Tag Archives: apocalytic science fiction

Teaser Tuesday – 14th June, 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:
The City of Mirrors – Book 3 of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin
24%: We followed him inside. We were in an empty foyer, the floor painted in thecityofmirrorsalternating black and white squares, like a chessboard. I did not feel as if I were going to a party – parachuting at night into an alien country was more like it.

BLURB: “The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?”

The Twelve have been destroyed and the hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew and daring to dream of a hopeful future. But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy – humanity’s only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him.

One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.

I’m finding this one easier to get into than The Passage, but that’s probably because I’ve just finished the first book in the series, so am very familiar with the characters and storyline. Interestingly, this extract is a slice from a protracted flashback, providing a lot of extra detail about the major antagonist. Once again, I’m struck by the quality of the writing. I shall be reviewing this book sometime during the next week, as it is a NetGalley arc, due to be released in a couple of days.

Weekly Wrap-Up – 8th May

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Weekly Wrapup

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. It’s been another madly busy week. My mother and sister came down to visit on Thursday and I was out in the evening with my friend Paula – we’re starting to think about a new course we want to run together at Northbrook next year for anyone wanting to write a novel. Yesterday we were out in Brighton, celebrating my son’s 30th birthday. It was a lovely get-together, rounding off a great week when the sun finally started to shine.

Therefore I’ve only read two books this week:

Central Station by Lavie Tidharcentralstation
This hard sci fi book gives us a slice of far future life in Central Station. In multiple pov, Tidhar weaves a beautiful, imaginative tale of the concerns and passions of these posthumans. It is an accomplished, thought provoking read by a very talented writer. It is due to be released this coming week, so I will be reviewing it in due course.

 

theflooddragonThe Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice – Book 1 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash
I was a fan of Ash’s writing back in the 1990’s, so when I saw this offering on Amazon I snapped it up, hoping she was still as talented a storyteller. She is. This is a cracking tale, set in a version of Japan, when the country was at the height of its isolationist policy. I love the fact that the main protagonists are on both sides of the feud, giving us a ringside seat to the clan war that is tearing apart the ruling class. I will be shortly reviewing the book.

I have also started editing Breathing Space, though with it being another busy week, I haven’t got as far as I’d hoped.

My posts last week:
Weekly Wrap-Up – 1st May

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Outriders – Book 1 of the Outriders series by Jay Posey

Teaser Tuesday – Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts series by Colleen Oakes

Friday Faceoff – You Got the Blues featuring Space Hostages by Sophia McDougall

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – April roundup

I hope everyone has a great reading and blogging week and you, too, are getting/enjoying the sudden burst of warm, sunny weather we are currently experiencing. Hard to believe that this time last week, we were enduring snow showers…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

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This apocalyptic adventure is more Brit than fish and chips and warm beer. Does it work?

endoftheworldrunningclubEdgar Hill is 35 and caught in his own headlock. Overweight slob, under-performing husband and reluctant father – for Ed, the world may as well have already ended. So when it does end in a catastrophic asteroid strike and Edgar and his family find refuge in an Edinburgh army barracks, it comes as something of a relief. His world becomes simpler, life becomes easier – things might just be looking up.

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that whatever else is going to happen – Life isn’t going to get any easier for Ed. In a twist I’ve no intention of blurting about, he finds himself needing to be at the other end of the country in a hurry. Not only are the majority of cars burned out, but with most of the roads damaged and cratered, hopping in a car and driving anywhere is an impossibility. So he and his travelling companions are faced with legging it through the chaos, encountering a variety of interesting characters.

Walker briefly explores some of the faultlines in British society by having Ed and his spend a night in a stately home, hosted by the surviving member of the landed gentry and then end up in a inner-city council estate. I did feel the characterisation was very predictable in both scenes, which was disappointing. There was none of the sharp-edged unexpectedness of Gloria, for instance – which was an incident that has stayed with me for the poignancy and horror of it.

However, I did enjoy Ed’s character. His sense of being adrift, before the meteors strike, is palpable – something I have discussed with men about their loss of identity within our modern society. Ed is believable and although there are times I want to shake him – I also find myself sympathising with him, which is important. As the whole unfolding adventure is filtered through his viewpoint, unless we care about him and his goals, we won’t fully bond with the story.

I did care. In fact, I was gripped by the book, staying up far too late to discover what happens next. By about two-thirds of the way through, I figured out I’d know how it was going to end – and I was wrong. The ending was a genuine surprise and worked well in the overall context. If you taste runs to end-of-the-world adventures, then track this one down, as it’s well written, pacey storyline makes for a gripping read.

