Sunday, August 7, 2022

Last Star Standing

 


Blurb


Aiden has always felt like an outsider. After the rebel assassin is captured and imprisoned by the world’s galactic overlords, he awaits execution. Then a mole working for the occupying regime alerts him to a plot that could destroy the entire resistance...


Engineering a daring escape, Aiden’s growing feud with the new rebel leader leaves him out in the cold and smouldering with resentment. Faced with deceit and betrayals on every side, he recruits a group of overlooked outcasts and stakes everything on one last mission.


Can the restless, reckless Aiden take a stand long enough to save humanity from enslavement?



My Review


Last Star Standing by Spaulding Taylor is a dystopian thriller with sci-fi elements.


Earth's invaded by aliens, the Xirfell, in 2084. Naturally, a rebel alliance formed, and a decade on, one of its rebels, the protagonist Aiden Tenten is a prisoner. 


The story begins with Aiden's captivity in a high-tech Xirfell cell. Past events blur with the grisly present, jumbling Aiden's perceptions. His distorted memories intertwine with the action in the first half of this novel, providing many details about Aiden's back story. The lengthy introduction had a ‘tell not show’ style, unnecessarily slowing the pace, before Aiden's call to action.


The second half builds suspense and intrigue with Aiden's escape. Taylor introduces a myriad of characters, human and alien, shining a light on their divergent cultures. Aiden enlists a group of outcasts, Bully and Gromeline, who I found the most interesting characters in the story. Told in the First Person's POV, the reader gets a clear picture of Aiden's mindset as he grapples with his dire situation, often with irony and humour.


It took me a while to settle into Taylor's storytelling style, perhaps because the cover gave me the impression the story would be a space opera. However, despite the presence of many aliens, the action takes place on Earth. Hence the setting and world-building didn't soar as high as the unique and imaginative characters. 


Overall, Last Star Standing is a well-written and enjoyable read. If you're looking for a story that mixes Ian M Banks's Culture Series and Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you will enjoy this novel. 



Excerpt


Lips parted, the woman pressed eagerly forward. The target smiled at her but instead selected a pudgy lad of about six. He passed a skinny guy – who looked, the poor sap, practically broken-hearted. He was almost upon us. My heart sped until it seemed ready to jerk straight out of my chest. Choose me. Choose me. CHOOSE ME.


The Enlightened One seemed – or was it only my imagination? – to be gazing directly at me. Pushing swiftly past Petra I extended my hand. He turned, made a strange gesture, almost of benediction, then wired the back of my hand with that thick blackened stump. An instant surge of heat pulsed up my arm and throughout my torso. Then a wild swirl of fuchsia-slashed-with-orange flashed beneath my eyelids, as if the same stars, fiery and spot-lit against the black, had been injected into my brain. My every corpuscle felt fired, an almost intoxicating sensation, especially after the chill of the poison. I half-stumbled, almost squashing a smallish alien, and only saved myself from falling at the last second. 


Through a haze – my eyeballs felt as if they were swimming in flaming waterfalls – I saw Petra and moved towards her. Of course. She couldn’t risk being stamped, in case the creature died too fast. As we walked the ornate brand began to swell on my hand – a warming, tightening feeling. The sense of strangeness accelerated, though this might have been from my borrowed DNA, the chilled poison in my blood, or the fiery stamp. But nothing could dent my happiness, because – I’d done it. I’d assassinated The Enlightened One.



Author Bio 


Alice (Spaulding Taylor) McVeigh has been published by Orion/Hachette in contemporary fiction, by Unbound Publishing in action/adventure and by Warleigh Hall Press in Austenesque fiction. Her novels have won Gold Medal/First Place is the Global, eLit and Pencraft Book Awards, been runner-up in the Independent Press Awards, finalists in the Eric Hoffer, Rone and Wishing Shelf Book Awards and selected by Shelf Unbound as one of the "top indies" of 2021. Two of her novels are currently finalists in the CIBA Book Awards (the Cygnus and Goethe Awards). Her most recent novel (Harriet: A Jane Austen Variation) was just selected as Editors’ Pick “outstanding” on Publishers Weekly.


A professional London cellist, Alice lives in London and Crete with her professor husband: their only child is completing her Masters in Chinese Literature. They also share two miniature long-haired dachshunds and an incurable addiction to tennis.


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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Consider Phlebas

 


On the surface, Consider Phlebas is a story about an inconsequential event that occurred during a period of the Galactic war between two major parties. The Culture, a loose federation of humans and intelligent machines, and the Idirans, a religious people, fighting for their faith.

The protagonist, Horza, a ‘shapeshifter’, is a spy working for the Idirans. He is assigned to retrieve a ‘Mind’, one of the Culture’s most advanced machines, stranded on a remote planet.

The story is a slow burn, immersing the reader in the political and social structures of the two warring parties as Horza journeys to the Planet of the Dead. Iain M. Banks’ considerable writing skills are on show as he develops a myriad of characters and AI machines inhabiting the Idiran and Culture universe. The richly detailed worldbuilding is also a delight as Banks describes the massive scale of technology developed in space.

