The American Fathers: Escape from New Orleans by Henry L. Sullivan III

SullivanEscapeFromNewOrleansNarrators: Adrianne Cury, Cameron KnightJennie Moreau, Juan Francisco Villa, Kevin Theis, Rebecca Cox

Publisher: Sullivan Serials (2016)

Length: 1 hour 13 minutes

Series: Book 3 The American Fathers

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 3 in the series, it works well as a stand alone, though it is definitely enhanced by enjoying the first 2 episodes previously. However, if you do pick this up as a stand alone, you might want to check out the glossary first to pick up some of the lingo, characters, and overall atmosphere of the series. For the audiobook, this glossary starts at the 59 minutes 20 seconds mark and lasts just over 14 minutes.

Devin Wayne is a hunted man and he doesn’t know it yet. He’s just waking up to another day in the near-future New Orleans that is complete with AI, coffee, and annoying yet loyal friends. Mike has unexpectedly stopped by Devin’s hotel room and Devin, always on the edge, nearly took Mike for an assassin. Devin isn’t far off the mark because Mike is there to deliver some bad news: a hit has been taken out on Devin and one of the most skilled assassin’s in the trade as been hired.

This addition to the series is quite different from Books 1 and 2. While Swept Away and Dinner Invitation were more cerebral and full of political intrigue, this book is all action. It starts with Devin pouncing on the unexpected Mike to their attempt to escape New Orleans to the cat and mouse game Devin and MCM play throughout the rest of the book. Also, there’s no sex. Still, even though this book has a totally different tone, it is still pretty darn good.

There’s a decent amount of future tech built into this tale. I loved the vehicle AIs and all the stuff that can go wrong with such things. Then Devin, who is a highly skilled operative, has some tricks up his sleeve for evading MCM. Yet not to be outdone, MCM has some tracking gadgets that Devin and Mike weren’t expecting.

The action rolls in waves throughout the book so I never got battle fatigue from the story. Things start off mellow with Devin waking up and then he goes on high alert as he tackles an unexpected Mike. Things mellow out again as the two men catch up and then things peak again with the first attack from MCM. This really worked for me because I don’t need one adrenaline rush after another in my stories.

The banter between the two men was very amusing. They obviously have a long history and have built up this trusting friendship over time. Like Mike, I was hoping just a little that Devin would describe some of his intimate moments with his girlfriend Irene Daco (who we met in Book 2) but I can respect a person who doesn’t kiss and tell. I do want to know more about MCM and if this episode will be the last we see of this assassin.

While this episode of the series had a nearly all-male cast, it balances out well with the series as a whole. The female characters were definitely the stars for the first two episodes. Now we’ve seen that Sullivan can do action scenes as well as he does political intrigue and sexy relationships. All around, I’m impressed. I look forward to seeing what he does next.

I received a free copy this book.

The Narration: The quality of this series continues to be top rate. The vocal narrations are well done, each character being well cast. I especially liked Devin’s voice, being a rich manly voice. Mike was playful and impertinent and I could just picture the impish grin on the narrator’s face as he performed this character. There’s a handful of other voices throughout the story and I really liked the New Orleans accent some of these characters had. Sound effects and background music complete the experience. These are well timed and also don’t compete with the narration, which remained crisp and clear throughout.

What I Liked: Future tech stuff; plenty of action; some humor as well; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was an excellent story!

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Tofu cleaning his foot
Tofu cleaning his foot

Narrator: Jeff Gurner

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2009)

Length: 15 hours 57 minutes

Series: Book 1 Daemon

Author’s Page

When master computer game creator Matthew Sobol passed away, gamer geeks mourned. Life continued for everyone else… except for two programmers who each died mysteriously. This sets off a chain of events which appear to be controlled by Sobol himself. However, it’s really Sobol’s computer daemon, a near AI program that Sobol created to carry out all these tasks upon his death. Those who realize what is really happening race against the daemon, attempting to stop it in it’s tracks before it’s final task can be carried out.

There were some things I liked about this book and some things that I did not. So let’s start with the negative and get that out of the way. This book did drag in several places. Each time I thought it was time I gave it up, something exciting would happen and pull me back into it. But then it would drag again and I contemplated shelving this book unfinished perhaps 4 times throughout the story. While there are some female characters, this book is definitely male dominated, which is bordering on unlikely in today’s age. Plus this is science fiction, so why not live a little and have a few more female characters, right? Finally, there were several times where I simply thought to myself, ‘That’s not bloody likely, ‘ in regards to a characters decisions or actions. Each time I did that, it took me out of the story and made me question how much thought did the author really put into this story.

So, besides all those things that dragged a decent book down into mediocrity, there’s some exciting stuff going on here. The major premise of the story, a master daemon program that can carry on after your death making decisions as you would have made them, was the thing that drew me to this book. Then we have the murder mysteries happening. Detective Seebeck was one of my favorite characters, being assigned to the investigation on the death of one of the programmers early in the book. He played an important role for the entire story. Lots of crazy stuff happens to him and he’s hard-pressed to explain much of it.

The news media plays a significant role in this book. For instance, the daemon is triggered to come on and run it’s program when news headlines report the death of Matthew Sobol. The reporter Anderson is contacted by this Daemon and offered the story of her life if she follows it’s instructions. Then, of course, the news agencies have a feeding frenzy over all the deaths and strange attacks linked to Sobol in some way. For instance, there’s this pretty intense attack by remote controlled Hummer vehicles at Sobol’s estate.

