Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Time Gatherer



Book Overview


Coming of age as a time traveler isn’t easy. Young George St. James gets help from a magical medieval monk and a 23rd century geneticist. But they can’t keep him safe from a secret society dedicated to eliminating time travel. When love unexpectedly arrives in a distant century, George must use all his skill to thwart his foes while trying to save his beloved from their malice.



My Review


The Time Gatherer, a prequel to Rachel Dacus's novel, The Renaissance Club, explores the backstory of George St James, the leader of the Renaissance Club, a group of historians touring Italy. I didn't read the earlier novel, but it wasn't necessary to enjoy its prequel.


The Time Gather provides the YA reader with an enjoyable journey into the world of Renaissance art and time travel. George, the protagonist from 2073 AD, is dealing with the changes of adolescence and a genetic ability to skip through time with a single thought. 


An ensemble of mentors, Sanders his butler, Dr Zheng a 23rd-century geneticist and Bernardo, a medieval monk, assist George. However, George is an impatient student who allows love to get in the way of rational decision making, often running the gauntlet of time travel and the inherent risks, notably being discovered by The Optimalists, who want time gathering outlawed.


He adventures across generations of the creative arts world, from twentieth-century rock music to the seventeenth century's Renaissance art, meeting an assortment of beautiful women, ultimately falling in love with Elisabetta, a gifted Renaissance artist.


The Time Gather is a well crafted YA story that captures the frustrations faced by this very stubborn protagonist. Dacus's vivid and painstakingly crafted descriptions of the art of painting was a joy to read. Whereas her portrayal of time travel training was less convincing and at times rushed. That said, the Time Gatherer is an enjoyable romp for young readers with interest in romance, art and Renaissance history.


Fans of Tempest by Julie Cross and The Here and Now by Ann Brashares should enjoy this book. 4 STARS



Excerpt 


Her hand was limp in his, and her eyes had ceased to move under closed lids.


“Elisabetta?”


He couldn’t take a breath until she took one, but her breathing was shallow and slow. George finally inhaled, a lump in his throat. But he couldn’t allow the tears. Not yet. Not while she lived. 


A single window above her bed let in a feeble shaft of light, but not much air. The stone walls oppressed him. This backward place. If only he could have transported his beloved to the airy apartment he lived in, four hundred years in the future. She could have recovered there. No one could get well in this backward century. 


He had offered to take Elisabetta with him, knowing that she would die of this unknown disease. In his time, they might have been able to cure her, but she’d refused. He wouldn’t force this brilliant young painter to leave everything she’d ever known when that might ruin her and disturb history. 


This was all his fault. If George hadn’t allowed his teenage passion for rock and roll to lead him to an even deeper passion for delving into history, he might not be sitting in this stone-walled room in the seventeenth century, keeping vigil at the bedside of the only woman he would ever love. 


He could jump right now to the future and ask Dr. Zheng for another remedy, but since this one had gone so wrong, the next cure could be worse. And he couldn’t leave Elisabetta alone now. 



Author Bio and Links


Rachel Dacus is the author of three novels touched with the supernatural, The Time Gatherer, The Renaissance Club and The Invisibles. Magical realism also runs through her four poetry collections: Arabesque, Gods of Water and Air, Femme au Chapeau, and Earth Lessons. Her writing has appeared in many journals, including Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Gargoyle, and Prairie Schooner, as well as the anthology Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and a tiny but feisty Silky Terrier. She loves exploring the outdoors and raising funds for good causes.

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Friday, January 29, 2021

Ancillary Justice

 


Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is set thousands of years into the future when the Radch Empire is the primary galactic power of human-occupied planets and security is maintained by AI-led spaceships with AI-controlled human soldiers (ancillaries).


The main character, Breq, appears to be a soldier seeking revenge, but in reality, she is the last remnants of an AI mind in charge of the starship, Justice of Toren. With only partial recall of her circumstances, Breq pieces together the events that led to her fall, before undertaking a bold quest to kill the all-powerful Lord of Radch Empire, an AI ruler inhabiting multiple bodies.


The plot switches between two timelines. Breq's present-day quest for justice after her ship's destruction, and flashback to the past events leading to her fall.


This deserved winner of all the major SFF awards in 2014 showcased Leckie's writing skills. She is just as assured in her intricate character study of Breq and her reluctant companion Seivarden, as she is with her sweeping space-operatic world build. If not for the demanding and sometimes confusing first section, I'd give it a top rating. 4.5 STARS

Monday, December 28, 2020

Artificial Intelligence

 


A.I. Science Fiction


My next novel, PHANTASM, will blend science fiction (AI) with classic fantasy (Phantom of the Opera). This year's blog pages will review any activities related to developing my new novel, including interesting SFF books and science articles. I welcome any feedback from fellow SFF readers. If you like what you read, feel free to follow my Twitter and Blog.



