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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Ken Cressman’s book, Intrepid, is a futuristic adventure set mostly in space. We follow main character, Justin Thorn, and his engineer friend, Steven Wilson, as they take on a mission they never could have seen coming. Wars have broken out over race, religion, and even sports teams, dividing the United States. Martial Law has been declared. Military branches have dissolved, and the leftover scraps have been joined together to form the Military Defense Force. Justin, a former MDF pilot, has an anti-gravity capable ship named Pegasus pieced together from former military aircrafts, and the feds want it. Justin won’t let his ship leave without him. He volunteers to set out toward Mars. The mission is unclear. They will either fix faulty communication devices, rescue the nine people on the planet, or retrieve bodies. One of the nine is Justin’s ex and the love of his life, and all they know is there has been no communication between Mars and the Space Agency for months.
This is an edge-of-your-seat kind of book. Whatever can go wrong, does go wrong. A whole different set of obstacles is present during space travel than here on earth. Gravity, anti-gravity, air pressure and breathability, depleting food and fuel levels, meteor showers. It seems like every time things start going smoothly, something goes catastrophically wrong. Between Justin and Steven, they might as well have MacGyver on board though. They put their heads together to take on every problem that arises. The problems leave you woeful for the exhausted characters, but it keeps the excitement high. Risks are high, but so are rewards.
Justin is a loveable character. He is sort of a self-made man. He was a pilot with the military, but is now self-employed. He has taken advantage of the latest technology, and has built a ship equipped with anti-gravs (anti-gravity). He basically has formed a transport service, zooming goods around the globe. He does have space experience, and that comes into play when the Mars mission presents itself. He is also loyal. He doesn’t want to take the job if it means leaving Steven, his engineer and general know-it-all and problem-solver, behind. He also feels the need to be part of the team that goes to check on Kelsey, a member of the Mars research team who is also his former girlfriend and current love. Justin bravely puts his life on the line more than once for the good of the crew and the mission.
The book is packed with cutting-edge futuristic technology. Maia is also on board. Maia is an artificial intelligence computer system. Maia is ever-present and a pivotal tool when obstacles arise. Cressman does an excellent job of explaining the more technical parts of the book, including Maia. Technological advances are broken down where someone who is not scientifically or technically inclined can understand everything easily.
The element of the unknown also plays a big role in Intrepid. Space is vast and unimaginable without a million problems. The crew has no idea what they will find when they get to Mars. Will the research team all be dead? Will they find anything at all? Will there be a simple fix to their communication equipment? Will they walk into some sort of ambush? Will anyone make it back to Earth alive? The reader will find themselves questioning every next step as they follow the crew on their mission.
Ken Cressman makes everything so relatable and readable. It is technical at times, but the technology is effectively explained. I was all but biting my nails as the story progressed. I’d like to read more Cressman work.
Pages: 286 | ASIN: B07BB6R7YR
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Few debut books attempt to achieve what J. I. Rogers set out to achieve, and even fewer are able to create a story that is so unlike everything else out there. The Korpes File is one such work and a stellar debut novel for Rogers. Nash Korpes, a technician, born a Diasporan, the underclass of his world. When he is marked by the ruling class as a threat due to his genetic make-up, it is up to his own intelligence to fight back against not only the ones who hunt him, but the entire ruling class that looks down on everything from their comfortable high-rises.
The goal of Nash and fighting what is essentially the 1% in Korpes’ world is both thrilling and interesting. And danger is never far from the characters in the form of corporate assassins, mass killings, and political intrigue. It is truly a dangerous, but wondrous world to inhabit all at the same time. The city states hide underground from the caustic rains on the surface, while the elites work on new ways to maintain control by subverting the masses under them.
Both a gritty thriller and action-packed adventure, The Korpes File is a fast-paced race to the end, as Nash attempts to survive in this dystopian world. Yet, all of our investment isn’t solely spent on Nash, but on the plethora of other characters who fill these pages. The multiple points-of-view is surprising, especially in a first novel, but Rogers is able to pull this off by making sure all of his characters are dynamic, and at their core real “people.” This was probably one of the best parts of this book, and feeling all of their motivations and emotions was a particular pleasure, especially in a genre when the focus can rely too much on background technology or plot. Some of the pacing at times became a little strange with Rogers’ choice to skip over years in places, but it seemed to be a wash by the end.
