Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Christine Padovan, Narrator of Slade: Team Greywolf

Folks, please give a warm welcome to Christine Padovan. She kindly let me pick her brain with questions and is also offering up Audible.com/UK audiobook copies of Slade: Team Greywolf or Kyrathaba Rising (winner’s choice). Scroll to the end of the post to check out that giveaway!

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Wow, can it be a fictional character instead? I know for sure I would want former CIA agent, John Reese from ‘Person of Interest’ to save me, because he seems to be able to get himself out from certain death anytime it faces him! Or his colleague, former Army Intelligence Support Activity operative, Sameen Shaw. Either one would do nicely 🙂

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

The Forever War by American author Joe Haldeman, telling the contemplative story of soldiers fighting an interstellar war between humans and the Taurans. It’s a fascinating story, spanning years via time travel through space, and showing the social changes that occur to mankind on Earth and where it takes them over time. So well written and great humor too, I’d love to read it again someday.

Another amazing story that really grabbed and stayed with me since I was a kid is A Wrinkle in Time by American writer Madeleine L’Engle, first published in 1963. I loved that the main character was a girl like me 🙂 – just loved the whole story.

Note that both stories have happy endings. I’m a positive person and truly believe in good overcoming bad 🙂 and that goodness will always prevail 🙂

What makes you fall in love with a story?

Something about the storyline has to really connect with me in some way. If the idea behind the story doesn’t grab my attention – like with Eva Gordon’s writing with her paranormal suspense stories, where there is personal development between the characters as well as action and drama happening around them, then I’m probably going to stop reading the story.

The writings of Ayn Rand are examples of stories that make me think – a story that takes a hard look at social conventions and makes you think more about your own beliefs from your heritage and upbringing, and gives you a different perspective from someone else’s viewpoint.

Back in 2011, you were part of a Star Wars fan web series. What attracted you to this project? What were some of the highlights for you?

The attraction was I’m a sci-fi geek – I also did on-camera and voice work for ‘Dark Frontier’, an online web series for Triple-FictionProductions.net, a Star Trek fan series that films out of Florida. I was a lesbian Captain, Alexia Mandell killed off in the beginning of the pilot episode, but was also a Ferengi bar owner named Madam Mirak. I briefly played a Vulcan captain, Captain Searon on another webisode. Voice – was show announcer and did some ‘engineer emergency announcements’ over the intercom 🙂 Folks can check out the live streaming webisodes at http://triple-fictionproductions.net/DarkFrontier.html .

‘Rise of the Rebellion’, the Star Wars fan series was very fun. I was approached at the time in 2011 through Voice123.com by Can Akdag who is in Turkey, to provide the voice dubbing for the actress playing Flora Milon on webisode 4, ‘Jefi Business’ of the show.

Your readers can catch the webisode here: https://vimeo.com/channels/456071/21038731

I’m the show announcer saying ‘previously, on ‘Rise of the Rebellion’ and Flora’s one line around
the 2:15 timemark.

What was challenging is the actress said her line extremely fast and I had to watch the clip Can sent me
over and over, and I practiced timing the voicing of her line to fit her mouth movements. It was hard to do,
but it did work out with the takes I emailed back to Can.

The highlight was getting this as a credit to my IMDb profile. The only disappointment is Can did this out of his love for Star Wars and not to make money, so before he used my dubbing lines for webisode 5 – where I had a few more lines than just one – he actually didn’t dub webisode 5 and ended up going on to other projects that he could make a living at.

If you couldn’t be a voice actor, what would you chose to do?

I have a degree in Psychology and used to do some clinical social work and neuro-psychology research, but I would really enjoy being a police detective or an FBI agent. I’m fascinated with what makes people commit crimes such as murders, and I love the ability to look at all the details and put the puzzle pieces together, to solve the crime (like Sherlock Holmes). I’m very much a person who is into details, and when I watch television or meet people in real life, I look closely at them and can usually figure out if they are ill, or been ill, etc. or see through them with whatever quirks they possess. I really like understanding what makes people tick!

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you going into book narration?

Ha! I don’t think any voice actor out there ever thought they would be a book narrator or voice actor of any sort, unless they had a dream of being a radio dj or show personality :-). I was a tomboy as a kid – loved being a jumping bean since I could walk. Anything to do with being active and being outdoors, that was me!

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Well, one would be Sherlock Holmes (either the modern day version like Jonny Lee Miller’s character on ‘Elementary’ or the Granada series with the late Jeremy Brett). However, Sherlock Holmes probably wouldn’t give me the time of day! I’d be too uninteresting to him and he would probably sit there, quietly analyzing everyone else. (Or he would see I’m too much like him and he wouldn’t want to waste time talking to me!)

