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
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.
Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall
Barras world is dying. Slowly, ring by ring, the loft grows darker, less vibrant. With clues left in her fathers research notes, Barra and her friends, Tory and Plicks, must find a proof to show the elders. To save their world, they must Fall and go farther into the darkness than anyone before them.
Sunborn Rising by Aaron Safronoff is a young adult novel set in the imaginative world of Cerulean. Safronoff has built a rich and vibrant world, full of layers. Each of the main characters is unique and complex.
Barra, Tory, and Plicks are typical teenagers still on the threshold of childish behavior, but wanting to be taken seriously in their thoughts and endeavors. As with most coming of age sagas, this leads to trouble. The story really picks up about a third of the way through when the trio makes the discovery that leads to said trouble.
The accompanying drawings are beautifully detailed and allow the reader to see the world of Cerulean through the eyes of its creator. They are reminiscent of the movie Avatar in the vividness and color palette.
Although the descriptiveness of the writing will be sure to appeal to the YA crowd, the author uses a bit of a higher level of vocabulary, so older readers shouldnt feel like they are reading a childrens book. Dont be surprised if you have to look up the definitions of a couple of words.
My one complaint regarding the story is the elders journey to find the wayward trio. It seemed glossed over and summarized in an effort of expediency to move the story forward.
Even though Sunborn Rising is the first part of a two-part series, it doesnt end in a huge cliffhanger. While it sets up for the second half of the battle, it provides a satisfying close to the first chapter. That isnt to say you wont be left wanting to know what happens next, but you also wont feel like you were left with no answers to the saga that took place.
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.
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.
Maya Rising (Last Call for Caviar, vol.2)
SPOILER ALERT: The following contains spoilers for Volume 1 Last Call for Caviar.
This sequel to Last Call for Caviar is equally delicious as the first installment. A warning for persnickety readers, this is not a standalone volume. It will make almost no sense if you havent read the first book. This isnt to say that author Melissa Roen doesnt weave the storylines together seamlesslyshe doesbut she doesnt fully set up volume 2 the way she does volume 1. I recommend reading the books in order to get the full effect. And do NOT miss the prologues. Start at the very beginning.
Having said that
Destruction, death and blood cultsoh my! Maya Jade is still stranded on the continent during what can only be accurately described as Armageddon. Having finally found her way out of the Riviera and back into the arms of sexy surgeon Julian, the future is anything but certain. What perils lurk on the interior of Europe? Will they reach their destination in the safety of Switzerland? Will the safety promised there be real? Again, there are more questions than answers. And the few answers there are lead Maya further into trouble and the deviant and devious schemes for power and control that broil beneath the surface of a splintered civilization.
Finally reunited with lover Julian, Maya believes she has escaped the dangers of her past until they appear right on her tail bumper ready to rear end her into oblivion. And we are there to watch her dangle on the edge. Maya Rising jumps right into the action, and it doesnt let up. The plot winds through the French countryside and down back into the Riviera, coming full circle. Maya is forced to face the demons that have hounded her steps throughout both volumes.
The earth trembles with a mystical power that haunts Maya. The mysteries of this force seem to hold her destiny in its grip and the blazing red eye of the Purifier scorches. Through the melee, Maya has to figure out if her love for Julian is as strong as shes always believed. Could her feelings for another powerful man jeopardize their fairytale ending? Could unfinished business render all of the questions moot? Always just one step away from the end, Maya Jade is on an unrelenting journey toward her truth and the fate of the world.
This novel is a fast paced whirlwind of adventure, hurdling towards an odd conclusion that will keep you guessing until the very end. Roen is cruel in her conclusion. I implore her to reconsider, and serve us at least one more serving of Caviar.