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H.A.L.F.

The Deep Beneath (H.A.L.F., #1)

H.A.L.F by Natalie Wright tells the story of H.A.L.F 9, a Human-Alien Life Form that escapes from the military facility where he was created. During the course of his escape, H.A.L.F 9 meets teenagers, Erika, Jack and Ian, with whom he strikes up a friendship. Among other abilities, H.A.L.F 9 has extreme telekinetic and telepathic powers which make him a valuable asset to the government and one that they are not willing to lose. The government, claiming ownership of H.A.L.F 9’s life, sets out to retrieve him. Having no human technology that can match H.A.L.F 9’s power, they have to enlist a force stronger and more cunning than even H.A.L.F 9 is prepared to face.

Right from the start of the book the characters are likable and relatable. Even though the first couple of chapters were a bit confusing, each one was intriguing enough to make me want to keep reading. It isn’t immediately obvious how the characters in the first chapters are related to one another, but once you do discover the connection the direction of the story makes perfect sense. The writing is actually done very well for a Young Adult novel; which the book appears to be, as all the main characters are teenagers. I was very surprised at how each chapter really kept me on the edge of my seat; my interest in finishing the book never waned. Most books have at least a few chapters that are somewhat slow but I didn’t find this to be the case with H.A.L.F., it kept a great pace and remained interesting throughout. I think the struggle within H.A.L.F 9 between his alien and human personalities were done incredibly well. Having spent hardly any time at all actually interacting with humans on a personal level, he isn’t quite sure what to make of the new feelings that he experiences outside of the facility. For instance, there is a moment at which he finds himself wanting Jack to feel pain, even though he can acknowledge that Jack has never done anything to deserve his ill will. H.A.L.F 9 isn’t able to recognize that he feels this way toward Jack because of Jack’s romantic involvement with Erika, whom H.A.L.F 9 is also developing romantic feelings towards. I also appreciated how this aspect of the characters relationships is subtle and not the focus of any particular chapter in the story. Sometimes Young Adult fiction does not have a good balance of romance to substance but this book does not have that problem.

Natalie Wright does an excellent job with the element of surprise. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I will just say that in several places throughout the book the outcome that I was imagining is not at all what came to pass. I eagerly await the next installment of this series.

Pages: 293 | ASIN: B00R6U32CA

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What is Reality?

M. Thomas Apple Author Interview

M. Thomas Apple Author Interview

Adam’s Stepsons follows Dr. Heimann as he designs the perfect soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. What was your inspiration for the setup to this interesting science fiction story?

At the time I wrote the kernel of the story, I was working in a used bookstore and devouring all the short stories and novels by Phillip K Dick and Robert Heinlein that I could lay hands on. I was (and still am) fascinated by questions of “what is reality?” but I was (and still am) also intrigued by the question “who am I?” not only in terms of shared realities and perceptions but also ethnicities, religions, and personal relationships within the family. The sense of self is inextricably bound with community and history; my own family history, for example, is filled with generation after generation of soldier in nearly every major conflict since the 1680s. So I knew that I wanted the story of Dr. Heimann and his clones to take place during a military conflict of some sort. The US made it to the Moon first, so I figured any Moon Base would be set up by a future version of the US. But the rising powers of India and China would necessarily lead to competition and colonial expansion elsewhere in space. So I based the UAAF on the Moon, India on the ISS, and China (basically) on Mars. But something has gone wrong, as it usually does, and that sets off the conflict.

I should point out that, when I initially plotted the story and sketched out the characters, Dolly the Sheep hadn’t been announced, Battlestar Galactica was a late ’70s TV show starring Lorne Greene, and “The Clone Wars” still consisted of a single line spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi. So as much as I’d love to say that I got the idea for soldier clones from the current zeitgeist, the underlying premise of Adam’s Stepsons actually predates the trend. My high school library had beat-up copies of Nancy Freedman’s Joshua, Son of None, and Ben Bova’s The Multiple Man, so it’s likely I internalized elements from those stories and subconsciously reproduced them in my own story.

