THE GOD GAME by Danny Tobey

January 13, 2020

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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.

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THE NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION

January 6, 2020

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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.

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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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