THE FARM by Max Annas

October 17, 2020

From the publisher:

Eight Hours. Minute by Minute.

Somewhere in South Africa, a farm comes under heavy attack. No shooters in sight. Only one thing is certain: The attackers are savagely resolute. A diverse group of people barricade themselves inside the farmhouse: black and white; women, men, and children; bosses and workers; a police officer; random visitors. Who is the target of the attack? What has motivated it? Politics? Revenge? Greed? Drugs? Weapons? But do the people outside know more than those indoors? The snipers who are trying to operate in the dark of night? Who will die, who will survive? Who is pulling the strings? Who will be the winners, who will be the losers? And how long can eight hours actually be?

Eight hours, minute by minute. Constant changes in perspective, piercing precision. An explosive mixture of psychological thriller and Neo-western with a political subtext.

A story that is set in South Africa revolving around a situation that realistically could take place anywhere.  Max Annas has written a short novel dealing with a series of events that could very well be the depiction of a battle in a war.  The plot involves a raid on a farm in South Africa and without immediately indicating the reason for the attack goes over the characters involved.  These include the attackers and also the people at the farm that have to defend themselves from the onslaught.  As in any military engagement there is no collective thinking about reasons, or questioning of why it occurred at that location and at the time it did.
Action begins as the owner of the farm is talking to a salesman that has been calling on him for a long time. Suddenly there is a shot from outside the perimeter of the farm killing the salesman.  People living there and some visiting quickly gather together to adopt defensive positions and give out the guns that they have stored in case ever necessary.  Mr. Annas has done an excellent job in telling his story at the same time that he describes the confusion that runs rampant.  Those in the house which is where the defenders have gathered as well as the attackers outside wanting to break in.
The leader of the attackers knows why they are there and what they want, but none of his gang are privy to this and only are aware of the money they are promised at a successful conclusion for them.  The defenders, including his family question the farm’s owner and he professes that there is really no hidden reason.  There is an amount of cash, some jewelry and a few valuable items but nothing that could warrant an attack by the group that came against them.
Due to the area the farm is located in there is only sporadic cell phone service and main lines have been cut by the attackers. The police cannot be called and people living in the same area are too distant to hear the gunshots and become aware of the attack.  The people inside the house come up with plans to sneak outside and creeping up on the marauders shoot them.  The reactions of the raiders and those coming out after them are described and results and any knowledge of the results becomes problematic since the raid takes place in the dead of night with no lighting present.
The novel is a short one, and while in the definite category of an all nighter is finished in one very satisfying read.  The novel is currently in process of being developed for filming in South Africa and should quite a draw on that basis as well.

10/2020 Paul Lane

THE FARM by Max Annas. Catalyst Press (September 15, 2020). ISBN: 978-1946395221. 184 pages.





BLOOD WORLD by Chris Mooney

October 6, 2020


From the publisher:

Everything changed when scientists discovered the drug. It looked like the cure for aging, but all progress comes with a price tag. Now, eternal youthfulness will be paid for by the blood of the innocent. 

The blood of “carriers” is the most valuable commodity on earth. When treated with a new wonder drug, it cures disease, increases power, and makes the recipient a virtual superman.

It also makes the carriers targets. Young people with the right genes are ripped from their families and stashed in “blood farms.”

Ellie Batista became an LAPD officer specifically to fight this evil as a member of the Blood Squad, but her ambitions are thwarted—until the day she and her partner are ambushed during a routine stop. The resulting events plunge her into an undercover world more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

Because a madman has found a way to increase the potency of the blood to levels previously unimagined. As he cuts a bloody swath through the already deadly world of blood cartels, Ellie is the only hope to stop him before the body count explodes.