The ebook arc copy of The End of the World Running Club was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Metropolis

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This is a new meme started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is the better. This week’s topic is to find two nifty covers relating to cities – and The Forever Watch by David Ramirez was my obvious choice. The added icing on the cake is that it happens to be one of my all-time favourite generational ship novels to date…

The brooding UK cover with its cityscape in shades of grey, apart from Hana, who is depicted in red, very effectively imparts the sense of dread and unease that permeates through this mystery thriller. I love the claustrophobia within the cityscape that the designers, Raid 71, manage to evoke. It so clearly transmits the feel of the book.

foreverwatchuk

And yet, Alan Brooks also manages to create a similar feeling of dread within this accomplished US cover in quite a different way. The flare of yellow within the cityscape which is clearly transitioning, gives a sense of movement within the buildings. While in the foreground the female figure – obviously Hana – looks poised for danger. I also very much like the spacescape right at the top of the cover.

theforeverwatchus

Both covers clearly communicate aspects of the book. Both covers are stunning. But, for me, the UK version just edges it. I love the starkness and brooding threat , which so effectively captures the mood of this memorable murder mystery.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Last Gasp by Trevor Hoyle

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This book has an interesting history. It was first published in 1983, when it was treated as straight science fiction with emphasis on the fiction. However, as some of the predictions made by Hoyle have now become frighteningly accurate, given the grim finale, Quercus are now republishing it.

thelastgaspMANKIND IS KILLING THE AIR WE BREATHE. Scientists have been warning for decades that we are poisoning the Earth. Now their prophecy is coming true. The oceans have become polluted, destroying a crucial link in the planet’s life-support system. Instead of joining in friendship to meet this deadly future, corrupt superpowers are plotting to secure the last remaining clean air for the privileged few. This is the terrifying 21st-century prophecy of what we are doing to our home in space. Once it was just a scary bedtime story. Now it has become horrifyingly real.
TIME IS SHORT.
THE AIR IS RUNNING OUT.

I wasn’t aware of this book’s longevity when I was reading it, but it didn’t surprise me on discovering it. The sections of scientific information occur at regular intervals in blocks, that to be honest, is a hard science fiction habit I could do without as it tends to crash through the narrative in omniscient viewpoint. However, I’m aware there are fans of the genre who love this convention so I’m not going to mark down the book on those grounds, though it did mean I struggled with the storyline more than I would have liked.

Hoyle is clearly on a mission to alert his readers to the danger we pose to ourselves as there is a relentless quality to this novel, while the antagonists embark on a mad scheme to use the environment as a weapon of mass destruction. Initially I thought it was too far-fetched, until I considered the insane stupidity of the nuclear missile programme.

However, I did find it difficult to bond with the main characters, as they are all fairly superficial and mostly wheeled on to serve the driving force of this book, the narrative arc. This rolled forward inexorably, spanning several decades into the near future when climate change and diseases overtake the population. It made for depressing reading. The penultimate scene in the hotel takes on the feel of an out and out horror movie – and I thought I knew how this book was going to end – until I reached it. And this is where it completely lets itself down in an unrealistic conclusion that simply doesn’t work for me. A shame, as it undercuts the cumulative effect of the strong warning through the rest of the book. That said, it is a thought-provoking, disturbing read with a strong warning our politicians and law-makers would do well to heed.

The ebook arc copy of The Last Gasp was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
7/10

Teaser Tuesday – 16th February 2016

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This is weekly meme, set upTeaserTuesdays-ADailyRhythm3-300x203 by Jenn over at A Daily Rhythm.

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!

Morning Star – Book 3 of the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown

20% of the ebook: Phobos is the largest pincushion man has ever built. And the disparity of wealth between the inhabitants of the Needles, the tips of the buildings, and the Hollow inside the moon’s rock, borders on hilarious.

morning starBLURB

Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied – and too glorious to surrender.

 

I have really enjoyed the first two books in this series, and was keen to get hold of this, the third in the series. It has started off with Brown’s customary action-packed style and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Review to follow…

 

Review of The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

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For those of you interested in such things, the author of this widely acclaimed book has a long pedigree of writing comics and graphic novels, including Lucifer and as Mike Carey, he has also produced the enjoyable Felix Castor series. A film is also being made of The Girl With All the Gifts.

thegirlwithallthegiftsEvery morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

That’s the very short blurb, which takes you to the start of the book. I hope I’m not straying too much into spoiler territory by mentioning that a fungal infection has rampaged through humanity, causing unfortunate changes. Yes… before you ask, we are talking a type of zombie, or hungries as they are called in the book. While the book is written in multiple viewpoints, the protagonist is unquestionably young Melanie, a very bright little girl who loves learning. And her teacher, Miss Justineau, who smiles at her and the other children in the class, talks to them kindly and reads them stories. Whereas Mr Whitaker is often angry and hung over. Everyone knows he drinks too much.

