Science Fiction

Few Are Chosen

Few Are Chosen
Charming outlaw with own transport and limited social skills seeks lucrative, employment at minimal risk.  When you're running from a murderous government and work for an equally murderous gangster, accidentally torching his apartment is a bad move.  The Pan of Hamgee just wants a quiet life but destiny has other plans.   The Pan of Hamgee isn’t paranoid. There must be some people in K’Barth who aren’t out to get him. Unfortunately, right now, he’s not sure where they are. His family are dead, and his existence is treason. To survive he does the only thing he can – getaway driving. As if being on the run isn’t bad enough, he finds a magic thimble and decides to keep it. This can only mean trouble and sure enough, it does. By doing so, he unwittingly sets himself on a collision course with Lord Vernon, K’Barth’s despot ruler. Unwillingly, The Pan is forced to make choices and stand up for his beliefs. It’s a challenge, since previously he had no beliefs he was aware of. But faced with a stark moral dilemma, he realises his new found integrity might even stick… if he can stop running.

Reviewed by DL Morrese

February 7, 2013

5 stars

This is a cross-genre story that feels like it should be classified somewhere between Doctor Who and Discworld. I’m calling it science fiction rather than fantasy because at one point the ‘magic’ is described as the clever application of the strange effects of quantum mechanics. This is no more outlandish than the Doctor’s TARDIS, although instead of the unlikely time travel of Doctor Who, this story includes travel between our reality and an unlikely alternate dimension.

It’s an interesting place.

This alternate Earth is run as a police state, and our reluctant hero, The Pan of Hamgee, is a Goverment Blacklisted Indivdual. His existence is therefore illegal, and the fact that he has survived as a GBI for five years, which is about four and a half years longer than normal, proves that he is very good at not being caught. This talent comes to the attention of Big Merv, a major crime boss, who recruits him as his new getaway driver.  For the Pan of Hamgee, this is good news for two reasons. As a GBI, no legitimate employer will hire him, and Merv’s other option was dumping him in the river – with cement overshoes – but these are details we don’t need to go into here.

This story has flying car chases, a bad guy you love to loath, likable gangsters, and a hero you can really identify with since, like most of us, he’s not terribly heroic – at least not intentionally. He reminds me a bit of Rincewind in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. He’s a professional coward whose talent for getting into unintended trouble is only exceeded by his talent for escaping from it. All he wants is a simple, normal life, but the universe seems to have another fate planned for him. The book also has a few laughs, a lot of smiles, and even a bit of political and religious satire. There are far too few books like this. Great characters, interesting setting, humor, and cultural satire, with a genuinely good plot providing a framework holding them together is a hard blend to achieve and an even more difficult one to do well. This book does.

The prose is well executed with just enough description for the reader to visualize the scenes. Backstory, where needed, is integrated seamlessly into the narrative. Dialog is believable and suitable to the characters and to the situation. Grammar, spelling, formatting, and other of technical requirements of the storyteller’s trade that sometimes pose a problem for the independent writer are executed professionally in this book.

It passes my personal 5-star test. In addition to all the basics needed for a well-told tale, it has that something extra that would prompt me to read it again. I enjoyed following the misadventures of The Pan of Hamgee, a likeable sod thrown into an uncomfortable situation in an imaginative world that has certain parallels to our own. I highly recommend it to readers of lighthearted speculative fiction or anyone who may be looking for something a bit different and a lot of fun.

 

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

5 stars

This is a good comic fantasy title off the same sort of humorous planet as writers like Tom Holt, Ben Elton, and Terry Prachett. There is satire and certainly parody, and as with those listed she has the gift of dramatic timing. In other words, MT McGuire is in great, Great British, comic company. The fact that she used to do stand-up comedy doesn’t surprise me a bit.
I’m sure it helps to be a Brit to catch all the clever turns of phrase in this book, but those from once were distant outposts of Britannia will get just as much out of this read; even The ‘us’ should be able to catch the crest of her comic wave.
Of course, if you are not into Peter Cook, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders, Sandi Toksvig, or MT McGuire Authorholic then you probably won’t like K’Barthan books either. Get a life!

The Disenchanted Pet

The Disenchanted Pet
Aliens called ShaZha rule future Earth and struggle with capricious humanity. Zarah wants to prove humans can be civilized, but discovers a hidden people and must acknowledge her true status. Far into the future, the Earth is ruled by the ShaZha, a hyper-intelligent race of alien beings who are plagued by the violence and volatility of the human race. Supposedly intending to repair the broken societies and polluted planet, they have found the Human problem to be much more complex than they ever imagined. Zarah is a Prodigy, an obedient human, with a caring ShaZha master. Zarah wants to prove all her master’s hopes that humans can be civilized and responsible. When she is lost by her master and exposed to the other side of humanity, she must confront the possibility she might be not a valued citizen, but a pet.

