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Category Archives: Sci-Fi

It’s Fun to Stay at the YEAG!

This blog post should have gone out yesterday but the internet was inexplicably down for a while so belatedly this is coming out today:

Not content with just one avenue of helping children, I am now helping promote an annual book – familiar to some of you – that encourages children to read, get into Sci-Fi, use their imaginations, and to be more literate which makes for a better society in general.

it has been good to get back in touch with Dreaming Robot Press who have been kind enough to send me an advanced copy of the upcoming anthology, The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide 2018.  For those of you that don’t know, the YEAG is a book that aims to be inclusive of all, sometimes drop in subtle morals and most of all give children the passion for books and exploring their minds.

With such an unlimited scope for stories, each adventure promises to be a joy and my review of last year’s 2017 YEAG will give you a taster of the sort of thing you can expect, as I delve into the new one.  For now though the Kickstarter campaign, although having reached its target and soon to close is still worth checking out if you feeling like sharing the love and helping to support this project, head on over to their Kickstarter page.  Your contribution is appreciated.

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Posted by on 12/07/2017 in Children's Literature, Sci-Fi

 

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Revolt – Jess Harpley

revoltThis is book two in the Verge of Desolation series so if you are new to the series, skip the blurb  and I will do my best to keep out any story spoiling information as you will want to start with book one, The Mill reviewed here.

Jen has departed, leaving mechanically augmented Hopper at the top of a dimensionally phasing building wondering what’s next. Riding home, she encounters the strange but intriguing Ravin, a man so desperate to make a change in their cruel world, Hopper’s never fully sure she can trust him. Her thirst for revenge against the doctors of The Mill shapes the revolt of their century as she adopts Ravin’s quest for freedom and unravels a secret which cuts deeply into her heart. Return to The Mill with Hopper and Ravin on their bloody adventure to destroy the source of the depraved experiments and save the world from the true evil that plagues it.

Revolt picks up straight from where The Mill left off and as with its predecessor is an action packed story that flies along and keeps the body count high, It has a lively, cyberpunk feeling, keeping it fresh with unexpected events and quirky characters..

As usual Jess presents a strong female lead – a theme running through all her work – and one that appeals to both sexes.  This time our heroine is plunged into an uneasy alliance which radiates tension and vulnerability adding another layer to a story already rich with dark imagery. It is that uncertainty which drives the book and keeps an air of mystery to the proceedings as the reader can never quite tell what sort of twists will occur and where that will take the adventure.

Goodbye, you elegant weirdo

The uncertainty drives the character arcs and reveals that there is always something more to each player than was first imagined.  This metamorphosis of character is something that is a constant through the Verge of Desolation series, which really adds, not only to the scope of the characters but also the unpredictability of the story.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 03/03/2017 in Sci-Fi

 

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2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide

itsfuntostayattheyeagNature gets to eat its mistakes, but we have to live with ours

Having forgotten about this review after the upheaval of last year’s end, I belatedly bring you this review, after a badly needed editing session.

This latest anthology (and my first foray into the YEAG series) is packed with 24 multifarious stories.  In a universe where anything can happen, the scope will really appeal to children who no doubt already love their science fiction with so much good stuff about in plenty of mediums.

Getting children reading is always rewarding both for themselves and in the wider view a more literate society.  Having heroes their own age, who they can relate to and imagine themselves in such situations will definitely fuel their passion for books and adventure.

The Dreaming Robot Press page states that, Our characters are white, black, asian, latino. Human and robot. Everyone belongs here. Add in people with handicaps as well and this is a truly inclusive mix. I did find the book heavily weighted to female protagonists which makes sense as there is an under representation of both female authors and female protagonists in the genre.  The boy in me would have perhaps wished for a bit more balance but there is enough choice for me out there already and it was refreshing to read about female characters and their escapades for a change.

The variation is pleasing and has plenty of depth with the different styles of writing and setting, there is something to suit all tastes and also a lot of scope here to feed a child’s imagination and to encourage them to write and read more.  The stories also have a social aspect, exploring what it is like to be seen as different, coping with illness as well as displaying determination, loyalty, and all that good stuff too. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 20/01/2017 in Children's Literature, Sci-Fi

 

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Stowaway to Mars – John Wyndham

extraweightFor British pilot Dale Curtance the Keuntz Prize – to be awarded to the first person to take a spaceship to another planet and back – is the ultimate challenge. Not only has he to build a ship to survive the journey, assemble a top-notch crew and choose a destination, he’s also got to beat the Russians and Americans.

Soon the GLORIA MUNDI blasts off from Salisbury Plain, bound for Mars. There’s only one problem – a stowaway called Joan. Not only does her presence wreck calculations and threaten the mission, but her tale suggests that Mars may be a more dangerous destination than they ever expected.

Written in the 30s, this is an early effort by John Wyndham and it shows.  This is not a bad thing though as the book is a fun read and despite its flaws there is plenty here to enjoy.

The story feels like a solid B-movie effort, of which I like to term ‘B-Literature’ and not the Wyndham that I am used to.  This a more speculative effort rather than the ‘logical fantasy’ he later wrote, with much success.  In this case, Britain is Great again at the forefront of exploration and a major contender in the space race and in particular to reach Mars first.