Throughout the history of the world, any commodity that becomes valuable beyond the range of it’s worth as a single item develops a black-market selling at a much higher price than on the regular market. This is done to hasten the delivery of the item for those that don’t want to wait and to bring the item to a group unable to get it on the regulated sales avenue. Chris Mooney sets such an item up as the most valuable commodity ever discovered.  It is blood from a select group of carriers that when treated can bring to recipients a longer and much healthier life than ever available. This makes the carriers a group to be preyed upon. When discovered they become subject to kidnapping and either death by draining or a life of captivity as a donor where their masters charge fortunes to customers looking for the treated blood. The carriers of the blood become targets for people taking them away from their lives keeping them on a “blood farm”
Ellie Batista has joined the Los Angeles Police Department specifically to become part of the Blood Squad and help fight the incidence of blood farms and exploitation of those captured by people to be placed on the farms.  It is a path that is not quickly open to a newcomer such as Ellie, but fate intervenes when the man she is first partnered with is killed in the line of duty. The circumstances allow her to convince her supervisors to permit her to enter the department as an undercover agent. Ellie has an excellent personal reason to want to work with the Blood Squad as we discover that her twin brother was kidnapped as a baby due to having the blood type making him a donor.  The rumors circulating about him are that he is still alive after many years and possibly being held on a blood farm.
Ellie’s work as an undercover agent is fraught with danger and the distinct possibility of her being killed.  To also add to the factors, she must weigh in her decision the meeting with another police officer with whom she falls in love.  It appears that he is going to ask her to marry him but her working undercover is a detriment to any attachment.  The author depicts Ellie with all the factors weighing upon her and her very normal approach to handling her ambivalent situation with all the doubts and second-guessing that any person would face.

10/2020 Paul Lane

BLOOD WORLD by Chris Mooney. Berkley (August 18, 2020). ISBN: 978-0593197639. 448 pages.




October 4, 2020


Path of Nemesis, Book 3

From the publisher:

War still rages at the edge of empire while centurion Albinus Silus fights at its beating heart.

Gone is the boy who joined the legions. What remains is a man torn apart by the savagery of battle, the heartache of lost love.

He does not know what became of his wife, and now he must balance being both a soldier and a father.

And yet, for all his pain, he shall have to endure more than he ever thought he could. His valour in the northern wars has not gone unnoticed, and now he is to be given a special mission.

Marcus Aurelius’ star falls with his health. One day the sun will rise on his successor and son, Commodus. But he must be ready, must know what it is to lead. Centurion Albinus has been chosen to educate him.

From Pannonia to Rome, to the far reaches of the east, Albinus must protect Commodus from enemies both inside the empire and out.

Can he keep the Caesar safe? Can he nurture him, teach him what it is to be a man? Can he be the Shield of the Rising Sun?

The perfect next series for fans of Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow.

This is the third of three novels set in the Rome of the first and second centuries A.D. The stories revolve about the career of a soldier that fought for the Roman empire during a lifetime spent as a professional warrior attached to one of the legions that comprised the army of that nation. I did not have the opportunity to read the first two and did miss some of the actions described in which Albinus Silus, the soldier described took part in. While pertinent events were described in retrospect it would have been better to read the books as the character and feelings of Silus are carefully outlined. Additionally, based on this book I did miss literature of an excellent nature.

Albinus’ wife had to flee her marriage; a decision described in a previous book and leaving a son to be raised by one parent. He is still looking for her but tied to his enlistment in the army. During a battle with attacking Germanic tribes, Albinus distinguishes himself by stopping an attack by the enemy using a unique means to do so. The battle took place in the midst of winter across the frozen Danube and Albinus stops the enemy by chopping up the ice in front of a charge by them. His action is noted by Marcus Aurelius, the ruler of Rome who rewards him by making him the protector of his son, Commodus, who is next in line to rule the nation.

The novel continues with Albinus’ actions to protect Commodus as well as raising his son in the midst of an adventurous career as a professional soldier. Lofthouse has done the research necessary to bring to life a tumultuous period for the Roman empire with the rise in Christianity and many wars enveloping the nation.

A well-done engrossing novel even if not read in conjunction with the first two.

10/2020 Paul Lane

SHIELD OF THE RISING SUN by Adam Lofthouse. Lume Books (October 1, 2020). ISBN: 978-1839011979. 304 pages.



September 29, 2020

9/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

The most difficult part of doing a review of Matt Haig’s latest book is to properly classify it. On one hand, it is a very well-done fantasy novel lending itself to one very satisfying all-night read. On the other hand, it is very probably an introduction to the author’s philosophy of life that he wishes to impart to his readers. However, take it is a mesmerizing book; a true all-nighter, and a great example of the writings of an author that is truly at the top of his game. One way or another Haig’s books will be looked for as they are published.

Nora Seed is found at a point that she is seriously thinking of killing herself because she is totally dissatisfied with her life. She has the feeling that nothing she wanted has been achieved and her life is a failure. She is suddenly transported to a gigantic library staffed by only one person and with no other patrons aside from Nora present. The librarian, who looks like the person that worked at the school Nora went to explains that this library containing millions of books consists of accounts of all the possibilities Nora’s life can take. Before she goes ahead with doing away with herself, she should start reading books that are about every alternative that Nora’s life can follow.