He doesn’t shy away from the behavioural extremities of the character’s that they encounter, including cannibalism and a form of high-stakes gambling that illustrates how war leads to an inevitable devaluation of life.

Banks ups the pacing in the final chapters, where Horza and his assembled crew arrive at the Planet of the Dead and confront hostile Idiran agents, with each of the many characters carefully developed in the story facing bleak futures in a war-ravaged galaxy.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Chandelier Review Tour

 


Latest Review


Chandelier (Book Two of the Phantoms trilogy)

I am a Phantom of the Opera junkie. I loved book one of this series, and I absolutely couldn’t wait to read this one! Think The Phantom only...technology has advanced, and it’s a much different kind of opera ghost roaming around. With all the advances in AI it’s absolutely not hard to imagine our world advancing into a state where The Matrix has become much more real. Benny was absolutely fascinating, and well developed. I got so lost in this story, with the vivid descriptions and the brilliant way Leon plays with your emotions as you follow the story’s path, that the real world felt a little less real for a short time after I came back to it. A great genre-crossing book!

5 STARS

Review by The Faerie Review


Phantoms (Book One of the Phantoms trilogy)

This was a brilliant new take on the Phantom of the Opera. As a fan of the original story, I’m absolutely thrilled at how well Leon and Anthony brought new life to a classic story. The characters had beautiful depth, and I felt like I was stepping straight into the story. The story moved along smoothly, with plenty of twists to keep the reader engaged. The intertwining of Macbeth above with the Phantom below was wonderful. Highly recommended for fans of the original phantom! 

5 STARS 

Review by The Faerie Review


Other Reviews

The Faerie Review

Fabulous and Brunette

The Avid Reader

Long and Short Reviews

Our Town Book Reviews


Follow the rest of the tour HERE


Chandelier (Book Two of the Phantoms trilogy)


CHANDELIER: The legendary Phantom of the Opera reimagined.


CHANDELIER, Book Two of the PHANTOMS trilogy, returns to where Book One ended, Erik's dramatic escape from the Garnier as Paris police attempt to arrest him. So what became of Erik and the famous divas who crossed his path? Did Erik miraculously survive, or had his terrifying reign ended in the river Seine's murky depths as rumours claimed?


The truth remains hidden, seemingly lost in time, before a humanoid, Benny, is drawn into the Phantom's dark world. Here, 22nd-century super-intelligence collides with 20th-century malevolence, revealing dangerous secrets in this tale of time travel, love lost, grand opera theatres and the ghosts that inhabit them.


Benny, a talented musician, is delighted to be contracted by Diva (Madame D'Arenberg) to help deliver her final performance at the Paris opera house. However, his satisfaction turns to alarm as he is swept up in the Phantom's world, exposed to Diva's past enemies. Ultimately he learns deadly secrets about Diva's tragic life that threaten his existence, yet ironically reveals the truth about his mysterious origins.


Phantoms (Book One of the Phantoms trilogy)


Phantoms is an adult fiction novel that tells the story of Erik Destler, a latter day Phantom of the Opera. Erik sets out to take over and rule the Palais Garnier, with La Divina - the diva Carlotta Caccini, as his queen, but at each turn, is seemingly thwarted by his nemesis - the original Phantom of the Opera, now the Opera Ghost. Phantoms is set in that same famous Paris opera house, amidst the staging of Verdi’s Macbeth, one hundred years on from the first appearance of Le Fantôme de l'Opéra in 1910.




Author and Links


Michael Leon is an explorer, writer and author of the new novel, Chandelier. Professionally trained in international trade, Michael has spent the last decade reading, reviewing and writing SFF novels that explore new and future worlds. His latest work, Chandelier, is a genre-bending tale of time travel, love lost, grand opera houses and the ghosts that inhabit them. 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.


Website: https://www.michaelleon.com.au

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaelleon0433

Blogger: https://michaelleoncommentspage.blogspot.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5369984.Michael_Leon

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Leon/e/B01LNQALBW%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share


Friday, April 1, 2022

Solaris

 

Having watched and enjoyed Tarkovsky's film version of Stanislaw Lem's book, Solaris, many times, I finally got around to reading the book. Although I preferred the film, Lem's work didn't disappoint. Solaris, written in the 1960s, has not dated. Most impressive is how Lem develops an alien on a planetary scale, too complex for the best scientists to unravel its secrets, even after a century of trying. 


The novel turned out the ideal companion to the movie, helping me better understand Tarkovsky's artistic representations of Solaris. Mildly annoying, Lem includes too many chapters describing the research in detail, perhaps slowing the story's pace. That said, I rate Solaris, both book and film, 5 Stars, for its uniquely bold journey into alien worlds and its impact on humans as they attempt to make contact.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Phantoms: Latest Review

 



Latest Review


This was a brilliant new take on the Phantom of the Opera. As a fan of the original story, I’m absolutely thrilled at how well Leon and Anthony brought new life to a classic story. The characters had beautiful depth, and I felt like I was stepping straight into the story. The story moved along smoothly, with plenty of twists to keep the reader engaged. The intertwining of Macbeth above with the Phantom below was wonderful. Highly recommended for fans of the original phantom! 

