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The Calla’cara Gambit

The Calla'cara Gambit: The War Against Infinity: Book 2 by [Rob Bartlett]

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

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Lost Universe

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

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Original, Brutal and Complicated

Connor Mackay
Connor Mackay Author Interview

The Albatross: Contact is a thrilling science fiction novel. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

Thanks! It’s been a lot of fun writing. I originally came up with the idea for The Albatross Series over a decade ago while working as a wildland firefighter. While not military, there is a similar discipline and grit required for the job. The bond you form with many of your fellow crewmembers is something that I’ve found hard to replicate anywhere else; something I hope comes across in the book. Being a long-time science fiction fan, I looked for ways I could translate my own experiences into an interstellar setting. While a galactic firefighting story was considered, I decided to go with the waaay more original, brutal and complicated war theme instead. I think a bit more universality to it anyway . . . unfortunately.

I’m also a screenwriter and actor, so the first iteration of The Albatross Series was this epic 3 1/2 hour feature screenplay I wrote; a screenplay I always wanted to either direct myself, or kick ass in as an actor. I just want it all, OK?! However, I knew I wanted more space to really flesh out the world, explore the characters, and weave the story, hence diving in and expanding into a novel and series. Finding a way to parallel it with one of my favorite poems, “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge, was a bonus.

I enjoyed the deep world building in your book. What were some themes you felt were important to capture in your universe?

First off let me say again, I love sci-fi: there are so many varied and incredible branches of it. However, I have found there’s a tendency to get lost in the world-building or the actual science of the fiction from time to time. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the world-building, I tried my best to make sure the real eggheady stuff wasn’t too overwhelming and that the characters and their relationships weren’t lost in the universe. An equilibrium. It’s a style I personally enjoy most, and I think the most treasured stories in the genre, old and new, have always found a way to do that. “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman, “Dune” by Frank Herbert, “Starship Troopers” by Robert A. Heinlein; newer books like the “Old Man’s War” series by John Scalzi, or Pierce Brown’s “Red Rising” books. Hell, the “Harry Potter” books if we dip into fantasy. “Star Wars.” “Star Trek.” We’re entranced by these beautiful and creative worlds, in awe of them, desperate to explore and be a part of them; but we stick around for the people who inhabit them. If you don’t have characters that people feel for, that you really give a shit about, what’s the point? What’s “Dune” without characters like Paul Atreides or Gurney Halleck, “Forever War” without Sgt. Mandella, “Starship Troopers” without Rico, “Old Man’s War” without Jane? Because of this, the most important themes ended up being family, connection, love, duality – The things worth fighting for and struggling against. Nothing new or flashy, but transplanted into something . . . new and flashy. Giants and their shoulders, ya know?

The cast of characters were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?

The character of Will Reach is about as close to myself as any character I’ve written. Good and bad. Not a facsimile, but similar. I mean, he’s kind of a darkly sarcastic asshole so maybe not entirely like me . . . Anyway, the fun thing about that is being able to really dig into the light and dark as explorations of not only the character, but myself. Dreaming up new ‘what ifs.’ How do I think I would deal in these situations (ideally)? How would I probably screw things up? Each of the three main POV characters are very different from each other, hopefully providing a well-rounded view of this new world, and I love writing each one, but Sarah (oh Sarah, how I love thee) and Arthur are also a lot smarter than Will . . . and by extension me. So, while I enjoy the challenge of writing the others and fully extracting their souls, Will is more natural for me.

This is book one in your Albatross series. What can readers expect in book two, Requiem?

Requiem will crank things up a notch or two. Contact, as the title suggests, is all about the first encounters and setting the stage – with the good guys and the bad. In Requiem, we’ll see the conflict on a much larger scale as our heroes pick up the pieces from the end of Book 1 and become fully embroiled in the war and the mystery of the Forsaken. A new character, who we only glimpsed in Contact, will also be taking the reins for a bit, and establishing herself as a powerful force throughout the rest of the series. My goal was always to leave lots of hidden little Easter eggs in the first book that won’t be fully realized until Book 5; benign clues that mean nothing without context, but along the way and by the time we reach the end of the road, readers will be able to look back and go, “Well, son of a bitch! He hinted at that in Book 1.” So yeah, Requiem will be dark and have some serious shit going on.

