Aftermath by Charles Sheffield

SheffieldAftermathWhy I Read It: World calamity hits the earth and folks have to pick up the pieces – always entertaining.

Where I Got It: From the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Anyone who enjoys near future tech and world calamity combined should check this book out.

Narrator: Gary Dikeos

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2013)

Length: 19 hours 48 minutes

Series: Book 1 Supernova Alpha

Alpha Centauri lights up the sky in a supernova, causing major weather and climate changes suddenly on Earth while at the same time gamma rays burn out microchips left and right, setting much of the world back to boiling water on a firewood stove. Many people survive the initial climatic disasters. However, communications have been disrupted and it’s hit and miss which countries can get their governments back online. People need extended medical care, and what about those prisoners we put into Judicial Sleep, a kind of cryosleep?

Art and Dana are both cancer survivors. Along with a small group of other cancer patients, they are at the cutting edge of medical science, receiving a breakthrough, yet still in the testing stage, telemere treatment. Some weeks after the initial supernova shock wave, phones are back, sort of. Art and Dana agree to meet Seth to come up with a plan. the plan involves freeing a scientist, and a sordid criminal, from cryosleep…if he hasn’t already melted. Meanwhile, the first astronauts to Mars are on their way back home….if they can safely land. As an international crew, they have differing opinions on what happened and how best to get home. Add to that political intrigue at the White House and a militant religious sect gearing up to make a move while the government is crippled.

For most of the book, we get to follow Art and Dana, though we do get snippets of other people like the astronauts, the US President, the leader of the militant sect, etc. Dana is practical and a survivor. Art is sometimes too polite, but also determined to survive. Seth is creepy, but by the end I was rooting for him. Perhaps because Charles Sheffield gave us other, bigger bad guys to worry about. There are little diary entries by the mad scientist (Oliver Guest) – and he is truly brilliant and deadly. We get to meet the leader of the militant sect who has designs towards seizing power and cleansing the world of all evil, even if that means scraping to the bone. Hmm….who would I rather face in a darkened room – mad scientist or delusional religious cult leader? Hard to choose.

This book started off a bit slow, but once the set up was complete, I had a great time following along as the individual characters chase after what is most important to each after a world calamity. I did have a giggle over Mr. President Saul Steinmetz. So, supernova hits, some countries suffer horrendous loses due to violent weather, etc. It is weeks, if not months, before any kind of phone service can be restored. It finally is and calls flood the White House. Mr. President literally has over 500 calls to return, including to military and political leaders world wide. However, his first call is a booty call. Yep, he returned his old flame’s call first and set a date *shakes head*.  Then, he actually gets to leave the White House, first trip out since the calamity struck, and it is to inspect a nearby military base…sort of. He meets his presidential aid, a very hot young lady who has her own ideas of how to climb the ladder to power and fame. So, his first trip out turns out to be a tail chasing expedition *face palm*. You would think that while all the power was out and little to do after the sun goes down, someone would have been servicing the President? Anyway, just a humorous side note.

I really liked that there was a great mix of characters: the elderly, Jews, gays, Black-Hispanic, Asians, etc. This book was originally written in 1998 and it has stood the test of time. The tech described in this tale is still just beyond what we can do today. Having characters from all walks of life, just like in real life, instead of an all Caucasian cast, is excellent. Sheffield also writes women characters quite well – like they are real people. So, for all that, he gets my applause.

Our narrator, Gary Dikeos, was OK. He gets an A for effort, but I found his voices a little fake, some hard to get use to. He nailed some of the accents and others not at all. His voice for Dana and Art were great. His voice for the President was whiny……was that on purpose? Anyway, I had a hard time picturing the President as a handsome woman catcher because of the voice given to him. Still, if Book 2 becomes available with the same reader, I would probably give it a shot.

What I Liked: Lots of great, memorable characters; the bad guys are intelligent, logical, and oh so deadly; people from all backgrounds populate this tale; the female characters are believable; cool advanced technology; awesome book cover.

What I Disliked: The priority of Mr. President’s booty calls; the voice given to Mr. President by the narrator.

What Others Think:

Jandy’s Reading Room

Hard SF

SFF.net

Dab of Darkness Expands

For-Review books and a book won from a blogger's giveaway.

For-Review books and a book won from a blogger’s giveaway.

2012 ended on an exceedingly good note for Dab of Darkness, which got mentioned on a SF Signal podcast (Episode 170). Thank you everyone who had a hand in that, especially Lady Dark Cargo and Little Red Reviewer.

Since 2010, I have been writing for Dark Cargo, and once I started up my review blog, I kept writing for Dark Cargo because I love the atmosphere, the dialogue, the other contributors. Truly, it feels like a second bloggy home. With the success of Dab of Darkness over the past several months, I have decided to expand beyond my reviews and read alongs. I intend to start doing author interviews, bookish commentary, and other whimsical posts at my discretion. Of course, you’ll still be able to find me over at Dark Cargo on Tuesdays, but I highly recommend you visit DC for the great stuff by the other wonderful writers throughout the week.

For Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Scifi Month, I will have a guest post on Brian Stableford up on January 10th. I am sure I will remind you all. Andrea will have great posts about vintage (in this case pre-1979) science fiction going up all month long, so don’t hesitate to stop by over there .

