In the science fiction genre, many stories share similar plots. The authors, Grant Elliot Smith and Steven H. Stohler, in their co-venture, Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest, expertly utilize concepts from great sci-fi classics. With this they create a very entertaining story that keeps readers rooting for the protagonist, Rathen, and his crew throughout their quest to vanquish evil from their world and other worlds in the galaxy.
The story begins roughly a year after the first book left off in a dark scene where Rathen and his companions—Bandark and Rulo—nervously approach a terrible foe that is capable of destroying the group with his magical ability that allows him control of many elements and also the dead. The result of this meeting then forms a core group that joins in a quest in search of a powerful book called The Book of Ziz that will allow its wielders to vanquish a terrorizing deity known as Gothoar. The story has much more depth as the characters face personal issues and other forms of conflict as the story unfolds.
One concept that makes this book a great read is the discussion of social dynamics through the interaction of fictional races. The group contains several humans, a lich, a half-orc, and people from other worlds in their fold. Therefore, the authors found a way to talk about and resolve racial conflicts. The details of the story show that some people have to live in certain neighborhoods and have to be defensive regarding their heritage. Thack, a capable warrior who is half human and orc, has apparently had a history of racial persecution because he chose to live in an area away from his home where he has found acceptance, but with the introduction of a love interest, feels defensive about his mixed heritage to seek acceptance.
Other social issues like gender disparity are discussed. Caswen—a healer—and her sister Drynwen—a protector—feel gender bias in their organization and have to fight harder to receive missions than their male counterparts. This book seeks to show that the bias others hold can often overshadow dreams and skills. The sisters get their opportunity to sharpen their skills on the road. They find their niche amongst the team allowing them to shine brighter than many of their order back home.
Rathen is able to shed new light on old tropes. Most everyone is familiar with the hero and company on a quest to save the world from destructive foe. The story adds plenty of depth through the implementation of human nature with nonhuman characters and the exploration of human tendencies like the search for redemption, acceptance, contentment, immortality, and even revenge in some cases. Smith and Stohler did a fantastic job telling a story that goes much deeper than the words on the pages; their work sticks with their readers well after the words are read.
Pages: 282 | ASIN: B07HWNK13Z
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Apex Five: The Plane, is a science fiction novel that details life on another plane of existence. We are given a very brief history of this world in the prologue, and then in Chapter 1 we find the story propelled forward about 12,000 years from a life altering event known as The Storm.
The first character we are introduced to is Nasin, and the story immediately takes a rather political turn. Nasin was sent to Tabir to try and secure a sort of trade deal between her own nation of Lir and the people of Tabir. The story and dialogue are well written, but I couldn’t help but feel that it was rather dry reading from the onset and it had a hard time keeping my attention. However, once we are introduced to Hazard 14, the story becomes a lot more intriguing.
The character Hazard 14, whose real name is Rohem, is absolutely fascinating. I think the author did a great job of describing his physical differences (anomalies?) from other people; the scene where he is being examined by the doctor in Lir was a great way to introduce the reader to his unusual abilities. From this point forward, it’s hard to put the book down. It’s clear from the beginning that the Tabirians think that Rohem is a dangerous criminal, while Nasin sees a vulnerable little boy who needs protection. The distinct differences between the Tabir and Lir nationalities really become apparent through their treatment of Rohem. I really loved how the author brought these things to light through his character, rather than in a more direct way.
I always think it’s a little bit difficult to get acquainted with characters in a science fiction novel of this type; where all the races and customs are new to the reader. As well as some of the names being a little difficult to pronounce. However, overall the author did a good job of creating dialogue between the characters that explains the characteristics and histories of the races while still seeming like natural conversation. A lot of times this type of description can seem forced and pretentious but I did not think that it came across that way in Apex Five.
I also found the imagery in the book to be really great. I could envision the different terrains; the dunes of Lir, the industrial feel of Tabir, the rainforests of the Ayam. The evolution of all the different groups of people, from the The Storm forward, is a very believable progression and also written really well. It’s clear that while their relationships with one another are largely diplomatic, there are undertones of distrust. For instance, when Nasin is in Tabir she is asked if they’ve (the Lir) succeeded in making any weaponry, to which she fibs and tells them they have not. The reader is quickly privy to the fact that something is culminating between the different races that is soon going to come to a head. This suspense definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall, I ended up enjoying the story thoroughly and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up any other book by this author.
Pages: 338 | ASIN: B07BRCRD8V
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Future World Rolls follows two FBI agents with psychic abilities as they start recruiting for a mission that will change human history. What was the inspiration behind the setup to this fascinating story?
