Jimmy Vik is one of the best deep-space miners the Company has, but it’s a tough gig, and Jimmy’s no spring chicken. So when he finds a hidden pocket of gold ore nestled deep in shaft 57, a world of possibilities springs to mind. But failing to report a cache of precious metal carries a death sentence, and getting it off-station isn’t a job for one man. Soon Jimmy finds himself in cahoots with a two-bit con man, forced to manipulate his ex-lover/current supervisor, and dodging a lethal assassin from a major crime syndicate, all in the hopes of starting a better life.
Shea is spot-on with character development, and the premise of Off Rock isn’t bad, yet both succumb to the incredibly slow pacing of the story. Nothing of note really starts happening until well past the half-way mark. And even though we’re being transported to the centuries-away future of 2778, there’s a strangely anachronistic and less-than-sci-fi feel to certain elements of the story, such as gold still being a rare enough metal to kill for. Where are the dimensional crystals or quantum titanium? Where are the cool gadgets? In short, where’s the futurism in this sci-fi story?
Codex Ocularis is a journey; a journey through time and physical space to a distant planet, but also a journey through the mind.
There is a planet in a galaxy far, far away that is unlike any planet you’ve ever seen or known of. It is known as Ocularis because it is eye-shaped, and has a focused lens pointed right at planet Earth. Yes, the planet is in fact looking at Earth and from what it sees, it is creating unique creatures in the aqueous humors of its surface. How do we know this? Because of one Astronaut/Psychonaut/Holonaut who has traveled across the dimensions of time and space and visited the planet through this unique advanced technology that employs the mind in some way. His words and diagrams have been left in his log book known as the “Codex Ocularis,” where you’ll find his thoughts and musings, his scientific theories and revelations of Ocularis.
Codex Ocularis is partly a storybook, partly a philosophical journey, and partly Ian Pyper having a lot of fun illustrating the ideas of a planet. The concept is an interesting one, but the execution is a little lacking. The astronaut’s notes are done in cursive that make it hard to read certain words at times. The content of the writing is pretty complex and “pretend-scientific” that kind of loses the reader. The illustrations are fun, but get a bit repetitive and when the reader isn’t sure what they’re reading, it makes understanding the images even harder. The book could’ve used more structure and plot to help the reader along.
Siege of Praetar
In the midst of conflict and the exploitation of one race of people over the other, determination, optimism, and resolve are tested. In Tales of a Dying Star, Book 1: Siege of Praetar, cosmic circumstances have pushed members of both races to a desperate pursuit for survival. In this first book in a series of books, the people of the planets of Melis and Praetar are faced with the imminent destruction of their star, Saria. Motivated by fear, the people of Melis are exploiting the people of Praetar as they prepare for the relocation of their empire.
Perhaps one of the books most compelling features is its ability to captivate, both right from the start and as the story progresses. The first chapter contains action, suspense, and an appeal to human sensibilities. This approach to story-telling continues throughout the narrative. With the introduction of every new character, there is early delving into each one. They become authentic and believable very quickly. And, with the complicated relationships among the characters and the looming natural disaster, it is, likewise, easy to readily care about all of the characters, regardless of any wrongdoing.
The writing is concise and picturesque. It is easy to imagine the abject living conditions that befall many of the people in the story. The author wields an impressive less-is-more approach to writing. With a wonderful balance between dialogue and description, this story is amazingly well-crafted.
As the first book in a series, this volume does a tremendous job of setting the stage for the conflict between the two races of people. The tension between them is established, and the looming destruction of their homes creates an impetus for action. Several key questions are posed, yet not answered, in this first volume, furthering reader interest in learning the ultimate fates of the planets and the people who inhabit them.
The promise of learning more about these characters and finding out what happens to them is almost seductive. This story has mass appeal as it taps into a universal fear that anyone could envision. For a story about perseverance and survival, look no further than Tales of a Dying Star, Book 1: Siege of Praetar by David Kristoph. This book is a gem.
Last Call for Caviar ( vol.1)
Destruction, death and blood cultsoh my! Maya Jade has been stranded in the Riviera during what can only be accurately described as Armageddon. Author Melissa Roen creates a rather convincing alternate reality in Last Call for Caviar, one in which the world as we know it is quickly and definitively coming to an end. The earth seems to have entered a purge mode, spewing, shattering and shocking humanity right off of her face. Earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, extreme weather of all kinds are testing the limits of mankind and the results are catastrophic. War rages everywhere as bands fight against bands, governments fight against their citizens, and individuals fight for their lives. The landscape is chaotic.
Yet, in the midst of all this devastation, there are places where champagne still flows lavishly and caviar is consumed in abundance. Tucked away on the beautiful coast of the Côte dAzur, the wealthy hide from the treacherous minefields of the disintegrating world. It is in this glittery, gilded backdrop that Maya finds herselfcut off from the security of family, the safety of civilization, and the love she found in France. Having traveled to the region for school and making a life there because of connections, Maya fell in love with the Riviera. When sexy surgeon Julian steals her heart, Mayas destiny is sealed. After a fated lovers quarrel leads to their separation, and tragic world events lead to a splintering of society, Maya becomes desperate. Should she abandon her hopes of happiness with the love of her life and run tail for home in the US? Should she stick it out on the slim chance that Julian will return to her? Should she cultivate her resources to find another way to survive the end of the world? Is survival even possible? The questions keep mounting as more and more craziness ensues.
