The Calla’cara Gambit is a high- fantasy science fiction novel by author Robb Bartlett. It is the sequel to the award-winning novel The Turing Revolt: The War Against Infinity. Starting with the prologue, Lilith Morningstar´s plan goes awry when she is shockingly defeated and sent to an unknown planet by a powerful and mysterious man, identified as the “Chosen of the Adversary”. As she is discovered and forcibly escorted away by two individuals, she silently plots revenge against everyone who ever wronged her. Milo Sapphire finds himself in a difficult position, after being blackmailed into helping the Sentient Ships emancipate from the Empire and killing Lilith Morningstar (or so he thought), he’s aware of being targeted by three groups: the Lotus Eaters Society, the Khan of Calla´cara, and the Emperor himself. When one of his lovers is captured by the Empires ambassador, who threatens her should Milo do anything against the Emperor’s agenda; he must find a way of getting the job done before the deadline without risking the lives of his crewmembers while navigating a harsh political climate.
The Calla’cara Gambit is a space opera that combines the best elements of science fiction with elements of epic fantasy to create a consistently riveting novel. I enjoyed the detailed political and financial climate that the story exists in. I felt like these types of details made the world feel real. The story is mostly narrated in first-person through Milo Morningstar, a witty and sarcastic yet charming man who feels elevated because of his past actions, which have proven him to be the one chosen by the creator of the universe. The way the story is narrated through his point of view helps the reader form a deeper understanding of his character, his decisions, and his way of seeing the universe. Milo is cunning and therefore overconfident, which at times can be annoying but ultimately makes for a complex character and an interesting read.
The universe the story takes place in feels vast and is formed by many different worlds and planets, particularly Calla´cara, an exotic planet ruled by intelligent reptiles who seem to have their own agenda. The writing is unique, alternating between Milos first-person narration with third-person POV´S from different characters, this makes for a refreshing break from the main character’s monologue. Sometimes the mixture of genres can make the tone feel inconsistent, but that’s just a very minor concern.
The Calla’cara Gambit has a unique plot that is helped along by an engaging protagonist. Fans of Star Wars or space opera’s will have plenty to enjoy in Rob Bartlett’s dramatic novel.
Pages: 454 | ASIN: B08FWV5TBQ
Tags: author, book, book review, bookblogger, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, metaphysical, mystery, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, rob bartlett, science fiction, scifi, space opera, star wars, story, suspense, The Calla'cara Gambit, thriller, writer, writing
Pandora’s Gardner follows a harmless gardner who finds himself between two deadly factions fighting over a piece of tech in his possession. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
The inspiration is drawn from multiple sources, but the main one is the Alfred Hitchcock film, North by Northwest with Cary Grant as the advertising executive Roger Thornhill, who is inadvertently drawn into a web of intrigue through a case of mistaken identity. Other inspiration was the Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. In both instances, the protagonists are on the run, and getting by on their wits, not knowing who to trust. Other sources were from Saturday morning matinee and the serials from the 1930’s – I always enjoyed the way that at the end of each episode there was a unresolved question or a jeopardy, and you had to come back to find out what happened next.
Concerning the technology, I was reading an article some years ago about someone who, in desperation, waded through the local waste dump looking for a disk drive that he had thrown out. He thought it was worthless, until he realised that it contained a Bitcoin key, apparently worth a fortune. I wondered, what if it had contained something other than a Bitcoin? As technology is ubiquitous and all looks the same, how easy would it be to hide something valuable in plain sight?
Other inspiration was from early childhood and a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the “Brave Little Tailor”. The story starts with the tailor, preparing to eat some jam and when flies settle on it, he kills seven of them with one blow. He is so proud of this feat that he makes a belt inscribed with “Seven at One Blow”. This leads to various adventures where people assume the “seven” are men, and he rises to various challenges by using his wits. I liked the idea of this misinterpretation of ability driving events.