The others would be Spock, Ben-Hur (played famously by the late Charlton Heston in 1959), Claire Randall from Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series, and 13 year old, Meg Murry from ‘A Wrinkle in Time’. Wouldn’t that be an interesting little tea/wine party 😉

What is the first book you remember reading out loud to someone else?

‘The Story of Babar: The Little Elephant’ by Jean de Brunhoff to a class of kindergarteners when I was in 4th grade 🙂

Guess my narrating to listeners did start at a young age, but I didn’t know then that it would be a real career now!

Thanks for asking me all these great questions – I’ve really enjoyed this interview 🙂

 

About Narrator Christine Padovan:

Christine Padovan is a popular narrator with a warm, distinctive voice, who can make non-fiction stories sound compelling and interesting, with versatility in bringing characters to life in the world of fiction. Specializing in Romance, Self Development, and Sci-fi/Fantasy genres. Audible Editor Review of David Poole’s bio/memoir of NASCAR’s Tim Richmond: “…Christine Padovan’s captivating, lively delivery perfectly encapsulates Richmond’s freewheeling spirit and the kinetic energy of Poole’s prose. Her skillful performance makes this experience as bracing and compelling as a NASCAR race, making it difficult to pause after pressing play.” Winner, 2013 Best Audiobook for BADWATER by Toni Dwiggins –Goodreads.com/eFestivalofWords.com

 

Places to Stalk Christine Padovan

website ~ AudioFile ~ facebook ~ twitter ~ Audible ~ linkedin

Book Blurb for Slade: Team Greywolf: 

Runt, Cricket, is an honorary beta of Team Greywolf, an elite special ops branch of the Lycan Intelligence Agency. As a member, she poses as a human and collects forensic evidence. Because of her low rank, she is assigned in the rehabilitation of Prince Slade suffering from morphogenesis after his entire pack is murdered, and then his indoctrination as a member of their team. Babysit a psycho, domineering alpha? Not on her watch. To complicate matters, she lusts for Slade. Foolish. A runt can never take an alpha as a mate.

Slade has two choices. Honor his murdered kin and serve Team Greywolf, or once healed, obey King Conan and return to his territory with an alpha mate. Complicating his decision is his relentless desire for the hot sexy little she-wolf, Cricket.

Early into his recovery, Slade and Cricket are sent to investigate missing werewolves. An unstable werewolf seems hardly a match for a former Nazi werewolf bent on bringing on Ragnarok, the destruction of mankind.

Can they stop this evil regime, while conforming to pack law that forbids any chance of them fulfilling their desire for each other?

Amazon ~ Audible

Book Blurb for Kyrathaba Rising:

One hundred and seventy years from now, aliens decimate Earth. A relative handful of humans survive, hidden in deep subterranean enclaves that offer some protection from surface radiation. Although the main attack is now seven years in the past, one alien ship remains in orbit, and the conquerors are not content merely to let humanity lick its wounds…

Amazon ~ Audible

GIVEAWAY!!!

Christine is graciously offering up 3 copies of Slade, winner’s choice of Audible.com or Audible UK. Also, if paranormal shifter romance isn’t quite your cup of tea or if you already own this audiobook, each winner can request an Audible.com/UK copy of Kyrathaba Rising instead. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Have you ever watched a fan-made movie or series? 2) Which are you interested in more – Slade or Kyrathaba Rising? Giveaway ends May 5th, 2017, midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview: Gary & George of Unsung Stories

HockingDejaVuFolks, please welcome the brains behind Unsung Stories, an indie SFF publisher based in London, UK. Unsung Stories publishes intelligent genre fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, speculative, steampunk, and importantly those works that blur the boundaries between these genres.

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/horror/scifi fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

So this turned out to be a vast question that we couldn’t really answer concisely at all. We’re both in agreement on the themes of the answer, as below, but given it’s a big question we figured it deserved a big answer.

George

Starting with an easy one I see! All narratives, contemporary SFFH, Homeric epics, Jane Austen and even The Daily Mail, are reflective of the society that created them and help shape history. So unicorns, dragons, the Cyclops, witches, changelings and more, have very specific functions beyond whether or not people believe they’re actually there. The same applies to Ebenezer Scrooge, Hamlet, Emma Woodhouse and Malcolm Tucker.

Demons and angels. Our aspirations and our fears. How we manifest these in art has changed, absolutely, but the reason why we do it remains as essential and indefinable as ever.

As to whether contemporary SFFH affects human cultures today? Of course! The how is more telling. One of the most pervasive SF narratives of recent times is Star Trek, which is at its core a utopia project. Sure, they’re knocking on the doors of the Heavens, and it’s about intrepid adventurers and individual acts of heroism, but the thesis is of humanity at its best. Reaching to the stars, embodying justice in a universally welcoming and productive society. Add a splash more hubris and tragedy and you’re getting back into the same territory as Homeric epics. Only this time Icarus has shields and inertial dampeners.

