Treasure of the Silver Star by Michael Angel

AngelTreasureOfTheSilverStarWhy I Read It: Space opera that combines treasure hunting, archaeology, and space chase – can’t miss that!

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For light space opera junkies.

Narrator: Lee Strayer

Publisher: Banty Hen Publishing (2013)

Length: 5 hours 34 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a far flung galaxy, we have a disgraced starship captain (Drake) and an independent archaeologist (Tally) who must join forces to save the galaxy and perhaps earn a little money. Drake’s command crew made me think of Star Trek (Sebastien, Kincaide, Ferra, etc.) and the space battle scenes were reminiscent of Star Wars battles. Definitely a mix mash of pulp fiction and space opera.Drake struggles through the book to regain his former polish and glory after wrongly being placed in the Losers box with a bunch of Loser rejects on a Loser ship.

Then we have the treasure hunter/archaeology aspect thrown in. Tally made me think of a female Indiana Jones; she was very focused on her goal and not afraid of the physical effort it would take to get it. She had some of the most interesting scenes because they had to do with history, and therefore, had the most detail.

The plot was pretty straight forward and the characters, once established, didn’t change much. The bad guys were stereotypical and our heroes are 100% good guys. Normally, I enjoy a bit more variation in all of that, but for a fast paced, short space opera, it was decent. If you have some task where you need your hands and a bit of concentration, then this would be good braincandy for the background.

We had more men than women and I would have enjoyed seeing that a bit more balanced. But the few females we had in the storyline added to the plot and weren’t just scenery. The one sex scene came off as a bit awkward and didn’t engage my libido. I like my sex scenes and if one (or more) are going to be thrown in, they should count.

Narration: Lee Strayer did a good job of keeping the characters distinct. There were a few passages where the sentences were repeated, so not the cleanest on final editing. Still, the actual narration was well done with clear feminine and masculine voices, different accents, and proper emotions.

What I Liked: Fast-paced; fun; archaeology, hurray!; space battles!; treasure hunting; the ending.

What I Disliked: Only a few female characters; awkward sex scene; no character growth.

Reich by Drew Avera

AveraReichWhy I Read It: Odd as it sounds, I have never contemplated a world where Hitler and/or the Reich lived on, so this book intrigued me.

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

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy your speculative fiction doused with a political or mildly moral bent, then check this out.

Narrator: Kieth L. O’Brien

Publisher: Drew Alexander Avera (2013)

Length: 1 hour 52 minutes

Author’s Page

Set roughly ~150 years after Hitler’s death, the citizens of Germany still live under the Reich, the Aryan Nation reigning supreme within her borders. Life is orderly, a little too orderly, and plenty of people stomp around in big boots and ill-designed uniforms. The average citizen of Germany lives in a tyrannical hell, and those that keep the order abuse it. Without giving away a huge plot twist, this book is more than the back cover description gives it credit for.

We open with a boy who runs afoul of authority. I have to say that the first three jumps, or was it four?, in point of view through me in a creeped-out-by-the-viciousness-of-authority-gone-astray kind of way. Folks die in this book people, hence some of the shifting POVs. Yet, everyone is a hero in their own heads. I definitely enjoy a tale where everyone believes that they aren’t really all that bad. So it was good to show that through the shifting POVs.

At under 2 hours, the plot has to move along pretty quickly. So we start with the view of the average citizen born and raised this in this new Germany, then learn the BIG SECRET, which is followed by a rebellion of the citizens. A young mother ends up leading this rebellion and we end up following her for most of the book. While I found her character a bit lacking in military leadership skills (she is chaperoned around everywhere by chivalrous men), I can see her as a very efficient administrator of a country.

There wasn’t much in the way of character development once the character was established, but then, this isn’t a very long piece. I was more fascinated with the plot and the idea of a world where Hitler and/or the Reich are worshiped and carried on in some way. Other than that very questionable movie about Nazis setting up a long-term camp on the moon (oh and it was short story from the 1950s too, I think), I have never really contemplated this. Toss in Avera’s twist (which has something to do with misplaced authority on a very large scale) and you have an ever deeper level of contemplation.

All in all, Drew Avera is an author to keep an eye on, specifically his writing pen, to see what he turns out next.

Narration: O’Brien did a good job narrating this story. His German accent and little bit of German was well done (to my ears which have only had 2 years of school German). His little kid and female voices were believable and each character was distinct.

