Category Archives: SF

Dean Koontz – The Whispering Room

I haven’t read Dean Koontz for a while, and I haven’t read any of the previous Jane Hawk novels. I’ve been missing out.

Jane is on a quest to find out who caused her husband to commit suicide. Someone or something was controlling him. As she starts to find answers, “they” threaten her five-year-old son. This turns Jane into a rogue FBI agent bent on protecting her boy and destroying those who endanger him and seek power over the masses.

The characters are interesting and believable, even the minor ones. Settings are well done; this novel takes you all over the country. Quite a road trip. There is action and dark adventure, a plot that is believable and scary.

My only problem with the story is the ending. Koontz left loose ends to entice you to read the next installment.

Good read.

p.s. I went back and read the first book of the series, The Silent Corner. It would be better to read them in order. This is definitely a series. You’ll want to read them all to get the full story. Two more books are available, and one is due May, 2019.

Both The Silent Corner and The Whispering Room are excellent writing.

Peter Cawdron —Retrograde

The scientific settlement on Mars receives word that nuclear war has broken out on Earth, then communications are cut. The community on Mars consists of four modules — U.S., Chinese, Russian, and Eurasians (from various countries). They start pointing fingers and blaming each other’s countries for starting the war. It appears that the module leaders are lying to each other. Then things begin to go wrong in the settlement. But Liz is determined to get everyone working together.

Cawdron paints a fantastic picture of Mars, both topside and in the tunnels where the scientists have built their settlement. His characters are believable, and their reactions to the disaster at home and the hardships imposed by the red planet are realistic.

For those who like hard science fiction, this is a good one. As stated by SpaceX engineer Dr. Andrew Rader in the Afterword of the novel, “…there are no scientific breakthroughs required for the human exploration of or settlement on Mars — only engineering effort and widespread dedication to the goal.” With a few exceptions, all of the technology and science in Retrograde is possible, if not now, in the near future.

Mars

Daniel Suarez — Change Agent

Singapore
Singapore

Kenneth Durand is an Interpol Agent chasing genetic crime in 2045. He is shutting down labs that create designer children for a price. Marcus Wyckes heads the cartel at the top of the black lab food chain. Otto, the “mirror man,” created to survive human disasters and repopulate the earth if humanity is wiped out, hates humans, and is Wyckes right-hand man. He injects Durand with Wyckes’ DNA, expecting Durand to die and be identified as Wyckes. But Durand lives through the DNA change.

We meet all sorts of characters, good and bad, as Durand travels through the underworld of genetics trying to find a way to return to his original self. The setting for the book is fascinating, starting in Singapore, traveling through Malaysia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Suarez takes us through cities, farm lands, and jungles. He extends today’s technology into the future with interesting devices and transportation. The author also covers many possibilities, promising and terrible, from the results of “editing” DNA in plants, animals, and humans.

Suarez is a NYT bestselling author, but this is the first of his books I’ve read. I could be tempted to read more.

Sage Walker — The Man in the Tree

This novel kept me reading until 4 AM. As I said in my last post, science fiction can be almost any type of story. This one is a murder mystery, a romance, a generation ship story, a psychological thriller, hard science fiction, and much more.

The seed ship Kybele is almost ready to leave Earth after years of building and preparation, when a man is found dead in a tree. Helt Borrensen, the ship’s incident analyst is assigned the job of special investigator to determine if the death is suicide or murder and if murder, who is the killer. The investigation is complicated by the discovery that several of the colonists have apparently received large sums of money from an organization that opposes the seed ship leaving Earth orbit. The love story in the novel involves Helt’s attraction for the chief murder suspect.

Sounds like a romance novel, doesn’t it? But this is only a part woven into a complicated plot that explores the birth of a new world, human behavior and interactions, politics, multiple sciences, the controversy of surveillance, new ways to govern, creativity…the list goes on.

Sage Walker is an excellent storyteller.

Science Fiction

I know people who like reading fiction but say they don’t like science fiction (SF). But how can you write off a huge genre that contains everything from literary to trash? There are so many subgenres in SF as there are outside SF—genres and subgenres combined.

I just finished another SF novel that kept me up until 4 AM to finish it—The Man in the Tree by Sage Walker. I started to write another post about science fiction and realized I had already done that, so I am reposting it.