John is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
I didn’t want John to be some kind of invincible figure, I had other characters that could fulfil that role, but similarly I didn’t want him to be a wimp who miraculously transforms into a heroic figure as the story continues. He is an everyman, albeit someone who has kept himself in shape and has a sharp brain. I wanted someone who could be put in a situation, and then readers could say, “what would I have done?” rather than thinking, “well – he can do that because he is . I made John a gardener as it was as far as I could get from ex-detective, bodyguard etc A gardener embodies good honest labour, unlike some characters in the book.
The other key thing is that John isn’t entirely comfortable with the idea that some women fancy him, although he always considers women equal, (as it should be). This allowed for interesting dynamics between him and the female leads.
I enjoyed the mix of action and humor in this book. Is this indicative of your normal writing style or something you tried for this novel?
It’s the way I write. Escapism is incredibly important to me, there is more than enough of the real world to go around. When I write I need both action and humour as otherwise I could end up with full on action, (which would wear me out), or a total gag-fest which would end up being forced and not funny. For me humour and action complement each other, it’s like salt and vinegar. Too much of one can leave an overpowering taste in the mouth. I enjoy what I call the “gear change”, to be able to move between serious and humorous prose, and attempting to do it without jarring, although sometimes it’s fun to use that deliberately to keep the story varied.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
It was my intention that Pandora’s Gardener be a standalone adventure. The problem with sequels is “second album syndrome”. How do you follow up, what if the next book is worse than the previous? That said, jotting down idle notes the other day, I realised that there is still more of the story to be told, (without over contriving or forcing it), and I was curious as to how it would end. Therefore, there will be a sequel to Pandora’s Gardener. I’m sketching out the plot at the moment. As to when it will be available, that will be a couple of years I’m afraid. The writing is the relatively quick bit – the time is in the rewrites – I do a lot of them. I’m sure with practice it will improve.
All I can say is that I’ll be expanding some minor characters to cope with an ongoing mystery of Pandora, and John is unwillingly roped in…
Posted in Interviews
Tags: action, adventure, author, author interview, book, book review, bookblogger, david mason, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, Pandora's Gardner, read, reader, reading, science fiction, story, suspense, thriller, writer, writing
If you looked up “hapless” in the dictionary, chances are you would find a picture of Ralf, science officer with the Space Corps. He didn’t do things so much as things happened to him. It had been that way his entire life. However, the things happening to him seemed to escalate at an alarming rate during his service aboard the starcraft NOSFERATU. In an increasingly absurd series of events, Ralf finds himself repeatedly faced with the very real possibility of his demise, only to be saved time and time again by yet more absurdity. All that’s missing is a spiritual crisis, but Ralf will find that in due time as well.
The Voyages of Ralf, Vol 1 follows the reluctant protagonist on his travels as he traverses the universe, is brought aboard multiple ships, and serves on a variety of crews. Author R.M. Kozan displays a masterful use of language as he creates his story and uses wordplay reminiscent of Douglas Adams or a Monty Python sketch. Although the story is divided into three separate parts, they read as one linear story and the overall tones of absurdity and cynicism are nearly palpable even through the written word. At the same time, the variety of galactic species introduced throughout provides an ever increasing collection of characters that prevents the story from ever getting stale. Kozan walks a fine line between absurd and just plain nonsensical, and while he does occasionally slow down the narrative by veering into the territory of the latter, it’s never enough to completely derail the enjoyment of the book. Ralf himself is written in a way that almost seems paradoxical. He is clearly the main character and it was a pleasure to see where his adventures led next, but his bland and almost apathetic existence made it hard to feel much about him one way or another.
Although there are some religious undertones to the book, especially in parts 2 and 3, they are approached in the exact same ridiculous way as the rest of the story. It could probably be argued that the book is a satire about religious beliefs and the fact that they have caused so much strife throughout history. Despite that, it doesn’t come across as condescending.
Ralf’s voyages are so imaginative, it never faltered in its pace, and it kept things light hearted throughout. (Always a plus these days!) Not to mention, it was a healthy amount of bizarre and just plain fun to read!