Research into the 19-year-long career of one individual, a remote seer for the US government. He reported on the existence of ‘buck naked’ green men on the moon and its irregular placement as a protective screen against the solar flares of the sun. By whom? One may well ask.
As always, your characters are unique and fun to read. What is your process like to create such lively characters?
I always loosely base them on real, memorable people like Stan Laurel and the Big Bopper. Disparate? Maybe.
You masterfully imbue your work with music throughout the story. What were some key themes in your choice of music for this book?
Pure relevance to the storyline, plus hefty research into the ways in which these series of songs originated. I used this method to carry on the themes they might have used if they’d stayed on course, like Buddy Holly staying with The Crickets. In some instances, I began writing original tunes as imaginary offshoots. A classic example is the 2190 Overture, which could be sung by the likes of Queen in the same vein as Bohemian Rhapsody.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am well into the first few chapters of book 3 of the Carousels of Life, Simply Spiffin’, Future Criminologist. It is all in my mind, to keep on track.
It starts in the mid-20th century with two talented FBI Special Agents being tasked with recruiting people to undertake a really unusual mission. In the process, they are themselves abducted to take a leading role in that mission, which is intended to save the human race from alien conquest.
It involves time travel into the future, as they lead their hostile hunters on a merry chase across the centuries. They have the full support of other sympathetic races in their imaginative survival techniques, allowing them to go on the offensive.
The characters within embark on a series of adventures that are truly moving in their significance. Based initially on our own Planet Earth, the story employs reported alien sightings and events.
Future World ROLLS to its very core!
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Charles Bone and Stan Loren are two FBI agents with quite the special set of skills. The least of which is their ability to communicate without vocalizing their thoughts. As two men with psychic abilities, they have been given the job of heading up a recruitment drive unlike any other in history. Charles and Stan, in the early 1970s, manage to pinpoint over 3,000 individuals exhibiting the qualities making them the perfect candidates for the job. Little do the recruits know the mission for which they have been chosen is one that could change the course of human history.
Terry Tumbler’s Future World Rolls (We Are Family) Book 2 in the Carousels of Life series has one of the most unique settings of its genre. Spanning centuries and with locations varying from Winter Park Florida in the 70s to vessels in space including the Voyager 6, Tumbler carries the reader on quite the raucous ride through time and space via Charles and Stan and the plethora of alien life forms peppered throughout this second in a series.
There is a Men in Black feel about the novel that gives the book a light, fun air. Fans of this type of science fiction will appreciate Tumbler’s alien beings, their idiosyncrasies, and the banter between the main characters as they go about the task set before them.
As with Tumbler’s first book in the series, Future World Rolls is laden with song lyrics, references to artists’ best-known works, and well-timed and perfectly-placed excerpts of the world’s best (my own humble opinion) music. Tumbler’s characters are more than capable of standing on their own, but these song references help to add another light note to the text. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to hum along to the tunes Tumbler sets as pleasant little earworms from the beginning to the end of the book. I mean who doesn’t love to be reminded of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” and “All Day and All of the Night” by the Kinks? Tumbler doesn’t just incorporate music from the 1960s. He takes readers on a nostalgic journey through music history, hitting all the right notes–so to speak.
To say Future World Rolls is fast-paced would be a gross understatement. Tumbler keeps the reader engaged from one jam-packed chapter to the next. Billed as a space opera, this book hops, skips, and jumps from one scene to the next introducing new and engaging characters while building on the already well-developed Charles, Stan, and the just-short-of-amazing green giants.
Science fiction fans who enjoy lively plots and bigger-than-life characters will find Tumbler’s works meet all of their expectations and more. Tumbler writes beautifully and manages to pull off humor in the most eloquent of ways possible. Some science fiction books are fraught with terminology and processes that overwhelm the reader. Tumbler combats all of that with his stunning cast of characters and an upbeat tone that is set from the first chapter.
Pages: 314 | ASIN: B07H4QQR8K
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Solstice is the thrilling finale to your Star-Crossed Saga and ends the trilogy with a bang. What were some things you wanted to make sure you touched on in the final book in the series?
I loved every minute of writing Solstice: mainly because it gave me the chance to tie up all the loose ends and make sure the story was complete and the character story arcs were congruent. As you’ve read, there were quite a number of characters throughout the story, although the main focus was centered around Sydney and William; as it should’ve been. And although remaining true to their love, along with maintaining the very cool elements of hard core Scifi was a challenge, I feel that I was successful in accomplishing that and I was proud of the outcome. To date, I written over 14 novels and Solstice is my absolute favorite one of them all.
