Tag Archives: genre: science-fiction

Native Wind by A.M. Burns


Native Wind

Native Wind by A.M. Burns

Series: Native Ingenuity, Book 1
Published by: DSP Publications on July 19, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After the murder of his family, Trey McAllister found a home among the Comanche. Not only did they give him a place to live and a tribe to support him, but his innate magical abilities led to him being taken on as a shaman’s apprentice. The new home also gave Trey the opportunity to bond more closely with his friend Grey Talon. And their relationship quickly became more to both of them than they might otherwise have imagined.

As part of a bargain made by the tribe’s shaman, Trey and Grey Talon find themselves on a mission to track down a dragon’s daughter. But it’s not just a simple tracking mission. It’s a task that may bring them face-to-face with people more vile and more powerful than they’ve faced before. The two of them will need to work together, and they’ll need to be willing to rely on any extra help they might find along the way.

There’s quite a convergence of genre here. There are elements of historical fiction when it comes to place and people. Then one will find some fantasy in the use of magic. There’s mythology with the mention of spirits of the elements and dragons. And the mechanical creations that show up early in the book bring in a healthy helping of steampunk. But comes together in a way that really works.

This is one that I finished in a single sitting. Not only is it a relatively easy read, but it’s engaging. I had no real desire to put it down and go do something else until it was finished. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but I am certainly looking forward to more.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold by Paula Guran (Ed.)

Beyond the Woods

Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold by Paula Guran (Editor)

Published by: Night Shade Books on July 5, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Who didn’t love fairy tales as children? And for many of us that fascination has never died. There’s something about the possibilities and the lessons that these stories provide. And even when we’ve heard a story time and time again, it can still keep all its magic.

In this anthology, Paula Guran has collected some of the best re-tellings of our favorite fairy tales in recent memory. These twists on old standards and adaptations breathe new life into these classic stories. You’ll find yourself lost in the pages of this book, and it will be well worth it when you come out on the other side.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.]

Department of Truth by Jennifer Rose Jorgenson

Department of Truth by Jennifer Rose Jorgenson

Published by: Daily Science Fiction on June 7, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

 

In the year 2230, Emmett Wright works for the Department of Truths, a government agency focused on citing people for deception and ensuring historical accuracy. Which is why he’s troubled for having told his son what some would call a little white lie. But it’s the first lie Emmett’s ever told.

It’s no surprise, then, when Emmett realizes he’s being followed. Yes, it seems odd they would have found out about the lie so quickly. But at the same time, he knows that employees of the Department are held to a higher standard.

How he’s going to get out of this one is something that’s certainly beyond him…

This was a fun play on a situation I think most people can relate to with the added twist of Emmett’s requirement to always tell the truth. So many times–probably every day–we all have moments when we’re not completely truthful. Whether it’s to spare someone’s feelings, to keep private thoughts to ourselves, or to simply avoid making a big deal when one’s not needed: We all engage in small deceptions. But what would it be like if we couldn’t do that? If those small twists we make could get us into trouble? Would the world and our lives be different? And how could we find a way out when we stumble into that territory?

After the End by Damien Angelica Walters

After the End by Damien Angelica Walters

Published by: Daily Science Fiction on June 10, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

What would it be like to be a child in the aftermath of an epidemic that wipes out most of the population? For something so devastating to happen while you’re still in your formative years? It seems like it would be a tough way to learn about the ways of the world. And learning the hard lessons about humanity can make one grow up way too fast.

But one can’t change their circumstances. All we can ever do is try our best to live within them, make the most of what we have. And at some point, we all have to leave childhood behind…

This was an interesting and sobering first-person account of what it means to be a young girl in what followed after a deadly epidemic that wiped out most of the population. And it was not one of those stories of an epic journey and fight to survive. It was the reality of living without having access to everything you need. It showed that the struggle doesn’t always lend itself to glamorous action shots that can be filmed for the big screen. And that makes it an incredibly powerful short story.

Love Unmasked by Dale Cameron Lowry

Love Unmasked

Love Unmasked by Dale Cameron Lowry

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on June 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Aaron Loreto is a shifter, but he’s not one that’s well-known or often appreciated. In a world where shifters are known to humans, raccoon shifters aren’t exactly considered highbrow. And Aaron’s other self has proven to be too much for past boyfriends.

When Aaron meets Philip MacRory, he’s drawn to the man immediately. There’s something about Philip that makes Aaron think he can let his guard down. But past experience still makes him wary of divulging his secret.

But as they spend more time together, Aaron learns he may not be the only one with a secret…

Is it okay to call a story adorable and fun? Because that’s exactly what I have to say about this story. It’s a unique shifter story–how often does one see a raccoon shifter?–and the characters are great. This is definitely one of my personal favorites of this year’s Daily Dose series from Dreamspinner Press. I definitely suggest giving it a read.

Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

Perfect State

Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Dragonsteel Entertainment on March 31, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In a futuristic world, where everything is different, God-Emperor Kairominas still faces some of the simple problems of today. The powers that be have required that he go on a date. And even the God-Emperor must listen.

In Kai’s world, the liveborn (humans) don’t have physical bodies. Instead, their brains are connected to a system that allows them to live for centuries in a virtual world. And each person’s virtual world is uniquely suited to allow them to achieve their highest potential.

Although they mostly interact with the creations of their virtual worlds, their lives aren’t necessarily solitary. They can interact with liveborn in neighboring states. And there are even borderlands that can be crossed into and claimed. It’s in one of these that Kai met his rival. And his rival is not letting up, continuing to try to invade Kai’s lands.

So the request for Kai to meet with a potentially compatible woman–more liveborns have to come from somewhere–is a welcome distraction. But in what is supposed to be neutral territory, can Kai expect to be safe? After all, he doesn’t know this woman at all. And he might end up more vulnerable to threats from outside forces.

