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Book Review: Ghost Country by Patrick Lee March 9, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Science Fiction, Thriller.
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This last week I had the joy of heading out to Disney World for an Anniversary trip with my Dear Husband.  I love this trip as we escape the cold of the winter for a few days and bask in the Florida sun, and this year the Florida sun was even warm…last year not so much.  One of the best parts of away, besides the warm, is that the trip is a lovely time to read…and read…and read some more.  Both DH and I brought a stack of books and we had to buy more in the airport for the trip home, which is a sign of a good vacation to me.

One of the books I picked up in the airport bookstore was Ghost Country by Patrick Lee.  I’ve been curious about this one since reading a few blurbs about it over on Janet Reid’s blog and in a couple other places.  I’m happy to say that it was totally worth my 8 bucks and I’m going to go get the prequel.  I didn’t realize this was the second book in this set, though it’s not a problem at all to start with this book.  There were a couple things that felt like the author was assuming information I didn’t have, but they were few and far between and I really only realized The Breach was the first book about Travis Chase when I got to the last page of the book and saw an advertisement for it.

Ghost Country is the story of Travis Chase and Paige Campbell, lovers parted by unanswered questions and their own past.  Paige works in a place called Boarder Town which is the guardian of an alien phenomenon called The Breach.  Various machines referred to as ‘entities’ come through the Breach and the scientists in Boarder Town work to determine what they are and if they can be safely used by human beings.  Ghost Country picks up when an entity gives proof of a future where life as we know it is over and Paige is taking the information to the President.  Unfortunately she finds out that the President already knows what’s going on and has no intentions of stopping it…in fact he and other highly positioned people are helping it along.  A thirty second phone call involves Travis, pulling him out of a self imposed retirement to come to Paige’s aid and to work with her and another young scientist, Bethany, to unravel what is happening to the world and how they can stop the bleak future from becoming a reality.

I can’t really get into too many more plot details without spoiling the book, but it was a fun fast read.  The writing is engaging and the action keeps moving, but it’s obvious the author has thought his technology through and is a fascinating view at what happens in the minds of people when they give up on making things better.  There’s a romance angle through the book, but it’s very gentle and added to the story without the narrative stopping to let Paige and Travis deal with their issues.  They have to deal on the trot and in the end…well…they’re still dealing.

Definitely worth the read!

Genre:  Science Fiction Thriller

Age: Late teens and up

Content:  Violence, language, very mild sexuality (there’s one kiss)

Overall:  4.5/5


Wednesday Book Review: Mutineer March 3, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Book Series, Critiquing, Friday Flashback, Science Fiction.
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This is a re-post from the launch of our blog 2 years ago, going along with some of the Friday Flashbacks we’ll be reposting some of our book reviews for your reading pleasure, with updated rating.

Today’s review is Mutineer by Mike Shephard

Genre: Science Fiction/Militaristic

Age: Teen, adult

Content: Violence

Overall: 1/5  paws


The plot of Mutineer had good promise. Kris is the daughter of a wealthy political family on the planet Wardhaven who rebelled against her parents by joining the military, something a respectable daughter doesn’t do. In the meantime, Kris is having to prove herself truly dedicated to the military while also avoiding multiple assasination attempts. As the plot goes on, the ‘Society of Humanity’ also is on the brink of Civil War with the outer colonies fighting against Earth and the inner colonies.
The cons:  The character development was thin and cliched, at best. The plot was slow to get into and you were left with a sense of ‘yeah right’ as Kris, a green Ensign, manages to out think her commanders, outfly a computer and outwit a group of criminals who had managed to defy several teams of planetary police. In the meantime, the action of the rescue is jarred by flashbacks to Kris losing her brother to a kidnapper many years previously. Unfortunately, the emotion is so thin that it’s difficult to feel compassion for Kris and the flashbacks seem trite and contrived to justify the heroine’s mental vacilations over rescuing the girl. The ‘rich kid rebelling’ theme is done to death, with commanding officers, politicians and even university students in a bar deciding to ‘shun’ Kris because she’s a ‘Longknife’. (Although cool name!) They constantly force her to prove herself, even though her family has a very long military history. In addition, Kris’s family is enough to make me scream. She has grandparents who she has to nearly break laws to visit, parents who are barely friendly and she describes her family as essentially a political battlefield. You have a tough time understanding why Kris would ever even bother to speak to her parents.

