Posts Tagged ‘sci-fi’

Roboteer by Alex Lamb

October 14, 2017 - 7:09 am No Comments

ROBOTEER by Alex Lamb. Gollancz, London. £8.99 paperback. 426 pages. ISBN: 978-1-473-20609-0
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

There is a sub-set of science fiction which is Military SF and written by such exponents as David Weber and David Drake. I was once told that SF was Mills & Boon for boys (I converted that person by giving her Marge Piercy to read) and to a certain extent, that is what this kind of SF is. It is for readers who have a fascination for hardware and like to read about blowing things up.
Alex Lamb’s debut novel, Roboteer, is a well thought out, military space opera. In this very far future, Earth has succumbed to pollution and the mass of humanity lives mostly on the product of prote farms. The planet is united under the auspices of the Prophet of the Truist religion. Other faiths are tolerated but can never rise to ultimate status. As far as enlightenment is concerned, the clock has been turned back millennia. Girls are not educated and the mass humanity, the Followers are illiterate. Yet they are scooped up and sent to fight for their planet. The enemy are the Galateans. Initially human colonists, they have embraced genetic modification to compensate for lack of personnel and help terraform the colony worlds. By the decree of Earth’s spiritual leader this modification is an abomination in God’s eyes. Also there are no aliens. The reason for the war between the two factions is to wipe out the abominations and to acquire what is believed to be fertile worlds to feed Earth’s population. His Honesty the Prophet is mistaken on several counts.
The story is told from three points of view enabling the situation to be seen from both sides. Will is the Roboteer of the title. He is modified to be able to remotely control various aspects of the war ship including torpedoes and drones. He has a bit more initiative than the average roboteer but when he disobeys an order and saves his ship from destruction he is transferred to the Ariel. This has a six man crew and they are given a spy mission to try and find out where the new technology the Earthers have suddenly acquired comes from. Ira is the captain of the Ariel. The third view point character is the Earther scientist Gustav. The new suntap device is his project. He didn’t invent it. He acquired it from an alien artefact known as the Relic.
Ira is able to follow Gustav’s ship to the Relic but when they are discovered, the aliens hack Will’s mods and download information into him. Aliens do indeed exist and they are giving humanity a choice. It is up to Will to prove that humanity is not a disease that has to be wiped out.
The pace of this novel is relentless and the characters have to endure betrayal, despair and torture before a resolution is reached. For most readers, it will not matter that they are dumped into the middle of the action without any explanation as to how the situation has arisen. For Will and Ira, politics are for others, while Gustav finds politics thwarting him as he tries to do the best for his planet. These three are perhaps nobler examples of humanity and not enough space is given to the mistaken, politically ambitious or nasty characters that always exist in any society. These readers will not mind that the space ships can move between star systems at a tremendous rate or be able to visualise the technology. If they are fans of military SF, they will enjoy this.

 

VRES: Digital Quest by Zoe Adams

August 27, 2017 - 6:52 pm No Comments

VRES: Digital Quest by Zoe Adams

Released by Zombie Cupcake Press on 13th August 2017

150 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

I downloaded this on Kindle Unlimited.

 As technology progresses, many of us have heard of Virtual Reality or VR, a new way of playing a game where you feel that you are immersed in the game. Kamada-kun have created a brand-new game VRES a fantasy game, that no other game could compare to. Like all new games they required BETA testers, Felix and Erica both big gaming enthusiast both volunteer for an experience that would change their lives.

As the main character were gamers, they both had that need to conquer and win. Playing online you can be who you want to be and with Erica and Felix they were completely different. Felix in the real world was unemployed and a bit down in life and in the virtual world he was confident and adept with his fighting skills, but in both worlds, he was a really nice guy. Erica was in a nasty relationship in the real world and had lost all confidence, but when she put on that headset, she was like a woman possessed. Excellent blade skills, played dirty to get what she wanted. That was until she ran into Felix.

