Great Premise and Writing Drew Me Into This #Scifi #Book #Alien #FirstContact #ebook

ARIAThe premise of ARIA: Left Luggage by Geoff Nelder is fascinating. An alien artifact is found in orbit, opened on Earth, and releases an epidemic that erases memories – starting from yesterday and eating rapidly back through your life.

  • What would I do if I woke up on an airplane with a horrific hangover and no memory of how I got there or where I’m going? What if self-control eroded so everyone was increasingly violent?
  • Suppose I knew I was infected and realized what was coming? Where would I go? What notes would I leave myself to compensate for my life slipping away?
  • If I was lucky enough to escape to a doomsday prepper’s hideaway without being infected, would I kill anyone who approached? How would I try to help humanity?
  • And as the world fell apart, would I wonder who did this? Why? Where are they? And what’s next?

I wrote those questions in first person because this story drew me in – I could identify with the characters – those escaping and those losing their memories, which is a version of losing their minds. Nelder shares characters’ discussions and planning as well as the action with readers.

While the first half of the book shows various groups trying to deal with the disaster, in the second half there are more complications, discoveries, and things go terribly awry for the main characters. Yet there is (perhaps?) a glimmer of hope.

This is the first book in a trilogy
Be prepared for the final pages to set up the next book rather than bring the story to a conclusion. Solving the “big” mysteries of the story has to wait. For those of you who hate to start a series without knowing it will conclude: the second and third books are available now, and (as the description says, so I’m not a spoiler) “we finally meet the aliens.”

What others are saying
Reviewers agree that the book is engaging and makes them wonder how they would react in such a situation. You won’t find many negative comments on Amazon, and even a rare unfavorable review said “looks like it would make a hell of a movie.” The author refers to the International Space Station and Space Shuttle, but in the story these have capabilities beyond the real-life craft – that’s a small complaint about a science fiction story in my mind.

Check out my own science fiction here.

On Mars 3 covers over planet (298x300)


What If Search for ET Found Us? #SETI #alien #science #space

Now that we know how to look for exoplanets… maybe we know how ExoPlanetCandidates-20150723intelligent aliens are looking for us.

Astronomers suggest that future searches focus on that part of the sky in which distant observers can notice the yearly transit of Earth in front of the Sun… Observers in this zone could have discovered Earth with the same techniques that are used by terrestrial astronomers to discover and characterize exoplanets.

This wouldn’t solve any of the barriers to communication – mostly the vast distances involved and the huge transmission lag, even for signals at the speed of light. I’m not sure if it would be exciting or terribly sad to know there was an Earth-like planet out there that we can see and can see us, but we can’t exchange a “hello.”

Earth Can’t Hide Alien Boy Forever #fantasy #book #newadult #scifi #review #bookreview

I Am Number FourI Am Number Four was written for teenage boys. Five years after publication, it still scores in the top couple percent of its Amazon sales categories. I like a lot of Young Adult books, and I’m in touch with my inner male, so I had high expectations.

You may recall the book was made into a movie in 2011. From comments I read, the movie was forgettable. But that’s not unusual for a movie adaptation, so I don’t hold it against the book.

I guess I’m just too-much-not a teenage boy. My reaction is a more modest “meh.”

Magical swords mean fantasy
Despite being tagged as science fiction, this is a fantasy story – not that there’s anything wrong with that. It may have aliens but – come on – it opens with swords. Magical swords.

The fifteen year old hero comes from a world where some kids – called Garde – are super-strong and super-fast. But that’s just the beginning. They develop specific superpowers in their teens, like becoming invisible or fire-proof. An alien race of monstrous beings has slaughtered the inhabitants of their home world. (Because the monsters destroyed the environment on their own home planet – a little message there.)

Despite having killed a whole planet’s population of super-powered people, the monsters feel threatened by nine Garde who escaped to Earth as young kids. The monsters are therefore hunting them and their adult companions – each kid has one Cepan, or guardian. The Garde/Cepan pairs scatter and hide. Fortunately, they look exactly like humans and fit in perfectly. Of course, they don’t reveal their alien nature to anyone on Earth or ask for help.

There’s more magic
Because of a “charm” the monsters can only kill the kids in a certain sequence and if they kill one, a scar magically appears on the ankles of the others. Three scars have appeared on Number Four, so he knows he’s next. He and his Cepan move and assume new identities twice a year anyway, so when that third scar appears, they run – to a tiny rural town with a surprisingly well equipped high school – the home ec lab has ten kitchens and there’s a class in astronomy.

None of that is a spoiler because it’s all explained in the first few pages. Then the story can begin.

As the August 2010 “Amazon Best Books” review says
I Am Number Four is a breathless page-turner of a sci-fi novel that will have readers rooting for the teen alien who must unleash his fire power to save himself, his human friends, and the planet.”

At fifteen, Number Four, going by the name John Smith, is due to develop his superpowers any day now. But his first concern is with the stereotypes at his new school – a pretty girl who makes him nervous when she’s nice to him (which leads to a lot of kissing), a bully jock, and a geek in a NASA tee-shirt. At least John gets to adopt a strange stray dog.

