ANYONE by Charles Soule

December 3, 2019

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Soule brings us a very imaginative story about a development that literally changes the world, its customs, habits, and the very way people interact with each other.

Gabrielle White, a young inventor has been working on a cure for Alzheimer’s, apparently with no breakthrough, and is ready to expend the last of the funds given her to attempt one final test. She does so and miraculously finds herself transported into her husband’s body. Getting her husband to understand what has happened to them, the two invest all their own savings to try and duplicate the transfer. They succeed and initiate a new industry that changes everything as it takes hold.

Soule describes what happens and outlines what might really transpire if the transfer procedure would really be perfected. The level of human understanding would take a giant leap forward, airline, train, and auto travel would become less important with people going to other lands via host bodies rather than actually going there, and most significantly, the industry surrounding transfer would become the titan of the business world.

The novel shows the evolution of a black market as people clandestinely rent out their bodies as receptors without the required physical exam, and then later, not paying tax on the receipts. In addition, one man has figured out a way to gain eternal life via transferring continuously as he ages. Against the law, the story evolves with a woman’s fight to stop his actions and continue with an ordered procedure for the industry. Where her battle goes forms an important part of the story and puts a capstone on an excellent story, with excellent treatment by Charles Soule.

Note: Soon to be adapted for television by Carnival, creators of Downton Abbey

12/19 Paul Lane

ANYONE by Charles Soule. Harper Perennial (December 3, 2019). ISBN 978-0062890634. 432p.

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CONCLUSION by Peter Robertson

October 8, 2019

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In his latest novel, Robertson has postulated an interesting variation on the science fiction theme of artificially extended human life. It is termed a “meld,” and involves a procedure that will allow the recipient to live 20 years from the date of planting in the body with the added benefit of contracting no diseases. Upon the final day of the allotted two decades, the individual will pass away quietly and with no real pain. The custom, as outlined in the author’s novel, is for most individuals to go for testing on their 55th birthday and if they have no mortal illnesses they will be “melded.”

Colin Tugdale has only one year to live under the terms of the Meld agreement and has already accompanied his wife Ruby to her death by suicide in order not to undergo the meld “conclusion.”  By coincidence, he then meets two people that throw his beliefs into chaos. The first is a man that “died” at the end of his 20 years, and another a woman that hacked her way via computer into taking the treatment when she is physically not qualified to have it. The man is seen calmly walking around in public, and the woman initiates contact with Colin with the two falling in love.

The novel touches on the feelings of people facing the end of their lives with the certain knowledge that it will come at a date known to them. The question of how one “dead” man and a sick woman are where they are touches on the real possibility of corruption existing in the selection process, and if this life and death activity is really subject to illegal maneuvering.

A very different novel, one that is beyond any doubt a book that cannot be put down until done, and of course, a story that will cause the reader to seek Robertson’s future works.

10/19 Paul Lane

CONCLUSION by Peter Robertson. Gibson House Press; None edition (October 1, 2019). ISBN 978-1948721042. 256p.

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BEYOND THE MOON by Catherine Taylor

October 4, 2019

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This is a first novel and is a truly remarkable work for anyone, and one that showcases a top tier author with a bright future ahead of her. I have no difficulty calling it a beautifully written book which neatly ties together several interests of the author. She is, by her own admission, a World War One adherent as well as a person that enjoys exploring history for its own sake and a romantic soul.

Lt. Robert Lovett is an officer serving England during the First World War in the trenches of France and Belgium. He is strongly vested in doing his duty by supplying the soldiers serving under him with skilled and patriotic leadership. He is wounded in 1916 and develops hysterical blindness with no physical reason for doing so. He is sent to Coldbrook Hall military convalescent hospital in Sussex, England to recuperate from his wounds. 

A century after Lovett is hospitalized, Louisa Casson, who experienced the sudden loss of her grandmother, the only person she had that had taken care of her as well as suffering a severe fall is confined to Coldbrook Hall. In the century between Lt. Lovett’s hospitalization and today, Coldbrook has been converted into a psychiatric hospital.

Louisa earns herself a status as a patient that can be trusted gets herself into a position that allows her to be let outside the walls of Coldbrook hospital in order to wander around outside. One day while exploring the area she wanders into a section that is old but quite intact. Entering into a room in that area she stumbles on Robert Lovette. Beginning a conversation with him and returning as often as she can, Louisa realizes two things. The first that she is in love with him, and second, that she has somehow slipped back in time to 1916 and the man that she has met is the wounded officer we already saw that was sent to Coldbrook in 1916.