What I Liked: Interesting story premise; very interesting plot twist; enjoyed the shifting POVs at the beginning; everyone is a hero in their own heads.

What I Disliked: Could use more women.

What Others Think:

Christoph Fischer (review & interview)

Mich’s Book Reviews

Bubonicon 2014: Saturday

ABQ Steampunk Society & Cherie Priest

ABQ Steampunk Society & Cherie Priest

The Saturday of Bubonicon is where the most stuff happens – lots of panels, plenty of readings by individual authors, the mass autographing session, and the costume contest. For this post, I decided to talk about the panels and in another post I will share my crappy photos of the costume contest and talk about all the cool art I saw in the art show room.

First, let me say the Con Suite was awesome. This is my first time partaking of it and I was impressed. The hotel house rules put the Con Suite up on the 16th floor and they have to cover the expensive items (i.e. the TV) and the floor with plastic – which kind of makes you feel like you are walking right into a kill room, except there is all this food and nerdy people having merry geeky conversations. There were simple breakfast burritos that you could dress up with salsa or cheese, plenty of fruit, bagels, various beverages, and all sorts of appropriate con food (minion cheese nips!). And donuts! It’s been months since I had a donut and I was just dreaming about them last week.

Connie Willis on the Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit panel, Bubonicon 2014

Connie Willis on the Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit panel, Bubonicon 2014

Then off to my first panel of the day, Secret History versus Alternate History: Splitting Hairs. Since Ian Tregillis couldn’t make it this year (sniffle), Walter Jon Williams filled in as moderator. He was joined by Cherie Priest, John Hemry (AKA Jack Campbell), S. M. Stirling, & John Maddox Roberts. Williams quickly defined the terms ‘secret history’ and the grammatically correct ‘alternative history’ to the panel’s agreement. This panel was part history lesson and part discovery of other great authors of the genre that I need to hunt down and devour. Priest talked about how boiling water, two ladies (Clara Barton & Sally Thompkins), and their insistence to remain in charge birthed the organization we know today as the American Red Cross. There was also plenty of talk about dirigibles (real and fictional), submarines, and the what if photography came around a bit earlier (since all the tech was there but no one had put it together). Stirling highly recommended checking out the memoirs of Anne Lister, a mountaineer & traveler who died in the 1840s. Fredric Brown was also recommended, along with Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.

The ABQ Steampunk Society hosted a tea and chat with Cherie Priest that everyone was welcome to attend. The ladies of the ABQSS were all decked out in their outfits, complete with gadgets and personas. The tea was hot, the room chilly, the conversation excellent. Leah R, the ABQSS Event Organizer, was dressed as Briar Wilkes from Boneshaker (hooray!). Various steampunk touchstones in modern culture were discussed such as the tv series Jack of All Trades (which I need to Netflix!) and the robot Boilerplate (who has a tidy little faux history and website). Beyond Victoriana is a blog that focuses on steampunk, and especially on steampunk beyond the boundaries of England and English culture. I had quite a bit of fun browsing around on this site. Of course, Priest gave us a little history lesson (which is tied to one of her books) concerning Maria Boyd, a spy for the Confederacy in the Civil War. I forget exactly how Maria came up in conversation, but she had a fascinating life starting in her teens with plenty of marriages, internment camps, spying, affairs, etc.

Ernest Cline on the Pop! Culture Influences panel, Bubonicon 2014

Ernest Cline on the Pop! Culture Influences panel, Bubonicon 2014

Alas, the tea was drunk the hour was over and we all had to shove over for the next item on the schedule. I was off to Pop! Culture: Influences of Today’s Life, a panel moderated by Cherie Priest and which included Ernest Cline, Scott Phillips, Gabi Stevens, and Lauren Teffeau. Some of this panel I got, some I didn’t. I am a produce of the 1980s, but it was heavily influenced by country music and nothing but country music (unless I heard it in a movie). Don’t fret; I rectified this somewhat when I escaped to college and discovered all sorts of emo and alternative music. But there are still gaps in my 1980s cultural references as there were plenty of movies/music/tv that I wasn’t allowed to experience. Other parts of the panel, i totally got, like I can completely understand why someone (Cline) would want a DeLorean or two, and why they would trick them out with paraphernalia from Ghostbusters, Star wars, and KITT. There was plenty of talk about Star Trek, MST3K, and Atari to go along with it. Also, I learned an important Star Wars trivia – the gold dice hanging from the Millennium Falcon in the first movie were later stolen from the set and didn’t make a reappearance in the subsequent films.

