When Physics Tries to Restore Magic for Shadowy Government Purposes, a Time Travel Romp Begins – delightful premise, crazy problems that may destroy our world #review #bookreview #timetravel #sciencefiction #scifi

Scifi reviews by Kate Rauner - visit the blogI was enthralled with the first quarter of this long novel, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. Physics and magic intersect wonderfully when an expert in ancient languages, Melisande Stokes, is hired by a man representing DODO. DODO is “a shadowy government entity you’ve never heard of.” It turns out he’s telling the truth, which gives you an idea of the irreverent tone through much of the book.

The DODO team uses time travel to change the present for shadowy government purposes. Witches once used magic everywhere in the world, until science jammed its frequencies and it disappeared in 1851. But liquid-helium cooled quantum equipment can produce a small room where magic still works. The interplay between magic and physics, as well as with the physicist and witch who join the team, are fun. Not fun for all the characters, though, who quickly learn that it’s not healthy to be rude to a witch.

Melisande narrates from the past, from last few days when magic worked. A mission gone awry stranded her in Victorian London. Throughout the story, she occasionally reminds us that she misses modern toothpaste, that corsets are terribly uncomfortable, and she’s about to be trapped forever as the end of magic approaches.

Melisande took DODO’s first trip backwards in time. To raise money for the project, she plans to steal a book from colonial America that will become rare and valuable in the present. Unfortunately, a witch can only Send a person’s natural organic body (even fillings from teeth are left behind) so Melisande arrives naked and must hide the book so it survives for centuries to be retrieved “today.”

The mission depends on help from a local witch (there’s still magic in colonial times) and Melisande discovers that, when all you take with you is your naked body, all you have to trade with the locals is information (classified!) or sex. There’s quite a bit of sex as the story progresses, though not pornographically detailed.

After a harrowing trip, Melisande returns to discover… nothing where she hid the book. The modern witch explains she must change history on multiple Strands before the present changes. Stands are closely aligned alternative realities that communicate among themselves somehow. Melisande must repeat her adventure several times, and each trip is slightly different. A neat confluence of magic and physics that will probably drive any real-life theoretical physicist crazy. But I liked it.

Starting with the next mission into the past, the book slows down. Events and conversations are explained step by step in more detail than I wanted to read. The book is written entirely as the journals, letters, emails, and files of the characters, so redundancies and tangents creep in. I began to skim. I entirely skipped some sections, such as the Human Resource files on DODO’s new-hires (honestly, such things are included.)

The DODO team grows and there are several missions to different eras. Some will probably intrigue you enough to read every word. Did you know Shakespeare’s plays are anti-Irish? Everyone at the time saw that even though we moderns no longer do. This feels like a detail the authors turned up in their research, though I didn’t check to confirm.

The bureaucracy of DODO is equally detailed. ISO 9000 standards are mentioned, and if you don’t know what those are, you’re obviously not a Quality Assurance geek. With such details, I found it odd that the authors don’t seem to know what Power Point presentations look like. Long wall-of-words paragraphs do not fit on Power Point slides.

I enjoyed the story as pruned by my skimming technique, and read eagerly to the end. The last few pages set up for a sequel, although there isn’t one available yet.

What others are saying
Amazon posts 416 reviews for 3.8 stars, and the sales ranking of DODO is phenomenal.
“Lots of intrigue, science, and laughs.”
“Fun in the use of acronyms and parody of bureaucracy. Unpredictable development of villains.”
“Farcical sendup of the classic time travel trope, complete with witches, sword fighters, and physicists.”

Readers who didn’t like it ran aground in the middle.
“Gets stuck in the middle. Listening to the audiobook, nothing happens for hours.”

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Holidays Are In Full Swing – Happy Hanukkah :) With More Celebrations to Follow – Books Make Outstanding Affordable Gifts, Never Again be Caught at Last Minute #HappyHanukkah #HappyChanukah #HappyHolidays

Happy Hannukah from Kate RaunerMay you have a joyous season.
Menorah set out – check.
Found grandma’s recipe for latkes – check.
Hanukkah bush is decorated – check (I am an American after all.)
Chocolate coins covered in golden foil – check.