I felt like the characters went through some large transformations throughout the series. Did the characters end up where you thought they would when you first started writing about them?
Actually, as a writer, I think you have a place (start and end) where you imagine or assume the characters will end up once you’re finished, but I never anticipated how much they’d evolve over time in the story. As pertaining to The Star-Crossed Saga, the story is told over a relative short period – if I were to guess, less than a year – but so much happens because the characters are in this frenetic, action-packed tale where they discover so much about themselves and then they mush figure out how everything ties together in order to save Fabricius and the Star-children. So to answer the question, they ended up showing me things about themselves that I did not anticipate and was like, ‘Oh wo, that’s cool,’ and it made sense to keep it.
What was your inspiration for the ‘Star-Children’ and their plight?
I looked our world today and really just crafted a story that reflected the times we live in now. How we unfairly allow our prejudices to control what we assume about one another. These have serious negative consequences and people are hurt as a result of it. In Star-Crossed, people who know of the Star-children assume they are dangerous because of the powers they posses and think they will use them for bad, when it’s the complete opposite. By the time the story comes to an end, the truth is revealed and now peace is restored. It’s unfortunate that so many people die along the quest of learning the truth. Very reflective of our society today.
Although the series is complete, do you think you will continue this story or characters in some way, or are you moving on to another story?
Absolutely! Already working on branching arcs where characters blend into the other series I’m writing and I’m also working on a solo Bounty Hunter series for Steele Reign.
The two starcrossed lovers William and Sydney have sacrificed everything to fortify their love, so much so that William dares to brave the depths of space to find a cure for their deadly Supernova bond, leaving both her and Earth vulnerable to alien Torrian Alliance’s attack. But with a full scale civil war in play on Fabricius, the reality of Sydney’s execution from Torrian hands is diminished, only eclipsed by the certainty of a more threats – The Third Faction and The Dagmas Clan – lead by Dominic and his insurgent recruits on a quest to complete the failed assassination of the teenage girl. With overwhelming odds mounting against them, William makes a desperate attempt to find the last of the endangered Star-children only to be captured by a new menace, where he is forced to compete in the dreaded Gauntlet of sport. Allies surge to free Fabricius, seeking alliances across the galaxy while Sydney tries to keep her identity hidden and trains to master the third phase of her Star-child evolution: Solstice. With Sarah’s mysterious return home with clues to unlock the future, Noella’s training and Bill’s symbiotic development hope is restored, but will it be enough to unite the galaxy and destroy evil for once and for all?
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Ray Collins’s book, What if it Were Possible?, is a space-age adventure set not too far in the future. Protagonist, Ray Holland, finds himself heading up a top-secret mission that he didn’t sign up for. He had spent his career working in public relations for NASA, and is a self-proclaimed “average guy.” He couldn’t have predicted that he would be leading a crew of ex-cons on a recognizance mission into the unknown. Ray and the crew set out on this dangerous mission knowing they won’t see earth for years, if ever again. Like any good adventure, there are I was figurative and literal bumps throughout the journey.
This is an entertaining space adventure story that appealed to the kid in me that is always hoping for a whirlwind adventure. The book flows well, but sometimes hit patches where it would drag. I wanted them to get to space so badly that the buildup was killing me. I liked the way the middle section was written with Ray’s logs giving insight into current scenarios and how much time had passed. I preferred the writing in the parts that dealt with space travel. Apart from a few typos the book is written very well. They were few and far between.
Collins did a great job of explaining how the ship flew with the cabin area moving independently of the ship to keep that area level. He explained the ship’s technology in an understandable way. He also explained the wormhole and other space elements in a way that made sense. I didn’t get too lost in the details and could get a pretty good grasp on what was happening and how.
I wasn’t a big fan of the “aliens” being so similar to the people of earth. I could have gotten past the physicality being the same, but there were an overwhelming number of similarities that I couldn’t wrap my head around. Being an 80s/90s kid, I loved the Star Trek and Star Wars throwback references. It was a nice way of keeping everything from getting too technical or heavy. It also showed Ray’s humanity and made his character one that will be identifiable to readers. The references also made it feel like the story wasn’t too far from our own reality or time.
There is a love story that develops in the begginging chapters that I would of liked to see developed further, but the story takes a sharp turn into an entertaining space adventure story and left that bit behind.
