November 19, 2017

Review: Raining Fire by Rajan Khanna

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There’s one small plus to the current worldwide wave of jingoistic nationalism currently sweeping the world: dystopian science fiction is sure to do really well. Science fiction tends to reflect the hopes and fears of contemporary society, and you can often chart the swing from a shiny white, Star Trek outlook, to a fighting over gasoline, Road Warriors doomsday vision by the fiction we create and consume.

One fine new addition to the dystopian genre is this past summer’s Raining Fire by Rajan Khanna. Out now from Pyr Books, Raining Fire features a horror vision world wracked by a global pandemic, which has reduced humanity to squabbling tribes. Airships and floating city tech provides a backdrop for a brutal drama of slavery and Feral humans driven insane and violent by disease, a sort of steampunk world thrust forward into a desperate future vision.

It’s against this formidable world that we meet Ben Gold, an airship pilot with nothing left to lose. Already stripped of his airship, his allies and his friends, Ben is definitely looking for payback. He also lost Miranda, the only true love of his life, and the story is speckled with diary and journal entries from her that gradually paints a picture of what has come before.

In the end, Ben must face off against the Cabal, a group of sinister scientists (why are scientists always sinister in scifi tales?) and the Valhallans, who are wreaking continent-wide havoc from the flying city of Valhalla.

A high functioning alcoholic, Ben is the archetypal reluctant hero, a man who’s drinking hasn’t quite caught up to him… yet. Raining Fire has lots of action, and is a great portrayal of a man pushed past the edge.

Be sure to read Raining Fire as a great addition to modern dystopian science fiction!

There’s lots more dystopian science fiction to be had… here are some of our faves:

-Earth Girl: This was a gem of a story a out few years back. Imagine getting exiled to the worst place of all: living back on ancient Earth.

-The Hunger Games: A classic… true story, the wife and I both read the books after we saw the first movie, a very rare occurrence. We usually feel that seeing the movie let’s us off the hook (think Lord of the Rings) from saying we’re going to get around to actually reading the books… someday.

-Stand on Zanzibar: A trip of a book, straight out of the groovy 1960s.

-1984: Everything you need to know about the 20th century, in one book.

-The Crossing: Blood of the Lamb: A scary world to contemplate.

And speaking of scary dystopian fiction, be sure to check out Hulu’s amazing adaptation of A Handmaid’s Tale… this one’s all the more frightening because it hits so close to home and the current political climate. I think I’d much rather live in a future with ravaging airships than a world with the brutal and callous repression of personal liberties depicted in the series.

Review: No Humans Allowed

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“Your droids,” says the unnamed bartender in a famous sci-fi flick, “they’ll have to wait outside.”

Perhaps, cyber-discrimination is a pressing social issue in a “galaxy, far, far away…” But what if those protagonists ever manage to turn in table on humanity? [Read more...]

Review: Wilders by Brenda Cooper

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What’s it like to live in a technological bubble?

We recently finished one of the best science fiction books we’ve read thus far this year, and wanted to share it with you in time to make your summer reading list. We’re talking about Wilders: Project Earth Book One by Brenda Cooper, out next week on June 13th from Pyr Books.

Fans of science fiction author Brenda Cooper and this space will recall our reviews of her previous books, The Diamond Deep, The Creative Fire, Spear of Light and Edge of Dark. [Read more...]

Review Starbase Human by Kristine Katheryn Rusch

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What would you do with a Clone Army? Long the dream of many a would be supervillain, just such a possibility is the central plot in this week’s science fiction review.

We’re talking about Starbase: Human, book seven in the Anniversary Day saga by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, out in May 2015 by WMG Publishing. Yes, it’s one of the final books in our review backlog, but we long ago vowed to finish off the entire Anniversary Day saga. [Read more...]

May 5th: Revenge of the Sith

A Sith Lord (?) at the eyepiece.

So, did you survive May the 4th? Yeah, much like Talk Like a Pirate Day, “May the 4th Be With You” is now on its way to crass commercialization. And while there are nerdier days out there to celebrate such as Pi Day (March 14th) or Towel Day (May 25th) commemorating Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, May 4th, has become a time for fans to expound on all things Star Wars. [Read more...]

Review: Nebula Awards Showcase 2017

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(release date: May 16th, 2017)

Note: the 2017 Nebula Awards ceremony is held this year on May 20th in Pittsburgh, PA.

What’s up in sci-fi? Every year, all of science fiction-dom holds their collective breath for that most prestigious of Awards: the Nebulas. Along with the Hugo Awards, the Nebulas (Nebulae?) feature the very best of the best for the genre. First awarded in 1965, a historical list of the Nebula Awards reads like a Who’s Who of science fiction, and includes such now iconic classics as Larry Niven’s Ringworld (1970) and Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) as past winners. [Read more...]

Review: Spear of Light by Brenda Cooper

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Get set for a romp into a trans-humanist future of epic proportions. We’re talking about this week’s review of Spear of Light by Brenda Cooper, out now from Pyr Books. The sequel to Edge of Dark and the second book in her Glittering Edge duology. Spear of Light brings the battle between humans and the terror world of AIs to an ultimate climax. [Read more...]

Review: Department Zero by Paul Crilley

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Ever wondered why this reality is as strange as it is? Certainly, the multi-verse idea is one very possible solution, especially in light of the worldwide political wackiness we’ve experienced in 2016.

And former Los Angeles detective Harry Priest (Atticus Pope, or at least, that’s who he thinks he was before the world went strange on him) is about to join the ranks of those who attempt to keep order across multiple dimensions. [Read more...]

Review: Edge of Dark by Brenda Cooper

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Note: This week, we’re hearkening back to ‘Classic Astroguyz’ with a book review. We largely stopped doing reviews since we started traveling long term over this past year, as it’s tough to receive hard cover advance copies… but hey, we can still read pdf versions, and will still conduct reviews of electronic copies. [Read more...]

Book Review: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2016

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Ready for some of the very best in science fiction? Every year since 1966, the Nebula Awards recognize the best of the best in all that is speculative fiction. It’s a tough call, sure, boiling and distilling down the field from all of the diverse and excellent sci-fi prose that’s out there. But the Nebula Awards compilation is always a rewarding and exhilarating read. [Read more...]

A Peek at Our New Tale, ‘Peak Season’

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We couldn’t resist. Our latest science fiction tale is live and available on Amazon.com, and we thought this weekend that we’d harken back a bit and offer readers the first 1000 words free. You can read Peak Season and other original scifi tales by your’s truly in their entirety.

 

Peak Season

By

David A. Dickinson

 

I never thought that I’d find my most interesting and life-changing assignment as a new hotel manager in the backwater town Carbondale, Illinois. [Read more...]

The 2015 Nebula Awards Showcase

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Looking for the very best in science fiction? Along with the Hugos, the Nebulas honor the very best of the best in sci-fi without the -y’s. Reviewing the Nebula awards has become a sort of institution here at Astroguyz as well, and serves as a great way to not only digest the finest of the genre, but gives us a great scope of all the cutting edge stuff. [Read more...]

Review: Vigilantes by Kristine Katherine Rusch

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Ready for some legal action of astronomical proportions? This week, as part of our campaign to wrap up some of the review books we received last summer after our return back to Florida from our great American road trip, we’re reviewing Vigilantes out from WMG Publishing by prolific author Kristine Kathryn Rusch. This is a novel set in her Retrieval Artist universe, and book six in the eight part Anniversary Day saga. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-The Syzygy Gambit Part 6

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Here it is, the action-packed conclusion to our third tale set in the solar winds universe. Don’t forget to start back on chapter one, or you can read The Syzygy Gambit and other original tales by yours truly at our Amazon author page.

And stay tuned for a special announcement at the end…

 

Solar Winds: The Syzygy Gambit

Chapter 6

by

David Dickinson

 

In the main projector dish, the several hundred pound charge of high explosive placed by Pell a few moments before promptly detonated. The blast was brief, but enough to rattle the entire complex through the forest of transmitter dishes, which fell like dominoes. The deep space network, effectively the eyes and ears of the Terran Legion, was down. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-The Syzygy Gambit Part 5

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Ready to tear the solar system asunder? Can’t make it to Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Here’s our latest free fiction Friday offering from 2222 AD and the Solar Winds universe.  Don’t forget, you can read this tale and other original works of fiction in their entirety, and be sure to start from part one.

 

Solar Winds: The Syzygy Gambit

by

David A. Dickinson

Chapter 5

 

The Armageddon on Tap was pointed back with its stern sunward and was now parked at the Terra-Luna system’s far L2 Lagrange point. The repaired sunshield was now deployed, giving Karl and the Shrink a small shaded micro-environment in which to operate. They both moved slowly forward, despite their bulky spacesuits. Valkyrie and V.I.C.A.R. were visible through the cabin’s plexi-glass viewport. The large, nickel-iron asteroid seemed suspended above them in the ship’s capture cradle. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-The Syzygy Gambit Part 4

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Dear Solar Winds fans… here’s this week’s installment, another extended helping of space opera action and adventure. Like what you read? be sure to start back at part 1, or read the entire story and other original tales by yours truly.

 

Solar Winds: The Syzygy Gambit Part 4

by

David

Dickinson

 

Andrea watched Mars recede in their aft view until it was once again a tiny glowing orange ember. Now there was nothing to do but prepare for the three-week trip to Earth’s Moon. She knew that this roundabout transit would drastically reduce the critical time they needed on Luna to prepare for the assault. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-The Syzygy Gambit Part 3

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It’s out!

We’re pleased to announce that our third installment of the Solar Winds saga, The Syzygy Gambit is published and available, along with other original sci-fi tales by yours truly. This week, we thought we’d step things up a notch, and give fans a larger excerpt/serving than usual, so we can wrap up the tale by the end of 2015.

And don’t forget to start back on chapter 1!

 

Solar Winds: The Syzygy Gambit

Part 3

by

David Dickinson

 

Two figures moved through the dust-laden swirl. They seemed to be inspecting her encampment. It’s a Legion patrol if they’re paired up, she thought. She bit her lip as she remembered the military patrols that wandered Saganopolis central square where she grew up. They acted as if they owned the very soil of Mars itself. They had an open disdain for the “colonials” as they sneeringly called them, and would often leer at Andrea as she made her way to school. Many of the ones stationed on Mars, she knew, were Legion criminals, men who would probably get shipped off to the prison on Mercury Prime if they spent an afternoon on Earth. She knew from talking with Karl that this wasn’t a mistake: the worst were always posted on Mars. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-The Syzygy Gambit Part 2

Out soon… (Image credit: NASA)

Here it tis… a continued sneak peek at the upcoming Solar Winds tale, due for publication in the next week. Don’t forget, start back on last week’s chapter 1, and read the first two Solar Winds stories and other original tales of sci-fi by yours truly.

 

Solar Winds: The Syzygy Gambit

Part 2

by

David Dickinson

 

Andrea topped a small rise, puffing a bit under the Martian gravity. She stopped to survey the twilight landscape around her and make some sense of her bearings. “I’ve been cooped up on a space tub too long,” she said to herself, as she panted and rubbed her burning calves. What would Terran gravity feel like now? Her suit and supplies would allow her to survive about a week unsupported in the Martian desert. “Thank Jove for super-compressed O2,” she said, laughing. She knew she would have to make good time tonight, and then pitch camp by dawn. Hopefully, she would only have to overnight in the Martian desert. Unless the Terran Legion has found our friends first, and created a new Martian crater, she grimaced. She knew that the closest Martian settlement was over 500 klicks away in the wrong direction.

Blinking, she thought she caught the glimmer of metal in the twilight. Wreckage? The snaking sands were uncovering things all of the time. Anyway, it was on her path, and it seemed like as good a fixed point to walk towards as any. Cinching up her pack hard against her shoulders, Andrea trotted off down the slope.

The Commandant pulled the thought-node from his skull and glared out the view plaz towards the lunar disk that always hung stationary from this Lagrange point station between Terra and Luna. He had decided early on in this posting at Terran Legion Headquarters that he hated the eternal waxing and waning of the lunar cycles. He preferred the dark depths of space. Next cycle’s lunar eclipse would provide a welcome respite, with a brief, cold slide into the shadows.

The door to his office slid open and a young Lieutenant drifted through. An augee, he thought. Most Terrans had been either mechanically or genetically altered, or both. Few were whole anymore, except maybe some religious fanatics on the lunar far side. And we’ll take care of them soon enough, the Commandant thought.

