Tag Archives: AI

KINDLE UNLIMITED PROMOTION

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Book Funnel is running a promotion for science fiction books on Kindle Unlimited – it so happens that yours truly is also part of it, given that all my books are available as KU reads. But I’m also pleased to feature a handful of other books that have caught my eye – I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading them, but I’m hoping to do so soon…

Jayden’s Cybermountain – Book 1 of the Sanctum series (previously Jayden and the Mysterious Mountain) by Katrina Cope
Jayden’s life is about to change and it includes these things:
•A strange man collects homeless teens off the streets.
•A mountain that isn’t as it seems.
•A school operated by an AI that is cheeky and plays nasty if you cross her.
•A school where students build and operate high-tech equipment, including surrogate robots—all to fight terrorism—or, maybe not.
Something doesn’t feel right. It’s time to find out why.

I like the sound of the first person viewpoint protagonist – and this children’s adventure starts out with plenty of tension.

 

The Last Everything – Book 1 of The Impossible Future series by Frank Kennedy
Jamie Sheridan’s very bad night worsens no matter how fast the 17-year-old runs. In the next eight hours, he will become a god or a monster – or he will die. This small-town Alabama boy, whose life has been plagued by loss, grief, and a fury he doesn’t understand, must find something to live for as the clock ticks. Perhaps his two friends? The brother who let him down? The beauty of a sunrise? The kiss he longs for?
Perhaps the answer lies in another universe altogether. After his mentor is killed, and townspeople pursue him – heavily armed – Jamie learns the truth about a genetic seed planted within him long ago, possibly shaping the fate of two Earths.

The opening to this one sounds really intriguing – resentful foster mother wishing herself elsewhere, preferably somewhere as far away from the teenage boys she is supposed to be nurturing as possible…

 

Corin Hayes Book 1-3 by G.R. Matthews
At the bottom of the ocean, a former special forces pilot of the most advanced diving suit ever developed possesses skills that are still much in demand. However, at bottom of a beer glass there is only a blessed oblivion to drive the memories away. The face of a murdered daughter, the corpses of friends, and the last glimpse of a happy life as the light slowly dims. Corin Hayes has nothing left, nothing to live for, and no one to share his misery. Nothing, that is, except a stubborn streak wider than the ocean and sarcasm sharper than a scalpel.

But all good things must come to an end and in the sacred solitude of his favourite drinking hole a beautiful woman presents him with an offer he’d be a fool to turn down.

Perhaps a job, the chance to earn real money, the opportunity to be useful once more might redeem his life and self-respect. However, in the world beneath the waves there is no such thing as an easy life and Hayes is about to discover that some jobs can be real killers.

This omnibus edition collects books 1 to 3 of the Corin Hayes series in one volume. Now with the first ever Corin Hayes Short Story ‘The Passenger’ included.

The snarky first person pov in this one drew me in. Hayes sounds like loads of fun – I’ve read the first book in this series – Silent City – and recall enjoying it.

 

Starvenger – Book 3 of the Star Rogue series by Chris Turner
Jet Rusco, hustler and black market arms dealer, faces off against the Star Lord: warlord, magician, psychopath.
He continues to wreak havoc on the free worlds, sending bounty hunters after Rusco who has stolen critical alien tech. A dark secret lies at the back of the Star Lord’s plans. Can Rusco and his quirky team of allies thwart the greatest villain this century has ever seen?

This protagonist has clearly been around the block one or fifteen hundred times – with the nicely cynical asides to prove it. I’m hoping to get to this one sometime this month…

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Review of A Closed and Common Orbit – Book 2 of the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers

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I loved The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and when Himself said he’d ordered this offering from the library and it had come in, I was very excited. Would I enjoy this one as much as the first book?

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, following a aclosedandcommonorbittotal system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow. Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

While this book is set in the same world as The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and Lovelace was actually the AI on the Wayfarer, that is the only real connection between the two books. So if you are concerned about picking this one up without reading the first book then don’t be – neither book relies on the other in order to fully appreciate the story. Like Angry Planet, which takes the classic space opera theme of long space voyages as the basic plotline, A Closed and Common Orbit uses another popular science fiction subject – that of artificial intelligence as the starting point for one of the two narrative plotlines running through the book.