I enjoyed the brief journey into this world. As a novella, this certainly isn’t an epic science fiction story. But it’s paced so well that it tells a rich and complete story without needing hundreds of pages to do so. It’s easy to connect with the characters. And the writing certainly helps readers easily immerse themselves in the story.

I won’t go into too much detail because it’s always hard to avoid spoilers in reviewing shorter works. But I will say that there are some unexpected twists that I didn’t see coming. Excellent storytelling!

And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander

And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead

And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander

Published in: Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 57, February 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The job has gone completely wrong. Tasked with breaking a prominent mobster’s son out of the computer system he had no business being in, they knew the job would be risky. But Rhye wasn’t prepared for them to shoot Rack before they were even close to being finished. Her only option now is to hook up to the interface and get the kid out herself. And maybe try to save Rack in the process. He’s in there somewhere, after all.

The summary above is brief, but with this being a novelette, I don’t want to give away everything. In a future where people can connect directly into computer systems, leaving their bodies to explore new worlds, there are new frontiers on all accounts. And although Rhye is a loner, she’s found somewhat of a kindred spirit in Rack. The last think she wants is to face the thought of not seeing him again.

The writing here is masterful. Through Rhye going in and trying to finish the job, readers learn so much about these characters. We get just enough hint of backstory to find out why they’re a team. But the way events unfold, we learn so much about what makes both individuals tick. The story is driven just as much by the characters as it is the action. And that’s something I really loved about it.

I hadn’t pulled this one up until it was named a Hugo finalist. And I’m so glad that it’s on that list. It’s not only a great example of great science fiction writing, but it demonstrates masterful use of the novelette length and format.

And it’s free! Check it out!

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

Rolling in the Deep

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

Published by: Subterranean Press on April 6, 2015
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

The Imagine Network delivers the next generation of reality programming. They embrace that reality television doesn’t really reflect reality. And to add to the drama, they often stage events to hook their viewers.

The voyage of the Atargatis is to be one of Imagine Network’s great successes. They’ve set out to prove the existence of mermaids, after all. Of course, the only mermaids they expect to discover are the costumed ones they have on board.

Perhaps the network’s executives never heard that one should aways “be careful what you wish for…”

Another story with mermaids, continuing what has become quite the trend over the past couple of years in science fiction. I’d ask if it’s something readers are really fascinated with, but we keep seeing it, so there must be enough interest out there. And while I’d like to see some more variety, I have to admit this one is well-written.

This isn’t a long story, and it actually reads shorter than it is. The pacing is excellent–never dragging and varied enough to keep the reader hooked. I read it in e-book format, so I was surprised when I went back and looked at the official word count. If you look for books that are quick and engaging, this one should be on your list.

Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer

Clarkesworld 100

Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer

Published in: Clarkesworld, Issue 100, January 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

As we’ve become increasingly reliant on the Internet to fulfill our needs and desires, we are now feeding it more information about ourselves than ever before. And we simply assume it just sits there where we put it. But what if the Internet was self-aware? What if it took that information and used it for its own purposes? We can only hope that the Internet would be a benevolent AI, right?

But if the Internet was a benevolent AI, would it really impact us? Would we just continue to assume we put information up on the Internet and that’s where it stays? If the Internet tried to use that information to help us, would we listen? Or would we just continue to see it as a repository for our Tweets, our rambling Facebook statuses, and cute pictures of our cats?

The idea of sentient AI and self-aware technology is not a new one in science fiction. But Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” is a unique and somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at what it would be like if the Internet was that technology. With as much of our lives as we make public these days, it might not just be the government we need to worry about seeing and using the information. And while it’s fiction, it’s still a sobering thought as one thinks about how someone could do these same things on their own by accessing the right feeds for an individual person.

This story has made it onto the list of finalists for this year’s Hugo Awards. And I can definitely see why. It’s a fresh and unique take on an science fiction standard. It’s well-written, entertaining, and thought-provoking. It’s the kind of work that I think should be recognized by the Hugos. And I’m glad that it’s a finalist.

Phase Shift by Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen

Phase Shift

Phase Shift by Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen

Series: Chaos Station, Book 5
Published by: Carina Press on May 2, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Zander Anatolius has been through a lot. More than any one man should have to go through. And the same could be said for Felix Ingesson. So Zander’s decided to ask Felix to marry him and finally get them both to settle down. Felix isn’t ask keen on the idea of marriage, though Zander thinks he might be able to convince him. But as their past should have warned him, something’s always going to come up at the worst possible moment.

What worse is that what’s come up this time might be the worst possible thing to come up. After a security breach on the ship, Zander catches up with the culprit. And the culprit shifts. That shouldn’t be possible; Zander’s the last of those who should be able to do that. And considering that data about Project Dreamweaver–the experiment that made Zander what he is–is what was taken, things don’t look good. One thing’s for sure, everything else will need to be put on hold until they find the person responsible and stop them before things get worse.

I’ve read this series from the beginning and I have loved every minute of it. It’s an action-packed science fiction story with a m/m relationship between the main characters–what’s not to love? What’s even more great about it, though, is that no aspect of the plot feels forced. I’ve read many m/m sci-fis where the relationship feels thrust into the story. I’ve read m/m romance that tosses a sci-fi background up but doesn’t have it fully developed. You won’t get either of those with this series, for sure.

The final installment takes Zander and Felix back to the beginning. Much as Felix had to confront some of the hardest moments from his past in the previous book, Zander comes face to face with his demons here. And both of them are faced with choices that neither is comfortable with under normal circumstances. But the way they work together is what makes it clear just how much they need each other…on multiple levels.

I must say I will miss these characters, but I’m glad I got to spend five books with them…

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]