Finally, Sobol was a computer game programmer and a fan of computer games in general, so there’s at least one Easter Egg for game savvy fans to hunt down. I really liked this aspect of the story since that is so true to Sobol’s character, which we learn about through his daemon. It also allows tech analyst Ted Ross, who has played Sobol’s games, to predict some of the daemon’s next moves.

There’s many action scenes and plenty of odd deaths in this book. Yet there are stretches were things are just being reiterated and characters are making decisions that aren’t in line with what has already been established. All told, there’s a decent story in here somewhere and at the end I was glad I stuck it out and finished the book. I may or may not continue the series.

The Narration: Jeff Gurner was really great with this book. There’s a handful of accents for the characters and he does them all well. He kept all his character voices distinct and his female voices were passable. I liked his voice for the daemon quite a bit.

What I Liked: Computer game geeks; a master daemon carries on his creator’s wishes after his death; remote controlled everything!; news media can be a help or a hazard; plenty of action scenes; murder mystery.

What I Disliked: There were plenty of places that dragged in this book; few female characters; unlikely character decisions.

What Others Think:

SF Signal

SF Site

Matt Cutts

Blog Critics

The Great Geek Manual

The Wrong Unit by Rob Dircks

DircksTheWrongUnitNarrator: Rob Dircks

Publisher: Goldfinch Publishing (2016)

Length: 5 hours 37 minutes

Author’s Page

Heyoo, an autonomous servile unit housed in a bipedal chassis, was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Now he’s in the middle of nowhere with a most cumbersome, demanding package, one that could save humanity. Heyoo rewrites his mission to include getting the package to the indicated place, even if it takes a very long time. What Heyoo finds there is unexpected…. and rather foul-mouthed.

This was a very fun piece of science fiction! Don’t be fooled by the rather bland cover art, this story is full of humor, adventure, and a quest to save humanity. Heyoo is an interesting character, being a mobile AI unit that is now on his own. He likes humans, but he doesn’t really understand them. Now out in the middle of nowhere with a rather needy package, he has a lot of time to rewrite some of his programs to make him adaptable to the demands of this new adventure.

While Heyoo is certainly the star of the book, there’s plenty of other interesting characters. Of course Wa is central to the storyline. He’s proof that humans can get rather attached to their AI units as well. Brick was a great addition. She provides the much needed human history and also the link to the future of humanity. As more humans and at least one other AI servile unit (Arch, Sarah, Oscar, Tener) are brought into the storyline, the plan to free humanity becomes clear.

There’s plenty of humor mixed in, keeping the story light and fun. It also moves along at a good clip, so I never got bored even when there was lengthy travel going on. The storyline takes place over many years. As such, our hero Heyoo gets a little beat up. I found the story especially endearing in how Heyoo’s friends came to care for him. All together, it’s a fun, humorous story with a touch sentimentality.

I received a free copy of this audiobook.

Narration: Rob Dircks did a really good job. I’m always a bit concerned when I see that an author has narrated their own work, because not every writer can narrate well. However, that was not something I had to worry about with Dircks. His performance was great, having distinct character voices and a few effects that enhanced the audiobook experience. I especially liked his accent for Brick and her wonderful endearments for people.

What I Liked: AI – yay!; Heyoo is a unique character; plenty of humor, some of it involving cussing; the package that will save humanity; how AIs can get attached to their humans and vice versa; a touching story that isn’t heavy; Brick because she’s awesome; great narration. 

What I Disliked: Not really a dislike but the cover art doesn’t really speak to the SF nature or humor of the story.

What Others Think:

J Barron Owens

The American Fathers: Dinner Invitation by Henry L. Sullivan III

SullivanDinnerInvitationNarrators: Adrianne Cury, Amy MontgomeryFawzia Mirza, Cameron KnightJennie Moreau, Juan Francisco Villa, Karin Anglin, Kevin Theis

Publisher: Sullivan Serials (2016)

Length: 1 hour 56 minutes

Series: Book 2 The American Fathers

Author’s Page

Note: Since this is Book 2 in the series, it is better (though not absolutely necessary) to have read Book 1, Swept Away, before reading this book.

Once again, we return to the near future America, where powerful houses run the country from behind the scenes. Irene Daco, the first American dynastic princess, is a current hot topic. Sheila, a smart academic who believes the dynastic houses will ruin the country, has been swept up into an undefined relationship with the mysterious Jasira, a congressional correspondent. Now Sheila is offered a dinner date with this dynastic princess and she’s tempted to go.

It’s been over a year since Book 1 came out in audiobook format, but this sequel was worth the wait. I think it’s even a little better than Book 1 (which I really enjoyed). First, my little criticism about the lack of cutting edge tech in Book 1 has been blown away by the wonderful tech integrated into the story here in Book 2. I can’t tell you all the awesome stuff going on in this book because that would be spoilery, but I was definitely impressed with the cutting edge tech and how it added to the ambiance of the story. I will say one thing: artificial intelligence. Yay!

Jasira and Sheila continue to be my favorite characters. Sheila is so open and straight forward, perhaps even a little naive in some ways. Jasira is full of grace and mystery and I can’t tell what her motives are, but I do hope she’s on the side of good. The chemistry between these two was sweet and intense in Book 1 and it continues to be intense in Book 2. The love scene was fantastic – detailed, hot, and charming all at the same time.