We learn how Lovelace copes once surfacing within a humanoid body designed to house her during one plotline, while the other goes back in time and relates the story of ten-year-old Jane. She works in a scrap processing factory and has been there for as long as she can recall, spending her days sorting scrap and overseen by faceless droids called Mother who are responsible for caring and disciplining the children. Until one day when something goes wrong…

Chambers’ readable, unfussy prose vividly depicts the plight of a small child trying to do the best she can in order to stay warm and fed and avoid punishment. I was completely caught up in her predicament and struggle for survival interspersed with Lovelace’s battles to cope with the shortcomings of her new housing – which also has the added complication of being completely illegal. Fortunately, she has come across two kind people who take her in and attempt to assist her to integrate.

I found it difficult to put down, and particularly enjoyed the way these two narrative strands intersected to provide a fitting climax and conclusion to this enjoyable, thought provoking read. I enjoyed it even more than Angry Planet, finding the tighter focus and strong characterisations more to my taste. Once more, Chamber provides an entertaining science fiction read that comes highly recommended.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Counterpart – Book 2 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone

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I read and reviewed the first book, Machinations, earlier this year. While there were issues with the worldbuilding, what made it stand out was Stone’s powerful, effective evocation of a cloned character. Would she sustain this fascinating character in the sequel?

Commander Rhona Long understands survival better than most. Killed in combat, she was brought backcounterpart to life using her DNA, and she’s forged a new, even more powerful identity. Now the leader of the resistance, she’s determined to ensure the machines are shut down for good. But victory is elusive. The machines have a new technology designed to overcome humanity’s most advanced weaponry. Despite Rhona’s peacekeeping efforts, former nations are feuding over resources as old power struggles resurface. Worse, someone inside the resistance is sabotaging the human cause—someone who, from all appearances, seems to be Rhona . . . or her exact replica.

The start of Machinations was one of the high spots of the book – that wrenching death scene right at the beginning of the story pitched us straight into the action and this book kicks off with similar action-packed drama. Could you fully appreciate it if you hadn’t read the first book? Yes, I think Stone’s writing and pacing is such that you could pick this one up and wouldn’t flounder too much, though in an ideal world you would read the first book before tackling this one.

While I enjoyed the first book, I did have difficulty envisaging exactly what the machines looked like. As a great deal of the action in Counterpart takes place in an underground citadel, which is very well depicted, this isn’t such a problem in this slice of the adventure, where we also get more information about how the machines operate, anyhow. And at no point does this book suffer from the classic second book slump – it grabs us at the start and the action doesn’t let up until the end. I reached the final page with a jolt of dismay, as we are left with something of a cliffhanger, although most of main plotlines running through the second book are brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

What Stone achieves magnificently throughout both books is to give us a ringside seat as a character struggles to come to terms with being a clone. This is a staple of science fiction and the normal way of dealing with it, is for the character to be a tad disorientated and grumpy about the whole business in the first couple of chapters, then snap into action, appreciating what this new body can do… Stone’s enjoyable, sympathetic character finds being a clone defines her as she struggles to get those closest to her to initially accept her. She also still has problems, due to not fully recollecting her former life. And once she hits her stride as humanity’s icon – the reason why she was cloned in the first place – there are several plot developments that have her on the back foot, again. I like her bravura, her constant patter of jokes, often at entirely inappropriate times. I like her hot-headed inclination to go plunging right into the middle of trouble.

Any grizzles? No – I found her relationship with Camus far more compelling and believable in this story. I read waaay into the early morning to discover what would happen next and am now eagerly looking forward to the next instalment.

I received a free arc of Counterpart from the publisher via Netgalley, which has not affected the content of my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Edition Machinations – Book 1 of Machinations series by Hayley Stone

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The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race. A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a machinationsrescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself. Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

I loved the opening and thought the passage where she died was very strong. Stone has a memorable, effective writing style and especially in the earlier scenes, I felt her characterisation of Rhona was effectively layered – the dilemma of a clone with an impaired memory was movingly depicted. There was a strong supporting cast – Samuel and Camus both bounced off the page, although I did slightly wince at the love triangle aspect. Not only has it been done to death, it really jarred in the context of the story arc, I felt.

Given this was an apocalyptic scenario, the world had to be convincing and Stone’s description of a shattered landscape where people are holed up, eking out a minimal existence worked well. What was less successful was the depiction of the machines. While it is mentioned there are a variety of them, there only seemed to be one sort and they appeared to be very easy to disable. I also found it difficult to visualise what they looked like, apart from the red eyes and the whirring noise they made. While I didn’t expect huge swathes of information about the rise of the machines and the original premise made entire sense, there wasn’t a particularly strong sense of how they went about attacking or what the higher echelons consisted of, which I found slightly frustrating.

