IRIS – Interview with ANDREW GATES

by Andrew Gates
Reviewed by SA

I have a special treat for you today! There’s a new book about to hit the shelves, and I just can’t wait to tell you about it. Iris is the science fiction novel you’ve been waiting for without knowing it: with the scope of Game of Thrones, and the feel of Asimov, it’s destined to become your new SciFi addiction.

irisebookSummary

The Surface was just ancient history…

Year 200, Atlantic Federation Calendar. It has been two full centuries since the surface of the Earth was destroyed and humanity retreated to the bottom of the ocean. No one is old enough to remember the world outside the station they now call home. Life is peaceful in this artificial world. There is no war. Crime is low. But questions are raised once an experimental submarine is attacked during a routine test mission. The enemy is unknown. There are no leads. For the first time in generations, a long isolated city will have to confront what may lurk above the surface.

This multiple POV novel is the perfect simmering science fiction thriller. Its character driven plot is brilliantly executed: the novel reads differently depending on who you follow, and who you want to believe. For some, the Atlantic station is corrupt and full of government cover-ups. For others, it’s just home. Good and evil depends entirely on who’s talking.

The worldbuilding here is remarkable. You begin to really imagine what life is like in this secluded base on the bottom of the ocean floor. At moments, it was claustrophobic, while at others it is a world of endless possibilities. The author fantastically shows us different lives down in the station, and through them we live this new, odd life.

But what if no-one knew the truth? A mystery simmers below the surface. What has attacked the sub? Is the Atlantic Federation good or corrupt? And where are the other stations that are supposedly down here with them?

I have to say, I love a good mystery. This novel is a killer thriller and the ending had me begging for more. So many questions left unanswered!

Luckily, some questions we might get answers for: I had the great privilege of interviewing author Andrew Gates about his upcoming release, and his plans for the sequels.

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An Interview with Andrew Gates

Readcommendations: Let’s start at the very beginning. Your novel is incredibly unique, combining some great SciFi concepts with exciting new ideas. Where did the concept for IRIS come from?

author-photoAndrew Gates: Great question! I haven’t actually gone into this yet with anyone.

The idea originally came to me when I was in middle school, if you can believe it. Back then the story was called Atlantis. A lot of it was the same. The main character was named Iris. She was a teacher. She lived in an underwater city in the future. The story only got to be like 8 pages or so. It didn’t really go that far. For years the idea was dormant.

In my senior year of college, I learned an interesting piece of trivia. Apparently, in ancient cultures all across the world, no matter where you are, the last color to get a word was always blue. You could be in ancient Egypt, Aztec, China, wherever. The last color to get a word was always blue. It’s the color that appears the least in nature, and even though it’s in the sky, ancient people would see the sky as nothing. The sky was like the absence of color. In fact, there are studies where they’ve found these isolated tribes in modern day and they’ve shown these tribes the color blue and asked them what it looks like and these isolated people don’t see it as anything different than green. But once these isolated people are told it’s blue, suddenly they can see it as its own color. So essentially, researchers have discovered that cultures can’t seem to identify colors until they have a word for it. I thought this was really interesting.

So I took this piece of trivia and I thought, what if in the future, our technology might move forward, but our general understanding of the world goes backwards? What better way to illustrate that than an advanced underwater city where nobody can identify the color blue? So then I started remembering this old story from middle school that never got off the ground and started to revisit this concept, only with the focus shifting. The color blue isn’t mentioned throughout the book, save for the final chapter. That’s why the series title is The Color of Water and Sky. It’s really all about the color blue, but not overtly so.

R: It’s such a dense novel, with so much going on! Can you describe the book in one sentence?

AG: Oh boy. It’s hard to do that without providing any spoilers. There’s an underwater city in the future and the people who live there think they’re safe, but now they may not be.

R: Coffee, or tea?

AG: Beer.

R: There seems to be an eternal struggle between “Traditional” publishing and then self publishing. How did you decide to self publish?