The story flows well, action is mixed up with speculation on the mysteries of the universe and the boredom of floating about in space, as well as the anticipations surrounding arrival to Mars and take off are captured well. The satire of the Press, especially the British is remarkably spot on now as it no doubt was back in the day; as is the Cold War feel he almost presciently managed to summon up a decade before the term was even used.

There are enough signs of the writer the author would become scattered throughout the pages especially when the astronauts speculate on the big questions.  Space always brings out the pertinent existential questions of our place in the universe and what precisely life is and there are some fascinating conversations set up throughout. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 07/01/2017 in Sci-Fi

 

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UnCommon Origins: A Collection of Gods, Monster, Nature and Science

notsocommonUnCommon Origins presents 22 depictions of moments on the precipice, beginnings both beautiful and tragic. Fantastical stories of Creation, Feral Children, Gods and Goddesses (both holy and horrific), and possibilities you never dared imagine come to life. Including stories from some of the most talented Speculative Fiction and Magical Realism authors around, UnCommon Origins will revisit the oldest questions in the universe: Where did we come from? and What comes next?

anthologies are uncommon on my bookshelf, due mainly to the up and down nature of the stories and my usual preference for singular stories in the books I read.  Breaking new ground, I found I not only enjoyed  the variety of ideas but was also impressed by the quality of the writing on show.

This Sci-Fi offering contains a lot of good stories, possibly from some very twisted minds.  I wasn’t expected to be pulled in so quickly but from the initial story – The Hanging Gardens of Brooklyn – a story about kindness to strangers, foreigners and so much more, it became clear that it was going to be a lot of fun.

Some stories took a little longer to get to the reward but even the less satisfying stories – for this reader, that is – always had the seeds of something interesting to speculate on.  There are a few authors I would be interested in reading more of, which is the pleasure of this book and the curse of the bank balance.

It was rewarding and quite exhilarating to dabble in a bunch of writers whom I have no prior knowledge of, not knowing what will come my way next.  This inventive melding of genres and imagination in a plethora of writing styles ensures that there is something for everybody here and I look forward to rereading some of them again when the fancy takes me.

This collection was brought to my attention through a barrage of emails and latterly my letterbox by perennial blog favourite Jess Harpley and her featured story includes her trademark action packed, high body count style.  As ever though there is so much more behind the action, in this story of slavery, family,  the balance of power and a decision that ultimately leaves everything in the balance. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 19/09/2016 in Sci-Fi

 

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Sway’s Demise – Jess Harpley

29739383After making peace with the desolate and stranded alien race, the Priyon, civilization limped on. Humanity occupies but a fraction of the globe at a stagnant abridgement of technology from the Priyon warning: Don’t rebuild, or the darkness that destroyed their world will come to Earth.

Now eight young men and women from a small community will be the only barrier between the enemy of old, and the survival of the human race. Can they persevere, or will it be their demise?

This year, I have mainly been reading serious stuff so its high time I went for something a little less so and Sway’s Demise was an enjoyable, light palate cleanser that flies along and kept me reading a lot longer than I had planned for.  I read this in two sittings, it would have been one but for my obstinate stomach demanding food, for which it was rewarded with a black coffee.

The clean design of the cover sums up perfectly what the book is about, the reader is treated to an action packed adventure with a high body count in a world gone backwards – but still with some future tech – thanks to war with aliens and the ever-present threat and paranoia that that brings.

There are many things I enjoyed about this book, Harpley’s take on sentient robots is refreshing, as is the human interaction which has become more pronounced due to the seismic shifts of the recent past that humanity finds themselves in.  This straddling of the low-tech personal and wider worlds is a welcome mix with one outlook influencing the other.

Information is given out in great dollops in the first part of the story, allowing the reader to fill in the gaps but with enough left to the imagination, that one wants to know precisely what it is all about.  It’s the good grounding of back story that gives the reader the details up front that which is key because the second half of the book is more like an action thriller than the dystopian sci-fi I was half expecting.  The combat – and there is a lot of it – was very reminiscent of Starship Troopers but with a much more complex enemy and an equally ambitious body count. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 12/05/2016 in Sci-Fi

 

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My alternative education through 2000AD

In the formative years of my life I had no idea of the stealth education that this comic gave me but through Alistair’s words you can see how kids of yesteryear were being encouraged to think about big ideas so early on in their/our lives.

Alastair Savage

Under the radar, quietly reading in the corner, the kids of 1980s Britain were absorbing a different message from the ones we got from our educators and the media. While politicians ranted and many people looked back to a bygone age of triumph, we were clutching tales of science-fiction adventure that seemed harmless to disinterested adult eyes.

2000ad 173

The 1970s and 1980s were the golden age of 2000AD, Britain’s sci-fi comic. Then, as now, it came out weekly. Printed on shabby paper and sold for small change, it didn’t look at all like the sort of thing that would have an effect on anyone, but for me, it was another sort of education entirely.

2000AD featured four or five continuing stories every week, in black and white with one colour spread. Judge Dredd, the 21st century’s fascistic lawman was almost always on the centre pages. Rather than being an out-and-out attack…

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Posted by on 15/10/2015 in Graphic Novels, Sci-Fi

 

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