The other problem I had with the story in the latter stages was that Rhona became the poster girl for the human uprising on the strength of one inspirational speech. She didn’t quite tip into being a Mary Sue – the protagonist who can do it all perfectly – but it came uncomfortably close, which was a shame, given the nuanced, clever characterisation at the beginning of the book when she was coming to terms with being a clone.

However, both these issues were more irritations than dealbreaking flaws, and they don’t take away from the fact that this is an interesting beginning to the series, with a strong protagonist. I look forward to seeing what Stone does with this world in future books.
8/10

Review of Speak by Louisa Hall

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I scooped this off the library shelves, caught by the arresting cover and opened up the book. The riveting opening pages and high quality of the writing pulled me in and despite the fact that my own TBR is now in danger of engulfing a small grandchild, decided to take it home.

speakA young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend’s mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls. Each of these characters is attempting to communicate across gaps — to estranged spouses, lost friends, future readers, or a computer program that may or may not understand them. In dazzling and electrifying prose, Louisa Hall explores how the chasm between computer and human — shrinking rapidly with today’s technological advances — echoes the gaps that exist between ordinary people. Though each speaks from a distinct place and moment in time, all five characters share the need to express themselves while simultaneously wondering if they will ever be heard, or understood.

And there you have the rather long blurb. However, given the nature of the book, I think it is justified. There are five distinct narrative voices that spool through the book, giving their own experiences, reaching from the past with Mary’s account of the long Atlantic crossing and Alan Turing’s moving letters, to the future inventor of the babybots, reflecting on his experiences. However this isn’t, is a foot-to-the-floor, adrenaline-fuelled adventure. What it does is reflect upon the issue of voice, who is heard and continues to be heard and what it means to communicate.

It’s no accident that the two historical voices are from marginalised groups – one a young Puritan woman and the other a homosexual in post-war Britain when people born with such sexual preferences were officially outlawed and disgraced. Both accounts are moving and I found Turing’s letters very poignant, given that I knew before I started the book what his fate would be.

It is a very neat plot twist – to bind up the voices and slices of people’s history inside a discarded AI, struggling to conserve her battery as she is stored in a warehouse with other bots for the crime of being too lifelike. I have a feeling this book is one that will stay with me for a long time – after all, what will be our legacy, those of us who have gone, now we no longer write down our feelings and emotions on paper, but instead, consign them to our computers? What will happen in the future when those computers can talk back to us? Will we get to rely far too much on them, until they are banned and outlawed? Considering these kinds of issues before we – inevitably – reach the stage where they are technically feasible, which isn’t that far away when you look at the likes of Cortana and Siri, is what science fiction does at its best.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 5th July, 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
speakSpeak by Louisa Hall
p. 181: These were the moments I lived for. And did you also live for them, Ruth? On that day when I asked you about your father, when you were folding my shirts like thin closets and you sighed and settled in to me, was it a sigh of contentment? Or was it a sigh of resignation?

BLURB: A young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend’s mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls.

Louisa Hall explores how the chasm between computer and human — shrinking rapidly with today’s technological advances — echoes the gaps that exist between ordinary people. Though each speaks from a distinct place and moment in time, all five characters share the need to express themselves while simultaneously wondering if they will ever be heard, or understood.

I spotted this offering on the library shelves, taken by the cover. I opened it up, read the striking opening and was hooked. I love the juxtaposition of past, present and future around the theme of talking and why we speak. Hall beautifully handles the different voices and I am enjoying how each character’s story is unfolding.

Favourite Space Operas – Part 2

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This is the next section of favourite space-faring tales. Again, in no particular order…

Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre
As the carrier of a rare gene, Sirantha Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace — a talent thagrimspacet cuts into her life expectancy but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she’s navigating crash-lands, and she’s accused of killing everyone on board. It’s hard for Jax to defend herself: she has no memory of the crash…

Aguirre’s depiction of a space jumper apart from the general run of humanity, with her own closed ethos and set of rules suddenly bumping up against a group of people with differing attitudes, works well. Jax’s ability to alienate everyone around her is impressive, but as the book and its sequel, Wanderlust, progresses, she is forced to reassess her priorities and attitudes. I think this is one of the undoubted strengths of this sub-genre – offer up a heroine in the middle of a major crisis, present her with yet more life-changing problems – and then watch her change. See my review of Grimspace here.

