2024: A Space Odyssey

I recently picked up a copy of 2001: A Space Odyssey (the novel by Arthur C. Clarke – not the Movie) and the sequel novel 2010: Odyssey Two (the movie had a different title… The Year We Make Contact). It is 2024 and well, I finally got around to reading them for the first time. I’ve seen the films several times but it was great fun to read the novels. In fact, I think I might like the 2001 novel more than the movie (I know… heresy right?)

The books (as is almost always) give a much deeper insight into characters and plot that the movie genre’ just can’t generally match. That can be said of a lot of novel / book combinations, but I think this is especially true of 2001 since the beginning of the novel gives you access to the point of view and internal pre-human thoughts of the character Moon-watcher. Clarke gives him recognizably human-related thoughts but also he has a very alien / animal mentality about things. For instance his father dies in the novel and Moon-watcher basically thinks little of it… he just takes him to the garbage heap. (this is all before he is changed by his encounter with the monolith.)

The 3d model I created of the Discovery One in Blender 3d.

It was also interesting in the 2001 novel that their destination is Saturn, and they do a flyby of Jupiter. Apparently that was something that was changed in the movie (just to simplify it?) but Clarke left his novel as it was even though he wrote it in parallel with the screen play. His sequel novel 2010 picks up however based on the movie’s premise that the destination was Jupiter. Makes for interesting reading as you need to have seen the 2001 film to understand this discontinuity in the novels.

I wrote up a review of 2001 and 2010 on Goodreads if you would like to check it out. Glenn R. Frank’s review of 2001: A Space Odyssey | Goodreads

Preview of New Marketing Images

New posts about to release for Nine Streams of Consciousness

I and my fellow writers from the Nine Streams of Consciousness anthology have written marketing blurbs for each of our individual stories in the book. I am in the process of creating images and art to go with them. The intent is to post the series one at a time on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and test if promotion of the individual stories in a series of posts over a number of days / weeks will be of more interest to potential readers than a promotion of the overall book in general.

I am releasing these six as a sneak preview
of those posts coming later this month.

Review of The Flight of the Aurora

The three books (so far) of the Augment Saga

This is Alan K. Dell’s second novella and third book in the Augment Saga. It takes several of the characters we met in the previous novel (From The Grave of the Gods) and sets them on a new adventure several years after those events. You’ll definitionally need to have read From The Grave of the Gods before jumping into this short story. As a novella, this book is a fast read. The character setup is minimal since we were already introduced to the them, and the back-history, in the proceeding novel.

The book was well written and the pace of this short story kept me moving forward through the chapters. I loved how it explored the idea of a first flight with faster than light technology in a very believable way. The orbital mechanics and other scientific references are used correctly, but not in a textbook fashion. I got a very believable feel of this fictional world but was not hit over the head with an exposition of technical details. The scientific underpinnings of the story were blended well with the adventure and dialog in a way that kept the story moving, but hinted at well thought-out mechanics behind the scenes.

The adventure had a very “first flight” feel. It gave a feeling of uncertainty about the technology and the risk of failure which the first astronauts who went to orbit must have felt. At the end of several of the chapters I was compelled to keep reading even though it was late at night and I had expected to put the book down for the evening. By the way Alan, you owe me at least one lost hour of sleep! The story develops and expands on some very well implemented hard sci-fi rules, and does not violate them. I can see how the technology is setup here will be used to tell a great adventure among the stars in the next novel!

As with most well written short stories, my only regret is that it was a fast read. I kind of wished the adventure would continue, but this story was wrapped up in a satisfying way. I see how this episode fit the format of a short story, setting the scene for the next novel-length episode in this saga.

Book Review:

Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds

I read this book on the recommendation of a friend who loaned me his paperback copy. The story is presented with a very steam-punk, sci-fi infused, space opera feel. I was initially wondering if I would like this book as it seemed to have some initial head-hopping and confusing scenes in chapter one, but the further I read, the more interesting the characters and their journey became to me.

The adventure starts with a dramatic escape from a strange city filled with danger and quickly turns into an adventure of discovery and purpose. After running from the initial treats, the main characters will eventually change their perspective and purposely return to resolve the larger mysteries and problems that are slowly revealed in the story.

I’m not very familiar with steampunk genre stories other than maybe the “Firefly/Serenity” TV series (which this in some ways has the same fun feel as this tale – although this has less of a directly campy “western” setting). Because of my unfamiliarity with the genre, some of the names of various groups, places, and terms used felt a bit “silly” to me at first, but the more I got into the book the more they did fit the steampunk feel of the tale and soon I accepted the world that Alastair Reynolds was presenting in this novel.

The climax and conclusion was also very interesting. It wraps up the issues of the plot, yet almost leaves it open for a future sequel, but I don’t think there is a sequel to this book. (as far as I know it’s a stand-alone novel) But the ending has a good conclusion which I felt wrapped things up as much as needed and left the possibilities of the future open to the reader’s perspective.

All in all, a very imaginative and fun read that I might not have chosen on my own. I’m glad my friend recommended it to me.

