Tag Archives: science fiction

Featured Creator – Starla Huchton

I’ve decided that in the new year I’d like to feature a creator a week on this here blog. Basically, that’s me taking a few minutes to tell you about someone I know and whose work I enjoy. They could be artists, writers, musicians, programmers, or any number of other callings who put things they’ve made out there in the world for us all to see.

SH Banner

For me, a sign of a good author is one who can bring new eyeballs into their genre. To do that, and to be prolific in multiple genres, is another sign. Add to that, talent in designing covers and in voice acting and you have a person like Starla Huchton.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her for several years now, through podcasting and Balticon. She has a growing legion of loyal fans, and if the last two books of hers are any indication, I’ll be joining that army soon and very soon. Her characters are very well developed and she has a penchant for taking tropes you’re familiar with and flipping them around or tweaking them in a way that gives them life.

The other thing I appreciate about her is more as a business person than a creator. She approaches her multiple crafts in a way I wish more independent authors would. Everything she does is to serve the product. She puts out the highest quality books she can, from cover to concept to completion. Her attention to detail and consistent output are as important to her success as the joy her books bring to her fans.

Finally, Starla believes in giving back to her community. Every time I’ve approached her with a question or a comment, she doesn’t hesitate to help in any way she can. I think she knows this creative life isn’t a competition.

If you’re looking for a new book series to read, she’s got one you’ll probably enjoy. You can find her in these spots:


Review – Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan by Zig Zag Claybourne (Review)

leviathan Every once in a while, I’ll see a tweet or a Facebook post talking about a new author. Usually, I don’t pay too much mind to those. Much of it depends on the source and the rest on how much social media fatigue I’m feeling. One such day in May, my good friend Dave Robison recommended this fellow named Zig Zag Claybourne. Well, I don’t care how tired I am, I follow very nearly anyone Dave recommends. I’m glad I did. Because I read this book.

ADVENTURE… just got 35% cooler. Milo Jetstream. Ramses Jetstream. Coming to save the world one last damn time against the False Prophet Buford in the battle to save the Earth, preserve the soul, and make sure folks get home in one piece…

Secret cabals. Fae folk in Walmart. And the whale that was poured into the oceans when the world first cooled from creation.

Adventure doesn’t need a new name. It needs a vacation.

The Goods – Do you like Buckaroo Banzai? If you don’t, and it isn’t out of ignorance, then you can stop reading here. If you do, let me say that without question (because I both picked up on it and confirmed with Double Z), this book was inspired by it and if you do, then again you might just stop reading here and skip down to the BUY ME links. If you’re still reading then you want more info.

The adventure and weirdness starts from the first few pages and rarely lets up. This book and everything in it are absurdly, ridiculously fun. That’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. But angels who love sexy times, a group of stalwarts called the Battle Ready Bastards, sentient whales, vampires (who secretly run Hollywood), and Atlantidieans are begging you to read this. The universe he’s created are full of creatures and mythology that he has made his own and it is HUGE.

One of the things that I’m going to put in both The Goods and The Bads is this – you feel like you’ve been dropped into the middle of the most interesting, odd, and action packed series that you’ve run across. This is very much like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. There is no prequel. There is a promised sequel. There is no primer. You have to figure out some things as the book motors along. Other things may well leave you scratching your head. In this sense, it also reminds me a little like Hitchhikers Guide.

The characters in this book are clever and interesting and as varied as you could possibly ask for. I love the rich soup of people that Double Z has created here. I end up caring more about some of the side characters than I do about the titular brothers, if for no other reason than they never felt like they were in danger. As forces of nature, who do have a human side, they were more iconic than the rest. Still, I loved them. The wit and banter between them made me laugh many, MANY times.

The Bads – If you haven’t gotten it by now, I love this book. Now, that’s not to say it doesn’t have flaws. As I mentioned, you are dropped in the middle of things, and Double Z doesn’t spell things out (very often). For me this is a good thing. It distracted only once or twice, but I kept going. Some people are not going to dig this.

