Monday, February 24, 2014

REVIEW: Three Days of Night

Title: Three Days of Night
Author: Wren Roberts
Genre: science fiction (novella)
Price: $2.99
Publisher: KYSO Books
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

First, full disclosure:  Wren Roberts is a member of my writers group.  Having said that, if I didn’t like her novella Three Days of Night, I wouldn’t be writing a review of it. 

The novella is set on the world of Nibiru, which orbits the double star Sotiras and Oligos.  The world spins much slower than ours, resulting in a night that’s 72 hours long.  Unfortunately for Farina, our teenage girl narrator, the Anunnaki have taken over on Nibiru.  They are human, and bear more than a passing resemblance to our modern-day Taliban.  Farina, as a girl and not Anunnaki, is doubly vexed by the Anunnaki.  One of that religion’s tenants is that women can’t be out after sundown.

Farina, of the first generation born of Nibiru, dreams of fleeing her oppressive existence and going to Earth.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the Anunnaki are not letting women leave, so Farina has to attempt to sneak out.  At the end of the first day of night, Farina makes her break.  Things don’t go to plan, in part due to surprising betrayals. 

I found the story very gripping emotionally.  I am not a fan of the Taliban, and the Anunnaki are entirely too Taliban-ish for me to like, but they are also not cartoon villains.  I found Farina very realistic.  She’s a teenager in action and words.  Her circumstances are forcing her to grow up, but perhaps she’s not making the transition fast enough.

I found the ending unexpected and ambiguous.  I am frankly not clear if what being described is real or a hallucination.  To a certain extent, this confusion is an artifact of the first-person narration, but to a certain extent it’s a deliberate choice on Wren’s part.  All I can say is that the ending worked for me.  Well, actually the whole piece worked for me, and I highly recommend it.


Friday, February 21, 2014

REVIEW: The Promotion by Gabriel Beyers

Title: The Promotion (A Short Story)
Author: Gabriel Beyers
Genre: fantasy
Price: $1.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Gemini Gremlin Ink
ISBN: --
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

This is a generously sized short story at 33 pages. I sort of relaxed as soon as I began reading.  There is an immediate quality to good writing that says: just relax and enjoy the journey. And Beyers' writing has that quality.

The immediate story is a rather dark tale of someone who goes about a rather unpleasant join in a very matter-of-fact way. However as the story unfolds there is a subtle but unmistakable element of heart and humor that gives what could be a clever but shallow story an extra dimension.

If this short story is meant to wet the reader's palate for the author's longer works: mission accomplished.


Monday, February 17, 2014

REVIEW: My Gun Sleeps Alone

Title: My Gun Sleeps Alone
Author: Martin Clark
Genre: fantasy (novella)
Price: $4.00 (ebook)
ISBN: 978-1-932207-45-3
Point of Sale: publishers site (includes Amazon, Barnes & Noble links)
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Lucas Helath is a private detective, working the mean streets of Los Angeles in the mid-1950s.  He also has a personal imp, a short gray fellow with a Brooklyn accent who’s been hanging around since Lucas got shot in the head in 1944.  Needless to say, only Lucas can hear or see the imp.  But the imp’s not the only thing weird going down in LA one windy night.  Sarah Schumann’s father has been kidnapped, and the only thing the kidnappers want in return for the old man is a cheap figurine.  Oh, a couple of Haitian loas (voodoo gods) drop by, and Lucas is wanted by the homicide detective team of Harland and Wolff.  Other than that, it’s a quiet night.

So, yeah, My Gun Sleeps Alone is a cross between 1950s noir and urban fantasy.  But much like peanut butter and chocolate, these two elements seem to go well together, at least in the capable hands of Martin Clark.  This is a novella and action-packed, so there’s not a whole lot of character development going on.  But then noir is not known for character development – all the characters start and end in the same ball of sleaze – so in that regard My Gun is par for the course.

The plot is straight-forward action, and has a fairly high body count.  Lucas proves to be more lucky than good, but again that’s typical for the genre.  Overall, I found My Gun Sleeps Alone an entertaining if slight romp.


Friday, February 14, 2014

REVIEW: The Shifter's Trail

Title: The Shifter’s Trail
Genre: science fiction / YA
Price: $6.99 (ebook) / $12.95 (paperback)
Publisher: Outskirts Press
ISBN: 9781478700845
Point of Sale: Amazon Barnes & Noble
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Adam Alexanders’ novel The Shifter’s Trail asks a very good question, namely, “if an alien passed you on the street, would you know? Are you sure?”  Based on that question, I requested the book and I am glad I did.

The book is largely narrated by Andromeda Brown, a sixth-grade girl attending the Newton Math and Science Academy in Chicago.  As one could deduce from the age of the narrator, it’s YA and set in Chicago, my home base.  The story starts engagingly enough, with Chapter 0.0 being the crash of a spaceship, and Chapter 1.0 being the arrival in Chicago of a large meteor – large enough that the sonic boom breaks windows.  Chapter 1 ends with the sinking of the Brown family sailboat, Schroedinger’s Cat.  This event ends up plunging Andromeda and two of her friends into a search for a shape-shifting alien.  To make matters worse, the shape-shifter is being pursued by a third group of hostile aliens that have a sizeable lead on our heroine.

All of the above sounds complicated, and it is, but the puts and takes are very well explained.  This explaining is done engagingly, without stopping the plot – in fact part of the plot, like many good SF novels, is taken up with figuring out what’s going on.  We’re told Andromeda is very good with math, and the story stops at several points for Andromeda to solve a math problem.  I suspect that YA readers will roll their eyes a bit at this, but the math is cleverly worked in and not too obtrusive.

I have to say that this novel hits on several classic points of science fiction that I have been exploring.  For example, the hostile aliens would like to take over the Earth.  But they know that, even with really advanced technology, one ship against a planet is a bad gamble.  So they are using stealth to even the odds.  Alexander has restricted all of his space-travelers to travel at the speed of light, so there will be no sudden arrival of the intergalactic cavalry. 

I also like Andromeda as a protagonist.  She is a kid who acts like one.  The stakes are high and people are killed, which frankly scares all of the characters, even the aliens.  Nobody’s running around Chicago with a blaster in each hand in this book, even though humanity’s very existence is at stake.  Oh, and the aliens are always sufficiently alien, even when they are trying not to be alien.  In short, I highly enjoyed The Shifter’s Trail.


Sunday, February 09, 2014

REVIEW: Brass Stars

Title: Brass Stars
Genre: science fiction (novella)
Price: $4.00 (ebook)
ISBN: 978-1-932207-49-1
Point of Sale: publishers site (includes Amazon, Barnes & Noble links)
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Tashndelu Sand has arrived on the planet Malachee to kill a man.  She’s brought her horse – a mechanical device into which a human’s mind has been grafted - and her revolver.  She rides her mechanical horse into town, stops off at the local whorehouse – a girl’s got needs too – and things happen.  These things include a fair bit of gunplay, both at the whorehouse and afterwards.

Now, lest one think that Brass Stars is entirely a Western in SF clothing, the fact that Synder – Tashndelu’s horse – has a mechanical body but a human brain is critical to this story.  So, if science fiction is a story that doesn’t work without the science, Brass Stars is definitely a SF story.  It also doesn’t have the typical Hollywood ending.

I guess that’ why I like Brass Stars.  A. G. Carpenter delivers a taut, capable tale, with believable characters and realistic settings.  It’s a revenge western, set in space, yet with the SF elements aren’t bolted on, but rather integral to the story.  My only problem was that the story was too short.  But then “leave them wanting more” is always good advice for any entertainer.