Tag Archives: Allen Steele

Sunday Post – 16th April 2017

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

In theory it’s been a holiday period, allowing my break in my teaching routine to get a chance to focus on other aspects of my work. In practise, it’s thrown up all sorts of other tasks, including a stint of grannying. Of course, it goes without saying that this is a labour of love and I’m fortunate as both children are a joy and generally extremely well behaved. But we weren’t as up together this time around as we normally are, because the water pipe company had only completed concreting over the holes on Tuesday morning as they arrived in the afternoon. Himself also had a follow-up appointment at the Sleep Clinic, which was very encouraging where he has gone from 51 interrupted sleep events an hour down to 0.9 events, which is brilliant news. But we are both significantly shorter tempered than usual and while I am gradually getting more used to the silence instead of the thunderous snoring, my sleep patterns are still all over the place – and I’m not the one wearing the mask!

However, that didn’t get in the way of our having a fab time at the Crazy Golf on Wednesday with the grandchildren, though Frances going down with a heavy cold on Thursday meant we didn’t get out and about as much as I’d hoped. Fingers crossed the weather holds during the rest of the holiday when the grandchildren rejoin us for the coming week.

This week I have read:

Avengers of the Moon – A Captain Future book by Allen Steele

It was an age of miracles. It was an era of wonder. It was a time of troubles. It was all these things and more . . . except there were no heroes. Naturally, one had to be created.
Curt Newton has spent most of his life hidden from the rest of humankind, being raised by a robot, an android, and the disembodied brain of a renowned scientist. This unlikely trio of guardians has kept his existence a closely guarded secret since the murder of Curt’s parents. Curt’s innate curiosity and nose for trouble inadvertently lead him into a plot to destabilize the Solar Coalition. There’s only one way to uncover the evil mastermind—Curt must become Captain Future. With the permission of the Edmond Hamilton estate, Allen Steele revives the exciting adventures of Captain Future.
I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure once I got used to the old fashioned feel of the writing – wholly intentional as Steele was going for a retro feel with this science fiction heroic tale.

 

How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale – Book 5 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
The heat is on for Hiccup as he is called to save the day once again. Someone has stolen the Fire-Stone. Now that the volcano on Volcano Island has become active, the tremors are hatching the eggs of the Exterminator dragons! Can Hiccup return the Fire-Stone to the Volcano, stop it from erupting, and save the Tribes from being wiped out by the terrible sword-claws of the Exterminators?
A heatwave on the Isle of Berk – unheard of! As anyone who reads this blog will know, I love this quirky, anarchic world. In this fifth slice of Hiccup’s adventures, once again Cowell manages to deliver yet another original, enjoyable adventure full of excitement and humour.

 

Saven Deception – Book 1 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis

Sadie Owens has been slowly dying inside. Bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day. Trapped in a life she hates, she relies on only one person—herself. Despised by her family and betrayed by an unscrupulous government, Sadie dreams of a different life. When she is chosen to participate in the government’s new social experiment, she is ecstatic at the prospect of spending six months in Thalassic City, the shiny new city under the sea. Sadie is captivated by Logan, the beautiful boy with the ocean-blue eyes, but he isn’t all he appears to be. When she finally uncovers the government’s real agenda, the truth is more shocking than anything she could ever have imagined.

This is the first in the successful, best-selling dystopian science fiction adventure featuring the Saven aliens interaction with humanity. It is an enjoyable, page-turning read and I look forward to getting hold of the next book in the series.

 

Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space – The Dark – Book 4 of the Adventures in Wild Space by Tom Huddleston
In a galaxy far, far away… Milo and Lina are adrift on a starship that is spiralling towards disaster. A dangerous criminal is on the loose, the Empire is closing in – and something even deadlier awaits them in The Dark…
This is a genuinely creepy read with all sorts of twists and turns as the children are still fighting to evade the Empire’s attempts to capture them and their droid CR-8R. The friendly font, attractive illustrations and reasonably straightforward vocabulary means that Oscar can also join in and read to me, too.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 9th April 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of The Forever Court – Book 2 of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

Teaser Tuesday featuring Avengers of the Moon – a Captain Future novel by Allen Steele

Review of The Operator – Book 2 of the Peri Reed Chronicles by Kim Harrison

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – March Roundup

Friday Face-off – Happy Easter! featuring The Pinhoe Egg – a Chrestomanci novel by Diana Wynne Jones

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Avengers of the Moon – a Captain Future novel by Allen Steele

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

The Social Contract for Writers http://writerunboxed.com/2017/04/15/the-social-contract-for-writers/ Bill Ferris is hilariously irreverent about the business of writing and in yet another article that had me sniggering throughout, picks apart some of our darker impulses…

My First Library: The Bookmobile https://coffeeandcatsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/my-first-library-the-bookmobile/ In this delightful article, Loreen charts how she fell in love with the world of books, helped by a wonderful librarian.