It isn’t often that a dystopian thriller can rise on a new set of legs, but Rogers sure does that here and makes sure that the start of his new series starts off running. This book will be a pleasure to readers of all genres, as long as they can tolerate a gritty undertone and sometimes brutal violence. If they can trust Nash, then they will be in good hands.
Pages: 342 | ASIN: B06XCZNTK7
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The Matriarch Matrix is a unique blend of genres combining history and centuries of speculation regarding ancient alien invasions of Earth. What made you want to start writing this novel?
I few years ago I read a news release on the world’s oldest temple built 12,000 years ago at a site called Göbekli Tepe in the Anatolian region of Turkey. Somehow hundreds of nomadic hunter-gathers came together and built a complex of monolithic pillars weighing tens of tons each. 6,000 years before Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza, pre-pottery Neolithic man figured out how to work together to build a stone complex seemingly unrelated to ordinary living.
Archaeologists would say that mankind was far more advanced than we give credit for coming out of the Paleolithic age, coming out of the ice age. Alien theorists would say that Göbekli Tepe is further proof of alien intervention in human history. Given some believe this complex represents the oldest temple known to modern man, some may believe that divine inspiration guided mankind into the modern age.
In 2016, more time came into my life and I wrote a story line pitting people with these three inherent beliefs into a search for a legendary object which will save the world from impending war. A key theme is what has happened in the past continues to happen throughout history. Mankind continues to repeat the same issues, the same themes. But to what end?
Zara endures many horrors, but becomes a woman who is true to her roots and a follower of her faith. What was the inspiration for Zara’s character?
As I crafted the story in early 2016, the lands south of Göbekli Tepe had been conquered by the Daesh, or ISIS as the West calls this group – a name which evokes religious stereotyping. In researching the lands around this temple, I read about the Kurdish women who fought the Daesh in all female units. So I decided to make the main female character a Kurdish woman who fought for her people’s freedom. As I researched the Kurds, their culture, their history, their centuries of oppression, Zara’s character became more complex and dark as a metaphoric reflection of what Kurdish women have endured. Hence I made Zara Khatum a woman who fought Saddam as a teen, then Assad as a young adult, and finally the Daesh only to be captured by the latter.
The horrors of her past life, the darkness she carries in the story, combines the biographies of Kurdish women, accounts by social workers treating Kurdish women refugees, the news stories of the Kurdish struggles, and documents from international governing bodies investigating human right violations in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, including institutional violation of women en masse.
What has happened to Kurdish women is a continuance of the horrors women have suffered repeatedly in periods of genocide or cultural/racial oppression throughout time. The accounts in Bosnia are very similar to that of the Kurds. Similar accounts are told in WWII between the Germans and Russians, with the Japanese to the Koreans and Chinese. History repeats itself in the worse ways.
I made an active decision not to pull punches in describing this oppression staying true to the multitude of actual accounts. But I made the ancient race, the giant Reindeer warriors, the originating perpetrators as to not condemn anyone in the present as to avoid the equal horror of stereotyping a group of people based on the crimes of but a few. I understand for some readers, this reality is too much. I opted to stay true to historical accounts as we must learn from our past follies in order to prevent the same horrors from happening again. In a number of European countries, they teach the past in this way so people will be sensitized to not repeating the bad of what happened in the past.
My inspiration to bring Zara’s story to life in this manner came from the words of a 22-year-old beta reader from Germany: “I would actually like to extend my gratitude. I can’t explain how touching it has been to read about a character like Zara. I think it sends a really strong message home that people seem to really forget. We can all be subject to rape. The world isn’t pretty. And it doesn’t matter how strong you are. But through everything, Zara is so incredibly beautiful. I think that’s important. Whether she agrees or not, she’s a stronger person for everything she’s been through. Thank you for not writing her as some typical rape victim. Thank you for creating something so much more powerful.”