Irene Daco plays an important role in this story and she isn’t what I was expecting. I was glad that we finally get to meet someone from one of the big American dynastic houses. Sheila has pre-formed ideas about Irene and I think that’s going to be hard to shake. Yet I have faith in Sheila because she’s a fair person… and yet I also worry that someone is trying to trick her. Perhaps we’ll find out in the next episode which way that will fall out. This book does end on a little cliffhanger, so that’s another reason to look forward to Book 3.

Just as an side note, I want to give this story credit for bringing the Peters map into play. It’s difficult to portray the Earth accurately on a flat surface and the Peters map shows land area correctly, which looks a bit different from the maps we typically see in American school systems. The conversation between Sheila and Jasira about Sheila’s work on the dynastic houses was pretty intense, and the Peters map was the perfect comparison.

Over all, this is a smart and sexy story and I really enjoyed this second installment. I’m definitely looking forward to what the author will do next with this tale!

I received a free copy this book.

The Narration: The audio experience continues to be excellent. The ladies performing Sheila and Jasira do an incredible job – the accents and emotional inflections are spot on. Also, the love scene is so well done I have to wonder if there’s real chemistry between the performers. All the character voices are distinct. The production includes ambient sounds to add to the over all experience, never drowning out the dialogue. Just a quality production all around.

What I Liked: Political intriuge; to trust or not to trust; Jasira and Sheila continue to captivate; Irene Daco; the love scene; the AI; the cliffhanger – I need more!; great narration and sound effects.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was an excellent story!

Science Fiction Anthology: Volume 1 by Ray Jay Perreault

PerreaultScienceFictionAnthologyVolume1Narrator: Christopher M. Allport

Publisher: Raymond  J. Perreault (2016)

Length: 2 hours 42 minutes

Author’s Page

In order of individual publication, here are my reviews of the stories contained in this anthology.

The Greatest Host

In this short and amusing story, Ilrod and his fellow organisms (known as the Mists) have had to abruptly leave their planet where they shared a symbiotic relationship with their hosts for many years. Now, alas, the planet is destroyed and many of the Mists have been lost. It takes many, many years, but they eventually reach another habitable planet and begin their search for a new host species.

This was a cute story that gave me several chuckles. The Mists made me think vaguely of jellyfish in that each Mist is made up of individual molecules that cooperate together to make one functioning being. The Mists look like just how their name implies and they search for symbiotic relationships with other animals.

I enjoyed the last few minutes as Ilrod and his fellow Mists discover a new species to play host to them. The descriptions from Ilrod’s point of view were amusing and I quickly guessed what kind of animal they had come upon. Once again, the author has provided quality entertainment.

Circle Is Closed

Commander Leopold Harnessy is leading a mission to test a new FLT (Faster Than Light) technology. The humans of planet Horizon hope to find old Earth and perhaps resettle her but first a test ship must be sent to see if the new tech works. If it does, then larger ships could be sent the same way. The Horizon humans left Earth many, many generations ago but they still revere her. Now, they wish to reclaim that heritage.

Harnessy must leave his family on Horizon as he undertakes this possibly dangerous mission. His daughter Rose asks him a serious question about Earth during the send off ceremony. Harnessy hopes to find the answer to it and many other questions. When Harnessy & crew arrive at Earth, she is healed of all the environmental damage that forced humans to leave her so long ago. However, Harnessy and his shipmates are met with a surprise.

The author did a great job for such a short story. There’s plenty to consider in this compact tale. I was quickly drawn into the tale. There’s some big questions the main character has to consider, both before he leaves Horizon and once he gets to Earth. While the story moves swiftly along, it has depth.

Progeny

The 4 laws of conformity have maintained a functional society for generations: 1) Continue making units; 2) Protect all units already made; 3) Expand the knowledge base; and 4) Maintain variation in thought. Helen strives to follow the last 2 laws in her scientific studies.

I quite enjoyed this tale of non-organic beings and their well-organized society. Helen and Lorenzo often join Eve and Roberto for dinner and discussion. Helen is a bit fascinated by the local DNA-based life forms, but the topic is considered a bit gauche. Nevertheless, Helen and her lab assistants (Ivan and Lorraine) want to continue their observations.

What Helen and her assistants discover is rather disturbing to not only herself, but to her society. It was pretty cool how the author had the main character discovering this long-forgotten truth and how her immediate friends and colleagues react. It’s akin to when humans started accepting that the Sun, and not Earth, was the center of the solar system. I’ve read Perreault’s SIMPOC books, but this is my favorite of his works so far. Definitely some food for thought there. What if a society developed so far and forgot their origins, only to discover them later?

Good Morning …Processes Must Be Improved

Robert has been assigned to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, to mine methane. Much of the operation is done by robots and a human is needed to fix minor break downs and such. The resident built-in AI is TCI12, or Tessy. Things start off well enough but then little by little they fall apart.

This was a fun piece of scifi. While it’s a bit of a classic plot set up, I still enjoyed seeing how the author played with it. There’s some miscommunication with Earth about shipments, supplies, and the state of the miningbots on Titan. As Robert sees mangled messages congratulating other mining colonies, he both redoubles his efforts and becomes more and more pessimistic.

Meanwhile, Tessy does it’s ‘best’ to keep Robert on schedule, prodding him with daily reminders of the shipping quota and how many bots are down. On the surface, Tessy seems quite helpful and organized. Can an AI have ulterior motives? Or a (twisted) sense of humor?

I liked that Robert comments a few times about how it’s a tough assignment, being the only human on Titan for so many weeks/months at a time, how important it is to stay busy in order to stay mentally balanced. This is a good question for the story, not just for humans, but for any sentient being stuck on Titan with minimal socializing for any significant length of time.