One idea I have is that we use different genres for different purposes. So science fiction is about exploring hypotheses for humanity. What our existence will mean when the fundamental state of humanity has changed. Gibson does this excellently, Haldeman’s The Forever War and countless others. It’s a sandbox for thought experiments, inherently philosophical at heart.

Fantasy has created vast explorations of history and the moralities of governance and action. We can transpose political realities into new environments and comment on and satirise them. There’s so much of humanity’s history to understand and fantasy lets us do that freely, calls on us to tackle political and sociological Gordian knots.

Finally horror might be the most introspective of the three. Sure, it’s about scaring people but it’s also based on what we are afraid of. It’s more than big rats, it’s the darkness and the void, our weaknesses and fears, our inability to protect what we love.

Obviously that’s three broad generalisations, and only offered as a springboard for thought. It’s a big question!

Gary

All of human history, all human life, is shaped by narrative; it’s how we fundamentally understand and process the complex, messy reality we find ourselves in.

I see that SFFH affects human culture today in some very profound ways. Speculative fiction as a whole has always been a wonderful way of exposing and exploring collective hopes, dreams, fears and nightmares.

Trends in science-fiction can accurately map entire cultures’ feelings towards the future – do we see utopia or dystopia ahead? Will technology set us free, or create new traps for us? Do we even believe in a future anymore? In turn, these narratives exploring these issues will inform how we think about ourselves and the way we live, and where we are going (or perhaps going wrong).

The horror genre is a place where our worst fears, anxieties and repulsions can be explored (and exploited). I think there are two camps of horror fiction, the cathartic ‘ghost train’ types of horror, where everything works out in the end, where the evil is defeated and mankind overcomes: fiction ultimately as a form of validation that the world is OK. 

Then there’s the other kind of horror, pioneered by Lovecraft and perfected by writers like Thomas Ligotti, where there is no victory, no catharsis, where the bad things win. This is my preferred model of horror fiction – not because I think life is hopeless or inherently ‘bad’, but because I think this kind of writing serves a useful function, to allow readers to face and explore difficult emotional topics.

We have a deep psychological need for monsters. Through storytelling we can turn an abstract fear into something physical that can be, at least potentially, defeated. Fear of the consumerist, mindless masses become zombies, aggressive male sexuality takes form in the werewolf, the ghost is a clear manifestation of past guilt/trauma, and so on.

With fantasy the enduring appeal of Tolkien and the LOTR films, the continued popularity of epic fantasy novels, the Game of Thrones phenomenon are all things that cannot be discounted. It would be nice if some mainstream fantasy was not based on the models established by Tolkien (Celtic/Saxon/Norse European myths, essentially). But there’s obviously some appeal to that kind of mythic setting that has a real appeal.

WhiteleyTheBeautyIt’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

The invite list first: Iain M. Banks, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett first of all because you need wise, nice and irreverent people to balance any debate. To stir the pot I’d add Hunter Thompson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Adam Roberts, Octavia Butler, John-Paul Satre and Charles Bukowski. That should provide enough knowledge, experience and strong-willed extroverts to ensure a healthy debate, right? Or at least an unforgettable evening. Actually, maybe add Imperator Furiosa as referee.

As for the books? I’d go with Ubik, The Trial and The Master and Margarita. Not because they are perfect bedfellows but the all fascinate and terrify me in equal measure. They all poke at the consensus of the ‘normal ‘state of affairs, be those philosophical, social or political. And they all leave you with very difficult questions.

Are strict guidelines for genres dead in today’s book market? Where does Unsung Stories fit in? 

Increasingly I’d say genre is being normalised, the distinctions eroded by audiences growing more sophisticated. We’re not the people who thought The War of the Worlds was real. Genre tropes are commonplace now and we are seeing an increasing number of crossover success stories both ways. Ishiguro is exploring genre in his work. Cloud Atlas was nominated for the Booker and the Clark and Nebula. Gaiman is an international sensation despite being massively Genre, even starting out in *gasp* comics. And of course SF and fantasy are all over TV and cinema. So it’s increasingly not about defining the lines between ideas, but the opportunities in how they interact.

Here at Unsung Stories, we love non-generic takes on genre. We want to give a home to writers who grab this opportunity with both hands. The people who don’t see rules or conventions, just the way their story is. Commissioning isn’t about if we can see a market, it’s about finding the stories we love, and know deserve to be published.

LangmeadDarkStarWhat now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Philip K. Dick, probably. He’s the man who posited a Matrix-like reality decades before even Gibson started at it. Aside from writing some of my favourite books his take on reality fascinates me as much as it seemed to trouble him. Especially because he didn’t seem to have that layer of detachment from the problem academics do. So I’d talk to him about what his philosophies of perception and what it is he thinks we’re not seeing.