Dr. Heimann and one of his cloned soldiers, Seth, have an intriguing relationship that becomes very deep. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

Dr. Heimann prides himself on his scientific bent of mind, but he struggles to cope to grips with the fact that he basically has no family left, and as Seth grows and begins to develop a real emotional attachment, the doctor desperately tries to push away the feelings he had for the person Seth is clone of. Meanwhile Seth has been trained (“brainwashed,” as the doctor puts it) to be an efficient killing machine, and his need for order compels him to seek out and eliminate anything unknown or unreasonable. Yet he, himself, can’t help feeling strong conflicting emotions, first toward the doctor and then toward his fellow clones. Both characters are driven to discover, deep down, who they really are as people, outside their rigid societal roles as scientist and soldier. Dr. Heimann knows that Seth is not his real son, but can’t help treating his stepson’s clone familiarly because it reminds him of what he has lost. Seth has been “programmed” not to think of anything other than army orders, but he can’t shake the sense that there is more to who he is as a person. Finding out he is a clone, and who his “brothers” are, is the trigger for the final confrontation.

Science fiction has always asked the ‘what if’ questions, but I feel that your novel went a step further. What were some ideals you used in building your story?

My original intention was to investigate not just the “what if” of human cloning (i.e., how would this be done? how would the clones grow physically and mentally?) but also the “what is self?” to a cloned human being. The scientists argue that personality is partly inherited and partly environmental; so if you were to make several different clones of one person and then controlled the information input,  they would all become the same person. But personality also consists of emotional attachments made with other human beings on a deeper social level. Human beings are social animals; we need other humans to survive and thrive, and without others we have no clear sense of who we are and what our purpose is. So in order to examine this in a futuristic setting like a clone facility on the Moon, I needed to have a reason for making clones in the first place, plus other people who would provide the clones with that social environment. Once that was established, the real question became “Is what we’re doing morally ethical?” The military paying for the clones display classic cognitive dissonance, by using people they claim are not really people but know they actually are, in order to win what they call a morally righteous war but actually is destroying their entire society. Yet the General clearly also feels a sense of internal conflict, feeling obligated to protect every member under his command, including the clones, and also knowing through his friendship with Dr. Heimann who the clone really is and how this might affect his friend. Ultimately, I was interested in making sure none of the characters were typical “scifi” stereotypes, that they had ideals but were deeply flawed people, and ultimately would find themselves trying to make the best of what basically could turn out to be a lose-lose situation in the end.

What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?

Right now I have a couple of projects I’m working on in various stages, but the one most closely related to Adam’s Stepsons is a metaphysical science fiction series set mostly on Mars. The first book is called Bringer of Light; a crew of ethnically diverse and somewhat misfit asteroid hunters recovers an extra solar object from beyond the solar system, experiences physical and spiritual changes, and ultimately becomes the new leaders of the united Mars colonies as they break away from the old political chaos of Earth and form a new society. The story combines hard science with various mystical systems of belief, ethnic and religious sense of self and identity, and international/interspacial political intrigue. I’m about a third the way through the initial draft; the aim is to finish writing by the end of summer 2017, and have an edited, polished manuscript done by spring 2018. The next two books (Defenders of Aeropagus and Return to Omphales) have already been outlined and plotted.

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Adam's StepsonsDr. Johann Heimann designed the perfect soldiers: superhuman in strength and intelligence, immune to sickness and disease, programmed to lead the United Americas to a quick victory in the Mars Colony War. But Heimann didn’t anticipate the military’s unrealistic demands, or his own emotional responses to his creations. And now Number Six is calling him “Father”! What exactly is going on during the clones’ personality imprinting cycle? As Heimann starts his investigation, Number Six grows in confidence and self-awareness…and both discover the project hides a secret even Heimann, himself, doesn’t suspect…

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End of Knighthood

End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces (Reverence, #2)

End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces by Joshua Landeros is a ripping tale of military science fiction. The novel follows the continued struggle of William Marconi a cyborg super soldier as he continues to figure out his place and duty as a soldier and knight in this futuristic warzone. Will ends up joining the resistance movement. Fighting the UNR, the new world government superstructure, or curbing its growth becomes the center of conflict. Chancellor Venloran is the locus of these plans and wishes to destroy his enemies completely. Can non-UNR countries survive the rising tide and hardened troops?  The principal question is, what will Will do to make up for his past transgressions on behalf of his former role?