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B08F4HV7NP
Captain Patrick and his team are out to find the end of the universe, and they believe they have arrived at their destination. But they are not prepared for what’s coming next. Upon arrival, they receive news from aliens that earth and all its inhabitants have been vaporized. It turns out the captain and his three crew members are the only humans left in the entire universe. Now the Federation must protect these people and help them start a new race on a new earth. But there’s more to all this than meets the eye. Humans hold a deep secret that affects every creature in the universe. Now different forces are jostling to lay hold on it. What’s this secret, and to what length would the powers that be go to extract it from the last known humans?
Keith Brandon’s Lost Universe is a sci-fi novel that is brimming with activity and all of it is wrapped in an intriguing story line. Brandon sets up shop on extraterrestrial worlds. He takes us on a journey through the universe and tickles the imagination with accounts of aliens, spaceships, psychic powers, and advanced technology.
Keith Brandon builds his story around the common existential questions – who are we? Why are we here? And where did we come from? Interestingly, in his book, it is not man that’s asking these questions. In fact, it’s man who has the answers to them, buried deep in his subconscious. I find this interesting because it’s as if Brandon is saying if we looked deep enough, we’d discover the answers to these questions within ourselves.
Alongside the central theme, he also tells a story about leadership, unity in diversity, tolerance, and communal cooperation. Not to worry, all the convoluted conspiracies and cool alien tech transformed what would have otherwise been a snooze fest into a bubbling tale.
I like Brandon’s simplicity. It made the book easy to read. He also doesn’t try to cram so many details into the story. Instead, he keeps things concise and I could get through the book at a decent pace. With only a few grammatical errors here and there, the story was overall engaging. While Brandon weaves an engaging plot, I wanted to dig deeper into the exotic worlds he’s created in this book. Science fiction fans looking for a space opera brimming with adventure will have plenty to enjoy in this story.
Pages: 302 | ASIN: B07QWB8GJB
Someone To Kiss My Scars is a wonderful amalgam of coming of age, mystery, science fiction, and love story. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that change as you wrote?
The character of Jazz was the impetus for this story—passionate about science, trying to find a way to deal with her childhood trauma and her ineffectual mother, forced to grow up much too fast in a world where body shaming is the norm. She has every reason to be depressed, to have no interests, to be bored with life and the world. Yet she has an unflappable spirit and a burning need to find some happiness in her life. I have always been fascinated with the nature of memory and consciousness. Where do they exist? How can two people who have experienced the same event remember it differently? Can ions passing across a synaptic gap hold memories? What if they actually exist outside the body and the brain is a receiver? These are all legitimate questions that many respected scientists have pondered. The experiment which Jazz conducts in the story where she trains worms, amputates their heads, and then discovers that the worms still retain their memories is an actual famous experiment performed years ago and redone more recently. So the idea that Hunter can capture the memories of others is a direct result of the ideas behind that experiment.
Hunter is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
Hunter lost everything—his mother, his memories, his younger brother, his purpose. He lives with a seemingly disinterested father who offers no emotional support. He writes stories of imaginary worlds until his brain is invaded by salacious, cruel stories about people he’s never met. Where do they come from? Who can he tell? Jazz befriends him, both dying from loneliness, and their relationship grows. Jazz serves as his guide, trying to explain his visions. Once Hunter realizes that he can remove a painful memory and that so many kids have suffered horribly, he grows into a fighter, someone who will accept any burden to relieve others of their pain. He faces his dark past, which would destroy most anyone else, and channels his pain into the desire to rid others of their pain.
This novel explores abuse in many different forms. What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Too many people believe the experiences depicted in this book are rare and should not be depicted. In fact, more kids and teens suffer from abuse than most realize. I have seen the effects of every kind of abuse against a teen and the lingering harm such events cause throughout their lives. In my experience, most kids suffer some kind of abuse from others or themselves. Their stories need to be told. When some complain that such stories should be muted, that writers who use them sensationalize relatively rare events to drive a story, I have trouble stifling my anger. Too many people chose to ignore reality and believe that focusing on stories without sexual content will keep teens from engaging in sex. The most difficult job today is being a teenager.