AG: I did a lot of research on that. My biggest hesitancy with trying to find an agent and publicist was that I would have to make a lot of edits. From what I could tell, it’s easier to keep the story the way I want it if I self-publish. I didn’t want a whole lot of people telling me how to change my story. I wanted it to be mine.

R: With a lot of different perspectives in the novel, there’s bound to be some favorites and least favorites. Who’s your favorite character from Iris, and why?

AG: Either Tracey or Sanja. Tracey is a paranoid anarchist. He’s a drunkard, blue collar guy. Sanja, on the other hand, prides herself on being part of the elite, where she feels in control. And interestingly, even though they’re enemies, they’re so similar. I think that’s the coolest thing about writing these characters. They’re so similar yet they think they’re so different. Anytime someone compares one of them to the other, they get so offended. Tracey is obsessed with anarchy and rebellion and Sanja is obsessed with totalitarianism and order. On paper, they might not seem the same, but they really are. They’re both skeptical of things that they shouldn’t be. They’re both worried about everything. And they can’t stand not being in control of the situation.

R: They were my favorite too. They’re incredibly complex characters, and the chifts in perspective make them such complicated people. But I’m getting off topic! What are your plans for the series?

AG: For a long time, I did not have an answer for this question. It’s only within the last few days actually that I have an answer. Everything I’m about to say is tentative and might completely change, but right now here is my plan: This part is kind of spoilery, so look away and skip to the next question if that’s your thing.

My original plan, back when I was just starting to write Iris, was to have four books. Iris was going to be the series name, not the book name. I was going to do four names that are single-syllable words starting with S. It would have been Iris: Sea, Stone, Sky and Space. But obviously that’s not what I decided to do. I abandoned that idea pretty quickly. I didn’t know how many books it was going to be after that idea, but within the last few days, I think I’ve settled back on four again. The tentative names are Iris, Kholvaria, Veznek and Hive. The scope of the story gets bigger and bigger with each book. It starts off very small and tight. The whole first book is in this small contained city. But as the series goes on, it’s going to get more and more expansive until we have an enormous world to play in.

R: That ending though… The second I put it down, I wanted more. So tell us, what can we expect from the sequel?

AG: You can expect the sequel to be a bit shorter and faster paced. Most of the questions you’re left with at the end of the first book are answered pretty quickly in the second book. Those that aren’t answered early on will be answered in book 3. The scope of the story opens up a lot and we see that there’s a pretty big conflict happening globally that the Atlantic Federation has been wholly unaware of. You can expect a lot of characters to return, even some you may have believed dead. We will also get a brand new perspective character, who I’m guessing might become my new favorite.

R: I hope we won’t have to wait long for the next book?

AG: It took me about two years to write Iris and another several months to do editing, promotional stuff, proofs, art and so forth. I expect the next book will take considerably less time.

Are you excited yet? Check out the official page for ore information, as well as the release date. If you’re a fan of hardcore science fiction, then you’re going to love The Color of Water and Sky!

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Ghost in the Machine

By Kayla Hoyet
Reviewed by SA

You all know this by now, I assume: I love science fiction novels. I devour them by the barrelfulls. It takes a rare, fantastic novel to really stick out: Ghost in the Machine is one of them. It’s clever, it’s captivating, and it’ll keep you guessing until the very end.

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Eighteen-year-old Tyler Gaines has always followed the rules–in part because it’s too much trouble to break them, but mostly because her father’s bedtime stories about the Sphere’s elite red-coat Enforcers scared her senseless as a child. She does what she’s told, just like everyone else, so when she goes to see the Broker–a woman whose sole purpose is to assign a match to everyone in the Sphere–and gets paired with a red-coat Enforcer named Aidan, she tries her best to put her father’s stories to rest and adapt to her new family. When Tyler’s best friend is killed and both fingers and technology point to Tyler as the main suspect, Tyler begins to think that her nightmares are coming to life.

Aidan knows Tyler is innocent, but there’s one big problem: Proving Tyler’s innocence rests on proving that the government’s high-tech system, the system on which the entire population depends, has a problem the likes of which it has never had before. Aidan doesn’t have a lot of time to make his case. If he can’t figure out what’s wrong with the system soon, Tyler may end up paying the ultimate price for a crime she didn’t commit.