Landeros paints a picture worthy of the classic military science fiction writers in their hay day. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers can be felt in every leap of Will from rooftop to rooftop. He masterfully borrows what made these novels great by their action and dialogue. One of the strong parts of the End of Knighthood is not just the fantastic action, but the dialogue between the soldiers is some of the best I have ever read. This is what keeps these soldiers human and what makes them instantly relatable to the reader. Sure, it is cool to read the amazing action scenes that Landeros crafts, but in the quiter moments we get to see how these individuals struggle with their in between status and their struggle in the midst of war.

As far as action goes, you can’t get too much wrong when you have cyborg on cyborg action, but Landeros takes painstakingly careful steps so that the reader does not become lost in the rain of bullets and blows. We are able see every body fall, but we are also able to see the glimpses of humanity from these soldiers as they reflect later their deeds. Will, the main protagonist, and one of the few carry overs from the previous book, is one such character that we get to see who continues to develop.

In our current times of political upheavals and nation states, one would think a book such as End of Knighthood would be hard to swallow. The UNR seems to be something that could occur in the not so distant future, but with the addition of these tech enhanced soldiers, Landeros has given the reader enough of an escape to enjoy oneself rather than wallow in more reality. Despite having a military science fiction bend, the novel could appeal to anyone looking for an action centered yarn along with some political thriller overtones. The genre blending on Landeros’ part is spot on and should please a wide variety of readers.

All in all, the reader may lose some sleep going through one battle scene and turning the page for another, but it is sleep happily given up. I look forward to the next installment of the Reverence series.

Pages: 233 | ASIN: B06ZZCDJ44

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Adam’s Stepsons

Adam's Stepsons3 Stars

Adam’s Stepsons by M. Thomas Apple is an interesting science fiction piece. We follow Dr. Heimann who designs the perfect super soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. Heimann quickly discovers that he did not anticipate the brutal efficiency of the military, nor the attachment that arises from his creations. These clones are not only the peak of what the human form can do, they actually transcend humanity through intelligence and strength. They are the weapon that the United Americas will use to crush the rebellion on Mars. Dr. Heimann is shocked when one clone, Six, begins to call him “Father” and then the can of worms truly opens.

Apple’s novel is almost painfully short, only because I wanted to have more to read and dive into. He anticipates the future of inter-solar system colonization and the struggles that can arise, such as this between the United Americas and the Martian colonies. He does not neglect the complicated matter here or the scope considering the Terran governing force is losing the war and needs these clones to pan out.

The struggle between scientist and soldier is an old one, but one that takes on a new twist with the rise of cloned super soldiers. Apple goes along the lines of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, but does not seek to critique war itself. Instead, the author goes further and asks whether these soldiers are “truly” human or are they  just “equipment” as the military officer Marquez calls them.

The conflict deepens even further when “Seth”, clone number six, as Dr. Heimann calls him when no one else is around, begins to call him “father”. The book bounces between the POV’s of the scientist and Six, which is interesting because as the book goes on Heimann becomes more and more unstable and uncertain of his mission of designing soldiers, who resemble the people that their genetic material comes from. Six, or rather, “Seth” becomes increasingly more confident in his abilities and his intelligence. All of this leads to a climax that may polarize readers, but one that will still make the reader ponder on far after they have finished the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed Apple’s prose. It reads crisp like that of Asimov or Heinlein, but I am still unsure if the short length of the work was appropriate. There is a lot of dialogue and not enough actual “action” going on throughout, so I was expecting more digging into the rich themes of personhood and philosophy of the soul. I realize that may be asking too much.

