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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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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In Jim Cronin’s Empyrean, the third book in the Brin series, readers will find the perfect novel to tie the series together. Skae and the Gorvin, two empires find themselves stuck in a struggle for control. During the conflict, suspicion has been raised about Skae’s true motives towards the Brin. The head of the Brin Council, Maliche Rocker decides to go on a journey to uncover the truth and risks everything in the process. The race, the Kolbri, has the ability to interact with technology to travel through time and space to understand what truly went wrong once the Brin race came into existence. Both empires hang in the balance while the characters race to find the truth. What really caused the tension between old allies into mortal enemies?
Though science fiction can be technical, Cronin kept the text easy to understand and interesting. Having new characters and showing the perspectives of the characters the way that Cronin did, allows the reader to stay engaged and interested throughout the story. Cronin has the ability to keep the characters, and the reader, on their toes. The author does a great job showing both perspectives from both empires and keeping the personalities of the characters natural through impressive dialogue. The natural tension between both empires will allow readers to feel for both empires, understanding that they were once allies now enemies.
Occasionally certain terms as and political aspects may be somewhat hard to understand if you haven’t read the first two novels. Yet, I was still able to enjoy the novel and I think it can stand on it’s own. Otherwise, this is a satisfying way to connect to the other two novels. Cronin allows the narrative to flow effortlessly, connecting various intriguing theories together, and building tension throughout, allowing the reader to prepare for the climax. Any reader who has read the series will not be disappointed. Using great concepts, elements of science fiction, descriptive context and strong dialogue supports what is already some great character development. Jim Cronin did a fantastic job bringing his series to a close. I highly recommend you read book one and two in the series for a wildly enjoyable journey!
Pages: 274 | ASIN: B077ZBQWDT
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Once Upon a Time Slip, written by Lisa Nicell Treanor, is about a nineteen-year-old woman by the name of China Winter. China must escape the rise of the supernatural and the demands of a potential war by travelling with her grandfather to Liverpool to start a new life. But there are new dangers that lurk within the streets of Liverpool with threats of time slips and repercussions from the government on the forefront of every mind. Time wars develop, throwing China’s plans to find her missing brother out the window as she battles a world where being erased from existence is just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
China is an orphan and was raised by her inventor and toy maker grandfather, Clarence Winter. The story is set in 2258 so prepare for a whirlwind of futuristic scenarios- from mechanical hearts to humanoids to rewiring of the human soul. The future is here, and so is the potential for time travel. However, some problems can cause irreversible results. With real-life inventors like Nikola Tesla being incorporated into the plot line, be prepared for a magnitude of exciting inventions, creations and scientific discoveries.
Even though the story is set in the future, there are still elements of present/past issues. For example, with a war looming there are whispers of conscription with continuous pressure being pushed by the government. Some of the characters have mechanical body parts which still leaves them wondering who they are, how do they fit in, and what is the meaning of their life. I enjoyed the aspects of the past intertwined into the future as it gave the novel a sense of realism and was a reminder that our past mistakes tend to be repeated in society.
Lisa Nicell Treanor paints beautiful word pictures that gives readers an easy glimpse into the fantastical world of China Winter. I really enjoyed the level of detail in this story. There were so many suspenseful and even fun moments that were really brought to life by the vivid imagery. All of this lends to an intriguing and magical plot line that is punctuated with wild and creative inventions.
Abductions, soldiers and poltergeists come together to create an action-packed plot, all creating a sense of urgency and suspense throughout the story. Once upon a Time Slip is a unique time travel story that will open your mind to strange possibilities. If you’re looking for an exciting novel with a strong sense of adventure, then look no further.
Pages: 369 | ASIN: B077BRTDF3
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The future will crumble as history re-writes itself in the great time travel apocalypse.
It is the year 2258 when nineteen year old China Winter discovers her ability to cross the veil between worlds. On a quest to find her missing brother Maddox, she finds herself summoned by the father of time travel – Nikola Tesla to help save the whole of humanity; both past and future souls. China must sacrifice so much as she is dragged ever deeper into a treacherous and eternal time war.
Stepping back in time from her steampunk-esque existence, China finds herself caught up in the most incredible battles. Every army that ever existed can materialise in the wrong time or place, at any given moment to lay siege upon the earth. Slipping back and forth between the mists of time, history re-writes itself, playing havoc on the very fabric of reality. Can she survive the world of hauntings, poltergeist manifestations and time slips to save the universe from complete obliteration?
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The world of Androva, where magic rules. Galen is the best underage magician for millennia, much to the dismay of the power hungry Professor Cassius. In the name of research, Galen and his friend, the talented but troubled Nico, begin opening time travelling portals to other worlds. Galen finds himself on Terra where he meets the beautiful Claudia. He wants to stay with her forever but the arrival of Jax and Shannon from two thousand years in the future changes everything. Galen must now return to fight for the lives of his friends and family. But will they survive magic?
Alex C. Vick has built a rich and enchanting world of spells and sorcery in Surviving Magic. Classic themes of love, good vs. evil, and the importance of friendship run through the story, but they seem fresh and innovative in the hands of the author due to an exciting plot, diverse settings and interesting characters.
Vick evokes place very well, and the juxtaposition of the two worlds of Terra and Androva is expertly done. The setting of ancient Italy is an interesting plot device that really works, as real historical events such as the revolt of Boudicca are seamlessly interwoven with magic. Vick also excels here with her use of tangible imagery; I felt as though I was strolling through the bustling streets of Pompeii!
