earthshatter. Albert not only drops a few spoilers, but talks about world building, how culture shapes world building and genetic engineering, writing serial fiction, and his own successes with social media in marketing outside his native language.

You can buy Earthshatter from one of the two retailers:

Follow Albert on your favorite social site:

This Podcast Episode is
AVAILABLE NOW!
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Or on Soundcloud:

June 12, 2015

It gives us great pleasure to announce Albert Nothlit as the guest on episode 004: Re-Engineering Sci-Fi!
Join us as we discuss Albert’s focus on the Science Fiction and characters over the romance, and then dive into why treating LGBTQ romance the same as “mainstream” romance is so important.We then discuss the evolution of his writing, the evolution of Science Fiction, and the direction genre writing is headed.

Follow Albert on your favorite social site:

This Podcast Episode is
AVAILABLE NOW!
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podcasts-logo-300x112podcastdir-logo-300x112

Or on Soundcloud: