April 6, 2020

Book Review: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2016

On sale now.

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...]

Free Fiction Friday: The Hunt For Beagle Part 7

…and here it ’tis: Part 7 of our Mars-spanning adventure The Hunt For Beagle. You can read the entirety of the tale, or start from Part 1 online. Expect more tales from the Solar Winds Universe to come!

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Review: The Diamond Deep by Brenda Cooper

On sale now!

Beware: there’s always a bigger multi-generational starship than yours out there in the universe. This month, Ruby is back in The Diamond Deep by Brenda Cooper out from Pyr Books, the second book in the interstellar saga known as Ruby’s Song. Fans of this space will remember our review of book one from last year, entitled The Creative Fire.

And just like in The Creative Fire, the title comes from the name of a multi-generational starship. But unlike The Creative Fire, revolution hasn’t yet come to The Diamond Deep, a station that dwarfs Ruby’s own. [Read more...]

Friday Review: Ride the Star Winds by A. Bertram Chandler

On sale now!

The circle is now almost complete. Over the past few months, we’ve immersed ourselves in the worlds of science fiction author A. Bertram Chandler and his chief protagonist John Grimes. Followers of this space will remember our recent action-packed reviews of A. Bertram Chandler’s Galactic Courier and his outstanding saga First Command.

These are massive volumes, each comprising several original novels. This week, we finished the fourth compendium in the series, entitled Ride the Star Winds. Out from Baen Books, this only leaves the 1st volume of To the Galactic Rim for us to read. [Read more...]

Review: First Command by A. Bertram Chandler

On sale now!

The John Grimes saga is an addictive one. Spanning the worlds of the Galactic Rim, Grimes takes us on thrilling adventures of uncharted worlds. A solider, an opportunist and an all-round loveable character, Grimes is an old space hand that you can root for.

We recently had the pleasure of finishing First Command. Out in re-issue courtesy of Baen Books, First Command is a compendium of the four novelettes Spartan Planet, The Far Traveler, Big Black Mark and The Inheritors. [Read more...]

Review: Portal by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor

On Sale Now!

Something amazing lurks under the ice of Europa.

This week, we take a look at Portal, the new and exciting science fiction thriller by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor out from Baen Books. The sequel to Boundary and Threshold, Portal is hard science fiction in the tradition of Ben Bova, Hal Clement and Arthur C. Clarke. If you’re a fan of the old rockets and rayguns sci-fi with a tale based in hard science, Portal is for you. [Read more...]

Review: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2013

On sale now!

It’s the dream of many a science fiction author.

The Nebula Awards are one of the biggest recognitions in the world of science fiction. Every year, the Nebulas honor the very best in sci-fi novels, novellas, short stories and poetry.

This week, we take a look at the best of the best in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2013, edited by Catherine Asaro and out from Pyr Books. Whether your interest leans toward the fantastical, or harkens back to the hard “rockets & rayguns” of science fiction past, the 2013 compilation brings it all together for you in one tome. [Read more...]

2012-2013: The Year in Science Fiction Poetry

An excellent collection!

Some years ago, we toyed with the idea of writing a post on Science Fiction poetry. As it came up in the queue, we pondered if there would even be enough to write an entire blog post about. We’d encountered a few examples of sci-fi poetry over the years, but it still seemed to be very much beyond the purview of the mainstream… [Read more...]

Book Review: Power Under Pressure

In Power Under Pressure, the third in Andrew P. Mayer’s Society of Steam trilogy, the steampunk super heroes known as the Society of Paragons is all but eliminated by Lord Eschaton and his growing army. The battle continues between good and evil in the forms of fortified steam and fortified smoke. Lord Eschaton is furthering his quest for the purification of mankind, starting with New York City residents, by use of fortified smoke. Evil has the decided advantage at the onset.

Sarah Stanton holds the heart of the Tom the automaton and represents the balance of the Society of Paragons. Her challenge — defeating Eschaton and his minions — is all up-hill and there is no shortage of obstacles in her way. Still, with a fantastic array of heroes and villains, old and new, Lord Eschaton and his Children and Sarah and her very slim entourage make for a compelling story.

Tom’s reappearance in the story line is timely and spectacular. The reader gains a deeper understanding of what he is, what Darby meant him to be, and what he could become. Will he be a hero? Or represent chaos? The answer to that question is well developed and completely unexpected.

I have really enjoyed this trilogy from onset to conclusion. The last 30 pages or so of this book are a roller coaster ride of story evolution. Nearing the end of this ride, I found myself wishing there were going to be a fourth book. I wasn’t ready to be done with these characters or Mayer’s steampunk New York City. Happily, I believe there will be more adventures with the Society of Steam. Mayer leaves us with a not-so-subtle indication that that is the case. A new leader for the villians is introduced, the Society of Steam is introduced as replacement to the Society of Paragons, and a third element is also waiting for action…’til mankind is ready and reaches out.

I, for one, cannot wait to see where Mayer takes this story.