In the future Tyler calls her own, automated systems take care of everything. It’s supposed to be infallible… but is it really? When Tyler is accused of a crime she didn’t commit – the murder of her best friend, no less – people are more likely to believe a machine’s version of the events than a humans. But can the machine be wrong?

What I loved about this novel was just how complex Tyler’s character is. She’s young, she’s smart, but she’s also fiercely loyal and can be quite bold if she wants to. She has to put up with so much, and in such a short period of time, it’s enough to break anyone, but not Tyler. It’s impressive how Hoyet ties Tyler’s dancing into the plot, using analogies through dance to show how Tyler is really feeling.

The one thing a computer can’t control in this world is relationships, so they have the Broker for that: an incredible matchmaker that somehow gets it right every time. So it does come off as weird… and kind of creepy… when Tyler gets matched with a man who’s a smidgen older than her and not really her type. But the way the family deals with this is fantastic. They take her in as if she’s one of their own and give her the space she needs to grow. Honestly, I was kind of enamored with Aiden’s family.

The novel is part dystopia, part murder mystery. Who is responsible for that young girl’s death? Could it really be Tyler, since the computer says she checked into her building around the time of death? And if it isn’t her, who is really responsible? The book will keep you guessing until the very end, and you won’t believe who’s responsible!

What’s great? How the ending opens up so many possibilities for the sequel. I’m excited to see what this means for their system, for their world. I can’t wait for book number two!

 

Untamed

by Madeline Dyer
Reviewed by SA

Sometimes a book comes along that catches you off guard. You finish reading it and just think: wow, wow… That book was fun, exciting, everything I wanted in a book. Can I get another? Well, Untamed was that book for me. It’s the perfect book to pull you out of a reading slump and remind you that a good plot can take you anywhere. And did I mention it’s exciting, and impossible to put down?

Summary25537679

As one of the last Untamed humans left in the world, Seven’s life has always been controlled by tight rules. Stay away from the Enhanced. Don’t question your leader. And, most importantly, never switch sides–because once you’re Enhanced there’s no going back. Even if you have become the perfect human being.

But after a disastrous raid on an Enhanced city, Seven soon finds herself in her enemy’s power. Realizing it’s only a matter of time before she too develops a taste for the chemical augmenters responsible for the erosion of humanity, Seven knows she must act quickly if she’s to escape and save her family from the same fate.

Yet, as one of the most powerful Seers that the Untamed and Enhanced have ever known, Seven quickly discovers that she alone holds the key to the survival of only one race. But things aren’t clear-cut anymore, and with Seven now questioning the very beliefs she was raised on, she knows she has an important choice to make. One that has two very different outcomes.

Seven must choose wisely whose side she joins, for the War of Humanity is underway, and Death never takes kindly to traitors.

The novel throws you right into the action, even from the first line. We follow Seven, a young woman who lives in this dark future where most of the population is addicted to mood enhancing drugs. The drugs, or Augmenters, can also make you more beautiful, stronger, faster, smarter… at the cost of your humanity. You feel no negative emotions, and your eyes glaze over with a mirror-like sheen. Those who are augmenter free live in constant fear of being converted, and are called Untamed.

After Seven is captured and then saved from the Enhanced, her life is constantly torn between the two camps. She’s addicted, to put it mildly. This makes her a fascinating character, as she tries to make the right decisions for her camp, while at the same time craving something she knows she mustn’t have.

The world that Dyer has created is just so dang fascinating. It’s a world in which not only we have these two opposing forces, but spirits are loose as well. Spirits that can influence Seven’s visions, or physically hinder the gang as they try to escape the clutches of the Enhanced. It’s pretty brilliant the way the author intertwines reality with these spirits, making you wonder just how they came into being and why they hold so much importance.

But I have to say what sol me on this novel was really the author’s effortless style. It’s perfect, making it easy to get sucked into the story and yet impossible to put down. I found myself eagerly turning the pages until I was outraged that there were none left to turn. The plot could easily have come off as being something seen before, but instead I felt like I was reading something entirely new, which plot twists I definitely did not see coming.

