Category Archives: Sci Fi

Review: Daybreak Zero

Daybreak Zero
Daybreak Zero by John Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the sequel to Directive 51, and I think it was even better than the first. It built on the foundation of what happened in the first book, and the people that were the main characters, and delves into why and how it might have happened, adding some twists and turns in that area, and brought the two factions to the brink of war, with other influences and dangers creeping in, such as the castles, and the outsiders. Pueblo remained the center of action, and this one was scarier, a little torture, a little spookier, and a real study into how people might work, function, and use their strengths, ad to what ends some will go to get or continue in power, and others will withstand the pull, and stand by their principles, even if they have different results. It’s grittier, larger, and I still want more. You don’t ned zombies to make it a scary world. You just need a bunch of people who are ingrained and indoctrinated with a meme. This one is still like the first, full of details on governments, how they function, and on strategies, and how large scale problems may be solved, like the mysterious EMP pulses that attack whenever a strong radio signal is sent out. Who is ending them and from where? The characters are the strong part, real people, with real ideals, and real weak points. But yet is uplifting, in a Postman sort of way, with the idea that hope, or the belief that the world is working again, albeit differently is all that is needed to jump start regular people into doing things, and that from such small starts, come bigger results.

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Review: Devil’s Wake

Devil's Wake
Devil’s Wake by Steven Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a nice zombie thriller – made very real and visceral. Although not strictly zombies, these people have fallen prey to an infection that first makes them sleepy and then turns them into biting monsters. They don’t really eat their victims, at least most don’t, but bite – trying to spread it as far as they can I suppose. The main two characters are Kendra, a teenager from a nice family in Portland, OR, who, when her father falls sick because of being bitten by one in the very early stages, has to endure his leaving home to save them, before his mind goes. Then she is given supplies and told to stay locked in the basement until a secret phrase that she has with her grandfather is revealed. She is not to come out for any reason, even if her mother asks her. Meanwhile her mother, not infected yet, but scared she might become so, calls her father and asks him to come down and get them. But in the meantime, while trying to help a neighbor, who looks fine, she is bitten by that neighbor. Finally Kendra’s grandfather arrives and she goes to his cabin in the woods, well-stocked and prepared for living off the land, with a few trips to the local market, which is still open. And that is the start of her journey. The other is a young boy, a little on the juvenile delinquent side, from a broken home, who is sent to a camp for such kids, who still have a chance to turn around their lives. The camp in is the Southern WA woods, not that far from Kendra’s grandfather. The couple that runs the place are nice, kind and have worked with troubled kids for many years, and soon the boys are whipped into shape and have learned some basic outdoors skills, including how to shoot a shotgun. The camp owns a van and a big lumbering old bus. When the camp’s owners are bitten, they have to escape. One of them they lock in the fridge until he freezes – the other was killed by her husband. They gather up as many supplies as they can in the school bus, intending to head for the nearest town in southern Washington, and stay there – the radio, sporadic as it is, says there’s safety and food and shelter there. They load the bus with as many provisions as they can, as much ammo and guns as they can find, and take off. And thus begins their journey to safety. Somewhere along the line, they and Kendra meet up and begin a long trek down the coast as it becomes less safe at each place they think is okay. Some of the people left unbitten are good, otehrs are profiteers, or bandits, or just desperate for food for their families. Eventually by the end of the book they are heading for Devil’s Wake – an island where Kendra’s aunt lives, and they hope will take them in (not giving away much since the name of the island is the title). It is the first in a at least two part book series I hope, since there is still much to tell. Good characters, Not too much on the attitude from bad teens excuse, and more about working together, with some trust issues. A few others are picked up along the way. Enjoyed it very much. Not great literature, but it’s zombies!

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Review: The Games

The Games
The Games by Ted Kosmatka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a really good book – reminded me in a way of Masello’s The Bestiary. The basic premise is that a group of scientists, in the near future, are working on building, from the genetic code, a hybrid animal that will compete in a new feature of the Olympic games, the Arena – these non-human hybrids, one from each country, will fight to the death until only one is standing, and the honor and glory of the best bio-engineering goes to the winner. The game is held in the city of the last winner. The U.S. has been the winner for the past three games, all that has been held. The Games are overseen by a board, and by a board within each country. The U.S. board is pleased that they have been winning, but last time they barely squeaked by. So they decide to bypass the head of the genetic research department, without his knowledge, and ask a computer to design a new animal. What comes out of the mind of the mad genius who built the computer, and the computer’s soft logic programing, is awesome and scary. Terrifying, horrifying, and plausible, it is a stay up all night reading to the end kind of book. Swift paced, not big on characters, but the plot is good, and I thoroughly enjoyed this look into bio-ethics.