There are a LOT of characters and a crap ton of stuff is going on. This leads to things getting muddy as hell in the third act. I kept going and the waters cleared and I was rewarded for my efforts. For the muddiness of the water I’m only dinging this a half star, because it remains so fun all the way through. It was that fun and adventure that kept the bog from being a slog.

Really that’s it. This book is a big hit with me. There is another book coming out. I don’t know when, but I will be keeping my peepers pealed.

I give this story four and a half out of five krakens.

Author’s Site

The Swimming Nun

This story was inspired by the first photo on this post – http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/unexplainable-stock-photos. I’m not sure if I have the rights necesary to post the picture here. But that’s okay, I think it stands by itself. Enjoy!

Sister Gertrude stood on the edge of the thousand mile long “pier”. The Archdiocese had chosen her as part of the first contact group with the race detected only recently on mankind’s first successful interstellar colonization. Pope Justinius declared that the so called “Neo-Atlanteans” had souls, and they needed someone from the Church present to make it official. Why they had chosen a nun instead of a priest she could only speculate.

Gertrude couldn’t help but picture herself in a habit, hands clasped and speaking to the fish as if she were in a children’s book. Instead she wore a monstrous dive suit that was really more like a small submarine. They group of five people present all wore similar getups. The Neo-Atlanteans couldn’t survive at a depth of less than four thousand feet. Current technology would allow them to survive at a depth that the fish people found pleasant. One error at that depth meant nearly instant death.

At the captain’s signal they jumped off of the pier and into the cold and murky water below.

“Everything all right there, sister?” Captain Harris’ voice came on over her communications channel.

“Yes, Captain.” She made her voice as strong as she could. Thankfully she needn’t worry about piloting her suit. They were slaved together and moved as a school of fish would.

Science office Awani’s soothing alto broke in. “Captain, we’re picking up NAs at the right depth. They’re holding. We should be there within the hour. All suit systems are in the green.”

Gertrude brought up a display that would give her a more meaningful view than the darkness outside her face plate. They were eschewing any kind of lights since their new friends were sensitive to anything in the visible spectrum. The passive sonar gave her little more information. Unlike Earth’s seas, the ones here contained little life for the first thousand feet that was visible to the naked eye. A rich soup of plankton and other microscopic creatures was it. Knowing that there was nothing out there comforted her. The over active imagination granted her by God made her envision all sorts of things that didn’t exist on this planet or anywhere else.

“Something coming up on the active sonar, Captain. It’s huge.” Security Officer Chovanec’s voice wasn’t panicked. SOs didn’t panic. They had a reputation for stoicism that was legendary. Still, those last two words held something other than information.

She “looked” down with her own systems and saw that he was right. A mass, a singular mass and not a group of creatures, rose towards them. She had the luxury of fear, but she didn’t let it paralyze her. She prayed even as those around her went into action.

“Abort. Abort. Nautilus V this is Captain Harris. I am authorizing a full abort of this mission.”

“Roger, Captain. This is Nautilus V. We concur. Unidentified biomass will overtake your position in three minutes. Activating emergency boosters. We are bringing you out of the water and you will rendezvous with air support.”

Gertrude saw the engines on her companions’ suits come to life. She knew that they would be out of the water in less than two minutes. When she didn’t feel her own suit vibrate with unleashed power she was confused. Then the systems lights on her display all went red.

“Sister. We’re having a problem activating your thrusters. We’ll have it figured out in no time. Hold tight.”

She nearly laughed. As though there were anything else she could do? “Roger, Nautilus V. Holding tight.” She looked down into the blackness below. She could sense no movement or lights of any kind. She took a moment and adjusted the sonar and then in a moment of inspiration she turned on her hydrophones. At first there was nothing but a hiss. Then alien music, more beautiful than anything she’d ever heard, played through the speakers. She was filled with a bliss only rivaled by that when she received her calling. Here truly was a manifestation of God’s heavenly choir, found under an alien sea and originating from a creature of unimaginable size.