The viewpoint is masterful, as is the pacing. I’m not going to mention any more about the story development, because Carey has deliberately constructed it so the reader goes on discovering more about the world as the story progresses. I personally love that particular style of storytelling above all others and devoured this book in three greedy gulps, reading when I should have been sleeping. Or editing. Or writing lesson plans. Or organising my trip to Bristolcon. In short, I broke one of my golden rules – I read for pure enjoyment during the day, rather to relax and unwind as a present to myself after a long day’s work.

I’m not a major fan of zombie apocalypse stories. Other than a couple of notable exceptions, I find the general gore and mayhem too much as I’m prone to nightmares. But this particular book drew me right in – how could anyone not love Melanie? Though I wasn’t too far through, when I figured it wouldn’t necessarily end well…

And I’m still musing over the ending. I’ll continue to do so for some long time, I reckon. This is a book that has crept under my skin and impinged on my inscape – I’ve even dreamt about it. No doubt about it – it’s one of my outstanding reads of the year. And even if you don’t generally read dystopian novels, or zombie anything – track it down. For once, the hype was right.
10/10

Review of Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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Tchaikovsky’s fascinating insectile epic fantasy series Shadows of the Apt has made him a major name in Fantasy circles – and rightly so. See my review of Empire in Black and Gold here. So when I encountered a book with his name on the cover featuring a spacescape, it was a no-brainer that I’d scoop it off the shelves. Would I enjoy it?

childrenoftimeThe last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age – a world terraformed and prepared for human life. But guarding it is its creator, Dr Avrana Kern with a lethal array of weaponry, determined to fight off these refugees. For she has prepared this pristine world seeded with a very special nanovirus for a number of monkey species to be uplifted into what human beings should have turned into – instead of the battling, acquisitive creatures who destroyed Earth…

That’s the tweaked blurb – unusually because I felt the book jacket version was rather a vanilla description of the really intriguing conflict Tchaikovsky posits in this generational ship odyssey. For Kern’s plans go very awry and the species that actually becomes uplifted isn’t Kern’s monkeys, at all…

As coincidence would have it, I’ve only recently read another space opera adventure featuring a generational ship and humans whose lives span an extended time. In Tchaikovsky’s version, however, the method used to elongate the crew’s lives sufficiently is for them to go into deep storage, along with the colonists stacked in the cargo holds, to be roused when necessary to deal with various emergencies. So when the captain encounters the problem of Kern’s formidable defences, he finds himself staying awake far longer than he intended.

There is such a welter of unintended consequences and accidental outcomes in this tale, that it would have only taken a slightly different approach and a major tweak to the writing to turn this into a Douglas Adams-type farce. The storyline and Tchaikovsky’s detailed, knowledgeable account of how the species acquired the necessary intelligence to form a planet-wide society had me utterly engrossed.

Because there was a dealbreaker embedded in this book. There are tracts of ‘tell’ throughout, where Tchaikovsky resorts to omniscient pov to relay chunks of the story. Could he have done it differently? Probably – and if the story had been less engrossing, less exciting and more predictable I may well have abandoned it. But the initial premise held me and the ingenious, witty plotting had me captivated such that I was more than willing to give him a free pass on his mode of delivery.

He also made me care about both the wretched humans trapped aboard a ship that is slowly falling apart under them and the interesting beings down on the planet struggling to adapt to an evolutionary tweak not intended for them. Did he bring the story to a suitably satisfying conclusion? Oh yes, he certainly did. I don’t know if this is a precursor to a series of books set on Kern’s World. But if it is, I’m going to snapping them up as they become available. Tchaikovsky has taken an established genre by the scruff of its neck and turned it around in coolly interesting ways in much the same way The Shadow of the Apt series flipped around epic Fantasy.

And the bonus? He is genuinely one of the nicest blokes it has been my pleasure to encounter at various cons…
10/10

Review of Indie KINDLE ebook Othella – Book 1 of the Arcadian Heights series by Therin Knite

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This near-future cyber-thriller starts with a bang, and then just gets more full-on from there…

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Georgette McClain can’t resist a juicy tip. So when a rumored crazy ex-CEO gifts herothella evidence of a vast conspiracy involving the world’s premier scientific community, Arcadian Heights, she sets her sights on the story of a lifetime. And all she has to do to grab it by the reins is sneak into the most secure facility in the world—and expose it for the slaughterhouse it is. Tech company CEO Marco Salt has it all. Fame. Fortune. Family. But not long after Marco’s beloved genius daughter is invited to join Arcadian Heights, a rogue agent reveals to him the horrifying truth about the revered scientific community. Forced to flee for his life, Marco finds himself on the run with a deadly secret in his grasp and a single goal in mind: destroy Arcadian Heights.