Review of Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan


I'm a fan of Ian McEwan's fiction, so I was interested to see how he tackled the Science Fiction genre. As expected, his portrayal of human frailties was well crafted. So, I wasn't surprised when one of his characters, a machine sentient, struggles to make sense of an imperfect world. They couldn't understand us, because we couldn't understand ourselves


Charlie Friend rents a London apartment where he tries to scrape out a living from trading shares. It's 1982 in an alternative history world where Britain loses the Falkland war, John Lennon and Alan Turing are both alive, and the latter is a revered AI scientist who has successfully developed humanoid robots - 13 Eves and 12 Adams.


The world build was creative, but I found the alternate history descriptions mostly an unnecessary annoyance, slowing the main story. Charlie receives an inheritance and given his interest in computing, purchases an Adam. In no time, Adam fits into Charlie's world, including Charlie's neighbour and lover, Miranda. Adam soon falls in love with her, creating an unusual love triangle. The consequences are daunting, leading to spirited discussions, ranging from philosophical to political, and a final confrontation with Adam's maker. 4 STARS



Listen to Ian McEwan talk about AI 














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A.I. Science Fact


There are many vital technologies already in the late development phase. Here below are some trends of particular relevance to my new novel PHANTASM.


Personal Decision-makers

We will be increasingly inclined to surrender our decision making to AI technology. Spotify is an example of this with seamless music categories organised for the listener's pleasure and recommended albums based on your current preferences.


Human Robots

Currently, this demand is for specialist requirements such as sex robots. The market for human-like robots will only grow as society becomes more accepting of robot relationships, just as society adapted to gay relationships. As new frontiers of artificial general intelligence (AGI) stretch, it's inevitable human-like robots will demand similar protections for their human rights.


Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

AGI is the point where AI gain the capability to learn like humans. Rather than one specific task, AI will multi-task, but at far greater speeds than a human brain. Once achieved, machines will teach other devices, hastening their development and quickly overtaking the human capacity to evolve.


Nanites

This technology will enable swarms of intelligence rather than a centrally controlled system. Nanotechnology will build quantum-level technology to replicate and adapt, bringing solutions to the environment; curing illnesses; preventing catastrophic weather and exploring planets. It will change the world with the advent of comprehensive 3D technology that will print any carbon-based material from building supplies to food.


Immersive Reality (IR) and Brain-Computer Interfaces 

IR  is a step further from Augmented Reality.This technology injects another reality directly into a humans brain, giving them superhuman capabilities. For example, reading a thousand books in one second! Ultimately, it will provide humans with the power to communicate telepathically.


Mind Upload

Human consciousness has to reside in information. Technology will allow our consciousness to move beyond the biological substratum's constraints to information bits such as the USB stick, allowing the consciousness immortality of sorts, storing the lives of all who pass in a digital virtual world.


A New World

The above technologies will change our world beyond recognition. Cities will be larger and higher, but they will be quieter at ground level as more autonomous electric vehicles and underground rapid mass transit vehicles appear. The skies will be busier as autonomous flying vehicles develop rapidly. Complicated supply chains will disappear as 3D printers come online with the capability to supply anything on request promptly. Cities will be cleaner, environmentally friendlier and less cluttered as marketing is directed to virtual and augmented reality rather than signage. 


Humans will have greater control of what they see, along with a broader choice of subject matter limited only by their imagination. Mind sharing will be commonplace, and humans will better control their internal environment, appearing superhuman with capabilities to change their health, even genes just through thought. 


Given safety challenges are addressed, AI will have the capability to make improved, unbiased and ethical decisions, resulting in a better and safer world. It will allow humans the capacity to detach from the real world and live in virtual machine generated worlds. AI will master the molecular engineering of living and non-living systems; intelligence engineering will gain full telepathy. In time, as AI exponentially evolves beyond human comprehension, they will develop their own virtual Earth, Universe and Multiverse, pursue their politics, institutions and government. In short, they'll build a unique alien race.



Thanks for visiting my blog! I'd value your feedback, including thoughts on good AI science fiction novels to help me complete PHANTASMS in 2021!



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Review: Machines Like Me

 


I'm a fan of Ian McEwan's fiction, so I was interested to see how he tackled the Science Fiction genre. As expected, his portrayal of human frailties was well crafted. So, I wasn't surprised when one of his characters, a machine sentient, struggles to make sense of an imperfect world. They couldn't understand us, because we couldn't understand ourselves


Charlie Friend rents a London apartment where he tries to scrape out a living from trading shares. It's 1982 in an alternative history world where Britain loses the Falkland war, John Lennon and Alan Turing are both alive, and the latter is a revered AI scientist who has successfully developed humanoid robots - 13 Eves and 12 Adams.