Book Review: Quantum Coin

Quantum Coin the sequel to Fair Coin, by E.C. Myers, is a marvelously complex jaunt through the theories of quantum theory and the concepts of parallel universes.

In this sequel, our teen heroes — Ephraim, Jena and Nathan — and several of their alternate universe analogs, are called upon to save the multiverse. It’s been nearly a year since Ephraim ‘wished’ himself into a better situation and lived through the chaos that caused, and the quantum coin has been calm and hangs around his now-girlfriend Jena’s neck as a gift. Life has settled to relative normalcy.

Enter Zoe, Jena’s analog from a parallel universe. Her untimely entrance at senior prom challenges any conception of ‘normalcy’ for Ephraim and Jena, and her news about the unstable multiverse and Ephraim’s possible contribution to that status, completely dissolves the ‘normal’ concept.

There is some true science, as well as science fiction  in this novel.  There is a whole new spin on inter-personal relations when that other person  may be another version of oneself. There is complexity of the heart when one version of a girl is more attractive to a fellow than another version of the same girl. There is some mystery and sleuthing, a bit of subterfuge, and even a little social consciousness. What there is not is predictability.

I had great fun reading this book. It’s the sort of book that pulls one along as the next development is just around the corner. It’s a good premise and a good read.


Book Review: Fair Coin

Fair Coin by author E.C. Myers is a whirlwind of a tale. The story begins with teenaged Ephraim coming home from school one day to find his mother unconscious at the kitchen table. She’d attempted suicide. As if that weren’t disturbing enough, Ephraim discovers the reason. His mother has identified his — Ephraim’s — body at the hospital.  To her, he was dead.  She’d had his belongings to prove it.

As Ephraim was puzzling through his dopelganger’s things, he came across a coin with unusual properties. Each time he makes a wish and flips the coin, things are changed in unexpected ways. His mother, his love interest, and his best friend Nathan are the most — and least — constant in these changes.

Here’s the thing. The minute the changes start, and because the reader thinks they’re wishes, the impression is that this is more of a fantasy genre novel than a sci fi.  I don’ t know about anyone else, but that sets my perception of a novel. Then, several chapters in, the reader and Ephraim start gathering  information.  We learn through various and surprising human sources that we’re dealing NOT with wishes, but with science.

At that point, a whole new perception, vocabulary, and story begin.  Our main characters’ movements become deliberate and no longer random. Ephraim grows as a character in pretty profound ways, acquires ‘new’ friends, and comes to informed and intelligent conclusions.  A point of view very different from the Ephraim on page one, who wants to wish away the bad things in his life.

The element of the unknown, the suspense of who will do what with or to whom, and the eventual resolution of the story are engaging, interesting, and really fun to read.   It’s something of a cautionary tale with interesting cultural and scientific references lending substance.  Read and enjoy.

Book Review: Down to the Bone













What a great way to end a series.  Down to the Bone is Book Five in Justina Robson’s Quantum Gravity series, and in my opinion, is the best of the bunch.  Lila Black — the sexy, shape shifting, polygamous, cyborg heroine — and her motley crew go on their final and biggest adventure to resolve personal and multi-dimensional issues.

There’s resolution of some sort for everyone, but only after heart-rending, life threatening tasks that give the reader no clear clue as to the direction the final hour will take. Our trio/quartet of main characters are themselves, but not.  Each has morphed to another level of being.  Lila is plugged into the Signal 24/7 these days. She has the ability to change her appearance at will.  Zal, the demon rock-star and one of Lila’s two spouses, lives as a shadow which is given form by firelight. Teazle, Lila’s other husband, is on his way to becoming an angel.

This trio and a good sized supporting cast must return the dead to their world, manage the ancient evils that are also attempting to enter this world, and deal with the personal revelations that come to each along the way. The journey is gripping for all, including the reader. I believe Robson chose the perfect exit for the Quantum Gravity group. It’s well written, plot rich, character heavy, and a heck of a ride.

I’m hoping Lila et al find their way into another Robson creation. I’ll miss them, and I still maintain that this series would really lend itself well to anime or graphic novel format.

18.10.11: All Hail the Necronomicon!

Invading planet Earth this weekend!

In the Saint Petersburg, Florida area this weekend? Let me turn you on to one of Tampa Bay’s premiere events; the Necronomicon, a convention of all things science fiction, fantasy and horror which celebrates its 30th anniversary in a ‘fest of all things wacky and weird. This year, Hugo award winning author Ben Bova (Millennium, Out of the Sun, and the Grand Tour series) will be the guest of honor, and the ‘Con will feature piles o’ panels, events, and a unique masquerade ball known as the Necronomi-Prom… [Read more...]

Review: The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod

Out this month from Pyr Books!

Be wary of that video game you’ve just been called in to code… the fate of your alternate reality motherland might just depend on it. This week, we review The Restoration Game, the new cyber-science fiction thriller by Ken MacLeod out from Pyr Books. This smart, fast-paced read pits Lucy Stone, a young savvy programmer against the political whims that have shaped her native and fictional (well, in THIS reality!) homeland of Krasnia. Plop the Krassian Republic down on a map and it would be right at home amongst Soviet Georgia and the like. [Read more...]