Daniel Abraham moderating the Sidekicks & Minions panel, Bubonicon 2014

Daniel Abraham moderating the Sidekicks & Minions panel, Bubonicon 2014

The fun continued with Sidekick and Minion Cliches & Comic Relief, moderated by Daniel Abraham (who is half of the awesome writing team James S. A. Corey, the other half being Ty Franck). He was joined by John Hemry, Claire Eddy, S. M. Stirling, & Connie Willis. This panel started off with a rousing discussion of the definitions of sidekick, minion, and foil and then friendly banter about the differences, followed by examples – Pinky & the Brain, Harry, Ron & Hermione, Sherlock & Watson, Batman & Robin, Don Quixote & Sancho Panza. Who’s a foil (someone there to constantly screw up and create opportunities for our hero to look good)? Who is a minion (someone forced into assisting our evil empire builder)? Who is a sidekick (and there was tons of discussion on exactly what role the sidekick plays)? And here is another new-to-me author to add to my TBR pile – Sean Stewart. Then someone mentioned a podcast done in the style of old-time radio theater, The Thrilling Adventure Hour.  A few movies/tv shows, such as The Venture Bros. and Grabbers, were also mentioned.

Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit Before You Die was moderated by Connie Willis, who was joined by Yvonne Coats, T. Jackson King, John Maddox Roberts, and Courtney Willis (Connie’s husband). If you think I blathered on before, well, there was tons of good stuff discussed on this panel, and I could go on and on – but this is already a really long post. So let me say the following books/authors were recommended by the panel: The Wood Wife, H. Beam Piper, Samuel R. Delany, Discworld, Barsoom, Andre Norton, Redshift Rendezvous, Robert Forward, Riverworld, Karen Anderson, Richard K. Morgan, James White, Earthsea, And Flatland. There, if that doesn’t keep you in reading for 6 months, I don’t know what will.

David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014

David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014

The last panel of the day was What Scares You Now? Horror Today which was moderated by Craig A. Butler. He was joined by Cherie Priest, Scott Phillips, David Lee Summers, & Joan Saberhagen. First, let me say that I was NOT stalking Cherie Priest on Saturday. It just so happens that she was in nearly all the panels I had an interest in. No, the stalking came the next day – just kidding. But we did get to share an elevator (and some morbid humor) with several other ladies. Second, half the panel started off introducing themselves and their fear of centipedes. Hence, there was a fair number of centipede jokes throughout the hour. There was plenty of discussion about vampires and zombies; Priest said an interesting thing that I will attempt to clearly paraphrase: the two are opposite sides to the same coin. One makes you unique, powerful, desirable, and autonomous while the other strips everything unique from you, makes you undesirable, and leaves you no longer in control of yourself. I am sure there is a senior psych paper in that somewhere. Saberhagen was difficult to scare, as she fears none of the made up monsters. She did have bits and pieces to add to psychological terrors, such as when your senses say something is in front of you or happening that your mind says can not be. And of course there were lots of recommendations of what is good in horror now: Salem’s Lot, Manhattan, The Day After, Kate Kerrigan, The Ape’s Wife & Other Stories, The Slenderman.

And there we have most of Saturday. It really is a small convention, but that lets me ride the elevator with book celebrities and ask pesky questions at every panel (if I wanted to). And I get to know some of the regular con goers too. Plus several of the local authors bring their spouses and kids, so that is always cute to see.

Interview: David Lee Summers, Author of Lightning Wolves

SummersLightningWolvesFolks, please welcome David Lee Summers to the blog once again. He’s previously gifted me with a bit of his time in this other interview. Today we chat about fairy tales, Star Wars, Cherie Priest’s works, awkward fan moments, and question over the correct use of the term ‘parsec’. I had quite a bit of fun in reading through David’s answers and I expect you’ll be as entertained as I am.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

One of my favorite poetry collections is Jean Hull Herman‘s Jerry Springer as Bulfinch or Mythology Modernized. Throughout her collection, Ms. Herman recounts stories of Greek myth and recounts similar episodes from the Jerry Springer Show. It all goes to show that we not only project our hopes and aspirations into our myths, we also reflect who we are as human beings on our myths and sometimes we don’t always come off in the best light.