Adam’s Stepsons is a fun addition to the long canon of science fiction that dares to ask the “what if” of the future. It also seeks to ask the “should we, if we can” question that not enough science fiction is retrospective enough to ask. A good read for any science fiction lover, especially of the Heinlein or Asimov variety.

Pages: 92 | ASIN: B06XJRT8CS

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Finding and Convicting the Killer

Kwen D. Griffeth Author Interview

Kwen D. Griffeth Author Interview

The Tenth Nail revolves around a homicide detective Nate and his new partner Manuel as they work together to solve the murder of a beautiful young woman. Where did the idea for this novel come from? 

I spent several years in law enforcement both as a civilian and military. I carry a deep pride and love for the officers of today and respect what they have to survive. Much of that challenge is to survive the emotional impact of witnessing just how ugly and cruel people can be to each other, day after day. I don’t think the story of the true impact this has on officers has ever been told. Over my years in law enforcement I witnessed too many officers die emotionally. This death could be seen through sexual affairs, abusive drinking, physical violence, reckless behaviors, and even stealing. A quick tally to illustrate this is I knew five officers who died while “on the job.” Two of them died in the line of duty, and three of them died by their own hand. The Tenth Nail is an attempt to introduce the stress of being a cop to those who don’t know.

One of my primary goals when I write a story is to get the reader emotionally involved. Via, the victim of this book is introduced as a common street walking prostitute. A kind of victim that is easily forgotten relatively quickly in our society. In these days of limited budgets and overstretched manpower, she represents the kind of crime that is soon to be a cold crime if not solved in the first few days. Nate, the lead detective assigned to the case, shares a private moment with the dead girl and due to a shared injury promises her he will bring her killer to account for her death. This sets up conflict from many directions. The fact is, if it’s not another girl, who killed her, or her pimp, the odds of finding and convicting the killer of a prostitute is difficult, at best.  The department wants Nate to shelve the case to free him to handle cases with a higher possibility of solvability. Manny, Nate’s new partner, and new to homicide, wonders if he should request another training officer. The more he is pushed to release the case, the more resistant Nate becomes.  He refuses to break the promise he made to the dead girl.

The Tenth Nail is a edgy crime novel that throws readers right into the action with a murder in the first pages. How did you balance mystery with answers with crazy twists?  

I grew up reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and I was determined to solve the case before the “great detective.” My mother and I watched hours of Raymond Burr as Perry Mason and we discussed the cases as the show progressed. To balance the mystery without giving the story away to soon requires work. Truthfully, I hope I got the job done.

Detectives Nate and Manny are entertaining and intriguing characters that I felt were well developed. What was your inspiration for their characters and their relationship?

Nate and Manny are combinations of several police officers I have known over the years. I admit that both carry a little bit of me in them, as I have been in both positions as senior and junior partner.  I wanted officers (in all cases) who represented more than just the stereotype of cops. I also expected the same from the other characters. One of my favorite scenes is when Manny arrives home after a day much too long and he is still adjusting to his first murder, his first victim, his first expose to Nate and all the rest. Selma, his heavily pregnant wife allows him to lay his head on her lap and stretch out on the sofa.  When he kicks off his shoes, she scolds him for wearing socks with a hole in the toe. To me, that is the center of the Tenth Nail, trying to balance extreme violence with complete love.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?

My next book is called Dead Men Walking and it is a continuation of the story of Nate and Clare. Several of the characters from The Tenth Nail will return though the are many new ones as well. The plan is to release the book by early summer.