If you need a kick-butt story with amazing characters and outstanding world building, pick up a copy of Untamed. You deserve it.

The Dark Side

By Anthony O’Neill
Reviewed by SA

Give me a fantastic Sci Fi any day, and I wont be able to move until I’ve finished reading it. With The Dark Side, I physically could not put it down, or else I would be stuck thinking about it every second until it was in my hands again. This book was gripping, thrilling, clever, and even funny, with such amazing science that I was completely engrossed from page one.

Summary27276286

In this dark and gripping sci-fi noir, an exiled police detective arrives at a lunar penal colony just as a psychotic android begins a murderous odyssey across the far side of the moon.

Purgatory is the lawless moon colony of eccentric billionaire, Fletcher Brass: a mecca for war criminals, murderers, sex fiends, and adventurous tourists. You can’t find better drugs, cheaper plastic surgery, or a more ominous travel advisory anywhere in the universe. But trouble is brewing in Brass’s black-market heaven. When an exiled cop arrives in this wild new frontier, he immediately finds himself investigating a string of ruthless assassinations in which Brass himself—and his equally ambitious daughter—are the chief suspects.

Meanwhile, two-thousand kilometers away, an amnesiac android, Leonardo Black, rampages across the lunar surface. Programmed with only the notorious “Brass Code”—a compendium of corporate laws that would make Ayn Rand blush—Black has only one goal in mind: to find Purgatory and conquer it.

The name Anthony O’Neill is going to soon become synonymous with impeccable world building. This author evokes a rich, complex world that follows the laws of science themselves. As a science geek, I absolutely loved how he infused the novel with the small details: like the large rain you would get in a humid hab on a rock where the gravity is so much lighter. Or the beautiful dust clouds created where the night meets day on the moon’s surface. Those beautiful, evocative details create a believable world you could almost imagine being in.

Not only that, but before each encounter with Leonardo Black, the Android walking the moon just to follow a set of programmed motivationals, the author details the life of the character who’s about to come into play. He shows us what it’s like back on earth, what it is to be a criminal in this near future. What line of thought can bring a person to live on the moon. The complexity of his background characters is astounding, and I honestly think he could write an entire book about each of them.

I myself could have read an entire book about Leonardo Black. This android was hilarious, even in his murderous rampage. His Brass code sounds like something out of the mouth of Donald Trump or Ann Rand. For example, he literally cannot spell surrender. He is motivated by a need to “Find Oz” and “become the wizard.” He’s a psycho, and yet he was my favorite character.

The main plot revolves around an Exiled cop, detective Justus, who’s trying to stop a wave of murders int he city of Purgatory. At first, I didn’t see how this storyline met  with that of Leonardo Black, but it all came together in the end in a really creative way. I loved how it felt like a noir detective novel from the 1950s, only set on the moon in a scientifically accurate future.

This book was pure FUN. I loved it. Think “The Martian” crossed over with a 1950s Noir novel. Fun for fans of thrillers and science fiction alike!

This novel comes out June 28th from Simon & Schuster.

The God Virus

by Indigo Voyager 
Reviewed by SA
It’s Self Published saturday! Today, we’ve got an awesome scifi novel from Indie Author Indigo Voyager: The God Virus. What a fascinating novel: pure science fiction at every level. I can’t think of a novel that works its way through every consequence of a premise like this one does. It’s so detailed, complex, and has fantastic characters you’ll love to follow.

Summary29498286

Infected by a DNA-altering virus, Derek and Alessandra develop strange and unnerving superpowers that challenge everything they thought they knew about the world ― allowing them to amass a fortune.

As they fall in love, they battle ruthless criminal mobs bent on harvesting the virus from their brains and intelligence agencies that try to enslave them.

