Science Fiction

Mightier than the Sword

Mightier than the Sword
Murder. Death threats. Working with the team that fired him six years ago. It’s a busy week for Viktor Ivanokoff. When Viktor is pulled off of the UELE Endurance to help solve the murder of his one-time captain, he’s eager to help. The case provides a challenge, as well as a chance to outperform his former colleagues. But as the investigation takes him into the far reaches of the solar system, he discovers that his work may carry greater stakes than a simple opportunity for payback.

Reviewed by Shauna

5 Stars

This is a good read and a great mix of murder, police investigation and science fiction. It’s the second book about the characters of the space ship Endurance, and in this one it is First Officer Viktor Ivanokoff as the point of view character. I enjoyed the change of narrator as we get to find out more about Viktor and how he came to be on Endurance.

Viktor previously worked in the organised crime division, and when his ex-boss is murdered, Viktor is asked to help with the investigation. There was no love lost between Viktor and his ex-boss, who was one of the people responsible for Viktor serving on the Endurance, but as Viktor’s name is on a list of targets found on the dead man’s body, he has good reason for helping to find the killer. Not to mention the satisfaction of finding the murderer before his ex-colleagues do.

To the reader’s delight, Viktor and his (written-off) Endurance colleagues work out what connects the people on the list before the Organised Crime group. The story is well-paced, mixing action and investigation, fight scenes and a hover car chase. After discovering a message sent to Saturn, there is an ironic turn of fate as Endurance is the only ship ready for the trip.

Towards the end, Viktor discovers a secret that may have far reaching consequences. This links back neatly to elements in the first book and gives the reader a satisfying ending, while looking forward to more.

I received this book free from the author in return for an honest review.

Enduring Endurance

Enduring Endurance
Infusing the traditional science fiction format with humor and awkward coworkers, Enduring Endurance follows the not-so-best-and-brightest of humanity as they explore the galaxy by accident.   Infusing the traditional science fiction format with humor and awkward coworkers, Enduring Endurance follows the not-so-best-and-brightest of humanity as they explore the galaxy by accident. Captain Thomas Withers expects the worst when he’s assigned command of the Endurance, the least-respected ship in the United Earth Law Enforcement Corps. He gets it, and then some. After a poorly executed experiment throws Thomas and his crew out of Earth’s solar system and into humanity’s first meeting with aliens, he must rely on the outcasts of the corps, not only to get home, but to survive the trip at all.

Reviewed by Shauna

4 Stars

This book sits as easily in humour or adventure with space as the backdrop as it does science fiction. The quirky characters take centre-stage and drive the story, rather than technology and plot.

Thomas Withers has just been promoted to Captain of the space ship Endurance, but he’s not happy. He had ‘…dreamed about this day from childhood. Now he was here, he wished he’d stayed in bed.’ One of the things I enjoyed most is the quietly ironic tone of the writing which remains true throughout the book.

We discover the captain’s promising career has come to a resounding halt after putting the life of a hostage ahead of an operation. This act endears him to the reader and ensures we are on his side as he is assigned to lead a ship of misfits. What he finds is a group of quirky individuals with their own reasons for being on the Endurance

Thomas has plans to improve the discipline of the crew and therefore his own future options, but he doesn’t have time to implement them before one of the chief engineer’s experiments finally works. The result is that Thomas and his crew are the first humans to leave the universe. While trying to reproduce the experiment so they can return home, they discover not one but two alien species.

The writing is crisp, and the character interactions humorous and honest as Thomas discovers that even a group of individuals who have been written off can pull together and create some surprising results.

This book is called Episode 1, and ‘episode’ describes the novella length and shape of the book perfectly. I’m looking forward to reading Episode 2.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

 

Reviewed by Connick

4 Stars

This was a brave choice of title, as I guess we’ve all had to endure tedious books in our time. Thankfully Enduring Endurance is lightyears from tedium. It is a fast, exciting adventure, wrapped up in around 80 pages. It begins with a fairly Star Trekie vision of future Earth with our hero, a discredited lieutenant being promoted to Captain of a space ship full of similarly disgraced crew, for allowing his moral fibre to take precedence over orders, effectively side-lining him for the rest of his career. He begins his new role by taking a strict authoritarian tack (determined to make good of a bad situation) with limited success, as the Endurance begins its tour of the most desolate reaches of the solar system. It isn’t long however, before the ship is sent massively off course and the crew are forced to forget their differences and work together to find a way to return home. As events spiral out of the group’s control, there are alien encounters, not all of them friendly or resolved without a battle.

