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.



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.


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.



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.



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.

2020 by Kenneth Steven

August 13, 2018

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A very profound novel that paints a picture of the damage that can be done by the advent of the “True Believer” i.e., the individual following the herd rather than thinking on his or her own. While the book is set in the United Kingdom it can be true of problems found in any country today. Shown in the novel are the many factions vying for the attention of the masses and demanding that they be granted rights beyond what is just and correct. People are forced to bend over backwards to be seen as politically correct in order not to offend the many interest groups.

Consequently, the result is a nation that has become mired in political correctness at the expense of common sense. It is felt that the politicians in office are only serving themselves. Immigration policies have gotten out of hand and it is feared by many that the country is disunited with the distinct possibility of terrorism rife just waiting to explode in violence.

And than it does. A train going from Edinburgh to London is attacked by terrorists with hundreds killed by the bombers. The reaction by the public with many differing opinions about what should be done to forestall future terrorism allows a far right wing group called White Rose to form. An untried leader coming from White Rose indicates that he will be able to fix the problems of the nation. The population splinters even more than before with no firm direction being taken to attack the internal mess that characterizes the country. Opinions and demands for action rush out of the many groups that have formed making up a population that is frozen and unable to act.

It might be that 2020 could lead to a 1984 scenario with an embedded dictatorship but most probably it would lead to the exact opposite; a nation completely splintered with no real direction and unable to solve the real problems facing it. A very provocative opinion piece with a large amount of what is forecasted being the norm today.

8/18 Paul Lane

2020 by Kenneth Steven. Thomas & Mercer (June 14, 2018).  ISBN 978-1477805169. 270p.


August 8, 2018

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A Collection of Outlander Fiction

As regular readers know, Diana Gabaldon is on the shortlist of my favorite writers. SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR TO FALL is a collection of the novellas that have previously been published as Kindle Singles and such, now collected in this anthology and now out in paperback. I have not read the Lord John Grey stories as I read the first of that mystery series and it wasn’t for me. But I have read the Outlander novellas and they are fabulous!

SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL begins with “The Custom of the Army,” and Lord John Grey being shocked by an electric eel and ends at the Battle of Quebec. Then comes “The Space Between,” where it is revealed that the Comte St. Germain is not dead, Master Raymond appears, and a widowed young wine dealer escorts a would-be novice to a convent in Paris. In “A Plague of Zombies,” Lord John unexpectedly becomes military governor of Jamaica when the original governor is gnawed by what probably wasn’t a giant rat.

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” is the moving story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents during World War II. In “Virgins,” Jamie Fraser, aged nineteen, and Ian Murray, aged twenty, become mercenaries in France, no matter that neither has yet bedded a lass or killed a man. But they’re trying… “A Fugitive Green” is the story of Lord John’s elder brother, Hal, and a seventeen-year-old rare book dealer with a sideline in theft, forgery, and blackmail. And finally, in “Besieged,” Lord John learns that his mother is in Havana—and that the British Navy is on their way to lay siege to the city.

Filling in mesmerizing chapters in the lives of characters that readers have followed over the course of thousands of pages, Gabaldon’s genius is on full display throughout this must-have collection.

Diana Gabaldon is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the wildly popular Outlander novels—Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes (for which she won a Quill Award and the Corine International Book Prize), An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood—as well as the related Lord John Grey books Lord John and the Private Matter, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, Lord John and the Hand of Devils, and The Scottish Prisoner; two works of nonfiction, The Outlandish Companion, Volumes 1 and 2; the Outlander graphic novel The Exile; and The Official Outlander Coloring Book. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband.

TO DIE IN VIENNA by Kevin Wignall

June 16, 2018

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A very neatly done novel about conflict between different spy agencies. Freddie Makin had once been an agent for a super secret group known as S8. He was a survivor of an ambush in Yemen five years ago when three of his fellow agents had been killed when driving towards a rendezvous with suspects wanted by their group. Freddie had been so traumatized by the killing, blaming himself for poor planning that he resigned his position. He than became a spy for hire and the story finds him doing surveillance on Jiang Cheng an academic. After many months of observing Cheng Freddie finds that there really isn’t anything in Cheng’s behavior to warrant the attention given.

