Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Kingdom's End by Charles D. Blanchard

book cover for Kingdom's EndIndio, a wise blind mole rat, has led a prosperous colony of sighted rats in the ruins of an old, abandoned movie theater for most of his thirty years. But the head of colony security, an ambitious Norway rat named Matthias, thinks he can do a better job and schemes to make a power grab. Meanwhile, the city recognizes that it has a rat infestation problem and decides to wage war on them, ultimately setting its sights on the theater.

Blanchard dedicates this novel to Richard Adams for writing Watership Down. While that book got people to look at cuddly rabbits in a new light, Kingdom's End attempts to take an animal often looked upon as vile and detestable and shine a more favorable light upon it. He makes no attempt to gloss over the rats' culinary preferences or nesting habits, but through anthropomorphization he imbues some of them with more admirable qualities of honor and service to community.

The story starts off with a group of rats out on a foraging mission. We start with one rat, then segue over to another rat, who then meets up with another rat, and so on. The focus of the story shifts from one rat to the next as Blanchard introduces us to parts of their world. Some rats that appear early in the story don't re-appear until much later. It's a bit dizzying as I wasn't sure which rats were important to the overall story and which weren't.

The story is told from a universal omniscient POV, which goes above and beyond third-person omniscient. Not only do we know what all of the rats are up to, but the nameless humans they encounter as well. Blanchard tells us everything, relevant or not to the adventures of the rats. I found it odd that we would be told a human character's backstory but not their name. And there's a lot of telling that goes on with this form of narration. The foreshadowing comes in the form of prophesies from an old rat that lives near the river. We know what's going to happen, it's just a question of when. I realize that this is a more traditional form of storytelling, but I find that it goes too far and leaves less for the reader to discover on their own.

I don't know if many people will get past the ick factor to follow Blanchard down into the grimy world that the rats live in. When I described the book as "Watership Down for rats" to my wife, that's how she replied. We like rabbits; they're soft, cuddly, and cute. It isn't hard to make your reader care about their fate. That's far from an easy thing to do with rats. Blanchard succeeds to some extent; I felt pity for the rats that were cruelly struck down by the hazards of urban living, and I rooted for the good and honorable rats. But too often a misapplied narrative focus and the deafening foreshadowing cut into my entertainment of the story.

To learn more about Kingdom's End, please visit the book's website.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Quest for Kriya by Rahul Deokar

Cover image - Quest for Kriya (Goodreads)
Haunted by tragic loss in the 1993 India earthquake, a broken Shakti with a tenuous hold on life is sheltered by her soul-sister Kriya. But when Kriya vanishes without a trace, Shakti is unwittingly swept into a cataclysmic vortex of greed, lust and betrayal. Shakti meets Shiva, a struggling Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and discovers that love is an enigmatic cosmic force.

Shakti and Shiva are thrust on a frantic race against time through the dark Mumbai underbelly, forbidden Thailand islands, and treacherous cliffs in the Andaman Sea, where danger lurks in every shadow. As they get closer to the truth, they realize that millions of innocent lives are at stake.

Quest for Kriya is an epic saga of love, friendship and sacrifice. The journey is incredible. The emotions are real. The transformation is eternal.

I was drawn to The Quest for Kriya by the names of some of the protagonists—Shiva, Shakti, and so on. I had imagined that it would explore deep issues, and make interesting mythological or religious connections. The preview passage that you get to see on Amazon and elsewhere tends to support this idea. The opening chapter, set around one person's terrible experiences of the 1993 Latur earthquake in India, was very successful at drawing me in and built up a lot of promise.

But we then jump to what might vaguely be called an earthquake-like change in another character's life in the United States. The parallel was loose, seeing as how the person concerned only lost their job, and was therefore motivated to start something new. Compared to losing one's home, family, friends and neighbours, suffering betrayal, and having to relocate to Mumbai, this seemed kind of lightweight, but I think the purpose was to set up friendships and enmities which would persist through the rest of the book.

From here on, though, the story suddenly diverted into a long, complex plot all about crime syndicates and drug dealers in India and nearby countries. Our two protagonists manage to break all this up almost without meaning to, by successfully threading their way through a series of amazing coincidences. Their rather bumbling approach to the whole affair mysteriously carries the day, aided by timely intervention from friends and well-wishers.