5 STARS 

Review by The Faerie Review


Other Reviews

The Avid Reader

Kit ‘N Kabookle

Gina Rae Mitchell

Our Town Book Reviews

Eye-Rolling Demigod’s Book Blog


Follow the rest of the tour HERE

Other sites worth checking

Dankoboldt.com



Phantoms (Book One of the Phantoms Trilogy)


Phantoms is an adult fiction novel that tells the story of Erik Destler, a latter day Phantom of the Opera. Erik sets out to take over and rule the Palais Garnier, with La Divina - the diva Carlotta Caccini, as his queen, but at each turn, is seemingly thwarted by his nemesis - the original Phantom of the Opera, now the Opera Ghost. Phantoms is set in that same famous Paris opera house, amidst the staging of Verdi’s Macbeth, one hundred years on from the first appearance of Le Fantôme de l'Opéra in 1910. 

Click the cover to see Goodreads reviews.



Chandelier (Book Two of the Phantoms Trilogy)

CHANDELIER is the genre-bending sci-fi/fantasy-romance novel follow up of Michael Leon’s 2019 fantasy-romance book, PHANTOMS. A century has passed since the fabled Phantom ruled the Garnier Opera House. Technology has advanced, and AI has evolved beyond human knowledge. They reside in a virtual Earth, free from the ravages of an environmentally damaged Earth where humans and post-humans live under AI’s qualified governance. CHANDELIER follows one AI sentient’s journey, Benny, whose loyalty for a famous opera singer, Madame D’Arenberg, sets him on a dangerous course, entangling him in The Phantom of the Opera’s deadly web.

Click the cover to see Goodreads

Tour Stops
Follow the rest of the tour HERE

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. His next novel, Chandelier, will be released in 2022. 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.


Website: https://www.michaelleon.com.au

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaelleon0433

Blogger: https://michaelleoncommentspage.blogspot.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5369984.Michael_Leon

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Leon/e/B01LNQALBW%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share






Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Phantom of the Opera: A Brief History


Classic literature consists of a league of timeless works that captivated the global imagination. So too, modern classics will become ageless as their written works are re-imagined and re-told to future generations. Our current age is conceivably the most significant for the Earth's future survival, given accelerating environmental change. The severity makes it incumbent on the 21st-century writers to take account of past human viewpoints, re-imagine those endeavours and recast those stories in imaginative new ways.
 

Leroux's classic 1909 novel, Phantom of the Opera, itself adapted from ageless works, ranging from Greco Roman storytelling to the Gothic novels by twentieth-century novelists such as Victor Hugo, is one example. He told of eternal human themes such as the tragedy of romance and the suffering of a societal outcast.


In 1925, new communications technology of that era enabled Leroux's work to come to life on the screen as a silent movie. Some argue this adaption remains the most accurate interpretation of Leroux's novel. As a result, many movie adaptions have followed.


In 1962, Herbert Lom played Erik in a Hammer film production, a typically darker Hammer re-make, conveying the gothic glamour of Leroux's novel. Then in 1986, Andrew Lloyd Webber introduced the most influential adaption since the 1925 silent movie. Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman played Erik and Christine in a more sensual musical version of the story. Again, Erik is a musical genius, but he's also a manipulative sociopath cast into the shadows due to his grotesque physical affliction. Thirty-five years on, it remains the most influential adaption.


More re-makes followed in the next three decades, ranging from the stomach-churning gore starring Robert Englund (1989); to baroque romance with Charles Dance (1990); to the visually sensual feast featuring Gerard Butler (2004).


I have a personal fascination for Leroux's work, re-telling his work, in my 2019 novel, Phantoms. I'm releasing the sequel in early 2022, Chandelier. Chandelier imagines how Leroux's novel will be re-told a hundred years from now, in an age of rapid technological change, global environmental degradation and the emergence of superior intelligence - AI. How would Leroux's masterpiece be interpreted in a post-singularity era of 2121?


Do you have a favourite film adaption?

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Network Effect Review



Network Effect is the first full-length novel following Martha Wells four novella's in the 'Murderbot Diaries' series: All Systems Red; Artificial Condition; Rogue Protocol; and Exit Strategy.


Network Effect is set in a corporate-dominated spacefaring future where security androids accompany exploratory teams. A team of scientists are conducting surface tests in a hostile planetary environment. Their journey is told in the first person by their 'SecUnit' android, who ably defends them, despite its misgiving.


Network Effect can be read as a stand-alone, but many reviewers recommended readers take a slow burn through the four novellas to ramp up the appreciation index. 


The character development of Murderbot made for inspiring reading, assuredly drawing out SecUnit's unique point of view. Network Effect is a deserved award-winning novel, despite its long and overly detailed plot.  


Top marks for Network Effect's killer opening scenes, but the thrilling start fell a gear in the remaining two-thirds of the novel. 4 STARS.