The book is written in first person narrative from Galen’s perspective. He is a flawed, but likeable hero and the love story between him and Claudia is heartfelt and authentic. The other less central characters are well-drawn, they all have distinctive voices and Vick’s use of dialogue adds humour and lightness to otherwise dramatic situations. Because we observe the full story arc of the characters in this book, I really came to care about their individual fates. Nico’s development is particularly interesting due to the complex nature of his internal struggles and motivations and the villain of the piece, Professor Cassius, is supremely creepy!
Vick has developed a very complex and creative system of magic, which adds multiple dimensions and interest to the story. The only downside to this is it’s slightly overwhelming to have sygnuses, symbols, spells, and force fields thrown at you over a couple of pages (pheeew!) I prefer to be shown rather than told what is happening and there is some occasional info-dumping. I sometimes felt like I was getting lost down a portal myself! Because of this, the pacing seems off to begin with and the narrative is somewhat lost. Generally, though, the dramatic scenes are excellent and kept me on the edge of my seat.
Surviving Magic becomes very much a standalone story, with originality and twists and turns galore. Overall, this is a great addition to the fantasy genre, and I look forward to more exciting adventures from the Legacy of Androva series.
Pages: 279 | ASIN: B076ZSTT2D
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In 17th century Japan, a battle between the shoguns and the Lees raged for a lengthy period of time. The shoguns wanted the Lees to come join their elite army, but the Lees remained neutral and peaceful people. After much harassing, the husband and wife became supreme warriors. The Lees began killing whatever shoguns threatened them. After a particularly violent, gruesome battle with the shoguns, the Lees disappeared into the Oakla Mountains for about twenty years . The mastermind, an ancient wizard siding with the shoguns, commanded what was left of the shoguns to patrol the mountains of Oakla trying to find the Lees. Decades would pass.
In those twenty long years, the Lees raised a son who would become known as “the Master.” Phenomenal genetics would breed an individual who became a far better warrior and stronger fighter then both of his parents put together. In the Master’s infantile years, the mother and father went up on the mountains of Oakla, similar to Moses’ summoning of God, where they asked their God for a sacrifice. He answered, and in return of this sacrifice, he would give their extraordinary son, the Master, the power of immortality in the form of Five Scrolls of Terror. Their God asked for the skin from their baby’s head, a threatening request, but would ultimately create a child who would grow into that of the Master: the Skulled Warrior.
As the Lees returned from Oakla on that twentieth or so year, they got ambushed and killed—an attack decades in the making. When the Master found the bodies of his parents, he naturally flew into a blind rage and killed many shoguns, slaughtering anyone who stood in his way. As he battled on Oakla Mountain, his scrolls disappeared off the mountain and were never seen again. As the Master went to the end of Oakla searching for the ancient wizard for retribution, he came across an ancient hut, and inevitably the wizard and the Master did battle. The Master would ultimately kill the wizard, but he would put a curse on the Master that would remain with the Master for nearly four hundred years. As the Master’s statue, which in reality was the curse turning him to stone, was moved by cult followers and believers, it eventually found its way to New Amsterdam, which as we know, would evolve into present-day New York City.
An adventure unfolds as the Master awakens after a four-hundred-year slumber, masked as a mysterious piece of art, to deal with our current world as we know it. And so begins The Dark Legend of The Foreigner.
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Future World Rocks! is an eclectic science fiction novel involving Nazi research of UFO’s, time travel, and secret underground beings. What was the inspiration for this fantastical detective fantasy?
Actual reports on Die Glocke or the ‘bell’ as are found in UFO and 2nd World War archives. Similar research revealed the Janos race of aliens, and Richard E. Byrd’s USA expeditions to the South Pole. Plus, Google maps of a metal cover to an entrance at one of the magnetic poles, led to reports showing the possible existence of a hollow earth.
Time travel comes with a host of problems, how do you handle time travel in your novel to keep it as believable as possible?
What host of problems? Professor Hawkins claims you can only travel forward in time, not backwards, or you could end up killing a direct ancestor and therefore no longer existing. I think that is bunkum! If you cease to exist when you already do, I would say that reversal of existence is totally impracticable and unfounded. If you go forward in time, the assumption is that no one yet exists, which negates the findings of those who predict an apocalypse, like the sinking of the Titanic. If you find no future, how can you move into it? If there is a future, what happens if someone else kills the time traveler from the past? Confused? Don’t be. The science behind time travel is explained by research into alien technology and I’m happy that what I’ve read is valid, if you find out where to look. Sorry, but I’m not providing the shortcuts!
The story occurs against a backdrop of Rock n’ Roll music, because of course “future World rocks to its core!” What motivated you to include this element in your story and was it difficult to accomplish?
Yes, very time consuming. But the clues are given in the song titles and extracts, which invariably can be found quickly by googling them, as provided. The reason I did it was the misused expression, ‘Space Opera’. How can you call something a ‘Space Opera’ that has no music in it?
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have a title and storyline already established, which will focus on the plight of existing characters. Ready in about seven months, once my esophagus starts functioning correctly.
The first focuses on the aftermath of Nazi research into UFO based systems. Primarily it concerns a flying time travel craft called the ‘Bell’ and its disappearance after those early days when the U.S.A. took over its research.
The second occurs in the future, when alien refugees seek asylum with us on our planet. They come from a planet destroyed by one of its own moons and have wandered the stars, looking for a place to stay.
Soon they are introducing us to other beings, secretly living under the surface of the planet and mining the moon. Naturally, whodunit problems arise for our crime detection agents to resolve.
All this occurs to a backdrop of Rock n’ Roll music, as Future World rocks to its core!
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