Her fingers moved of their own accord and her suit descended rapidly. She needed to experience more of this song. When the call came from the Nautilus it went unheard. Her own voice, echoing the alien song, filled her helmet and the creature enveloped her entirely in its bulk.

Interview With Matt Wallace (Three Questions)

I’ve had the pleasure of reading the first book in Matt Wallace’s Slinger series and I’ll be reviewing that later this week. Until then, I wanted to share three questions that I asked him. (This may become a new thing “Three Questions With Xxxx”. If you enjoy these let me know.)

The book is available here. He’s using his expertise as a combat trainer, pro-wrestler, and sharp writer to weave an action packed narrative.

Meet Nico. He’s currently falling 30,000 feet above the city of Hanoi to his death while the entire world watches.

And they can’t wait to see him hit the ground.

Welcome to Sling City, an arena in space where Judokas, sumo wrestlers, football stars, and stick fighters compete in the global combat sport of the future. Sling City is more than a stadium, it’s an entire microcosmic world filled with its own cultures, traditions, wars, and secrets. Some of those secrets are about to get out, and while all eyes watch the action-packed struggle of The Games take place, the men and women who compete in those games will have to unravel a disturbing mystery that’s cropped up at the heart of the home where they live, work, play… and die.

SLINGERS is the beginning of an exciting new five-part ebook series from the author of THE FAILED CITIES and SUNDAE.

1) There are book series, tv shows, and a ton of other serialized fiction out there. Some of them are obviously tightly plotted beginning to end. Others are clearly “pantsed”. Of the books that you have scheduled to release for this series, are they all already written/edited?

Oh, hell no. I had most of the first and second parts written when I decided to do the series, but beyond that I knew I’d write and evolve the story as this thing went along. It’s the same way I did THE FAILED CITIES years back, and I hadn’t attempted anything like it since then.

2) I love serialized fiction. If its well done then no matter whether it’s a week, a month, or even a year or more in the case of some movies, I don’t mind waiting. What made you decide to release these books as multiple parts and how do you are you planning to “keep” your audience in between releases? (Also if you have a release schedule beyond the next one coming out on April 2nd)

I started reading about “product funneling” last year. It’s a model that’s been very successful in the video game industry, but no one is really doing it with books yet (I stress “yet”). I’m trying to build each book so it leads the reader/consumer directly to the next one. Scott Pond and I design ads and previews for the next installment that go into each book. Between releases I use my social media and any podcast, website, or blog I can get on to pump the audience. The main hope is that the audience builds as the series builds.

After April I’ll be dropping a new book each month ’til June, when the series concludes.

3) Clearly you’ve drawn on your experience as a wrestler and martial arts trainer for this book. There’s a large part of this that’s science fiction. What sort of research did you do for the science fiction end of this piece?

I’m playing it fast and loose with wormhole theory in this one, but I’m comfortable with that. A lot of the science is just an extrapolation of technology we’re using today in drones and combat sports. The stuff I’m not as well-read on I intentionally choose to be vague about, which I prefer anyway. I’m trying to convey the experience of the characters, not the technology they use.

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Review – Vatican Assassin by Mike Luoma (Podcast)

VatAss2012 Today I’m reviewing Vatican Assassin, an audiobook/podcast novel by Mike Luoma. You can follow follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeLuoma.

Synopsis: Bernard Campion’s friends call him “BC”. Not that he has a lot of friends. You don’t make a lot of friends when you’re an assassin. His mission: eliminate the governor of Luna Prime, Meredith McEntyre. His bosses, The Office of Papal Operations: The OPO, tell him she’s been sympathizing with the enemy, the Universal Islamic Nation (UIN). His boss? BC works for the Pope.