Taylor shows her knowledge of WWI in describing the battles and areas that Lt. Lovett has been involved with. She describes the horrors of being in a trench just a few hundred yards from the enemy with both sides constantly shooting at each other, the dirt, filth, mud, and dead bodies – the horror of knowing that death is all around and could come in the blink of an eye. Her descriptions of possible conversations between the men are very much to the point, and Taylor gives her readers a realistic set of ideas and values in the midst of a world that no human being should be immersed in.

A well-done fantasy that treats a love across time and a period of great horror as factors in describing the levels that the human spirit can rise to.

10/19 Paul Lane

BEYOND THE MOON by Catherine Taylor. The Cameo Press Ltd (June 26, 2019). ISBN 978-1916093218. 494p.

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EMPIRE OF LIES by Raymond Khoury

October 2, 2019

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Khoury has built his reputation as a top author on novels with a fantasy spin.  Not dragons, Greek gods, nor any of the many situations built on an unworldly story. All are well done, well written and based on a certain change to the real world.

“Empire of Lies” is no exception. The plot revolves around an alternative to our present world with changes to current reality that could be true if one subscribes to the difference between our world and what is presented. The novel opens in the alternative world postulated by the author.

This is a situation in which Polish King John Sobieski at the head of a combined European army defeated and stopped an invasion of Europe by Ottoman Turks in 1683. The Ottoman army had reached Vienna, were surrounding the city and were about to conquer it and then move further into Europe.  The situation at the beginning of this novel is that something happened to Sobieski and his staff killing them, and the Ottoman invasion succeeded setting up an alternative world stemming from the defeat of the west in 1683.

Kamal Arslan Agha, an officer in the Sultan’s secret police and, based in Paris has begun questioning the situation around him which is becoming more and more autocratic.  He feels that the freedoms guaranteed to the people are becoming eroded with the government becoming a dictatorship.

When he is called on to investigate a stranger appearing naked on the banks of the Seine and brought to a hospital, Kamal learns a strange secret which the Sultan wants to keep secret. He begins an investigation of this secret aided by his sister-in-law Nisreen, who is an outspoken civil rights lawyer. The two are caught up in the secrets of the enlarged Ottoman Empire and find themselves learning about the real circumstances of the battle of 1683, traveling through the empire and learning about a concept of time that is unknown to most of the world.

Very well written, ensuring that the reader will finish the book in one sitting this novel is Raymond Khoury at his best.

10/19 Paul Lane

EMPIRE OF LIES by Raymond Khoury. Forge Books (October 1, 2019). ISBN 978-1250210968. 448p.

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THE NOBODY PEOPLE by Bob Proehl

September 29, 2019

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Bob Proehl’s interesting story revolves around the possible next step in human evolution. People are being born with certain abilities beyond those of so called normal people. Levitation, turning invisible, mind control, ability to shape a room beyond the capacity of normal people to see and enter it. Suddenly people with these extraordinary characteristics are being born and growing to adulthood.

Avi Hirsch has noted that his daughter Emmeline is different, but can’t put his finger on how and why until more and more people are found that have an ability beyond the normal. And, as they are identified, the general population begins acting as if they are dangerous. Certainly a feeling held by most segments of the population towards a minority group in their midst. Over the centuries this has included race, religion, color of skin and other factors contributing to a marked difference between this minority and the larger, so called normal, segment of the population.

Avi is a journalist and begins investigating these “others” with the hope that his findings can help prevent harm to Emmeline. It is through him that knowledge of the “different” segment of humans emerges, and as has been done throughout human history suspicion emerges about the new para normals. The novel tracks events from the founding of secret schools to educate the new group to a war developing between them and normals. It certainly doesn’t help when one of the new group turns rogue and is involved with murder of the normals.

An interesting novel somewhat marred by a long mid book section that spends a good deal of time in redundant descriptions of the powers held, and the personal conflicts between the others. This section could force an interested reader to lose interest and elect not to complete the book. If one makes it through this part, the ending is well done and completes the novel.

9/19 Paul Lane

THE NOBODY PEOPLE by Bob Proehl. Del Rey (September 3, 2019). ISBN 978-1524798956. 496p.