What if it Were Possible? was a good read that I recommend to readers of the Sci-Fi genre, especially anyone looking for a space adventure story that stays true to it’s roots. The journey through space was my favorite part and kept me engaged. Readers will root for Ray and his crew of misfits. I look forward to reading more of their adventures in the future.
Pages: 292 | ASIN: B077ZDCWBN
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An otherworldly adventure awaits readers in the pages of Solstice by Braxton A. Cosby. The third book in a series starts off with a bang as readers are introduced, or reintroduced, to our protagonists Sydney and William. Theirs is a story for the ages as they defy distance and fate to be together. This epic saga will take readers on a journey through the stars and intertwine between lives and destinies. Come along as we watch our protagonists face their fears, develop who they are and take on what could be seen as an impossible undertaking. They aren’t alone and their friends will be there to help and support them every step of the way.
For those who are new to the series, the first few chapters might seem a little overwhelming. It’s clear that some major world-building was established in previous installments in the saga. There are some circumstances and terminology that readers will feel goes over their heads when they first bite into it. Not only does the story take place in outer space for a large portion, there are legends and transformations at hand that require a solid understanding about what has happened, in order to understand what will occur. The story is engaging and invites young readers to see themselves in the characters. We all go through some sort of metamorphosis as we develop into our adult selves. The transformation that Sydney undergoes could be likened to that. It’s just a bit confusing for new readers to understand the impact of previous events without reading about them.
If there has to be something to nitpick then perhaps the grammatical and stylistic errors that pop up ever so briefly would be the culprits. They aren’t startling enough to detract from the story, but a few rereads might be needed to make sense of what the sentence is supposed to say.
Cosby knows his craft and he knows his audience. It’s clear that he wrote this book for young adults as the language is easy and comfortable to read. The teens speak like real teenagers and ask the questions while speaking the frustrations that most teenagers might be too afraid to voice. It’s comforting to be able to read a book targeted to your age group and actually be able to identify with it. The fact that Cosby can share a point of view from the perspective of a young woman with just as much ease as sharing one form the view of a young man shows that he is dedicated to telling the best story that he can.
The space-odyssey of Solstice by Braxton A. Cosby is not a book to miss. It’s engaging and well written that readers of all ages will enjoy it. Young adults will get the most out of this book as they identify with the trials and tribulations our protagonists find themselves going through. While it might be confusing for new readers who have picked up this third book in the Star-Crossed Saga to understand what’s happening in the beginning, if you’re patient and devote your energy to this book, you will not be disappointed.
Pages: 317 | ASIN: B01LZ4OMHI
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The Korpes File follows a technician born into the underclass of his world when he is marked by the ruling class as a threat due to his genetic make-up and is forced to fight back. What was the inspiration for the idea at the core of this exciting novel?
This is a complicated question to answer because the inspiration came in stages over the course of thirty years.
I was an artist long before I became an author. Concepts for the world of Tamyrh started showing up in illustrations while I was still in high school in the early-80s.
In 2012, a friend approached me to brainstorm on a game he was designing. I suggested that he let me do some world-building for him, and I wrote two pieces of flash fiction to go with the maps I’d designed. The game was shelved (unfortunately), and my work was returned to me, but that burst of writing led me to dig Tamyrh out of my portfolio case and look at it again. That was it; my objective became “write something that I would want to read,” and books one through five were plotted by the following summer.
Dystopian themes in science fiction are popular, and I wanted to create something that depicted both the protagonists and antagonists as living in the shadows and light between good and evil. To have a worthy, three-dimensional hero, you must have an equally worthy, three-dimensional adversary. Each one has to have reasons behind what they do, and regardless of how they start out they each have to have the potential to redeem or to condemn themselves. Thus, my series is about life, people, flawed, challenged, and hopefully tangible enough to touch. Ultimately, the reader’s sympathies will decide who the heroes and villains truly are….
Nash Korpes is an interesting character that, I felt, continued to develop as the story progressed. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing his character?
First, thank you for the compliment. If I’m going to be honest, I didn’t start off with a theme for Nash apart from the fact that he was taken from his family in the Diaspora at an early age, and that he was isolated because of his ‘gifts’ and heritage. I wrote a few short scenes of interaction and dialogue and then let his personality emerge organically as the plot points presented themselves. I’m still learning things about him. At heart, he’s a good man, he tries his best, but like everyone, he falls down, gets dirty, and can make terrible decisions that have lasting ramifications. By the end of book one, I felt he was a non-angsty, relatable protagonist for everyone who’s ever felt like they were on the outside looking in due to their ethnicity, a disability, or their socio-economic background.
