The Last Machine in the Solar System
It is fascinating to hear the voice and perspective of The Last Machine in the Solar System in Matthew Isaac Sobin’s story of the same name. One journeys here to the end of the solar system when the sun explodes again. Humans have left the area, but Jonathan, the last robot, has remained, accompanied by his creator, Nikolai, for part of this tale. Despite our absence, there is still something of ourselves left in the form of this robot that speaks for some of us also. He muses philosophically about the meaning of existence like some of us have.
The story is not very long; not quite a novelette but a nice two hour read. There are also compelling illustrations by Jack Katz included. It is not very original with the end of of the solar system, robots, solitude, and profound thinking. One can eke out a sense of wonder from this, though, and it is fine for younger folks as it’s not controversial or edgy. It will remind one of Isaac Asimov, whose stories about robots were historic in the history of science fiction. Sobin’s self-conscious robot is not noticeably different, but it cares about us as well.
Matthew Isaac Sobin
Finding the perfect man that fits all of your predetermined attributes doesnt always work out. At least thats the case for Gemma. Focused on her schooling and career as an engineering professor has left her love life in a slump. After deciding to focus on her career and let the fates decide her love life, she heads to snowy Chicago for a week-long conference where she will be a presenter. However, once in Chicago her life it turned upside-down. First, she is mugged, sending her to the local hospital with a nasty bump on her head. Her first thought is maybe shell meet a good-looking doctor and fall in love. However, someone else has plans for Gemma that will set her life spiraling out of control. Someone is not all they seem to be and is injecting Gemma with a paralyzing agent unbeknownst to the hospital staff. Unable to alert anyone of this, Gemma is caught between her paralyzed body and in the middle of an out of body experience. She knows that time is not on her side and if she wants to survive she is going to have to use all of her logical thinking as well as some supernatural help from those she meets on the other side before it is too late.
They say you cant judge a book by its cover and this is absolutely true for both the cover and title of Finding Husband. This book is full of surprises and has a variety of genres from science fiction and romance to mystery and suspense. In Finding Husband, author Peri Alexander delivers a fast paced and thrilling novel that will keep you hooked and guessing until the very end. Alexander has created characters that range from every day, likable people to deranged sociopaths that interact in such interesting ways you find yourself intrigued or shocked with every turn of the page and thirsting for more. This is definitely a book you cannot miss. Well done!
The Children of Darkness
In this case, you really cant judge a book by its cover. The Children of Darkness is not at all the post-apocalyptic tale that you might expect, based on the cover or the title. It is, in actuality, a delightful sci-fi/fantasy story about three kids trying to find themselves and achieve their potential through understanding their history and, consequently, the history of the world. While not categorized as a YA novel, I think it should be. There is probably more meat here that kids on the cusp of adulthood would find nourishing than more mature readers (although its not an unwelcome trip down memory lane).
Orah (the smart girl), Nathaniel (the strapping leader), and Thomas (the nimble artist) unwittingly embark upon a life-changing journey to find the truth after each has a teaching encounter with the vicars of the Temple of Light. In this post-post-post-modern world with little-to-no technology, defined castes, and isolation between communities, the Temple of Light controls all life functionsfrom how many children may be born to what citizens may think. These three kids bumble into a treasure hunt that will finally lead them to the truth about the darkness.
Litwack has created a gem that incorporates some of the best of the genre: Orah will likely remind many readers of J.K. Rowlings Hermoine (Harry Potter). Elements of the story arch are classic, but will seem particularly familiar to readers of Terry Goodkind (The Wizards First Rule). And while Litwack uses typical archetypes, his characters approach conflict in some ways that diverge from expectation while also providing enough of the familiar, tried and true not to disappoint.
The pacing of The Children of Darkness drags in places; all of the inner dialogue and story setup may not be appealing to every reader, and so you may feel a niggling desire to skip a few pages to get back into the action. But, in general, there is careful craftsmanship at play that endeavors to provide enough description without becoming bogged in unnecessary detailswhich could easily happen as Litwack creates an in-between world that is not quite medieval, but not modern either.