When Derek signs up for an experimental drug treatment, he never expects to have his entire DNA changed. Soon, he’s able to experience out of body travels, and begins to develop abilities that stretch far beyond what is normal. Heck, he isn’t even human anymore…

After Allie contracts these same changes from him, the two of them are suddenly the only two people of their kind, and they’re hunted by everyone who wants to get their hands on this human enhancing ‘drug’. No one is safe: not Derek or Allie, nor their families, their friends… as the two fall in love with each other, they must fight the mob and angry governments in order to keep themselves, and everyone they love, safe from harm.

I can’t decide what I liked best about this book. As a scifi nerd, I absolutely the science behind it all. There was just so much in this book, and small, real sources and facts to back it all up. Do you remember the movie ‘Lucy’? This is how that movie could have succeeded. Humans outgrowing their humanity and becoming something more: backed by (somewhat feasible) science, and a thrilling plot that has you caring for them all the way through, urging them to succeed.

What marked me was, even as Derek and Allie stop being human, they never lose their humanity. They care so much about their families. This determination not only to care for their own, but to make the world a better place along the way, makes them incredibly likable. As they grow into their new abilities, they’re supportive of each other, and work through the hard times together. It makes them both relatable and lovable.

Surprisingly, all the ‘background’ characters have so much depth as well. From the mobster grandfather to the Hawaiian boyfriend, everyone has an intricate story to tell. When they were in trouble, you want to save them as quick as possible; while, when they were happy, you feel energized and excited for them.

The novel also deals with questions such as parallel universes and timelines; building and creating a society or civilization; making big bucks with stocks; Souls and Spirit Realms; and the Russian mob, too. As you can tell, there’s a whole lot going on!

All in all, if you need a good, complex science fiction novel, then you’re going to want to read The God Virus. It’s a fantastic, thrilling story which is incredibly memorable. Scifi fans everywhere are going to want to read more!

Purchase it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/God-Virus-Indigo-Adventures-Book-ebook/dp/B01CPM6R5M

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Moxyland

by Lauren Beukes
Reviewed by SA

Prepare yourselves for an insane thrill ride, not for the feint of heart. This novel is everything a science fiction novel should be an more, and you’re going to fall in love with Beukes’s writing. And you’ll probably come out hating humans, but we all need a good dose of that from time to time.

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A frighteningly persuasive, high-tech fable, this novel follows the lives of four narrators living in an alternative futuristic Cape Town, South Africa. Kendra, an art-school dropout, brands herself for a nanotech marketing program; Lerato, an ambitious AIDS baby, plots to defect from her corporate employers; Tendeka, a hot-headed activist, is becoming increasingly rabid; and Toby, a roguish blogger, discovers that the video games he plays for cash are much more than they seem. On a collision course that will rewire their lives, this story crackles with bold and infectious ideas, connecting a ruthless corporate-apartheid government with video games, biotech attack dogs, slippery online identities, a township soccer school, shocking cell phones, addictive branding, and genetically modified art. Taking hedonistic trends in society to their ultimate conclusions, this tale paints anything but a forecasted utopia, satirically undermining the reified idea of progress as society’s white knight.

Moxyland is very character driven. All four characters live in South Africa, and their lives all intersect and their paths cross in interesting ways. And each of them are just so incredibly relatable: they’re all a little hot-headed, maybe entitled, self absorbed, and cynical about the world they live in. Whether they like it or not, they all have an important role to play.

We have Kendra, the artist, who’s trying to be independent: she joins a nanotech research program/marketing scheme, which will change her life forever. There’s Lerato, who’s trying to climb the corporate ladder while still hating the corporations. Ten, a activist who slowly begins to cross the line into terrorism, and Toby, a gamer and blogger who just wants to live his comfortable lifestyle. They all have different views of the world they live in, many too comfortable to do anything to change it, while others may try and do too much. it can all end in tears.

The future that Burkes imagines for South Africa is a very plausible one. Everyone is very dependent on their smart phone, as it carries their identity, their bank account, and will even be used in riot control or police arrests. Losing your phone is being tossed out of society. This, and other cool technologies I won’t spoil for you, made so much sense for the world of tomorrow.

The plot itself is a little complicated to get into at first, to see how everyone fits together, but it grows until a climax that is absolutely heart stopping. Seriously, I could not put this book down. It was so exciting, and terrifying… but no, no spoilers!