This was a very enjoyable page-turner and a great start to what I’m sure will be a thrilling series of books. If I were to offer some constructive criticism… it is a short story with a lot going on, so there is a lack of suspense, building tension and peril. It seemed like each situation was resolved a little too quickly and then on to the next. I also feel that this type of book: short, exciting, action packed, and part of a sequence of stories (I believe four have been released so far) would lend itself very well to a cliff-hanger ending, to get the reader scurrying to find the next instalment to find out what happens. A bit cheeky perhaps, but I wouldn’t have had a problem with that. This is not to suggest that the actual ending is unsatisfying.

I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.

The Sundered

The Sundered
In a world where the water kills, he must decide who lives or dies – humanity, or humanity’s broken slaves. Don’t touch the water, or it will pull you under. Conserve food, because there’s no arable land. Use Sundered slaves gently, or they die too quickly to be worthwhile. With extinction on the horizon and a world lost to deadly flood, Harry searches for a cure: the Hope of Humanity, the mysterious artifact that gave humans control over the Sundered centuries ago. According to legend, the Hope can fix the planet. But the Hope holds more secrets than Harry knows. Powerful Sundered Ones willingly bow to him just to get near it. Ambitious enemies pursue him, sure that the Hope is a weapon. Friends turn their backs, afraid Harry will choose wrong. And Harry has a choice to make. The time for sharing the Earth is done. Either the Sundered survive and humanity ends, or humanity lives for a while, but the Sundered are wiped out. He never wanted this choice. He still has to make it. In his broken, flooded world, Hope comes with a price.

Reviewed 

I won this book in a give away and when the author contacted me asking for my address, I said that since the postage to Australia would be quite a lot of money, I’d be fine with an ebook version, but she said she wanted to send me a paperback. A week or so later, it arrived. I read the blurb, then put the book down, thinking it sounded interesting. I didn’t think I’d get around to reading it for ages, but being a paperback, it sat on the coffee table shouting, read me, read me, so after dinner I picked it up to have a quick perusal of the first few pages and I and didn’t put it down again until I absolutely had to go to bed. You guessed it—I loved it. It grabbed me from page one and held me until the wonderful end.

The Sundered is fabulously different to anything else I’ve ever read—the mark of a strong new voice—and a totally unique story that had me completely enthralled.

The story takes place on a world flooded with black water that is deadly to humans. People share this world with the Sundered, magical creatures humans have enslaved. The Sundered are dying out, but since there is no arable land and they are the only ones who can go into the water, they are the ones that produce food. Once the Sundered are all gone, the humans will eventually die out.

Harry Iskinder is a salvager who paddles around in a small skiff looking for the Hope of humanity, a possibly mythical object that he hopes will save humans from extinction. No one knows what exactly it is or what it does, but Harry discovers that finding it will give him a choice; either the Sundered survive and humanity ends, or humanity lives for a while but the Sundered are wiped out.

The story is written in a snappy way that immediately drew this reader in. Harry is trying to live up to his family heritage of the ones who search for the Hope. He’s tense and terrified of failing to adequately lead his travellers, the gang that travels with him, and when he manages to claim a first tier Sundered, he is as surprised as anyone. Did the Sundered allow himself to be caught? And if so, why? Or does Harry simply have more power than he thought? Either way, Aakesh, his first tier Sundered is an extraordinary being and the conversations between him and Harry are brilliant.

I loved Gorish, the cute little Sundered. His simple ways were endearing and his love and loyalty for Harry, more than anything else, made me empathise with the Sundered. Aakesh was drawn so well, I could almost feel this incredibly powerful, noble and mysterious character. Other than these two, the only other character we really got to know (or needed to know) was Harry, who quickly became out of his depth. Sometimes I wished he would calm down a bit, and it would have been nice to have seen some kind of maturing in his character over the period of the story, some of Aakesh’s calm intelligence could have rubbed off on him. Also, I didn’t quite get why Bek was blowing up cities or how his weapon worked, so maybe that could have been clearer.

I really enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the perception of the Sundered and the concepts behind it, and the interrelational politics between Harry, his friends, his Sundered and his mentor were very well done. All in all an excellent book that I highly recommend to anyone who likes science fiction or fantasy.

Scribbling

Scribbling
Published: October 24, 2012
Neville Lansdowne pushed the world out of shape. He didn't mean to do it. He didn't even realise he had done it. If you had asked him, he would have said that, as far as he could tell, the world was the wrong shape to begin with. In a world that is totally the wrong shape, Neville meets a new bunch of eccentric characters, and embarks on another strange and wholly unexpected adventure.

Doodling

Doodling
Published: January 24, 2011
Neville Lansdowne fell off the world. Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.   Doodling is an engaging comic fantasy which relates the events that befall Neville after he finds himself abandoned by the world and adrift in the middle of an asteroid field. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver's Travels) as Neville wanders through his new home, meeting a variety of eccentric characters and experiencing some most unexpected adventures.