Review – From the Grave of the Gods

Alan K. Dell's Novels
The novella prequel The Re-Emergence and novel From the Grave of the Gods

From the Grave of the Gods is set in a current-day hard science fiction universe, which then takes you into an adventure of humanity’s first real contact with advanced alien civilizations – an amazing, full-length novel by new author Alan K. Dell.

It’s wonderful to find a great page-turner from a new writer. The deeper I got into this book the more I couldn’t put it down (I know that is cliche’ but very true, I read the last 50% of it in a nearly consecutive 6 hour binge!)

The prologue to the novel presents a sequence of Commander James Fowler’s memories in the format of a forced interrogation of his mind, by an unknown pair of alien tormenters. Some of them are very cryptic but I believe it’s setting up things for the future Augment Series novels. One of these memories leads into the first chapter of this initial novel.

The story begins with the first manned mission to Mars in 2025, a mission to investigate what is at first believed to be an unusual comet impact site. The adventure follows the crew members through the mission as it morphs into a mysterious and traumatic ordeal, and the conspiracies and conspiracies which follow them back on Earth after the mission.

The major characters are very compelling and my connection to the them continued to grow stronger as the plot expanded and the dangers of the adventure deepened. I found myself anxious and personally invested in the jeopardy that the characters faced.

The pacing of the plot shows the patience of a seasoned storyteller, keeping us in the action and also giving the reader time to rest and invest in the characters. The universe that’s set in motion by this story is compelling. I can see how the series has a lot of room to expand and become even more exciting as the future novels come out.

This novel is a wonderful read on its own, and ends with it’s own satisfying conclusion, but I anxiously await Dell’s future novels in this series.

Book Review: “Project Hail Mary”

I read Project Hail Mary faster than anything else I’ve read in quite a while. Weir’s storytelling just drew me in and I could not put it down! I’ve read both of his previous works (The Martian and Artemus) and I would rank this up with the level of The Martian in regard to a fun and engaging read! Artemus was interesting, but I would say this is the better of Weir’s two books after The Martian.

The storytelling method Weir uses to revel the current story, and the connected backstory, is very clever. He reveals things “just in time” by alternating back and forth to the main character’s recall of his forgotten past. This keeps the backstory hints closely connected to current story solutions. The “ah-ha” connections this creates for the reader are very satisfying. I found myself constantly assuming things about the character’s past which the character himself was assuming, to only later learn of a twist or new revelation about his assumptions. This made the story a fun walk along side the main character which felt very much like I was living it out with him in real-time. Project Hail Mary has a similar “problem/try again/find a solution” feel to The Martian. I really loved that about his first novel and loved it here too.

All the characters are terrific. I love the humor in some of the two main character’s interactions as they get more established and get to know each other better. The main alien character is wonderful! He’s definitely very non-human in appearance and thought patterns – very strange at first – but I started getting a feel and love for his character as the story progressed. I think readers will easily learn to understand his personality and reactions quickly and even empathize with him in spit of his very in-human appearance.

The action and pacing is great. There are more than a few times when I thought, “good, they’ve solved that problem” when another seemingly insurmountable problem comes up. In this way it is very much like the beats of The Martian. The fun is in seeing how the problems are resolved.

There are a few minor things here and there that I felt it were a little too TELLING – characters explaining things that maybe they would not really do in real life – but these are minor and few and far between.

There’s one thing (I won’t give any spoilers here) that I did feel were kinda… unresolved… or maybe I just missed it, but the tying up of promises/problems and answers/solutions is handled very well. The one thing I still wonder about is maybe not really in need of an answer.

Overall, I loved this book and think Andy Weir has hit a home run again. I’m not sure if this would translate as well into a movie like The Martian did, but it made for an excellent novel and a very fun read!

The Re-Emergence

I just completed a short read of The Re-Emergence – a fun novella which wraps up its own short episode with adventure and gives the reader a taste for the background to the soon to be published full length novel (The Grave of the Gods).

This is Alan Dell’s first published work. I have been following his project with interest while he has been creating it. I look forward to the full length novel this short story sets up. It is a quick and enjoyable introduction if you would like to consider his future works. I like that this short story sets up some of the back history of the coming novel rather than coming into the next book without any background or having it given as a short “prologue” of a larger novel. This gave us a full story and characters to enjoy while setting up that pre-history in an interesting way.

You can get a copy at Amazon:

Review of “Aestus: Book 1: The City”

I came across this book a few months ago after meeting the author on Twitter. The ideas that brought her to write the book intrigued me, so I picked up an ebook copy of it and its followup novel, which I immediately jumped into after finishing book one. I had recently finished reading Frank Herbert’s epic novel Dune when I saw the review of another reader of Aestus who had compared the world of this book to Dune. I had to investigate.

The book series title “Aestus” does not appear in the text of the story, but upon googling the term I realized how it related to the tale. The Latin word means heat, or fire, a reference to the setting of the story in a post apocalyptic subterranean society which is hiding from the heat of the daytime temperatures of Earth’s out-of-control, post-war climate. The story begins with the main character Jossey, who is an engineer of solar technology. She and her team are descending into the dark tunnels leading to their underground city at the end of a night of working on the surface. The underground city protects them from the heat of day and the frightening creatures that are the nemesis of the city dwellers.