Science Fiction posted Jul 29, 2014.
I love SF books. At least some of them. They cover so much ground. The range from great to boring. But isn’t that true of all novels? There are many genres within SF: Adventure, Space, Hard SF, Soft SF, Paranormal, Cyberpunk, Alternate History, and many more. Some cross over genres into romance, mystery, fantasy, or mainstream fiction. Now they are sometimes calling it speculative fiction, which appears to covers more genres than even science fiction.

I first wrote my novel, The Janus Code, as science fiction or speculative fiction in 1995. When the world caught up with my imagination, I edited it to bring it up-to-date and published it as a suspense thriller.

Getting back to why I started this post, I stayed up ‘til 4AM a couple of nights ago reading a SF book – The Silent History by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett. This is soft or social SF. I found the book fascinating for several reasons. One is the fact that it is a collaboration between three authors. Something that caught my attention was that the story was originally written as an iPhone app. Another reason is that they wrote in first person, but each chapter is from a different character’s point of view. You don’t see many books written multiple first person.

An interesting point is that these characters may show up in only one or two chapters or they may continue to appear throughout the book. This made the story a bit difficult to follow when I started reading. I kept thinking, “Did I see this person before?” But that didn’t last when I got into the story.

The plot: Children are born without language capability. It turns out to be a virus and more and more children are born with this condition.

I could get into the story and the characters’ reactions. I could tell you how it relates to the way people today respond to anyone who is “different.” I could tell you how the story progresses. Instead, I’ll let you read this very absorbing story.

I’ve started another SF novel – Mars, inc.: The Billionaire’s Club by Ben Bova, one of SF’s most accomplished and prolific writers. This is hard science fiction or maybe even mainstream fiction. The science is real; it could happen today. One man convinces a group of billionaires to finance a crewed mission to Mars. I can’t give you much more on this one because I’ve just begun reading.

For those of you who don’t read SF, give it a try. There are many variations and lots of good writing.

Cassandra Rose Clark — Star’s End

Star’s End is the ultimate in corporate control. A science fiction story about the Four Sisters, four planets terraformed by Phillip Coromina. He not only owns the planets, he owns the people who inhabit them. Any person who doesn’t follow company rules disappears. Exiled or killed? The family business manufactures weapons. One product of the company is manufactured humans who are programmed in their DNA to be soldiers. They fight wars across the galaxy alongside normal human mercenaries hired by the corporations.  The manufactured soldiers are programmed to be loyal to each other and the corporations.

The protagonist in Star’s End is Phillip’s oldest daughter, Esme. Her mother is a soldier who left her to be raised by Phillip when she was born. Esme’s three-hundred-year-old father is dying. He has a disease which kills even those taking rejuvenation treatments. She is taken by surprise, but she has been waiting a long time. Esme will become CEO of Coromina Group. She wants to change the path of the company and no longer manufacture weapons.

There are also aliens living on the planets. Philip isolated them long ago and they have no contact with the humans. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Fear the aliens; fear anyone different from you instead of learning to live together; creating wars for profit.

Esme’s three younger half-sisters have all disappeared. She is trying to track them down and bring them home before her father dies. Each sister chose to leave when they found out how cruel their father was and what he had done to Isabel, the youngest. But Esme has stayed to work from inside to improve the system.

The novel jumps between present and past. The past POV is Esme, first person past, and the present is Esme, third person past. There are many secrets that we don’t learn until events occur in the past chapters or until Esme reaches a level in the corporation to learn them. Phillip is all about secrets. You are privy to more of what’s happening as you go up the ranks of the company. At the end of the story, Esme is one of the few Ninety-Nines, the highest level who can know all the secrets.

An interesting novel, obviously anti-corporate. I enjoyed it, even if I found Esme reluctantly following her father’s orders hard to take.

Annalee Newitz — Atonomous

This novel is speculative or science fiction; exploring robotics, pharmaceuticals, biotech, and artificial intelligence. The characters and POV include a human biotech pirate, an “indentured” human, a free robot scientist, an indentured android, other humans and bots. Newitz does a good job of getting into the “minds” of the bots as well as the humans.

Many underlying themes weave through this story—property rights, patents, pharmaceuticals, indenture/slavery, what is human. The plot revolves around the female biotech pirate, Jack, reverse-engineering a drug the makes people love their work. The patented version is very expensive and only available to the rich. Her version is cheap and available. It’s very addictive and some people work themselves to death or cause catastrophes that kill others. She goes to work finding a cure.