What the portrayal of Zara did for her as a person gave me the conviction to bring this story to others. To bring strength into people’s lives.
I enjoyed the intuitive technological advancements juxtaposed with a glimpse into 9500 BCE. What were some themes you wanted to capture with this story?
The first theme is that culture did not start with written history. The wisdom we believe came from the Greeks and Persians through their writing likely came from their predecessors from oral traditions passed down through the centuries before mankind learned to write. For all we know, themes in our lives today came from the end of the ice age through stories passed from one generation to another.
Another addresses the dangers and opportunities of the modern digital age. Is the advancement of science, of technology leading to dystopic world? The recent FB data privacy issue is only an example of the magnitude of such privacy incursions all over. But what if the collection of information worldwide could lead to the cure for the worst diseases, could lead us to a greater prosperity and peace? Is the body collecting that data for these ends so bad after all? I built that notion into the book’s villain who in end professes in his Machiavellian way he was only trying to save us all.
The last, the most subtle, and yet the most important is the human tendency to pass judgement early and form stereotypes and harmful impressions about other people who are different from them. Zara has been a victim of this trait by others to her, but she does the same until she hears “the voice”. I made her Muslim to show the metaphoric example of what religious discrimination does to negatively form a child’s life. Like other forms of hatred and discrimination, Islamaphobia shaped her belief of the world only to be changed by her meeting her other half from the other side of the world. The book is written in a way that if the reader passes judgement too early they will not glean as much as those who are patient. Peace in this world will us striving to understand each other.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The Matriarch Messiah is the working title. What is “the voice”? Is it good or bad? From the divine or anther planet? What secrets lay buried in the Crimea? The protagonists travel through the pyramid lands of China, through Jerusalem, and finally back to where the originating family came from in the Crimea.
The first half of the book is with four alpha readers. Four of the most intelligent, insightful, powerful, and well-read women I know. Release maybe by the end of this calendar year.
Kidnapped again. But this time by the oligarch who saved her from kidnapping by the Daesh. And he wants her to do what? With whom?
Meet Zara – a woman of great depth, courage, faith, and human frailty who only wanted to follow the path of love and peace. But a dark, violent past haunts her from which she cannot escape. Destiny calls her to shake up her life and partner with her exact opposite from the other side of the world. Together they must discover the answer to an ancient legend from the world’s oldest temple locked in their DNA. Only through finding a certain love as told by an ancient matriarch will they unlock this mystery and stop the next world war.
The fate of Earth is now in their hands in an all-encompassing narrative of conflict, salvation, and the struggles of womankind across the ages in this dark, intriguing science-fiction fantasy epic.
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Return of the Sagan follows a bookish young man as he wrangles his crew on a mission to save Earth and humanity. What served as your inspiration while writing this story?
As a prehistoric archaeologist, I have long dreamed of exploration of the cosmos and the past. My fieldwork centered on digging into the deep past for which no written records have surfaced. I can’t begin to explain how overpowering it is to uncover mysteries through digging and analyzing artifacts. It is a job that takes considerable time and patience as if you dig to deep, you can easily destroy valuable information. We only get one shot, so we have to be careful. For those interested in archaeology, I encourage them to see if local museums or colleges are operating excavations and having volunteer days – that way you can experience archaeology and avoid damaging/losing critical information. As for studying the cosmos, my wife already told me I can’t go to Mars 😞
As for the timing of the novel, my beloved Uncle Paul Leary was battling cancer so I wrote the story with him as a main character. He was able to read some of the story before he passed. My writing could never do justice to the lovely man that Uncle Paul had always been. We all miss him terribly.
Francis is a book worm that loves to quote his favorite authors. Is this an extension of yourself or did you have to research these quotes?
Totally me. Francis is named after my brother, Francis Aloysius O’Donnell. He was my parents’ first child who died at birth. I have often wondered what he would be like. Given my brother Ned and I (along with my sisters Moe and Sandi) can quote fantasy and scifi books all day long, it just seemed to fit that Francis would also be a bookworm like the rest of us. Mom and Dad were veracious readers and constantly encouraged us to read whenever we had the chance. Probably my favorite quote all-time is from Tolkien: “not all who wander are lost.”