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Review: Earth Unaware

Earth Unaware
Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although this is shelved in the adult section, as the pre-cursor to Ender’s Game, a YA book, I put it in that category. The plot revolves around what happened in the beginning – when the first alien ship is noticed as a blip on the radar when a young person manning the Eye – the station that keeps track of possible debris and rock chunks that might damage them. She likes to look beyond the ecliptic, and sees, way out there, past the Kuiper Belt where they are mining, a shape, moving fast. So she alerts the ship’s Captain. The El Cavador, owned and operated by a South American family family, had just docked with another small band of ships, the Italians, and traded goods, and socialized, but now it is time to get back to work mining the asteroid, and sending the ore back to Luna in fast ships that carry the ore, but can accelerate and deccelerate at levels that would kill a person. Victor, the ship’s apprentice, but genius engineer, is summoned to the Captain’s cabin and told that his best friend n the ship is being sent to the Italian ship – they have seen love blossoming between the two, although the kids themselves aren’t aware of it yet, and although they are only second cousins, such love is forbidden, and would lower their status – they are determined to keep the gene line clean out that far, and are obsessed with keeping to the rules. If his friend Janda had stayed, now that they were made aware of their feelings it would be awkward, since everyone would look down on them, and if word got out, cause the ship to be shunned. So they send her off – not to be zogged (married to a new ship’s crew person), but to stay there for two years until she is of marriageable age, and then pick whomever she chooses, or chooses elsewhere. Victor, or Vico as he is known, feels the loss greatly and throws himself into his work, wanting to leave the ship due to the embarrassment he feels, even though nothing had happened, and they themselves were unaware of it. But then Janda’s little sister, Edimar, a talented new apprentice to her father in the Eye, spots the ship, tells Vico, so he can see if it is real before running to the captain. She should go to her father, but is afraid he will laugh it off, and she feels it poses a high level of danger to the ship and others. A plan is devised to try and warn a few other ships in the area, but things go wrong. First there is a mining ship, far out beyond their usual mining grounds of the Asteroid Belt, on a secret mission to test a new device that will allow them to mine rocks faster, and which bumps them from the rock, causing damage to their communications and power, and the presence of a pod that has shot off from the big ship and is entering when they think the Italians are going – they were going to try and rendezvous with them again to warn them. And thus follows the beginnings of the first Formic War. An excellent book, just the right amount of adventure, even with teens populating it, to find favor among adults and teens alike. Solid SF, cool aliens, from a master of it. Waiting for the next installment.

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Review: Leviathan

Leviathan
Leviathan by David Lynn Golemon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really good Vernesque classic romp. The Event group, as this is one of ther adventures, is a super black ops project, deep in a well concealed location in the Nellis Air Force Base. Down about 50-100 stories are levels for administration, research, a super computer that beats all super computers, and levels upon levels of vaults, large and small, that hold the treasures of the world, and the oddities of science, collected by the group. Think of the last scene in Indiana Jones, but instead of a warehouse, climate controlled vaults, and labelled, catalogued, etc. The Event Groups raison d’etre is to follow historical trends, and objects and see how events and things influenced history – to try and learn from it, good or bad. They study the past to help the future. Warehoue 13 thrown in. In this one, the Event Group’s headquarters is somehow infiltrated, and the top leaders are kidnapped, and two vaults are blown up. And the computer storage records on those vaults is missing. Left behind is a skeleton staff trying to recreate what those objects were, to better understand why the kidnappers came. The story starts out with a man in a famous prison, Chateau d’If, where he is languishing because he refuses to give the upstart Napolean his plans for batteries and a submarine that would help him win the war. He escapes, helped in part by a pod of dolphins, and what he calls”angels of the sea.” He eventually ends up in Norway, where the treasure he found on his escape has helped him to finance his further research. After he is killed to try and steal his a special artifact he has, his son continues to find a way to finish his work, and thus the Leviathan is born – a mighty submarine, built around the time of the Civil War, but 100 years ahead of it’s time, to be used for peace, and helping the world’s oceans. Knowledge of the sub disappears after the civil war, but something is out there in the seas now, sending out unknown weapons that can disintegrate a whole battleship in seconds. And then demands are made that oil shipping be stopped, and travel on the sea restricted to civilians. They want to preserve and protect the ocean life, much of which is dying, as well as a certain new element. Led by a fanatical woman, and a faithful crew, the story continues with the Event group working from outside and inside the sub to stop the attack, and find out the mysteries and discoveries of this vessel. Great, ripping yarn as they used to say. Fun, lots of references to books, people, etc. I always enjoy the books in the series, and this as no exception.

