Interview: Michael O’Neal, Author of The Eighth Day

O'NealTheEighthDayEveryone, please welcome Michael O’Neal. You can catch me review of his book, The Eighth Day, over HERE. Today Michael stopped by to chat about action flicks, his kid-self, detassling corn, and much more. Enjoy!

1) If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

I would have to go with The X Files. Not only is it still my one of my favorite shows, I would be curious to experience it for the first time in the post-9/11 world, with all we know now about our government’s nefarious activities (NSA spying, CIA “black sites”, etc).

2) How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

We’re immersed in our culture so it’s hard not to let that seep into the work, but you’d be amazed how fast the world changes. For instance, in the original draft of THE EIGHTH DAY a reporter references Y2K as being the biggest crises the president had to deal with so far, which in 1999 when the book was first written was this big impending thing, and two years later (after 9/11) it was a laughable afterthought. So that had to be changed.

It really depends on how timeless the culture reference is as to whether it dates it. The book references The X Files and Top Gun, and I think both have cemented their status as pop culture icons to the extent that it doesn’t date the piece at all.

3) Due to your job and training as a maritime safety instructor, you know some action is dangerous, but does your character? Do you find your background helpful in creating dangerous circumstances in your writing?

My background definitely helps, although getting expert opinion is just as important. The author always knows more than the character. Right now I’m working on a new series of books (a heart-warming tale of a girl and her dog…trying to survive the zombie apocalypse ;) and I just wrote a sequence the other day where they’re escaping in a small private plane, and the heroine’s only had a little bit of instruction on how to fly, so I thought back to my early days in flight school at some of the things I had trouble with and potential pitfalls for a young, inexperienced pilot.

4) What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

My most physically demanding job was detassling corn during the summers in high school, but as unpleasant as that was my worst job was my first job at the second college I attended. I was working at a call center shaking down alumni for money, and I lasted about a month and a half (of working 2 days a week). No amount of showering will make you feel clean after bugging a just-furloughed-going-through-a-nasty-divorce airline pilot for money. They call me now and I give them a little just because I feel bad for the poor sap on the other end of the line, having spent some time in their shoes getting cursed at. Some of the people I called were pretty cool but most were less than happy to talk to me and some were just downright nasty. I don’t particularly care for talking on the phone anyway. Needless to say, writing is a much nicer way to make money (and I sleep better too).

5) I see that you are into thrillers and action stories (The Avengers, Top Gun, Tom Clancy novels). In the past year or two, what have been some of your favorite action/thrillers either to hit the pages or the big screen?

As far as books go, there’s been a couple. Katya’s World is one of my favorite YA books, it reminded me a lot of seaQuest DSV, which while short-lived was one of my favorite shows growing up. Tom Clancy’s last book, Command Authority, was really good and unnervingly prescient, given what’s happening in Crimea and Ukraine right now. I was deeply saddened when he passed, though his co-writer Mark Greaney has taken up the mantle with Support and Defend, which you could kind of tell was the publisher letting him take the Clancyverse out for a spin on his own before giving him the keys to the kingdom. But he did a good job, the transition was nearly seamless. It looks like the powers that be thought so too, since Greaney’s next book will include Jack Ryan and all the supporting characters, rather than just one of the lesser Campus operators that Support and Defend centered on.

Speaking of the Clancyverse, I thought the new Jack Ryan movie was pretty good, but I think they’re missing a golden opportunity right now. I think they should make the Campus series books into movies and have Chris Pine play Jack Ryan Junior, and bring back Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan Senior, but that’s just my two cents.

Outside of that, Marvel Studios continues to knock one after another out of the park. The Winter Soldier was probably the best Marvel stand-alone movie so far. And the last two Hunger Games movies were really good too. Sometimes a movie adaptation will add a little something to the story that really kicks it up a notch, like some of the Harry/Hermione scenes in Deathly Hallows Part 1, and in the Mockingjay movie I loved how Peeta’s rescue, which happens off-page in the book, becomes a nail-biting almost shot-for-shot remake of the climax of Zero Dark Thirty.

6) What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’ve always been a big fan of the Splinter Cell PC games since to me they were like experiencing a Tom Clancy novel rather than just reading one, so I’d probably have to go with one of his newer books. Probably Locked On or Threat Vector, maybe more the former since it featured the Rainbow counter-terror team that’s already been featured in a number of successful video games.