The re-population of some of the world’s endangered animals was beautiful to visualize. What scenes did you have the most fun writing?
The mastodons and dire wolfs. I am a prehistoric archaeologist, and my specialty is in the woodlands of North Eastern North America. The people I studied lived side by side with Mastodons and the only reasonable prehistoric predator to suit the story, prehistory and climate was the dire wolf. After the book was published was when I saw Game of Thrones, a show I adore. I got the first season as a gift and then proceeded to watch the first three seasons over the course of two weeks. I then read the books after. I wish I would have encountered GOT before I wrote my novel as I would not have included dire wolves. I have referenced other extinct species from North America in my books before, particularly giant sloth, but for a predator in SAGAN, I would just conjure up something other than wolves because of GOT, though wolves are prehistorically accurate for the area and dire wolves would really be the only predator to fit the circumstances in the story. I did very much enjoy Francis’ stand on the bridge – total throwback to the Bridge of Khazad-dum. When I was a kid, my older brother Ned was devastated when Gandalf fell in the Fellowship of the Ring. Thankfully he read the next book quickly and was ecstatic to say the least. Gandalf’s stand was just so moving. When I got to the bridge standoff in SAGAN, I couldn’t help but make that connection.
Do you think you will write more stories about the crew of the USS Carl Sagan, or continue Francis’s story in some way?
I already have plans to write the story of the initial crew of the Sagan that left Earth centuries earlier. As for Francis, I have contemplated his leading the building of a ship and a subsequent sea voyage, but I have many other projects that need to be finished first.
300 years ago, USS Carl Sagan blasted off from overpopulated Earth in search of survival. Returning to Earth, the USS Carl Sagan finds humanity now extinct and Earth populated by deadly, once extinct pre-historic predators.
What disaster eradicated mankind? Was it man-made or of natural origin? One thing for certain: survival for the USS Carl Sagan and its crew will difficult at best, as while humans are no longer inhabit the Earth , they left behind deadly machines to guard the airspace against space invaders. The commander and the crew of the returning Earth ship will have to overcome those unexpected fool-proof sentries. And the machines are not the only obstacles for the travel-weary men and women of USS Carl Sagan to overcome. If they want to re-inhabit Earth.
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Francis, a twenty-three year old man dealing with his own overwhelming fears brought on by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, happens to be humanity’s next best chance at establishing life on Earth once more. Traveling aboard the Sagan, Francis faces all the struggles of a man coping with life in space and the anxiety of having one of his own forgetful moments bring about the destruction of the entire vessel and all who inhabit it. As a professor and trusted expert, it is Francis to whom the rest of the crew turn to as they make plans to return to Earth. Forced to break out of his comfort zone and abandon the safety of his classic literature, Francis obliges and proceeds to help save life as it was once known.
Professor Francis Burns, the main character in Neil O’Donnell’s Return of the Sagan, is one of the richest and most well-drawn characters I have encountered in a book in the science fiction genre. He is endearing from his first appearance and continues throughout the book to be relatable on a level most characters never reach. Francis’s battle with OCD is just one of the many aspects that keeps him down-to-earth. His constant references to Tolkien and the effortless way with which he quotes lines from Tolkien’s novels make him a less intimidating personality among the other characters.
O’Donnell’s desire to pepper his text with pop culture references adds to the book’s overall appeal. I am not a science fiction fan, but familiar names, books, movies, and song titles pull me in and give me more of a reason to continue reading when the more technical lingo tends to have the opposite effect. The author places these pop culture hooks in the perfect spots throughout the reading.
The unique blend of science fiction and fantasy emphasized by Francis’s extensive knowledge of literature and history is quite amazing to behold. The repopulation of some of the world’s most endangered animals was beautiful to visualize. However, the reappearance of extinct species–and aggressive predators, at that–was simply breathtaking. I hesitate to compare it in any way to Jurassic Park, but in some small ways, O’Donnell’s story bears a resemblance to the original movie’s plot.