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Review: Haze

Haze
Haze by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is really a nice straightforward SF book – no crazy unpronounceable names, jut good fun. Major Keir Roget’s assignment, working for the FSA as a Federation Security Agent (the Federation is a Chinese controlled government that took control after America imploded, with help from the Mormons, who wanted to spread their control, and two wars for Confederations later), is to go down through the “haze” surrounding the planet they call Haze, and find out what is there – nothing penetrates that shield, if it is a shield. They want to know if there are aliens there, Thomists, a branch of the Federation that broke away about 2000 years ago and have not been heard from since, or it’s just a barren planet with a weird shield. The book is balanced for mot of it with flashbacks to a couple of earlier assignments that affected him deeply – one was an assignment, deep under cover, where he was surprised and almost killed when an assignment went south. The other was in St. George, Utah, what was left of the main Mormon countryside – Salt Lake is a nuke bed. They had held on to the area, even though the Federation imposed high water tariffs, and high costs for shipping in supplies. He was there ostensibly as a water monitor – to see if there were any suspicious drains on the water, either for usage or hydro-electric power. Water on earth was in short supply, although the Chinese in Hong Kong did alright. But really he was there to check on the town – what might be going on – what happened to the previous scout sent -was he murdered or just had an accident as was claimed. The town and the inhabitants began to affect him as he saw what they felt, what they did to make it work, and how he started to like them. He bought, at one point, a picture of a dachshund named Hildegarde, that was an important reference point for him throughout the book. This background stuff is important, as it made me who he is and affected his choices and actions. As he descended through what turned out to be millions of tiny spheres, on three levels, and was almost killed, he sort of crash landed in an area near the sea, and began to walk toward what he thought might be habitation, as he found some trails. He didn’t know what happned to the other four agents who had gone down in pods with him. The rest of the story is about his experiences on Haze, how he questions what he sees, begins to understand, tries to report back, but was brushed aside, and what the true goals of the federation were. A really good 4 1/2 star SF book – the first I had read by this author. Will be looking for more. Any errors in the accuracy of my summary are due to the fact that I read it almost a week ago, and thus most of it is a haze. 😉

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Review: The Drowned Cities

The Drowned Cities
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a companion novel to Shipbreakers, and is set in the same “world” but on a different continent. While the first was in the Gulf area, this one takes place in D.C., in what is now known as the “Drowned Cities.” The waters rose, the city flooded during climate change, and gradually enough political infighting tore the place apart, and various war lords and their militias sprung up and took over, lost and retook parts of the city. The Chinese came in for a decade, as peacekeepers, trying to get them to stop fighting, and cracking down on insurgents, but eventually they gave up and left, and the mixed race kids and the sympathizers were rounded up and either forced into slave labour, had body parts cut off, or were killed outright. One of them, a child named Mahlia, whose father had been a peacekeeper, and her mother an American, was left behind when the peacekeeper ships left. A lot of technology in this dystopian environment has been lost, although some has been retained by China, and a couple of the bigger cities, like Boston and New York. But much of the southern areas have been turned into swampland, and scavenging is the way of life. Mahlia fights her way out of the Drowned Cities after her mother is taken away, but then is caught by one of the militias, the Army of God, who hate all things Chinese, and they chop off her right hand. About to chop off her left, something draws their attention away, and she is is able to escape. It is Mouse, a farm boy coming in to one of the towns to try and find shelter after his farm was overrun. They hide from the soldiers and eventually are found by a doctor from a nearby village who bandages her stump, and takes them in, much to the villagers dismay, who believe that she is cursed. But she learns valuable medical training from the doctor, and finds a place there. He tries to teach her to be passive and to turn the other cheek to the insults hurled her way, but she is pure “Drowned Cities” and it’s in her blood to not take things lying down but to fight back. It’s what the Chinese gave up on and found so distasteful – the idea that every insult must be answered with a bigger one; every hurt with a larger hurt, until everything is gone. Many of the militia would rather see their ex-nation’s capitol be destroyed than allow anyone else to occupy it, even though they were all just Americans once. The stroy is of Mahlia, Mouse and a half-man,an augment named Tool, as they try and find a new place in this crazy world. Very bleak, grim, it’s different from his other books in that this one is more violent, and the people are all less easy to like. Mahlia has a chip on her shoulder as big as a house, and Mouse is stupid – conflicted beyond reason. The soldiers are mostly children, as Mouse is, and they are taught from a young age to kill, maim, rape, etc. Sort of a parable on our political infighting, and the child armies of the terrorists, it is a frightening glimpse at anarchy. But hope is at the end. A good book, but the bleakness made me keep it at four stars. That and Mahlia’s pig-headedness and contradictory ways. If you are going to do something, and damn the consequences, then stick with it, or all those people were hurt in vain. Don’t become lost in guilt and remorse.