Come to think of it though, Jim Bernhiemer’s Dead Eye books would make a cool GTA-style game. Go around punching ghosts, always low on cash and gas, having to make allies and run errands for funds, and there would be plenty of puzzles to solve as your character figures out how to control his powers as a Ferryman and how to use them to get out of sticky situations. I’d definitely want a “Pedestrian view” so you can see your character trying to fight a ghost but not the ghost itself, that would probably be good for a laugh.

7) What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

Oh man, me as a kid. I have a good anecdote about that. Part of my first book takes place at a place called AUTEC (Atlantic Underwater Testing and Evaluation Center, it’s a real place the Navy plays with all their underwater toys), after one of my co-workers read the book he came up to me and said “I knew about AUTEC because I used to run the civilian contract ships down there. How the hell did you know about it as a sophomore in high school?” To which I shrugged and replied, “My fourth grade book report was on a 400 page dissertation on the U-boat campaign off the East Coast of the US during WWII. I was kind of a weird kid.” I always had my head buried in a book. The only way my parents got me to go outside was introducing me to model rocketry, which after they had to run in terror from an errant home-made rocket is something they probably regret.

That said, as much as I liked reading I never really saw myself as a professional writer. I was always good at it in school but didn’t start doing it for fun until high school, and doubted I was good enough to turn pro. For most of my childhood I either wanted to fly or design airplanes or be a submariner or underwater explorer. Looking back, two out of four ain’t bad.

8) Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Unfortunately I don’t have enough fans for this to have occurred yet, nor have I personally met most of my favorite authors. Thus far the people who gush about the book are people I know so that makes it less awkward. I did spot a guy I’d met before at the local Comic-Con where I was selling my books, and this guy had the most terrifying creepy clown sounding laugh you’ve ever heard. It haunts my nightmares still. So I thought to myself “If I call out to him I bet he’ll come over and buy a book…but I will literally pay $15 to not have to hear that creepy clown laugh again.”

9) What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

If they ever do a “VH1 Behind the Music”-style documentary about me, the time I got sucked into playing Physics Equation Hangman with my fellow aerospace engineering students in the basement of the engineering building at Iowa State will be the “and that’s when he knew he’d hit rock bottom” moment. I looked around me and thought, I don’t belong here. I transferred to flight school shortly thereafter :)

The Eighth Day by Michael O’Neal

O'NealTheEighthDayWhere I Got It: Review copy via the author (thanks!).

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Robert Martinez

Length: 9 hours 42 minutes

Author’s Page

In a small town in Iowa, life turns messy for highschool senior Jay Anderson. He is accused of a drug crime he didn’t commit. Luckily, his friend Kathy sways the jury and gets him acquitted. But more than that is going on in this small town. Pretty soon Rachel, Ryan, and Jeff are pulled into the mystery as well. It seems some sort of sickness is spreading through out their town, making people irritable and paranoid. Men in suits with an unusually large armament show up. Pretty soon, the 5 friends have to leave the town or end up in a bad way.

In this action flick, the teens take on fantastic abilities while trying to save their friends and family, and perhaps the entire nation. It’s a mix of genres, with some gene splicing going on, alien life, conspiracy theories, and a touch of Christian morals lacing through it all. Jay and Kathy get the most page time and have the most character growth in the book. Ryan and Jeff play important second fiddles as the 5 travel the USA, then to Russia, and finally the Caribbean. Rachel often became non-existent in the narrative as she had so few lines; in fact, I had completely forgotten that she had traveled with the guys until her voice reappeared near the end.

The story starts off strong, with it’s mystery asteroid, the men in suits, and Jay prosecuted on false drug charges. The plot started to drift a bit after that, the various threads spreading so thinly that I wasn’t sure where the story was going. But during the final quarter of the book, the author brings it all back home and does a good job of wrapping it up. So if you started this book and felt that you were getting a bit lost, keep going – it all makes sense at the end.

Through out the tale, the kids do some fantastical things. Granted, two of them have some unusual biological abilities, but that doesn’t give them the ability to win trials or parachute jump successfully or fly airplanes (all on the first try). So I felt certain scenes were definitely stretching my ability to part with sensible reality. I wanted to root for the kids, but I also felt they weren’t truly equipped to do some of the things they accomplished in this book. Plus, many of the adults were written as simple obstacles meant to be pushed over by these young heroes. They didn’t have to struggle too much against the social norms or government system. There you have my one real criticism about this book. So, if you have a great ability to suspend disbelief, then check this book out.