I have to admit, I saw the plot going in a much different direction once the crew reached Earth. I won’t say I am disappointed, but I will say, without giving away the ending, that I looked for a resolution that never arrived. O’Donnell has left me to reach some of my own conclusions–and that, I appreciate. Whereas, some readers prefer to have the story wrapped up in a nice little package by the concluding lines, I prefer an author leave me with the desire to reread for clues and leave the book open for a sequel. O’Donnell definitely inspires as many questions about the fate of Earth’s human population as he does answers about the resurgence of plant and animal life.
I give Return of the Sagan 5 out of 5 stars. With a relatable main character and a plot filled with action from the opening chapter, O’Donnell has provided readers with a hit. Science fiction fans who seek memorable characters will not be disappointed with Professor Francis Burns, his extensive knowledge base, and his undying love for J.R.R. Tolkien.
Pages: 304 | ASIN: B00SP4BOZS
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The year is 2050 and the overreaching A.I. is about to achieve total domination of the planet. If it succeeds, the end of humanity is certain. No resistance is expected since the human race has been herded into obedience and a false sense of security using high tech illusions and complacency. But the resistance is brewing – the Free Hackers are moving in the shadows, avoiding the scanners, blending with the crowd. They will cross the world, from Rotterdam to Sicily and all the way to California, in hopes of stopping the inevitable.
Interflow of Things by David Droge is a highly realistic vision of the future brought about by the constant revolutions in computing we have been witnessing in the past few decades. His A.I. starts its journey in our time but quickly spreads to control the world from the shadows. Its insatiable hunger for processing power has it manipulating governments and even change entire stratas of society. It uses high tech gadgetry to mask its debilitating effect on the planet. I enjoyed the superbly technical implementation of the technology which was always believable, especially when we remember how human totalitarian regimes have been able to accomplish the same effect without it.
Human emotions are the bedrock of its power – living in the A.I. controlled reality is comfortable. So much so that unplugging from it requires drug treatments and therapy. Julia, the first character we meet, needed extensive therapy provided by the Free Hackers before she got her emotions and clarity of mind back. And she was one of the lucky ones. Augmented reality dream is a prison of your own mind and you carry it everywhere. Why wouldn’t you? It makes everything, vision, smell, feel and touch, more beautiful! Droge is able to touch and develop every detail of the story so that you are completely immersed by the time you are just a few chapters in.
But the human emotion is something the A.I. doesn’t understand. Throughout the book we get inklings into the operation of this vast mind. Millions of calculations are being done in hopes of understanding basic human concepts and abilities, all in vain.
These passages serve the purpose of giving us the idea of the incomprehensible A.I.’s motivations. They turn out to be one of the few passages of the book that make sense. Dave Droge has translated this novel into English and the results could have been better. A layered and interesting world of the future was hard for me to comprehend. His human characters are intriguing but their motivation was obscured by poor translation.
Interflow of Things – the name of the novel is an obvious, ominous allusion to the current “Internet of Things” trend in computing integrated with ordinary business of living. It shows the future that we might be heading in. Droge gives us a warning that we might become willing slaves of computer controlled social constructs that we don’t really understand or care to understand. If the object of our desires is a real person or an android, will we know? Will we even care at that point? This is a fantastic science fiction story that can only get better.
Pages: 196 | ASIN: B07BTT6KRK
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Damaged Beyond All Recognition follows a man who is unwilling to accept an afterlife that provides nothing more than eternal self-awareness. What was the inspiration behind the idea for this novel?
I finally got around to reading The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut just before I started my novel. I was blown away by Vonnegut’s masterful handling of such a complicated story. It was the type of book that I had always wanted to write. So, I thought I would give it a try and see what would happen. I had a short story idea about a fractured afterlife, and I took it from there.
I enjoyed reading about your unique take on God and how the Creator is dependent upon others. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing about this topic?
I always found it interesting that humans have such wide-ranging views about God. Some think that God controls our every action while others think He doesn’t even exist. We read about how God created man in His own image, but I haven’t run across too many who see him as another guy. What if He just has the necessary job experience that would come from living countless lives through the Planes of Existence?
