Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Human Division/Episode 2 - Walk The Plank by John Scalzi


Yikes! What a gritty story.

Unlike Episode 1 we are presented here with an audio transcript of an interview from a dying man who survived an attack by pirates. (yes! space pirates! cool.)

The poor survivor thinks he made it to safety but he, quite literately, dropped from one dangerous situation into another.

I was hoping we'd pick the story up with the same cast of characters from Episode 1 but instead I found the universe Scalzi has created expanded before me.  I loved the grittiness of it.  Space is hard and it takes tough people to occupy it.

I am now a giant fan of Scalzi.  This guy can write in any style he wants and make the story a pleasure to read.

John Scalzi's website is here:

John Scalzi

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Human Division/Episode 1 - The B-Team by John Scalzi


Scalzi is a fantastic writer.  In no time at all he can build a believable world filled with likable characters.  The disadvantage I had with this story is that it is deep into the Old Man's War series.  But even by dropping into the middle of the story The B-Team was a small enough that I could grab on to the plot points of this particular mission and enjoy it thoroughly.

I really enjoyed this one; the dialog was crisp and fun and I particularly liked that these people were not considered the best-of-the-best which made the whole thing sing for me.  But there is a lot of information to gather to fully understand what is going on in this little adventure.  There are enormous political divisions that gives the whole thing more meaning.  Space opera is like that and space opera is good, it's just a bit intimidating knowing there are many books that I missed.

The trick is to whet a reader's appetite to dive into the world that was created.  Scalzi did a fantastic job in getting me interested in the story as a whole without taking anything away from the short story I was reading at the time.  It did it's job; it entertained me and got me hooked on the back list as well.  I will read one more from the Human Division then put it down to read the first books of the Old Man's War series.

John Scalzi's website is here:

John Scalzi

Friday, 12 June 2015

Sentience Signified by J. L. Forrest from Analog Magazine, May 2015


Another first professional sale!  At least according to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

This was a well-realized First Contact scenario.

What I loved best was the ease the author wrote this story.  It felt like Forrest has been writing, and publishing for years; there was nary an info dump or needless exposition anywhere.  The story was paramount and details were revealed as needed an in the context of the story.  This is an author to keep an eye on.

I loved the interaction of the main character with the AI of the orbiting ship.  There was structure and protocols in every aspect of the mission that I found reassuring.  I found that I just slipped into the story without having to spend much effort getting my head around the rules and ways of the world the author created.


J.L. Forrest's website is here:

J. L. Forrest

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

No Gain by Aubry Kae Andersen from Analog Magazine, May 2015


Another sports related story, this one made more intense in that it is at the Olympic level.

With all the testing that goes on to discover cheating how does a coach find an edge? 

An intriguing story, well written and well worth reading.   

According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database this is Andersen's first professional published work.  Congratulations!

Aubry Kae Andersen's website is here:

Monday, 8 June 2015

Silent Night by Robert B. Parker and Helen Brann - Book Review #136

Don't let the title fool you, this novel is all Spenser and should be read by anybody who is a fan of the series.  The story only takes place during the Christmas season.

Slide, a street-kid staying at Street Business, a local shelter that tries to offers a safe place to stay and help the kids get jobs, comes to Spenser looking for his support.  Street Business is being threatend and may close, throwing all the kids back on the street.

Once Spenser and Hawk start poking around they discover that things are not as they seem and the problem is much more complicated than first suspected.

This was the book Parker was working on when he passed away.  His long-time literary agent was given permission to complete his work.  She did a wonderful job of it too.  Although the book was shorter than most of his previous novels Brann was able to channel Parker's economy of words into a fine addition to the cannon of Spenser stories.

Perhaps the only part of the story that was a bit too easy to come by was how quickly and readily Spenser was able to enlist the help of Quirk and Belson.  But, they all go back a long way and perhaps the spirit of the season made them more agreeable and willing to help.  This is a small complaint and I have no idea if that was part of the original manuscript or what Brann brought to the table.

I am still grateful that Spenser has been able to continue without Parker, he is in good hands with Helen Brann and Ace Atkins.

Robert B Parker's website is where is work is continued.

Robert B Parker
Helen Brann

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Arnheim's World by Therese Arkenberg from Analog Magazine, May 2015


FTL and terraforming are the principal SF elements in this quite story of personal desire, professional expertise and responsibility to the greater good .

Josua Arnheim has terraformed a world for his own personal use.  He is intensely proud of his accomplishment an shares it with a close friend.  Outside circumstances put the friendship and the notion of personal freedoms to the test.  To quote Star Trek; what do you do when "the needs of the many" imposes itself on your plans?

It was a lovely story of human desire, compassion, responsibility and loyalty.  That's a lot to pack in to a short story but this one works very well.  This was a very satisfying read.

Therese Arkenberg's blog can be found here:

Therese Arkenberg

Monday, 1 June 2015

Cetacean Dreams by Robert R. Chase from Analog Magazine, May 2015


Sense of wonder abounds in this story of undersea exploration on Europa.

We join a scientist and his team of dolphins who were sent to the Jovian moon to track down an elusive life form.  The story is set in and around an operational science station under the ice.  The setting feels plausible with the outside cold and pressure threatening everything.
To me, the best qualities of hard science fiction is how it takes known science and technology to the next logical step.  There is nothing in this story that you can't already see right now; best of all the author took exoskeleton technology in a new and exciting direction. 

It was a well realized story that I enjoyed very much.

For more on his other writings go here: