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.

Discounts for the Holidays!

Just for the holiday season, my fellow authors and I who wrote the fifteen stories in the “Nine Streams of Consciousness” science fiction anthology, have discounted our book at Amazon.

The #scifi #anthology Nine Streams of Consciousness is on sale.

Kindle E-book is nearly 30% off
Paperback is 9% off (about as low as Amazon lets us go – I wish it could be more).

Get it as a gift for someone or, just get a copy to enjoy for yourself!

United States
United Kingdom

If you read it, please be sure to leave a rating and/or review on Amazon or It helps our visibility on Amazon a lot if people leave us reviews and ratings!

Our First Review!

Our first Amazon review of “Nine Streams of Consciousness” is in! Thank you “Anne” – a reader in the UK somewhere. Five stars too. It is very nice to see she commented on the continuity that we worked so hard on to connect all our individual stories. I hope that makes our little anthology a little unique since they are stand alone stories but are connected more than just a common theme like most anthologies. We wanted it to read like a full length novel.

US Amazon Link:
UK Amazon Link:

From other comments I have heard, readers seem to “leave wanting more” after each story which I think is a good thing. Hopefully this little beginning will inspire all nine of us to go on to write more solo projects. I know my current work in progress will be a lot of fun and I look forward to getting it published in the near future.

The paperback version is due out in two weeks, at the end of April 2020

The Twitch Anthology – A Creative Stream

I began watching Drew Wagar’s Twitch stream on its second episode. He started out by teaching viewers the basics of good story telling, and his personal process of writing. Through his weekly streams I rediscovered a love for writing which I had set aside years ago. Soon I began to consider the personal challenge of writing a novel myself, but that seemed like an insurmountable mountain to climb.

Drew Wagar – Host of “The Twitch Anthology” – the Twitch stream that spawned a group of new writers who are about to publish a sci-fi anthology on Amazon entitled “Nine Streams of Consciousness”

Drew decided to offer a new challenge after we had gone through most of the basics of good writing. Rather than learning in a lecture / question and answer style presentation, he suggested we could collaborate on a sci-fi anthology. We could learn what it takes to create a book by participating in it hands-on. That was an easy choice for me. I was all in. The idea of contributing a short story or two, supporting each other under Drew’s guidance, and assembling and actually publishing a book was an exciting, reachable goal.

“The Twitch Anthology” Stream – Mondays 22:00 – 21:30 (UK time)

We began by brainstorming, envisioning new worlds, and creating a timeline of events into which our individual stories could be grounded. The goal was to write a series of independent short stories, told in our own personal styles, that could stand on their own – yet be interconnected in a grand plot.

Some of Drew’s high tech graphics and humor (or humour) is always showing as he encourages us to “Write On!”

We began the process of individually writing our first drafts. I read and re-edited my initial story over and over. Edit after edit, revision after revision, would I ever rid it of the flaws that popped up like weeds? We each experienced the challenge of critical review before our peers. It was a vulnerable feeling, but we realized the critiques came from someone who had our best outcome at heart. We learned to edit and integrate our stories together, to bridge the gaps, and connect them. We learned how to work together.

My favorite part of the creative process was seeing ways that we could insert references of events, places and characters into our stories, tying them together into a complete adventure. When we finally got them all assembled, we had a novel-length book.

Those of us who were new writers had no idea how much effort it would take. However, as I look back on what turned into a year and a half long project, I’m proud to have seen it through to completion. I know I have personally grown from the experience, and so have my fellow authors (wow, we can call ourselves authors now!) I worked with a great group of strangers from across the globe, strangers whom I now consider good friends.

Thanks Drew, for the inspiration and the willingness to share your gifts and skills.

Drew’s Author Website.