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THE PASSENGERS by John Marrs

August 30, 2019

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John Marrs takes us into a time just a few years from now. The English government has passed a law prohibiting personal driving of autos. It is a time that self driving cars are being manufactured and promising to do away with the current carnage on the roads. The computers running these cars are programmed to avoid accidents and allow their passengers to safely relax, just program in their destination and enjoy a comfortable and very peaceful trip.

But the author introduces a scenario that could occur and makes for a fascinating read with a situation that should be impossible in a world of accident free auto travel. Eight passengers taking trips in driverless cars are suddenly locked in and told by someone controlling their autos that their destinations have been changed and they will die at the end of the trip. They cannot get out of the vehicles nor can attempts to stop the situation work.

Due to the world wide usage and interest in the new mode of safe driving, plus the speed of current communication, people in countries outside of the U.K. also become spectators of the plight of the eight.
The person or persons in control of the captured autos has placed cameras all over the vehicles allowing viewing of the reactions of those trapped in them by the entire world.

They have introduced the situation of allowing all watching the runaway vehicles to vote on selection of one of those trapped to be saved. Marrs adroitly paints a picture of the voting, and the manner in which the entire matter becomes a contest and almost does away with the idea that seven people will die while only one is allowed to live.

The strength of the book is certainly in the portraits of the reactions to a matter of life and death and how it is handled around the world and most certainly by those trapped in the doomed cars. The actuality of autos driven by computers is currently well within the realm of probability in the near future. The likelihood of outside forces getting control of the vehicles is hopefully very slight, but again the author does an excellent job in setting up the possible reactions of all concerned. Certainly the novel gives some thought for the reader about one set of circumstances and of course, makes for an excellent read.

8/19 Paul Lane

THE PASSENGERS by John Marrs. Berkley (August 27, 2019). ISBN 978-1984806970. 352p.

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LEVIATHAN by James Byron Huggins

August 22, 2019

The author creates a novel loosely tied to the Norse legends of heroic men fighting dragons in ancient days. It is appropriately set on an island off the coast of Iceland and takes place in modern times. An experiment by a group of scientists has turned a kimono dragon into a fearsome creature via changing the relatively mild dragon into a real dragon via adjustment of it’s DNA It can bend steel and granite and has the ability to shoot fire at it’s enemies. The purpose of the change is to create an unconquerable weapon of war and it certainly has done so.

The experimental company is comprised of scientists, soldiers, and support personnel. When Leviathan escapes it’s confinement area all realize that the beast, if it reaches the outside has the ability to literally wipe out the entire population of earth. Making the matter even more dangerous is the perception of the beast that every living human being is it’s enemy and must be destroyed.

The battle to somehow destroy Leviathan is spearheaded by a mechanically inclined electrical engineer named Connor, who finds ways to take on the dragon and supply the incentive for others to join in the fight since a bad outcome could mean the end of mankind.

The descriptions of the many attempts to stop Leviathan are very well done and actually appear to accelerate as the reader goes ahead with the novel. Huggins has a solid background of authoring similar books featuring fights against almost supernatural creatures by men and women who seem to exceed what is normal in life.

8/19 Paul Lane

LEVIATHAN by James Byron Huggins. WildBlue Press (July 9, 2019). ISBN 978-1948239868. 480p.

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THE TIME COLLECTOR by Gwendolyn Womack

April 24, 2019

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Womack has come up with quite an ingenious idea and used it to bring us a very entertaining novel.

Roan West was born with a unique gift given to him by nature. He can hold an object in his hands and glean it’s history back as long ago as the time the piece came into being. In his lifetime Roan has personally made a fortune but more important has devised a method of helping people by examining a valuable object, detecting where it originates and if feasible returning it to its rightful owner or their descendants. He has also met a few other individuals with the gift and is part of an international organization they belong to.

The problem for Roan is that he feels alone in life since there are no women he has met that can live with him and the gift he possesses on a one to one basis.

By sheer chance he comes upon a young lady, Melicent Tilpin, who has earned more than a million dollars selling a priceless pocket watch which she admits she has discovered by “sensing it”. Roan seeks her out to warn her to hide her gift since there are people that would love to use it for their own purposes and possibly do harm to Melicent.