It’s 2109, a time of war. BC is “officially” assigned as PR man to the Vatican Mission on Luna Prime, the major city on The Moon, as his cover. Just a mild mannered, young, twenty-something priest working for the New catholic Church on public relations. But he’s really a weapon pointed at the UIN by the NcC and their Earth based allies, the Universal Trade Zone, the UTZ.

Production: I believe Mike has experience in radio. His voice is excellent and the recording quality is good. He plays a little with the audio, using reverb and other audio effects to tweak the listener experience. Perhaps my one nitpick here is that when he has explosions or other onomatopoeias, he actually says them rather than using actual sound effects. With such a broad availability of free sound effects it would have been a better experience to use those.

Grade: B-

Cast: Mike voices all of the characters. For the most part they’re variations on his own voice and are reasonably consistent. The only problem is that when it comes to emoting, every character sounds “upbeat”. Mike also sounds like he’s reading the text more than acting it out. Finally, there are a number of places where it would have been good to add a brief pause between characters speaking. Because some character voices don’t change, there are times where it’s hard to know who’s speaking. It’s a bit like reading text with no paragraph breaks.

Grade: C

Story: There are some issues with the writing in this podcast novel. First, and this is mostly a stylistic preference, he writes in present tense. That can work to lend a sense of immediacy. I’ve seen it used to good effect, but here for some reason it doesn’t work for me. It also feels like he really wanted to write this in first person, since we get BC’s internal monologue. As it is it’s written in kind of a 3rd person limited.

My biggest beef with the story is that it’s listed as a science fiction adventure. There’s definitely a science fiction element, but I never got a sense of adventure. The story of an assassin, particularly one that’s being used by the Vatican in a war torn future, should be action packed. Approximately a third of this story is dedicated to his imprisonment and subsequent theologically based brainwashing. The few times there is action it feels glossed over. This is less James Bond or even Dan Brown than it needs to be.

There’s a fair amount of strong language, itself not something I ordinarily object to, but for some reason it was particularly jarring in the second half of the story.

Grade: C-

Verdict: I had a hard time making it all the way through this podcast. It wasn’t bad. I’ve certainly experienced far worse. There were times that I really wanted to put it down, but I kept hoping that it would live up to the potential that I felt it had. The last third had glimpses of that potential. I can’t really strongly recommend this.

Grade: C


Review – Enemy Lines (Podcast)

enemylinescover2 Today I’m reviewing Enemy Lines, an audiobook/podcast novel by John Mierau. His site can be found at http://johnmierau.wordpress.com/ or follow him on Twitter at JohnMierau. This is an EPIC bit of science fiction, both in terms of scope and length.

Synopsis: In the near future, an alliance forged by powerful men will challenge the US government for control of secret technology. As their machinations gear up, the true owners of that technology will face a challenge of their own, deep in the asteroid belt. At stake? The future of the human race. ENEMY LINES is a science fiction adventure about conspiracies, spies…and aliens… in a future where the lines aren’t as clear as you think.

Production: The recording quality is good. I noticed more than a few repeated lines. The intro music is a bit louder than the narration.

Grade: B-

Cast: John does the narration and character voices.

Grade: B

Story: I mentioned that this is a huge story. He’s released the first half of it in ebook form with Subversion and Infiltration. I believe that the final two books will be out sometime this year. It logs in at forty-five episodes that are somewhere around thirty minutes each. It’s packed with political intrigue, action, thought provoking characters, action, thrills, and have I mentioned action? All of that serves (mostly) to keep the story from getting bogged down with its multiple plot lines and points of view. I found John’s take on the typical gray alien tropes to be fascinating. I also enjoyed the concept of the Wrights, human’s who are using alien tech to help humanity.

There were a few character actions and incidents that made me raise an eyebrow. The didn’t interfere with my enjoyment. I say mostly above because there’s a lot going on here. As a result it may be easy to get lost. There were also a few things I was unclear on, particularly towards the end. That could easily be because my listening was broken up by other podcasts I listen to, so that may not be the books fault entirely.