 

Vatta’s War series by Elizabeth Moon
Kylara Vatta is the only daughter in a family full of sons, and her father’s only child to buck tradition by tradingindangerchoosing a military career instead of joining the family business. For Ky, it’s no contest: Even running the prestigious Vatta Transport Ltd. shipping concern can’t hold a candle to shipping out as an officer aboard an interstellar cruiser. It’s adventure, not commerce, that stirs her soul. And despite her family’s misgivings, there can be no doubt that a Vatta in the service will prove a valuable asset. But with a single error in judgment, it all comes crumbling down.

I love this entertaining five-book series about a merchantile family under attack – and their gritted struggle to survive. My strong advice is to read them in the right order as you’ll gain the best from the Vatta clan’s roller-coaster ride between triumph and disaster, starting with Trading in Danger.

 

Horizons by Mary Rosenblum
Ahni Huang is hunting for her brother’s killer. As a Class 9 Empath with advanced biogenetic augmentations, she has complete mental and physical control of her body and can read other people’s Horizonsintentions before they can even think them. Faced with deceptions behind deceptions, Ahni is caught in a dangerous game of family politics—and in the middle of it all lies the fate of her brother. Her search leads to the Platforms, which orbit high above Earth. On the Platform New York Up, ‘upsider’ life is different. They have their own culture, values and ambitions – and now they want their independence from Earth. One upsider leader, Dane Nilsson, is determined to accomplish NYUp’s secession, but he has a secret, one that, once exposed, could condemn him to death. When Ahni stumbles upon Dane during her quest for vengeance, her destiny becomes inextricably linked to his. Together they must delve beyond the intrigue and manipulative schemes to get to the core of truth, a truth that will shape the future of the Platforms and shatter any preconceived notions of what defines the human race.

All the best science fiction, in my opinion, gives us some believable insights into some of the dilemmas that future technology will pose for our descendants. In this stand-alone book, Rosenblum shines a light on some of the problems that are starting to loom uncomfortably close – such as genetic manipulation; cloning; what defines humanity and the faultlines along which humankind will divide. See my review of Horizons here.

 

The Jon and Lobo series by Mark L. van Name
This duology of the first two books, One Jump Ahead and Slanted Jack, in the popular Jon and Lobo series was released by Baen in a smart marketing move.

jumptwistgateJon Moore: A nanotech enhanced wanderer who wants nothing more than a quiet life and a way back to his strange home world. Lobo: An incredibly intelligent machine equipped for any environment from the sea to interstellar space. Two battle-scarred veterans unwilling to tolerate injustice. Together in a collection that not only includes the first two novels, but also two short stories giving some of the backstory to the two protagonists and an interestingly frank foreword and afterword by the author.

I very much enjoyed the unfolding relationship between Jon and Lobo. In One Jump Ahead, Jon meets Lobo for the first time and they work together. Jon’s enhancements have forced him to be constantly careful how he interacts with other people, as his greatest fear is finding himself locked up by some large corporation and treated like a labrat as they discover exactly how he came by his unique abilities. One of the consequences of these enhancements is his ability to communicate directly with the machines around him – including, of course, Lobo, his intelligent battleship. Lobo’s constant frustration with Jon’s micro-managing temperament creates a nicely sharp relationship between the two of them, which gradually deepens into trust and genuine affection – from Jon’s side, anyway. We can only guess at what Lobo really thinks… Read my review of Jump Twist Gate here.

 

The Seafort Saga by David Feintuch
I thoroughly enjoyed this seven-book series that Feintuch freely admitted was inspired by C.S. Forester’s Hornblower naval adventures. It all kicks off with the first book, Midshipman’s Hope

A hideous accident kills the senior officer of UNS Hibernia, leaving a terrified young officer to take 300 midshipmanshopecolonists and crew aboard a damaged ship, on a 17-month gauntlet to reach Hope Nation. With no chance of rescue, Nicholas Seafort must save lives and take them, in the name of duty.

And so we first encounter the young man, whose space career is charted by a series of adventures, including marauding aliens. Great fun!

Are there any series or standalone books you would like to add to my list?