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Present day Earth’s first contact with an advanced extraterrestrial race doesn’t go how people thought it would. There’s no invasion, no unfortunate probes, and no misunderstanding. The Lumenarians have come desperately seeking our help. Light years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a shadowy race known as the Forsaken is decimating their people, and the Lumenarians have arrived on Earth to recruit humankind as soldiers. Equipped with new weaponry and biotechnology that gives them devastating abilities, the Terran volunteers are thrust into the middle of a vicious interstellar war begun when people were still firing muskets.

Follow Will Reach, a damaged ex-special forces alcoholic with nothing to lose; Sarah Li, one of Earth’s brightest minds trying to find her place in the stars; and Arthur, the enigmatic alien leader of the recruitment mission and commander of the flagship, Albatross.

But with inner demons, inter-species struggles, and self-doubt plaguing the human/Lumenarian alliance, their ability to overcome the Forsaken looks increasingly grim as the battle looms near….

CAEZIK SF & FANTASY

CAEZIK SF & FantasyRGB200px.jpg
Publisher Interview

What are the types of books that Arc Manor normally pursues publishing?

Arc Manor is primarily a publisher of science fiction, although we do publish some fantasy. Historically, our focus has been on reprints of works by major authors, but recently we have been publishing new works from authors like Harry Turtledove, James Morrow and, of course, Robert A. Heinlein, based on his rediscovered manuscript.

What draws you to Robert A. Heinlein’s work?

I grew up in Pakistan reading what little science fiction I could access. Fortunately, given the global popularity of Heinlein, most of his books were available there. More importantly, I fell in love with his fiction, particularly his “juveniles.” Tunnel in the Sky was the first Heinlein story I ever read, and I was blown away.

There is a certain simplicity in the way Heinlein writes, especially in his earlier works, that really appeals to me. He has that uncommon ability to take far-out ideas and make them easily accessible to his readers. As a young reader I could really connect with the characters in books like Tunnel in the Sky or Have Spacesuit Will Travel.

As I grew older, I became fascinated by the breadth of his writing. For example, it is hard to believe that the same author wrote both Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers. With Heinlein, you never know what sort of awesome story you will get whenever you pick up a book of his.

What other Robert A. Heinlein works does your publishing company have planned to release?

We have been fortunate enough to re-publish a number of his books over the years. Unlike The Pursuit of the Pankera (which is published under the CAEZIK SF & Fantasy imprint), most of them have been published by our reprint imprint, Phoenix Pick.

However, as the author passed away in 1988, we do not expect to find any new material (although, as was the case with Pankera, who knows what one may find hidden away somewhere!).

Publisher Links: GoodReads | Website

Robert A. Heinlein wrote The Number of the Beast, which was published in 1980. In the book Zeb, Deety, Hilda and Jake are ambushed by the alien “Black Hats” and barely escape with their lives on a specially configured vehicle (the Gay Deceiver) which can travel along various planes of existence, allowing them to visit parallel universes.

However, unknown to most fans, Heinlein had already written a “parallel” novel about the four characters and parallel universes in 1977. He effectively wrote two parallel novels about parallel universes. The novels share the same start, but as soon as the Gay Deceiver is used to transport them to a parallel universe, each book transports them to a totally different parallel world.

From that point on the plot lines diverge completely. While The Number of the Beast morphs into something very different, more representative of later Heinlein works, The Pursuit of the Pankera remains on target with a much more traditional Heinleinesque storyline and ending, reminiscent of his earlier works.

The Pursuit of the Pankera was never published and there have been many competing theories as to why (including significant copyright issues in 1977). Over time the manuscript was largely forgotten but survived in fragments. A recent re-examination of these fragments, however, made it clear that put together in the right order they constituted the complete novel.

And here it finally is: Robert A. Heinlein’s audacious experiment. A fitting farewell from one of the most inventive science fiction writers to have ever lived: a parallel novel about parallel universes as well as a great adventure pitting the forces of good versus evil only the way Heinlein could do.