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

All of the bits that weren’t terrible, ideally. But if I had to pick one it would be The Sandman because it achieves so many different things. It’s a glorious collection of short stories, it’s a revelation for the potential of comics, it’s a vast indulgence of amazing ideas, it’s funny, it’s scary, it’s utterly heart-breaking in several places, and so much more.

In fact, if I could have just one page, I’d ask for Delirium and Death in the funeral procession from Worlds’ End. It might just be perfect.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

One thing I find fascinating is the development of monsters in horror. After the explosion in the 1960s monsters abound, starting with the classics like Dracula, Frankenstein’s creation and werewolves. Then aliens are introduced, incomprehensible powers given physical form. Soon we’re creating new demons for cinema like Freddy and Jason, where they can be defeated but only temporarily. The step after is the one that grabs me though, where they all suddenly become human. Us. No more immortals, no masked killers returning from the grave. Teenagers. Your neighbours. Your children…

With SFF we’re beyond grimdark and sci-fi horror now as well. Bank’s Culture is full of stories that blur the ideas of who is the hero. We love Game of Thrones and Abercrombie because it’s not so simple to say who the hero is. We’re interested in the grey areas more these days, probably because we understand them better than the extremes of heroism or villainy.

So yes, absolutely. And watching how this growing canon of influences develops is something I find incessantly fascinating.

The other thing is post-apocalyptic fiction is huge right now, which works on the base assumption that we somehow failed as a race. As a result of technological developments in the last 20 years we have burgeoning global identities, a greater awareness of what is happening across the world. Maybe we’re coming to realise it’s not about heroes and villains, but about our collective responsibilities as a species?

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 Unsung Stories into the multimedia realm?

I think it will continue to evolve as it already has been. Ebooks are commonplace now for instance, and apps and enriched variants are going the same way. A lot of the most interesting examples I’ve come across have been games – Device 6 or Dear Esther for example – but that doesn’t mean it will all be games. What I will say, is I suspect the great ideas will come from writers/indies who create something as a labour of love. People in the industry are readers, gamers, fans, just like everyone else. So they’ll be there with everyone else when good things happen.

Unsung don’t have plans right now, but if we see an idea we like enough we’ll go for it. There’s no reason for stories to be limited to books any more (however much we love them). The crucial thing is to ensure the story works for the format. So, for example, rather than shoehorning a popular book into a graphic novel I’d want to see something written with comic format in mind. It’s about best serving the stories, after all.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment where you were gushing over an author’s work?

I exist in a perpetual state of anxiety as a rule so that would mainly involve every conversation I’ve had with an author, ever. I’m also particularly bad at recognising people as we rule so my worst moments are the opposite kind where you talk to someone, usually spouting flawed opinions at great length, to then discover they’re Pat Cadigan, or someone like that. Things like that happen to me, so I operate the working assumption that my brain hates me.

That said, when I met Brian May I had a not-inconsiderable haircut myself and proceeded to compliment him on his hair. Not his music, charity work or career as an astrophysicist. His hair. I got the impression I wasn’t the first person to do that.

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

I’m not sure what it was called but there was something involving a mad professor taking a teenage boy to Jupiter where he had to play hockey with 20 metre tall bruisers. It’s the illustrations I remember more than anything. Something I remember the title of though, is either the Mary Plain books by Gwynedd Rae, or The Arabian Nights. That and poring over the Terran Trade Authority books in my primary school’s library.

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

We have our Unsung Live event scheduled for 20th October in Kings Cross, London. This is SFF storytelling, with readings from Simon Guerrier, Robert Sharp, Cassandra Khaw and David Hartley. We’re doing this because we couldn’t find any live-lit events for genre fiction and thought there should be at least one! Tickets are free, you just need to RSVP to secure a place at – www.meetup.com/unsung/events/224926265/. It was very popular last time so booking is advised!

We do have other things in the pipeline in terms of books, but nothing I can talk about yet. They’ll be good though, promise.

Places to Follow Unsung Stories

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Science Fiction Villains

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainSo today I came across this post from Two Dudes in an Attic that talks about SF villains. I just couldn’t resist making a list of my own and playing along. You should pop over to Two Dudes and see who made their list.

The Meliorare Society from Alan Dean Foster’s Flinx & Pip series – I started reading this series as a kid, probably 10 or 12. And the Meliorare Society scared me silent. They do gene splicing, experimenting on humans, etc. And when one of their pet projects gets away, they won’t stop at much in order to get their specially spliced and baked human back.

The Cylons from the 2004 Battlestar Galactica reboot – In the reboot, they look human. Not only that, they get more and more human as the series progresses, making for a complicated storyline. Still, you think you’re sleeping with a regular human, and suddenly he or she can simply give your head a good squeeze and get brain jelly for their efforts.

