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Detours in Time

Detours in Time, #1

Pamela Schloesser Canepa’s novel, Detours in Time, is anything but your run of the mill science fiction novel. It follows Professor Milton Braddock, who has conveniently developed a time-traveling car, and his assistant turned traveling companion, Tabitha (cutely nicknamed “Pinky” by the professor). The pairing of the older and more experienced Milt with young, spunky Tabitha will feel comfortably familiar to Doctor Who fans, as the two travel through time, encountering futuristic adventures as they begin to feel a bit closer than just friends. Though their time travels begin as scientific examinations into both the past and the future, Milt and Pinky’s present and future lives begin to unravel when they break their golden rule of not disturbing the future.

Canepa’s novel excels by creating three distinct time periods that each feel relatable to readers: 1997 (the “present” for Milt and Pinky), 2018, and 2047 (where most of the novel occurs). By creating a recent past setting, a practically present setting, and a not too distant future setting, Canepa creates a science fiction novel that relies on her well-developed plot and inter-character relationships rather than the spaceships, aliens, and high-tech gadgets of many science fiction works.

Detours in Time begins mid-adventure in 2047, without skipping a beat. Though 2047 is certainly more futuristic than what readers in 2017 experience in their daily lives, it is not so high-tech as to be completely beyond belief. But perhaps most shocking to readers will be how the citizens of 2047 describe the war that tore apart the United States in 2019, with reasons for division painfully realistic: “how tax money was spent, which citizen’s rights could or could not be limited and for what reason, the role of the military, who was allowed to immigrate into the country…” Milt and Pinky are aghast at the country’s divide, but readers’ hearts in 2017 will ache at the accuracy of what Canepa describes.

But, thankfully for readers, Canepa does not spend too much time dwelling on the demise of the United States, but rather takes a closer look at the questions that time travel inevitably brings: What happens when you interfere? Could a single action reroute history entirely? Are you better off not knowing? The last question is one that Pinky and Milt find themselves asking after they look into their own futures and decide to take a bite of the forbidden fruit: trying to change the future.

A truly five-star novel, Detours in Time is a well-written and interesting story with characters who are developed independently and whose relationships are carefully crafted, not flung together as if forced. Detours never stalls or bores readers, but it invests enough time in explanations and detail that it feels thought out. Readers will find Milt and Pinky’s 90s naïveté charming (What’s a text? What does it mean to swipe? Why would anyone eat food out of a truck?) but also eye-opening: how long ago were we asking those same questions ourselves? Milt and Pinky’s present is just twenty years in our past, which begs the question, what wonders or terrors does twenty years in our future hold? Canepa brings Detours In Time to a natural close, but leaves the door wide open for a second novel in the series, hopefully one that readers will not have to travel too far into the future to experience.

Pages: 305 | ASIN: B0711ZW6XF

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Beyond the Horizon

Beyond the Horizon (Beyond Saga Book 2) by [Spry, Greg]

Greg Spry’s Beyond the Horizon is the second in his Beyond series. The focus of the plot is split equally between Maya Davis’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore interstellar space over a period of three years and her aunt Brooke Davis-Sommerfield’s inner turmoil regarding a past she would rather forget. Maya, an extraordinary student in her own right, has just graduated second in the Interstellar Expeditionary Force Academy class of 2265 and is one of the fortunate citizens boarding New Horizons. Maya’s fate as an integral part of the success of the mission of New Horizons, strangely enough, seems dependent upon the decisions of Brooke as she battles the Vril in Maya’s absence.

Greg Spry has created some truly memorable characters within a phenomenal setting years in the future. One of the most striking aspects of Spry’s work is the effort he has put into describing the technological advancements he envisions. The ease and speed with which travel takes place and the vessels used are quite amazing. The author’s descriptions are more than adequate to effectively draw in the reader. In fact, I became more than fascinated with the many uses of the “i-cite,” a device which takes the capabilities of a smartphone and magnifies it by thousands.

Spry has outfitted his group of futuristic characters with the means to alter themselves in an instant. Perhaps one of my favorite scenes involved Brooke avoiding discovery by spontaneously changing both the length and color of her hair while she walks amid passengers on a ship. This, one of many other details, set Spry’s work apart from the science fiction tales I have read recently. The ability to instantaneously alter one’s appearance takes the story to another level within its genre.