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The Tenth Nail by [Griffeth, Kwen]“Nate knelt beside the dead girl. This wasn’t his first homicide, it wasn’t even the first dead prostitute he’d investigated. It wasn’t the first strangling death he’d been assigned to. But, this one bothered him.
Maybe it was her youth, she appeared to be in her early twenties. Maybe it was her looks, as death had yet to rob her of her beauty. Maybe she reminded him of his own daughter, Lizzie, who was only a few years younger. Maybe it was something else entirely.

The big detective looked over the body, careful not to touch or disturb her. He had one of the best crime scene technicians, Winston Rawls, and he did not want to make his job harder.”

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Cult Status

Joshua Landeros Author Interview

Joshua Landeros Author Interview

Reverence follows the stories of humanoid super soldiers Will and Luis as they work under their fearless leader and follow his orders to demolish a budding resistance that threatens their utopian world. What was your inspiration for the setup of the story and how did that help you create the ending?

The inspiration came mainly from some of my favorite science fiction films, namely Children of Men, V for Vendetta, Dark City, and Blade Runner. What I wanted to instill most was that Reverence wasn’t purely a dystopian world because some of the people are indeed very happy with what their country had become. The setup of the story for me was establishing the fact that the plot would be driven by conflicting viewpoints, not by purely good vs. evil. The most vital point of the novel was the need for people to question their surroundings, which is a double-edged sword for the main character, Will Marconi. The ending chapters were some of the hardest to write because I wanted to really sell the tragedy of what these people had been reduced to: both sides resorting to violence and lies to accomplish their goals. There is also a tragedy to Will finally removing his blinders about the reality of his environment, but there is a bit of hope, too. That final chapter represents the need to look forward, but not without forgetting the past.

There is a lot of great twists and mystery in the novel. When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?

Oh boy, well I should start by saying that Reverence has a convoluted history. Strangely enough, I had the twists in mind as far back as the outline phase. I initially published it back in March of 2016. I noticed something felt off, but I couldn’t figure it out for a bit. Then one day it hit me after watching Anthropoid, a fairly unknown film from 2016 that I hope achieves cult status. The twists and overall story needed more emotion, not to mention it needed more editing overall. So I went back with a professional editor and added more detail at certain points in the story and refined it to a level I was quite happy with. It was re-released in December and I’m glad readers have enjoyed it.

Joseph Halsey is my favorite character because of his moral transformation and strong beliefs. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?

The characters all represent different morals, good and bad. With Halsey I wanted to explore a man who, unlike almost every other character in the story, does not take the lives of others for granted. His beliefs stem from that and while the other rebels try to live up to that, they’ve lost their way. The antithesis of that ideal is incarnate in characters like Chancellor Venloran, Luis, and even Robert Neeson. These characters believe progress is worth any cost, even if it means sacrificing lives and sometimes the truth. With Will I wanted one thing to be certain: devotion to ideals is dangerous.

What is the next story that you’re writing and when will it be published?

My God, a whole lot! I’ve already written a sequel to Reverence which I am very proud of. A preview of it was provided in both print and Kindle editions of my first book and it greatly expands on the world. Readers can expect it to be released April of this year. I’m also in the works of writing a prequel to the Reverence saga. I can’t say much, but what I can say is that you can expect it to be released this year as well. The prequel will focus on familiar characters like Robert Neeson, Captain Halsey, and Chancellor Venloran, but the main focus is on Will’s wife and daughter, Julissa and Zaneta. The story will explore the early stages of the UNR-rebel conflict. It’s going to be a great read and aiming for its release to be this summer, maybe around July.

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“William Marconi is the face of anguish and righteousness. By his blood stained hands, he inspires the people with both fear and awe. But he is not alone. He is one of the 144, 000 and together they are the guardians of a new order. By their gun and their sword, they have upheld justice. When the peace they have maintained comes under fire from a new threat, William quickly realizes this war could possibly cause the collapse of all he holds dear. As the world is dragged down to hell, this knight must ask himself just how much it will take to accomplish the mission, which could be his last.”

