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.

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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.

On the Foreseeable Edge of our Future, Heroes Battle a Bloodcurdling Killer in Military Scifi Thriller #scifi #space #bookreview #review

Gripping Military ScifiEdge of the Future is an engrossing military science fiction story set on Earth and nearby space sometime in our future. Mark is a military scientist working on secret projects but not a combat soldier – at least, not until his lab is attacked by a mysterious villain.

Mark and his lab partner are put into protective custody with a pair of elite soldiers and Mark’s counterpart Axel trains him in self-defense. They become friends in a blunt combative manner befitting soldiers. In addition to hand to hand combat, there’s elite armor, cyber-hacks, mind-control, nifty weapons, and spaceships enough to keep a military scifi fan happy. I’ve never been in the military but the details felt very believable and the characters are well developed.

It becomes obvious the villain has not given up and operates a powerful organization that includes cyborgs. I won’t risk spoilers, but this is a powerful, resourceful, and vicious villain who’s willing to go to extremes to get the data she wants.

Especially the second half of the book is fast paced and flows. I read the last 25% in a single sitting – I had to find out how it ended.

There’s a real and satisfying ending – but some characters are still around so a sequel seems possible.

I always enjoy looking for an author’s little quirks. Stone’s characters take a lot of showers – perhaps because they’re sweaty and bloody so often. One quibble I might have is on the Lunar Base – Stone doesn’t show the effects of the Moon’s lower gravity as the characters deal with the good and bad that comes their way. But that’s easy to overlook.

If you like military scifi, this book’s for you.

All my books, including the On Mars series, are available at Amazon, 1st colony on Mars - read todayBarnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers, including Smashwords and Create Space for paperbacks. Read one today.

Start with Glory on Mars on Amazon and at your favorite on-line store

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Galileo’s Defiance and Destiny in an Imagined History – Science Fiction Novel #scifi #historical #alternative #history #review #bookreview

Galileo's Dream scifi novelThis science fiction novel is heavy on historical fiction. I knew the outline of Galileo’s story – his breakthrough studies of the moons of Jupiter, endorsement of the then-radical theory that the planets orbit around the sun, and his condemnation by the Catholic Church. Kim Stanley Robinson provides a richly detailed portrayal of his life – his illnesses, peccadillos, endless family and money troubles, political machinations among the city-states of Italy, and conflict with the Church.

I hope Robinson (a king of hard scifi) did his usual-thorough research because his vision of Galileo will stay with me. I think so – he even included translations of Galileo’s actual writings.

Galileo was a genius, but not a very pleasant man to be around. His life ends as it did in reality – which isn’t Robinson’s fault – but he fully delivers the sadness and misery.

Science fiction enters when colonists on Jupiter’s moons

Galileo's first telescope - a reproduction of the optics

My own reproduction of Galileo’s first telescope – it’s amazing he saw anything

repeatedly snatch Galileo into their future.
Some factions want to change their present by changing how his life turns out, while other factions want to keep things the same. There are enchanting visions of Jupiter and its moons, and what technology might be like there in the distant future, but the Jovians’ story was unsatisfying. The relationships among the colonists were confusing and their story didn’t resolve very well.

I didn’t like this book as much as Amazon reviewers, who averaged 4 out of 5 stars. There was a lot of repetition in both Galileo’s and the Jovian’s stories. I skimmed through most of the book. I didn’t know who the narrator was until the end, though an occasional lapse from 3rd person to 1st person made me realize it wasn’t any of the main characters. That made the story a bit distant from Galileo at times, with the narrator sometimes knowing more than Galileo and sometimes less.

Don’t expect an easy, flowing read, but if you enjoy Robinson and history, give the book a try.

Join the first colonists https://books2read.com/u/bQZp1eAll my books, including my Mars colonization series, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Read one today.

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Colonizing Other Planets Not as Much Fun as You Think #review #scifi #books #amreading #sciencefiction #bookreview

The master of terraforming Mars sends colonists to a distant star system in Aurora. With his trademark attention to detail, the first quarter of Kim Stanley Robinson’s book takes you on a tour of the large rotating spaceship. The main character, Freya, travels through the biomes and towns, talking with most of the two thousand residents.

Freya is aboard a generational spaceship nearing the end of its 170 year voyage, and things are going subtly wrong with the ship and the humans onboard. People chaff under the discipline required to keep systems in balance – Robinson is as interested in the psychological aspects of the mission as he is in the technology. If you wonder what life onboard a generational ship might be like, this section of the book is for you.

They arrive at their destination and landing parties prepare buildings and greenhouses for the entire ship’s complement, but things go terribly wrong. Half way through there’s a twist I wasn’t expecting and the mission takes an unexpected turn.

Most of the book is narrated by the ship’s artificial intelligence which gives the story a somewhat cold feeling. The ship also muses on human language and – instructed by the chief engineer to prepare a narrative summary of the final part of their voyage – frets over the use of metaphors which it finds to be imprecise.

While Robinson has been described as “a novelist who looks ahead with optimism,” Aurora is deeply pessimistic regarding human beings and their technologies. The settlers suffer frustrating slow-motion disasters that they never completely understand and their society breaks down into battling factions.

This is not a book to read in a rush – I could only read for short periods of time in a sitting. Take it on vacation – it’ll last all week.

What others are saying
Aurora earns a respectable 3.5 stars from 635 customer reviews on Amazon, and places in the top 2% of Amazon’s sellers’ ranking for Hard Science Fiction. I wish I did as well with my novels.

Readers who liked Aurora called it “sad but greatly satisfying” and “awesome and depressing.” Those who didn’t found it “long winded” and “repetitive.” Robinson isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but no author is.

I’ve read a few of Robinson’s books and notice he likes the names Aurora and Pauline – and likes to point out that verbal metaphors can’t explain the physical world like math can. It’s fun to notice an author’s little quirks.

The quote above, “a novelist who looks ahead with optimism,” comes from the dust jacket of Robinson’s Galileo’s Dreams.

For my own vision of the first colony on Mars, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Start with Glory on Mars. Read one today.

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Podcast of Berserk, a Norse Fantasy #podcast #scifi #fantasy #shortstories

A short read from my new collection is coming to audio! Listen to the June 14th podcast of 600 Second Saga – episodes go live at 6pm CST US.

Eirik takes his first voyage with a Norse raiding party. He admires and fears the berserker warriors who lead them into battle, but the magic that makes them invincible is not what he expected.

Can’t wait? Read Eirik’s story and more – short stories, flash and microfiction, and excerpts from my Mars colony series. Available now on Amazon

There are plenty of short science fiction and fantasy pieces on 600 Second Saga, so visit today. Perfect for a break during your day, or anytime.

And watch this blog for a reminder when Berserk goes live.