Suddenly the situation changes radically. Someone is sent to kill Freddie who fortunately turns the tables on his would be killer. He quickly realizes that it is probably something that he saw in relation to his watching Cheng that has prompted the attempt on his life. The novel than becomes a masterful study of Freddie’s old trade craft returning as he begins unraveling the reason for the attack on himself and on people including Cheng and others. And is it the CIA that is doing the attacking? Freddie is well portrayed as a normal human being prone to being hurt and possibly killed while looking into what is happening to him. Clues are available to the reader and the reason for the attacks is a logical one resulting in a logical finale to the book.

NOTE: Soon to be a major motion picture starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The book certainly has the ingredients to be a good one.

6/18 Paul Lane

TO DIE IN VIENNA by Kevin Wignall. Thomas & Mercer (June 14, 2018).  ISBN 978-1477805169. 270p.


May 28, 2018

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Cold As Thunder is a more sedate version of George Orwell’s classic novel “1984” but carries the same message. If the people don’t look after their own welfare it will fall on a less than benevolent government to administer the nation as they see fit rather than a system that protects the rights of all. In the case of this novel, power has been consolidated with the “Eagle” party, a political party that has eliminated all other parties and established a docile populace.

The Eagle party has established a system of laws that basically squash any and all thought in opposition to it’s own ideology. Thinking independently has been driven out of the normality of most of the people and non conformity is a non starter Apps has placed a level of importance on certain factors present and made worse by the Eagle Party’s attitude. The most important is the issue of climate change that is not being addressed. Consequently areas of Florida and the Northeast are covered by flood waters and not inhabitable. Weather forecasting has been sold to private companies who don’t have the means to actually do any forecasts. This makes storms of any sort a menace for all, but especially for farmers subject to all weather conditions.

An opposition group has evolved in attempting to set up learning systems for the people now accustomed to being led by their noses. These are groups of “oldsters” that are disguised as volunteer groups supporting the Eagle mantra. The novel follows the growth and development of one such group located in Wisconsin and how it manages to influence events in the rest of the country.

The novel makes for an entertaining read with the only drawback an insistence on good always triumphing over opposition with little variance which would appear in any human endeavor having varying opinions present. Character development and any attempt at looking at individual motivations goes by the wayside. The concepts, however are interesting and make reading the book a worthwhile experience.

5/18 Paul Lane

COLD AS THUNDER by Jerry Apps. University of Wisconsin Press (May 29, 2018).  ISBN 978-0299315900. 232p.

FIELD OF VALOR by Matthew Betley

May 22, 2018

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Logan West Thrillers Series, Book 3

This is an exciting, action packed novel featuring Logan West and his deadly task force. While it is based on some facts from a previously written book about a world wide plot to take down the U.S. government and pit America against China, it can be read in one gulp. The plot is the same as other Matthew Betley books with West and his task force. A huge amount of military style action and danger filled sequences set on a stage in the U.S. itself. The area is near Washington D.C., i.e., Virginia, Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The enemy is a gigantic, extremely well funded international organization with the means to rival many first world countries.

Leadership of this titanic organization runs to the very top of the U.S. government with the means to learn secrets only held by a few.

Betley does include some humanizing facts about the warriors comprising West’s task force. Two of the members are in the starting stages of a romance with the girl as much of a fighter as her boy friend. Logan himself is married with his wife aware of the dangers he faces and worried about him for that. The book is a fast read, as indicated as much action as can possibly be crammed into it’s pages, and certainly a draw for those books featuring Logan and his task force coming out in the future.

5/18 Paul Lane

FIELD OF VALOR by Matthew Betley. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (May 22, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501161988. 400p.