As a lover of gaming the minor details in the story really sold it to me. The problem of not having enough gold to upgrade your weapons, needing a health or stamina boost and it did have a touch of Skyrim about it. Throughout the story you follow the development of Erica and Felix’s relationship. This is a standalone story and it is well written, as it is only 150 pages I did read it in one sitting. I loved the idea that much of the story was set in the game.

I cannot wait to see where this author will take us next.   

LUNA: NEW MOON by Ian McDonald

August 20, 2017 - 7:10 am No Comments

LUNA: NEW MOON by Ian McDonald. Gollancz, London. £9.99 paperback. 392 pages. ISBN: 978-1-473-20224-5

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

Of the current works of SF, they can probably be divided into three groups. There are the Earth based novels that frequently deal with near future such as Paul McAuley’s World Wide Web or future developments like catastrophe, evolution, politics or social change as expressed by Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale. Then there are the novels in which travel between stars has been achieved and is common place. It doesn’t matter whether it is wormholes, folding space, alien technology or a bullshit drive. C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur novels are a good example. The third group accepts the current view of physics that faster than light travel is not achievable, that if we want to reach those tantalising planets discovered around distant stars we will either have to use generation ships, solve the problem of longevity or use cryo or stasis techniques. The alternative is to set the novel within the solar system. Ian McDonald’s latest novel, Luna: New Moon, takes this last option.

The moon is our nearest neighbour and would be the first place to look for extra-terrestrial mineral resources. In McDonald’s future the Australians did just that. The Mackenzie family developed a mining dynasty. Three other families carved out their niches in the corporate economy. Then Adriana Corta arrived, initially as an engineer for the Mackenzies but she saw an opportunity and exploited it. She built her own dynasty. As this novel opens, Adriana is approaching the end of her life but is determined that her family will have the alliances with the other families to carry on without her leadership.

Many readers will know the Robert Heinlein novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. That is exactly the sentiment McDonald builds on in Luna. He explores the problems involved in living and working in an unforgiving environment where a single mistake means death. Although the action revolves around the families and their sometimes bloody feuds, we also see them through the eyes of Marina Calzaghe. She is a relative newcomer to the moon. Most of the newcomers come for the prospect of earning good money, but as Marina discovers, there is as much poverty here as at home. Everything has to be paid for, including water and air. She is prepared to do anything in order to keep breathing. It is one of those jobs that sees her as a waiter at a party being held by the Corta family to celebrate Lucasinho’s new status as moonrunner. To become a moonrunner, you have to run twenty metres, naked, on the moon’s surface. Only the foolhardy and the rich do it. Some die.

At the party (a handy device to introduce the major players), Marina’s quick reactions save the life of Rafa Corta. As a result, she finds herself working for the family and involved in the interfamily rivalries in the role of loyal retainer. Though the Moon can be lethal she is not as ruthless as the people who try to tame her. Humans are unpredictable.

McDonald has created a totally believable setting and does it with a deft touch. Nowhere is the lecturing that less skilled writers might subject the reader to. From the start we are plunged into a fast, action packed novel. There is no time to breathe but at the same time this hostile world is brought vividly to life. There is a vast cast and initially the character list at the start of the book is a useful tool but they quickly become recognisable as each have their different traits and relationships fall into place. McDonald is also one of these writers who have looked into the future of political dynamics and largely left Europe and North America out of the equation. It is the citizens of other nations, China, Brazil, Australia, who have taken on the task of taming the moon, despite knowing that they will ultimately lose.

Already an award winner, this is a book for anyone who likes hard SF where the characterisation is central to the plot. Here, the main character is the Moon and she doesn’t tolerate the careless.

SLOW BULLETS by Alastair Reynolds.

March 10, 2017 - 9:02 pm No Comments

SLOW BULLETS by Alastair Reynolds.

Gollancz, London. 16th February 2016. £12.95 paperback, £6.99 e-book.