 

Alpha Redemption

Alpha Redemption
A lonely astronaut with only a sentient computer for company rediscovers his faith and learns the true meaning of friendship. From despair he fled, through tragedy he lived on, and journeyed to innocence. His trajectory: the stars. His companion: a computer poised at the brink of sentience. An unlikely friendship on a prototype spaceship at lightspeed towards Alpha Centauri, and redemption. When Brett loses everything in a tragic accident, he gladly accepts an invitation to take part in a prototype speed-of-light trip to Alpha Centauri, knowing that he may not survive. His only companion is the ship’s on-board computer, Jay. At first he finds Jay an annoyance but, as time passes, the two become friends. With the voyage drawing to a close, Jay develops a sense of self-awareness and a belief in God. When it becomes clear that they cannot both survive the return trip, one of them must make the ultimate sacrifice.

Deviation

Deviation
Category:
Publisher:
Published: August 8, 2013
A young adult dystopian about teens who have been genetically altered to be human weapons to fight the War on Terror.

Reviewed 

The idea of genetically modified teens being used as weapons is not a new idea. Kimberley Kinrade wrote a series on this theme some time ago, and I’ve read quite a few YA books recently about teens with genetic modifications. It’s not surprising since genetic modification for humans is emerging as a very real possibility in our society, and I expect we will see more fiction in this vein.

Although it shares many overly common elements of YA fantasy, for example a new school, a supposedly bad boy that is hard to resist, and the resident bully who seems to need little inspiration for their nastiness, Deviation is still an excellent, well-crafted story that keeps you hooked in and has a surprising twist at the end that leaves the story nicely set up for sequels. I think this book will be well enjoyed by YA speculative fiction fans.

Cleo lives in a world of the future where terrorism has made huge scars on the American people and cities. She is a sophisticate, someone genetically modified while in utero, and raised without their parents by The Project who developed the technology, paid for the modification and owns the result. Parents are called donors and have no contact with their offspring, so the children’s friends are of great importance to them. They’re the closest thing they have to a family, so when the project moves Cleo away from her best friend Cassie, she is devastated.

Cleo and Cassie have been together their whole life, they’ve been genetically designed to be super intelligent, so why does Cleo find herself taken to a different kind of school, one where the Sophisticates are designed for warfare more than intelligence. Could it have something to do with the fact that she set her room on fire? Yes, Cleo discovers that she has a deviation. She was modified more than the usual Sophisticates. They designed her as a weapon with the qualities of a Malaysian Fire Ant. She can make things explode. This is not something she wanted, and she certainly doesn’t want to hurt anyone with her talents, but will she be able to escape what The Project has planned for her?

The romantic interest is Ozzie. He also has a deviation (perfect aim) and knows more than he should about Cleo. He tells her that she is one of twelve given a similar kind of superhero deviation. Cassie is also one. She will turn up at the military school once she starts to display her talent. The only way to not become used as a weapon is not to display your talents, but that’s difficult when others attack you.

The story revolves around the relationships between Cleo and Ozzie and her other new friends and enemies, and the unfolding mystery of the Deviant Dozen. Ozzie is an unknown quantity. Can Cleo trust him? Just when she thinks she can, something happens to make her withdraw from him, then her hormones draw her close again.

The characters are generally strong, well portrayed and very real. The only one that comes across as being somewhat underdeveloped is the electric eel. For her to escape the generic baddy syndrome, we need more insight into her motivations. Other than that, the book was well written with a sleek, well paced plot. The story ends with as many questions unanswered as it began, but they are different questions.

All up, it’s well done, and though not ground-breaking or thought provoking as such a subject matter could be, it’s a good solid story for its genre.

4.5 stars

Shadowline Drift

Shadowline Drift
Deep in the Amazon, reality and illusion collide. A mysterious group of indigenous people who may or may not exist; a dangerous teenage sorceress; a beautiful anthropologist – and madness – conspire to stop Jake Kendricks from telling the world the truth about a mysterious substances that may hold the answer to ending world hunger.

 

‘Shadowline Drift’ by Alexes Razevich is an unusual story with compelling metaphysics and rich, beautifully written descriptions.

It’s the story of Jake, a man only three and a half feet tall, who has been sent to the Amazon to negotiate with the chief of a lost tribe for access to a mineral that could end world hunger—or so he thinks. What he finds is a world vastly different to the one he knows and a chief who is much more than he seems at first glance. The chief seems at first a trickster, then a magician, then perhaps a demon and finally an accidental traveller between universes. Jake comes to wonder what is real and what isn’t and questions his sanity many times before the story concludes.

After gaining access to the mineral, he discovers that it isn’t the God-send he thought it would be. Although not poisonous to animals, it is to humans. All those starving people will die unless Jake can warn those planning to distribute meat from animals fed on the stuff. Trouble is, everything seems to be conspiring against his bid to escape the forest and find a working telephone.

Razevich has done a fine job in creating a believable character and a world so clearly described that I can feel, hear and smell it as well as see it in my mind’s eye. Apart from the small size of the protagonist, the book starts off fairly ordinary, and I was not very taken with it in the first few pages. Once the chief takes Jake on a journey, however, the unique aspects of this book begin to appear and from that point on, Razevich gradually ramps up the tension until the climax where Jake struggles with the Shadowline—you have to read it to find out what that is.

I did wonder what about the Chief’s village. How did they get there? And what is their future without their chief? Perhaps they were an illusion? I would like to have had that tied up.

The book isn’t very long, perhaps a two-nighter, and it’s well worth a read, especially for those interested in metaphysics. I would like to read more from this author