Through New Experiences

Kenneth   Thomas
Kenneth Thomas Author Interview

VanWest is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?

I wanted VanWest to be relatable – a man that also just happens to have some special abilities. Raised to become an Enforcer and a servant of the Universal Council, all he knew growing up is what they taught him (to follow their commandments). Much like us all, through new experiences we get different perspectives, in his case learning about his past, falling in love with a rebel, travelling through time. He starts to question the actions of his masters.

However, right from wrong isn’t so clear, much like in real life. The Utopians and rebels he chases want to change the past, wipe out the last thousand years of Earth’s history, for some their reasons are more selfish than ‘Utopian’. VanWest must weigh this all and come to his own conclusions.

I enjoyed the future dystopian world you’ve created. What were some themes you wanted to capture in your world?

Hopefully this future world does not become a reality, but it very much reflects how humans have been treating Earth in the 20th and 21st century. In VanWest, the outcome of destroying our planet and making it uninhabitable is the creation of a totalitarian government (an elite few) that exploits Earth’s refugees for their own gain. In this new world, there are a few groups: the Elites (Universal Council, rulers of Earth’s habitable zones, the solar system and business), the citizens (refugees) and the Jerseyans (a small population that lives underground in the uninhabitable zones – New York and New Jersey).

The Natural Earth Alliance (NEA) rebels and Utopians (adherents to a new age religion) challenge the Universal Council. The Utopians see the rapid advance of 20th Century technology as the cause of Earth’s ills, hence wanting to prevent its creation.

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

The Present: the second book in the series. VanWest confronts his dark past, taking him on a journey to Mars. This book does not include historical fiction and time-travel rather it has more epic science fiction. I’m planning to release this book at the end of July.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Past is the first book in the VanWest series, about an Enforcer who lives in a dystopian Earth of the year 3000 and works for an authoritarian ruler called the Universal Council. Tasked with travelling through time to stop a renegade sect, that seeks to change Earth’s past, he comes to learn about his dark origins and his unique ability.

Falling in love with the daughter of its leader, Mad Newton, he returns to the present to face a difficult choice, whether or not to save her. And be part of the New Beginning.

Does one question literary gifts from the Muse?

Patricia Crumpler Author Interview

Patricia Crumpler Author Interview

Death and Disorder follows Vivian as she must solve a rash of suicides on a peaceful planet and uncovers an evil plot in the process. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

I love to read short stories from the Golden Age of Science Fiction. As I read I found situations that intrigued me. Most of the stories back then did not feature women as heroic protagonists. I was inspired by the plots of several stories. I combined the plots to form an adventure and made the lead character a woman who could be vulnerable but strong and wasn’t afraid to tackle big problems.

Vivian is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided her character development?

I am affiliated with several critique groups. In the comments from these groups a common thread was that my female lead characters didn’t take care of problems themselves. They allowed the man to face problems. Taking the comments to heart, I decided to write a character who could take care of her own problems and those of others as well.

I enjoyed the different species you created for your universe. How did you set about creating each species?

That was the easy part. Once I started writing the characters appeared. I’m not sure where they came from but they had their own distinct opinions and personalities. Does one question literary gifts from the Muse? My favorite person in the novel is Sook. He seems real to me.

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

I have a detailed outline of Vivian’s next adventure. I am working on that. It should be ready for revision by year’s end.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads | Barnes & Noble

Death and Disorder: A Vivian Wexler Galactic Mystery by [Patricia Crumpler]Vivian Wexler investigates a recent rash of suicides on the planet Sorasol, so peaceful it doesn’t have a word for suicide. As she uncovers an evil alien scheme behind the puzzling deaths, Vivian gets more than she bargains for. Dodging death from an alien underworld, mafia-like aliens want control, addicting her with a mind-body enhancement substance delivered by a small slug-like creature. Their plan backfires. Now smarter and stronger, the improvements offered by the slug opens the door to solving crimes in the galaxy. In Vivian’s quest for justice, is there anyone to help her? Torn between the good she gains from the addiction, and the fact she is addicted, she has to make some life changing choices.

