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Twenty Years Ago Today (Part One)
Twenty Years Ago Today (Part One)
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Short, interesting, entertaining - very original, May 25, 2015
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Another great idea by Hardy. I see that this will be a series composed of Part 1, 2, 3, etc..... This is a popular idea although I much prefer the novel-length approach like Inquisitor's Progress. Allegedly, authors guide the story according to review of the previous work. Makes sense.

That said, we are in England when suddenly - for reasons unknown - time reverses 20 years. Literally, we all go back as we were 20 years ago. Our two main characters wake up in bed....in college where they were once an item. We follow their story as they struggle to understand and then come to terms with what has happened.

The action waxes hilarious. The computer has just started its ascendancy (no Google) and who is the "real" prime minister - a youthful Tony Blair or equally youthful John Majors? Then we meet the real problems. his is the crux of the problem. Those who have died in the past 20 years return but children younger than 20 disappear. (The author wisely avoids the problem of women who would be pregnant 20 years ago.) Those who are above 20 return with all their mental faculties. Thus 10 years olds are doctors and babies understand quantum mechanics. Can't wait for the second book..


Clade
Clade
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great story! An almost perfect blend of a dystopian ..., May 22, 2015
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This review is from: Clade (Kindle Edition)
Great story! An almost perfect blend of a dystopian future but not one so different from ours that it seems alien. Great romance (essential to any good novel), fabulous characters, whirlwind action and a killer of a plot. The story seduces the reader, capturing them before they are aware of its tendrils.

The future is not one that anyone in their right mind would want and frankly, made no sense. The novel suffers from two of the most common literary errors in science fiction. (1) Way too many references to the 1950-1990 time era. We do not, in daily conversation or entertainment or technology reference the period 1900-1950. Someone in 2030 would care even less considering the rapid acceleration of technological change. Which brings us to point (2). In a world where billions die, nation-states evaporate, 98% of all species die and people are in one long migration, the rate of technological change never slows. It's as if all the universities, labs and corporations continued without being affected. Then again, there is such a thing as literary license.

My grade: A


Crache
Crache
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $7.59

2.0 out of 5 stars Lost In Translation, May 22, 2015
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This review is from: Crache (Kindle Edition)
I loved CLADE and TILL HUMAN VOICES WAKE US but this one was too much. Written as a sequel to CLADE, the author literally assaults the reader with a torrent of high-tech phraseology, odd spellings, odd names - an almost separate language of technological futurism so obtuse and obscure it really hindered the story.

As usual, there were outstanding characters (the best feature) but the plot was so far-fetched, the action so disjointed, the switch from virtual to real so rapid that following the "story" of semi-relate vignettes was difficult. A huge problem was simply following the action. The author did not translate his worlds (the asteroid being the prime example) into a place where action could be followed. The movements were so obscure, scattered, hard to follow, bewildering and unclear it was difficult to know if we were coming or going. Again, the rapid switch between virtual and real worlds was jarring....did the guitar actually speak or was this a figment of his imagination or was it his AI gone crazy?

I followed the story to the bitter end but the Kuiper Belt was not the most exciting setting for a tale. And discovering that the whole problem was nasty aliens who had inspired the AI entities to get their "freedom" was both silly and overdone. The biological segregation enforced through gene manipulation (and now software viruses) has run its full course, turning us into something else. I never understood the rationale behind "clading" in the first place. Was it a form of violence control, ideological separation or simply a way to ensure the survival of the human race after the "ecopalypse"in which 98% of all species were wiped out.

Now we head into the world of nonsense. If humans are so advanced that everyone has their own BFF artificial intelligence (great story idea) and can manipulate organisms at the genetic level with pinpoint precision, why did all the species die out? Why not save some and start over? Or for that matter, build a new species from the ground up? The outlook is dystopian, dark and relentless, a future that holds little in the way of appeal...sort of like the book.


Twenty Years Ago Today (Part Two)
Twenty Years Ago Today (Part Two)
Price: $1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Travelog, April 30, 2015
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I wish I could give more stores but it increasingly resembled a travelog (this is a 3.5 rounded up). For someone familiar with London and its streets and sites and history this probably made sense but there were way too many references to specific locations, that street, this park, that building, etc Of course, the writing is interesting and of course the characters are compelling but it was like telling an interesting story, walking around the city for a while then picking up with yet another vignette. Here's hoping for the next installment.


