Read for Free – great ebook deals here #reading #scifi #books #GiveawayAlert #stories

woman readingLooking for something to read? Tired of the same old authors? Then snap up a freebie and find a new favorite. You’ll find links to current and upcoming giveaways on my Read For Free page.

Better yet, subscribe to my Readers’ Club and receive an occasional email, sent right to your inbox, and never miss out.

Join Now button (150x72)

Advertisements

Bowl of Heaven a bowl of rehash, doesn’t even have an ending #bookreview #review #scifi #sciencefiction

Bowl of Heaven coverIt’s not often I finish a book with the urge to throw it across the room, but that’s where Bowl of Heaven left me. I didn’t even get that satisfaction because I had a hardcover book and was afraid I’d break something.

With two popular authors, “science fiction masters” (so the blurb says) Larry Niven (best known for Ringworld) and Gregory Benford (best known for Timescape) I expected more. The story begins with grand ideas – an interstellar ship with most of the crew in hibernation and an amazing, huge ship-star, a variation on a Dyson sphere (and, therefore, a variation on Niven’s Ringworld from 1970) that is quite cool and fun to contemplate. Cool enough that the book seems to repeat descriptions and slack-jawed wonder of the contrivance (the authors like the word contrivance) from time to time throughout the book. But, okay, maybe some readers forget and appreciate the repetition. I noticed but wasn’t especially annoyed.

A landing party from the interstellar ship gets separated, one group captured by the enormous bird-like rulers, the other running and trying to learn about the vast contrivance. They’re mostly on foot so we see only a teeny tiny bit of the vast Bowl. The captured group escapes, so the story follows two groups on the run in the Bowl, plus those remaining on their ship above the contrivance. (I’m getting used to that word.)

Some scenes are told from the Bird-Folk’s point of view and therefore comment on humanity’s weaknesses, though I couldn’t shake the image of Sesame Street’s Big Bird from my mind.

The landings parties wander around the Bowl. Well, I guess wander isn’t fair – they are being chased. As the story progresses, they find more interesting technologies and species of Bowl inhabitants. Interesting, but not especially riveting.

What got me was – the book ends after 400+ pages, but the story doesn’t. There isn’t even a particular cliffhanger. It just stops – go buy the next book. The blurb on Amazon doesn’t warn you that you’re buying half a story (at $8.99 for the Kindle version.) That makes me angry. I’m used to multi-book series, but I expect each book to have an ending. Scheisse. The next book is available. They call it a sequel. Sequel my eye – it’s part 2, and I hope the story gets to a conclusion, but I don’t expect to read it.

The Bowl gets 3.1 stars on Amazon (from a hefty 291 reviews the day I checked.) I’ve never seen a distribution like this – reviews are evenly divided among all five star rating levels! As many people hate the book as love it.

“Old themes rewarmed and mixed together,” “long, rambling, resolves nothing.” I agree with those comments. “Physics is solid and the engineering is great.” I agree with that too. Maybe that’s why the book returns to descriptions of the Bowl so often.

So after six years on Amazon Kindle, how can this book still rank #644 in its scifi category? With an overall Kindle store ranking of #118,990, someone buys the book every day. Those are awesome rankings that I, as a newbie scifi author, would love to have.

Come on people. Try something new! How about my near-future Mars colony? Find Glory on Mars and the rest of the series on Amazon and other favorite stores. Or join my Readers’ Club and get a coupon for a free download of Glory on Mars. Mars isn’t as big as the Bowl, but give the story a try.

RetrogradeIf not my story, give someone’s story a try. You can probably buy two or three ebooks from new authors for what the Bowl will cost you. Here’s a story by a friend of mine that offers the exploits of an interstellar diplomat, with thoughtful themes I rarely find in scifi. With art on the cover instead of the almost-standard Fiverr covers assembled from stock images. Creativity is good 🙂

#ChildhoodsEnd on #Syfy – Invasion by aliens with a mission you don’t expect – even after 60 years of #ScienceFiciton

ChildhoodsEnd(1stEd)

1st edition cover. The book is still available.

Syfy is launching a mini-series built on Arthur C. Clarke’s classic 1953 book. It won’t debut until December but the buzz has started.

“Utopia, but at what cost?”

There are lots of stories about Utopia making us lazy, and plots based on sinisterly-friendly aliens, so why has Syfy reached back to the mid-20th century for a story?

I read Childhood’s End when I was a kid – I still have a couple pictures in my head from the book – especially of the aliens – but I had to visit Wikipedia for a plot summary. (One of my memories was dead-wrong! My head is a dangerous place to leave information gathering dust for decades.)

Clarke wrote about a world at the height of the US/Soviet Cold War, when nuclear war seemed the most likely way for humanity to exterminate itself, and before the space age – some of his story is now near-ancient history. Will Syfy choose a different time period? A different threat to global survival?

Clarke wove real physics with fantasy, action with wonder and even sadness. Will Syfy take the same approach?

Syfy has been working on the series since April, 2013. The cast has been announced. There’s Charles Danc from Game of Thrones and Ricky Stormgren from Under the Dome. Trekkies (or do you prefer Trekkers?) will remember Colm Meaney from Next Generation and Deep Space Nine (though his career goes far beyond), playing a new character who’s not in the book.

Will a story written half a century ago grab today’s viewers.? I’m an old timer myself with a soft spot for the classics, but I keep reading how science fiction has changed, how today’s readers want something different, how the classic heroes were laughably stiff and movies today need more action, more fights and explosions. Will Clarke’s haunting ending survive the move to Syfy?

I usually find TV and movie adaptations less satisfying than the books they come from, but I think I’ll wait and watch Syfy’s Childhood’s End before I re-read the novel – give it a chance. After all, we live in the 21st century.

Long, Long, Long Lost Brothers

Dendrogramma_enigmatica_sp._nov.,_holotypeThirty years ago, Danish scientists collected small, floating marine creatures off an Australian coast. Among those specimens, they have now announced, are “two new species of what they call Dendrogramma in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.” These new species are so strange they may have last shared a common ancestor with humans 600 million years ago. They may represent a new phylum.

Long before modern science, philosophers separated life into the Kingdoms of Animal and Plant. In Today’s taxonomy, Kingdoms are divided into Phyla; for example, Chordata, the phylum that unites you and me with sea squirts. A phylum is a very basic classification. A new phylum is an extraordinary claim and requires extraordinary scrutiny.

The Dendrogrammas are weird little guys, but aren’t likely to star in their own SyFy monster movie. They look like odd jellyfish. The Kingdoms of Animals and Plants got all the big, flashy species, at least from a human point of view. Once microscopes allowed a more detailed examination, three or four groups of microbes (the science is still developing) were so different they were classified in their own Kingdoms, and they won’t get their own monster movie, either. But we still live on the Planet of Bacteria. We, who have dominion over the beasts of the field, should contemplate our small brethren who out-number us, out-weigh us, and may out-survive us.