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Review: Time’s Chariot

Time's Chariot
Time’s Chariot by Ben Jeapes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one was sort of another take on the recent Turtledove I read. It’s about the future, not terribly far, but someone discovered how to manipulate the time stream, and in doing so, accidentally created several new time streams, all with billions of people in them, which of course now must be watched over, and looked after. So they create a Home Time division, where they have various agents who go out and are time police, and others who are planted back in time and move forward through the time stream, observing and recording events and sending them back to be entertainment for the masses, since there isn’t much to do in the future, but live in your apartment. The people are hungry for new things, and observations of the various time streams is a fun thing – a future soap opera or mini-series. They record special events and daily life. Since people can be kept alive almost indefinitely, they can be sent, as one correspondent is, back to Rome around 1000 AD, and live through the rest of history, up until the 21st century, when they are to be recalled. But something goes wrong. And Rico Darren, who has gotten in trouble before, sniffs it out, and begins to follow what seem to be anomalies. He enlists the help of one of the higher ups in Home Time, and a fellow officer, and together they try and track what is going on and stop it, whatever it is. It’s a fun story, sort of a Starship Troopers, but with time rather than bugs, and although the science isn’t very “hard,” the fun is, although at times it got a little confusing to me as to who was what and where. But that happens to me. All in all, a rather more old-fashioned SF book, but enjoyable.

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Review: iBoy

iBoy
iBoy by Kevin Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an odd duck of a book. It quacks like improbable SF, but is actually more of a coming of age story, about morality and when you have unlimited power, how and when should you use it, and the law of unintended consequences. Tom lives in a crowded council section in London, in a 34 floor tower, in a block of 7 of them. They are riddled with gangs and drugs, etc. He lives there with his Grandmother, secretly falling for a childhood friend Lucy who lives in the same tower. One evening, as he stands outside the tower, thinking about trying to go see this girl, and somehow get her to see what he feels, someone shouts his name from up top, and something fall from the building and lands on his head, splitting his skull open. It was an iPhone. But at that velocity, it hit so hard that pieces of the plastic case, and the phone’s chip were embedded into his brain and couldn’t be removed. So he goes home after a few days, and finds out that in the meantime, his friend Lucy had been gang raped by a group of thugs in the building, from one of the prominent gangs in their section of the blocks. He feels rage and impotence. What can he do? He eventually tries to talk to Lucy, but she is scared, and knows that if she tries to go to the police and tell them who did it, retaliation to her brother, who was already beat up in the first attack, and her mother, will follow, and could lead to their deaths. Tom knows the same could happen to Lucy even if he tries to report it, or he and his Gram could be in danger. That’s how the gangs operate – fear and intimidation. But then, he decided to take matters into his own hands and dispense his own brand of justice. You see (and this is where the improbable meets SF), the pieces of the iPhone lodged in his brain have fused with his neural network and have allowed him access to the world wide web and just abut anything that is on-line, anywhere, without really having to hack. He is iBoy. So he can hear phone conversations, find out who is up to what, pinpoint locations by phone GPS signals, etc. And so he begins his own campaign of fear and retribution. Never pushing it to the limit, but not quite something that sits morally right with him. It is a struggle, an internal one, since he know if he does nothing, Lucy’s attackers will go free, and keep on doing this. But if he does something that will get them in trouble, and cause some fear, maybe, just maybe, things will change a little. An interesting, if implausible tale of what it means to have unlimited power, and the rights and responsibilities that go with it. An interesting read.

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Review: Struck

Struck
Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a paranormal story of a teenage girl, who over the past several years has been struck countless times by lightening. Sometimes she has been killed, and revived. Her hair has been burnt off, but she craves it. It makes her feel alive. Then one day, after something bad happened as a result of the stored energy in her body, they moved from Arizona to LA. Somehow, lightening, in a huge storm, struck again, and it triggered a fault under the area she was living in. Her mother was trapped in rubble at work for days,and hasn’t been the same since. Now she watches the TV evangelist, Prophet, who promises if the believers come to him, when the final storm comes, to break the 6th seal, they will be protected. He and his followers wear white. Standing against them, since Prophet and his minions want to bring lightening to the city, and trigger the apocalypse, are the Seekers – those who merely want to contain the power of the other group and somehow divert the disaster looming, while seeking out others with the same energy. Mia is caught in the middle of it all, both groups believing that her great power, and the energy she not only stores, but can call forth, is essential to their goal. Standing against both groups is a boy she just met, Jeremy, who wants her to stay away from both groups, but there is more to Jeremy as well. This is a slam bang right to the wall, edge of your set thriller for teens. Other than a shortened version, and with a paranormal twist, it’s your basic adventure/thriller in disguise. Set in a rubble strewn LA, with not everything working, and having to go to school just to get ration cards for food handouts, it reminds you of what lengths people will go to and what they will believe, to make things right again. Good – wonder if there will be more.

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