I was indeed turning pages quickly, scanning rather than reading every word after John’s first couple days in his new school. Some of the story I expected but there was also a quirky twist I liked. I think it’s not much of a spoiler to say there’s a climatic battle.

BTW – the author is shown as Pitticus Lore – a name from the Garde’s world. Cute.

Tremendously popular
With over 1,000 Amazon reviews averaging four stars, and still ranked number three in its kindle Best Sellers category of sci-fi aliens, you don’t need me to tell you this book is hugely popular. The follow-on books in the series are, if anything, more highly rated and close behind I Am Number Four in sales ranking. I’ll just add that this book is most likely to appeal to tween and teen readers.

Mission to Saturn Hardest of Hard #SciFi #book #space #hardscifi



‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ by Caravaggio in 1599 – PD in USA. What’s that got to do with Saturn Run? Read on…

“Hard” doesn’t mean “difficult.” More like “real.” No magic swords or last-minute rescues by elves in hard scifi.

John Sandford is best known for his prolific series of hard-boiled suspense thrillers (there’s that word again), but here tackles science fiction with co-author Ctein in Saturn Run.


An American telescope detects an object entering orbit around Saturn. Natural objects don’t act this way – it must be under intelligent control and no one else on Earth seems to have noticed. The Chinese are about to launch a colony to Mars, so they could quickly repurpose the mission and beat America to Saturn and whatever awaits there. So the race is on with only America aware they’re running – at first.

No Wantum Mechanics
A large part of the story follows how the characters turn an existing Earth-orbiting space station into a ship that can reach Saturn in a remarkably short time. The authors reject “wantum mechanics,” or “totally made-up non-science that saves the crew in the last dozen minutes of a bad Star Trek episode. ‘Captain, if we invert the polarity of the phasers and couple them to the warp drive, we can produce a beam of… unbelievablon particles.'”
As explained in the fascinating Authors’ Note, they spent a lot of time solving their technical problems, even running orbit simulations in a special Windows program. Saturn Run shares every bit of that effort with you. They admit to one piece of wantum mechanics, but given what that is (no spoilers in this review!), I think it fits the story.
What you get
are loads of technical descriptions and political machinations in a story that runs 448 pages in my epub edition. The story may be engaged in a race to Saturn, but the book is leisurely, taking its time to explore technology and present characters.
For example, one engineer is seated on a Virgin-SpaceX shuttle (nice tie-in to real-life) about to leave Earth for the space station. Instead of taking off right away, the story regresses to describing her amazingly automated apartment and the details of propulsion problems.
There’s even a cat on the mission – a detail I especially like since I sent a cat to the first colony on Mars in my book (shameless plug) Glory on Mars.
Here’s a taste of the book’s style:
• The f-bomb pops up quite a few times. [Meh. I’ve gotten used to it.]
• “A thousand kilometers above the Washington machinations, Captain Naomi Fang-Castro wrapped up the last meeting of the day, a report on the ongoing repairs to backup electrical storage units. The repair work was fine, but there was a shortage of critical parts…” [Space can be as tedious as your job.]
• “She wasn’t an obligate vegetarian and vegetarianism wasn’t obligatory in space, especially not if you were the station commander.” [Interesting detail.]
• “He ripped off the top of the envelope, using the dangling ribbon that protruded from one end.” [How about – He ripped the envelope open.]
• “The ten o-clock train arrived three minutes after she walked onto the platform. She scampered aboard, sank into a seat, and sighed. She was twenty minutes from downtown Minneapolis, not much to see on the way but endless tracks of suburban houses. Way too late for sanity’s sake, and Senior Star power engineers didn’t get overtime.” [Not just technical issues get detailed treatments.]
• “Massive-scale heat pipes with fractal fluidic passages to pump the energy from the fissioning fuel into boiling superheated fluids that drove the generator turbines. Thermomagnetic liquids and magnetic pumps and transformers to siphon waste heat.” [The authors assure me this isn’t simply techno-babble.]
• “He lived in a condo complex built around an enormous swimming pool, and populated by affluent, good-looking people. Most affluent people were good-looking, not because they inherited the right genes, but because the surgery was so good and painless and safe.” [Basically irrelevant to the story.]
• “When the station personnel paused by the window, framed in a rectangle slightly wider than it was high, they looked like paintings by Caravaggio.” [This didn’t help me much – I had to look up Caravaggio, who gets mentioned three times. Therefore, the picture above – by Caravaggio.]
• “… unhitched the lid… pressed it up against… nudged the controller… fifteen-second pan… killed his rotation… did a slow zoom-in… moved closer… alarm beeped.” [I’m getting tired of typing, and admit I got tired of reading at times, too. I skimmed ahead to the part I was waiting for.]
How Saturn Run stacks up
From the common-wisdom writing advice I’ve read, only an established money-making author could get this much “telling” past an editor. But, the day I checked, Saturn Run was ranked 15th in its Kindle category (scifi space exploration) out of 2,235 titles. That means it’s selling in the top 1%. And you can’t claim Sandford’s reputation suckered buyers in. The book has 4/5 stars from 600 reviews.
But clearly this book is for fans of hard science fiction.GLORY Ebook 300 dpi

Glory on Mars is also called hard science fiction, but the flavor is a bit different – no physics lessons 🙂 since these are real people going to live the rest of their lives on Mars. The first colonists to Mars have taken a one-way trip and that leaves them alone to face danger on the Red Planet. Journey with them as they struggle to establish their colony and explore Mars near Olympus Mons, the largest (extinct!) volcano in the solar system.