The novel is also a bit of a social commentary on us (well, a lot of a social commentary), about the power of consumerism and corporations, about complacency, about giving up our freedoms for perceived comfort. It’s not exactly eye opening, but still an amazing study. It kind of makes you hate us current humans.

For fans of Snow Crash, and cyberpunk, who love classics like Brave New World. This book will leave you breathless.

A new paperback edition comes out 16 Aug 2016 from Mulholland Books.

 

The Secret King: Lethao – New Goodies!

Not too long ago we reviewed this fantastic, self published novel. Now it’s time to share with you some great news:

THE BOOK IS FREE UNTIL THE 31ST!512borfpclzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

The secret King Lethao is the first book book of the epic SciFi adventure. Book one takes you on an epic journey as the Aonise rush to flee their planet before it implodes. But their journey to planet Earth is far from smooth. Treachery, secrets, danger and battles all make for one exciting novel.

The Secret King is free to download for just two more days. So get your copy now. Leave Reality and step in the another world.

On mybook, Facebook.

Their website is awesome, too. Lots of amazing goodies! Plus access to the Aonise dictionary.

The Audio books are just about to launch as well, so get excited! Enjoy!

Dissolution

by Lee S. Hawke
Reviewed by SA

Ah, Self Published Saturday! The day we here at Readcommendations celebrate amazing self published books that deserve a place on your bookshelf. And I have read a lot of self pubbed books this month, let me tell you! Yet none of them stood out to me as much as Dissolution, a brilliant (YA) science fiction novel which will have your mind in knots for days.

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What would you sell yourself for?

Madeline knows. She’s spent the last eighteen years impatiently waiting for her Auctioning so she can sell herself to MERCE Solutions Limited for a hundred thousand credits. But when the Auctioneer fails to call her and two suits show up at her doorstep, Madeline discovers there are far worse bargains to be made.

So when your loved ones are in danger, there’s a bounty on your head and your entire city might turn out to be a lie… what would you sell yourself for?

The future Madeline lives in isn’t a bright one. Toxic rivers, arid deserts: the world beyond the wall is beyond hope of saving. But her city, Unilox, seems to be a beacon of life and hope, minus the freedom. You see, the city is run entirely by corporations, and being a citizen means being a part of one of them. Not just as an employee… but as a purchased product what belongs to them. At 18, gaining citizenship means being auctioned off, and having your contract purchased by any one of these corporations. Your life belongs to them, and they decide your value.

But it’s a system that works. Everyone gets along swimmingly in this future: there are incredibly high tech body augmentations available to everyone, which allow you to have bionic eyes, or to have  tastes fed to your brain which make the nutrient mush you eat taste like anything you want. People are healthy, and happy. The problem is that they all wear collars.

Madeline belongs to ANRON, the medical corporation. They run tests on everything, and her own parents have payed the cost with their own health, being experimental themselves. Madeline wants to be purchased by MERCE, the tech industry, but when she isn’t even called up at the auction, her hopes of reaching her dreams are shattered. When she learns that ANRON never intended to give up her license, and they would rather have her on a metal slab to slice her open, she must make a daring escape to fight for her freedom in a world where only a handful are truly free.

Hawke creates an amazing world for us to fall into. The world of people as products and human auctions almost feels real, and somehow completely believable. From the first page we’re pulled into Unilox, and we’re rooting for Madeline as she nervously prepares to be sold at auction. Yup, we’re excited for her.

At first glance, you might think this looks like the ‘usual’ YA, but I’m here to tell you that it’s much much more. For one, you don’t have a silly love triangle getting in the way of the plot. Madeline’s relationship with Jake is something that both drives her and motivates her, and it’s healthy and heartbreaking. Honestly it was refreshing to read! Even though it broke me in the end…

The plot is also intensely gripping. Madeline’s only goal is to survive, and this leads her to discover the true workings of her city, and realize that it’s not right. We can’t help but cheer for her when she realizes what we’ve known from the start: that people are not products, and that companies may have the same rights as a human being, but they are only as strong as the people who make them up. But this makes the read even more enjoyable: a clear goal, a world bent on catching her, Madeline’s plight is something we can latch on to.