This book is a gritty thriller and action-packed adventure to the very end. What were some sources of inspiration for the detailed world in this book?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled widely and lived abroad in my early years, and those experiences can’t help but factor into my world’s design unconsciously.
As I mentioned earlier, I consciously began world-building Tamyrh back in high school; I’m an artist, so creating maps, designing the aliens, and doing concept art was fun. The toxic jungle, “The Seep”, as well as the ancient history of Tamyrh were invented then, but, I didn’t officially begin adding in the hard-science behind my world until 2012. Since then, I’ve been compiling research to give my world a sense of dimension and reality.
Now, I have an entire Pinterest account dedicated to ‘novel inspirations’ – it includes flora, fauna, visuals for the racial groups, cluster city concepts, diaspora inspiration, articles on real-world developments in science and physics, and cutting-edge technological advancements. They do say that a picture is worth a thousand words.
On an associated note, I’m planning to release a limited edition character sketchbook in 2020 – Patreon funded. A bestiary and world atlas are also in the works.
This is book one in the 942 Series, when will book two be available and where will the story pick up in that book?
I’m finishing up book two right now, and I plan to release it in December. The story picks up with Nash and Davis, roughly two months after the end of book one. A collection of short stories from the series will be published in October.
For those that love classic “Star Trek” and modern “Battlestar Galactica”, “The Korpes File” taps a fresh vein of science fiction gold.
“As if being born Diasporan wasn’t enough, Technician Nash Korpeshas the bad luck to match his Tyran ancestors in form and manner. Thesetraits, though highly prized by the special projects division at Korlune Military Research and Development, mark him as a specter from theirwarlike past. With only his intellect to save his sanity, he wages aprivate war against the entire socioeconomic status quo and uncovers anemesis that threatens them all.”
Intrepid continues to follow Justin Thorn as he struggles to make his way back to Earth on a damaged ship while fighting many of space’s deadly hazards. What were some themes you felt you had to carry over from Pegasus and what were some things you wanted to do differently in this book?
I wanted to expand the universe in which the story takes place by sending the crew to Mars this time instead of the moon. In Pegasus they could at least see Earth, but now they’re millions of miles from home in a crippled ship, so the perils are much greater. It increases the level of danger and makes the stakes so much higher. We’d already established in the first book that there is a scientific outpost on Mars and that Thorn’s former girlfriend is a scientist there. What would he do if he found out that she was in danger? How far would he go to try and save her? Not only is she in danger, he’s risking his life and his beloved ship to try and rescue her.
There is a rich backstory in this book, wars and dissolution have rearranged much of old Earth. How did you set about developing the backstory for this book?
Many stories set in the future feature a world that’s bleak and depressing, with people struggling to survive in a world that’s falling apart. Often the world has become a kind of a junkyard. I wanted to create a future that’s more hopeful. Even though there have been series of conflicts that brought us to this point, it’s a world where life has become much simpler. With large cities gone and the population significantly smaller, Earth has begun to repair itself, and the air and water have become less polluted. I feel it’s a more hopeful vision of the future, but not because technology has saved us, but because we’ve let nature take its course.
When developing a series, readers often know that the main character is immune from deadly danger. How did you solve this problem in your book to keep the tension high?
I knew that in order to make the danger feel real, some of the characters had to perish. I didn’t want the reader to get too comfortable with anyone because at any moment any character could be gone. Thorn himself is put in real danger several times, and I think there’s always the possibility that he could die as well, and someone else could take over as pilot and captain of his ship.
Will you continue the Justin Thorn series with a third and possibly fourth book? If so where do you want those books to take Justin?
This book was originally intended to be the third in the series. In the second one, Thorn was to come into possession of something that a lot of people want and are trying to acquire. It was supposed to be one long chase as Thorn tries to figure out why these people want this thing and how to stop them. Unfortunately, I didn’t what that thing was, so I decided to do the third book instead. It wasn’t until I was halfway through Intrepid that I realized what the object was that everyone was after, so the next book continues the story that’s set up in this one. And the third book then sets up a fourth.
All contact with the scientific outpost on Mars has been lost. The Federal Space Administration is sending the spaceship Intrepid on a desperate rescue mission, and they’ve commandeered Captain Justin Thorn’s ship Pegasus to use as a shuttle to the surface. But when they arrive on Mars, things go horribly wrong and the ship is severly damaged. Now millions of miles from home, the survivors must find a way to get themselves and their crippled ship back to Earth before their food and time run out.
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