Everywhere But No Place (Messages From The Unseen World Book 1)
Everywhere But No Place (Messages From The Unseen World Book 1)
Price: $0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Virtuality Please, April 30, 2015
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This FREE work garnered five stars for several reasons. It is well-written with correct grammar, punctuation and spelling - an increasingly rare commodity these days. The story is original with overtones of the Matrix (but what virtual reality novel is not compared to that movie). Action flowed evently with little down time but it was the characters that made the difference. Characterization is a huge problem in science fiction. Virtually all seem to be cardboard caricatures that are the essence of stereotypes - evil businessman, jaded politician, murderous army man, sassy black woman, smart Asian, poor Latino, etc.

One can see shades of Paul Hardy (without the depth) or Charles Stross (without the despair) but the virtual world most closely resembles that in "Circuit of Heave" by Dennis Danvers (without the politics). ****** Plot Discussion ***** Denver awakens in a strange, new world designed to both reduce prison costs and lead to rehabilitation. This world has been created by the Host, an AI whose powers are amazing but their scope unknown. This world has its own mythology and history in which he must live. Surprisingly, he finds calm, redemption and love while answering the question, "What does it mean to be real?"

Haze, whose own story is even more interesting, is a brilliant criminal who is given a chance for redemption in a crazy scheme to infiltrate this AI world and obtain information. Of course there are bad guys who are truly frightening because their demeanor is childlike and playful as they main, kill and torture. But it is Dallas and Haze whose separate stories merge into the heart of the novel. I have not read the sequel but from the reviews it looks like another winner.


Till Human Voices Wake Us
Till Human Voices Wake Us
by Mark Budz
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.99
48 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars At last - literary science fiction!, April 20, 2015
What I find tragic is that excellent novels like this receive little attention while utter trash revels in popularity. I'm talking about books with no editing, bad spelling, grammar and punctuation, cardboard characters, absurd plots, farcical science and dialogue straight from high school. Discovering a literary jewel in science fiction is indeed a prize. Let's face it - most scifi books are weak on character, dialogue, plot and anything relating to literary quality. But Mark Budz is different. This is a superior novel of great ideas, a flower that slowly opens until the ultimate beauty comes forth.

The idea of a technological life after death has been done before (nowhere better than the Inquisitor's Progress by Paul Hardy) but this take is very, very good. The slow synchronizing of the three stories is a beauty unto itself as the reader gradually becomes aware that something else is going on, something they can't put their finger on but yet feel its presence. The quality (perhaps I should say "interest factor") of the three separate stories within the story vary. Rudi was, of course, the best. And the noire machinations were a close second. The futuristic world lacked the depth of those in the past and this is understandable since the past is far easier to realize in all its intricate detail than a projected future.

My Grade - A-


The Long War (Long Earth Book 2)
The Long War (Long Earth Book 2)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Authors showing their age - extremely dated, March 30, 2015
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I had high hopes but talk about a disappointment!! I found myself skipping sentences, then paragraphs, then pages of meandering, boring, forgettable personas, places and events. How anyone can give this mess over three stars is the real mystery - a literary scale on par with middle school. It reads like a novel from the 1970's. It's the year 2040 but could easily be mistaken for 1940 (or in some cases 1840). Apparently there has been zero technological advancement since 1998. No mention of nanotech, biotech, robotics, AI or computers. Folks have devolved to to medicines from the Middle Ages.- herbal drugs and "natural" methods. Our hero loses a hand and chooses to replace it with a clumsy, plastic 1980's model. He goes for an important meeting in prairie wear - Ye Haw!

It's a travel journal - visit this world, that settlement, trade with cowpoke, converse with pilgrim gal, see Earth 20 million, blah blah blah. Absurdly, folks searching for someone find them fairly easily despite having millions of possible hiding sites!!! The strongly-implied lesbian romance never materializes. In fact, every relationship is forced, phony and sterile. Plot devices are too stupid to be real - "Dog" people who speak English, a space station built from bricks made in the same way as the Egyptians did, humanoid races who are (of course) inquisitive, friendly, innocent and caring.