No matter what genre a writer tackles, they’re going to react to those things around them. Now a science fiction writer might either add some wish fulfillment and create the world she hopes will come about, or she might create the world she fears. The same is true for fantasy. We’ll raise up our better selves in the form of heroes and noble creatures while also dashing ourselves through villains and monsters. In answer to your question, I think modern fantasy fiction simply gives us a lens by which to view the modern world and attempt to make the best choices as human beings. A century from now, people will look at our fantasy in much the same way as we look at Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as a window into past times.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenGiven the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The fantastical beasts of fiction I would most like to encounter would be any Maurice Sendak‘s wild things of Where the Wild Things Are. They look vicious, but really, all they want to do is play and I could be their king by simply being fierce at them.

Although I love dragons and gryphons and would love to see one from a safe distance, I’d probably also want to avoid them at all costs because I’m not sure there would be a safe distance.

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?

I would love to see a PC game based on Cherie Priest‘s Clockwork Century novels. It would be fun to see a lot of the different locations and situations visualized. It could be done as a quest game with different objectives. I’d love to campaign through her alternate Seattle underground, or aboard the speeding train of Dreadnaught, or through the streets and swamps of her steampunked New Orleans from Ganymede. For my part, I would like to play the part of airship pirate captain Andan Cly, but there are plenty of great characters that a player could choose to be in this world.

SummersOwlDanceWhat nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

One of the go-to books in my personal library is The Atlas of Past Times. It was a book I found on remainder on a shelf outside a bookstore, but I find it a great quick reference when I’m checking where boundaries were at a given point in history or who was in charge of what, which can then point me to other historical reference materials. This is very useful if I’m working on a historical story, alternate or otherwise. It also reminds me about how fast boundaries have changed in human history.

In general, I think the most useful books for building cultures are collections of folk tales. I’ve used Grimm’s Fairy Tales, American Indian Myths and Legends by Erdoes and Ortiz, and Vampire in Europe by Montague Summers. There are also a lot of good projects where people have collected folktales on the web. These tell you a lot about people’s hopes and fears, their morality, and their taboos. Reading folk tales along with books from other times and places can open your mind and help you consider what future or fantastic cultures might be like.

NASA has many great online resources not only for their discoveries, but the spacecraft and vehicles that made them. This can be helpful when you’re thinking about how vehicles work in space. Plus, they often give you references for places to look for more information.

The way I approach any story at the beginning is to think about what building blocks I need for the story. Will I need to know about a certain region of the world? Do I want to build a culture that’s analogous to a culture that has existed? Sometimes I have books that will help answer those questions in my library. If not, I’ll go to the online card catalog for the local library and see what kinds of books they have on those subjects.

SummersTheSlayersWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Paradise Lost by John Milton is one I’ve always wanted to sit down and work my way through because it inspired so much of the modern lore about angels and demons—things people think are Biblical but aren’t. I’d also love to read the Iliad and the Odyssey all the way through. I’ve read large chunks of the latter, but it’s been a long time. On a somewhat lighter note, I’ve been looking for a good translation of Jules Verne‘s ‘Round the Moon, the sequel to From the Earth to the Moon. Verne ends the first book on a cliffhanger, with his crew going to the moon, but we don’t find out what happens until the second book and I haven’t tracked down a copy yet!

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay? Have others dressed up as characters from your books?

In fact the outfit I often wear to steampunk events is inspired by the clothes I describe for the inventor, Professor Maravilla in Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves. It’s a cravat, brightly colored waistcoat, and tailcoat. The bounty hunter, Larissa Crimson, was created by my daughter as her steampunk persona for events. As it turns out, she appears as Larissa on the cover of Lightning Wolves.

So far, I haven’t encountered anyone outside my family dressed up as a character from my books, but I’d be absolutely delighted if they did. They’d get a free book and I’d have to take a picture with them!

