“The Tacitan Legacy” by R.E. Weber: An Otherworldly Environment Sci-Fi Fans can Binge On

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5stars

This third volume of the “Star Agency ” series attains a new level of depth and complexity. While previous books focused more on “the seven” youth who were called to serve in the Star Agency, this one is saturated with intrigue, revealing many new facets of the universe into which they have been lured. The assassinations of numerous leaders through some mysterious means suggest that an ancient weapon has been recovered and put to an unexpected and heinous use.

Rebellion on the part of the H’th’hka has also brought a new level of chaos to the Affinity. The relationship between cultures and worlds as well as the agendas of certain leaders ramp up, the various characters introduced in previous volumes caught in the middle as challenging new responsibilities and situations are thrust upon them. Interdimensional beings and other mystical elements are introduced, adding to the otherworldly environment sci-fi fans thrive on.

This story was extremely well-written, its prose downright poetic in many scenes. The author did a fantastic job of deepening the story as well as the characters through situations which bring out a variety of unexpected yet credible reactions. This volume brings stronger and more intense emotional material that keeps you turning the pages.

Since it has been a couple years since I read the second book in the series, I could have used a few reminders on what the characters look like and so forth, but this is a common problem with serialized stories. Reading them one after the other is recommended to assure continuity, but this is often not possible when years elapse between their releases.  Since there are so many characters, a dramatis personnae to help keep them straight would be helpful, especially for those reflecting intergalactic cultures via unusual names and titles that are often similar enough to cause confusion regarding who reigns over what.

I look forward to the next volume which will undoubtedly continue the drama initiated in this one. It’s coming together like an elegant mosaic that still has various pieces missing. I recommend this series highly for science fiction fans of all ages who enjoy immersing themselves in worlds somewhere in a galaxy far, far away.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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“Gravity Waves” by Scott Skipper: Another Hilarious Addition to the “Alien Affairs” Series

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This is one of my very favorite series, ever, and this episode further confirmed that whatever science fiction sub-genre this happens to be, it’s what I’d choose if I had to, over just about anything else. I guess it could be called something like “snarky, politically incorrect, hard sci-fi” and I love it. It has technology and theoretical physics speculations to feed my nerdy, physicist brain; sarcasm that makes me wish I could be as witty; and snarky undertones to evoke hysterical laughter, such that my cat glares at me for disturbing her sleep when I’m reading in bed.

It was so much fun to get a glimpse of half-breed, Terrie Dreshler, now fully grown not only to adulthood, but middle age, to say nothing of her mother, Carrie Player, now an old lady, at least chronologically, and stepping into that role where she admonishes those around her for their every faux pas.

Every time Terrie called Deshler “Dad” I cracked up. I can just see this entire series as an uproarious sit-com that comprises a family where the father is a grey alien; the mother, human; and the daughter, well, mostly human, other than her eyes. It just gets better and better. Such a show could even beat out my two favorite sit-coms of all times, “Third Rock from the Sun” and “Alf.”

Situations involving interdimensional time travel sometimes left my head spinning with regard to when and where they were, but things sorted themselves out eventually. The new alien, Emelda, a towering Nordic wonder, was a great addition to the group. Her penchant for Uncle Eddy was hilarious, as well as her insisting repeatedly that Mars was still a “sh*thole”, in spite of  the earthlings’ innovative terraforming efforts. Then there’s Terrie’s renewed relationship with Marcus, which adds a touch of something bordering on romance. The inclusion of a character who was supposedly Elon Musk’s grandson, to say nothing of the involvement of SpaceX, tied the story into current events, which gave it even more credibility. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Terrie turn up on the news one of these days, or an equivalent of their electronic personal assistant, Casseopeia, in the local Wal-Mart.

While the author does a tremendous job of tying in events from previous books as reminders and plot gap fillers, I highly recommend reading this series from the start. The evolution of the absurd situation that started in Roswell in 1947 as well as the roles of this diverse cast of characters is priceless. Trust me when I say you don’t want to miss out on any of it.

Anything that can make me laugh is worth its weight in gold. I’ve already read the first book twice. These are definitely stories that I’ll read again and again, which is extremely unusual for me since I tend to have a very long To-Be-Read list. But who doesn’t go back to their favorite stories, whether it’s a two year old wanting mommy to read the same tale every night, or a great-grandma who’s found a series that couldn’t be more perfect if it were written expressly for me?