One of the main themes is the love between Jazz and Hunter. They know EVERYTHING about each other yet they still love. Hunter has seen Jazz’s darkest days and deeds and finds his heart still filled with love for her. As Hunter says, “People start to heal when someone cares enough to accept their suffering. They finish healing when they kiss someone else’s scars.” Redemption comes only when someone tries to help another.
What is the next project you are working on?
I am currently writing the sequel to Some Laneys Died, but I also have plans to write a sequel to Someone To Kiss My Scars. I also have ideas for two other books dealing with racial conflict. Too much to do and not enough time to do it.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: author, author interview, book, book review, bookblogger, Brooke Skipstone, ebook, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, love story, mystery, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, romance, science fiction, Someone To Kiss My Scars, story, teen fiction, writer, writing, young adult
Adam Frankenstein: Search for a Soul is a collection of thought-provoking short stories. What were some sources that informed your writing?
First, I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Or The Modern Prometheus. I knew the Universal Studios and Hammer films weren’t true to the book, as movies often aren’t, and I wanted my Frankenstein to be based off the book. In the book he is a sympathetic character, but becomes a murderer. He’s not given the chance to redeem himself and I wanted that opportunity for him.
Next, I read about Mary Shelley. It was important to me to get inside her head and understand her motivations. I watched the movie about her life and I read several books about her including Mary Shelley: Her Circle and Her Contemporaries and Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein. I read university papers about her life and spoke to professors and other experts.
I’ve always been a fan of horror. I love the classics. I’ve read and reread so many classic horror tales that I plan on tapping into as I write. I read modern horror as well. I want to be able to appeal to the modern reader while intriguing them with classic stories.
Adam is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
I’ve always felt especially drawn to two fictional characters in my life; Frankenstein’s monster and Jane Eyre. There’s something about a person who is all alone in the world trying to be better even when no one else might care about their life. I admit that Adam has some traits you may find in Mr. Rochester. Rochester warred with himself, justifying what he did even when he knew it was wrong. But, he had such passion the reader forgave him his past deeds and wanted to see him become the man Jane deserved.
In the novel, Frankenstein, the monster, who I’ve called Adam, is intelligent and realizes his own plight. He’s not the green-faced monster of the movies. His acceptance of the world’s rejection of him drives him to insist on a companion so he won’t be alone. I think we can all relate to feeling alone in the world at some point in our lives. What can loneliness drive us to do?
I knew immediately that the only way to keep Adam from becoming a true monster was to give him love and let him experience love for someone, or something else. A life totally devoid of love will certainly make anyone a monster. I gave him Bella, his little dog who also happens to be immortal. It wasn’t just the fact that dogs will love you no matter what you look like as long as you’re kind, but it was Adam’s experience of loving and of knowing he had the capacity to love that changed the trajectory of his life.
The Madame and the Madman is my favorite story from the collection. Do you have a favorite, or one that stands out from a writers perspective?
Although I admit to loving any story Victor Dracula shows up in, such as The Madame and the Madman, my personal favorite to date is Marked. It can be difficult to show character growth in short stories. And though I hope to show a little of that in each story, I felt Marked showed the greatest growth. Adam starts out a total brute willing to kill someone for kicking his dog. He’s calculating and unsympathetic to Seline at first. But, the little girl and her acceptance of him change things in Adam. Knowing that Sabine is not the girl’s mother, but is risking her life for the child change something in him. I love who he is at the end of this story.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I recently signed a contract with an amazing agent who is excited about Adam and the other stories surrounding Mary Shelley’s League of Supernatural Hunters. I’m doing the final edits of The Deadly Pieces, which is the first full Adam Frankenstein novel. It’s set in modern times and he has become a U.S. Marshal in Houston, TX. He’s secretly after a witch conducting unsanctioned experiments on the homeless population. So, there’s still the paranormal element though I do work with an actual U.S. Marshal to ensure any procedural parts of the book are correct.