Several nonfiction books from Granma.

Several nonfiction books from Granma.

For 2013, I hope to participate in several reading events (see this previous post for info on upcoming reading events), but I also hope to add more historical fiction to my reading calendar. Truly, I find it difficult to say which of the three genres (Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Historical Fiction) are my favorite as I value them all highly. Throw in several series I would like to finish, several SFF series I would like to start, a handful of rereads, a little poetry, and some nonfiction, and you’ll have a TBR mountain that you’ll never see me dig out of. Haha!

AsherPennRowling

I have several Neal Asher & Shraon Kay Penn books, given to me by a good friend.

Over the past several months, I have also taken in several For-Review books, all of which I am excited about, of course. So I plan to get that pile down to a much smaller list before accepting further review books. Additionally, the bookish blogging community is so very generous with their book contests and giveaways; I have won several books over the past year and yet have only read a small percentage of them. That will change. Once again, I am excited about all those books and have nefarious plans for them that involve heavy, sleepy cats and a good cup of tea.

Finally, what follows is a partial, random list of my bookish hopes and dreams for 2013. What books are on your 2013 Hope-To-Finish List?

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (a reread)

Ian Tregillis’s 3rd book will be out this year (Bitter Seeds was awesome)

The Red Wall series by Brian Jacques

Diana Gabaldon’s The Outlander series

Some nonfiction by William Shatner

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling (reread)

NK Jemisin (I’m a few books behind)

Jasper Forde (I keep hearing his stuff is amazing)

Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough

Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut (nonfiction)

Oedipus the King

The Host by Stephanie Meyer (I’m not sure about this one, but willing to give it a try)

I’m 2 books behind on Alan Bradley’s Flavia deLuce mysteries

The Stand by Stephen King (I have never read King, ever)

Ashes of Twilight by Kassy Tayler

10634286Why I Read It: I like reading about confined folks who got issues, whether it’s in space or under a dome on ruined Earth.

Where I Got It: From the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If you are a fan of Logan’s Run and YA, then this book has a lot for you.

Narrator: Nicola Barber

Publisher: AudioGO (2012)

Length: 9 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 1 Ashes

I grew up with Logan’s Run, first the movie and then the series. There were many things I liked about them, including the characters’ needs to live beyond their assigned roles and years. Ashes of Twilight captures that same feel, but without being a duplicate of this classic. Set under a large dome somewhere in Wales, UK over what once was a large coal deposit, Wren MacAvoy struggles to fit in, to make her grandfather proud, and to unravel the hidden reasons for a friend’s death. As a coal miner, next to the lowest of the low in this structured society, she is shunned in most public places above ground and people of her status rarely marry outside of their class. And indeed, their world is very set, having existed under a dome for several generations after a world calamity made the surface unlivable.

With that set up, Kassy Tayler leads us into her world, bit by bit through Wren’s eyes. Indeed, this was one of the things I enjoyed about the writing: the story showed me Wren’s world instead of telling it to me. At 16, she and a few other young friends feel the need to stretch their wings and push for something more. One long-lived question in their lives has been what is beyond the dome wall? Alex challenges the status quo and ends up dead, his last words being, ‘The sky is blue,’ which leads to all sorts of grief and consternation.

Wren has to avoid not only the Filchers (masked folks that will grab a coal miner off the streets), and the city guard, but also her own people’s senior council. Yet she manages to attract the attention of all three plus the city Royals. Indeed, she becomes the focus for the spread of revolution. The intensity and action were sprinkled with Wren’s inner thoughts and concerns, keeping the tension high throughout the book. Along the way, she meets Pace, an aspiring city guard who ends up on the wrong side of a bit of knowledge and needs a place to hide. Young love strikes the both of them. Now, there was really only 1 thing I didn’t care for in this book, and it was the near instant love, yet no sex. Please, a set society trapped under a dome for numerous generations is going to have birth control freely available, or it would have collapsed due to over population after a few generations. It’s OK to be 16 or 18 and in lust and have that lust turn to friendship , and perhaps more later on.

I really connected with Wren and Pace and even a few of the minor characters. I like the use of animals (cats, canaries, and ponies) throughout the story. While I found it a little convenient that Pace is a super athlete brimming with muscle, a sensitive guy, and has great concern for his mum, I still enjoyed his humor and felt he made a descent counterpoint to Wren and her periodic lack of confidence. The ending gave me mixed feelings, but set up the reader for Book 2. On one hand, Wren stayed true to her 16-year-old self; on the other hand the larger picture wasn’t considered by Wren and her friends.

Nicola Barber was the perfect choice for this audiobook. She captured Wren’s voice crystal clear and I enjoyed her portrayal of Peggy, Pace, Alex, and the other young folks. Her ‘Royal’ voice was also fitting.

What I Liked: The cover; structured society trapped under a dome; big freaking secret kept from society at large; Wren’s kindness yet she has survival instincts; Pace’s humor; the characters had fears and shortcomings and this made then more real; Tayler’s storytelling is very approachable.

What I Disliked: Instant love yet no sex (not realistic); mixed feelings about the ending.