Through out the book were touches of Christian morals and beliefs. I am not Christian, and for the most part, these didn’t bother me, until the last little bit of the book. There, I felt that the author was borderline preachy at points. By that point, I was invested in the book and wanted to see how it all turned out more than I was annoyed by the Christian moral advice. If you are into Christian fiction, then you would probably enjoy this little addition to the storyline.

I felt that Kathy did a good job of rescuing one of the guys as often as she needed rescuing. I would have liked to see more female characters. We have Kathy, her friend Rachel, someone’s mom, and much later in the book a female Navy or military officer. There is a plethora of male characters.

Over all it was an entertaining listen once I suspended by disbelieve and became attached to the two main characters. I also liked the addition of a dolphin later in the story.

Narration: Robert Martinez did a really good job with this story. He had a good range in voices and accents, making it easy to keep track of characters. Also, the characters were often thinking to themselves, so Martinez made the extra effort to put those lines into an internal dialogue sound. There was also a fighter pilot scene and he made it sound like the dialogue was coming over a radio. Very good performance!

What I Liked:  Fun, fast-paced action flick; Kathy makes a great female lead; plenty of plot lines that the author does a good job of tying together at the end. 

What I Disliked: The kids accomplish great feats that defy my ability to suspend my disbelief; there are few female characters.

Pirates of Mars by Chris Gerrib

GerribPiratesOfMarsWhere I Got It: Review copy via the author (thanks!).

Publisher: Hadley Rille Books (2014)

Narrator: Gary McKenzie

Length: 7 hours 50 minutes

Author’s Page

This not-so-far-future scifi story has humans settled on Mars and up to nefarious deeds. The pirates of Mars are quite a mixed crew (which was entertaining) who end up kidnapping a volunteer space rescue man (Peter). But his agency doesn’t have the funds to ransom him. Luckily, he has friends who improvise a rescue. Over all, the book had a Wild West feel to it, kind of a nod to the TV series Firefly.

Once the characters were set, there wasn’t much growth. But that was OK as this was a fast-paced action flick. I really liked that none of the women were wall flowers or simply there for pretty scenery. There was a lesbian sex scene which could be a bonus or a distraction depending on your view on sex in books. For me, the sex scene was OK, bringing a slight heat to my cheeks but nothing beyond that.

There’s plenty of fun tech in ships and weapons and protective gear. I don’t need it all to be true to life functional for me to enjoy the story. I was a bit skeptical of the human race being capable of having Mars settled and infested with pirates by 2074. But that was easy to set aside and simply pretend it was 2274 instead.

The storyline was predictable but for a quick action flick, I wasn’t looking for any deep mystery or great twists and turns. Over all, I would give this book a solid 3 out of 5 stars. My biggest issue was with the narration.

Narration: I hate being negative in my reviews, but I have to be honest and say that this was a pretty rough narration. McKenzie had a limited range in voice, so many of the characters blended together. His feminine voice was almost non-existent (which was an issue as about half the cast were ladies). Also, I could occasionally hear the pages being turned as he narrated. There were some words that were pronounced oddly and I had to stop and puzzle out what he meant. Also, his words were not always clear. For example, one of the characters is named Jack. So several times there is this phrased, ‘Jack asked….’. Well, the ‘asked’ part was not enunciated so it often sounded like ‘jackass’ and I thought the characters were joking with each other or insulting each other, when in fact Jack was being inquisitive. I felt that the story was being announced, like in some sports announcer voice, for much of the book. With such a narration, I have to rate the audiobook lower than 3 stars.

What I Liked:  Fun story line; Wild West feel; plenty of ladies who are active members of the story. 

What I Disliked: The narration; storyline was predictable.

What Others Think:

Windy City Reviews

Interview: Chris Bucholz, Author of Severance

BucholzSeveranceEveryone, please welcome Chris Bucholz. His book, Severance, jut launched via Apex Publishing! He made time to stop by and be interviewed. There’s plenty to entertain you in this one. Enjoy!

If you could run an obstacle course with 5 dead authors, who would you invite? Would there be a tasty drink involved?

Well that depends. If I’m competing against these other authors, I think I’d invite the weakest ones, ideally ones stricken by consumption. Kafka, Orwell, Chekhov, Keats. I think one of the Bronte sisters had it. And yes, for their own safety, I’d make sure they had plenty of fluids.