The plot is suspended between two cataclysms—the above-mentioned Latur earthquake and the 2004 Asian tsunami—and this basic device worked very well. But I got a bit lost in the intervening drug dealer story and didn't find the rather gooey romance between the male and female leads very believable. They seemed never able to get beyond a kind of adolescent idealisation of each other into a more credible and adult relationship. Insofar as the characters developed at all, they basically learned to conform to a set of behaviours and expectations set up by others. This is not a story of individuation or self-actualisation, but rather it is one of submission to external norms. As a result, everyone's emotional responses are very muted, as they increasingly take on board the philosophical position that nothing should disturb one's equanimity, and in the long run over many lifetimes everything will pan out for the best.

On the plus side, the book has been extremely well and carefully prepared, and for all of its heavy reliance on coincidence, the plot does keep moving along. I couldn't say if it accurately reflects police practice in the various countries, but to a casual reader it seems credible. And the basic structural device of hanging the story between two Asian natural disasters was a really compelling feature.

I guess my main difficulty was the mismatch of expectations. If there are parallels with any of the original tales of Shiva and Shakti, they are extremely well veiled. You will find little of the lively and authentic passion of the Khumarasambhavam, for example. The protagonists' potential for spirituality or real emotional engagement seems to be increasingly marginalised through the story, rather than liberated. I felt let down by the ways in which these two protagonists conducted themselves, given that their names hold so much mythological weight.

So, if you go in expecting a pacy crime plot set mostly in Asia, you will probably enjoy Quest for Kriya. If, like me, you were looking for something with more cosmic depths and resonances, it is best to revise your expectations and just go with the flow of what's there.

The author's website can be found here.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Human and the Hunted by R.A. Burg

book cover for The Human and the HuntedEarth. 11,000 BCE.

A galaxy wide war between sentient machines rages and Earth is in the crossfire. Oblivious to the deadly peril above, Far Runner and his tribe face their own struggles. An unstable climate forces the group to migrate south and into the sights of a ruthless human foe.

A merciless attack tears Runner away from his family and friends.

A wounded alien cyborg soldier is stranded on Earth. Her views and identity are challenged when she finds herself face to face with a determined human named Far Runner.

As if there weren't enough problems, Moorr, a radioactive four-legged freighter pilot, prospector, and drug smuggler, is displaced by a relic of the war. Lost, he searches for his kin, but finds Earth instead. The defenseless planet is ripe for exploitation.

There's only one way for Far Runner to save his People. There's only one way for the stranded soldier to return home. And only one way Moorr's dangerous presence can be dealt with.

Earth is in peril. Time is running out...

Yeah, the cover isn't so good, but the story is. Rather than depicting an alien over a galactic backdrop, it would've been better if it had portrayed a scene from the book that included the alien.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Runner (human), En (alien #1), and Moorr (alien #2). Each brings a unique perspective to the story, and Burg gets points for how she handles them. The people of 11,000 BCE strike me as realistic, and the aliens are definitely alien. The humans are in transition from Paleolithic to Mesolithic—given to spirit worship and demonstrating a limited understanding for how the world works. En, the cyborg, is pictured on the cover. "Her" species was saved from extinction by a faction of sentient machines who don't believe that organic life sucks and has to die. Moorr's species are guided by taste and odor, and that's been built into the instrumentation of their spaceships. Moorr expresses surprise that life arose in water on Earth, but I don't recall if it was explained what Moorr expected. And Moorr's biology functions with radioisotopes. Yes, they're radioactive. That sets up an obvious problem when Moorr encounters humans.

Neither Moorr nor En is the omnipotent alien that is often portrayed in non-invasive human-alien encounters. Both aliens stumble in their attempts to understand human language and behavior, not to mention Earth's other native life. En even attempts to dispel Runner's belief that she is a sky spirit. The misunderstandings aren't limited to human-alien interactions, but alien-alien behavior as well. The confusion makes for some light humor when it's harmless, but when it turns serious the tension rises.

A good deal of the novel is centered on En helping Runner find the members of his tribe that were kidnapped by raiders. In the process, Burg showcases how Runner's hunter gatherer tribe's ways are losing out to those that have settled down and built villages. The rise of agriculture and the prospect of a steady food supply has a strong allure towards those who wake up each morning wondering where they'll find their next meal, or if they will at all. While this has some appeal from an anthropological perspective, it slows the pace down. One village is interesting; three becomes a bit tedious.