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Gray Girl

Susan I. Spieth Author Interview

Susan I. Spieth Author Interview

Witch Heart follows Jan as she returns to West Point under a cloud of suspicion when several people are killed in unlucky accidents. What was the inspiration for this 3rd book in the Gray Girl Series?

The Gray Girl series (Gray Girl, Area Bird and Witch Heart) is mostly inspired by my experiences as a cadet at West Point from 1981-1985. Jan Wishart’s adventures are embellished, of course, but many of the events are authentic or realistic to what we experienced at that time. Being labeled a “witch,” for instance, certainly happened to some women then. Recently, we have seen examples of derogatory “labeling” used on outspoken and/or ambitious women.

The novel starts out at Army Airborne School in Fort Benning, GA. What experience do you have with the military. Anyone in your family serve?

Well, as stated above, I attended West Point in the early 1980’s. After that, I served five years as a missile maintenance officer in the Army. As part of our training, I attended Airborne School during the summer before cow (junior) year, which follows the storyline in Witch Heart. I wrote most of the Airborne School chapters based on memory. However, I cheated a little and looked at Youtube videos. I also consulted a few friends who went through Airborne training. One of my beta readers was stationed with the 82nd Airborne for a few years.

The book tackles the social issue of women serving in the military. How do you see women in the military and what is a common misconception you’ve come across?

Women have only added value to the military, as they have in all areas where they have been allowed to compete. One common misconception that seems prevalent is that standards had to be lowered for women to enter the military academies. What is surprising, however, is that ALL standards have gone up since women have been admitted. There’s probably a social-gender dynamic that might explain this reality, but physical and academic standards began to rise considerably with the admission of women cadets.

Jan is a well developed character. What were some obstacles that you felt were important for the characters development?

I wanted Jan to be a good person, but flawed. In other words, I wanted her to be authentic. I think hearing her internal dialogue (which is more prevalent in the first two books) is both an obstacle and an opportunity to bring a character to life. The reader sees her inner self, knowing her mixed emotions and the biases that she carries with her. You don’t really hear the inner voices of the other characters, but hopefully, using dialogue and actions, you get a feeling of the well-developed relationships and personalities.

Where does the story go in the next book and where do you see it going in the future?

Jan has to finish West Point. So, the final book in the Gray Girl series will be about her firstie (senior) year. She will encounter another major problem at West Point which can only be solved with the help of her friends and collaborators. This one, if I can pull it off, will involve international espionage—or something like that. I hate to say too much until it’s written because often times the book takes on a life of its own—and I never really know what’s going to happen until it does. It’s called writing.

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Witch Heart: Leadership always requires sacrifice (Gray Girl Book 3) by [Spieth, Susan I., Spieth, Susan]Jan Wishart starts cow (junior) year at West Point in Airborne School. Terrified of heights, she narrowly escapes an accident that later turns deadly for another jumper. With a third death in as many years associated with her, Jan returns to West Point under a cloud of suspicion. Ominous signs left for her to find cause Jan to lose a precious and necessary requirement for survival at West Point: sleep. With her mental state in question, a masked intruder makes nocturnal visits to her room. Or is she imagining that? Events escalate to the point of no return for Jan and her two best friends. When they swear an oath of loyalty to each other, they have no idea how much it will cost to fulfill that vow. Leadership always requires sacrifice. So does loyalty. And sometimes, one virtue must yield to the other.”

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Reverence

5 Stars

Reverence by Joshua Landeros is a futuristic military story based around the United Nation Republic, a group created in 2046 as a new reigning form of government. The majority of Reverence takes place in the year 2065, with flashbacks to what ensued during the great war that began in 2044 and how the UNR came to be in power. Reverence follows the stories of humanoid super soldiers Will and Luis as they work under their fearless leader, Chancellor Venloran, and follow his orders to demolish a budding resistance that threatens the utopian world.