Forgotten anything? Does your family exchange gifts? Maybe books or games?

Send an ebook anytime (or a paperback if you planned ahead.) Follow Emma Books make great Hannukah giftsto Mars to explore the Red Planet, build a new home, and face dangers with the first twelve settlers. Available from Amazon and other favorite online stores.

Not sure what your giftee likes? Send a collection of short reads, also on Amazon and other favorite online stores.

Try before you buy – online stores offer previews of every book – or just jump in.

Believable Misery in Dystopian Novel, Earthseed #review #bookreview #dystopia #dystopian #sciencefiction

dystopian novel of near-futureWhatever happened in this dystopian world, it happened quickly. Old people remember the “good old days” but only a few children learn to read and write. Huddled in small enclaves, remnants of our current, doomed America hang on to whatever jobs exist, grow as much food as possible, and try to defend themselves. As with many dystopias, fighting and killing your dangerous fellow citizens is central.

There is no villain in the story, not unless you count the starving, desperate, and murderously drug-crazed mobs as a character. The hero is Lauren, a young woman who sees the end of her fragile safety approaching. When the mob breaks into her walled neighborhood, she flees. Walking north on highways now empty of cars but full of escapees on foot, she meets a few allies and many enemies.

Horrific events fill the story, but they are kept at a distance. There’s plenty of blood and action alternating with endurance and misery, but Lauren only hears about some attacks and sees others from a distance, or in the aftermath. Even when she’s directly involved, the format of the book blunts the gore. Lauren is writing in her journal, after the events she describes. This may make the book acceptable for younger readers than I’d think otherwise. The ending is anti-climactic, fitting the tone of the story.

Lauren is unusual in two ways. First, she is developing a new religion, Earthseed, based on the idea that God is Change. Chapters open with quotes from her Books of the Living. These quotes are short, repetitive, and not especially interesting. The point is more that she continues to write and think, less what she specifically writes.

Secondly, Lauren is hyper-empathic. She feels the physical pain of conscious people around her. While she suffers the results several times during the story, this remarkable trait doesn’t drive the plot or change what happens. Since this is the first of two books, maybe Earthseed and hyper-empathy are important to the second book. They’re bits of interesting background here.

What others say
Maybe I’ve just overdosed on dystopias, but I didn’t like it as much as most reviewers. With loads of reviews on Amazon and 4.5 stars, Earthseed is popular.

Here’s one testament to the book’s significance: “Had to read it for school. Reads quickly and doesn’t get boring, aside from the first two chapters or so.”

For one reviewer, it replaces 1984 as the iconic tale of where today’s world is taking us. Terrifyingly believable, a story that does not assume everyone is white. (Lauren and many of her allies are people of color.)

Development of Earthseed is gripping. This opinion puzzled me, since I thought Earthseed wasn’t a driver for the story. Maybe I missed something.

“We chose Parable of the Sower for our book club reading and it sparked engaging & thoughtful conversations.” I could see myself enjoying such a discussion about this story.

Negative reviews warned the book is not appropriate for younger readers. Pure dystopian that is weighed down with abject hopelessness.

Quick, easy read… almost seemed like a good movie script. Funny – Amazon lists that as a critical review.

Review of Earthseed Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler

Story on Mars Continues #Mars #book #sciencefiction #series #amwriting #scifi

Join colony on Mars - Kate Rauner

Coming soon!

The Mars colony has survived for generations, settling into a comfortable existence that depends on an Artificial Intelligence and its many robots. Life is good enough, though Zeker discovers a dark and dangerous corner of the colony. He came to the Tower guilds to pursue his dream, but that seems farther out of reach than ever. Maybe his neuroplasticity treatments failed him.

I’ve been distracted from blogging as I scramble to

Join Mars Colony - Kate Rauner

People didn’t like the helmet – how’s this?

finish my latest On Mars novel, but I’m receiving beta readers’ comments now and plan to swing into a final edit shortly. Subscribe now and I’ll let you know when Storm on Mars is available and send a coupon for a free download of the ebook edition. BTW – what do you think of the draft cover and title? Please let me know in the comments below.