FahyFragmentBrain bugs from Jim Bernheimer’s Confessions of a D-List Supervillain – OK, from this title you might think the Supervillain is the one I worried about. Nope, it was the brain bugs. They fly around, attach to your neck, and then make you very susceptible to orders from whoever controls the bugs. I would hate for it to be that easy for someone to take over my life.

The Old Man of Phoenix Island, by John Dixon – He believes, truly, with the depths of his heart that he is doing the right thing. He experiments on kids who are court-ordered to his island, splicing and modifying, adding drugs, a few electronics. His certainty that he is doing it for the better of mankind left me chilled.

The Reavers from the TV series Firefly – They don’t simply kill. No, they torture, they eat, then they kill. It’s messed up.

Nearly all of the life forms found on Hender’s Isle in Warren Fahy’s Fragment – While fascinating, they all evolved to kill and eat. Yep. The island has been isolated for hundreds of thousands of years, or more. The creatures who evolved on this little speck of land have no respect for humans and their tech. Nope, they just want to paralyze, dissolve, or eat them. This was a great, chilling romp through island monsters.

MunteanuOuterDiverseThe Taurans from Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War – We never really see the Taurans, just their effects on humans. Humans have had to throw everything they have into this war for survival – mech suits, space travel, etc. The Taurans have this huge impact on human society (everything from politics to science to industry to what is for dinner) and that strikes me as a little scary.

The Vos from Nina Munteanu’s Outer Diverse – Here we have another alien race, rarely seen, that threatens genocide to the entire human race. And they have nearly accomplished it. Indeed, the few humans that are still around are spread through out a galaxy that is run by other aliens. Humans aren’t in force, they don’t rule worlds, they aren’t main contenders for anything. In fact, they are kind of the bottom of the barrel.

The Gitai from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill – This alien race closely resemble frogs, and they want all humans dead. While it isn’t in the book, I kept on picturing how frogs eat, essentially swallowing their meals whole. Blech! I don’t want to be defeated in battle to be swallowed, possibly still alive, by a frog.

So, what are some of your favorite villains of science fiction? Do they make you tremble? Do they make you avoid certain movies on dark and stormy nights?

 

My Book Loves of 2013

GaimanStardustHere is a post in which I gush about my favorite books of 2013. Out of the roughly 133 books I read this year, these are the ones that really stand out on reflection for one reason or another. Feel free to scroll until you see something interesting.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A reread, and a read along. I love this book and the movie. Fantasy, a quest, coming of age. Loads of fun and happy ending.

MathesonIAmLegendI Am Legend by Richard Matheson

New-to-me author. Vampire/zombie book, but starts off 1970s California, a simple virus. Loved the science, the survivalism, the societal twist at the end.

Squatch with Turning Point
Squatch with Turning Point

Turning Point by Robert P. Snow

Murder mystery set in northern NM. Lots of fun, recognize lots of the places in the book.

CooperGhostHawkGhost Hawk by Susan Cooper

New-to-me author. A historical fiction about the early settling of America told through a Native American’s eyes. Done really well, fully engaging.

HaldemanForeverPeaceThe Forever War & Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

New-to-me author. Great military SF. Awesome characters.

BearUndertowUndertow by Elizabeth Bear

Amphibious alien natives used as a workforce. Plus assassins. You can’t go wrong with that combination.

FremantleQueensGambitQueen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

New-to-me author. Tudor historical fiction told from Katherine Parr’s point of view.

WatersPayingPiperPaying Piper by Ilana Waters

A children’s book, beautiful illustrations, excellent story.

Pico consented to pose with my book.
Pico consented to pose with my book.

The Shadow of the Sun by Barbara Friend Ish

This was a reread for me, and a read along. Still a damn good book even the 2nd time through, and dissecting it. High fantasy, swords & sorcery.

Smudge Cat as a book stand!
Smudge Cat as a book stand!

Shadow Chaser by Alexey Pehov

Book 2 int he series. Thieves, elves (black pointy teeth!), dwarves, gnomes, a quest.

FahyFragmentFragment by Warren Fahy

New-to-me author. A fun, modern-day beastie flick. The biologist in me loved this book.

Pico resting before dinner.
Pico resting before dinner.

The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

New-to-me author. Epic fantasy that is different, heavy on the economics, various humanoid races.

SakurazakaAllYouNeedIsKillAll You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

New-to-me author. A short, excellent military SF with a twist.

HassonEmoticonGenerationCoverThe Emoticon Generation by Guy Hasson

New-to-me author. A fun collection of Hasson’s short stories. Some humorous, some creepy. All interesting.

ReichsBonesOfLostBones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs

New-to-me author. A later book in the series following the forensic anthropologist. Addictive.