SummersSolarSeaIf you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

I would start with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. After all, she pretty much invented both modern science fiction and horror with Frankenstein. Next would be Arthur Conan Doyle. It would be great to meet the man behind Sherlock Holmes and see if I could get him to recount stories of some of his famous hoaxes. Another British author of the period who would be fun to have at this table would be D.H. Lawrence, to discuss both poetry and his perspective on northern New Mexico at the time my grandparents were doing their best to make a life there. Leigh Brackett would have to be on the list for both her role in early pulp science fiction, but for a Hollywood writing career that ranged from working with Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, to John Wayne in Rio Bravo, and finishing with the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back. With Leigh Brackett there, I would have to invite Ray Bradbury. Even though I got to meet him before he died, there are so many more things we could talk about and discuss now than when I met him in the early days of my career.

Who knows what they would order if left to their own devices, but with three people from England and two of them from the late Victorian period, I’d be inclined to invite them over to a sumptuous holiday meal of turkey and all the trimmings. If I were preparing it, it would be a smoked turkey with mole sauce on the side. I’d make sure there was plenty of wine and beer available. The one time I was with Ray Bradbury that he ordered something, it was a Heineken.

SummersDragon'sFallIf 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?

The hard part of this question is that a college semester is only going to have limited time and you can’t read all the greatest, best, or the most influential works. My inclination would be to use Frankenstein to discuss science fiction’s beginning as cautionary, morality tale. I would move on to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon to discuss the rise of science fiction as an optimistic genre. Starship Troopers would probably serve as classic military, hero-driven science fiction and as a jumping off point for the role of politics in science fiction. Dune would probably come next to show a continuation of the heroic saga, but subverted by the sensitivity of ecology and drug culture at the time it was produced. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester would probably come in there, too, to show how heroic science fiction could be completely subverted, allowing for the rise of cyberpunk and other genres. A novel like Paolo Bacigalupi‘s The Windup Girl would serve to show the return to science fiction as cautionary tale, the introduction of steampunk and a jumping off place for a discussion of the future.

Lots of other books would certainly be mentioned, if not substituted for these. Certainly Ray Bradbury’s novels and stories would be discussed. Lois McMaster Bujold and the Miles Vorsagian novels would be good examples of character and plot almost becoming primary to any particular science fictional element. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could come in as part of a discussion on the role of humor in science fiction. So many books so little time!

SummersRevolutionOfAirAndRustCare 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?

It was more cool than awkward, but last year at Phoenix Comicon, a fellow bought a copy of Revolution of Air and Rust. He was nice enough, but said he’d read it over and let me know what he thought. The next day, he came back to the table with one of his friends and he immediately bought Owl Dance and told his friend, he absolutely had to buy Revolution of Air and Rust. “That’s one of the best things I’ve read.” That just made my day.

As for awkward fanboy moments on my part, I went to see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan on the day of release with friends of mine from across town. We were all in high school at the time. They introduced me to their friend Jan Bixby. We were having a great time in line talking Star Trek, science fiction, and generally geeking out when an older man built like a bantam rooster with hair that looked like it put combs in their place walked up and had a few words with Jan. One of my friends pulled him aside and introduced me to him. “This is Jan’s dad, Jerome.” I shook his hand, then said something like “Pleased to meet you, sir”, then he went on his way. A beat or two later, I put it together. Jan Bixby’s dad was Jerome Bixby, the author of such original Star Trek episodes as “Mirror, Mirror” and “Requiem for Methuselah” plus the great, great horror story “It’s a Good Life” which was made into a Twilight Zone episode starring Billy Mumy. I think I was speechless and muttering incoherent syllables for a while afterward. One of my friends had to point out in typical high school fashion, “Yeah, but he’s just Jan’s dad.”

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

One argument that seems to crop up from time to time is whether or not soft science fiction has any value influencing scientists. For example, someone might point to the infamous line from Star Wars where Han Solo says the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” In the context of the movie, it’s clear he’s referring to parsecs as a unit of time, when in fact, they’re a distance that was initially based on the size of an arcsecond of angle on the sky. The claim is often made that not only is this bad science, it’s going to lead kids away from the sciences and we’re going to raise a generation of idiots. Therefore, this kind of terrible science needs to be eliminated from science fiction at all costs.

However, most astronomers I’ve known have gone into science precisely because soft science fiction got them thinking about the adventure of space at an early age. Carl Sagan famously fell in love with Mars because of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who got almost everything wrong about Mars. I’ve known generations of scientists who got interested in science because of both Star Wars and Star Trek. In my case, I remember hearing Han Solo’s line from Star Wars and wondering what a parsec was. Was it anything real? When I looked it up, I found out they got it wrong. So what? I still loved the adventure of Star Wars, but I have to admit, I felt a little bit superior to the writers of Episode IV. A whole new world opened up to me and I started looking up even more stuff.