I do have Adam Frankenstein comic books and am currently working on his origin story according to my own mythology. That should be out the first part of next year.
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Tags: Adam Frankenstein: Search for a Soul, author, author interview, book, book review, bookblogger, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, horror, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, occult, paranormal, read, reader, reading, science fiction, Sheila English, short stories, short story, story, supernatural, suspense, thriller, writer, writing
Patch Man opens with bombs going off in the war torn country of Summia. One of these bombs injures a one armed child that the Patch Man heals with his magical patches. The ensuing events propels Patch Man and this child on a whirlwind adventure. They accumulate a band of intriguing companions on a treacherous quest into the depths of a dangerous labyrinth where they seek the key to ending the war.
The thrill of reading Patch Man does not stop even as the reader digs deeper into the book. Rick Stepp-Bolling has written a science fiction adventure novel that hearkens back to the classic fantasy epics of the 70′ and 80’s. The flow of the story is compelling and gets to be exciting with the revelation of every new plot twist and new character. I keep wanting to compare Patch Man to other epic fantasy novels because it captures that same feel while remaining within the science fiction genre. Reminding me of the movie Mad Max which is able to accomplish this same balance.
Patch Man and his young female companion have been prophesized to end the war, but even knowing this did not keep me from second guessing their ability to pull it off. While on such a nail biting adventure it is easy to overlook the prophesy and only see the danger ahead. Patch Man was an impressive character. His patches give him a unique ability I have not seen in any other fantasy novel. His skills made him feel like an original character, even within the confines of some fantasy tropes. The other supporting characters in the book were equal parts alluring and compelling. Each added a new ability to the group, and a new personality that added depth to the overall story.
The action oriented plot and the heavily detailed world makes this a book that is easy to get lost in. The story line had me hooked from chapter to chapter as the events continuously build tension. Patch Man is a great book for readers who enjoy science fiction, urban fantasy, and paranormal stories.
Pages: 324 | ASIN: B0759F9WDH
Tags: adventure, author, book, book review, bookblogger, ebook, epic fantasy, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, paranormal, Patch Man, read, reader, reading, Rick Stepp-Bolling, science fiction, story, supernatural, suspense, thriller, urban fantasy, writer, writing
The end of the world has arrived. Long prophesized by every human religion, the end of days crawls upon humanity in a chain of devastating events threatening to destroy the entire world. Armageddon. The last battle between God, Satan and all of their souls.
It began with the quest to unlock the final piece of the evolutionary process. Scientific exploration pushed the boundaries too far, prompting the birth of the being destined to lead us all to ruin. The Anti-Christ has returned upon the Earth: an unstoppable opposing force of death and destruction.
Billions will perish as the Seven Seals of the Apocalypse are broken. Over the course of twenty-seven thousand years the Earth will undergo massive change. Each time the broken survivors reform and rebuild the population, but it is a game that has an expiration date within the realms of energy.
A new world is dawning. One no one is prepared to endure. For to survive through the apocalypse is an exercise of horrors unimagined. Pain and suffering plague the pockets of humanity through unimaginable devastation. All are transformed in ways least expected. The final battle between Heaven and Hell has been a long time in coming. Now that it is here, neither side will back down until there is one ultimate victor.
The board is set. A brief period of peace arrives, but it is little more than a pause before the final dark storm sweeps across the world and undoes the very fabric of existence. Armies of light and darkness gather. Humanity’s remnants struggle to survive, some turning to faith to deliver them while others embrace their evil wickedness. The endgame is at last upon them and the outcome will determine the course of all eternity.
Armageddon and Beyond is a must read thriller that will keep you on edge until the last page is turned. It answers all of life’s big questions.
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Tags: Adam Declerck, Armageddon and Beyond, author, book, book review, book trailer, bookblogger, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, post apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, read, reader, reading, science fiction, scifi, story, trailer, writer, writing