Other characters are Eliasz, human, and his indentured robotic partner, Paladin, who are working for Big Pharma tracking the pirate. Jack rescues and frees an indentured human. An autonomous robot comes into the story, working with Jack on the cure. Other characters, mostly from Jack’s past, pass through.

I enjoyed the ideas about our future more than the main plot of the story. I also liked the various points of view. Newitz did well poking into the thoughts of robots.

Anne Corlett — The Space Between the Stars

Humans have expanded throughout the galaxy before a virus wipes out nearly all the population on every planet. Jamie Allenby wakes up alone on a remote planet she escaped to when her marriage was failing and she wanted “some space.” Zero point zero zero zero one percent survival rate, she had heard before her planet fell to the virus. After three days alone she finds two other people. They are rescued by two others in a small spacecraft looking for fuel. Their little band of survivors gathers two more as they bounce from planet to planet toward Earth.

This is not hard science fiction. I would call it “literary” or maybe “psychological” — a study in human behavior. Jamie isn’t sure what she’s searching for, maybe home. The small group includes an ex-priest, a prostitute, an ex-scientist who believes God has caused the apocalypse in order to start over, a young man with autism, the spaceship captain, and his engineer.

Corlette, with her first novel, has written an intriguing story that covers many issues that are relevant today, in the past, or our future.

This one kept me awake until 3AM to finish it. I look forward to more from Anne Corlette.

Kim Stanley Robinson — 2312

I picked this book to read because I was delighted with Robinson’s New York 2140. I wanted to read more. But there is no connection between the two novels except the author.

For me, the best part of this book was the settings. It starts with a sunrise on planet Mercury. The descriptions are breath-taking. The author continues to give us imaginative pictures of and from other places in our solar system throughout the book. It must have required tons of research combined with an ingenious imagination to create these scenes.

There are four (or five) principal characters. Swan is an artist from Mercury. She designed worlds and created habitats in moons and asteroids. Her grandmother Alex, who was the leader of Mercury and more, has died, and Swan is mourning. Swan is volatile, angry, hyper…and 135 years old. She meets Wahram, a diplomat from the Saturn system, whose personality is the complete opposite—relaxed, accepting, enjoying life. Inspector Genette is an interplanetary policeman. Kiran is a young man from Earth who helps Swan. She, in turn, helps him leave Earth and immigrate to Venus. The fifth main character is Pauline, the cube (quantum computer) in Swan’s head. There are many other characters scattered through the book, but I believe these are the central cast.

The intricate plot twists and turns. Earth is in bad shape with political and environmental issues. It is the only planet in the solar system still struggling with poverty and social inequality. Swan and Wahram are trying to fix it with successes and failures. Someone tries to destroy Terminator, the city on Mercury, but most of the people escape. An asteroid habitat was destroyed previously, and all inhabitants died. These events appear to be related. Was Alex’s death murder or natural causes? Swan and Wahram work with Genette trying to find who is responsible for these disasters.

I could go on, but you should read the book. It’s long, but you could skip the extracts and lists and get the whole story. I recommend you read everything. Those extracts give history, explanations, and descriptions that enhance the story.

Dave Eggers — The Circle

This is a dystopian, creepy, novel. I can’t say I liked it, but it kept my interest to the end. To me it was a different kind of horror story, too close to the reality of where we are headed. I picked up the book because friends were talking about the movie, which I didn’t see. From what I understand, the movie didn’t exactly follow the novel and may have missed the point of the book.

I guess you could call the story a satire.

Satire definition from Oxford Dictionary: The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

I didn’t see much humor in the book, but the rest fits.

Mae Holland is thrilled when her friend Annie gets her a job at The Circle—a company that has become the ultimate monopoly in social media and the Internet. Think Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Instagram, Flikr, Tumblr, YouTube, government databases, medical databases, police records, real estate records, credit bureaus…anything that collects data about you and more…all lumped together in one company. Your life is available to anyone.

Mae is needy and wants to be loved and admired by the whole world. She accepts and enjoys the cult-like behavior required of her by The Circle. She ends up wearing a camera, which records everything she does and everyone with whom she comes in contact.

Mercer, an old boyfriend and a friend of her parents, sees all that is wrong about The Circle—the lack of privacy and lack of control of your own life. He tries to explain to Mae, but she can’t see it.

I could go on, but if this sort of book interests you, read it.