The story takes Nora and the reader through different scenarios of life, based on wishes she had while growing up and never acted upon. Events in these alternative lives are described along with Nora’s reactions. There are episodes in which she was married to a movie star, another where is an arctic explorer and has a run-in with a polar bear. In another, she is married to her high school crush, and another that sees her moving to Australia from her home in England with a friend of hers that did so.

The ending follows Nora’s reactions to each sequence and how it affects her. Whichever sequence the reader believes the novel is it is well written and quickly captures the personalities of Nora and other characters populating the book.

10/2020 Paul Lane

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig. Viking (September 29, 2020). ISBN 978-0525559474. 304p.



FLASHBACK by T. R. Davis

June 11, 2020


Flashpoint, Book 1

From the publisher:

Sarah is a thirteen year old girl who starts experiencing memories that are thousands of years old.

She is initially confused when vivid memories from an unknown woman suddenly manifest within her mind when she’s threatened with danger. She uses the knowledge in those memories to help her get out of trouble.

But a DNA swab exposing a unique gene has brought her to the attention of a company that specializes in genetic research. Sarah eagerly seizes the chance for a better life and the fact that she must share her memories as a condition of being accepted in a research project doesn’t raise any red flags for her. Not yet.

Over time, Sarah discovers she is a direct descendant of Innogen, a woman who lived during the time of the Roman invasion of The British Isles. Despite the excitement and confusion this knowledge engenders, Sarah is enjoying the life of a typical teenage girl, including a budding romance, when she realizes that many of her new friends also have ancestral memories. Sarah suspects the project’s probing questions mask a hidden agenda and that the students’ memories are central to a secret goal, but what is it?

What Sarah doesn’t know is that the company doesn’t exactly have the best interests of their young charges in mind. They have a more sinister purpose, and they don’t mind if it costs a few students their lives along the way.

Flashback is a well-done story about the possibility of “Ancestral Memory” being passed down via genetic transfer. It deals with a science fiction theme in which descendants of historically famous people could be found with the aid of the mapping of the human genome. The events occurring in the life of the ancestor might be available as memories in the current generation.

Sarah is a thirteen-year-old orphan that has been moved frequently through the uncaring foster care system in Canada. She has had no parents to love and has only the prospect of more of the same. At the opening of the story, an anthropological expedition has unearthed the burial ground of three people in England; two males and one female. By judicious process of elimination, the female is found to be that of Boudica who was a warrior Queen of her tribe living in England during the first century A.D. She led her people in battles against the invading Roman armies enjoying some success holding off the conquerors at many points.

The leader of the expedition finding the remains contacts a company that is looking into the genetic analysis of possibly famous people. The firm investigating the DNA found on the bodies and does actually find a prospect living today that might be a possibility to carry Ancestral memories of Boudica and her life.

Sarah does have the genetic disposition to carry such memories. She is contacted by the company investigating these memories and taken into a school that they sponsor. When Sarah is encouraged to accept her memories, she first thinks she is daydreaming but then begins to react as a warrior would when facing physical violence without any training in the martial arts.

T.R. Davis does not overly dwell on the science he writes about but does explain in layman’s terms the possibility of genome mapping supplying many benefits for the human race. These do include better information to fight disease, physical deformities, and other maladies plaguing mankind. The reader is given enough information to understand what the author needs understood to tell his story. A fast read and one that does grab the reader’s attention and keeps it until the end. Certainly guaranteeing that Davis’ next books will be looked for and enjoyed.

6/2020 Paul Lane

FLASHBACK by T. R. Davis. T.R. Davis (April 30, 2020). ISBN: 978-1775382560. 426 p.

THE LAST DAY by Andrew Hunter Murray

February 29, 2020


From the publisher:


A high-concept, utterly original debut thriller which envisages a world on the edge of catastrophe, perfect for readers who loved Robert Harris’ Fatherland, Station 11, and The Wall by John Lanchester.

It is 2059: forty years previously a solar catastrophe began to slow our planet’s rotation. Now it has stopped so that one side of the world permanently faces the sun while the other is stuck in an eternal frozen night.

Britain is one of the few fortunate countries. Located in one of the few remaining temperate zones, it should have the means to support itself. In reality though it is struggling, and today it is a land stalked by hunger and violence.

It is also home to the American Zone, the last surviving enclave of the United States.

Ellen Hopper is a British scientist living on a frostbitten rig in the cold Atlantic. She wants nothing more to do with her country after its slide into authoritarianism and decay.