As a matter of fact, I would only call this YA because of the age of the protagonist (18). It is so much better than those ‘trendy’ books out there! The plot is rich and exciting. The protagonist is relatable and you want to root for her.  And the ending absolutely destroyed me, making me feel like I’ve been ripped apart. It is such a brilliant way to shut the book. And now I’m stuck here, with feels.

Trust me on this:  you won’t read another book like Dissolution. Pick it up on amazon STAT!

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DEGTLGK
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/dissolution/id1096943300?mt=11

Gravitas: Valkyrie in the Forbidden Zone

by Lynne Murray

Reviewed by SA

It’s self published Saturday! What, it’s not the last Saturday of the month, you say? Well, I have been having such a great time reading amazing self published novels that I’m going to try to now do TWO self published Saturdays a month! (let’s see if I can pull this off!)

This month, I’ve had the pleasure of reading Gravitas: Valkyrie in the Forbidden Zone, an amazingly fun science fiction novel full of powerful women, angry warriors, and humans who’ll believe just about anything you tell them too. Fast paced and clever beyond belief, this book will have you wishing for more, begging for great science fiction novels like this one to fill your afternoons.

Summary

An urgent mission.
A woman with a past.
A dangerous burden.
Sybil, from Planet Valkyrie, carries a risky amount of Gravitas, a top secret aphrodisiac, to trade at a conference on ending slavery in her sector of the galaxy. Attacked by an angry warrior from slave-holding Planet Roggr, Sybil falls through an unmarked portal to land on Earth. The Forbidden Zone. Rescue is impossible. Portals to Earth are sealed. Sybil needs to defend herself, protect her hazardous cargo, and find a way home–while dealing with a damaging overdose of Gravitas.

In a remarkably unique take on the “Lost on Earth” scenario, we follow Sybil, a diplomat from Walkyrie, accidentally stuck on earth with no way home,  and it’s more than just a phone call away. Earth is in the forbidden zone, a planet that she should never be allowed to even get near to, after all those alien races came and influenced ours to worship them. To make matters worse, she’s carrying a very strong aphrodisiac in a necklace around her neck, and it’s driving her insane; she’s got her personal demons on call, and they have a lot to say; her long lost husband – the first one, while her three others are safe at home – has just reappeared in her life, and seems to know a whole lot about earth culture; and she’s being stalked but a lustful, obsessed warrior. To top it all off, Earth people don’t seem to take too kindly to big, powerful women. Sybil must navigate this strange planet, while avoiding getting stuck in the middle of feuding warriors, in order to get back home safely.

I think what really got me loving this novel was how the unusual plot just worked so well. All the elements mesh together in a tapestry of creative storytelling: starting off in media res with an exciting, somewhat confusing beginning, which allows you to get your bearings in this new book just as Sybill does on this new planet, then moving backwards to understand where this woman has just come from, then moving forward again while keeping certain elements hidden until later, the author manages to keep you gripped in the story by keeping everything quickly paced, and by making you care about the characters she has created.

Sybill is a powerful woman: there is no doubt about that. She comes from a Matriarchal society, has three husbands (not including the ex), can carry vast amounts of Gravitas, is well respected and given important responsibilities. Not to mention she is gorgeous: though Walkyrie tends to favor the larger woman, and, sadly enough, that doesn’t translate well to earth. She is strong, smart, and can hold her own in any situation. Not to mention she even manages to empower women on earth, though I will not spoil anything. I found Sybil wonderfully written, relatable even though she is alien.

The premise us unusual, the characters uncommon; it’s fun, it’s funny, with great moments which hit the science fiction high note. It was good to laugh so much.  I think my favorite aspect of this novel was the way the author incorporated alien tourism into world religions. It was incredibly funny to see how certain alien races, alien mannerisms, physical appearance, names, and multiple appendages could have influenced the birth of many religions around the world. Cultural heritage and practices somehow evolving from interaction with beings from another world? Something you hear a lot about in “Ancient Aliens,” maybe, but never tackled with such fun. It was clever to have THAT be the reason that aliens do not visit us anymore: humans are TOO kind, too prone to manipulation, even if it is accidental. Loved it.