I liked the ending because it speaks of further mischievousness. I hope when us humans start using AI for stuff in general, folks go back to the ‘Perreault classics’ and build in safety features that prevent and/or recognize questionable behavior in AIs at an early stage. This tale is a worthy read, and would make a good lunchbreak story.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from the author.

Narration:  For The Greatest Host, Christopher M. Allport did a great job with this short story. As the voice of Ilrod, he was excellent at portraying the Mist’s emotions, first at the loss of the planet and fellow Mists, and later at the wonder of discovering such a compatible host. For Circle Is Closed, Christopher M. Allport tossed in some real ship sounds for when the ship AI is answering questions or announcing something. Each character was distinct and the the female voices were realistic. He also performed an old lady and a little girl with success. For Progeny, Christopher M. Allport did a good job narrating this story as well. His female voices were believable and his story-telling style was straight forward, letting me sink into the tale without being hung up on vocal theatrics. For Good Morning… Processes Must Be Improved, Christopher M. Allport gave a good performance. He made transmissions sound like transmissions with radio noises and such. I liked his helpful, calm voice for Tessy. He also did a great job with Robert’s voice, showing how Robert was somewhat enthusiastic about his assignment at the beginning and how little by little, that changed over the course of the story.

What I Liked: For The Greatest HostThe Mists and their quest to find a symbiotic host; Ilrod’s viewpoint; the way the new host is described gave me a chuckle; the final lines. For Circle Is Closed: Humanity misses it’s home planet; the ship AI; the surprise found on Earth; great narration. For Progeny: The 4 laws of conformity; Helen’s quest for more info; what Helen discovers; how the characters react to it. For Good Morning… Processes Must Be Improved: The cover art; a classic plot set up redone well; Tessy is just so logical and sounds so sincere; Robert’s character arc for the story; how things end – with the hint of a new beginning for some other miner. 

What I Disliked: Nothing – this is a great collection of short SF fiction!

Serengeti by J. B. Rockwell

Heldig and Chupa being anything but helpful.
Heldig and Chupa being anything but helpful.

Narrator: Elizabeth Wiley

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2016)

Length: 10 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

Serengeti, complete with AI brain and human crew, is a Valkyrie class warship with the Meridian Alliance fleet. Their task was to analyze the area surrounding the spot where the Meridian Alliance scout ships disappeared during their mission to search out the Dark Star Revolution fleet. However, they find almost nothing of the scout ships, which is disturbing. Then the Meridian Alliance fleet shows up under the command of the AI Brutus. The arrival of the Dark Star Revolution fleet completes the guest list and the party gets started. Things don’t go well for the Meridian Alliance in general and Serengeti in specific. Pretty soon, she is stranded in deep space with little power, heavy damages, and a reduced crewlist. Drastic measures must be taken to preserve what is left of the crew.

I really, really enjoyed this book. The initial scouting mission by Serengeti and then the near-epic space battle between the two fleets was totally gripping. The second half of the book is all about Serengeti the AI and her attempts to save her human crew. It’s a much different pace but I still quite enjoyed it. First, I really liked this symbiotic relationship between the AIs and their human crews. For Serengeti the AI, her captain, Hendrickson, was a jewel of a commander and somewhat of a friend. From the beginning, we see how Serengeti cares for her crew, tries to assist without embarrassing or overshadowing them (such as is the case with Finley). Later, once the crew has been placed in cryopods to conserve resources, we learn more about how Hendrickson became Serengeti’s captain. I was much amused by the friendships between the AIs and how some of them found the AI Brutus to be too set in his ways.

After the big space battle and Serengeti’s failed attempt to flee, the remaining crew are put in an escape vessel, but the locking clamps can’t be released. Serengeti has lost too much power and she herself must sleep in order to survive. She tasks a small worker robot, who she names Tig, to be in charge of the remaining bots. My one little quibble is that the bots from here on out become a bit anthropomorphized. I still liked the book, but now it was much more WALL-E  instead of Hal, not that Serengeti is homicidal. The book goes from this mostly serious, nearly epic to this tiny hope of survival in these cutsy-wutsy bots. It did take me a few minutes to switch gears. Both halves of the book are good, but they are totally different paces.

The story’s end does build the suspense. Serengeti and her remaining bots are doing their best to keep the crew alive and the ship on target for the nearest inhabitable scrap of dirt. The tension mounts as Serengeti looses more and more abilities, as resources dwindle. They are in space for decades. At the end, we aren’t sure if Serengeti the AI makes it, though there is hope. The author did a great job in wringing some emotions out of me with Serengeti the AI.

I won a copy of this book from the author via The Audio Book Reviewer with no strings attached.

The Narration: Elizabeth Wiley did a great job with the narration. I liked all the funny robot sounds. Her voice for Brutus and Hendricks were also very good and masculine. As the story required it, she did well with imbuing the characters with emotions.  

What I Liked: The book cover art; the initial mystery of what happened to he scout ships; the near-epic space battle; the relationship between the human crews and the ship AIs; the back and forth between the AIs; the drastic measures taken for survival after the battle; Tig and his bots; very good narration.

What I Disliked: Tig and his bots were a bit over-anthropomorphized.

What Others Think:

The Audio Book Reviewer

Science Fiction Book Reviews

Literary Treasure Chest

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Ray Jay Perreault, Science Fiction Author

PerreaultSIMPOCHumanRemnantsEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Ray Jay Perreault. I’ve quite enjoyed his various SF novels, especially those focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI). You can check out my reviews on his work HERE. Today, we chat about how his past work fed into his creativity as a writer, the subtle meanings of words, the AI classics, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss the GIVEAWAY (ebook or audiobook) at the end of this post.