Georgette and Marco are the two main protagonists and we are in their viewpoint most often, along with the major antagonist, Quentin. And when Marco discovers exactly what has been going on at Arcadian Heights, he hires Georgette to start digging for further information, as he struggles to come to terms with what has been done to his beloved daughter – along with hundreds of other bright, creative people.

Knite has a punchy, readable writing style that scooped me up and swept me along from the first page. Action-packed and full of incident, there is nevertheless an interesting conundrum he poses regarding the moral dilemmas in such an extreme situation. Quentin – the main antagonist – is not just some two-dimensional hate figure. In many ways, he is something of a mirror figure to Marco, who is also capable of ruthlessly using other people to achieve his own objectives. He is also utterly convinced that Arcadian Heights is Humanity’s only hope for survival – and if he is right, then surely securing this single bulwark against our species’ impending doom, even if the cost is heartbreakingly high.

The narrative timeline dots around, often jumping back to fill in the background in the viewpoint of the main characters so you do need to pay attention. But as Knite clearly indicates the changes in viewpoint and time, it isn’t too difficult to follow. While the overall story arc soon became apparent, there are all sorts of twisty little surprises that kept me engrossed and engaged in the book.

Any niggles? All the main characters seem to have an insanely high tolerance to shock, pain and major injuries – to the extent that I found myself wondering in the middle of the action whether it was credible to keep functioning with the level of damage they sustain. However, the same can be said for many other action adventures so it isn’t a dealbreaker – and I could visualise this book being made into a successful and entertaining film. If you like your action fast and furious, set in an intriguing if bleak future scenario, then give this one a go. I’ll guarantee an incident-packed ride that raises some interesting moral issues along the way.
9/10

Review of the film Home

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I was delighted when the trailers started appearing to see another major family film featuring a science fiction theme. As a solid fan of the genre, anything that helps it break out into mainstream has to be a good thing. So when my grandson came to stay last week, I took him along to see it.

ohandtipWhen Oh, a loveable misfit from another planet, lands on Earth and finds himself on the run from his own people, he forms an unlikely friendship with an adventurous girl named Tip who is on a quest of her own. Through a series of comic adventures with Tip, Oh comes to understand that being different and making mistakes is all part of being human. And while he changes her planet and she changes his world, they discover the true meaning of the word HOME.

The cast is stellar – Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory stars as Oh, while Rihanna, Jennifer Lopaz, Steve Martin, Matt Jones and Dominique Monfery all very ably support him. The dialogue is sharp and humorous, with the main characters well depicted. Oh and Tip are both misfits in their own environments and their developing relationship has plenty of edges that provides interest and conflict while they are trying to flee/find family/save the planet. So far so good…

However, if you’re sensing a big BUT, you’d be right. If scriptwriters are going to use a science fiction theme, then it behoves them to ensure the plot is at least tight enough to pass muster at the very first sitting. And unfortunately Home can’t even pass this undemanding test. When the Boov alien nation decide to settle on Earth, they scoop up the whole of humanity and dump them in circular settlements in the middle of Australia in small, colonial-style houses jammed very closely together. And two weeks later, there doesn’t appear to be any breakdown in law and order, or unrest – everyone is just aimlessly wandering around. Neither is there any kind of aggression towards the Boov in the form of armies mustered to prevent them from moving into the human cities they have so recently hi-jacked.

Really?

I know it’s a film largely aimed at children – but this isn’t so much a plot hole as a gaping chasm. Most of the film, I ohandpigcatfound myself wondering what exactly would really happen if an alien species suddenly turned up and actually shunted our whole civilisation onto one continent in very crowded conditions. I’m betting that two weeks later, everyone wouldn’t be merely wandering around, looking a tad aggravated… And as for everyone happily co-existing afterwards – nope. Absolutely not. Reckon the Boov would find themselves the target for a huge amount of hatred.

So while the relationship between Tip and Oh works well, as soon as the film’s focus widens out to the broader storyline the whole narrative fell apart. There was simply none of the rigour shown in the wonderful Wall-E, which held together any way you looked at it. I found myself watching the beautiful graphics and superb acting – while trying to work out why all this effort and talent was being expended on a broken-backed story that didn’t work.

My other gripe was the other character – Pig-Cat. It is, apparently, perfectly acceptable to allow your cat become obese – and if not, then WHY does the main character possess an overweight cat glorying in the name of Pig? A whole range of activities such as running, climbing and jumping suddenly become a problem for obese cats, along with a shortened lifespan and constant health issues, which means this is just cruelty. I fail to see any merit in normalising the unacceptable practise of overfeeding pets to the point of injuring them, by featuring a fat cat in a mainstream family film.

But as far as I’m concerned, this is just another aspect of the sloppy, lazy thinking behind this lame project, which with a bit of extra effort could have been superb. Shame on you Dreamworks. You’re better than this.
4/10