The pros: About halfway through the book the plot manages to pick up. I enjoyed the plot itself after Kris gets sent to a planet where she has to help with relief. Kris still manages to ‘save the day’ and show up everyone around her, but I was able to accept the idea more because her commanding officers had been assigned there mostly as punishment for screwing up or lackluster work, so their lack of efficiency was believable. The book allows for some reconciliation between Kris and a couple of her family members, but for the most part the characterization is fairly static. The main thing Kris learns is to take responsibility for how her decisions affect other’s lives, but personally and professionally she starts out a Super Soldier and ends a Super Soldier.

The Verdict: Shepherd’s plot managed to save the book, but his characterization and the emotional depth of his characters is thin, at best. I didn’t mind the read, and I’m glad I forced myself through the first half but I’m not sure I’ll be picking up any others of the series.

Book Review: The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins September 30, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Science Fiction, Young Adult.
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It’s a cold bleak kind of Wednesday around these parts.  The first big storm of the fall season is pounding down on us and looks like it’ll keep it up for the rest of the day and stay cold from here until sometime in March.  I have a love hate relationship with this time of the year.  I hate being cold, but at the same time I love the feeling of the whole world being close and cozy.  It makes me want to curl up with good books, hot chocolate and a warm blankie…a warm husband is pretty dang nice too, but I digress.

Today’s book up for review is The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  I was introduced to this one through a book club, though now that I’ve read it I want to know how I missed it earlier.  Book two of the series, it’s scheduled to be three books long, is called Catching Fire and recently released.  Book three is scheduled for Septemberish 2010.

The Hunger Games is a near future science fiction/survivalist story, though I’m not sure either of those terms really fully wraps around everything this book is about.  It’s young adult friendly and the protagonists are both teenagers, but I’d prolly lean towards 14+.  My friends called it a ‘girl book’, but I think there’s plenty of action and smartness which would appeal just as well to the male of the species.

The Hunger Games is a story about the teenager Katniss who lives in the impoverished District 12 in the country of Panem, a dystopic nation which exists where the US once did.  The 12 Districts are kept under control by the Capitol district where the wealthy and affluent use technology and social training to keep the haves and the have nots far apart.  Rebellion has happened before and been harshly put down.  As a result of the previous rebellions there has also been the creation of a yearly televised tournament in which two teenagers from each district are forced to fight to the death.  For the winner, and their district, there are great rewards.  The losers often don’t even have a body sent home.

Katniss isn’t selected for the games, but when her sister is she volunteers to go in place.  The games require every survival instinct she has and every trick she can come up with, even if that means playing to the crowd when she’s not sure of her own feelings, particularly when it comes to her male counterpoint from District 12, Peeta, a boy who has saved Katniss before and is trying to do so again.

The book was brilliant in the way it explored the themes of mass media and control of the population, as well as just how far one would go to survive.   The politics come fast and heavy, even though the book itself focuses on the games and how they’re played.  Nothing is without a double meaning and the cameras are always watching.  Katniss is prickly, but also has beautifully caring moments where I found myself really rooting her on and wanting her to succeed.  Peeta I loved from the get go…particularly when he comments that he wants to die who he is and never let the games change him into a monster.

There are some pretty gruesome deaths and injuries in this book, though they’re dealt with very tastefully.

I’m likely going to purchase both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in hardback, which is likely the strongest recommendation I can give it because I don’t usually buy hardback, but I don’t want to wait!