As for the technicals, the manuscript could've used another round of proofreading. Unfortunately I found plenty of spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, and punctuation errors. At times, Burg is guilty of too much telling and not enough showing. The end of the book had a couple of chapters that would've been better suited for the next novel in the series. It takes away from the feeling of closure for this book. But if these things don't bother you, then ignore me.

Despite these flaws, The Human and the Hunted is a good story and makes for a solid debut. Burg avoids first contact clichés and delivers two interesting aliens and believable prehistoric humans during a time of major sociological change.

For more information, please visit the author's website.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blogger Issue

It would seem that ours is one of several blogs that were damaged overnight. All of our links to our book reviews are gone. All of our links to other book review blogs are gone. Still trying to get a handle on this. I'm hoping that they can be restored from a backup as restoring all of them on my own would be exceedingly difficult.

UPDATE 9:25 AM EST: Used one of those archive websites to salvage the links just in case Google can't restore them. That knocks the task down from "Herculean" to a "slog."

UPDATE 9/30 12:00 PM EST: I received this message:
Restoring the gadgets may take up several days. You can add and fill the gadgets yourself, or wait for Blogger engineering to restore the repaired gadgets.
With no immediate resolution to this problem, I suppose I'll have to restore them myself when I find the time.

UPDATE 10/21 8:00 AM EST: I have finished restoring all of our blogrolls and book review link lists.


Monday, August 29, 2016

100 by 100: Stories in 100 Words by M.L. Kennedy

Book cover for 100 by 100100 by 100 is a collection of 100 stories that are each 100 words long. Mathematically, that makes each worth 1/10 of a picture. Some of these 0.1 pictures are scary, some are funny, some are funny and scary, while others are just odd.

Reading this book reminds me of beer (or wine) tastings. When you finish sampling one and wish to try another, it is recommended that you cleanse your palate with some water. Your resetting your taste buds so that your new taste experience won't be unduly influenced by the previous sample. This book is like that. When switching from one novel to another, this book would serve as a great literary palate cleanser. It's refreshes your brain and has the bonus side effect of entertaining it as well.

Most of the stories have a twist at the end. But as I think about it, how else can one neatly wrap up a story that's only one hundred words long? The author quickly sets up the premise and then (bam!) there's the ending. I found that 93% of the stories worked (I kept track), and most of them relied on that format. It didn't matter if the twist was spooky, ironic, or humorous. That's what worked. Those that didn't just trailed off.

The stories cover the gamut from quirky sci-fi, suspense & horror, bizarre fantasy, and conversational satire. Santa Claus, vampires, clowns, ghosts, interdimensional travel, and alien invasions all make appearances. With a few exceptions, the stories remain light-hearted.

If you've just finished some 500-page behemoth and you're not ready to start the next one, but you need to read something, then consider 100 by 100. It's light and refreshing, and you'll be done with it in no time.

To learn more about 100 by 100 or M.L. Kennedy, please visit his website.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Madam Tulip by David Ahern

“All the world’s a stage” would be an apt subtitle for David Ahern’s madcap thriller/mystery novel Madam Tulip. Several characters are struggling actors, but even the non-thespians engage in performances of varying degrees of desperation. They include a steely businessman trying to disguise shady dealings, undercover police posing as wealthy socialites, and a murderous international criminal who assumes a more mundane persona to avoid detection.

Into this unfolding intrigue inadvertently stumbles 27-year-old out-of-work Dublin actor Derry O’Donnell. Prompted by her chronically poor finances, she decides to capitalize on the psychic abilities that run in her family by setting herself up as a fortune teller under the moniker “Madam Tulip.” She lands a gig at a glamorous charity event hosted by supermodel Marlene Doyle, wife of Peter Doyle, the aforementioned shady businessman. As Derry plies her new trade amidst the beautiful, the famous, the wealthy, and the venal, a promising pop star in attendance dies suddenly. Derry, by dint of information gleaned during fortune-telling sessions, begins piecing together the tragedy’s antecedents.  The well-meaning Derry also fears for Marlene’s safety, and in trying to avert another tragedy, she becomes drawn into an increasingly dangerous mystery.