Award-winning author Patricia Crumpler offers a dangerous romp through the galaxy dodging death and weaving through amazingly weird elements. Irresistible and compelling.

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VanWest The Past

VanWest The Past by [Kenneth Thomas]

VanWest The Past by Kenneth Thomas is a thrilling intergalactic, dystopian space adventure taking place in the year 3000. Captain VanWest is our infallible protagonist. His mission is to escape the authoritarian society under the control of the Universal Council in order to reach the year 1951. The scenes and settings of all the years and places are extremely vivid and detailed, whether it be the futuristic Black Mirror-esque 3000 or simply 1990s Florida. VanWest has to prove again and again the strength of his character as he battles impossible odds, so that the restoration of the Earth to an earlier, brighter time may be possible.

It wasn’t a stretch for me to imagine that this would be our world in a few centuries or so. The author has created an extremely believable dystopia, simply by extrapolating the consequences of mankind’s current issues: everything from the deteriorating state of the environment or an increasingly unstable global political atmosphere. The best and scariest dystopian novels are those which aren’t too far from our reality.

The side plots are also well-developed. Even though VanWest is single-minded with his mission, he faces numerous other personal issues, including a complicated romantic situation that poses a threat to his goals. The way he navigates his moral, social, and ethical dilemmas is also presented in a very interesting way. Even though he had to make some tough choices along the way, VanWest remained consistent to his character and had me rooting for him throughout.

A lot of the creepy crawly creatures and characters of this book reminded me of a variety of other great stories I had read in the past. It harkens back to everything from Brave New World in the way it portrays the nature of the ruling body and Percy Jackson in the way its action scenes are jam-packed and relentless. I thought it was the mark of  great science fiction noveol the way it incorporated the best elements from some of the best examples in the field.

The pace is extremely fast, but it is suitable for the nature of the plot. Even though it ended in a cliffhanger, it felt like a well-rounded end to an enthralling story. I cannot wait for the next in the series.

Pages: 168 | ASIN: B088WYFK9Q

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Claimed By Rafa

Claimed by Rafa (Raiden Warriors Book 2) by [Denna Holm]

Rafael Abeden has reached the point in a Raiden males life that it was time to find a mate. Raiden males have the problem of not being able to procreate with their own species so Rafael must find another one to claim and fall in love with. He is set on finding a human woman like his best friend, and prince, Nicolai did. Rafael heads to earth with Nicolai and his mate Abby where he meets her best friend Aaliyah. At once he knew she was the one for him. Aaliyah has had a hard life of abuse and mistreatment. Rafael wants to take all her pain away and show her what it is to feel love. This is a tremendous battle and along the way both discover things they never knew were possible all while trying to stop Nicolai’s enemies from killing him and Abby.

The setting for this novel is mostly aboard the ship Qadira. They use the reference of Star Trek a lot to try and explain things as that is a known cultural norm. The descriptions of the different aliens they encounter are vivid and well thought out. As with the Star Trek references, she uses a lot of human descriptions or animals or dinosaurs to convey what is happening on the alien worlds. This makes it easy for the reader to identify with Aaliyah seeing things for the first time.

As we get deeper into the book and learn about Aaliyah’s past, I felt the anger and frustrations that she has from living through so much pain. Seeing how she was treated by other humans before leaving Earth filled me with anger. This is a testament to Denna Holm’s ability to pull emotions from the reader and give them a connection to the characters. You want to see Aaliyah happy; you feel Abby’s anger at the male posturing, Samantha is your typical teenager and stubborn but adventurous all in one. All the women are fighters, none are weak and docile. The Raiden men appreciate these traits and encourage them.

Of all the different aliens mentioned in the book, I found the Djinn especially interesting. This book hinted that possibly the next one will go more into the Djinn people and how they tie in with the Raiden’s, or at least I hope so. Claimed by Rafa was a unique and deeply engaging novel. I look forward to reading more novels from Denna Holm and certainly more entries int this fantastic series.

Pages: 332 | ASIN: B088G25F9H

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