But if I’m cooperating with these authors, and physically rubbing up against or hoisting them places, then I’d probably steer clear of the sickly ones, because I don’t really need tuberculosis in my life right now. Let’s say the drinkers then. Hemingway, Chandler, Fitzgerald, Hemingway (again), and Faulkner. And sure there would be beverages, but only at the end of the course.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

First and foremost, you have to give the reader a reason to turn the page. Whatever it is about your book that’s grabbed the reader by the neck, you have to keep giving it to them. If your readers are there for your fast paced plot, then no, there usually isn’t time for bathroom breaks. But if these mundane occurrences serve to illustrate some important aspect of character, theme, or setting, then yeah why not set something in the bathroom? Something interesting, which usually means something humiliating. Explosively humiliating perhaps.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I briefly held a job where I had to call people on the phone and ask them to take a survey. I’m like a solid 2 or 3 out of 10 in terms of comfort level on the phone, so this wasn’t something I was very good at, and I spent an awful lot of my time there doing anything but. “I don’t think this is for you,” my boss told me. “And your crying is upsetting everyone.”

Writing is almost the exact opposite of a job like that, involving so much time sitting alone in a quiet room. I love it.

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm? 

Almost every work which ends up crossing different medias is still very much designed for one specific format first. It’s a movie first, then come the tie-in novels or games. Or vice versa. When writing something you can put in hooks, or design a setting that can be exploited by other media, but you still have to get that original work right first. And as far as I know, that’s what publishers are looking for: good books.

So yeah, my sole intent thus far has been to write good books first. And sure, I always have kind of dreamed about one of my novels getting turned into a really great breakfast cereal or something, but I haven’t let that affect my writing to the extent of putting in berry or marshmallow themed villains or anything.

In writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

I’ve always tried to make antagonists their own character first. They’re the hero of their own story, and should have all the motivations and characterization needed for that. So I want the reader to hate them, while still kind of relating to, or even sympathizing with them. An antagonist who’s occasionally likable is a lot more memorable. Also villains, and generally anyone who get to color outside the moral lines, are great props for basing comedy on. They’re often the funniest characters in my writing.

Redemption is something I wouldn’t employ casually when describing an antagonist’s arc. It can happen, and it’s certainly worthy of depicting in a book. But a reversal of character like that is big, and really deserves to be treated as the primary thematic thrust of a book. I could see doing a whole book about redemption, but for most of my antagonists? Nah. They’re hilariously rotten to the last page.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion? 

I guess the important thing would be to explore the key features of SFF – so, wildly varied and imaginative settings, with a strong focus on settings which reflect some aspect of our real world. Beyond that, I’d make an effort to show a broad range of subgenres and styles. So…

A Canticle for Leibowitz
Forever War
Rendezvous with Rama
Ender’s Game
The Hobbit
A Game of Thrones

And then in reading those, also mention The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Dune, Starship Troopers, Ringworld, A Brave New World.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work? 

I haven’t had to deal with too much gushing yet, having spent most of my writing career cowering behind the Internet. There’s been a bit though, and I still find it strange when friends and family members quote back to me pieces of my own writing. Although I’m conscious that I am writing for an audience, they’re normally always separated by computers and phone lines and bits of string and the whatnot. Not up in my face.

Also I use a lot of grown up language in my writing, and it’s weird imagining mom and dad reading that, and laughing and showing it to their friends, all beaming with pride about how I managed to cram “fuck” into a sentence eight times.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in? 

Because getting rid of a mattress is a pain in the neck, I once tried to win an argument with my wife about mattress longevity by changing Wikipedia to make it read they should last 70 years or so. This didn’t actually win the argument, because I didn’t marry an idiot, but it does mean I’m not allowed to use my computer or phone during any more arguments.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

I was reading long before I can remember anything, so that’s tough. The first things I can distinctly remember reading, probably because I read them one thousand times each, are those old Tintin books. They instilled in me my lifelong love for adventure, and are also probably responsible for the unusually high number of sea captains I’ve befriended.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Well I’m glad you asked. My first novel, Severance is coming out on December 9th. It is hilarious and can be pre-ordered here or here:

During my day job, I’m a writer for Stardock, and the lead writer for Galactic Civilizations III and Sorcerer King. Both of those are in public beta right now, with full releases scheduled for some time in 2015. And of course, there’s my hilarious and educational column up every week at

BucholzSeveranceGoodreads Blurb for Severance:

Severance, the debut novel from famed writer Chris Bucholz, the inhabitants of a generation ark find two unlikely heroes who fight to keep everything together.

