Apocalypta by Robin Matchett

MatchettApocalyptaWhy I Read It: Cool tech, aliens, and a world recovered from an apocalypse – what’s not to like?

Where I Got It: Review copy via the book tour (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For fans of aliens & interesting tech.

Publisher: James Piercemoore Books (2014)

Length: 613 pages

Author’s Page

Cephren Path, our main character, is the leader of Sunsetwind, a place that values nature and peace among nations (or city-states in some cases in this future 25th century world). The Earth suffered a pummeling by an asteroid (that was broken into smaller chunks by missiles) sometime in the 22nd or 23rd century. It was enough to nearly wipe out humanity. The people we meet in the beginning of this novel are the products (many generations later) of those who survived the initial emergency and the subsequent violent climate changes. Sunsetwind’s nearest neighbors are the Chicagos and the Mississippis, along with the roving bands of Foragers. What technology the governments have was built upon earlier scavenging of 20th and 21st century tech. This includes several curious chips, a few of which seem to have hidden or locked down information. Cephren, his friends, and at least one competitive power all believe that this hidden info points to alien contact with humans during the 20th or 21st century and may prove relevant in their modern time.

First, I really enjoyed all the very interesting names of the characters in this book: Chromolox, Cephren, Cleopatra, Jimmy Pigeon, Trinny Burnamthorpe, etc.  Also, many of these characters come from a mixed heritage, which I also liked. A humanity so torn apart and decimated would most likely have to come together to rebuild, and that means mixed cultures/heritages. So it was fun to see what the author came up with. While the characters themselves are interesting, once established most of them remain the same throughout the book. But since the plot was pretty interesting, I didn’t mind the lack of character growth.

There’s lots of cool tech for those of you who salivate over such things (I being one of those). And the author provides a quick explanation within the narrative of the story on each tech without belaboring the point. Much of the tech is useful stuff (transportation, weather control, chip reading, etc.) and not just for show.

Threading its way throughout the plot is what I will call an alien conspiracy/coverup, for lack of a better term. In the context of this science fiction plot, Area 51 and 20th century contact with aliens are treated as facts and become integral to the plotline. And that all works well. However, I got the feeling from time to time that the author had a personal message wrapped up in this story and my personal preference on personal messages is that they be so well hidden that only the author’s closest companions can tease it out. Still, many folks don’t mind an underlying message.

I do have 2 criticisms, but they are not show stoppers. One, I would have loved to have had a map of the 25th century North America where the story starts out. That could just be the nerd in me. It wasn’t necessary to enjoy the story. Second, there was some repetition and occasionally I felt that one character or another (Cephren, I’m looking at you) rambled on and on. At 613 pages, it could have used one more editing out of words to give that final polish, that neat trim. With all that said, it was a fun and entertaining story.

What I Liked: Cool tech; neat culture/heritage mix; there is still human conflict in the 25th century; interesting alien-human contact thread throughout plot.

What I Disliked: I wanted a map (but I won’t hold that against the book); could use another edit to cut out the remaining repetition and some of the ramblings.

A little more about Robin Matchett

Rob (Robin) Matchett was born in Paris, France, in 1956 of Canadian parents, and moved to Canada at four years old. Apparently on the way, he spent hours in a porthole watching the sea, pondering existence. Now his life continues through a porthole – a regret being he didn’t remain in France a few more years. Though, embracing Canada he went native, steeped in the elements from where land-locked on the crest of a giant windblown hill, he commands from the bridge of a ship, foundered on springs, fields and forests. Still unreleased from the yoke of his servitude, he dabbles in the stars, unlocking secrets from history and the future. Many transfigurations have occurred, of which he has faithfully transcribed into various literary forms, including novels, poems and film scripts, and continues to do so. Among other eclectic interests, he is known to be well-read; enjoy wholesome kitchen garden culinary pursuits; calvados; has musical inclinations, and often known to be wired into the Grateful Dead. He is of a retiring nature, addicted to movies and documentaries, considered a professional obligation rather than lesser appraisals.

MatchettApocalyptaAbout the book Apocalypta

Apocalypta is a novel about a post-apocalyptic world at the cusp of the 25th century. With the discovery of a synaptic memory chip holding the memories of individuals in the past, there is an attempt to avert a return to the terrible conflagrations of the past. This chip – ‘the eyes of god’ – holds salvation through the truth. The main character, implanted with the chip, bids the reader to follow history back to our present time in order to understand the future. Moreover, humanity has a chance to become members of a galactic confederation, which through various species have been instrumental in our emergence from earliest times. Many unusual characters color this story, which is ultimately about the struggle for humanity to rise to a higher place in its long quest for survival.