Yet when two government officials arrive demanding she return to London to see her dying tutor, she accepts – and begins to unravel a secret that threatens not only the nation’s fragile balance, but the future of the whole human race.

The absolutely impossible happens. The earth stops rotating and causes day and night to be the same day in and day out all over the world. The cold spots are eternally cold and the warm spots always warm, possibly too warm as they face the sun in the same position without change. The cause of this calamity is a huge celestial body crossing space relatively near to our solar system. As a consequence of this event, the earth begins a period of slowing down in its ever-changing position of moving around the sun. Differences in day and night and seasonal change begin to slow down, and eventually cease when our planet finally finishes slowing down and eventually stops.

The author does an excellent job of portraying the effect cessation of motion of the earth has on our planet. How many lose their lives with the ability to survive lost. And how people begin to adjust to a life that is totally different than the one they were used to. England and a portion of the United States emerged as the more powerful countries on the planet. In addition, one man begins taking charge of adaptation in Great Britain and not surprisingly becomes a dictator with plans to take over the United States and expand his hold on England

Ellen Hopper is a woman that has found a life living on an ocean rig with no thought of changing until one day two officials from the British government visit her demanding that she visit her mentor from her days at university. When she does so she is thrown into the middle of a scheme that bids fair to throw the country off from its fragile balance and possibly even negatively affect the remainder of the planet’s population.

Murray has taken on the challenge of developing a novel with a huge amount of interwoven factors and does a very creditable job of tying everything together in a logical way. The novel is certainly one that cannot be put down until finished with every section bringing in different factors to be faced by the characters. The book is indicated as the author’s first and is no doubt a great start for an up and coming writer.

2/2020 Paul Lane

THE LAST DAY by Andrew Hunter Murray. Hutchinson (February 6, 2020). ISBN: 978-1786331915. 384p.




February 3, 2020


From the publisher:

How do you start over after the end of the world?

“Not just an apocalyptic thriller, but also a timely reminder of what is most important in life―family, love, and hope.” ―Peng Shepherd, author of The Book of M

Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs.In postapocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past―until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on―even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.Krista, Moira, Rob and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before―and everything they still stand to lose. Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.

Mike Chen takes us into a world that has been decimated by a global pandemic. It is the aftermath of an epidemic that has literally wiped out more than half of the earth’s population. His well-done tale brings to life a group of people that are forced to come to grips with an event that has forever changed their lives and the lives of their children. Rob has lost his wife in the plague and is caring for his daughter Sunny as best as he can. At the same time a singer, dancer, Moira, stage name Mojo is attempting to escape the confines of a life as a performer but guided by her father who controls her every move.

At the beginning of the novel, Rob has been approached by an agency of the new government established to restore order and rebuild to prove that he is capable of caring for Sunny. If he is deemed not able to his daughter will be taken away from him and sent to a foster home. Rob has a coworker at his job and with nowhere else to go begins to talk to her about the situation with his daughter and his need to prove worthy of caring for her. Krista, his coworker, agrees to help, especially when Rob offers her pay for the time spent.

Rob, his daughter, and Krista meet Moira who enters into the story. The book takes an unforeseen twist when the government announces that a new strain of the virulent epidemic has started attacking the populations of the planet. People are forced into the controlling environment that had become lax as the initial outbreak seemed to be tapering off.

The strength of the novel is the author’s ability to build the characters involved in the story. These people faced with the horrors that have befallen them have no choice but to adapt to conditions. How they do so and their reactions to their surroundings make a good story an even better one. The reader will find that he or she is sympathetic to the reactions of the characters and will surely think of their own possible efforts to face the type of tragedy that has enveloped the earth in Chen’s book. Certainly a five star novel and one that cannot be put down until finished.

2/2020 Paul Lane

A BEGINNING AT THE END by Mike Chen. Henry Holt and Co. (January 14, 2020). ISBN 978-1250133014. 304p.



THE GOD GAME by Danny Tobey

January 13, 2020


From the publisher:

“Smart, propulsive and gripping, THE GOD GAME is an ambitious thriller and a terrifying examination of what could–and probably already is–happening in the world of artificial intelligence.”―Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Run Away

A technological thriller with an all-too-believable premise, award-winning author Danny Tobey’s The God Game follows five teenagers obsessed with an online video game that connects them to their worst impulses and most dangerous desires.

They call themselves the Vindicators. Targeted by bullies and pressured by parents, these geeks and gamers rule the computer lab at Turner High School. Wealthy bad boy Peter makes and breaks rules. Vanhi is a punk bassist at odds with her heritage. Kenny’s creativity is stifled by a religious home life. Insecure and temperamental, Alex is an outcast among the outcasts. And Charlie, the leader they all depend on, is reeling from the death of his mother, consumed with reckless fury.