There are also seems to be a bit of a struggle with light and darkness not just in the themes but in the presentation as well; there is a tension in the novel that Im not sure is intentional. Litwack seems to want to convey the darkness of humanity but seems timid in just how much to describe, how dark to go. The story hovers in an uncomfortable realm that suggests horrors, but never truly shows them. There is order, but a sinister element bubbles just under the surface; however, Litwack never really allows us to look at it. Never giving into the grotesque or graphic for graphics sake, Litwacks restrained pen seems to be the balance to contemporary sci-fi productions (Mad Max: Road to Fury , Dredd ). There is something about the seemingly inevitable direction of the story that wants some moment of violence, something explosive in the pot that the three young adults stir.
If it is Litwacks project to complicate the notions of good and evil, he succeeds. In unexpected ways, he shows the fallibility and potential of human beings as a race and as individuals to effect changeperhaps neither for good nor ill. There is much to unpack here and a great deal worth expecting in the sequel.
A good read if you check your expectations at the door.
After delighting growing fans with a classic ghost story in Heart-Shaped Box and a tale of terrifying horror in NOS4A2, in his latest tome, weighing in at 768 pages, Joe Hill presents his world on the edge of apocalypse. No one really knows how or where it started, but wildfires are tearing through the country and they’re being cause by people. Now, when I say “people,” I literally mean people are bursting into flame and starting these fires.
Doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton, but everyone else refers to it as Dragonscale. It’s a highly contagious spore, and you know you’ve got it when you find these lustrous black and gold bands on your body. It’s unknown what happens in between getting the scale and spontaneously combusting, but there are a lot of people burning up, and society is starting to fall apart. There are roving gangs looking to put an end to anyone with the Dragonscale, to prevent it spreading further. Meanwhile, the government says it’s working on a cure, but really has no idea what it’s doing. Things escalate and continue to get worse and worse.
Our story focuses on Harper Grayson, a talented and compassionate nurse who cares greatly for others and is working her butt off with the current crisis. Her husband, Jacob, barely sees her and doesn’t really get why she’s trying to save all these people with Dragonscale. When Harper contracts the spore, he goes off the deep end mentally, and it turns into a very different relationship. Harper doesn’t need convincing and tries to get the heck out of dodge, but Jacob has other plans. Harper makes it out of the house, but the maniac formerly known as her husband, is after her. That’s when the tall drink of water with a British accent known as The Fireman comes to save the day.
Harper joins a commune where they have apparently mastered the power of Dragonscale. By joining together and singing, they are able to control the incendiary ferocity of the disease and keep themselves alive and well. But, in any group fighting to survive, tensions are strained, and stress is at an all-time high and things turn into a kind of Lord of the Flies situation. But there is a rumor that has become legend of an island off the coast of Maine where they are taking in people with Dragonscale, where they can live a nice, normal life without prejudice or persecution.
The Fireman is a wonderfully original tale that takes a few elements like plague and fire and churns them into a compelling story. As with all stories of an apocalyptic nature, it is ultimately about the choices and decisions that people make to survive. Hill’s characters are varied and interesting and definitely give the novel and realistic feel. The middle of the book lags a little and, overall, could have had some pages editorially excised, as the downturn of the commune gets pretty predicable and uninspiring. But the last third of the book is nonstop action, and, even though Joe Hill seems to suffer from his dad’s problem of executing a good ending for the book, The Fireman is a fun escape from you mundane life into a world of fire and fighting and people who give a damn.
The Cold Between: A Central Corps Novel
Surprisingly out of character, Elena Shaw connects with and takes a man home while on shore leave. Elena is shocked to discover her crew mate, Danny, was murdered during the night. The culprit is the very man she spent the night with—obviously a frame job. Elena and Trey, a retired PSI captain go rogue to find the real killer. Before long they’re embroiled in a mystery involving corrupt governments, power hungry psychopaths, and the aftermath of a horrific accident.
The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel is the first book in the Central Corps series. Bonesteel hit it out of the park with this one. It masterfully balances sci-fi, adventure, mystery, and heady romance. The characterization is stellar—pun intended. Elena and Trey’s romance blossoms and staggers under the weight of everything thrown against them. Even secondary characters are fully fleshed out. The world building pushes the story to greater heights, slowly teasing out details about the Central Corps, the PSI, and the main characters themselves.
Simply put, this is an incredible start to the series, and everyone will find something to love here. Bonesteel sets a wonderful stage with dynamic characters and a well-paced plot. Read it.
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.