I loved Paul and Maggie Mae’s relationship and admired their dedication to one another. Did their relationship develop organically while writing or was it planned?
That relationship is based on a college romance that I had with the real-life Maggie Mae. She is the subject of a chapter (“There’s A Little Black Spot On The Fun Today”) in my first book, Damaged Right Out Of The Box, a humorous and wistful autobiography of sorts. The description of how Paul and Maggie Mae met and how their relationship flowered tracks what really happened. And it was my girlfriend’s career drive that prompted me to walk away. I couldn’t see myself playing second fiddle at the time.
But now I regret what happened and how it happened. So, I thought I would extrapolate the what-if. What if Paul and Maggie Mae said goodbye, but not a forever goodbye? What if he would wait for her while she proved to herself that she could be all that she could be?
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on the sequel to Damaged Beyond All Recognition. It’s entitled Damaged And No Longer Under Warranty, and it continues the story of whether the Paraverse was really the answer to preserving eternity. I hope to have it out in about 18 months or less.
Paul Tomenko is no stranger to the improbable. He became a magazine sweepstakes winner and celebrated counterculture writer by age 19. Now, after reaching for a can of Chef Boy-ar-dee spaghetti and meatballs, he’s traveling to and from God’s library somewhere outside the Universe to prevent the end of eternity.
Because of a DNA flaw, humanity no longer can ascend through the Planes of Existence after they die. They can’t access memories from countless past lives in previous versions of the Universe or acquire new recollections. That means no one will have the needed expertise to replace God when He dies. And, to complicate matters, Paul must enlist the help of his two lovers–Maggie Mae Monahan and Allie Briarsworth–because of their unique abilities. But the trio discovers the preservation of forevermore can turn someone’s soul inside out. Literally.
The novel chronicles the life of an ordinary man under extraordinary circumstances. Paul is unwilling to accept a broken Afterlife that provides nothing more than eternal self-awareness. He is also reluctant to choose between Maggie Mae, a brilliant geneticist who has the uncanny ability to “connect the dots,” and Allie, a novelist who inexplicably senses past and future events in the cosmos. The unexpected is to be expected from an unusual cast of supporting characters: Cher the Gatekeeper and Katharine Ross the Librarian, figments patterned after two celebrities for whom Paul has lusted; Gronk and Grita, two “resurrected” six-year-old neo-Neanderthals who are the most intelligent humans on Earth; Tsutomu Yamaguchi, an innovative bioengineer named after a Japanese man who survived nuclear bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and Dr. Peter Lexington Townshend, the head of a genetics laboratory that already has prevented the Russians from stripping politicians in Washington, D.C., of all their memories.
Be prepared for a book that examines our metaphysical questions with a mixture of mind-bending possibilities, laughter, and tears.
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J.M. Buckler’s Stillness of Time details the adventure of Elara and Cyrus as they try desperately to make their way on Aroonyx with the help of Jax, their guide and mysterious friend. Aroonyx, a planet void of insects but rich with plant life, hides secrets the twins, Elara and Cyrus, cannot comprehend and may not want to learn. Jax, the man responsible for watching over them and bringing them through their travels unscathed, seems to hold more than his share of the secrets embedded in Aroonyx. As the two prepare to face Zenith, the ruler of Aroonyx and a deadly force in his own right, Elara and Cyrus learn they, too, possess their share of secrets.
The beauty of Aroonyx is undeniable. Buckler has created a phenomenal setting for this otherworldly novel. The characters’ fascination with the land and water matches the readers’ awe in the authors’ descriptions of the landscape. The setting in Stillness of Time immediately caught my eye and played an important role in holding my interest in the plot in the initial chapters.
I enjoy levity in most any genre and, for the most part, Buckler maintains a serious tone throughout Stillness of Time. One scene in particular provides a much-needed break from the long sequence of tense events. When Cyrus mistakenly drinks Maragin and hallucinates for hours about a moody imaginary monkey companion named Rico, the feel of the book changes for the better. Though Buckler could easily have omitted this lengthy bit of lightheartedness, I truly appreciated the stretch of joviality with the characters.