182 page. ISBN: 978-1-473-21842-0

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

 

There is almost a sub-genre of SF which deals exclusively with war scenarios. These might be between aliens and humans or between human colonies. As with all these adventures, various assumptions are made, one of which being a method of interstellar travel which gets ships from one place to another quickly. There is no point in sending out the troops when the enemy may have extinguished itself before the force arrives. Readers don’t worry about the technology involved; it is the action that counts, and the number of corpses that results. This is not normally the territory that Alastair Reynolds usually ventures into so it is refreshing to find that in this novelette, this is just the background against which the characters have been shaped.

As the story opens, a ceasefire has been declared. The factions are no longer officially at war. Always, though, there are renegades who will push the limits, feigning ignorance about the actual state of affairs, simply because they enjoy what they do and don’t see why they have to stop. Orvin likes hurting people. On the cusp of peace he has captured Scur, a soldier from the other side. He knows all about her because all soldiers are fitted with slow bullets. These devices are a futuristic version of dog tags. They contain all information about the person they are inside and it can easily be read. Normally, they move at a very slow speed through the body so that the tissues are barely disrupted. Orvin’s method of torture is to insert one going faster and causing excruciating pain during its passage. When Orvin has to leave in a hurry she has the opportunity to try and cut it out.

This is just a precursor to real action and an introduction to the device which is to play an essential part in the plot. Scur wakes up aboard a military prison shop. She and the other ‘passengers’ are being transported as cargo to Tottori in hibernation. What initially seems to be a simple problem with the ship becomes more serious as she and the remnants of crew discover that they have been drifting in orbit for hundreds of years, that all the surviving sleepers are being revived. Amongst them are war criminals from both sides, as well as civilians, and to them the reasons (basically very trivial) of the conflict are clear in their minds as well as the hatred for their perceived enemies. Among them is Orvin. Scur and her new colleagues have multiple problems to solve if they are to survive, the biggest one is to overcome the problem that the ships systems are slowly leaking information and they need to find ways of preserving it. To do that a compromise needs to be found so that the different factions are able to work together.

In this book, Reynolds wraps a number of themes in a relatively few pages. Some of them will feel like familiar tropes from the SF catalogue but it is the way that he deals with them that is original. For those who do not want to face one of Reynolds’ huge tomes as an introduction to his work, this a good place to start to get an idea of his style and ingenuity before embarking on such as Revelation Space series. Then get stuck in to the rest of his oeuvre.

Originally published in 2015 as a chap-book by Tachyon Press, it has already accumulated a number of well-deserved awards and nominations.

Ultraxenopia (Project W.A.R. Book 1) by MA Phipps

February 24, 2017 - 10:00 am No Comments

Ultraxenopia (Project W.A.R. Book 1) by MA Phipps

Published by Shire-Hill Publications on 5th January 2017

332 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

At the age of 21 Wynter has to sit an exam, an exam to decide her job and living status. However, when she suffers what she thinks is a panic attack, her whole life changes. When she sees flashes of her future self she knows she is in trouble. Taken by the State, questioned about PHOENIX (a terrorist organisation) she knows she has to find the man of her dreams.

Wynter was quite a shy young woman, not wanting to draw attention to herself, but the more she found out about her condition, and the danger she was in, did make her a stronger woman. She still has a sense of vulnerability about her but always knew when she had to man-up.

As this is set in a dystopian world then expect comparisons between other books in the genre, but this book is not a copycat. The original storyline of her being used as a guinea pig in the lab and what she is to become knocks the comparisons out the window. Written in the main character’s POV, this book grabbed me from page 1. With the suspense building through the story made it a book I did not want to put down. The story flowed smoothly and it had an evenly balance of action and sci-fi. The medical procedures were explained well and I never once was confused. There is a romance storyline, but this ran undercurrent to the main storyline

The ending of the book did not feel like a cliff-hanger but has left it open for the already published book 2.  I am looking forward to reading more from this author