Characters are utter and complete caricatures found in lazy novels - evil politician, friendly cowboy, jealous wife, crazy religious zealot, adorable alien, etc. When will authors learn that less is more? I purchased the third novel in the series at the same time so I will give it a try but am not holding my breath. My grade - D-


The Long Earth
The Long Earth
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Lobsang carries the day, March 29, 2015
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This review is from: The Long Earth (Kindle Edition)
This is a rare science fiction work where character, dialogue, action, plot and ideas are fairly equal. Usually one finds lots of action or a terrific plot with cardboard characters or engrossing characters with a dull story line. Sadly, the main aspect - the ability to "step" to other Earths - is badly explained, especially the absurd potato machine. Alas, the story began to drag after vising Earth W 1,1,320,432.

The heart of the story - one might be tempted to say the soul - is the interaction between the android Lobsang and the hero, Joshua, a "natural" stepper. The dialogue was captivating, humorous and delved deeply into the human condition. Because the work was not "The Stand" or "Atlas Shrugged" or "War and Peace" many of the minor characters remained undeveloped, names on a page who went through the ritualistic motions. We did finally have a romance of sorts (sorely missing in science fiction) that was tender and funny and innocent.

So why four instead of five stars? Lack of imagination for the various Earths, the idea that beings in other worlds casually stepped as easily as we sit down and the rather silly huge creature met at the end. There is, of course, a fundamentalist religious component composed by those unable to "step" and there are some good guys and bad guys. All in all, a good start to a series.


Logos: A Novel of Christianity's Origin
Logos: A Novel of Christianity's Origin
Price: $3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Recreating a myth, March 29, 2015
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It is difficult to criticize this work as it is a stellar beginning novel (only two typos). It is overtly literary, deeply researched with interesting and arresting characters - and a terrific plot to boot. So what's the problem? Enormous logic and plot problems battle the very ideas the author tries to make.

***** PLOT REVEAL***** Martyrdom is part of the human condition and people have died for kings, ideology, tribe, race and religion. But (a big but) they all believed in the cause and considered it worthy of sacrifice. Why would the first leaders of Christianity die for a faith they knew was false? It makes no sense. Neeleman wants is both ways. He contends that Christianity's message, Jesus is the divine god / son of god and the savior of the world, is myth slowly created over decades. But why create a Gospel myth and yet have "Christ" play peekaboo with the main actors by showing up at opportune times? Is this a myth within the myth?

Then there's the historical scholarship problem. Matthew was not the first Gospel chronologically - Mark was since Luke and Matthew copied parts of it almost verbatim. The "famous person" problem that is the Achilles's heel of many stories becomes overbearing. It's hard to think of a single major Roman, Jewish or Biblical character who does not show up, is not related or do not know each other. It would be like a future history of the 20th century where Bush landed in the Pacific next to Kennedy and picked up by MacArthur on his way to see Truman before stopping off in California and running into Nixon.

When one attempts to recreate the past there are two choices - start with an original story that explains history or examine history and work backwards, filling in each event. Neeleman chose the latter and this carries a huge assumption - that the history he is attempting to explain is true. Yet his sources are flawed. Much of the information on Paul is from Acts, a fictional work circa 100 AD that contradicts the authentic letters of Paul numerous times (the travels, miracles, visions, relationship with Jews and disciples, teachings, etc) Roman officials are shown intensely interested in Christianity but in reality few cared. After 300 years of proclaiming the "Good News" less than 10% of the empire was Christian. It was only Constantine's compromise with the bishops, establishing orthodoxy and declaring Christianity the state religion that brought its triumph.


Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark
Price: $3.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Meandering, Messy and Juvenile, March 25, 2015
This review is from: Noah's Ark (Kindle Edition)
You know you have problems when a plot that could be incredible is bogged down with all sorts of unrelated garbage. The idea of "saving humanity" is as old as humanity itself - and it's been done numerous times. The trouble is that it's been done far better.

I hate to start with the writing "skills" but it is, after all, allegedly a literary work. Descriptions are straight out of middle school - long, wordy, elaborate, unnecessary. Like most amateurs, the author cannot let the story tell itself but must burden the reader with reams of superfluous, mind-numbing detail. It illustrates the author's fear that the story the reader can't "get" the point of the story so they must be told people's thoughts as well as their actions. Characters are caricatures who speaks dialogue found only in books. There was no need for a bunch of evil enemies, mean military guys, terrible scientists. It makes no sense. When facing existential threats we do not worry about the trivial. Did technological advances stop circa 2000? Three words - disjointed, confused, boring.

Writing a book involves far more than "writing a book". One has to have a story, characters must grow and change, plots must be realistic as do bad guys and good guys. The world is not black and white, superheroes and monsters, but that in-between state we all know so well.


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