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?

Interesting question and to be honest, I’ve never thought of such a scenario. One way or another each of the options has a certain allure to it. I guess it boils down to the fact that I’m a Science Fiction Author which would lean me towards the space alien. Of course I don’t want to offend any superheroes or supernatural creatures. If the situation would arise where I need to be saved by one of them, I don’t want to burn any bridges as the saying goes.

PerreaultGoodMorningProcessesMustBeImprovedReality 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?

I think ‘reality’ is important in all stories. There needs to be elements of the story that readers can relate to.  Every element of our lives is based on shared experiences, even language. When we use a word it brings up a similar image in the mind of the other person. The same applies with storytelling. It is important to have a shared set of experiences for the reader to understand and appreciate what is happening. Of course an author can go too far and present a scene where the amount of mundane detail exceeds what is necessary for the story. Some readers like the details and others want to focus more on the story. My personal style is more towards the latter. My stories tend to move quickly along the story line and I use ‘reality’ in scenes all long as they support and contribute to the story. I have seen some successful authors that can take a couple of pages to describe a field of flowers, but that isn’t something that I do. When I write a story I focus on the story and action, then I have to go back and add the ‘reality’ where I think that it’s necessary to set the scene.

I do admit that I change my styles. Some of my books focus on the action and drama where others focus on the back story. In some situations I like to fully develop the back story because I think it helps when the reader gets to the action. In my book Gemini, I spend almost half the book describing a totally alien culture. I go into their agriculture, history, religion and social practices. I did that for a couple of reasons, first off there were few shared experiences with the reader so I had to develop the similarities. Second, their culture and religion was a key element of the action scenes. If I didn’t take the time to give their back story the action scenes wouldn’t have made sense.

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

This might seem as an evasive answer, but I’ve been very fortunate. I spent 10 years flying airplanes in the US Air Force, during which time I traveled to 27 countries. After that I worked for Northrop Grumman and helped design the best weapon systems in the world. During my years at Northrop I had a tremendous amount of autonomy and could do what I needed to get the job done. There were times where I had to make an appointment just to see my bosses. Some of my jobs were damn near impossible, but they were challenging and demanding with associated risks and potential success. They were difficult but I enjoyed the challenges.

I’ve always been lucky, in the fact that my jobs needed creativity. The creativity helped me to become an author. I’ve always loved storytelling and extrapolating future outcomes. Both skills contribute to writing a successful Science Fiction story.

PerreaultProgenyWhat were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I always enjoyed reading and letting my mind see the story the author was presenting. I got into Science Fiction early and loved the classic writers. They seemed to open up a world of possibilities that my mind grasped immediately. At that age I never saw myself as an author, although I did enjoy creative writing classes. I remember one of my favorite college courses on public speaking. In particular I remember one live speaking assignment where we would go to the head of the class and the instructor would give us the subject and we had to immediately put together a five minute speech on that subject. I remember one in particular where I was given a paper clip and I had to talk about it for five minutes. After a few seconds of thought I was able to come up with a very entertaining five minutes talking about the design, the functionality and even the artistic design elements of the paper clip. Needless to say I got an A for that and I think I got an A for the entire course.

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

Without a doubt the first required reading would be Asimov’s “I Robot” series of 38 short stories and 5 novels. They are the basis for all AI writings and were a major influence in most of my books. I loved his ‘Three Laws of Robotics’ and I took them one step further in my short story “Progeny” and then in my novel “Progeny’s Children” where I created Four Laws. The context of my laws were different than Asimov’s because my laws were written without consideration for humans. The story takes place a long time in the future after man was forced to leave Earth because of pollution. The robots that the humans left developed their own society and eventually forgot who created them. Their lives and society was governed by their Four Laws of Conformity.

For non-fiction the list is long. I’ve read everything from political biographies to historical romance. I think the two recent books that I’ve read and left the biggest impression was “1491” and “The Accidental Superpower.”

“1491” is a historical analysis of the American Indian world before Columbus. It described the trade, politics and population. It also shows how large, interconnected and sophisticated the combined cultures were. Sadly it showed the precipitous decline in population because of contact with the Europeans.

“The Accidental Superpower” is a realistic projection of the world order over the next couple of decades. The inverted population pyramid shows that countries like Iran and Russia will be unable to sustain their position in the world as their populations decrease along with their earning power.

PerreaultCircleIsClosedCare 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 a ‘gushing event’ yet, but I have noticed what I call the ‘bartender effect.’ When a reader enjoys the works of an author they seem to connect with them on a personal level. That connection opens up email where the reader says things that are normally only shared with a bartender. I’ve got emails from well-meaning readers who share with me their challenges and how my writing has influenced some facet of their lives.

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

I tend to get involved in a lot of ‘geeky arguments.’ I enjoy language and the subtleties of words.  I drive my wife crazy when I debate which word is the best and how a sentence can be said in a multitude of ways and each one carries a slightly different meaning.

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

I can’t say that I remember the first book, but I do remember when I really embraced reading. During my sophomore year in high school I had a great English teacher that really challenged us. I think we had to read a book a week, and over the summer we had a long list. The interesting point was the varied topics. I read everything from “The Tropic of Cancer”, to “Rabbit Run” to the “Communist Manifesto.” It was during that period that I began to appreciate the written word and how many emotions it can create. I also learned how the author’s styles varied and how they used images and style to convey images.