From the opening pages of the book, you are thrown into a world unlike ours, from the introduction of the cyborg super soldiers and the descriptions of futuristic technology. Witty banter between the characters pulls you in immediately, and the reoccurring flashback chapters offer a bit of mystery that will leave you eager to turn each page. The story takes place mainly in Washington, D.C. at the UNR headquarters, with a few exhibitions to places such as Iran, Virginia, and other locations with strong political influence. Despite the many flashbacks and location changes, Landeros makes the journey effortless as you read, and his colorful writing style brings the images to life as if you were seeing them on a screen.

Strong elements of action, politics, and even romance bud in the corners of this revolution driven story. As rebels rise up against the UNR in attempts to bring them down by assassinating the Chancellor, life goes on amidst the characters. Themes of forbidden romance are touched on as android super soldiers face their own mortality and the lingering human emotions of their previous lives before their existence was rewired. The satisfaction of mystery solving is included through thematic flashbacks to the beginning of the war that began the UNR in the point of view of a young Joseph Halsey, a prisoner when the story begins. He is a personal favorite of mine, as I love a story of moral transformation and strong beliefs.

Landeros brings together the appeal of a utopian future and corrupt government together in a beautiful way. The story highlights human nature and what is behind a person that drives them to fight against what their heart tells them.

At times, the story was slow, but was always urged along with clever dialogue between characters. It was the super soldier units that made this story a blast to read. The flashbacks that Will suffers in secret and the mysterious connection between him and the lovely Val sucked me in and made me want more. I loved seeing Landeros showcase the difference in maturity with the varying ages of the characters, especially with Cisco. A little more information closer to the beginning of the story about what the UNR was would have helped with early understanding and interest, as well as more time spent on flashbacks for a more clear picture.

Landeros is able to successfully create a realistic and intriguing world in this dystopian novel.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B01D2A51YY

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The Humming Blade

The Humming Blade3 Stars

In the beginning, everything seems normal. A normal young man, leading a normal life in a normal village. But Christopher Clark has plans for destroying the image of ‘normal’ in his tale The Humming Blade. We meet our protagonist, Wyatt Arden, as he wakes from a dream that seems more like a premonition than anything else. He stumbles out of bed to go about his normal day only to have his entire life turn upside down before the night is even over. He’ll soon learn he’s not so normal and that his entire life and history is more fantastical than any tale he has ever read before. Our young farm boy who has grown up with a single mother learns that you can never assume that life is what you already know; there is so much more to learn.

Clark writes in a fashion that is very easy to read and understand while being engaging and almost poetic. The words flow on the screen in such a way that not even the dialogue seems choppy. His descriptions are fantastic and truly draw the reader in the world he has created. Clark slowly builds his world without drawing anything out longer than it needs to be. Explanations are placed accordingly and nothing seems forced or useless. The introduction of Wyatt and his life on the farm is simple and careful. He doesn’t over embellish anything and doesn’t confuse readers by giving them too much information at once. The narrative is broken up nicely between what is occurring the in the present of the story and the past of the world as well.

Without drawing anything out, Wyatt learns quite quickly that the simple life he thought he has is anything but. After his best friend leaves for military duty and Wyatt is feeling a bit bogged down by responsibility to the farm and his mother, he is thrust into the center of a typical fantasy-adventure plot. He finds a magic sword, a talking, slightly invisible cat, discovers that his lineage is not what he thought it was and that he possesses incredible power that has been hidden from him. These are necessary in Clark’s fantasy story and while they are stereotypical, nothing feels forced or overdone. After Wyatt learns that the friendly village blacksmith has a more intimate connection to him than he initially thought his entire world literally goes up in smoke and Wyatt is faced with a journey of self-discovery. This journey holds not only his future, but the future of his world in the balance as Wyatt uncovers more truths than he cares to.

The ending is slightly abrupt with a big reveal and no indication whether the story is going to continue. That aside, the book is a well done stand-alone as other questions are neatly wrapped up and answered. Clark knows his craft and has delivered a satisfying ending. Hopefully he decides to delve once more into the world of The Humming Blade and give us a final answer on the surprising plot twist he left us with. Readers who are looking for a fun adventure filled with interesting world development and exploration of the foundations of the world itself will not be disappointed with this tale.