In addition to the incredible devices used and the modes of travel detailed by Spry, I was enthralled by the description of New Horizons, an entire community created for a three year space journey. Self-sufficient and immense in size, the vessel was almost too imposing to comprehend. Spry breaks barriers within science fiction with settings filled with incredible planets, ships, and astonishingly advanced day-to-day living.

Somewhat surprisingly, neither Maya nor Brooke were standout characters for me. Both women are strong, determined, and remarkably intelligent. Their struggles are typical for books steeped in action and suspense. I felt Brooke revealed much more of the struggle within herself than Maya, though both were faced with demons–real and imagined. Brooke has taken the trauma of Maya’s youth on herself, and it is evident throughout her plotline. My chosen character–the one I looked forward to within each section dedicated to Brooke–is Zeke. His combination of innocence and the ability to manipulate thoughts was intriguing. The explanation for Zeke’s fast-paced growth fits well with the plot and the fear surrounding his abilities.

Greg Spry draws out a complicated plot and satisfies readers of all types with relatable characters, amazing images of the future, and action sequences which are spaced effectively throughout the book. I recommend Beyond the Horizon to fans of the science fiction genre and anyone seeking to explore the genre. Spry is an author who, without a doubt, delivers a punch.

Pages: 366 | ASIN: B01BBIA9DC

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Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody

Suzy Spitfire is a take-no-bull fugitive on the run. Her best friend Aiko, who was her father’s lab assistant and is also on the run, wants to see her and she’s taking a big risk by coming back to Earth. She wastes her time at the bar flirting with Ricardo until Aiko shows up. Her friend reveals the location of a top-secret Artificial Intelligence her father developed for the government, and also informs her that her dad’s death was a murder, not an accident. Almost on cue, the bar is raided by the feds. Ricardo comes to their rescue (while stealing a case of whiskey on the way out) and they are on the run again, this time with a price on their heads and Special Forces on their heels.

With the feds, a fleet of pirates, and a criminal gang all gunning for them, this crew of outlaws has nowhere to turn. Blurr, the Special Forces commander, has no qualms about using extreme methods to get what he wants. Getting to Suzy – and the secrets she knows – would be even better.

I really got into the rapid-fire action. There’s never a dull moment in this book. Suzy is a larger-than-life antihero who would rather shoot than talk, and when she does speak, it’s usually a string of smartass remarks. Surrender is for weaklings and arguments are best ended with her pistol set on “stun” so she can mock the loser later. The action escalates through the book, with the crew of the Correcaminos Rojo bouncing between criminals, pirates, and the law, trapped on posh spaceships, hell-hole prisons, and domed spaceports. Her banter with Ricardo is fun, and her inability to keep her mouth shut gets her in trouble more than once.

Along the way, Suzy begins to second-guess her impulse to fight and starts listening to Ricardo. There may be a lot more to the guy besides his stunning good looks and bad poetry. She realizes she might be falling for him, but she can’t be sure that he’s not working for one of the factions trying to chase her down. It makes for a nice romantic subplot that may or may not involve bullets before it’s all over.

I also liked getting occasional glimpses into the stories of the people on the other side of the fight. Getting insight into what was going on behind the action provided a break between fight scenes and added a lot of scheming and intrigue. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but getting the inside scoop on other key characters added a lot of excitement to the story.

If I had to criticize one thing, it would be that the action gets a little repetitive. Several encounters with enemies are similar, but the great thing is that none of these situations resolve in the same way. It was nice to see the characters playing to their strengths and weaknesses, and the author does a great job at blending screwball humor into the mix. There is a minor loose end concerning a secondary character, but that might be covered in a sequel.

I would absolutely recommend this for a quick, fun, summer read. It’s a great blend of over-the-top action that reads like classic pulp fiction, and characters who play their tropes for all they’re worth. Suzie Spitfire Kills Everybody will leave you smiling.

Pages: 297 | ASIN: B072PXT1P7

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The Transient, The Emperor, and the Man Left Alone

3 StarsThe Transient, The Emperor, and the Man Left Alone is a science fiction story that follows Derren, a common man from planet Earth, and his interstellar misadventures. The novel opens on our protagonist losing his apartment in a demolition, of which he was notified several times but didn’t bother to read his mail. From there, the story gets stranger. After calling his co-worker and asking to stay with him, the two men are ripped from the surface by an alien spaceship and a grotesque alien wanting to conduct an anal probe.