About the Author

RayJayPerreaultAuthorRay was born in New Hampshire, received his Bachelors of Science in Aeronautical Engineering at Arizona State University.  He is now retired from an influential, multi-decade career in aerospace.

Bringing a new voice to science fiction writing, Ray realized there was a niche that was calling him as he began to write deeper characters, create more sophisticated stories and realistic situations for Sci-Fi fans to relate to.

Initially attracted to heroic characters with powerful weapons taking on hundreds of aliens, Ray began his literary career with a desire to extrapolate Sci-Fi stories with a touch of everyday reality that most of us experience in work and our every-day lives.

His literary work is thoughtfully enriched by his decade long experience in the US Air Force where he flew C-130s on missions to 27 countries, and T-38s while training the best pilots in the world, as well as the first female US Air Force pilots.

During his 28 years at Northrup Grumman, Ray worked on some of the most top-secret military aircraft projects in the world including the F-23, F-35, B-2, Global Hawk and many more that can’t be named.

He is grateful to his wife, Charlene and his two daughters, Christine and Robynn for their support on this new journey.

Places to Find Ray Jay Perreault

Website

Facebook

Twitter

GoodReads

PearreaultSIMPOCBook Blurb for SIMPOC: The Thinking  Computer:

99.9997% of all humans have been wiped out by a very suspicious virus. SIMPOC’s programmer doesn’t come in to work, that day, the next; or ever. The commander of the space station Oasis, Joan Herl is forced to abandon the station because of dwindling resources. When they land on earth they are attacked by another thinking computer who would do anything to protect itself and to continue thinking.

The moon colony Dessert Beach, is trapped as their resources are running out and they must decide when to come home. They have only lifeboats to carry them back to the lifeless earth and what will they find when they enter the atmosphere and land.

The astronauts trapped on the Mars colony Red Dirt are in worse condition. Their systems will break down and resources will run out. Coming home for them is a different story. The lifeboats aren’t made for that purpose and must be rebuilt before the colony breaks down. Should they stay and take their chances on Mars, or should they journey back to earth.

PerreaultProgeny'sChildrenBook Blurb for Progeny’s Children:  

After many years people return to Earth and something else was living there.

People of Earth treated her badly, neglecting the needs of their home planet which resulted in a world that was hostile to life. They were forced to leave and find another planet.

Humanity traveled over 300 years to Horizon. They had learned from their mistakes and took care of their new planet.

1,300 years after leaving Earth they wanted to return to their home. The first ship entered Earth’s orbit and found a pristine planet welcoming them home, but they also found something else living there.

Purchase Links

Amazon US             Audible.com

GIVEAWAY!

Ray Jay Perreault is offering up 2 books, winners’s choices and the winners can each choose the ebook version or the audiobook version (Audible.com account required). You can enter the Rafflecopter below or you can answer these questions in the comments: 1) Ebook or audiobook (Audible.com account required)? 2) What stories featuring AI have you enjoyed? 3) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaways ends October 19, 2016, midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Morning… Processes Must Be Improved by Ray Jay Perreault

PerreaultGoodMorningProcessesMustBeImprovedWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Christopher M. Allport

Publisher: Raymond J. Perreault (2016)

Length: 1 hour

Author’s Page

Robert has been assigned to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, to mine methane. Much of the operation is done by robots and a human is needed to fix minor break downs and such. The resident built-in AI is TCI12, or Tessy. Things start off well enough but then little by little they fall apart.

This was a fun piece of scifi. While it’s a bit of a classic plot set up, I still enjoyed seeing how the author played with it. There’s some miscommunication with Earth about shipments, supplies, and the state of the miningbots on Titan. As Robert sees mangled messages congratulating other mining colonies, he both redoubles his efforts and becomes more and more pessimistic.

Meanwhile, Tessy does it’s ‘best’ to keep Robert on schedule, prodding him with daily reminders of the shipping quota and how many bots are down. On the surface, Tessy seems quite helpful and organized. Can an AI have ulterior motives? Or a (twisted) sense of humor?

I liked that Robert comments a few times about how it’s a tough assignment, being the only human on Titan for so many weeks/months at a time, how important it is to stay busy in order to stay mentally balanced. This is a good question for the story, not just for humans, but for any sentient being stuck on Titan with minimal socializing for any significant length of time.

I liked the ending because it speaks of further mischievousness. I hope when us humans start using AI for stuff in general, folks go back to the ‘Perreault classics’ and build in safety features that prevent and/or recognize questionable behavior in AIs at an early stage. This tale is a worthy read, and would make a good lunchbreak story.

I received a copy of this audiobook from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  Christopher M. Allport gave a good performance. He made transmissions sound like transmissions with radio noises and such. I liked his helpful, calm voice for Tessy. He also did a great job with Robert’s voice, showing how Robert was somewhat enthusiastic about his assignment at the beginning and how little by little, that changed over the course of the story.

What I Liked: The cover art; a classic plot set up redone well; Tessy is just so logical and sounds so sincere; Robert’s character arc for the story; how things end – with the hint of a new beginning for some other miner. 

What I Disliked: Nothing – a fun tale!

Paperbook Giveaway & Interview: Paul J. Joseph, SF Author of Through the Fold Series

JosephMarkerStoneFolks, it’s my joy to have Paul J. Joseph on the blog today.  We chat about books to movies, villains, geeky arguments, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of the post.