CollingsBillyMessengerOfPowersBilly: Messenger of Powers by Michaelbrent Collings

New-to-me author. A kid’s book, but a good one. Adventure, magic, a quest. Lots of fun.

HearneHuntedHunted by Kevin Hearne

I love the whole Iron Druid series. I think I am all caught upon this series. Luke Daniels does an incredible job of narrating the books.

Pico was chasing the little green got my camera flash makes.
Pico was chasing the little green got my camera flash makes.

The Reason for Dragons by Chris Northrop and Jeff Stokely

New-to-me author. A graphic novel, modern-day, a nod to Don Quixote.

Claudie is an old, dilapidated kitty.
Claudie is an old, dilapidated kitty.

The Hero and the Crown & Sunshine by Robin McKinley

While Sunshine was a reread, The Hero and the Crown was my first read through. Both are excellent. Female leads, magic, companion war horse, and Death by Bitter Chocolate.

LynchRepublicOfThievesThe Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The 3rd book in the Gentlemen Bastard series does not disappoint. Read this as part of a read along. Great series.

GabaldonOutlanderOutlander by Diana Gabaldon

A reread, but it had been nearly 2 decades. Excellent historical fiction with sex. Yep. Not just silly, light kissing.

Chilly day = Cat Nest (Pico, Heldig, Waffles, Smudge)
Chilly day = Cat Nest (Pico, Heldig, Waffles, Smudge)

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

New-to-me author. This was an excellent audiobook. Kid’s book. Adventure, masks, goblins, theater.

CoorlimSkyPiratesOverLondonSky Pirates Over London by Micheal Coorlim

New-to-me author. These are fun, short stories set in a steampunk England. I’ve read 4 of the books so far and enjoyed this one the most.

ShowalterAwakenMeDarklyAwaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

New-to-me author. This is one of my naughty book secrets. Simple plots, fun characters, erotica element. Aliens, assassins.

Stout snuggling with the Nac Mac Feegle.
Stout snuggling with the Nac Mac Feegle.

Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky)

All four were read this year as part of a read along, rereads for me. I love these books. They are my favorite Terry Pratchett novels, having a more serious bent than other Discworld books I have read.

BowmanTornFromTroyTorn from Troy by Patrick Bowman

New-to-me author. Another kid’s book and a great one for exploring Ancient Greece.

CoreyLeviathanWakesLeviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

New-to-me author. Well, I had read Daniel Abraham before this book, but Abraham writes this series with Ty Franck under the James SA Corey pen-name. Epic science fiction has never been better.

SchoonZennScarlettZenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

New-to-me author. My inner biologist geeked out the entire time reading this YA SF.

HillTheHatchingThe Hatching by Liesel K. Hill

I know it’s a short story, but it was one of the best I read all year. Dragons. I won’t spoil it for you. Go read it.

Pico & Chupa
Pico & Chupa

Makers by Corey Doctorow

New-to-me author. Quirky, insightful, and fun. It follows these two tinkers for a few decades. Cutting-edge SF.

BensonBlackStilettoThe Black Stiletto books by Raymond Benson (The Black Stiletto, Black & White, Stars & Stripes)

New-to-me author. Addictive. 1950s superheroine, New York. Need I say more?

LornHopeForWickedHope for the Wicked by Edward Lorn

New-to-me author. I also read his Life After Dane, but I like the Larry Laughlin character quite a bit. Horror. Illegal substance level addictive.

BracewellShadowOnCrownShadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

New-to-me author. 1001 AD Normandy, royal families. Excellent, excellent historical fiction.

Heldig will steal anyone's body heat...if they'll hold still for it.
Heldig will steal anyone’s body heat…if they’ll hold still for it.

The Wild Life of Our Bodies by Rob Dunn

New-to-me author. This nonfiction was incredibly fun. The odd, slightly embarrassing things I learned from it to sprinkle party conversations with…..

MimsHidingGladysHiding Gladys by Lee Mims

New-to-me author. A cozy murder mystery that I didn’t want to put down.

Tofu being used as a bookstand.
Tofu being used as a bookstand.

The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster

More SF modifications for my inner biologist to geek out about. Excellent mystery, excellent SF, excellent characters.

Heldig & Tofu
Heldig & Tofu

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

Book 6 in the Wheel of Time series, and part of the massive read along of the series. Incredible ending to this particular book. Robert Jordan gets better with each book.

Waffles is always bathing. A very clean cat.
Waffles is always bathing. A very clean cat.

The Mongoliad by Neal Stephenson & crew

A very fun historical fiction set in the time of Genghis Khan. Luke Daniels was amazing as the narrator.

ScalziRedshirtsRedshirts by John Scalzi

Haha! A fun Star Trek parody. Wil Wheaton as the narrator was perfect!