Keep ’em coming, Scott! I think the entire “Alien Affairs” series is nothing short of magnificent. (But be warned, you probably won’t agree if you think it’s important to be politically correct. It’s not, but some things just need to be said.)

You can get your copy from Smashwords, Amazon, or your favorite online retailer.

Sign up to Win an Autographed Copy of “The Terra Debacle”

lifechanging+ copySign up before October 30 for a chance to win one of three autographed copies of “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51” being given away through Goodreads. Details here.

 

 

NEW RELEASE from John Reinhard Dizon!

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If you love lots of action and strong characters be sure to check out John Reinhard Dizon’s latest, The Empire, a fast-moving sci-fi thriller. I had lots of fun designing the cover and plan to read it soon. Here’s the blurb:

Driven to the threshold of extinction, the human race has survived the destruction of the Solar System and found a New System to call home. Old rivalries surface, causing the Allied Federation of Alpha and the Terranean Alliance of Beta to take a stand against the Republic of Delta and the Scorpion Empire. A crisis results when Styrena Stone, the daughter of the President of Alpha, is kidnapped. The abductors demand that the Federation accepts a non-aggression pact allowing the Empire to conduct a campaign of terror throughout the System. Only a renegade captain commits an act of mutiny in turning an Imperial starship against Styrena’s captors. Federal agent Von Kilgore is sent to rescue Styrena, with the threat of war looming and the merciless Captain Grav Drachna standing in his path.

You can pick up a print copy on Amazon here or an ebook for 99c from Smashwords here. It will show up on other retailer sites soon. Don’t miss it!

Another FREE Book Blast! Including my latest, “The Terra Debacle”!

happy girl reading book by the window in winter

Looking to load up your Kindle or Tablet with a bunch of awesome FREE books? How about as many as 40 titles, all in speculative genres such as paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy? And the best of all, a chance to win a $50 gift card!

Now’s your chance to grab a copy of my latest, “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51” for FREE! And remember that author’s cherish good reviews, so be sure to show your appreciation by leaving one at your favorite retailer. Check it out here!

Happy Reading!!

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World UFO Day Flash Sale

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I can’t think of any better way to celebrate World UFO Day on July 9 than a flash sale of my latest release, The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51. Not only is it on sale for 99c, but A Dark of Endless Days, volume II of The Star Trails Tetralogy, is as well.

Why? Because that’s where The Terra Debacle began. Thus, if you haven’t read it yet, especially if you’re the type who’d like to get it all in context, you can grab that one, too, for a bargain price. (Note that since The Terra Debacle is a standalone book it’s not necessary, but it does fill in numerous blanks.)

So far, The Terra Debacle has been collecting great reviews. Here are some excerpts:

“Scintillating science and side-splitting humor.”

“Unique and titillating sci-fi entertainment.”

“Brilliantly conceived and finely crafted.”

“The research is profound and convincing.”

“Off-the-wall in a way similar to how Tom Robbins grabs the reader & shakes him.”

“A brilliant story, extremely well written and with great character development.”

“Easily comparable to a dark version of ET – The Extraterrestrial”

“Highly entertaining, suspenseful and thought-provoking”

“What an ending! What a story! I will always think differently about plant chloroplasts and bulbs in the future.”

And don’t miss the latest video, which gives you a glimpse of its darker side.

Happy reading! And remember: The truth is out there.

Book Descriptions on the Star Trails Website:

The Terra Debacle

A Dark of Endless Days

Buy Links:

The Terra Debacle

A Dark of Endless Days

The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51
Stock Photo Copyright:oorka / 123RF Stock Photo

N.J. Tanger’s “Ascension”: Masterfully Written Science Fiction

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This intriguing and suspense-filled tale intricately describes what it might take to reach an interstellar destination, both in the way of motivation as well as technology, to say nothing of the type of individuals who would assume such a feat.

Nathan Beauchamp, a member of the writing team known as N.J. Tanger, is the sole author of this episode in the Universe Eventual series which expands upon the workings of the interstellar vehicle, Chimera. The ship is designed to support a population comparable to a small city for years to come through hydroponics and other self-sufficiency techniques. It provides holographic scenery reminiscent of Earth; possesses a sophisticated power system; and includes a political structure drenched in intrigue.