After 240 years traveling toward Tau Prius and a new planet to colonize, the inhabitants of the generation ship Argos are bored and aimless. They join groups such as the Markers and the Breeders, have costumed orgies, and test the limits of drugs, alcohol, and pain just to pass the time.

To Laura Stein, they’re morons and, other than a small handful of friends, she’d rather spend time with her meat plant than with any of her fellow passengers. But when one of her subordinates is murdered while out on a job, Laura takes it as her responsibility to find out what happened. She expects to find a personal grudge or a drug deal gone wrong, but instead stumbles upon a conspiracy that could tear the ship in two.

Labelled a terrorist and used as a pawn in the ultimate struggle for control, Laura, with help from her friend Bruce and clues left by a geneticist from the past, digs deep into the inner working of the ship, shimmying her way through ductwork, rallying the begrudged passengers to rise up and fight, and peeking into an unsavory past to learn the truth and save their future.

Ambassador by Wiliam Alexander

AlexanderAmbassadorWhy I Read It: I have loved other works by William Alexander

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

Who I Recommend This To: For those who enjoy an alien adventure story that includes some cultural diversity.

Narrator: William Alexander

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 4 hours 37 minutes

Series: I sincerely hope this is Book 1 in a series – I want more!

Author’s Page

Modern day Minneapolis finds Gabe Fuentes babysitting his two younger siblings at the playground and surreptitiously chatting with his best friend. They aren’t suppose to be chatting. After all, their last get together involved a home made rocket and a small fire. Essentially, they have been grounded from each other for at least the summer. With a heavy heart, Gabe heads home with the twins in tow to his parents and his older sister. His parents are Mexicans that met in India and their homecooking is a fusion of the two cultures. Yum!

But I digress. You want to hear about the aliens. OK, so Gabe has an assortment of small unwanted pets he took in – a little fox, a bird, a lizard. And one night this sock puppet being pops into his room for a chat. He is Envoy and he is looking for a likely candidate from Earth to act as an Ambassador for the entire planet at the galactic assembly. Gabe is naturally intimidated by the offer but decides to give it a go anyways. Envoy proceeds to the basement where he uses odd bits and the clothes dryer to create an entagler to send the entangled Gabe to the galactic assembly. There Gabe becomes a target for at least one assassin and has a mystery to figure out. Meanwhile, back home his parents are facing deportation (since they are in the country illegally).

I loved this book. I really enjoyed William Alexander’s Goblin Secrets and Ghoulish Song but this is a new level of excellence from him. While suitable for all ages, it had a certain refined intensity that makes this my favorite Alexander book to date. I loved the multicultural aspect as so many SFF novels have Caucasians as the focus of the story. The Mexican-Indian cultural fusion of the Fuentes household, set in Minneapolis, reflects the real life I know and enjoy. Plus, I now want tasty curry tamales. Gabe’s awareness of this cultural diversity(with both the pros and cons of it) give him special insight for his new role as Earth’s Ambassador.

In the Galactic Assembly, the Ambassadors get to know each other through play. I thought this was a great point as well as allowing for fun and awkward moments. The author did a great job of capturing different approaches to communication from the various alien envoys, and also Gabe having to puzzle out the least familiar attempts at communication. Plus there is this nomadic warrior race that travels the galaxy dominating or annihilating any other alien race they come upon. They too have an Ambassador at the Galactic Assembly.

Pretty soon Gabe has lots of concerns. Someone is trying to kill him and he thinks it is another Ambassador. Plus his parents are facing deportation for being in the country illegally. I found these scenes particularly poignant as Gabe is trying to save himself, potentially the world, and now his family in particular. So much on one young man!

The ending was satisfying. It tied up the overall plot arc but left some questions open for a sequel (and I really do hope there is a sequel).

The Narration: William Alexander narrated his own story, as he has done with his other works. Once again, he was amazing. I have lived in New Mexico for over 2 decades and Alexander’s Hispanic accent for Gabe and his family was very believable; he didn’t over do it as so many non-Spanish speakers will at times. I also loved his various alien noises he had to come up with from time to time. He has clear distinct voices for both the male and female characters. In short, he is a joy to listen to.

What I Liked: Curry tamales!; Envoy looks like a sock puppet with google eyes (great imagery); Gabe loses a lot in this book but still continues on; the ending was satisfying and sets us up for a sequel.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great book!

What Others Think:

True Book Talks

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

Twitter:                @RobMatchettAuth

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

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