Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Legend of Team 9

The Legend of Team 9: An Away Science Fiction Book
Copyright 2012   by Norman Oro
Available at CreateSpace
Available at Amazon

This book is a short read, part of a series of sci-fi books by Norman Oro recounting the adventures of "Team 9" (think SG1 in Star Gate), in the long-standing science fiction tradition of the small group of can-do folks who are called in whenever the impossible is required to save the world, the galaxy, or the universe.

Not exactly a new theme, you say, and you'd be right, but this book is interesting because it brings in a whole new set of issues that crop up (as is often the case) when the seemingly straightforward mission goes out of control in unexpected ways that have to be dealt with.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb

Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb is a young adult (Y/A) novel about a boy who tests out of school early and becomes a photographer, only to be thrust into the headlines himself when his family becomes the target of assassins. But these aren't just any assassins. They're ghost assassins.

The setting is 1935, but it's not the same 1935 we all know. In this 1935, ghosts co-exist with the living, but only some of the living can see them. Those who can are called etherists. Johnny's sister, Melanie Graphic, is an etherist, and she belongs to a group who is dedicated to understanding how ghosts interact with the world of the living and how the ether (the area where the ghosts exist) works. Unfortunately, someone is targeting her group and killing them off one by one.

Luckily, Johnny's newspaper, The Clarion, is willing to sponsor a trip around the world, during which Johnny and Melanie have to identify the assassins, figure out what their plans are, and stop them before they are assassinated themselves. Along the way, they are accompanied by Uncle Louie and their friend, Nina, as well as a rag-tag group of ghosts.

There are a few things that I like about this book. One of them is the idea of ghosts co-existing with, and even being able to interact with, human beings. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, you have to admit that the idea is intriguing. I also enjoyed the fact that the author went out of his way to give each ghost in the story his or her own unique personality. I felt that most of the ghost characters, as well as the human characters, were described quite well. I expect that the personalities of all of the main characters will be even further developed later in the series.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book is that it takes place in an alternate 1935. The locations all have different names than you might expect. There was a Civil War of sorts that ended differently from the Civil War we all know, causing a different division of countries, and a different governmental system. Granted, that also meant that I, as the reader, had to just accept certain things as fact and didn't have a lot of familiar reference points, but I liked the imagination behind the concept.

Prior to reading this novel, I was told that it was the first in a series. So, I read it with that in mind. There are some unanswered questions in this book. I assume that they will be answered in later books. However, the main plot of this book did stand alone nicely. It just left the door open for the sequel,which is a good thing.

Although the plot flowed well, I did have trouble getting into the first chapter or two, but each chapter consists of only a few pages. So, by page ten or twelve I was hooked. I found that the story flowed well after that, and there were a few times when I kept on reading, despite intending to do other things, because I wanted to see what happened next. I felt invested in the characters, which is something that I can't say about many books.

If there's one nit picky thing I can say about Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb, it's that I wish the time didn't seem overly emphasized. The year 1935 is mentioned several times, reminding the reader of the setting, but it didn't actually feel much like 1935, especially since it's set in an alternate reality anyway. Yes, there was the mention of “newsies,” and there were occasional descriptions of clothing from the era, but it really could have been any year and the story would have been just as good.

I give Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb 5 out of 5 stars. It was well-written, entertaining, and featured well-rounded characters. I felt like the writing was appropriate for the intended age group as well. Most importantly, it left me wanting more, as book one in a series always should.

Book:  Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb (Book 1 of series)
By:  D.R. Martin
Publisher: Conger Road Press
Length:  79,000 words
Genre: Young Adult (Y/A)
ISBN: 978-0-9850196-1-7
Available on Amazon.com

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Exodus 2022, a Mass Migration

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There is something about near future science fiction that makes it easy to read and wonderful fun. Almost any reader can read it because there usually isn't a lot of space dedicated to 'world building'. Things are familiar to the reader from the start. Ken Bennett's Exodus 2022 is just such a story. The settings are familiar, the technology is usually understood with only  a few updates and the reader usually has a platform of understanding to easily accept  the 'new' or 'improved' tech. This allows authors to do what they do best; tell a story.

I have said before that there are really three kinds of stories: Man Against Nature; Man Against Himself; Man Against Man. There are, of course underlying themes: Good versus Evil; Discovery; Letting Go; Success versus Failure. But the story is usually told through the three types of stories.  In Ken Bennett's compelling book Exodus 2022, the overt story is man against man but the underlying or supporting theme is good versus evil. Will Evil triumph? Will Good? Or will this be a case of just one battle in a long, long war? Will Joe win? Will Ella? Will Beck trample them both? Or is there a greater story here than just Beck and Joe? And what of Lorna Gwin, the daughter Joe feels in his guts is his missing and dead child, though he never had a daughter?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Recruiting a Queen's Witch

         One nice feature found in online bookstores is information about the length of the story. It is such a shame more people don't use it! I fell victim to my own laziness once and bought a book that was actually a short story. But I never blamed the author for it. Lately I have seen numerous reviews complaining that the 'book' they bought on Amazon was not a full book. If the book is advertised as a novel, one has a reason to complain, but all of these were on books clearly marked as a short story.

      Good short stories take a lot of effort. One has to tell a complete story in very few words, so even more than a novel, each word has to count and many words have to do double or triple duty. The cost of most short stories range from free to about $2. Considering I buy a certain woman's magazine for the two short short-stories and a handful of puzzles and jokes, $1.99 doesn't seem too much to pay for a 10 to 90 page short story. In the magazine, these short stories are one pagers, similar to The Perfect Man, which I wrote last fall for our Halloween hop. Most of the stand alone short stories available on Amazon and Smashwords are much longer and quite good. The two from Karen Chance, The Gauntlet and The Queen's Witch, that I'm introducing today are fine examples.