However, things are not as simple as they seem, in all regards. The aliens might be much more human than they pretend, and their motives are much deeper than a simple probe. Will Derren be able to survive what his extraterrestrial friends have in store for him? And why do they keep calling him an Emperor? A long, scattered journey is in store, and hopefully readers will be able to follow along for the ride.

Overall, this story does a few things very well. It offers some outrageous situations that serve as biting commentary on the average human’s need for entertainment in all of its forms. The satirical situations, and even the satirical descriptions of characters, will cause readers to pause and reflect on why those institutions exist in our society today. Specifically, the hilarity of an alien courtroom is much more familiar than it should be, and the author does well to demonstrate that point, especially by describing the judge’s experience in terms of wins and losses. Further, seeing Derren travel through space and how he chooses to use his ample free time is a fascinating read and gives an in depth look at a character that many novels struggle to do as well as Harrell does.

However, the plot of the story does have some trouble spots. After about 150 pages, the writing becomes dull, and the plot is hindered by cliché turns and seemingly disconnected events. While much of it can be considered satire, it is not as sharp or witty as it should be. It was as if there was a long a list of points that had to be made, so they were included without regard for the plot. The text itself has some minor grammatical errors, which are jarring, but thankfully are not too frequent.

The narrator has a unique voice that I have not experienced before. This voice introduced itself by attempting to clean up some foul language, but then realizing it wasn’t worth the trouble. With some sharp commentary and an “intermission”, I was kept guessing at what the narrator would choose to describe next. If only the narrator chose to make himself heard more often!

From a village of women to a rock becoming Derren’s best friend, you have to be prepared for the story to go wherever it wants.

Pages: 202 | ISBN: 1480828998

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The Origin of F.O.R.C.E.

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E.4 StarsNex Mexico, 1947.  A spaceship crashes on Earth during an exploratory mission from Planet HG-281 and leaves behind a 12-years-old alien. His name is Whatsit and he belongs to the Chrysallamans species, gigantic lizards with extraordinary mental powers, which enable them to control the humans’ brain and ultimately destroy them. The U.S. military takes custody of the young alien during a covert operation on the site of the crash, led by Major Jim Blunt. Shortly after, in Washington, a governmental committee calls a meeting of prominent scientists to inform them of the presence on U.S. soil of the young alien and alert them of the incoming danger of an invasion of Planet Earth by the Chrysallamans. Taking into consideration that Planet HG-281 is around 30 light years from the Earth, they estimate an invasion will come in 60 years. A bright young doctor, Diane Hoffmann, comes up with the original idea of studying the DNA of extraordinary human beings in order to isolate the genes that make them special. Those genes could be then translated into a vaccine against the aliens’ mental powers. Major Blunt finds the idea brillian,t and he takes off with Hoffmann to Tibet where they will bring Whatsit to visit a teenage Dalai Lama. The Lama is able to communicate with the alien through telepathy and he reassures Blunt and Hoffmann of the alien’s good nature and gratitude towards the soldier who was taking care of him. Once taken a sample of the Lama’s DNA, the two go on to meet a strong man in Germany and then a Skullreader back in the U.S.A. in order to collect their DNA too. A dormant virus – engineered to become active at a chosen time- is eventually developed so that humans can be ready for the invasion to come sixty years later. The first to be inoculated is Major Blunt, the soldier who raised Whatsit as a son and the now husband of the brilliant scientist who synthetized the substance. A leap in time brings us to the 70s, briefly, to meet the young son of Blunt and Hoffmann, Tom, on his way to a military career. In 2014, as feared, the Chrysallamans come back and spread terror and destruction all over the world. Till they meet Tom Blunt, the brave son of Jim Blunt.

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E by Sam Miller brings 70’s sci-fi films and literature about alien invasions into the new era. Anyone who enjoys a science fiction novel for the science will definitly enjoy this book. I found the idea of DNA manipulation in the book to be novel in it’s application to the problem and well defined in it’s descriptions. There were a lot of great twists and the storyline was entertaining, which is why it was dissapointing that the characters, I felt, were underdeveloped. But a lack of in-depth character analysis is compensated by a constant flow of action. This leaves the novel feeling more like a script, but that certainly makes it a good candidate to be converted into a movie. I absolutely cannot wait to read book two Dawn of Chrysalis.

Pages: 373 | ISBN: B010T04A2O

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