The gifts bestowed upon the characters by the author are something to behold. Each time Elara and Cyrus engaged in the passing of energy through Elara’s body, I was amazed. Not only is this a unique gift, but it is one I have not seen before in this genre. Buckler has hit upon a wonderfully simple defensive skill for her protagonists. It was a fascinating process to watch as the two perfected the method and put it to use to defend themselves.
Buckler, without a doubt, uses the element of anticipation to her advantage as she builds tension from one chapter to the next before the final meeting with Zenith. I found myself dreading this final moment as much as Elara and the rest of the cast of characters–an excellent sign of effective writing. Jax, the former tenth member of Zenith’s evil Inner Circle, has never been replaced. The spot left vacant and ominously waiting to be filled helps build suspense as the story progresses and the journey to face Zenith gathers steam.
I am giving Stillness of Time by J.M. Buckler 5 out of 5 stars for its uniqueness and engaging plot. The characters within are memorable and relatable. I recommend Buckler’s work to any science fiction fan who fancies action over romance. Though Buckler includes elements of romantic relationships, the focus of the book centers around three intense characters, their unique skill sets, and one harrowing journey to overpower a madman.
Pages: 392 | ASIN: B07B6BWR83
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In Empyrean two empires are stuck in a struggle for control and suspicion has been raised about Skae’s true motives towards the Brin. How did you approach this book in the Brin series to keep things fresh?
I always had an overall general idea of how I wanted to wrap up the series so there were several hints along the way about the Skae and Gorvin empires. I wanted to follow a single family of Brin over a long span of time so creating individuals across generations was an essential part of the story. As in real life, even close relations have very different personalities so the new generation of characters in each book helped keep everything fresh with new perspectives. As the stories progressed, there were many alterations and details that changed as new inspirations hit, but the overall arc did not change too wildly from my original thoughts.
We delve deeper into the two cultures history and motives in this novel. What were some guiding principles for you as you were creating these empires?
As each book came to life, I strove to add greater depth to the universe the characters lived in. This was partly by design, but also the result of my learning more about how to write such an epic tale. Remember, Hegira was my first ever attempt at writing. Even though this is all happening in a different universe than ours, there still had to be certain laws of physics to follow and all the technologies had to abide by those rules. Some few alterations and extensions to our physical laws helped make it an interesting scifi universe, but straying too far would create too much disbelief. I wanted everything to be based on actual theories of what could be possible, then make it so. (yes, an intentional Picard reference.)
You were able to expertly balance technical jargon with easy prose. How did you strike that balance and was it purposeful?
I spent 35 years in the science classroom trying to explain complex scientific concepts to 7th grade students. I guess I developed a knack for doing this which carried over into my story-telling style.
Will this be the last book in the Brin Chronicles or do you plan to continue this series?
Yes, this is the final book of The Brin Archives. It was surprising to discover how much I would miss all these characters when I was finally done writing their story, but it is time to move on to a new project. Maybe someday, if fame and fortune hits and all my adoring fans demand a fourth novel in the series, then I might revisit all of them again. (it could happen… right?)
In this conclusion to The Brin Archives, Maliche Rocker must risk everything including his family’s reputation and even his life, to uncover the truth about the Skae. For over three hundred years the Brin have believed the Skae to be their benefactors, and the race that rescued them from extinction. But recent revelations by a group of young Kolbri, the offspring of Brin and Kolandi mating, tell a disturbingly different story.
Three Kolbri, including Maliche’s son Jontar, must use their unique abilities to telepathically connect with technology, and discover the truth about the Skae once and for all by undertaking a perilous journey through thousands of years in space and time, unravelling the history hidden from them by Skae. During this expedition, Jontar and his two companions must encounter the Gorvin, hated enemy of the Skae and supposed instigators of the current interstellar war.
What turned the Skae and Gorvin into mortal enemies? What is the true cause of the war responsible for the destruction of hundreds of worlds over thousands of years? Will Maliche and his small group find the truth and avert disaster both at home and across the galaxy? Can his wife, Ryma, hold the Brin government together long enough for Maliche to succeed? Only time will tell.
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