Madam Tulip sets off at a brisk pace that accelerates as the book progresses. In the early chapters, Ahern deftly sets to the stage for the mayhem to come by hinting at secrets and questionable motives. On meeting Marlene and Peter Doyle at a racetrack, Derry’s immediately detects that they are not what they seem.
Doyle is an actor, thought Derry. He’s playing the rich and successful host, a man in control. He’s having an off-day for some reason, but he doesn’t forget his lines, and he stays in character no matter what.
Very quickly, Derry’s relatively uneventful life is upended. Following the death of the pop star Mojo, Derry’s friend Bella is unjustly detained by the police, collateral damage from the plot that Derry is investigating. Derry herself becomes a target. With the help of her friend Bruce, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, she embarks on a series of maneuvers to unmask a deadly conspiracy. Like many characters who are suddenly catapulted into an adventure for which they are ill prepared, Derry faces strange and sometimes comical dilemmas, such trying to figure out how to dispose of planted drug money without leaving forensic traces.
…Derry hadn’t got a shredder.
How do you get rid of money? Never in her life had Derry imagined she’d be asking herself that question. “I know,” she said, jumping up and rooting in a kitchen cupboard. She pulled out a blender, plugged it into the socket and poured in a little water from the tap.
“I guess if it’ll turn cabbage into a smoothie it can do it to twenties.”
Derry proves to be a perceptive observer, and her impressions effectively draw the reader into the story.  She quickly spots incongruities in the behavior of the Doyles’ chauffeur Paulo.  On one occasion when Peter summons Paulo, his response to his employer is unusual.
The chauffeur of a rich man might have been expected to jump to attention and follow his master meekly across the lobby. To Derry’s surprise, Paulo did nothing of the kind. He put his hands in his pockets, walked backwards towards the door and, as he had done once before, blew Derry a kiss.
Her instincts are unerring. Several times in the book, she must decide whom to trust without having all the facts. Her training as an actor stands her in good stead in these situations, enabling her to identify subterfuge and sincerity. After the pop singer Mojo’s death, suspicion falls on his girlfriend Sonya, but Derry is confident that she is innocent.
She couldn’t even begin to imagine Sonya killing Mojo. Nobody, not even the best actress in the world, could fake the feelings Sonya had shown.
Madam Tulip’s overall tone is light-hearted, with comic relief provided by a feud between Derry’s divorced parents – her mother Vanessa, a flamboyant art dealer, and her father Jacko, a raffish painter perpetually one step ahead of trouble of his own making. Ahern’s wry observations like the following also contribute to the book’s wittiness.
The phalanx of policemen now fanned out around the offending car as though the driver inside were a terrorist or a wanted gangster. Meanwhile, the helmeted motorcyclists tried to disperse the watching crowd, shouting, “Nothing to see here, nothing to see! Move on!”
No crowd of Dubliners promised the delightful spectacle of raised voices, shouted obscenities and discommoded policemen will willingly accept an instruction to disperse, especially if accompanied by the ludicrous statement that there is nothing to see. Plainly, there was lots to see. The mood was turning ugly.
The novel has a couple of minor weaknesses. One subplot explores Derry’s potential rekindling of a past romance; however, the interactions between Derry and her former boyfriend lack any spark, and his character is woodenly unappealing. Another flaw, in light of the fact that this is the first in a planned series, is that Madam Tulip does not introduce any compelling character or story arcs that would span multiple installments. Because the novel is very competently written and succeeds on many levels, this is not strictly necessary. But to keep readers strongly engaged with a series, a novel should leave interesting questions and conflicts unresolved.

On the whole, though, Madam Tulip is pure entertainment, striking an ideal balance of comedy and suspense, with a cast of delightful eccentrics flailing their way through a gripping adventure that culminates in a satisfyingly cataclysmic conclusion.

For more information, please visit the author's website.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Guns, Gods & Robots by Brady Koch

Book cover for Guns, Gods, and RobotsBrady Koch's Guns, Gods & Robots is a short story collection whose tales fall into one of those three categories. Three out of the seven stories had been released as standalones, but now they've been combined into one collection.

The collection opens with "Numbers 16:32", which was originally released as a standalone story, and I reviewed it here. The original blurb: Joseph's Sunday morning routine of church, beer and solitude is interrupted by a ragged screaming coming from the far side of his farm land. What he finds there will challenge his resolve in ways he hasn't faced since losing his wife or facing the horrors of the Korean War. I re-read the story and discovered that it had been slightly re-worked and edited. There was a definite improvement which increased my enjoyment of the tale. It makes for a solid opening to the collection.

"X-mas for a Half-Life": The story starts off with a typical "Dear Santa" letter, but the kicker is that it was written by a little girl living in an underground bunker after a nuclear war. So how do you make a child's Christmas wish come true what day-to-day survival is a struggle? A charming story in the face of grim circumstances.