Genre:  Science Fiction/Survival

Age:  14+

Content: violence, mild romance – kissing

Overall: 5  paws


Wednesday book Review: Necropath May 6, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Science Fiction.
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Necropath by Eric Brown seemed to be an interesting choice. A space port set in exotic india dealing with all the incoming races of the galaxy, Bengal Station employs psychics, humans and aliens (Eee Tees) to keep interstellar traffic going. Unfortunately I felt lost from the moment I picked up the book. Vaughn, the main character, is flat and emotionless which is explained away by his use of a special drug to inhibit his telepathic abilities, but the result is that it’s hard to connect with the character. Tiger and her sister Sukara are scrappy and gritty, but never really connect emotionally. You feel sorry for them, but the childlike mind set of both characters is difficult to accept in light of their work as prostitutes and beggars. I was somewhat interested in what happened with Sukara, which at least got me to skim the entire book to find out what happened. The environment never really gives a feeling of futuristic setting, the gritty world complete with the impoverished beggars, the prostitutes and the middle class policemen doesn’t stand out from the modern day. Brown throws in references to flying cars, different forms of communication and space ships, but it never comes together in a way that drew me in. The aliens that go to the strip bar, also, are difficult to really visualize. Finally the plot is full of vague hints to Vaughn’s past that end up being more annoying than intriguing, and don’t get resolved until the end of the book. The plot itself is decent, but it would require more character ties to keep me reading and intrigued in what happens. Because I couldn’t connect with the characters I only had a cursory interest in the results of the plot. In general I have to say I skimmed this book and won’t be reading any of the others.

Genre:  Science Fiction/Mystery

Age: Adult

Content: Sexuality, violence, alien-sexuality

Overall:  Scrap

From Publishers Weekly
Mystery, fantasy and science fiction create a backdrop for this far-flung story with an uneasy conclusion. Jeff Vaughan, telepath in hiding, uncovers a bizarre shipment being smuggled from colony planet Verkerk’s World: a young human girl, apparently an important cult figure, accompanying a mysterious shielded container. The colony is also the source of rhapsody, a potent drug, and when a friend overdoses under odd circumstances, Vaughan suspects a connection. He and cop Jimmy Chandra set off for Verkerk’s World and soon uncover a plot around a rhapsody-fueled religion. As the body count rises, Vaughan starts to wonder whether he’s battling a lethal alien force or blocking humanity from achieving transcendence. Brown (Kéthani) sketches a complex future world full of bitter idealists, strange aliens and fantastic landscapes where nothing is as it seems. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Storytelling in Television April 16, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Musings, Science Fiction, Writing Craft.
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*taps the mic* Is this thing on?

Hi folks, I’ve been falling into the dark hole of “End of the Semester”, which means lots of papers and lots of presentations. Somehow I ended up with most of my presentations at the end of the semester, through poor planning on my part. I just finished the last today and got a /really/ good grade on my Midterm. Wahoo!

But this does mean I haven’t spent much time reading my Fun Books and a lot reading Class books (they’re fun too, but it’s a different sort of reading… ) Anyway to stay sane I have been indulging in my favorite tv shows, some current, some revisited.

And I want to say… J. Michael Straczynski is a very talented story teller. He’s the creater of the Sci Fi Epic Babylon 5 which can be seen on Hulu.com and Aol.com. What is so impressive with B5 is the ongoing plot arcs that he manages over several years of writing, mingled in with the delightful interpersonal relationships for the characters. The Christian subthemes also intrigue me, considering there’s several plots dealing with death and resurrection, ultimate sacrifice and “he who lay down his life for a friend.” There’s an intertwining of classic philosophy themes as wella s a good natured poking-fun at American (and human) culture. One memorable scene involves two aliens debating the meaning (or lack there of) of the Hokey Pokey. The show also left me with some of the most haunting and thought provoking quotes, that I recalled for years after the show went off the air. I’ll leave you with one:

“The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make this station and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are star-stuff. We are the Universe, made manifest, trying to figure itself out. And, as we have both learned, sometimes the Universe needs a change of perspective.” Delenn, Minbari (probably a nod to Carl Sagan)


A Distant Star: Babylon 5 Season 2


Beyond that, I count myself a Geek (or Nerd) or whatever word is most prestigious in your neck of the woods for “Intellectual who doesn’t mind admitting to loving board games, Star Trek, Art,  and Physics”  The show The Big Bang Theory is ‘our people’, fellow nerds. It’s smart, savvy, and full of great Nerd-Culture-References to make you giggle. The comedic timing is perfect as well, with the actors managing to use words and body language to portray the comedy.