Speculative Fiction

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.

Lost In Thought

Lost In Thought
A journey into the perils and pitfalls of the subconscious mind – to save a life, solve a crime and recover an algorithm that could change the world. A secret that could change the world is lost inside Richard Trescerrick’s comatose mind. The only hope is the Brainscape device, an experimental mind-link technology and doorway to the subconscious. To save his life and recover the formula, a team of police and doctors use the Brainscape to enter Richard’s unconscious mind. Along for the ride is estranged son Luke who must risk his life and sanity on a mission to wake his father, unmask a killer and expose a conspiracy that threatens the world. But when the Brainscape device is sabotaged the team is scattered and trapped in the subconscious unable to escape. If they die in here, they die for real and there are dangers everywhere – because in the labyrinth of the Brainscape, enemies lurk behind every memory. Secrets spawn riddles wrapped in metaphor. Stories come alive. And monsters are made flesh.

Reviewed by Tony McFadden,

4 Stars

“Lost in Thought” is a psychological thriller, the bastard child of Inception, The Cell, and a little bit of The Matrix.

Luke Trescerrick is in a bad place. His mother is dead, his father, Richard, is emotionally unreachable and his young son, Daniel, is possibly autistic and definitely in need of professional help. When it can’t possibly get worse, he’s evicted from his crappy little Cornish cottage by his father, who then is a victim of a home invasion, left in a coma.

It’s the coma that is the centrepiece of the novel. The coma, and Brainscape – a device invented by his father to enter the (sub)consciousness of others.

Richard kept a key part of the device secret. His business partner is keen to use Brainscape to go in and try and find the key. Medical professionals are interested in seeing if Brainscape can help lift Richard out of the coma and the police, specifically one eager, ambitious Detective Inspector Yvonne Warren, is very interested in the potential investigative powers of the tool.

They enter Richard’s subconscious and embark on a journey of ego, super-ego, id, metaphors and archetypes, all running around in the fantastic world of Richard’s imagination and memories.

After a bit of a slow start (not so slow that I was tempted to stop reading), the pace quickly picks up once the band of not so merry men and women start traversing the brain. Townley does a good job of creating the main characters – Luke, his father, Cate the psychologist and Dubois, the business partner, are real. The worlds are real. At least as real as imaginary worlds can be, and the premise of summoning metaphors and archetypes move around and solve problems while inside the subconscious is genius. And the ticket out, a brilliant idea.

Townley does a great job with this book. Structurally there is nothing wrong and Luke’s evolution is a very well-defined arc. A strong four stars. I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

 

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 Daughter of the Sea and the Sky

The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky
After centuries of religiously motivated war, the world has been split in two. Now the Blessed Lands are ruled by pure faith, while in the Republic, reason is the guiding light-two different realms, kept apart and at peace by a treaty and an ocean.  Children of the Republic, Helena and Jason were inseparable in their youth, until fate sent them down different paths. Grief and duty sidetracked Helena’s plans, and Jason came to detest the hollowness of his ambitions. These two damaged souls are reunited when a tiny boat from the Blessed Lands crashes onto the rocks near Helena’s home after an impossible journey across the forbidden ocean. On board is a single passenger, a nine-year-old girl named Kailani, who calls herself The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky. A new and perilous purpose binds Jason and Helena together again, as they vow to protect the lost innocent from the wrath of the authorities, no matter the risk to their future and freedom. But is the mysterious child simply a troubled little girl longing to return home? Or is she a powerful prophet sent to unravel the fabric of a godless Republic, as the outlaw leader of an illegal religious sect would have them believe? Whatever the answer, it will change them all forever… and perhaps their world as well.

Reviewed 

A tiny wooden boat crashes onto the rocks and is smashed into splinters by the waves. A lone young girl is rescued by Helena and Jason, who attempt to protect her from the authorities of the Land of Reason. They advise young Kailani to request asylum, in an effort to keep her from incarceration. For this innocent child is from the Blessed Lands—ruled by pure faith, and she has illegally entered the Republic—ruled by reason alone. Her sudden and inexplicable appearance changes everyone’s lives, and most especially Jason’s and Helena’s. Can the two lands cooperate, or will more war ensue?

The story opens dynamically and holds the reader’s attention throughout. The character development is excellent, and I found myself identifying readily with each of the main characters. The plot and pacing are sound, and the editing and proofreading are done to a high standard. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and feel that any reader who enjoys Literary Fiction, Sagas, and Religion-versus-State dramas, would enjoy the book.

At around 280 pages this is a medium length read, and I read it in a couple of days. The premise of the story is a variation on the dystopian theme, and I felt that the author dealt with an issue pertinent to our culture (religion or reason?) without preaching.  Right up until the end I had no idea how things were going to work out. I give a strong 5 out of 5 stars to ‘The Daughter of The Sea and The Sky’.