In the meantime, catch up with the Mars colony. The books are available on Amazon, Apple iBooks, B&N, Kobo, and your favorite online store:

Glory on Mars – Emma joins the first twelve settlers in a struggle to Join Mars colony - Kate Raunersurvive.
Born on Mars – Jake’s born into a failing colony, but new arrivals bring hope and danger.
Hermit on Mars – Sig’s life is falling apart, but maybe he can save his mother and the breakaway prospectors she’s joined.
Water on Mars – Bliss thinks it’s the best time to be Marsborn, even if her new boss is crazy and threats from Mars and Earth surround her.

Let’s keep in touch. Subscribe today and you’ll receive an occasional short story along with book offers.

Fascinating Premise is an Excuse to Pit Ancient Armies in Battle #review #bookreview #scifi

Earth shattered through timeSegments of the Earth are suddenly transmorgified into their own past – “a patchwork of eras, from prehistory to 2037, each with its own indigenous inhabitants”. Two small groups of “moderns” from 2037 briefly make contact and agree to meet in the only place where a technological signal has been detected – Babylon. Along the way they meet Victorian era British soldiers and two famous ancient armies – led by Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan.

What I thought of the story
The book claims Clarke’s Space Odyssey series as its inspiration – a time odyssey instead of a space odyssey. I guess that’s why it opens with furry pre-human hominids. While interesting, they only appear occasionally and don’t add much to the story.

Once the premise is established and the weird world explored a bit, the book slows down. Its main purpose seems to be to show us what it would be like to live in the ruling courts of Alexander and Genghis. Very smelly among other things.

When two rulers dedicated to world conquest meet, it may not be much of a spoiler to say mayhem ensues. Personally I’m not a big fan of battles and began skipping entire chapters. The book ends in a mystical alien sort of way which allows a narrator (not a character) to provide a glimpse of what’s going on.

I liked parts of the book and skipped other parts, so that averages out to an “okay” rating from me.

What others are saying
As you’d expect from a legandary author, Time’s Eye has a high sales rank on Amazon – roughly top 7% in its time travel category on Kindle. (Amazon is starting to hide the data that lets me calculate a rank, so I may not be able to do this in the future.) From 109 reviews it gets 3.7 stars, which isn’t bad.

Readers who disliked the book found the middle with its long trudge to Babylon boring. Others called it “entertaining” and “interesting if not compelling,” while some say they’re going straight off to buy the rest of the trilogy.

About the hardcover book
I’m always a little skeptical when a book’s description starts by telling me how famous the authors are. Here’s the pitch:

Sir Arthur C. Clarke is a living legend, a writer whose name has been synonymous with science fiction for more than fifty years… a genuine visionary. If Clarke has an heir among today’s science fiction writers, it is award-winning author Stephen Baxter… [who] demonstrated dazzling gifts of imagination and intellect, along with a rare ability to bring the most cerebral science dramatically to life. Now these two champions of humanism and scientific speculation have combined their talents in a novel sure to be one of the most talked-about of the year, a 2001 for the new millennium.

I guess that’s inevitable when a publisher has a living legend in its stable.

I read an old hardcover edition from 2004 which included a CD with two of Baxter’s novels (downloadable pdf files that I haven’t read yet, but I reviewed another of his books here) If you buy a used copy be sure to ask if the CD is included.

There was also a pdf on how the book was created (which includes author biographies and lists of works). From these notes and wikipedia I get the impression that Clarke and Baxter developed the outline for the book and Baxter wrote it. Maybe that applies to all three of the books in the trilogy, since the last was published in December 2007 and Clarke (who had been ill for years) died three months later. A sad day.

Best-selling Required Reading for Scifi Fans May Not Be What You Expect #review #bookreview #scifi #sciencefiction #space

Ultimate Classic ScifiYou can’t claim to be well-rounded in science fiction if you haven’t read Foundation – a collection of stories written between 1941 and 1949, and assembled into a book in 1951 – followed quickly by the second and third volumes. This was the Golden Age, and the trilogy’s been called the beginning of modern science fiction and the greatest scifi series ever. I’m sure this second accolade will be debated until the sun burns out.