So my side of the argument usually runs something like this: Science fiction influences scientists not because it’s right but because it’s fun. Sure as writers, we should do our best to get it right, but it’s the fun that makes people care. I’ve yet to meet anyone who stopped having an interest in science because George Lucas didn’t know what a parsec was.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

All Clear by Connie Willis

WillisAllClearWhy I Read It: I loved the first book in this duology, Blackout.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: WWII historical fiction fans who don’t mind a bit of time travel.

Narrator: Katherine Kellgren

Publisher: Audible Frontiers (2010)

Length: 23 hours 46 minutes

Series: Book 2 All Clear

Author’s Page

If you haven’t read Blackout, you need to do so before reading this book because the All Clear definitely needs it in order to understand the characters and setting.

This was an amazing conclusion to the party started by my favorite characters in Blackout. Eileen, Polly, and Mike are still trapped in WWII England during the Blitz with none of their drops opening. They come up with several creative ways to let Oxford of 2060 know where and when they are all the while trying to affect the timeline of WWII as little as possible. But despite their best of intentions, they are each thrown into situations where they simply can’t stand back and do nothing. Which of course causes them to doubt that age old rule about time travel: Historians can’t affect the timeline. Polly and Mike, our experienced travelers, try to keep their concerns about having affected the timeline from Eileen (because it is her first assignment). Lots of action in this meticulously researched book.

I am going to go all gushy on this book and try very very hard not to spoil any plot points. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down. If I ever have to do high school History Class again, please let them assign any of Connie Willis’s time travel novels! If I had had this book in high school, I might have gone on to major in History instead of Environmental Science. WWII had so much happening in it that I was totally oblivious to. For England, everyone was affected by the War, and nearly everyone had a role to play in it – young, old, woman, man, chorus girls, rectors, fire fighters, puzzle solvers, shop girls, and nurses. That is something that I really didn’t understand until I read this duology. All the wars I have been alive for have been fought on foreign soil and my daily life has not been affected by them. I feel a little uncomfortable saying that, now that I know how much WWII affected the world.

The characters were so much fun. Of course we have our main characters (Eileen, Polly, and Mike) but even the side characters all have these little ticks and notches that make them very real and personable. I especially loved the Hodbin children (Vinny and Alf) in book 1 and they have an appearance in book 2. Mr. Humphreys and Sir Godfrey, the chorus girls, and the ambulance drivers, even the characters from 2060 – they all make an excellent backdrop for our main characters. At first, I was a little frustrated that Mike and Polly wanted to keep so much from Eileen (to keep her from worrying) even though they are all stuck in the same barrel of sharks. But by the end, Eileen proves to be very resilient. So my initial frustration turned into deep satisfaction when Eileen is proven to be made of stern stuff.

This book has more than one plot line. We have Mike, Polly, and Eileen in the Blitz and then skip forward a few more years and we have Ernest towards the end of the war working with the puzzle solvers and Intelligence team that gave out false info in order to fool the Germans. We also have Mary, an ambulance driver, during the V1 and V2 rocket bombardment. Then we also have little snippets of 2060 Oxford. Towards the end of the book, we get one or two more short timelines. Despite all that, I felt it wasn’t too hard to follow. Perhaps this is because each chapter starts with a time and location.

The ending wrapped up questions about time travel, and required sacrifice. It was a beautiful ending that really spoke to the underlying theme of the ‘unsung hero’, those who served the country simply by holding it together. If you are one of those folks who have found WWII to be a dull topic, I ask you to give these books a chance – they could very well change your mind.

The Narration: Katherin Kellgren did a great job with this large cast of characters, nearly all of them with English accents. I loved how patient Eileen sounded, how the Hodbins could put curiosity and fake innocence into such simple sentences, and Mike’s American accent. The audio version of this book has a short forward by the author in which she explains some of her inspiration for a few of the characters in the books.