"Popular Mechanics for Young Widows": A dying engineer builds a robot butler for his wife. Years later, she struggles to cope with his death and what the robot represents. I wasn't sure where this one was headed, but I suspected it would end tragically. Koch deftly resolves the situation.

"Fighting Weight": A son reflects upon the ritual of his mother cutting his hair. That doesn't sound like much of a story, but it actually provides a window into a destructive co-dependent relationship. I was so focused on the obvious developments that Koch presented that I didn't see the end coming.

"Sangrimal": A girl’s birthday wish comes true when she gets to spend an afternoon on a manhunt with her lawman father. I found this one to be the weakest in the group. The story is told from Katie's POV, so when events transpired, I didn't understand why. I don't recall there being any clues that the reader should've picked up on that Katie wouldn't because of her age.

"Timothy": In a world beset by a plague, human missionaries of all faiths have been replaced by robots. Something goes wrong with a robot named Timothy, and it is up to a pair of human engineers to figure it out before its malady spreads to the other robots. It's a story that explores faith in an interesting way. Tied with "X-mas for a Half-Life" for favorite story in this collection.

"3rd Flight": A marathon runner sets out for the third run of his life—tradition says it will be last. To say anything more would give too much away.

There's a Bradbury current running through the sci-fi stories. I don't know if the author is a fan, but I sense the vibe in his writing, enough to say there's an influence. The horror feels a bit more like King (short story King, not bloated novel King). He lacks Bradbury's poetic flourish, but Koch definitely has his own voice, which I imagine will grow stronger over time. But it's how everyday people deal with extraordinary circumstances, be they wonderful or horrific.

Unfortunately, I found a bunch of typos. I didn't let them distract me from my enjoyment of the stories, but they could've easily been caught by a proofreader. Other than that, the composition of the stories was sound.

Guns, Gods & Robots is a delightful collection of short stories by an author who's truly emerging in his own right. Any of these stories could've been sold to a zine for publication (after some tweaking for length). If you appreciate older sci-fi (and horror) that focuses on upheavals in the lives of everyday people (rather than grand galactic sagas or dystopian dramas), then check out Guns, Gods & Robots.

For more information, please visit the author's website.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Union of Souls by Scott Rhine

Book cover for Union of SoulsReuben Black Ram has been a hacker for Special Forces, a DJ for pirate radio, and a real pirate who hotwires spaceships. The richest Goat in the galaxy, he is being asked to give up everything to save a race of alien mimics and his Human girlfriend. To accomplish this, he must cross Union space to reach the Convocation of Souls. The space battles, spies, and dangerously experimental tech don’t bother him as much as what MI-23 expects of him—to grow up and become a world leader. Reuben still has a few tricks up his bulletproof sleeves, including a psi talent that up until now has only made him an object of ridicule.

Before I get into the review, I'd like to comment on the cover. Each of the books in this series has been told from the POV of a different character. In the first two books, that character was human and featured on the cover. Not this one. The main character is a "goat"—humans have applied Terran animal nicknames to many of the alien races they've encountered—but we don't get to see him on this cover. I was disappointed by that decision. And the spaceships on the cover don't look like the one the heroes fly around in. It's just a generic sci-fi cover. Don't get me wrong; it's a competent cover. I was just hoping that the main-character-on-the-cover trend was going to continue.

I've enjoyed watching Reuben evolve over the three books in the series. In Void Contract, he meant well, but was a screw-up. Max saw potential in him, especially considering his lineage, and made him his pupil. By the time we're knee deep in Supergiant, Reuben has matured into a responsible member of the crew, though one that wears his heart on his sleeve.

Early on in this book, Reuben is forced to come to terms with the events that came at the end of Supergiant. While he's still young and emotionally malleable enough to adapt and prepare for his destiny, Reuben faces many challenges along the way. There are many temptations, and he knows he has to resist them, well, most of them anyway. He longs for what he's lost and on come the temptations of sex and booze. He feels a burning need to right the wrongs that were inflicted upon his people by Phibs and Bankers and on comes the temptation to misuse the power of government to exact revenge. Rhine deftly steers Reuben through these challenges in believable ways.