Trojan, Hollow Moon of Jupiter #SciFi #books #writing #amreading #worldbuilding

trojan hollow moonA hollow sphere nearly as large as the Earth appears in orbit around Jupiter. Humans have occupied the inside of the sphere and found the Nefra – a race of humans removed from Earth thousands of years ago. It’s hard to tell Nefra from humans because Nefra keep their tails hidden. I love this detail, since I always felt cheated by my lack of a tail.

Review – No Spoilers
First Contact is in the past and Brian Henry Dingle’s book is a world-building tale. He has a fascinating, hard-science-fiction view of a world built inside a sphere that rotates fast enough to create near-Earth gravity on the inner equator while leaving a structure – the Carousel – in the center in zero-g. Zero-g offers advantages to severely injured patients and the Carousel includes a hospital for burn and trauma cases. Dingle is a medical doctor and his knowledge is evident throughout the story – for example, “tears filled his eyes and shined over his sclera.”

The story takes place in the Carousel and on the sphere’s inner surface, with some action in space, orbiting Jupiter.

The book opens with a murder framed by a sort of prologue of police reports and interviews. Dingle has a strong vision and his gritty world is detailed. For example, sunlight is channeled through the sphere’s wall with quartz fibers – what a cool idea – and the sphere’s thick walls are mined for metals and carved into infrastructure. Dingle sometimes repeats his descriptions, as one character notices: “‘God, you’re repeating yourself.’ Calamnos said. ‘Because you need to know.'”

This is a nasty, dirty, dimly-lit world. Plastic pre-fab buildings brought from Earth are “variegated pukey pink.” Many inhabitants are pitiful -or despicable. Trojan is rife with drug addicts and criminal gangs.

Drunks and addicts are targets for murder. A couple police detectives begin to track percular attacks and the latest victim survives – barely. But the situation becomes more complicated as various factions, humans and Nefra, collide. Philosophy joins drugs and murder in the story.

Be warned that Dingle’s descriptions are vivid and intense in fight, torture, and hospital scenes.

Dingle sometimes repeats himself, but as a mixture of scifi world-building with mean streets, this is a four-star story.

It’s fun meeting other indie authors – see Brian’s review of my book Glory on Mars here.

More links:

Trojan, Hollow Moon of Jupiter Buy on Amazon

Brian Henry Dingle on Goodreads

Brian’s post on the physics of Trojan, creating a fictional world

Brian on Smashwords

No Aliens at Cygnus Star :\ #space #star #science #SETI

Cygnus_IAU.svgRemember the speculation that odd dimming patterns of a star in Cygnus might be caused by orbiting structures there, built by an intelligent alien civilization? Scientists jumped on the hypothesis and checked. Alas.

We found no evidence of an advanced civilization beaming intentional laser [or radio] signals toward Earth,” said study co-author Douglas Vakoch, president of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International in San Francisco.

So maybe the star has an unusual cloud of comets – strange and fascinating, but not sentient. Keep looking and listening, SETI.

BTW – why do scifi aliens say they are “from” a constellation? Constellations

GLORY Ebook 300 dpi

Original cover

are regions of the sky as seen from Earth. The stars forming the


The new cover 🙂 How do you like it?

main pattern are seldom related or even especially close to each other – it’s just an optical illusion and a little pattern-seeking by the human brain. Quit it, scifi aliens!

Try a near-future Mars colony – Emma takes a one-way trip to explore and build a new home, but something is terrible wrong on Mars.

Could Kepler have found #aliens? For real?! :D

That's a lot of data

That’s a lot of data

Kepler Space Telescope has been watching 150,000 stars – seeking the slight dimming and brightening patterns that indicate orbiting planets. But maybe, possibly, they found something more exciting.

Citizen Scientists Better than Computer Algorithm
“Since human eyes and minds are unsurpassed in certain sorts of pattern recognition, citizen scientists from Planet Hunters examine the data. They’ve found a weird pattern that suggests a big mess of matter circling the star, in tight formation.”

After discarding various possibilities, the only natural explanation is that a second star passed recently (as the universe considers time) and sent a flood of comets inwards. Which still seems unlikely.

This opens the door to other unlikely suggestions.

Researchers involved with SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) “long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars… The unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a ‘swarm of megastructures,’ perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.” Not quite a Dyson Sphere, but maybe a step towards it.

SETI plans to point a radio telescope at the unusual star to listen for signals consistent with technological activity, and to follow up with the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico if anything sounds promising.

OMG – could it happen in my lifetime?
Could I know, for sure, we are not alone?

I get chills, which is appropriate. Assuming all goes well, the first observation would take place in January – my North American winter. Until then I can only watch dark space near Cygnus – the star is too faint to see naked-eye – and wonder.

Thanks to

Or not