The two meet and become involved with a problem involving an associate of Roan who has used his own intuitive powers to obtain a ring owned by the famed mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes. The ring was found in an area that it should never have gotten to which brings up the concept of “out of place artifacts” or “ooparts.” These occurrences provide puzzling circumstances for Roan and his group. Since Stuart, the associate and friend of Roan, has disappeared when the ring was publicized, it is feared that he was kidnapped to obtain it.

The novel certainly presents the circumstances and events surrounding the search for both Stuart and Descartes’ ring but it also sets up a well described romance between Roan and Melicent. The difficulty and finally joy in finding a person with the same gift as each possesses is very logically handled by the author and if two people with the same gift got together, they would most likely handle the relationship in the manner described. Hopefully, the stage is also set for additional works about the two and it would certainly attract a wide audience.

4/19 Paul Lane

THE TIME COLLECTOR by Gwendolyn Womack. Picador (April 16, 2019). ISBN 978-1250169235. 368p.

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THE CHAOS FUNCTION by Jack Skillingstead

March 23, 2019

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The author has combined a great deal of action with an interesting scenario right out of the world of Science Fiction giving his readers a very engrossing novel.

The story begins with Olivia Nikitas, a very successful war correspondent, in the midst of covering the civil war in Syria. She is accompanied by Brian, an AID worker and the man that she has found love with. While they are covering a battle in Aleppo Brian is killed with Olivia dragging him back into a chamber in a building adjacent to the area they had been covering. In a reverie experienced by Olivia traumatized by Brian’s death conditions change and it looks like her lover was only wounded.

The Science Fiction part comes across when returning to the United States Olivia is kidnapped by a group claiming to be guardians of a machine that allows conditions in the world to be changed. And that is why she experiences the shift from Brian dying and than still alive but wounded. Olivia has received the power to operate the machine from the individual that had it but was killed during the same time and place that Brian died in. She learns that she is the first woman to have this power during the many centuries that it has been utilized.

Escaping from the group with the help of two of their members Olivia uses the benefits of the machine tied to her mental ability to use it to change conditions in the world. Unfortunately, the new conditions created by her allow the spread of a man made epidemic of smallpox which kills off millions around the world. She realizes that her desire to keep Brian alive has forced the spread of the disease to take effect due to conditions created by Olivia’s machinations of world conditions.

The combination of circumstances involving a great deal of action with an interesting twist will provide a fascinating experience for the reader making the awaiting of future books by  Skillingstead a done deal.

3/19 Paul Lane

THE CHAOS FUNCTION by Jack Skillingstead.  John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 19, 2019). ISBN 978-1328526151. 304p.

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LONGEVITY by Rolf Margenau

February 2, 2019

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Should we prolong human life by 30 years?

Wouldn’t it be a welcome gift to all mankind if a means was found that allowed people to normally live 30 or 40 years longer than they do now? You would think that there would be no obstacles to such an improvement being discovered. “Longevity” is a well thought out novel posing just such a situation, and it is obvious that Margenau has given the question a great deal of thought before he began writing it.

Lucy Mendoza is head of a group of scientists at a major corporation testing and looking to commercially market an enzyme that could prolong life about 30 years. If successful it appears that the treatment would also ensure that the cognitive senses of the individuals being treated would keep up with the extra years.

Lucy, hard at work, begins hiring extra staff to help with the processes involved with the development of the product. And just as luck would have it, her staff hires a molecular biologist named Grant Duran who was an old boyfriend of Lucy’s. They were very close to marriage but Grant, who was a Marine at that time, disappeared on her. It is, of course, a safe bet that the plot involves them getting back together again. While doing so Grant safeguards Lucy and has a need to do so. There are several agencies that don’t want the enzyme to be commercialized.

If people add 30 years to their lives social services would not be prepared to handle it. Social Security would be bankrupted and government paid medical care would follow suit and this is not palatable for many government managers. Besides the government a major pharmaceutical corporation is not happy with Lucy’s company not allowing them time to come out with the product in commercial packaging and would not stop at murder to prevent that from happening. And of course there are the normal greedy investors who want to keep the product for use, at steep prices, for only the people that can afford to pay for it.

There are no lengthy explanations of the process nor of the material going into it. The author successfully grabs his readers and grants them an evening’s relaxation while finishing the book. His style makes for an easy read and the novel is well worth the time spent in doing so.

eBook only.

2/19 Paul Lane

LONGEVITY by Rolf Margenau.  Frogworks Publishing (January 5, 2019). ASIN: B07MKHNB1M. 326p.