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

Honestly, this is something I think about surprisingly often, but not necessarily the way one might expect. The game I often play with a favorite movie or any kind of story would be to wonder how it would be perceived by somebody else.  Imagine if you could share with a young Gene Roddenberry some of the more recent Star Trek movies just to find out if in fact those things based on his vision are anywhere near his original expectations.  And, though it may sound like a really silly idea, I’ve often wondered how an earlier version of myself might perceive my own writings, especially before I wrote the first one or while I was thinking of the initial details.

But seriously, there are loads of movies and books that I love, but those that stand the test of time are relatively few.  Some that rise to the top may not be all that popular or well known, but I suppose that’s the point of the question.  I love the movie Unbreakable, starring Bruce Willis.  As both a film maker and a writer, I can’t speak highly enough of the true mastery of the details of that movie.  I honestly prefer that to all the other works of M. Night Shyamalan.  I also liked The Thirteenth Floor, another obscure science fiction movie.  For dystopian masterpieces, (I know you may hate me for this) I’d have to choose Soylent Green, yes I loved that movie and there is now a food company called Soylent, imagine that!

JJosephHomesickWho are some of your favorite book villains?

Looking over my favorite books, it’s surprising how many good science fiction stories don’t actually have obvious villains.  For example, who was really the villain in 2001?  Who was the villain in AI or Solaris?  In 1984, the most depressing book I’ve ever read, I would have to say that the villain is not the O’Brian character, but Big Brother himself.  The scary thing there is that, since he really didn’t exist, he couldn’t be killed, and that’s really the point.  In science fiction, villains can stretch the boundaries a bit, and I’m particularly proud of some of the villains I’ve designed.  In general, I don’t like one-dimensional villains. Most cheap horror stories and bad science fiction have villains that like to kill people for no particular reason.  Even though it worked, Alien would fall into that category.  The alien could not be reasoned with and it had no back story.  It was pretty much like fighting a virus or any other force of nature.  The Terminator was also like that, though he did it with class.  The T-1000 was a far better villain in the second movie, however, because he didn’t look like a villain and could basically be anybody.  My favorite villains are the ones who have charisma and possibly curb appeal.  Magneto in the X-Men movies always had a point.  We may not want him to win, but we understand where he’s coming from.

JosephWebOfLifeDo you have any phobias?

My most significant phobia would be heights.  I can go to the top floor of any building and look out the window, but there is only so far I can climb up a ladder.  When I visited New Orleans one time we stayed at a hotel that had a rooftop pool.  I could swim in it, but I had to hold on tight to the railing in order to look at the skyline.  Grandfather Mountain is another matter.  There are no railings!

Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

This is a particular passion of mine because I’ve seen some terrible bastardizations of books in my time. Almost every attempt to recreate a Dean R. Koontz book has ended in disaster, though I haven’t seen them all.  Two great attempts of novel into film would be 2001 (and 2010) though much of what made those books so interesting really didn’t translate visually.  Solaris was the other.  The Tarkovski version was fascinating, but hardly scratched the surface of the book.  The later George Clooney version was far worse, however, to the point that much of the story was completely different than the book.  Honestly, the best I’ve seen thus far was the John Hurt version of 1984 that was actually made in 1984.  Both the movie and the book left you feeling just as empty, and I can’t really think of a single scene in the book that wasn’t represented.  I’m not so much into PC games, though I did play them when I was younger.  I will say that Silent Hill, which I only played briefly, made an excellent movie!  That’s the best example I can think of.  Generally, there isn’t enough information in a video game to make a truly great movie or book in my opinion.  The best that can be done is a movie based on the idea of the game, which is a very different thing.  Honestly, most games based on movies or books are greatly over-simplified.

JosephSplashdownIn this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I will step out and say that I don’t really like self-promoting.  I honestly prefer to let my work speak for itself whenever possible.  Social media campaigns are the way to go these days and I’m very glad we have these, but the work involved is often tedious, repetitive, and ineffective.  Because I have a media background, I have no problem making my own websites, some book covers, and general graphics.  I enjoy that kind of work because it involves producing something that can be later evaluated for what it is.  A social media campaign is more amorphous and often involves posting just to post.  I’m just not good at that.

JosephInfinityMachineCare 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 actually have a lot of those.  All of my books are available as podcasts and I have loyal listeners all over the world.  One woman told me I had a hypnotic voice.  I didn’t quite know how to process that.  Several people have told me they would drive places just to keep listening to my chapter installments.  I have a friend in Australia who corresponds with me from time to time, and I had a very nice couple of phone conversations with a fellow in Detroit who wanted to help me market my work.  One of the strangest encounters I had was with somebody who kept asking me very detailed questions about the universe I wrote about, surprisingly detailed based on only listening to my work.  He also put together an elaborate timeline that supposedly kept track of elements in the story.  In short, he may have known more about the details of the story than I did, and I was amazed that he would spend so much time studying it.  I like to converse with readers and am happy to make time for them.  The only author I’ve ever been in contact with is Nathan Lowell, who wrote a series of books called the Age of the Solar Clipper.  I became interested in this series when I first learned to podcast.

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

I must admit that it’s hard to write science fiction without breaking some rules, and there are some arguments that always come up.  For example, most space-based adventures have real time conversations between planets and stars, where time delays would be inevitable.  I write about VR links where my space explorers can visit their families in real time.  I allude to the existence of some kind of faster-than-light transmission, but that’s really just a copout.  My father was a physicist, and the most interesting discussion I ever had with him was one where I thought he was going to laugh out loud at one of my more far out ideas, but he actually said it would be possible, or at least not impossible.  This was concerning an alien environment I write about in Web of Life.  There we have what amounts to a massive “bubble” in space in which there is an atmosphere, but no gravity.  From the inside it appears to be a never ending sky where wind currents go in all directions, but there is no up or down.  Considering that my father didn’t like most science fiction, I took his lack of laughter as high praise.