The conspiratorial reason for leaving Earth is fascinating and smolders with much of what is seen in today’s corporatism-saturated world. Colonization is motivated by their destination’s rich deposits of ecomire, which I assume to be the next generation of uranium, i.e., it represents a powerful energy source rarely found elsewhere and motivates a power hungry (both literally and figuratively) corporation to finance the venture. Furthermore, they intend to maintain their tentacles in those making the journey through whatever means necessary. Some colonization efforts are about survival, others about profits, this one possessing elements of both.

New but intuitively familiar terminology provided a unique and convincing environment. For example, referring to the enforcement arm as “regulators” was cold and effective. The personal agenda of various characters provided plot complexity, but without over-populating the story. Yet, the massive dimensions of the ship, the number of those onboard, and their evolving culture and social strata were conveyed effectively. The main character, Ashley Samuelson, was credible and relatable, personalized further by the first person narrative point of view and the intimate details of his personal life and relationships, including a romantic one.

One of the most clever sci-fi elements serves as the mainstay of the plot and that is the means by which the Chimera is guided by its navigator with the support of a few assistants, one of which is Ashley. To travel through the esoteric, paranormal dimension described as “fractal space”, “stitches” are laid to form a connection between Earth and their ultimate destination through “The Everything”. Once this pathway is laid, other ships will traverse it more quickly, so the implication is that they are creating a wormhole. This is accomplished through the combined efforts of the navigator, who’s enclosed in a mysterious spherical work station, where he or she is psychically entangled with the ship’s artificial intelligence. This combination of thought energy provides the creative power to chart its course, stitch by stitch, an interesting play on the apparent consciousness/matter interface implied by quantum theory. Navigator assistants deal with resolving any paradoxes encountered along the way.

Not just anyone can perform this critical navigating function, so when their existing navigator dies unexpectedly of mysterious causes, it presents a significant threat, not only to their mission, but their very survival. The quest to find a new navigator combined with investigation into the death of the original one provides various provocative insights into the risks of AI as well as allowing it to interact with a human.

This complex tale is presented via a masterful style that demonstrates some of the most delicious prose I’ve seen. As a writer myself, I savored numerous vivid descriptions, such as a look of “distilled hatred”; “her angry, beautiful, treacherous eyes”; “stumbling my way into the truth”; “fear masqueraded as anger”; as well as several others.  I suppose the fact such jewels jumped out at me as exceptional descriptions could be considered throwing me out of the story, but for me it was in a good way. Some of the imagery was nearly blinding, which is not easily achieved without slowing down the story. However, the literary precision was such that the descriptions integrated with the action and increased the suspense, which made various scenes play out like a movie in my mind. The author’s skill itself made this tale a joy to read.

This story is part of the Universal Eventual series, yet stands alone. However, if you’ve read any of the other stories, it helps fill in a few of the gaps. It has been a while since I read Chimera and this makes me want to read it again. If you enjoy meaty hard science fiction with plenty of advanced technology and intrigue while maintaining a strong human element with philosophical implications as deep as you care to go, all of which is packaged with strong, skillful writing, I highly recommend this story.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Describing a Sci-Fi story as “Unbelievable” is NOT a Good Thing

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** Review of “Return of the Sagan” by Neil Patrick O’Donnell

I don’t enjoy giving a book a bad review. As an author myself, I know it hurts, unless someone has such an iron-clad ego that they don’t believe it and thus fail to heed what it’s saying. Thus, when I do so, I try to stick to the facts of what a book’s deficiencies are so the author knows what to fix. Of course any review will always have a high level of subjectivity, but I try to judge a book as fairly as possible, based on its merits.

This story got off to a good start and has tremendous potential to become an epic saga of a starship gone for 300 years and now returning to Earth, only to find the human population extinct. That’s a big story. The main character, anthropologist, Francis Burns (no relation to Frank Burns of M*A*S*H fame), is believable and endearing with his OCD and quirky obsession with Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was a nice affirmation for gender equality that men and women shared high military rank in the story. The names of the vessels were well-chosen and credible. Authors are always advised to “write what you know” and O’Donnell did a great job with OCD and the geography of the Niagara region as well as military jargon and protocol. Generally, I believe that the world of “fandom” would particularly enjoy this story and would make a good target audience.

However, there are numerous things that need to be fixed before this story can be taken seriously by true science fiction fans. It’s important to note that “fandom” comprises individuals who are very well-versed on details and to earn their loyalty and respect you’d better get the particulars right. Unfortunately, I would give an “F-“ to some elements in this story, which I’ll explain farther down.