In the first book – Foundation – don’t expect a lot of action. Each story is primarily conversations among the characters – the style is almost Socratic in its questions, answers, and explanations. Amazon ranks the book under Political and Literary Fiction as well as Science Fiction Anthologies.

Warning: I read the hardcover edition, and some reviewers claim the Kindle version has been re-edited and “butchered.”

Asimov used elements of science fiction that are still with us today: force fields, hyperspace, and holograms. Nuclear power was the epitome of high-tech and fills the books – everything is nuclear from refrigerators to spaceships, run with nuclear generators the size of your thumb. But there’s also microfilm and – gasp – paper. The combination makes for an interesting read.

Stories mean different things to readers in different times and places. Given America’s current billionaire occupation of the government and explosion of fake news’ influence on the public, I found Asimov’s vision depressing and cynical.

All his governments are dictatorships – usually kingdoms and empires – sometimes with worthless bureaucracies. There are trillions of humans (nothing but humans, everywhere in the galaxy) but they appear only in negative terms as mobs and oblivious fools. Even the heroes manipulate populations on a planetary scale without remorse, and religion is a cynical tool of “conquest by missionary.” The Foundation pushes its agenda by making technologies appear magical to the mobs, using priests who (mostly) embrace supernatural explanations. The Foundation gains control because “the chief characteristic of the religion of science is that it works.”

Regarding another modern concern, if you follow the War on Women in America, you’ll notice that Foundation heroes are all men. Few women appear in the stories, not even as decoration. It makes me wonder where the galaxy’s population comes from, because the stories span centuries, jumping from one historic crisis to the next. This narrow vision isn’t universal in Asimov’s works, by the way. One of my favorite Asimov novels, The Gods Themselves, could almost be listed under LGBTQ (though all alien.)

I recommend the book more for its historical context than for fun. But many people love it. With over 2,000 reviews on Amazon (yes – over two thousand!) Foundation rates 4.4 stars.

BREAKING NEWS: Skydance Television production company is bringing the Foundation trilogy to the small screen: “‘The Foundation Trilogy’ is a set of short stories which have been tried both cinematically and as a series for HBO but just hasn’t been able to get off the ground.” I bet I know why – they stories aren’t very photogentic, especially in the beginning.

Lots of Amazon reviewers mention they read the trilogy long ago and enjoyed finding the books again. Not everyone, however, recaptured their earlier enthusiasm.

Reading Foundation now, I was shocked at the novel’s simplicity… In fact, in comparing Foundation with [Dune, Reality Dysfunction, and Dark Forest], you would almost have to term it as a YA title… I would not recommend this series to anyone who has already read many of the other science fiction classics. I would however, strongly urge anyone with a teenager to purchase it as an introduction to science fiction. Steven M. Anthony

One more quibble: why do publishers put such awful covers on classics?

Looking ahead, I see more action and a female character in Book 2 – Foundation and Empire. I plan to push on to the end.

Join the first colonists https://books2read.com/u/bQZp1eAll my books, including the On Mars series, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers, including Smashwords and Create Space for paperbacks. Four of my On Mars books are available now. I can’t claim to be a classic! but read one today.

Podcast Crammed with Science Fiction & Fantasy, Delightful Shorts, & I’m Thrilled to be Featured #podcast #scifi #listening #today

Science Ficiton and Fantasy PodcastYou’ll find short science fiction and fantasy stories on the 600 Second Saga podcast and I’m thrilled to be their Featured Author, for the first time, for August. That means, in addition to listening to loads of flash fiction for free, if you sign up to support the podcast, you’ll get my latest collection of short reads as a thank you.

But hurry – August 2017 won’t last forever.

Short Reads in Scifi and Fantasy :)Check out podcasts of two of my stories now, and escape the real world every week with a new 10 minute story of scifi or fantasy. Or choose from the extensive library. Lots of stories and lots of ways to listen. Perfect for a break or a binge.

Thanks to the podcast’s creator Mariah Avix who also handles the audio and production, and writes some of the stories. And thanks to our listeners and supporters.

Find me on 600 Second Sagas, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll find my paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats for my ebooks at Smashwords. Read one today.

Now, before you forget, get yourself over to 600 Second Saga for a treat and support this wonderful podcast.