What I Liked: Time travel is used as a tool and it doesn’t go all mystical trying to explain the physics of how it works; I learned a lot about WWII from this duology; there’s a bit of Shakespeare; the Hodbins and Alf’s pet snake; how everyone was affected by the war and had to chip in and help out; very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: If you aren’t paying attention, you may get a little muddled on the timelines (but you can always flip to the chapter heading to figure out when you are).

What Others Think:

The Book Smugglers

SF Reviews

SF Site

Adventures in Scifi Publishing

Medieval Bookworm

Survivor: Blackout by Peter Anderson

AndersonSurvivorBlackoutWhy I Read It: I enjoy adventure scifi.

Where I Got It: A review copy courtesy of the blog tour (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Scifi adventure fans who enjoy serialized stories.

Publisher: Bastei Entertainment (2014)

Length: 44 pages

Series: Episode 1, Season 1 of Survivor

Author’s Page

Blackout is a fast-paced opening episode to Season 1 of Survivor. The story is told in present time with flashbacks that set up the how and why these space adventurers ended up in their current pickle. CERN, Switzerland, finds a group of scientist pulling together our adventurers for a special trip through a wormhole. Each of these specially chosen adventurers has some unique gift, and during the course of Episode 1 only 3 of those gifts are revealed. Ryan Nash is in charge of the voyage. Jabo is his right hand man. Maria dos Santos, Ai Rogers, and Gabriel Proctor make up the rest of the team. The CERN project is headed by a man with a mysterious secret – Dr. Kasanov. His right hand is Dr. Eva Kessler.

There’s plenty of suspense and action in these opening 44 pages. The back and forth between present and past made it easy to come up to speed on the project and also gave the main characters some backgrounds. I enjoyed the whole secret project feel to the mission. Plus there is Dr. Kasanov with his secret agenda, one that is only hinted at in this episode. Dr. Kessler gets to go all science-y for us science nerds out there, which is always nice in a science fiction story.

Ryan Nash, who spends the most time on screen and whose head we get to ride around in the most, strikes me as a man of action, going on gut instinct. In some ways, he is a very typical male hero that is interchangeable with any number of other male action heroes. But I enjoyed this episode enough to give Ryan more episodes to develop a more in-depth character. He did find himself in a highly unexpected and rather awful situation and it will be difficult to extricate himself from it. I have to see what happens next with him.

While Dr. Kessler got some decent screen time, she did most of the info dumps in the flashback scenes. Dr. Kasanov had the action, the decision making. On board the ship, present time, Ryan and Jabo called the shots while Maria was ordered around and Ai said nothing. So I would really like to see more active scenes with the ladies calling the shots or at least sharing important decisions. Again, I enjoyed the mystery of Episode one quite a bit and am willing to sit back and see what Episode 2 holds for us. I see lots of potential in the female characters and want to see what the author made of that potential.

Over all, there is plenty to entertain the reader in this episode – cool science, plenty of action, the mysterious powers of our adventurers, and the difficult and awful situation Ryan Nash finds himself in. Dr. Kasanov has his secret agenda and I think he knew what he was sending our heroes into – and I really want to know why he did so! This episode definitely whetted my appetite for the series.

What I Liked: Plenty of action; interesting mystery powers; secret agendas.

What I Disliked: Could make better use of the female characters, but I am willing to see how they progress in Episode 2.

What Others Think:

Mallory Heart Reviews

Dystopic

You can also catch other reviews, spotlights, etc. on the JKS Communications Blog Tour.

Guest Post: Jim Bernheimer, Author of Prime Suspects

BernheimerPenniesForferrymanFolks, please welcome Jim Bernheimer back to Dab of Darkness. I have enjoyed a few of his novels and a short story collection to date. ‘Enjoyed’ really is too light a term. I tore through three of Jim’s books back to back. Little housework was accomplished that week. So it is with great pleasure that Jim agreed to do a guest post and tell us about his latest book, Origins of a D-List Supervillain. You can also check out the Dab of Darkness interview along with my reviews of Prime Suspects, Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, and Horror, Humor, and Heroes.

A Post That’s Pretty Much About Nothing

I’ll start with thanking Susan for allowing me to come on and do a guest post.

She gave me a plethora of topics to choose from, which was cool, and it gave me the opportunity to use plethora in a sentence. Unfortunately, as I read on it became crystal clear that all her imaginative ideas weren’t clicking with me. The good news was she said I was free to come up with my own topic.