I must say that I truly hope the author can take my comments as constructive criticism as opposed to bashing, which is not my intent. I believe this story deserves serious editing at the line, copy and content levels so it can become the great saga for which it holds promise. If I were its editor, here are some of the things I would suggest to bring it to its potential glory.

1. It’s best to open a story with the main character, not someone who will largely disappear or be absorbed. Furthermore, there were too many characters, especially in the beginning. They weren’t all faceless, but most didn’t have a distinct personality. Due to the scope of the story, several characters are justified, but they need to be humanized and developed to hold the reader’s interest.

2. The author’s writing style is reasonably good, almost to the point of what I would call “strong.” However, there are few relatively easy to fix stylistic issues that would result in considerable improvement. Probably the most noticeable would be to eliminate the repeated use of the POV character’s name. Interestingly enough, this didn’t occur until later in the story. It’s distracting for a name to be repeated a half-dozen times or more in a single paragraph, especially in places where the person in question is the only one involved. That’s why we have pronouns. If there are two people of the same gender involved in a scene, a reminder of who’s talking or doing what from time to time is useful, but effective pronoun use is essential to readability. You don’t want the reader thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I know it’s him already!” or, conversely, having to stop and reread a section to figure out who’s speaking or prevailing in a fight scene.

3. Typos are almost inevitable in any novel, my personal favorite in this tome being “zero-gravy” which would probably slip past a spell-checker, but some were grating such as the consistent use of the wrong homonym. One or two I can handle, but this was excessive. I’ve never seen so many. I suspect a good grammar checker would catch these since in most cases they represent an entirely different part of speech. For example:

solar flares, not flairs

waver in the limited light, not waiver

reigned in magnificence, not reined

soul was allowed to leave his care, not sole

waved Francis to take his seat, not waived

pour out of the satchel, not poor

higher branches, not hire branches

fell from the satchel right past Francis, not passed

4. The military jargon and procedures were convincing and came across with an air of authenticity. Good job there. However, the technical aspects were so far beyond feasible that it detracted from the rest of the story. One minor example is the use of paper onboard a starcruiser, which is beyond doubtful.

5. And speaking of a starcruiser, no matter how much of a conspiracy buff you might be with regard to UFOs, it would be more credible for the ET’s from Zeta-Reticuli to provide Earth with a ship with interstellar capability with the volume of three aircraft carriers than for us to suddenly acquire one, much less populate it with F-15E Strike Eagles. I would think that most people, particularly sci-fi fans, would know that these aircraft could not possibly fly in space. Just out of curiosity and as a detail-oriented person myself, I asked a friend who’s a former pilot about that. Here is what he said:

“The F-15 could not be controlled outside the atmosphere as the airplane’s control surfaces depend on air flow to cause changes in roll, pitch, and yaw.  Thrusters are required to maneuver in space.  If it had thrusters, I suspect that the structure would overheat and breakup during reentry.  Initial reentry mach is far higher and would generate far more heat than the F-15 materials could withstand.  The engines are air breathers and can’t burn the kerosene without oxygen.  Then there’s the little issue of gravity.  The fuel tanks, lubricating oil tanks, and hydraulic reservoirs depend on gravity to operate.  The pickup points are in the bottom of the tanks.  The fuel tanks have baffles to keep a small amount of fuel available for negative-G use.  The engines are okay with the oil on them for a short time and there is pressurized hydraulic fluid in the system. 

“The fighters and trainers that I flew were limited to 30 seconds negative-G or inverted flight.  Zero-G is not negative-G, I’m not sure if there would be any difference.  The F-15 cabin is pressurized to 5 psi above ambient at altitude.  (It is unpressurized to 8,000 feet, maintains 8,000 feet until it requires 5 psi, then maintains 5 psid.)  There should not be any issues with DCS if the pressurization were functioning but it won’t be because it uses bleed air off the jets and the jets won’t work in a vacuum.  Therefore, the crew is exposed to vacuum with probable deleterious results. Another issue: the generators are driven by the engines and if the engines aren’t turning you are down to battery power which will only power essential systems for a short duration.  The longer I think about this the more reasons I come with as to why the F-15 isn’t a spacecraft.”

 

Yes, there are readers who are acutely aware of such facts and inaccuracies of this magnitude detract from the story as a whole. It would be more credible to make up an entirely new craft (think X-wing or Tie fighters) than use one inappropriately. Even a mention of the aircraft being retrofitted would have helped, even though that would be extremely unlikely due to what it would entail.

