September 8, 2017
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A monumental work written by Deon Meyer unlike anything that he has done previously. Meyer is a South African and writes in Afrikaans, and then translated into other languages. I don’t know Afrikaans but the English version is hard hitting, fascinating and surely delivering the meat and bones of the author’s intent. It is a novel telling the story of a world decimated by a deadly virus that only reaches a stopping point when most of the entire world’s population has died.
The survivors of this 21st century Black Death are faced with the almost impossible task of adjusting to a life that was never in their plans. Not at all a surprise, the locale of the events is in South Africa, Meyer’ s home. Nico and Willem Storm, son and father, are driving a truck laden with supplies through a land devastated by the plague and find a secure spot to set up a living area. But Willem is a wise and compassionate man and envisions a place for him and his son that will allow them, with other survivors, to build a community that allows civilization to flourish again.
The place is found and in growing attracts people interested in the same thing. Meyer utilizes a literary style that has principal characters individually describing events occurring during the growth of the community called Amanzi. They deliver a perspective that helps make “Fever” the great work that it is. Among the people entering the area is a young girl named Sofia Bergman who immediately attracts Nico and causes him to make the decision that when the two are old enough he will marry her.
Meyer uses the vehicle of the book to deliver his opinion about our world; that it is spoiled, selfish, and is not paying the proper attention to things of importance like climate change. Due to the author’s opinions, we have a surprise ending which I found more than a little unsettling and does end the book on a note that may allow another to be written. Certainly, it will be a major draw for readers of Fever as well as the many fans Meyer has garnered over the years writing about his beloved South Africa.
9/17 Paul Lane
FEVER by Deon Meyer. Atlantic Monthly Press (September 5, 2017). ISBN 978-0802126627. 544p.
December 7, 2016
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A sudden massive explosion on the moon leaves a vast gash on the lunar surface. It also sends a titanic electromagnetic pulse to earth which becomes the cause of failure of all electrical equipment and causing plane crashes, auto accidents and the stoppage of machinery used to keep civilization running.
At this time China and the United States are embroiled in harsh disagreements looking like they will lead to war. The problem in this hostile scenario is Taiwan and if it is to be annexed by China.
Treaties provide that the United States will protect it. At the time of the explosion on the moon, the U.S. is sending a fleet to the waters near Taiwan in order to put on a show of force to prevent the Chinese Annexation.
The United States is also looking at the lunar explosion and has made the decision to send an expedition there to enter the gash created and find out what is the cause. NASA has not sent a space craft to the moon in many years and has to enter a crash program in order to bring an older ship up to snuff. China has also started to mount a lunar expedition and looks like it may beat out the U.S. in getting to the moon. But a very fortuitous chain of events cause the two rivals to become forced to send a joint expedition.
China has an excellent flight rocket, but their lander is not up to the needs required to land on the moon’s surface, while the U.S. has the lander but must bow to the Chinese rocket. A sensible combined effort is quickly put together and takes off.
There is friction at first between the International crew but quickly becomes friendship when problems arise that must be handled quickly in order for the expedition to succeed. The moon is reached and the gash is entered. What is there, and what it means forms the gist of the novel while guiding the actions of the now united International crew members.
Ocean of Storms is well done science fiction and the development of the action nicely includes the characters as well. The book provides a fast paced read and does an excellent job of keeping the reader’s interest and attention.
12/16 Paul Lane
OCEAN OF STORMS by Christopher Mari & Jeremy K. Brown . 47North (December 1, 2016). ISBN 978-1503938779. 410p.
October 9, 2016
Kelley Armstrong returns to her beloved Women of the Otherworld series in this latest offering featuring seven “final” tales of the series.
Here’s the full table of contents:
“Brazen” – a werewolf tale mostly from Nick’s point of view
“Chaotic” – Hope and Karl’s first story
“Amityville Horrible” – a Jaime and Jeremy tale
“Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” – a vampire tale featuring Zoe
“Off-Duty Angel” – finds Eve on a mission for Kristof
“The Puppy Plan” – a holiday story featuring Logan
“Baby Boom” – a brand spanking new Paige/Lucas story
Considering this collection releases in October, it’s likely many will agree with me when I say “Amityville Horrible” is particularly delightful and appropriately creepy.
The stories are meaty novellas rather than shorts, giving readers a chance to settle in a bit with each tale. Fans of the series likely have seen a few of the selections before – “Chaotic” for example did appear in the Kim Harrison edited anthology Dates From Hell, and introduced Hope to the series, while “Off Duty Angel” appeared in Armstrong’s The Hunter and the Hunted e book/short back in 2012. But one entry, “Baby Boom,” is completely new to the collection. Plus, considering the series wrapped back in 2012 with the release of Thirteen, I’d bet fans have been craving a bit of a return to the characters we all came to know and love over the course of thirteen plus tales.
10/16 Becky LeJeune
OTHERWORLD CHILLS by Kelley Armstrong. Plume (October 4, 2016). ISBN 978-0452298361. 464p.
August 2, 2016
Blake Crouch entered the literary scene with his imaginative trilogy Wayward Pines, novels that centered upon an imaginative set of circumstances very different from most other books. Dark Matter delivers another scenario that involves a plot that sets the action in a different and certainly not ordinary setting.
Jason Dessen is a physics professor at a local university very happily married to Daniela, a woman that he has been in love with since meeting her years ago. They have a son named Charles who is an adolescent to be proud of. That Jason turned down a career involved with making brilliant strides in the world of physics in order to marry Daniela when she became pregnant does not enter his mind.