The world build was creative, but I found the alternate history descriptions mostly an unnecessary annoyance, slowing the main story. Charlie receives an inheritance and given his interest in computing, purchases an Adam. In no time, Adam fits into Charlie's world, including Charlie's neighbour and lover, Miranda. Adam soon falls in love with her, creating an unusual love triangle. The consequences are daunting, leading to spirited discussions, ranging from philosophical to political, and a final confrontation with Adam's maker. 4 STARS

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Book Launch: Sentient




Blurb

A century has passed and yes, the human race stumbled into evolutionary compromise. But it’s not the androids who are the victors. Post-humans have exploded into preeminence, gaining tech superiority and a tech immunity against the global environmental degradation. Humans are trivialised, a minority species, their one last significant task, restore the environmental damage they inflicted on Earth and terraform off-planets. One human and his ‘biot’ android embark on such a journey to Mars, opening the possibility for an evolutionary path back to greatness, but hostile post-human agents have infiltrated their mission.


Story Origins and Influencers 

I was intrigued by space exploration from an early age and read many novels about inter-planetary travel. C A Lewis’s classic, Out of the Silent Planet was the first book I ever read, over fifty years ago, commencing my lifelong fascination about the future. HG Wells War of the Worlds was another favourite. It has been the motivation for a large number of film and television remakes. I still enjoy seeing new versions of this enduring classic. My favourite SFF novel about Mars goes hands down to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, a masterpiece of hard science fiction. In some ways, my new novel is a tribute to those famous writers as well as today’s intrepid explorers. At the time of writing, a lot of exciting space projects were unfolding, particularly around Mars. Early drafts of Sentient were about intergalactic flight, but I ultimately narrowed the scope of the story to our backyard, the solar system and Mars.

Review Tour
Stop One: Fabulous and Brunette (November 10)

Stop Two: Hurn Publications (November 10)

Stop Three: The Avid Reader (November 17)






Stop Four: The Reading Addict (November 17)






Stop Five: Kit ’N Kabookle (November 24)






Stop Six: White Sky Project (November 24)






Stop Seven: Straight from the Library (December 1)


Stop Eight: Westveil Publishing (December 1)






Author and Links


Michael Leon is an explorer, writer and author of the new novel, Sentient. Professionally trained in international trade, Michael has spent the last decade reading and writing SFF novels about new worlds to be explored in the future. His latest work, Sentient, imagines Earth in the year 2120. Michael has travelled extensively around Europe, walking the paths of his characters, from the famous European opera houses in Phantoms to the mountain tops of Switzerland in Emissary.





Thursday, November 12, 2020

Review: The Ministry for the Future

 


The Ministry for the Future is established in 2025 as a response to an unfolding climate change catastrophe. A heatwave kills 20 million in India heightening the global emergency.


Mary Murphy heads the Ministry, its key aim to bring financial, business and government sectors to the table to address the emergency. Mary's life is interleaved with Frank May, the sole survivor of India's catastrophe in the searing opening chapter. They become unlikely friends after Frank threatens her. The friendship endures, with Frank becoming Mary's conscience as she battles overwhelming odds to deliver real environmental change.


Mainly set in Zurich's United Nations city, Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR) lovingly brings vitality to the international brokerage capital. At nearly 600 pages, it's a long read. Having read Mars Trilogy and 2312, I know KSR can be a stickler for detail, sometimes at the expense of well-drawn characters. His Mars Trilogy classic explored the geo-engineering of Mars to be habitable to humans. Now, he turns that examination to a future Earth in accelerated environmental decline.


How would the head of the Ministry for the Future, the main protagonist Mary, tackle the ultimate challenge, given recalcitrant actors protect their position of power? Selfish players listed as companies still wishing to make a trillion or two out of the earth's remaining carbon. Practical politics is not enough as they secretly engage a black ops wing to motivate change illegally. 


KSR's new novel highlights the sheer scale of the challenge facing future generations and is filled with a wealth of facts, intermittently added between the storyline, including biosphere health, macro and microeconomics and global politics, to name a few.


Readers looking for a fast-flowing and entertaining read may be frustrated. However, readers genuinely looking for a better understanding of the environmental challenge facing us will find this filled with a treasure trove of insights. It's not a book to read just once if you want to take in KSR's ode to future generations fully. Riveting, horrifying, believable. 4.5 STARS



Saturday, November 7, 2020

Review: The Rose


Book Overview

A masterful, dystopian science fiction thriller of underground genetic experiments, telepathic evil greys, mysterious rebellion, conspiracy, martial arts, and Alien Vampires.