I’m a writer. How hard could that possibly be?

The answer is very. In the aftermath of finishing my latest novel, I find myself devoid of any meaningful ideas, so I’m going to try and totally wing it.

BernheimerOriginsOfD-ListSupervillainObviously I want to talk about my new book, Origins of a D-List Supervillain (available in paperback, Kindle/Nook, and with the audiobook coming soon). However I figured I shouldn’t be blatant because savvy and intelligent readers, like those visiting Dab of Darkness, can spot a shameless, self-promoter hawking their wares from a mile away. So I figured I’d have to be clever when I insert a paragraph promoting the prequel to one of the highest rated novels in the superhero genre. Y’know, so people won’t roll their eyes at me when they read this and do so without seeming to pander to this well-read and fascinating audience.

Prequel? Yeah, I wanted to be like George Lucas and go there – only with less Jar-Jar, because that’s how “Meesa Roll.” Anyway, I just did a single prequel. That’s all I had material for, which is also sort of like, well movies 1-3.

Maybe I should get rid of that last bit? Picking on the prequel trilogy and Jar-Jar is low hanging fruit. Then again, most everyone laughs; so I guess it stays.

What am I working on now? That’s always good to talk about. People like that, but that’s usually at the end of the guest post and I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Plus, it’s fairly self-evident. I’m reasonably certain that everyone can see that I’m out contacting blogs and trying to promote my latest novel. Also, there are all those tasks that my wife has reminded me that I’ve been neglecting while writing my latest rollicking adventure that’s already receiving a number of excellent reviews from readers.

I told her that I needed to spend most of July marketing it, so I’m safe for a few more weeks. The deck has lasted this long. Sanding it down and then applying a new coat of stain during the hottest months of the year doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of fun in the sun. Really, I should be thanking you folks for helping me delay that particular bit of nastiness. If sales continue to improve, I can probably make it to fall before the honey-do list becomes a get your butt off the computer and do something other than convert oxygen into carbon dioxide list.

I can’t really say I suffer for my art. It’s more like I suffer without my art or whenever my wife of twenty years realizes she married a slacker. I’m not sure.

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainSo thanks in advance for doing me a solid. What does that really mean anyway? It’s a good thing I’m just typing this and not saying it. After all, I’m about to turn forty-five. Isn’t it embarrassing when middle aged men try to use hip terms to try and sound cool and with it? The pinnacle of my wild side is usually Friday Night Magic or playing Cards Against Humanity, which clearly makes me a rebel without a cause. (Perhaps a rebel without a clue is more appropriate?) That’s when I’m not busy writing a number of really excellent books that are so good that everyone should take a moment and check out my Amazon author page right here – http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Bernheimer/e/B0028OE2UA

I figured putting my youngest daughter in the picture with me would help my sales better than one of just me. We just got a new puppy, so he’ll probably be in the next picture I upload there along with my daughter. My goal is to get enough cute things in there to offset my ugly mug because I’m kind of like the Grumpy Cat without the viral Internet presence. Heck, I just searched Amazon and discovered that the Grumpy Cat has an author page. It has a book out with 298 reviews! That eclipses even the 263 reviews for Confessions of a D-List Supervillain! Though, my story has a significantly higher rating. I can still hang my hat on that.

Now I can say I did some research for this guest post.

Do you think Susan will notice? If you folks are reading this either she didn’t or is tolerant of my rambling and feeble attempt at humor.

Wow! I’ve got over eight hundred words done and it’s about time to tie off the loose ends. This might prove to be difficult because the whole thing has been just one big loose end covering for a marketing ploy.

BernheimerSorceressI suppose now would be the right spot for talking about the next books I’ll be working on. My wife and several fans want to see the third Dead Eye novel and there is also a small, but rather vocal group who are eagerly awaiting the third Spirals of Destiny installment, but considering how well the D-List books are doing, I’d be an idiot (or an even bigger one than I already am) not to write more in that universe. So yes, I’m hoping to have two more D-List books ready by the end of the year. Also, I’m collaborating on a screenplay adaptation of my novel Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective mystery because I want to be that author who is muttering how Hollywood corrupted my art while cashing their check. For enough money, I’d even let them write Jar-Jar into … No! I’d have to draw the line somewhere.

Places to Stalk Jim Bernheimer

Website

Amazon

Goodreads