Typical morning cat cuddle pile on the bed.
Typical morning cat cuddle pile on the bed.

The Legend of Broken by Caleb Carr

Another awesome historical fiction. Sorcerers, hunters, midgets, a pox, and a crazed ruler who needs to be taken down.

This is Heldig's 'nice kitty' face.
This is Heldig’s ‘nice kitty’ face.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

New-to-me author. This is Book 1 in the trilogy, and my favorite of the series. Steampunk, Austria, airships, a woman in disguise and in service to the crown.

I didn't catch Pico in a good mood.
I didn’t catch Pico in a good mood.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

Only Jeannette Walls can pull on my emotions as she does. Modern-day tale of two sisters trying to find some stability.

Chupa and Streak with a good book makes a decent cat pile.
Chupa and Streak with a good book makes a decent cat pile.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

New-to-me author. WWII female pilots and spies. One of the best WWII books I have ever read.

IgguldenBloodOfGodsThe Blood of Gods by Conn Iggulden

The 4th book in Emperor series tells what happens after Julius Caesar fell. Excellent series.

BernheimerPrimeSuspectsJim Bernheimer books (Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, Prime Suspects, Horror, Humor, and Heroes)

New-to-me author. Uh, yeah. You might of noticed that I listened to 3 of Bernheimer’s books in ~2 weeks. Yeah, addictive. Mostly SF. Go, read, enjoy.

I meant for this to be a more dignified pic, as I so enjoyed this book, but Pico refused to put his bath on hold.
I meant for this to be a more dignified pic, as I so enjoyed this book, but Pico refused to put his bath on hold.

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

I really should read beyond Book 2. Both Books 1 & 2 were excellent. Historical fantasy, or just straight up epic fantasy.

SilvermanGardensOfAmpheiaGardens of Ampheia by Joshua Silverman

A novella set in his Legends of Amun Ra series. Think Ancient Greece set on an alien world. Magic, armor, SF.

MunteanuOuterDiverseOuter Diverse by Nina Munteanu

New-to-me author. SF detective story. Lots of fun.

Stout wouldn't hold still for a pic!
Stout wouldn’t hold still for a pic!

The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock

New-to-me author. Magic, steampunky, England, detective. Intrigued?

Toothless Waffles being used as a bookstand...again.
Toothless Waffles being used as a bookstand…again.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

Historical fiction, Elizabeth of York, the War of the Roses. Very good, easy to get into.

WillisBlackoutBlackout by Connie Willis

New-to-me author. Excellent time travel, WWII SF-Historical Fiction. Great characters, great plot.

AcevedoNymphosRockyFlatsThe Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo

Vampire detective, nuclear weapons mill, and nymphos. Intrigued?

PoznanskyTwistedTwisted by Uvi Poznansky

A collection of her short fictions. Offers a darker twist to such things as the story of Job, working with clay, and elderly cats.

Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

HaldemanForeverPeaceWhy I Read It: The Forever War greatly impressed me.

Where I Got It: The library

Who I Recommend This To: If you like mech warriors, then this is a great book.

Publisher: Ace (1998)

Length: 368 pages

Series: The Forever War Book 2

Sites such as Goodreads list this book as a sequel to The Forever War (which was fascinating, far future, fighting aliens), however Joe Haldeman wrote this book 20+ years after The Forever War was published, and it is set solely on Earth with no space travel or aliens. Anyway, unclear if the two are meant to be linked in anyway other than a similarity of title. The world is roughly divided into the technically advanced and educated and the starving, farming masses. Julian Class has a degree, a jack in his head, and was forced into the soldier boy program for the military. For 10 days at a time, he will be jacked into a full-body pod that allows him to operate a mechanized warrior from afar, along with his team. They will know each other intimately for those days, often blurring who is who. Being jacked with another human is one of the most intimate things a person can experience, and if that jack is ever broken or removed, a person often feels they have lost part of their mind, if not their soul.

Julian spends his non-military time teaching at a university. His lover Blaze, and once upon a time mentor, is also a professor. And an older woman, which is a fact that only seems to aggravate Julian’s mother. The world is in constant turmoil by the ongoing conflict, much of which rages in South America. So far, the South American forces are fractured and lack the same level of technology as the American forces. Add to this, a radical religious group that works unceasingly to bring about the end of the world, quickening Man’s reunion with The Almighty.

Haldeman introduces the revolutionary technology of these miraculous boxes that can provide any item requested, provided the raw materials are provided. This allows several governments of the world to provide the basics for all their citizens. Holding down a paid job is not longer necessary for day to day living; now such a paid job provides extras and a sense of self-worth. In Haldeman’s book, this created a society that is largely made up of people leading pointless lives, often enjoying a little bit of crime to obtain the credits needed to purchase such luxuries as alcohol. Only a small percentage of society elect to pursue some career, Julian and Blaze  being two such folks.