“Dispatch from Martian Central, sir; it’s on a priority alpha grid,”she reported smartly. This girl’s augmentation, like his own, didn’t show. Still, he sensed her Legion ID on the neural grid, and he noted that those amber cat eyes weren’t the product of blind natural selection.

“Connect me to the down link,” he barked, plugging the thought-node back in. I’ll ferret her out on sex grid later, he thought. Instantly, images from Martian orbit flooded his cyber-nodes. He saw the sleek, one-person spacecraft dive for the Martian surface. The Cartel! He ran a neural cross-check. It was identical to the one that had escaped from Titan and another pair that had wreaked so much havoc on Ganymede. He currently had half of the Legion battle fleet scouring the outer solar system searching for these scum. They wouldn’t dare step foot into the inner system! The craft bared a striking resemblance to the set Holderson claimed were stolen some months back. Holderson was still out of communication on Amalthea. What, by Jove, does he do there?

A consciousness bore through the grid towards him. It was the Lieutenant. “We still have our agent on the inside,” she said. “Shall I contact her?”

“Standby,” the commandant called out. He didn’t feel like discussing their sleeper agent’s status once again, especially with a subordinate. “I want the whole band of bastards this time.”

He looked out at the slimming disk of the Moon. This was going to be fun.

Phobos had risen in the east, not that the tiny moon provided Andrea with much illumination in the Martian night. Andrea thought she could just make out its distorted potato of a phase as it drifted across the sky. She mostly relied on her infra-ocular to navigate through the darkness. The wreckage was in front of her. One exposed panel revealed a yellow hammer and sickle against a red background. An old lander, no doubt, sent by one of the old nation states. She dimly remembered The History of Early Earth Space Exploration from school. China? Russia? It looked as if the lander had come in too shallow and busted up on a large boulder. She wistfully remembered hiking out as a girl and discovering the crash site of the old Beagle 2 lander. The solar system seemed strewn with human wreckage. Hopefully, she thought, Cartel craft won’t be added to the pile. Still, Martian archaeologists would be fascinated by her find. Too bad I can’t tell them, she thought as she unpacked her shelter. But the damaged craft would make an excellent wind break for the night.

Andrea awoke with a start. The sandstorm had picked up to a slow hum against her visor plate. She scanned out beyond the strewn wreckage of the lander. Her visibility, even with the infra-ocular, was down to mere yards. It was easy to get disoriented out here in the drab Martian desert. Her heart beat faster as she remembered being lost as a young girl in a sandstorm on the great Isidis Planitia plains. Zack had kept her from going mad that night. Now she was totally alone, her soft life lay bare before the onslaught of Mars.

Mustn’t panic… she knew she was done for if she lost it out here now. A flick of her visor, a push of her decompression safety latch, and it could all be over. She shuddered to think of an early lost Terran colony where many were found later to have done just that. Bodies were unearthed decades afterward, perfectly desiccated by the near vacuum that passed as the tenuous Martian atmosphere.

But a certain breed of stubbornness refused to let her go out that way. This environment might have been alien to the first Earth-born settlers, but she had practically grown up living in spacesuits and airlocks. She knew that if she had to, she could dig in deep and huddle beside this wreckage until her air gave out days later.

Still…she thought she sensed motion in the storm. Andrea slowly worked her way out beyond her makeshift camp. There seemed to be a definite purposefulness in the grayish-brown swirl. Legion? It wasn’t entirely impossible that they tracked her here from Amalthea, although she was pretty certain that they had nailed that probe in orbit. It was much more likely that the Martian Underground had double-crossed them. Andrea unclipped her maser pistol. Had Karl and the others been captured? It was certainly possible. V.I.C.A.R. was the only Cartel member she had had contact with, and he may have been reprogrammed. Don’t panic…

An alarm went off in her helmet headset. Andrea instinctively hit the dirt. Someone’s scanning me! Andrea peered over the rock outcropping and saw the lumbering form of a long-range sand creeper moving past the wreckage. Andrea hoped the metallic body of the lander would mask her signature. She didn’t doubt that she would find a Legion emblem on the crawler’s hull.

To be continued…

Be sure to follow the Solar Winds saga and other original tales of science fiction by Dave Dickinson.