Sandy Cox believed WW3 was over. But for those Alien Vampires, War Has Just Begun.


Forty-eight hours after a World War III treaty is signed Sandy Cox awakens in an underground compound unable to move. Tied to machines she screams for help but no one answers. At least NO ONE HUMAN.


And they’ve taken her unborn child.


Enter Phil, a rebel freedom fighter who has had more than his share of Alien Vampires. Armed with THE BLADES, a sacred alien martial art, he enters the compound on a mission to find Sandy. But as he battles his way through the compound, Phil discovers Sandy has her own agenda. Finding her stolen child is all that matters.


But the vampires have their own plan and Sandy’s baby is at the heart of their diabolical plot. Joined by a crew of rogue soldiers, they must navigate the underground compound, battling genetically mutated humans, aliens and monsters.


When battling Alien Vampires, one thing is certain…Get Ready To Bleed!


Fans of The Hunger Games, George RR Martin, VE Schwab, Star Wars and Ancient Aliens will be fascinated by this high-powered, intelligent, edge of your seat dystopian sci-fi action thriller.




Review

THE ROSE delves deep into the underground where horror and scifi favourites - reptilian aliens, UFO’s, vampires and werewolves - exist alongside corrupt human governments seeking to exploit the aliens superior technologies, a strategy fraught with risk, given the vampires’ dim view of humans. In the words of Sanos, an influential vampire, “Don’t make deals with your food.”


THE ROSE regularly switches POV between multiple protagonists and antagonists in a rapid-fire style, reflecting the chaotic and desperate situation the humans face, holocaust-like survivors of World War 3, required either for food or experimentation.


The many and varied characters shine in Alleva’s unique work, the first of a proposed trilogy. This is unusual in a high octane thriller, but I found myself caring for the ensemble of humans, pitted against the overwhelming power of the telepathic Greys (reptilian aliens), vampires and their various beast soldiers.


Phil, the main protagonist is a master of the martial arts, his weapon, the blade. He faces impossible odds with a faith born from his leader, Robyn Walker, a human with the ability to see all things, past, present and future. Phil’s warrior spirit endures as he takes on an army. “Get ready to bleed!” his call to arms.


I thoroughly enjoyed the thriller style of this book, enough to forgive the sometimes confusing narrative. Where the thrills pulsed along, slower scenes were less effective, at times bordering on information dumps. The occasional pacing issues aside, the story steamrolled ahead, adding multiple layers of suspense and intrigue as the characters attempted to escape their perilous situation. 


All of this is unfolding in a world on the cusp of intergalactic war, a theme touched on throughout, no doubt to be fully explored in future instalments.


Original cross-genre storyline, memorable characters and an intricate plot with a page-turning thriller edge made this a 4.5 STARS novel for me. Fans of Haldeman’s The Forever War or Watt’s Blind Sight should enjoy this book.




Excerpt

The blades were unharmed. The blades are a unique contraption with thin handles held in the palms, clamps that wrapped around the wrist and just above the elbow, connected by a thin, almost string like plastic. The metal blade descended from the handles down across the arm bone to the elbow clamp and locked into place. The metal they were made from was not of this earth and was able to collapse inside the handles and wrist clamp like tin foil crumples inside a fist. But this metal was strong and solid and unmatched to any substance on earth. The handles when pressed by the index finger would ignite the blades down the arm, locking in place. Another unique feature were the handles, fitted comfortably in the palm, when pressed with the thumbs would ignite claws of steel. A useful tool when needing to climb walls. Robyn had spent years teaching Phil the art of Kobudo Tonfa. An art he’d become supremely confident with.


Phil’s stare drifted to the full blood moon rising over the compound. Eyes wide, thinking: You know what that means. There’s more under the moon tonight than just alien vampires. And they come with teeth. The moon’s red glow crept across the landscape as Phil dipped his chin to his chest, grinding his teeth. Four simple words on the tip of his tongue…


“Get ready to bleed.”




About the Author


PD Alleva is an alternative fiction author. His novels cross genres, blending mystery, conspiracy, psychology, and action with horror and dystopian science fiction. Alternative fiction is PD's attempt at describing what readers uncover in any one of his books, a new discovery towards mainstream storytelling. 


He's been writing since childhood, creating and developing stories with brash and impactful concepts that he would describe are metaphors for the shifting energies that exist in the universe. 


PD exists inside of his own universe, working diligently on The Rose Vol. II and exceptional horror novels. Be prepared for Golem, PD’s upcoming horror thriller.  







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