Ouroboros https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/ouroboros/ I don’t always like the results, but this quirky photography site always produces challenging images – and this one really caught my attention and had me studying it for a while.

…ssshhhh… the NON-secret of Author online self-promotion… https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/04/14/ssshhhh-the-non-secret-of-author-online-self-promotion/ As a successful self-published author, Seumas shares some of his hard-won experience – a typically generous gesture.

Women in SF & F Month: Kat Howard http://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2017/04/women-in-sff-month-kat-howard/ I haven’t yet read Kat’s book, but I’ll be treating myself just as soon as funds allow – I loved this article…

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Advertisements

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele

Standard

I saw the wonderful retro cover on Netgalley and couldn’t resist, particularly as I have read and enjoyed the first four books in the Coyote series – see my review of Spindrift here.

It was an age of miracles. It was an era of wonder. It was a time of troubles. It was all these things and more . . . except there were no heroes. Naturally, one had to be created.

Curt Newton has spent most of his life hidden from the rest of humankind, being raised by a robot, an android, and the disembodied brain of a renowned scientist. This unlikely trio of guardians has kept his existence a closely guarded secret since the murder of Curt’s parents. Curt’s innate curiosity and nose for trouble inadvertently lead him into a plot to destabilize the Solar Coalition. There’s only one way to uncover the evil mastermind—Curt must become Captain Future. With the permission of the Edmond Hamilton estate, Allen Steele revives the exciting adventures of Captain Future.

So did this homage to the past pulp fiction series, Captain Future, manage to deliver an adventure that would grip modern readers? Oh yes. It did take me a chapter to get used to the passages telling me what was going on, along with a sizeable chunk of the backstory. The modern way of imparting this information would be through the characters’ actions, thought and speech within the story, rather than the author giving blocks of this information. There is nothing inherently wrong with this way of writing, but it does feel rather old fashioned, which in this context is spot on.

Once I got accustomed to this writing style – the style I grew up with – I was able to become immersed in the adventure, sit back and enjoy the ride. I really liked the main protagonist, Curt Newman aka Captain Future, who is brought up by an eerily smart construction robot, an android and his parents’ mentor whose brain is trapped in a metallic casing. Not surprisingly, Curt finds mixing with ordinary people, especially attractive women, rather a challenge. I’m fairly sure that the original books would not have given this weakness a mention. Raised all his life to search out and take revenge on the man who ordered the brutal murder of his parents, Curt tracks him down – only to find himself caught up in the machinations of another plot. A plot with the potential to destabilise the whole Solar System…

I enjoyed the fact that humanity has been altered genetically to cope with the hostile conditions on the other planets and moons. Steele has created a coherent civilisation off-planet with a variety of space-faring craft.

Curt and his odd team have a variety of cool gismos, courtesy of the inventive genius of Brains. One of these inventions is a cloaking device, but before you get the idea that Curt can simply press a button and prowl around nicely hidden from his potential attackers, the catch is the field that bends light sufficiently to keep him hidden means that when cloaked, he is blind. So while this invention can be handy, it also has major practical drawbacks. I really enjoyed these details that helped to increase the stakes and ensure that when Curt went into action as Captain Future, he wasn’t the type of invulnerable superhero we have become accustomed to seeing in comics and cinemas. Overall, this is a enjoyable space opera adventure, with plenty of action, some nice touches of humour and some plot twists I didn’t see coming.

While I obtained the arc of Avengers of the Moon from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 11th April, 2017

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
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:

Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele
23% Roger climbed down the ladder from the control room to the middeck. Pausing in the galley, he opened a wall locker between the curtained bunks to collect ankle weights. He strapped on a pair and left two more on the galley table for Elaine and Simon—Roger smiled as he wondered how long it would take Curt to adapt to one-sixth g: this would be interesting to observe—then continued climbing down to the third level where the ready-room and airlock lay. He didn’t need to suit up again. A glance at the indicator panel beside the outer hatch as he stepped into the airlock told him that positive pressure lay outside the ship.