Another Space in Time

Another Space in Time
Murdered, Rodwell awakes to a second life on a parallel world. By the time he understands that this isn't home he is himself being pursued as a killer.   How could a story from a parallel world reach us from the body, from the stored cadaver of a dead man? That wouldn’t be possible, right? Well, anything is possible in fiction, and who knows? People don’t suddenly appear in our world, as either children or adults, arriving from another existence. Of course they don’t. There aren’t people, with no history, no family, no identity, totally alienated from society, being immediately pursued as terrorist killers, are there? That wouldn’t be credible would it? Especially if they had ‘arrived’ naked, bewildered, claiming to be looking for a home that doesn’t exist, and conversing in an unknown language about stuff that seems like pure fantasy? This wouldn’t happen, especially if they had never been seen, ever, by anyone, until just two days before. This book must be fiction, mustn’t it? But then again, there is an underlying logic. Perhaps there is even a ‘God-given’ reason. But there can’t be, can there?

Review by Tahlia Newland.

Another Space in Time is an interesting and somewhat surprising story that I really enjoyed. It begins at a slow pace, but after the attack on the Grange, I couldn’t put the book down.

A man called Rodwell wakes up in a parallel world after being assassinated on earth. While Rodwell slowly became accustomed to his new surroundings and indulged in long philosophical discussions, I wondered where the story was going. It seemed that he had arrived, not in heaven, but in a beautiful, sleepy place with none of the ills of our world. About one quarter of the way in, we realise how wrong fist impressions can be. A kidnap, a killing and a case of mistaken identity catapult Rodwell and the reader into a roller coaster of events that, since the police are pursing him as a murderer and terrorist, it seems unlikely he can escape alive. What eventuates is a fast paced, well written, highly unpredictable story in which Rodwell is forced to use all his resources in a bid to sort out the mess.

Rodwell is a likeable character and one who gained my respect early on as an astute thinker. He manages to escape various situations where I could see no possible hope for him. I congratulate the author on his skill in working out the intricacies of the plot. The secondary characters are also well-drawn and we get to know and care about them quickly. Lucy is a particularly endearing character, one we come to care about deeply, thus we feel deeply Rodwell’s pain at her disappearance and the trials she goes through.

Although science fiction in setting (it’s in another galaxy with a pulsar as a sun), it’s basically a crime mystery written from the point of view of the accused. What makes this story different from any others I’ve read in these genres is the philosophical speculation of the main character. The concept of those who meet an untimely death having another chance in a new world is an interesting one, and for our philosophically inclined hero, it—along with a rather limited understanding of evolutionary theory—convinces him of the existence of God. The seemingly irrefutable existence of life after death raises questions about the sanctity of life which come to our hero when events force him into a position where he may have to kill or be killed. He reflects on how religious fanatics could use such knowledge to justify killing those they don’t agree with, and concludes that this is why God makes this knowledge unavailable to us.

I found this a highly intelligent book that, along with giving the reader a jolly good tale, provides food for thought and contemplation. It gives insight into the challenges and prejudices faced by new arrivals in a culture, and, in my family, it stimulated a discussion on the details of evolutionary theory.

The writing is flawless, as is the world building—Bunning has worked out all the details of a planet in the asteroid belt of a pulsar star. The only problem with the book is that the beginning may just be a little too slow for some, however, its initial leisurely and amiable pace does give us time to get to know the main characters and makes the shock of reality crashing in that much more chilling.

I highly recommend it for anyone who likes conceptual, scientific and philosophical challenges, or simply fancies a crime mystery in a sci fi setting. I give it 5 stars and a place on the Awesome Indies listing.  I notice that there’s a second book out in the series, and I look forward to reading it.

Losing it All

Losing it All
Category:
Published: March 8, 2013
When Robert chooses to preserve his body with cryonics, his soul remains unexpectedly awake, giving him a second chance at life. But even as he sees the world in a new light, his floating existence may never allow him to truly reconcile with the living.   Fifty-seven year old Robert Malone is the CEO of a successful clothing store chain and married to a former model. When his doctor tells him he is dying of cancer, he refuses to go quietly. Instead of death, Robert chooses cryonics. He knows it’s a long shot. His frozen body will be stored in liquid nitrogen for the next seventy-five years, and then he’ll wake up in the future. Maybe. If technology figures out a way to bring him back. He’s willing to take that gamble. What he doesn’t realize is that he won’t lie in some dreamless state all that time. His soul is very much awake, and free to move about, just like the others who were frozen before him. He discovers that he can ride in the cockpit with the pilots, but he can’t turn the page of a magazine. He can sit in the oval office with the president, but he can’t prevent a child from dashing in front of a car. He can’t work, or eat, or sleep. These obstacles make it difficult to fall in love, and virtually impossible to reconcile with the living. Over the next several decades, Robert Malone will have plenty of time to learn The Ups and Downs of Being Dead.