One evening while preparing for a family meal, Jason is called out to have a drink with a long time friend of his. He leaves the bar shortly after the drink but is stopped at gunpoint by a stranger, taken to a warehouse and put to sleep. He awakens strapped to a gurney and told by a person he does not know,”welcome back my friend.” He learns that he seemingly is a different Jason Dessen, one who has achieved something so far beyond what he has ever known that he will become world famous.
Crouch develops a story that should be labeled Science Fiction for want of a better term but involves the reader in a rapid fire journey that is as absorbing as any adventure that has been my pleasure to read. The book is relatively short and a must finish in one sitting. Crouch does not hide behind descriptions of future inventions taxing the imaginations of his readers but opens an imaginative set of circumstances that could exist in the world populated by his creation.
8/16 Paul Lane
DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch. Crown (July 26, 2016). ISBN 978-1101904220. 352p.
June 27, 2016
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Outer Earth, Book 1
Tracer is the first of a projected science fiction trilogy. It is set in a future where the Earth has been made uninhabitable due to the mishandling by the people living there. The survivors are living in a crowded space station orbiting above the former home to our species. It is at once dirty as well as overcrowded and with hardly any room for people to live.
Riley Hale is a tracer trying to survive by delivering material sent by individuals and receiving payment in food, water or other tradeable items in conjunction with the group known as the Devil Dancers, with whom she lives. Her group has built a reputation of reliable deliveries and no meddling with the products they carry for their customers. She is secretly loved by Parkesh, a laboratory worker. It would appear that Riley is unaware of Parkesh’s adulation.
Rob Boffard’s strong suit is his ability to bring to life the station in which the action takes place. In too many science fiction stories there are situations and products that are described as being present and not really traceable to anything known today. The space station contains people and materials that are believably products of a forced exodus from a dying earth. The conditions described are certainly attributable to an overcrowded situation that is due to huge masses of people forced to flee to an area many times smaller than they are used to.
With a similarity to other dystopian novels, the space station is ruled by a hierarchy of persons whose sole interest is in retaining power and adding to that by their actions. There is also a villain that has the idea that conditions can be made right if the humans on New Earth are eliminated and a new group allowed to evolve.
Boffard’s ending this first part of his trilogy is neatly done and presents the most likely problems to be taken up in book two, Zero G.
6/16 Paul Lane
TRACER by Rob Boffard. Redhook (June 28, 2016). ISBN 978-0316265270. 448p.
May 27, 2016
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This is a highly intellectual look into a dystopian future where the use of neural implants and drug conditioning are used to keep the population calm and malleable.
Difficulty is that this conditioning represses feelings and intuition and can cause mental breakdowns in the population that represent future problems for the government. In addition, segments of the population have refused the treatment, and are involved in living and working in a low tech environment. They are known as “bornies” and have evolved, living completely apart from those that have accepted the treatment and its consequent enhanced functioning.
Alan Reynard, a government agent, is given the assignment of infiltrating a spiritual commune run by a healer named Maria Fria, who has modified the implants for increased functionality. Alan grows to believe in what Maria is doing, and it causes him to begin to work towards modifying the government’s social control.
The thesis of the book is interesting and the concept possible. But Nelson falls into the trap of an overabundance of explanation of what is happening and could very easily lose the reader in sheer wordiness.
5/16 Paul Lane
I, HUMAN by John Nelson. Cosmic Egg Books (May 27, 2016). ISBN 978-1785353307. 288p.
May 26, 2016
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The Arcadia Project, Book 1
With a directing gig and a film that garnered critical praise both under her belt, Millie was a Hollywood hopeful with what could have been a great career ahead of her. But a scandalous affair and her borderline personality disorder led to a suicide attempt that, thankfully, failed, leaving Millie an amputee forced to finally deal the emotional issues that resulted in her breakdown. With all hope of a career set aside indefinitely, Millie signed on to live in a psychiatric facility that leeches away at her meager funds all the while attempting to help her save her sanity.
All of that changes, though, when Millie is approached by the Arcadia Project. A super secret group that works with fey traveling to and inhabiting Los Angeles, the Arcadia Project promises an in back into the industry if Millie agrees to work for them. Her first job: helping to track a rogue fey whose visa has expired. With an experienced Arcadia Project employee by her side, the job should be a fairly easy one. But it turns out this initiation into Arcadia Project is definitely not ideal for a beginner.
Mishell Baker’s debut and first in the Arcadia Project series is a wildly entertaining and unique addition to urban fantasy.
The world of the Arcadia Project is one that lives at the crossroads between the “real” world and a fey dimension. There are Seelie and Unseelie, much like other fey worlds, but the real difference is that at the core of the world is the idea that the organization trusted and tasked with dealing with emissaries and travelers from another dimension aren’t trusted at all. They, like Millie, are chosen because their mental health issues means no one ever really has to worry about them spilling the beans about the fey or the agreement their world has with ours!
The fact that Baker’s heroine is handicapped and dealing with serious emotional issues makes Borderline different from pretty much every other urban fantasy out there. And when you add in a whole cast of well rounded characters, a world that’s fabulously defined, and a plot that’s built and paced fantastically, you have a truly standout read.
5/16 Becky LeJeune
BORDERLINE by Mishell Baker. Saga Press (March 1, 2016). ISBN: 978-1481429788. 400p.