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

The very first book I ever read was The Mystery of the Talking Skull by Alfred Hitchcock.  My mother put it in my notebook in the sixth grade.  I don’t think there is a single Three Investigators book I haven’t read.  I didn’t read the Hardy Boys, though.

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

I don’t have a lot of national or international activity in the near future, but I will be participating in a small private book signing on the 10th of September at a store called 2nd and Charles in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  The fun begins at 12 and it goes until 2PM.

Other than this, my most immediate plans include publishing a short story anthology, possibly called Twisted Fire.  The next series I am working on concerns an artificial intelligence on a journey of self-discovery.  He kind of exists in the same universe Sally Buds inhabits, but he chooses to make his home on Mars.

Where to Find Paul J. Joseph

Website

GoodReads

Twitter

Facebook

Smashwords

PodioBooks

Amazon

Author Bio: 

Paul J. Joseph is an independent film maker as well as a story teller through writing. One of his recent films has been featured in the 2010 Ava Gardner Independent Film Festival. He has been teaching mass communication courses at a college level for 20 years, and currently works at a small private university in North Carolina. He lives with his wife Tyreese, his son Ian, a mother in law, and three cats.

Paul Joseph’s first love has been and always will be science fiction. He looks for ideas that are based on plausible trends in technology, both good and bad. He is particularly interested in space travel and time travel, which can include alternate realities and paradoxes. He tends to avoid fantasy and magic. So, if you are looking for elves and fairies, this is not your guy. On the other hand, ESP and other observable phenomena may well be fair game.

JosephMarkerStoneBook Blurb for Marker Stone (Book 1 of Through the Fold series): There’s trouble on CMC-6 and it’s been brewing for a long time. The golden age of space travel and asteroid mining has ended and the bean counters have taken over. Sally Buds’ patients are all suffering from low-gravity syndrome because the Canadian Mining Consortium won’t spring for gravity generators and the miners won’t exercise. On top of this the station might be facing hard times. An expensive mining robot disappeared while surveying a region of space known and Kelthy. But then, after a replacement is over, it reappears. How could the station personnel have been so incompetent? But Sally has another question. Where did the probe go when it was out of contact? Where did the strange rock samples come from and why did the images it saw not correspond with known star charts? Her new friend Ian Merryfield, an RAF shuttle pilot, wants to know, too. But the station commander does not. What is in the Kelthy region and why do things disappear there? Is it a hoax intended to scare away claim jumpers or is it the greatest discovery of the twenty-first century? Ian and Sally intend to find out even if it means risking their careers or even their lives. Not knowing would be worse.

JJosephHomesickBook Blurb for Homesick (Book 2 of Through the Fold series): The mission to New Ontario, isn’t going as planned. Scott Anderson walked ten paces onto the new world and disappeared from radio contact. Not knowing Scott’s fate but fearing the worst, Captain Sally Buds embarks on a rescue mission that risks her life and that of her pilot, Ian Merryfield. There Sally and Ian uncover a chilling reality. Something terrible has happened on New Ontario. The evil regime of the Masters have consumed an entire civilization and established an empire of unspeakable barbarism. And now, so far away from home and help, it becomes clear that the Masters’ rapacious attentions have been drawn to Earth. Sally and Ian must now defend themselves and their planet from a tyranny that goes beyond slavery.

Giveaway!

Paul is generously offering up five Kindle copies (international) of Homesick and two print ones (USA only). Homesick works quite fine as a stand alone novel. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you like? 2) What country are you in – ebook or paperbook? Contest ends October 3rd, 2016, midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Circle Is Closed by Ray Jay Perreault

PerreaultCircleIsClosedWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Christopher M. Allport

Publisher: Raymond  J. Perreault (2016)

Length: 27 minutes

Series: Book 2 Progeny

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series,  it works fine as a stand alone story.

Commander Leopold Harnessy is leading a mission to test a new FLT (Faster Than Light) technology. The humans of planet Horizon hope to find old Earth and perhaps resettle her but first a test ship must be sent to see if the new tech works. If it does, then larger ships could be sent the same way. The Horizon humans left Earth many, many generations ago but they still revere her. Now, they wish to reclaim that heritage.

Harnessy must leave his family on Horizon as he undertakes this possibly dangerous mission. His daughter Rose asks him a serious question about Earth during the send off ceremony. Harnessy hopes to find the answer to it and many other questions. When Harnessy & crew arrive at Earth, she is healed of all the environmental damage that forced humans to leave her so long ago. However, Harnessy and his shipmates are met with a surprise.

The author did a great job for such a short story. There’s plenty to consider in this compact tale. I was quickly drawn into the tale. There’s some big questions the main character has to consider, both before he leaves Horizon and once he gets to Earth. While the story moves swiftly along, it has depth.

I received a copy of this audiobook from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  Christopher M. Allport tossed in some real ship sounds for when the ship AI is answering questions or announcing something. Each character was distinct and the the female voices were realistic. He also performed an old lady and a little girl with success.

What I Liked: Humanity misses it’s home planet; the ship AI; the surprise found on Earth; great narration. 

What I Disliked: Nothing – a worthy short SF story!