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

This is a very inventive and truly speculative science fiction drama, which kept me interested from page one to the final word. The plot works very well, provided of course one is prepared to temporarily take on-board the very speculative premise. The idea that one may be able to exist, be a ghost, between the realm of the living and the kingdom of God or oblivion, works well enough for me. Cornelius has some unusual “explanations” for some behaviours that actually fit well to many theories about the subconscious and psychotic illness. You will be missing the enjoyment of a great story if you can’t embrace the idea that out of body experiences may be portends of the future, rather than just the dying illusions of oxygen starved minds. The revival of tissues from cryogenic suspension has already been shown to work. It may not be long before it is possible to thaw out and give back life to once dead human.
The question of how a mind, a soul, detached from the physical world, might influence and be influenced the living, is the central premise. We all face situations we wish we could intervene to change, when all we can do is watch. We find ourselves as helpless bystanders, constrained from what we wish to do. Imagine an extreme of this, actually watching from beyond the grave your partner sleeping with your best friend, and then being murdered. In this case we are watching through Robert, after his physical body has been preserved.
Cornelius’s craft is sound enough that one is easily drawn into the flow, almost forgetting that one is reading. There almost always are a few sentences that need reading twice, but I found very few. My only qualm with the book was a bit of irritation with the mention of a million locations that one or other of the dead visited without really advancing the plot. So perhaps the book was five percent longer than necessary. I am sure that plenty of people, especially ones familiar with some of the locations, would totally disagree with this view. The point was to explain how a ghost could overcome the tedium of years of existence without being a physical influence. I just didn’t need quite so much of it to get the point.
The climax was one that I really hadn’t predicted, even though it logical fitted. That is, logically enough within the constraints of this fiction. I actually felt that the author wasn’t sure until very late how things might end either, not that there is anything wrong with that. I like the feel that I am in an ongoing story rather than working through a pre-solved mathematical problem.
If I find myself dead but not gone I must be careful to avoid viewing those I love. That I suspect would be almost as hard on most of us as it was on Robert. I must do my best to leave a positive legacy, or none at all. Now then, I wonder what I should do about . . . If only I didn’t so hate the idea of being frozen . . .

Amy’s Pendant

Amy’s Pendant
Publisher:
Published: March 9, 2013
Amy, the only child of a poor family living in the bustling city of Dolphin Point, is given an amazing and potentially dangerous pendant as a present for her fourteenth birthday. She does not know how amazing or how potentially dangerous it is. If she did, she would cherish it even more. She is that kind of girl. Through her investigations of the mysterious pendant, she uncovers an ancient mystery—the remnants of a vast alien commercial enterprise buried beneath surface of the planet. Unfortunately, the central computer for the complex is aware of her intrusion and it cannot let her escape with knowledge of its existence.

The Warden War

The Warden War
Published: January 7, 2014
Prince Donald’s father, King Leonard of Westgrove, has been told that the neighboring kingdom of Gotrox has discovered a magical means to animate a mysterious and gigantic ancient stone warrior, the Warden of Mystic Defiance, which it plans to use it to spearhead an invasion of his country. Donald is convinced this is a hoax carefully crafted by his father’s chief adviser to bring about a war to gain control of Gotroxian resources. Donald is determined to thwart him. It will not be easy. Chief Adviser Horace Barter has resources, connections, influence, and the almost unquestioned trust of the king. Donald, sadly, has none of these. What the young prince does have is a nominal position with the diplomatic team being sent to Gotrox and the companionship of a few rather unique friends including a pair of 15,000-year-old androids, one of which is a dog–or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

The Warden War is the second book in a series about Prince Donald of Wesgrove, a naive young man with a desire to be a hero who steadily grows up as the two books progress. The first book, The Warden Threat, was a good story, but this is even better. The writing is stronger, the story tighter and its light-hearted approach does not detract from the drama. This is quite simply an excellent story that, although it doesn’t take itself too seriously, makes important observations on the nature of humanity and the dangers of trusting someone with the power to manipulate the information received by those in power.

 

 The addition of the androids—their true nature unknown to Donald and his friends—creates an unusual mix of ancient fantasy and science fiction, and provides ample opportunity for amusing banter when, unnoticed by the others, the androids speak ‘mentally’ to each other.

Morrese’s writing style is simple and effective, giving us clear descriptions without anything extraneous.  The plot interesting, well paced and sometimes surprising. Although we don’t go as deeply into some of the supporting characters in this book, their characters have been well established previously. The focus in this book is more on the android Nash and Prince Donald himself. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the book is how well Donald’s character is developed. He doesn’t just grow up; he earns his father’s respect step by step and by the end shows all the qualities of a selfless hero without a hint of artifice.

On the surface, this is just a light, entertaining read, but underneath is the solid ground of an insightful comment on the machinations of politics and human nature. I think it’s a particularly excellent read for teenage boys.