Book Review: Semper Audacia

Semper Audacia, Mary Pax, M Pax, Sci-Fi, novelSemper Audacia is the story of a warrior; the last of her kind, defending her home world via an orbital outpost.  The planet’s population too has dwindled and is just hanging on.  Their ancient foe attacks and the last guardian springs into action accompanied by a battalion of ghosts; the memories of her fallen comrades.

The odds are almost hopeless.  Almost.  She must try; it’s what she does, it’s what she is and has been all her life.  But then a wrinkle – the enemy battleship transmits a valid “friendly” code even as it’s powering up weapons.  If the enemy are finally responding to their pleas for peace, attacking the ship would fling her people back into eternal war.  If it’s a ruse, her people could be exterminated.  She chooses a decidedly unconventional solution.   Continue reading “Book Review: Semper Audacia”

Book Review: The Burning Sky

The Burning Sky was my very first encounter with a truly Steampunk novel.   I read it more out of curiosity about the genre than anything.  I’m glad I did, and I’m glad I chose this one as a starting point.  This is my review.

 

The Burning Sky novel, steampunk LewisThe Burning Sky, by Joseph Robert Lewis is the first book in the Halcyon Trilogy.  I found it to be the embodiment of the old writing adage that says: to create suspense, place your protagonists in a very bad situation, then make it worse.  The story starts out with a horrific act of terrorism sweeping up an uninvolved mechanic on an air ship and carrying her along throughout the story.  For most of the story, her plight and those of the characters that get rolled into the mix, get steadily worse.  Resolution is saved for the very end.

The story is a masterful weave of multiple story lines, all winding around the main plot, although we don’t learn what that is for quite some time.  However Mr. Lewis does not allow us to founder in confusion; each character’s contribution is quite interesting all on its own and the intrigue builds as they begin to coalesce and we start to make the connections.     Continue reading “Book Review: The Burning Sky”

Book Review: The Fountains of Paradise

Fountains of Paradise, review, book, sci-fi, A.C. ClarkeArthur C. Clarke’s 1979 Hugo and Nebula Award winning novel, The Fountains of Paradise is Science Fiction’s definitive novel about the “space elevator,” or “Skyhook”.  This concept enjoyed a brief period of enthusiastic interest among SF circles in the early 1980’s. The concept deals with an elevator (more like a monorail train car actually) that stretches from Earth’s surface to a space station in geosynchronous orbit, which would in turn serve as a construction, servicing  and  launching facility for ships voyaging to the moon, planets and even deep space.  A primary plus was eliminating the need for expensive, inefficient, and environmentally unfriendly rocket launches from the ground.  The whole idea seems incredible but is not outside the realm of engineering possibility.  Clarke makes a strong case for the feasibility of such an unconventional project within the context of a completely engrossing story set mostly in the 22nd century.   Continue reading “Book Review: The Fountains of Paradise”

Book Review: In Her Name – Empire

In Her Name, Empire, Michael HicksThis is a review of the eBook version of “In Her Name: Empire”; the first book of the In Her Name series written by Michael R. Hicks.

On a five-star scale, I’m giving this one four stars.  It probably deserves five stars, but I’m snatching one back simply because there were parts of it that made me, personally, uncomfortable.  If this were a literary review I would not do that, but this is me telling you how *I* felt about this book.

***No Spoilers***

This is an exciting, well-crafted read. It embraces a number of genres as the story goes along, but I’d classify it primarily as Sci-Fi.  The initial chapters are definitely Sci-fi as remnants of a defeated human population try desperately to fend off an alien invasion of their planet.  Our protagonist is a boy caught in the devastation.  The second scene is an orphanage planet established for youths like our protagonist who lost their families in the war.  It is a harsh environment, an alien place run by petty bureaucrats who think nothing of exploiting the children in their care.   Continue reading “Book Review: In Her Name – Empire”

Steampunk – What It Is, What it’s Not

I have been a fan of Science Fiction since I was old enough to pick up a book and read it for myself.  Normally I prefer hard science Sci-Fi to any form of fantasy.  However I have been captivated by the old Wild, Wild West television show and movies such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and books like Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and From the Earth to the Moon, H.G. Wells’s First Men in the Moon and The Time Machine.  All of these combine a Victorian environment with high-tech achievement but without high technology.  Confused?  So was I when I first heart the term “Steampunk”.