6. Some plot angles, such as the potential for a conspiracy on the part of political figures, were dropped. If this will be developed in a sequel then that should be implied more clearly.

If I were to deduct one star for each of the above points, the book book have a negative rating. Of course all the work the author put into it is worth something and it did have some redeeming value, even though reading much of this book was downright painful. Nonetheless, I persisted to see how it would end, which was handled reasonably well and provided fertile ground for a sequel.

As noted earlier, the premise is interesting and has tremendous potential, but the execution left far too many shortcomings if you’re picky about the science being accurate and expect proper grammar and style that doesn’t keep tossing you out of the story, shaking your head. These issues require attention to pass muster with the ranks of true science fiction fans. Besides some good editing, a cadre of good beta readers are a valuable asset that I highly recommend.

If you’re so inclined, you can pick up a copy on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Return-Sagan-Neil-Patrick-ODonnell-ebook/dp/B00SP4BOZS/

Review of “The Star Agency Chronicles Book 2: The Voyages of the Seven”

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This second book in the “Star Agency Chronicles” series does a great job of expanding the cultures of the alien worlds to which “the seven” have been transported. In this story, they embark on specific journeys that resemble interstellar “sightseeing” in some respects and yet transform more to quests for others. The characters are further developed, at least some of them, as they meet the challenges thrust upon them inherent to their specific missions, greatly adding to the suspense and intrigue. Ruby’s situation is particularly fascinating and her evolution and growth especially well done. At this point, she is my favorite character. I love her spunk and courage coupled with emotional vulnerability, easily seen as a person who is hard on the outside yet soft on the inside.

The relationships between the various youth are credible and demonstrate nicely the complexity of teen emotions as they interact with each other, especially those of the opposite sex. Some have romantic possibilities while others are simply platonic. Jealousies arise as romantic interests are not reciprocated but directed elsewhere. The characters and their personalities are integrated nicely into the story, giving it more depth.

The aliens are definitely more enigmatic versus the first book, though I would have liked a few more reminders of what they look like. The interactions between the different alien worlds are further developed as well, introducing their various agendas that introduce numerous new plot twists, conflict and mystery in which the young characters are entangled.

I wish the author had not given two of the characters such similar names, i.e. Larissa and Lara, especially since Theo has taken to calling Larissa, Lari, which makes it even worse. The two are clearly different people, but it’s still slightly confusing, sometimes yanking me out of the story as I figure out which one is involved when all the characters are together. Maybe in the next volume one of them can acquire a nickname that will make each stand apart more clearly.

You’ve gotta love Lara, who shows signs of being slightly autistic, probably afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome. Her inability to filter what she says adds tension as well as raw honesty which adds to the interpersonal dynamics of this chosen group of youth. Larissa, though you see more of her in this story, is not nearly as well fleshed out as a character. A few of “the seven” have not gotten to “show their stuff” yet, which I assume will occur in the next book.

I give four stars to this entertaining and imaginative hard sci-fi series suitable and undoubtedly directed to teen and young adults.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Review of “The Star Agency” by R.E. Weber

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I thoroughly enjoyed this story about Theopolis James Logan’s grand adventure, which has barely begun, since this is the first book in a series. He’s a somewhat typical 13 year old, highly intelligent, a bit too outspoken for his own good, bored with school as the highly intelligent usually are, and generally disaffected by his life. Sound familiar? Whether you’re someone who has already survived the teen years or are dealing with them yourself, you will relate to Theo.

The suspense is well-sustained and keeps you turning the pages. The author has spun a great science fiction tale and created a vivid world. This story is a clean read with plenty of adventure and believable characters. While suitable for young readers, it’s an enjoyable “stress free” read for adults as well. However, remember this story is designed and targeted for younger readers, for whom it’s an excellent introduction to the world of sci-fi, but may not be what you’re looking for if you’re expecting a more sophisticated story/writing style populated with adult characters.

I appreciate the fact that the author stated that this book took years to write. I have to admit that I can truly relate to that, since mine did, too. To fully confess, I, too have written a young adult science fiction series and I believe that anyone who enjoys Weber’s story would enjoy my Star Trails Tetralogy and vice versa.

Pick up your copy of The Star Agency on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2aJcEjL

You can find my Star Trails Tetralogy Box Set on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1Sk1gpy