Pages: 426 | ISBN: 1483447154

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She Killed Her Father

Greg Spry Author Interview

Greg Spry Author Interview

In Beyond Cloud Nine Ace fighter pilot Brooke Davis stumbles upon a conspiracy involving terrorists, aliens, and the highest levels of government. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

The plot of BC9 was born of two initial premises.

First, as a kid, I loved anything with fighter planes, especially fighter planes in space. Many shows and movies featured the brash young male fighter pilot of which we’re all familiar, but few works of fiction starred a female lead pilot. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced a female lead would give a story a different feel, and it hadn’t been done nearly as often, so I rolled with it.

Second, we’re all familiar with the standard alien invasion story. Powerful aliens hover their gigantic motherships over our big cities. The human military is powerless against them, can’t punch through their shields, etc. Just when all hope seems lost, we humans find the one glaring weakness that will defeat these intelligent yet negligent invaders and hallelujah! The world is saved and everyone bands together in harmony. Can I get an eye-roll, please? With that in mind, I thought to myself, “How can I turn that premise upside down and leverage it to my advantage?” I thus had the antagonists in BC9 use a seemingly cliché alien invasion in a very non-cliché way to push their agenda.

I felt that the technology and science in Beyond Cloud Nine were delivered in such a way that anyone could understand it. Was this by design?

Absolutely. I seek to make my writing accessible to as wide of an audience as possible. I try to take after Arthur C. Clarke, who was a master of taking complex scientific concepts and simplifying them into an easy, breezy read.

The editor of BC9 deserves a lot of credit for teaching me the difference between telling, showing, and experiencing. We’ve all heard that an author should show rather than tell–most of the time; there are instances where telling makes sense. Don’t just write that something happened (telling). Write descriptive language that demonstrates it happening (showing). However, there’s another level beyond showing that better speaks to readers. Don’t just show something happening. Show how it affects the character, physically, mentally, and emotionally (experiencing). Rather than bogging readers down with the technical details of how something works (a pitfall some hard science fiction authors fall into), I try to place my focus on how technology and events affect people.

Brooke Davis is an interesting and well developed female character. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

With Brooke, I definitely indulged my inner pessimist. I took everything that annoys me and magnified it tenfold. Also, as discussed earlier, I tried to create a lead that contrasted with the typical suave fighter jock. Brooke is anti-social. You won’t find her in bars tossing back shots.

The guilt of believing she killed her father taints her perception of everything.

A main story arc that’s every bit as important as whether the antagonists are defeated is her journey to work through that guilt and grow.

I find a problem in well written stories, in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Where does Brooke Davis’s character go in the second novel?

The sequel, Beyond the Horizon (Beyond Saga Book 2), was published in May 2016. It stars Brooke’s niece, Maya, as the girl embarks upon humankind’s first interstellar mission. Brooke plays a critical supporting role even though she remains in the Sol system. “Demoted” to a civilian flight instructor because of her actions at the end of BC9, Brooke seeks to earn her way back into a cockpit. When she learns of the tragedy awaiting the interstellar mission, she takes a series of bold actions to try to get out to Gliese 581 to save her niece and the mission.

While we’re on the subject of sequels, I just sent Beyond Yesterday (Beyond Saga Book 3) off to the editor. The third installment in the tetralogy should be available in the summer of 2017.

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Beyond Cloud Nine (Beyond Saga, #1)Ace star fighter pilot Brooke Davis lives for pushing hundreds of gees in orbital combat, but she’d give it all up in a moment to become the first human to fly faster than light. When Brooke stumbles upon a conspiracy involving terrorists, aliens, and the highest levels of government, she finds their goals seductive but their methods abhorrent. With the moral core of human civilization hanging in the balance, she must risk her shot at history, her family, and her life to prevent the schemers from forcing their nefarious brand of salvation upon the solar system.

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