The ‘punk’ part misguided my brain onto thinking it was some urban-new wave sort of stuff and I paid it no mind.  But as the term was bandied around more, I became curious, and found that it is in fact that odd, red-headed  stepchild of Sci-Fi with which I was so fascinated.  But I still was not clear on what the rules were; where are the boundaries.  Then I came across this PBS mini-documentary that cleared it up nicely.  If you are less than certain, I hope it will do the same for you.

Continue reading “Steampunk – What It Is, What it’s Not”

Review: Space Prison

The science fiction novel by author Tom Godwin was first published in 1958 under the title The Survivors. It was later published in 1960 under the title Space Prison. The novel is an expansion of Godwin’s story “Too Soon to Die” which first appeared in the magazine Venture.

A ship heading from Earth to Athena, a planet 500 light years away, is suddenly attacked by the Gerns, an alien empire in its expansion phase. People aboard are divided by the invaders into Acceptables and Rejects. The Acceptables would become slave labor for the Gerns on Athena, and the Rejects are forced ashore on the nearest ‘Earth-like’ planet, called Ragnarok. The Gerns say they will return for the Rejects, but the Rejects quickly realize that that isn’t going to happen.  But rather than dying horrible deaths, the rejects find ways to survive on the very inhospitable planet… and turn the tables on their captors.  Continue reading “Review: Space Prison”

Book Review: The Second Ship

The second ship The Second Ship (The Rho Agenda) by Richard Phillips was a slam-dunk 5 star book.

Technically excellent, characters that draw you in and cause you to care about them – even the bad guys are compelling.  Dialogue is perfectly natural and flows effortlessly.  The story includes a lot of advanced communications and physics concepts and Mr. Phillips does an excellent job of keeping them understandable and believable.

There were several nights I was kept up late because I did not want to put the book down yet. The entire concept of the story is a clever new twist on the “alien spacecraft recovered at Roswell” theme.  The ongoing juxtaposition of good elements versus bad elements also keeps things interesting.  This is not a farmers versus the government story.  Some elements of the government are good, some bad, some you’re not real sure about.  One ship is good, one bad; but which is which?  Even among the story’s main characters, some are good, some bad, some change sides.  It never got boring, it was never trite.

This is the first book in a trilogy, so the story ends in an open-ended manner, but THIS story does conclude with most of the major factors resolved.  It does not end in such a cliff-hanger that you feel cheated.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys science fiction, and especially if you have a fascination with alien conspiracy theory.  I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

** My Simple Formula for Book Reviews was used to review this book. **

The Voice of the Appalachians

I’ll call this Tribute Tuesday, and talk about a powerful writer and local (former) resident who loved this region, it’s people and it’s heritage.

Wilma Dykeman, who passed away at age 86 at her Asheville North Carolina home in December of 2006, has been heralded as “The Voice of Appalachia” for her literary works about the history and people of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Brief Biography

Wilma_Dykeman PHOTO Asheville Citizen-Times
Wilma_Dykeman PHOTO Asheville Citizen-Times

Wilma Dykeman was born on May 20th 1920 to Bonnie Cole Dykeman and Willard Dykeman in the Beaverdam community of Buncombe County, North Carolina, which is now part of Asheville N.C.  Her father was 60 years old when Wilma was born and he passed away when she was 14.  Dykeman would later credit both her parents for instilling a love of reading and her father in particular for arousing in her a love of nature and a curiosity about the world around her.

She attended Biltmore Junior College, graduating in 1938, and Northwestern University, in Chicago where she graduated in 1940 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech.

In August 1940 Dykeman was introduced to her future husband, poet James R. Stokely, Jr. a  Newport, Tennessee resident and a son of the president of Stokely Canning Company which become Stokely-Van Camp Inc. The couple married just two months after they met and produced two sons, Dykeman Stokely and James R. “Rory” Stokely III.  Both sons grew up to become writers as well, co-authoring several books with their mother.  Continue reading “The Voice of the Appalachians”