Where to Find Robin Matchett

Webpage:           http://robinmatchett.com/
Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rob-Matchett/308245449351237
Twitter:                @RobMatchettAuth

The Giveaway!
1st Prize:  $50 Amazon.com gift certificate and autographed copy of Apocalypta
2nd Prize:  $25 Amazon.com gift certificate and autographed copy of Apocalypta
3rd Prize:  Autographed copy of Apocalypta

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Kyrathaba Rising by William Bryan Miller

MillerKyrathabaRisingWhy I Read It: Post-apocalyptic world, aliens, and virtual reality – what’s not to like?

Where I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For post apocalyptic fans who like a few twists.

Narrator: Christine Padovan

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 29 minutes

Series: Book 1 Kyrathaba Chronicles

Author’s Page

Kyrathaba is the name of a virtual reality world. Set in the future by nearly 200 years, humans exist in only subterranean remnants. The Earth suffered a devastating attack from aliens and what few humans are slowly dying out due to radiation poisoning. Sethra, a member of compound A-3, has found a way to enter Kyrathaba, and perhaps stay there indefinitely. Things look grim and Sethra, along with a few close friends, seriously contemplate the possibility that humanity as we know it may not be able to continue in their current form.

The story starts off with Sethra and Byron sharing a morning beverage of U Tea. Since they live in these completely enclosed underground capsules, everything, including their urine, is recycled. I am sure you can figure out what goes into the U Tea. Of course, I was enjoying my own morning cup of tea when I listened to this part of the book. And yes, I stared at my tea suspiciously.

So you can see that I was sucked into the straight-faced humor of the book right away. I enjoyed learning about the characters first, letting their current world unfold around me as Sethra and his friends went through their daily routine. Radiation poisoning is killing them off bit by bit. Even though they continue to reproduce as quickly as they can, attrition may well win out; humans are facing the very real possibility of becoming extinct. Compound A-3 has a regular security force who have a regular schedule. Their food is bland. The medical staff and care is the best they can maintain under such circumstances. And there are robots, which is the cool part in all this gloom.

While Sethra looks deeper into the possibility of long-term virtual reality habitation, Earth has a bigger issue. There’s an alien ship in orbit and it’s sole purpose is to monitor the remaining humans. I don’t think humanity could stand up to a second alien invasion. Meanwhile, the geoscientists explore drilling further into the Earth to escape the radiation and expand their living quarters. They discover an underground cavern with a clean water source. In exploring the depth and width of the water source, they make a very surprising discovery. I think this was the secondary plot line I enjoyed the most and want to learn more about. So many questions!

Kyrathaba itself is a Dungeons and Dragons kind of world; there’s magic, Orcs, plenty of sharp weapons, and paragon points to be earned. This magical world complimented, rather than contradicting, the science fiction tone of the larger story. I don’t always enjoy scifi and fantasy melding, but in this case it was done very well.  The story had a good mix of characters, both male and female characters having crucial roles to the plot. Plus we had a range of ethnicity and ages. Definite plus!

My one criticism lies in the use of radiation poisoning to be the initial driver of the plot. I did radiological work for several years, dressing in yellow Tyvek, full-face respirator, nasal swabs, etc. To make it very simple, you either have a radiation source emitting radiation or you have radioactive particles that you have ingested or inhaled. For the first, you put shielding between you and it and you should be good. Shielding can be lead, several meters of earth, etc. And compound A-3 had all that in place between it and the surface of the contaminated Earth. The story didn’t really mention the possibility of the population all repeatedly inhaling, imbibing, or ingesting radioactive particles. Basic HEPA filters would take care of this problem and would be the first solution for signs of radiation poisoning. Also, with enough radiation to be causing prolonged radiation sickness over generations, then we would see the electronics failing left, right, and center. Electronics do not hold up well in the glow of radiation. At the best, they get buggy and stay that way. In this tale, we have a lot of cool tech and all of it was working just fine, showing no signs of electronic wear due to prolonged exposure to radiation.

But if I wasn’t such a know it all, the radiation threat would probably work just fine. Over all, I enjoyed the tale and the multiple plot lines. I really want to know what is in that big cavern pool of water! I want to know what happens to Sethra and his friends in the virtual world of Kyrathaba. There are enemies every where it seems, human, alien, and potentially something else. Indeed, there is plenty of worth in this book to propel the reader into the next installment.

The Narration: Padovan did a decent job of narrating. Her characters were each distinct. In fact, she did most of the book with a geek accent which was well suited to many of the characters as they were half raised by their computer implants. Her male voices could use a bit more masculinity, but that is my only negative comment.

What I Liked: Good mix of scifi and fantasy;great character development; multiple plot lines to give the reader much to think on; the ending answered enough questions to be satisfying and left the door open for a sequel.

What I Disliked: The use of radiation poisoning was superficial and doesn’t match up with the science we have on the subject.

What Others Think:

Rob’s Book Blog

Scifi & Fantasy Reviews

Readers’ Favorite

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.