The ending I found spot on; I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was a beautifully written scene. I don’t want to say much here, seeing as how I don’t want to spoil it, but it had me close the book with a smile on my face.

So if you’re looking for some fantastic science fiction, the classic great premise but with a modern, fresh take, you are going to absolutely love Gravitas. You can find it on Amazon, in epub and in paperback.

Check out more from Lynne Murray:

http://www.lmurray.com

http://lynnemurray.blogspot.com/

Zero World

by Jason M. Hough

Reviewed by SA

I didn’t think I’d find another thrilling science fiction book this summer, but I was proven wrong the second I picked up this amazing novel. Thrilling, intriguing, smart and most of all, fun, this novel rocketed up high on the list of my favorite books of 2015. There’s so much to love about this novel, and if you’re looking for one last book to read this summer, make sure it’s Zero World.

Summary – From Goodreads

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike any he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that seems to be Earth’s twin.
 
Peter discovers that this mirrored world is indeed different from his home, and far more dangerous. Cut off from all support, and with only days to complete his operation, Peter must track his quarry alone on an alien world. But he’s unprepared for what awaits on the planet’s surface, where his skills will be put to the ultimate test—and everything he knows about the universe will be challenged in ways he never could have imagined.

The basic premise of the novel – if it can even be called basic – is what really got me. I hadn’t read the blurb before picking up the book, so it started off as a particularly well written novel about an assassin whose memories are wiped after every mission. Already pretty cool. But only a chapter or two in, they send you into space. Then the author ads the extra dimension of a TWIN EARTH. And then… then it becomes much more. I was, in a word, captivated.

I seriously could not put this book down: I wanted to know everything, about this new world, about the mission. So much happens in such a small amount of time! There’s no time for the novel to slow down, it keeps going strong, against the clock, forcing Peter to push himself to his limits. It’s so fast paced you’ll need running shoes to keep up.

It’s amazing that in such a fast, action packed novel, there is still room for character development. Peter begins as a hardened assassin, but as details of his mission start to change, he does too. It’s almost as if he is an entirely different man from one minute to the next, and the man at the end of the novel is not the man we met at the very start.

Melni, the woman from the alternate earth, is an amazing woman, and develops alongside Peter during the course of this story. She too begins hardened and focused, and in the end, her focus has shifted to a much larger scope than she had started with… though I won’t give you any spoilers there. She is an outcast in this world, but also a talented spy, with firm conviction and amazing skill. I liked moving to her perspective, have her view of Peter to balance with Peter’s view of her world. It was fantastic writing, as you would really tell the difference between whose mind you were in.

The relationship between the two of them just works. There’s a chemistry there – nothing sexual – just a great match and great teamwork. While Peter and Melni didn’t always see eye to eye, they managed to plan (which Peter hates) and get the job done. I am so glad to have read a great book without a weird love story to set it off balance: their relationship only served to add balance to the novel.

But my favorite thins about Zero World isn’t the plot or the characters – as awesome as they are – but the world building. My gosh! Creating this alternate Earth, a new history, with depth, huge events, small events, thinking all the way down to clothes and architecture, even considering the ethnic diversity of the population, and the discrimination! A work of art. The language, however bugged me – why are “shoes” now called “Treadmellows” but “boots” are still boots? It probably shouldn’t bother me, it’s such a small detail. But with all the attention everywhere else, it made me laugh just a little bit.

Now this book also comes with an entire novella, which is awesome as well. But reading on kindle, I was at 75% when the novel ended – I was shocked! I thought it had more to go! I think i even yelled at the book for ending too soon. I may be greedy, but I was more! I’m very excited for the sequel, which I hope comes out soon.

Zero World comes out August 18th. Be sure to pick it up – though I know you’ll never put it down.

On another note, the reason we didn’t write last week was because we both decided to take a week off and spend time with out families. Happy summer everyone!