They each receive an invitation to play The God Game. Created by dark-web coders and maintained by underground hackers, the video game is controlled by a mysterious artificial intelligence that believes it is God. Obey the almighty A.I. and be rewarded. Defiance is punished. Through their phone screens and high-tech glasses, Charlie and his friends see and interact with a fantasy world superimposed over reality. The quests they undertake on behalf of “God” seem harmless at first, but soon the tasks have them questioning and sacrificing their own morality.

High school tormentors get their comeuppance. Parents and teachers are exposed a hypocrites. And the Vindicators’ behavior becomes more selfish and self-destructive as they compete against one another for prizes each believes will rescue them from their adolescent existence. But everything they do is being recorded. Hooded and masked thugs are stalking and attacking them. “God” threatens to expose their secrets if they attempt to quit the game. And losing the game means losing their lives.

You don’t play the Game. The Game plays you….

The God Game is an imaginative novel about a video game being ordered by high school students from a group of underground hackers. The group consists of what is thought of at their school as “nerds,” and are all interested in normal relationships with the so-called “normals.” The motto of the game is “Win and all your dreams come true – lose and you die.” And therein is the basis for an interesting novel by Daniel Tobey.
Tobey is a recognized authority on AI (artificial intelligence) and the idea that this is what is being dealt with is in the background of his book.  However, as soon as the students begin playing the game all sorts of what is normally impossible things begin appearing in a virtual world playing out via their phones and computers. The game begins texting them orders like worship me, obey me and complete a mission. They find that if they obey and successfully fulfill an order they will receive rewards in real life; if not, there is a punishment.
The God Game is an updated and fascinating book based on the science fiction literature about intelligent machines taking over from their creators and subjugating them as servants rather than the masters as originally conceived when the robots were built. The book is a draw for the reader, but not an all-nighter as much of the technical descriptions can be a bit over the heads of non-computer literate people. There is no problem, however, with understanding the events taking place and finishing the novel with an interest in reading more by Tobey.

1/2020 Paul Lane

THE GOD GAME by Danny Tobey. St. Martin’s Press (January 7, 2020). ISBN 978-1250306142. 464p.




January 6, 2020


Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman, editors

From the publisher:

“[STARRED REVIEW] A must-read for anyone interested in the latest and most exciting sf writing out there.” ―Booklist

Your future is bright! After all, your mother is a robot, your father has joined the alien hive-mind, and your dinner will be counterfeit 3D-printed steak. Even though your worker bots have staged a mutiny, and your tour guide speaks only in memes, you can always sell your native language if you need some extra cash.

The avant-garde of science fiction have arrived in this space-age sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology, The New Voices of Fantasy. Here you’ll find the rising stars of the last five years: Rebecca Roanhorse, Amal El-Mohtar, Alice Sola Kim, Sam J. Miller, E. Lily Yu, Rich Larson, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Sarah Pinsker, Darcie Little Badger, Nino Cipri, S. Qiouyi Lu, Kelly Robson, and more. Their extraordinary stories have been hand-selected by cutting-edge author Hannu Rajaniemi (The Quantum Thief) and genre expert Jacob Weisman (Invaders).

So go ahead, join the interstellar revolution. The new kids have already hacked the AI.

I entered the world of science fiction back in the days of short stories about BEMs (Bug Eyed Monsters) published in pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories. I was fortunate to experience the entrance of authors such as Murray Leinster, Asimov, Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and classics such as “1984” and “Fahrenheit 451”. They took up a literary torch and turned the world of Science Fiction into a serious branch of literature. For some reason, I stopped reading the genre for many years. Upon seeing the title of this collection, I decided to see how the field has evolved over the time I’ve been away from it.

This review is my opinion and in that vein, I must state that I am disappointed in what the genre has apparently become. I found the stories very difficult to follow apparently due to a desire to use language based on the perception of descriptions that are thought to be proper for the genre. I recall being grabbed by the writers cited above and treated to adventures of other times and other places all presented with logical explanations of what allowed these events to occur. Not so with the stories in this anthology most of which left me wondering what the aim was.

1/2020 Paul Lane

THE NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION, edited by Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman. Tachyon Publications (November 13, 2019). ISBN 978-1616962913. 432p.


ANYONE by Charles Soule

December 3, 2019

Click to purchase

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.