Book Review: Black Halo

Black Halo is book two in Sam Sykes’ Aeons’ Gate Series.  If you’re looking for an easy going beach read with simple characters and a twist-free plot, this ain’t your story.  Also, I’ve made notes in past reviews about starting a series in the middle.  I have not read book one of this series, and with Sykes’ penchant for character depth, that made it slow getting into this book.  Still and all, the six companions specifically are memorable.

The plot is direct, but most assuredly not twist free.  That’s not a bad thing.  Things veer off course fairly regularly.  The point of this particular book is to get the tome retrieved in book one from the Kraken Queen successfully and completely away from her. Our six companions and their various inner voices (i.e., demons, ancestors, gods and the Kraken Queen herself) and a little shipwreck make for a complex and action-filled read.

Add to the mix a heretic hunting wizard, alien warrior women with a lust for killing, and other disruptive forces, and you can see where the story line might get jiggled.

Honestly, I had a rough start jumping cold into this story line.  Starting at the very beginning would be a good thing with this series. Things do clarify as the story progresses, however.  It is very well written, rich in character and detail and cannot under any circumstances be considered dull…  I suspect the first book is similar, actionwise, so jump in from the beginning and consume the first two books of the Aeons’ Gate series.


Review: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner.

A Sci-Fi Classic!

This week, we’re reaching into our science fiction “way back” machine to review a perennial classic. Hey, eventually, we do get to ‘em all…

7 BILLION…A recent National Geographic front piece announced. That’s an estimate of how many living copies of Homo sapiens are projected to inhabit our fair planet this year. In passing said milestone, we thought it high time to read John Brunner’s 1968 classic, Stand on Zanzibar. Winner of the 1969 Hugo Award for Best Novel, Stand depicts a dystopian world culture in the early 21st century where the human population has reached said magical number. The thriving mass of humanity has done so via massive genetic engineering projects as well as by creating a world of tailor-made drug and behavior modifications that would have made Huxley proud. Sound familiar? Reach for another Prozac, and read on… [Read more...]

Book Review: The Falling Machine

The Falling Machine, Book one of the Society of Steam, is Andrew P. Mayer’s first novel, and I found it a really interesting read.  The story is set in 1880′s Victorian New York with a very industrial feel.  The story opens when Sir Dennis Darby, the head of the Society of Paragons — a gentleman’s adventure club — is surprised upon the frame of the future Brooklyn Bridge and meets with an untimely, but very dramatic, demise.

Witness to this assassination are this story’s unlikely heroes Sarah Stanton, a 19th century woman with a 21st century intellect and drive, and the Automaton (aka Tom), the mechanical man that is Sir Dennis’ greatest achievement.  With Sir Dennis’ death and no other alternatives left to him but to tend to himself, Tom grows into a most interesting character throughout the development of the story. He and Sarah team up to get to the heart of this heinous crime.

The Society of Paragons is a really interesting group of gentleman.  Each has an heroic alter-ego and each has a mechanical outfit appropriate to his name and particular skill. Sir Dennis was involved in creating each of the costumes.  At the heart of the functionality of these otherwise improbable outfits is a substance called ‘fortified steam’.  The Submersible, for example, a German gentleman of some girth, could not comfortably don the diving suit he wore while manning the submarine that gives him his name without the help of Fortified Steam.

One thing about the Society struck me. A gentleman must present an application for membership, including an heroic personna and a philosophy. Mayer himself makes a wonderful statement on the nature of heroes and, really, a statement on the philosophy of the Paragons. “Most heroes were simply people with one or two skills that, with training and focus, could undeniably put them in a better class than the average man.” I like that.

Sarah is herself a force to be reckoned with. She flies under the radar because she is a woman in a man’s world. She is intelligent and independent and a perpetual annoyance to her Paragon father. Although she is unlikely ever to BE a Paragon, she has been raised around them, understands what they are, and functions as one throughout the story. And Tom is the perpetuation of the ongoing conundrum that is mechanical beings. Can they think independently, or not? Can they be trusted, or not? Are they practical even to create, or not?

I like Andrew Mayer. His story made me think some, smile some, and scowl some, all by his design. His imagery was both industrial and post-industrial. His characters are fallible and heroic at once. His teaming up of a woman and a machine to be his heroes was genius.

I’m looking forward already to the next installment of The Society of Steam.

Review: Alien Pregnant by Elvis Edited by Ester M. Friesner and Martin H. Greenberg.

It has gotta be true, it’s in print, right? This week, we dig back into the Astroguyz science fiction library of the strange and curious to bring you Alien Pregnant by Elvis, an anthology of 36 tabloid inspired tales that could have sprung right from the supermarket checkout line. From a Martian memorial to Elvis to 2,437 (who counted ‘em?) UFOs sighted over New Hampshire, it’s all here in tales woven in a stranger-than-fiction fashion.

[Read more...]