Whereas Void Contract was primarily about the assembling the cast of characters, the series' plot lines were introduced, though Rhine barely scratched the surface. Supergiant went into detail about those plot lines and their implications. The stakes were raised, and the urgency of our heroes' mission was understood. Those plot lines are (mostly) resolved in Union of Souls, and it is Reuben who is the key to accomplishing this. So it totally makes sense for Union of Souls to be told from his perspective. Unlike Supergiant, which was told from Roz's perspective and where many action scenes took place "off camera", Reuben is in the thick of it. The reader doesn't miss out on anything.

Rhine's writing continues to be efficient. There are no wandering tangents or paragraphs of purple prose. Dialogue, internal and external, serves to advance the story or provide insight into the characters. The same goes for the action scenes.

The manuscript has been meticulously edited and is of professional quality.

Union of Souls is the best book in what has already been a great series. Reuben is an immensely likeable character due to his relatability. He has flaws like everyone else, but is thrust into a situation of great political power with debauchery and corruption tempting him all the time. Rhine does an excellent job resolving the plot lines he introduced in the first book. Switching the narrative character POV with each book has been a smart move as it enables the reader to be in on events as they unfold. It will be interesting to see who narrates the story in the next book in the series, Glory Point.

For more information, please visit the author's website.

UPDATE 7/27/16: The author informs me that he and his cover illustrator tried to come up with a proper sketch for Reuben, but they were unable to make one that did him justice. The cover is actually a scene from the huge convocation at Giragog that takes place at the climax of the story.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Colony by RM Gilmour

Cover image (Goodreads)
When Lydia is pulled through spacetime into Jordan’s plane of existence, she finds herself immersed in a world controlled by the Guardian, an artificial intelligence. The Guardian’s sole purpose is to protect the power source that runs the planet; but it does so at the cost of all who live outside of its city.

Sheltered in the Colony, beyond the city’s borders, Lydia is befriended by an advanced race of hunters and warriors, who do all they can to protect her and themselves from the Guardian. To survive in this new world, she must find courage and strength, and learn to face her fears. But to save her soulmate and the colonists from the Guardian, she must overcome those fears and embrace her inner strength.

I was drawn to The Colony by reading an extract online—not a very long extract, but it convinced me that here was an interesting main character, dropped into a challenging situation. I was hooked.

RM Gilmour's story begins in a familiar Earth, but quite rapidly shifts to a wider focus. "Our" Earth is only one among a small set of alternate parallel worlds. The inhabitants are recognisable, but each has pursued a slightly different line of development, both biological and technological. There is a complementarity about the various groups; like any other kind of diversity, this has the potential to go well for the separate groups, or to go really badly. There are a lot of echoes of today's world, as a diverse group of people plucked from their own context tries to establish a kind of refugee existence.

The central character, Lydia, would be interesting in any story, but her complex and painful back story fits particularly well in this setting. She is constantly having to reassess who can be trusted and why, and whether she can rely on her own perceptions of the situation. Her personal history does not predispose her to depend on others, nor to feel that she herself is anything other than a destructive influence. Ironically, this very capacity for destruction proves to be crucial for the plot, once properly directed.

The story takes many twists and turns—it is at times a love story, an abduction, a rebellion, or a desperate defence against unthinking aggressors. It is to the author's credit that she has handled these possibilities without the story becoming bogged down and confusing. Since we follow Lydia throughout, these changes seem natural developments as her own awareness grows.

The book provokes thought about important personal issues. The one I grappled with most was what draws two people together. The book proposes that it is our similarities which make for compatibility and love. I feel it is more to do with complementarity and difference, but I appreciated the fact that the book tackled the question head on.

In terms of editing, there were a few more slips than I had expected, chiefly around homonym words such as your / you're. A few of them had me puzzled for a moment, but none of them interfered with my great enjoyment of the book.

The Colony ends with the defeat of the enemy, once its identity has been finally clarified. However, the closing words suggest that the victory has brought new risks, almost before the dust settles, which I am sure will be explored in a second story.

In short, The Colony is an engaging and stimulating book, providing a new twist on the theme of parallel worlds. Well worth reading.

The author's website can be found here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Welcoming Our New Reviewer

Richard AbbottI'm pleased to announce that author Richard Abbott has joined the ranks of the New Podler Staff. Richard is the author of Far from the Spaceports, which I reviewed earlier this month. Besides science fiction, Richard also writes historical fiction. His other novels include The Flame Before Us, Scenes from a Life, In a Milk and Honeyed Land.

Richard will be joining us as a reviewer. He hopes to discover some science and speculative fiction that offers optimistic, rather than pessimistic, outlooks with good characters and prose to boot.

Welcome aboard, Richard!