With each new episode of insanity, a greater truth is revealed to Maya, a truth that only she seems to understand or see.
Roen is convincing here. Her vision of the end is so well crafted and executed, as I read, the news humming in the background, it seemed not just feasible but utterly possible that Roen herself is a seer. There is nothing overly farfetched here, which makes the fantastical elements of Last Call for Caviar that much more intriguing; any of this could happen at any moment. And thats what made me keep turning the pages (and watching the skies).
A fairly long volume at 302 pages, the book was a swift read, sucking me in from the very beginning. There is little fat here, this is a trim and tone narrative. Maya Jade is a kick-ass heroine, dynamic and organic, nuanced and complex. At turns shrinking violet and fierce lioness, damsel in distress and irreverent daredevil. The plot allows for rich interactions that lend cinematic interest, with intense action, gut-wrenching drama, sensual and haunting sizzle, well-placed comedy, and the type of fantasy/sci-fi that makes you think Could this really happen?.
There really isnt much to complain about here. A word of caution: read the whole book from the Prologue; its incredibly important to understand the story and set you up for Volume 2 (which I started before even finishing volume 1). Small deductions for: cover art, I found myself wanting to turn the book over, but I have never been one for messy eaters; typos, Im sorry to say but there were a few that pulled me out of the story occasionally; and an incomplete and hard to use glossary of terms. These are the smallest of complaints. The meat here is worth the price and then some. I just might feast on this tasty meal again and again. I hate caviar, but I loved Last Call.
Dreamtime: The Gil-Garem
Dreamtime: The Gil-Garems story involves Edmund Mortani, a soldier who fought for the Sorisentine Dominion during the Garemoth Wars. In those wars, he lost his wife, Eurydice, on a mission. He continues to be haunted by dreams and visions of her 10 years after the war ends. When robot attacks begin again, Edmund suspects the Gil-Garem have come back to life, even though they appeared to be eradicated a decade earlier.
From the start, it is clear that Dreamtime: The Gil-Garem was once a screenplay. Character actions are written in the present tense, and several errors in grammar, spelling, and formatting show that a good spell-checker and the Chicago Manual of Style were not contributing resources to this sci-fi epic. Upon finishing the book, I found out the author had created a hybrid tense system for writing around his screenplay format. While it was a good effort, subverting English grammar didnt completely iron out the difference in experience between screenplay and novel, and, ultimately, the author would have done better to start from scratch and use proper storytelling conventions.
Its difficult for a reader to grow attached to a character without even knowing what they look like. If this book were to be made into a movie, viewers would have the luxury of seeing what Edmund looked like, as portrayed by an actor, along with the other characters and the scenery. For the first several chapters, I felt blind, like I was feeling my way along the narrative with indistinguishable human beings and nondescript robots doing things. While it might have slowed the pacing, I would have enjoyed the book more for its ability to paint a clear picture of the action in my mind.
The atmosphere of the book reminded me of a Star Trek fan fiction, intriguing in its development and ideas, but amateurish in its execution. However, a major strong point the book has going for it is its action sequences. Edmund and his crew go on missions to determine what the robots are and where theyre coming from, and the fight scenes are described in richer detail than many of the other elements of the book. Clearly depicted scenery, deeply developed characters, and a coherent adventure plot are the cornerstones of a good sci-fi novel.
I will gladly enjoy a several-hundred-page space opera because I know from its in-depth world and character building, as well as the narratives ability to paint clear pictures and develop tension and conflict that its good science fiction. In addition, good science fiction addresses deeper themes: the search for utopia, the human condition, the hubris of man, or leadership under duress. While some broader ideas were touched upon, such as Edmunds sense of loss and the relationship between artificial and organic intelligence, the themes werent completely clear.
Dreamtime: The Gil-Garem was a good start; the shell of a more developed story, but it is sure to leave readers wanting more.
Survive Marooned on Planet Tau Ceti g
Very often, science fiction novels tend to be heavier on the drama and fiction than on the science, especially those where the plot involves characters attempting to survive on an alien planet. This novel, however, turns that entirely on its head, placing the science first and foremost. It doesnt entirely neglect the story, but it does place more focus on the characters discoveries than on their plight.
Said plight is thus: The ship Copernicus has encountered a meteor swarm over the planet Tau Ceti g, one which destroys the ship and forces the few survivors to the planet below. The survivors manage to send off a distress call, but even with the ability to travel faster than the speed of light, it might well be years before any rescue arrives. Until then, they must use their wits and skills to live on an alien planet which they are almost entirely unprepared for.
Even though we never see the whole of the planet, Tau Ceti g could very easily stand out as its own character. It has a fascinating ecosystem, and I felt as though I was reading not about the product of someones imagination but about an actual planet that could truly exist in some distant (or perhaps not-so-distant) solar system. Everything felt very well researched and wonderfully put together, and I will admit that at times I almost found myself more intrigued by what new wonders the survivors would discover than by how or if they would make it back to Earth. Thats not to say I didnt care what happened to the characters; their peril was very real, and as the book progressed, I often found myself on the edge of my seat, eager to figure out not only whether the characters would live or die but how they would manage to survive. For anyone whos felt that science fiction novels are a little too close to fiction but dont want to sacrifice any of the excitement, this book is a welcome relief.