Grade: A-

Verdict: This gets a solid recommendation from me, as do the rest of John’s podcast stories. His strength’s lie in building tension and creating interesting characters. There were also a few chuckles along the way.

Grade: B+

Review – Spirit Blade Podcast

Today I’m reviewing Spirit Blade by Paeter Frandsen.

Synopsis: In a future where the government mandates the spiritual beliefs of its citizens, only a few rebellious “Seekers of Truth” remain to free the world from deception.

On his quest for meaning, Merikk follows a path that leads him across our world, and into another. Against his will he is thrown into action alongside members of the Underground Liberation, standing face to face against forces human, alien and demonic. Science fiction and the supernatural collide in a genre-bending adventure! Open your mind and then brace for impact as you discover the power of the Spirit Blade!

The Spirit Blade Audio Book is a novel that serves as the source material for the scripts of the Spirit Blade Audio Drama Trilogy. This archived draft has been converted into an enhanced audio book format read by Paeter Frandsen and featuring sound effects and musical score from the “Spirit Blade” and “Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual” audio dramas!

Production: Absolutely stellar. This is, in my opinion, professional quality. The music and sound effects all add to the atmosphere.

Grade: A+

Cast: Paeter does all of the voice work, male and female. He truly acts it out. There’s also a fair amount of digital manipulation unless I miss my guess. This does lead to a few oddities, like one character who reminds me of Christian Bale’s Batman.

Grade: B+

Story: Paeter describes this as “Christian Science Fiction”. From his site:

[It] is simply science fiction with a Christian twist. The realms of sci-fi and fantasy have already been touched by classic writers of the Christian faith like John Bunyan, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Modern authors like Frank Peretti, Stephen R. Lawhead, the duo of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, along with several others, have also delved into worlds of Christian sci-fi and fantasy.

Sometimes these stories are allegorical. Other times they are more literal. They may take place in our future, an alternative past, or possibly in worlds and realities completely different and alien to our own. They may contain clear presentations of Biblical truth, or simply uphold the values and ideals of the Bible. But something of Christianity is always found in their depths.

Overall, I’d say that the writing is good, though perhaps not great. The story certainly entertained me. I did like his take on demons and how they might interact with the real/spiritual world. The story moved quickly (at times too quickly) and there was a great deal of action and a surprising amount of violence. I say surprising given the nature of this otherwise typical bit of Christian fiction. By that I mean, Paeter doesn’t use any swear words, pulling a BSG and making up his own. There’s also a lack of sexual situations. The characters are all a little two dimensional, especially the bad guys. I barely noticed that though as the action and pacing pulled me along.

Grade: B-/C+

Verdict: The best part about this book was the action and the production. It really immersed you into the world that Paeter created. If you’re a fan of the authors he mentions then you’ll likely get a kick out of this.

Grade: B+

Addendum: While I enjoyed this, I will say there are some things about it that made me ponder. This is one of those works of Christian fiction that both displays and disproves some things that bother me about the genre (if Christian Fic is really a genre per se).

For the former, this strikes me as something that only a Christian would listen to and enjoy. That bothers me a little since, as a writer who is a Christian, I believe we need to produce things that make it out of our little ghetto. The amount of “preachiness” is in places excessive. Does the book really need that considering its audience? There’s also that weird vibe I get from books that splash a fair amount of gore and violence around but won’t drop an F bomb (unless it’s “frell”) and won’t show a boob (not that sex is necessary, but it’s at least as human as violence). This isn’t limited to Christian lit, but we seem to fall prey to it most often.

For the latter, this proves that Christians can put out a quality, polished product. Much of what I’ve seen in our ‘verse suffers in that department. There’s also some grayness in some of the characters that one doesn’t often see in this slice of entertainment. Some of the good guys aren’t all that “good”. If Paeter had slowed the pace down some and developed some of the characters further that would have made for a more solid story.