As the tale unfolds, the nitty gritty side of the mechanized warriors and the unclean war Julian has been forced into become more clear. Haldeman also doesn’t shrink from exploring the suicidal thoughts of Julian, delving into his reasons. There is also sex, which is equally beautiful and messed up (which is often how it is in real life). Blaze and a fellow scientist stumble into a discovery about the Jupiter Project that could end the known world, but how will they convince the right politicians and the scientific world in time? Add to that, Blaze and Julian have friends working secretly towards world peace, and they may just have the key to it…..using the jacks. All told, it was an amazing story wholly different from The Forever War yet just was compelling having grabbed a hold of me (by the short and curlies) from the start and not letting go to the very end.

What I Liked: Mech warriors are destructive yet bring intimacy for the jacked team; Blaze is a strong, educated, and still faulted woman; the various discussions of suicide are done within the storyline; the struggle for peace is not simple and nor would there be a lack of casualties; the sex; I clicked with Julian from the beginning; the fanatical religious group was well-organized and chilling; the women are just as real, flawed, and deadly as the men.

ScifiExperience2013BadgeWhat I Disliked: Well, been staring at this section for 5 minutes and can’t come up with anything. So that means it was a pretty freaking good book. Go get a copy and settle in with a good drink and your favorite posable robot.

This month is The Science Fiction Experience over at Stainless Steel Droppings. Make sure to stop by over there for more great SF.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

HaldemanForeverWarWhy I Read It: A new author and Vintage Scifi Month.

Where I Got It: My library.

Who I Recommend This To: Any scifi nut who wants a story that appreciates and utilizes time dilation.

Narrator: George Wilson

Publisher: Recorded Books (1999)

Length: 9 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Forever War

The first half of this book was pretty interesting. The second half blew my mind. This is my first time experiencing Joe Haldeman and I do believe he will have to go on my Eternal Bookshelf. William Mandela, our narrator, was born in the 1970s in New Mexico, and eventually drafted into the war with aliens – the Taurans. Military training starts planet-side and then moves to the moon and low-G warrior mech suit training. The author then makes use of the time dilation effect of space travel. Mandela’s unit is gone for ~8 months, but decades have passed on Earth by the time they have returned. William and his sweet heart Mary Gay Potter (which is the name of Haldeman’s wife in real life) reconnect and try to reintegrate into a world that has moved on without them. Eventually, they reenlist to be sent light years away for another battle. Once again, months pass for them and this time 100s of years pass back on Earth.

I often pictured the actor Will Smith as William Mandela. Mandela was so easy for me to relate to, being an average guy with a science background swept up into a high death rate war with a foreign entity that few have seen and none understand. While the main character was William, I still appreciated the equality of women serving in the military and the female characters were equally diverse as the minor male characters.

Let’s talk the science. I loved the use of science in this book, even though it was originally published in 1974. I have a vague understanding of physics, so the dated science in this book, such as principles of space travel, didn’t bother me at all. I was fascinated by the mech warrior suits. The simple dangers of stomping around in one these suits in low or zero G places were excellently built into the plot. The time dilation aspect of the story was put to great use, allowing the story arc to cover 1000s of years while keeping a handful of familiar characters throughout.

Let’s talk about the sex. Don’t worry – the book didn’t go into details and I won’t give you diagrams ;). We start off with both men and women serving equally, side by side. Promiscuity among the ranks is enforced by law. OK, kind of sounds like a teenage boys fantasy. However, the ladies did all the picking of partners and later on we learn the men all made donations to a sperm bank before undergoing vasectomies. Interesting. Many male writers incorporate some sexual liberalism and/or fantasies into their works, but few include even such a mild form of castration. The other aspect I appreciated was that as the soldiers were gone from Earth for 100s of years, the Earth’s population exploded. With that explosion came a rise in homosexuality to point where heterosexuality becomes the anomaly instead of the normal. This was particularly fascinating and completely unexpected.

VintageScifiBadgeGeorge Wilson, the narrator of this audiobook, was a great choice providing a clear voice, capturing Mandela’s intensity, sadness, joy depending on the situation.

What I Liked: The great scope of the story; Mandela was such an easy character to get twined up with; all the science and gadgets; Mary Gay; the ending was satisfying and also left the door open for the sequel.

What I Disliked: There was one briefly described orgy scene where I felt the women should have been better represented.

This month is Vintage Scfi Month over at Little Red Reviewer. Make sure to stop by over there to catch some great SF. Also, January and February are The Science Fiction Experience over at Stainless Steel Droppings. So also check out Carl’s blog for all sorts of SF fun.

I am also including this in the weekly Read & Review Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to check out this week’s collection of reviews. readandreviewbutton

ScifiExperience2013Badge