BLURB: It was an age of miracles. It was an era of wonder. It was a time of troubles. It was all these things and more . . . except there were no heroes. Naturally, one had to be created.

Curt Newton has spent most of his life hidden from the rest of humankind, being raised by a robot, an android, and the disembodied brain of a renowned scientist. This unlikely trio of guardians has kept his existence a closely guarded secret since the murder of Curt’s parents. Curt’s innate curiosity and nose for trouble inadvertently lead him into a plot to destabilize the Solar Coalition. There’s only one way to uncover the evil mastermind—Curt must become Captain Future.

With the permission of the Edmond Hamilton estate, Allen Steele revives the exciting adventures of Captain Future.

It has taken me a while to acclimatise to the old fashioned feel of the storytelling in this tale – but of course, it’s entirely deliberate, given Steele is evoking the original pulp fiction tone of the Captain Future adventures. However, I’m now getting into the groove of the story’s rhythm and settling into the narrative. It’s very enjoyable to witness Curt’s struggles to relate effectively with other humans, given he’s been brought up by robots and I look forward to more of this as the story progresses.

Review of Spindrift – Book 4 in the Coyote series by Allen Steele

Standard

The starship Robert E. Lee is bearing a controversial cargo on its return to Earth: the only surviving crew of the EASS Galileo. This ship and all aboard vanished decades previously, while examining an apparently alien artefact.

spindriftAs John Shillinglaw, director general of the European Space Agency, waits nervously for the vessel to dock, he ponders the mystery. First Officer Theodore Harker, astrobiologist Jared Ramirez and pilot Emily Collins have been missing for fifty-six years. Where have they been… and why have they returned now?

While Spindrift is clearly set in the same world as the other Coyote novels, with the same political tensions and difficulties, readers don’t need to have read any of the previous books to be able to easily access the story – a major plus as far as I’m concerned. However, I came to Spindrift after reading the previous trilogy, which is the tale of a planet colonisation, leading to a war of independence from Earth. There were classic elements from Steele’s other novels – the political manoeuvring, leading to stupid mistakes being made. That strand certainly plays to Steele’s strengths – he is good at ramping up tensions between suspicious individuals and the Galileo’s outward journey provides a strong backdrop for these tensions to nicely fester.

I also really enjoyed the exploration of Spindrift, the enigmatic alien object. Steele manages to evoke the sense of wonder and excitement, as well as danger, while his three protagonists are confronted with the very first alien artefacts seen by humans. It is a staple of science fiction writing and all too often, authors are so carried away by telling their particular stories, they fail to take the time to adequately convey just what a big deal this event is. Not so Steele.

So far, so good. However, I do have several problems with this book, which in my opinion, isn’t as strong as his previous offerings. The first is the basic structure. As the blurb suggests, the book starts off in John Shillinglaw’s viewpoint as he waits to interview the three survivors of this expedition. Then the story is told from the viewpoints of the three main protagonists throughout the adventure, and then right at the end, it reverts back to Shillinglaw – as if the whole intervening narrative is in flashback, before the conclusion.

This has two effects – the first is that throughout the storyline of the expedition, we are aware that only Ted, Jared and Emily survive. So certain key moments are robbed of their shock or surprise value – we wait to discover in what way the Galileo comes to a sticky end, rather than being shocked that it happens. If a writer is going to pull that kind of stunt on his readers, he needs to provide another surprise – or make the characterisation so engrossing and original that the fact we already know several big spoilers doesn’t matter. Steele doesn’t provide either, so while the story is effectively told we already know too much, which robs this tale of a lot of its potential impact.

The other aspect is that as Shillinglaw ‘bookends’ the whole narrative, his character really needs to leap off the page, or he needs to provide a keynote role that helps to satisfactorily wind up the plot to a proper ending. In my opinion, Steele didn’t manage to fully persuade me that Shillinglaw’s contribution to the whole business was sufficiently important – and as for creating a really strong character – that isn’t one of Steele’s innate strengths, anyhow.

As a woman, I was particularly frustrated with Emily’s character – I felt she was very much the ‘token’ female – the fluffy, submissive kind. We kept being told that she was a wonderful pilot, despite the fact that she had all the drive and personality of a wet flannel. Both the male protagonists were a lot more interesting and I found myself wishing that Steele had stuck to making all three protagonists men.

However, all that said – it is still a worthwhile, reasonably enjoyable read. My frustration with the book is that if only Steele had restructured the story differently, it could have been so much better.
7/10