The first chapters introduce the reader to a dark underground world of tunnels and the Onlar – frightening creatures who pursue the main character Jossey and her team of engineers. At first I thought this book would just be a sci-fi horror tale of monsters and fear of the dark, but as the story progressed, I found the author was building a much larger mystery with complex characters and a much deeper plot.

The incremental revealing of new characters, their motives, emotions, and back history is very well done. Understanding of who they are and their intentions is given slowly and steadily to the reader over the course of the book. I especially found the emotional interactions between several of the characters to be very intriguing, realistic, and well written. The ever growing and changing characters present a mystery to solve as Jossey decides who to trust while discovering that some things in her underground city are not always as they first appear.

This first book has a number of well presented plot mysteries for the reader which are paid off throughout the course of the book. I loved how unknown aspects of the city and the overall story are revealed with many surprising revelations. Some I saw coming, but many surprised me. The plot twists don’t feel contrived either. They’re subtly hinted at for the reader. Many “ah-ha” moments are experienced making the growing plot even more interesting as the tale expands.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the adventure and fascinating characters in this story. While there are a few editing related issues that I think could have tightened up and possibly strengthened the tale, the storytelling was still the overriding strength of the book. Replacing some of the “LY” adverb use with more hinted-at sensory and emotion-based imagery might have given an even deeper feeling of “being there” in some spots. (I guess I can’t break from reading as a picky editor! Others might not find these stood out as much as they did to me). Possibly a few more editing passes could make the writing a little stronger, but in the end I overlooked these minor issues since the story and characters drew me further and further into an intriguing tale.

This first book ends with a new understanding of the plight of the characters and their perception of their world, but not all problems are resolved. Many payoffs for mysterious characters, motives, and plot lines are wrapped up at the end of the book, but since this is a multi-book story, the ending presents a major unresolved issue, obviously intended to make the reader press on into book two.

At first I was unsure if this uncompleted plot issue felt unsatisfactory to me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I liked where it left me as a reader. The first book has a number of huge payoffs, establishing a new playing field for book two. The unresolved plot issues at the end of book one were exciting enough to make me want to immediately jump into the second book right away – which is not something that has always happened for me in other series novels.

I believe this is the author’s first published book, so yes, I think there is room for growth in writing as her personal style and “voice” develops over time, but this story was much more intriguing to me than were other loudly lauded “new amazing authors,” whose books I have read in the past year. S.Z. Attwell’s storytelling brought to life wonderful characters I cared about and made me willing to follow along to see their next exciting adventure.

I highly recommend Aestus: Book 1: The City.

Review of “The Martian Chronicles”

I rated The Martian Chronicles at three out of five stars, but maybe 3.5 would have been closer to my impression if we could do half stars. I wanted to read The Martian Chronicles due to fond memories of the 1980’s TV Miniseries. It was interesting to see how the miniseries slightly modified and blended the short stories which make up the book. Some were reproduced very close to the original stories and some were not, but are still recognizable. The mini-series also did not cover all the stories in the book so, it was fun to have a few tales that I had not heard placed in between ones that were more familiar.

Bradbury and this book are considered “classics” in sci-fi, albeit a bit dated due to limited scientific knowledge at the time. Readers who want “hard sci-fi” tied to a current understanding of Mars, beware, these tales are based on many speculations (like the “canals”, breathable atmosphere, and the assumption of plant and animal life assumed to have existed at the time.) If you are okay with a little suspension of belief regarding these elements, you might enjoy this more.

The Martian Chronicles is a series of short stories tied together loosely as an overall narrative about the exploration and attempted settlement of Mars by humanity. It also presents a native sentient Martian culture on Mars. The stories all feel a little like Twilight Zone style tales. They’re short, strange, with a twist of irony, and maybe a touch of morality-play in them. While I am a fan of the Twilight Zone’s masterful style, these stories seemed a bit more cartoonish to me in some ways. The writing seemed to vary a lot to me. Some stories felt spur of the moment with shallow character development, while others had an interesting writing style and held my interest. It is possible that some of my impressions were colored by seeing the TV Mini-series too.

I think the story/chapter “There Will Come Soft Rains” as the most poetic and interesting writing. Other tales like “Usher II”, “The Earth Men”, “The Third Expedition”, “The Silent Towns”, and “The Off Season” feel very Twilight Zone but kinda campy in ways. “The Martian”, “Night Meeting”, “The Long Years”, and “The Fire Balloons” were some of my favorite stories in the book.

Overall, I guess it has to be taken as a classic that has not necessarily aged well, at least for me. There is actually one chapter not in this version (and other more recent publications of the book) which was removed because of some of its stereotyping of black culture (“Way in the Middle of the Air”).

I read Herbert’s DUNE right before this book and the difference in style and storytelling between them made Martian Chronicles feel even more campy and simplistic in its writing and story telling. Maybe that colored my perceptions of the book unfairly but… it is what it is.