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. 

For now, 5 STARS for Network Effect's killer introduction alone! I'll report back after I take the entire 'murderbot' journey.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021


Antithesis is a collection of vivid and exhilarating science fiction stories, tied together by characters whose moral challenges offer windows into humanity and the human condition. These stories are cautionary tales, flights of fancy, terrifying psychological journeys, humorous romps, and even a space opera.

A speculative tale about humankind becoming obsolete from the perspective of the machines we created. The story of an airline pilot who loses his faith in the physics of flying as his rational and irrational mind fight for dominance. An ancient being born of human evolution that strips us of our memories, feeding on one precious reminiscence at a time. An audacious fable that explores a new galaxy, one where humans are irrelevant, but the conflicts of a class-based society are not. A novella-length saga about a mission to Mars, the origins of humanity, and an atrocity that stretches across time and space. And finally, a story that asks the question whether an unstoppable artificial intelligence would indeed be happier traveling the vast reaches of space, or back amongst the flawed beings who created it.

Escape into worlds unlike anything you have seen before, but some eerily similar to our own. Antithesis – where the opposite is to be expected.


Antithesis is a collection of five short stories and one novella. Two of the stories will finish in Rousov's second volume. Personally, that was a minor negative for me, although, on the positive side, Rousov's competent storytelling develops intrigue and mystery, making for a page-turning experience.

My top three stories were:

Obsolescence was an intriguing voyage into a future world of quantum computing and its ramifications to society if left unchecked. But, how do you achieve that when the technology you're creating is superior to its inventors? I particularly enjoyed the confrontation between the 'core' and its inventors after the point of singularity and the philosophical discourse that followed, unfortunately ending all too quickly.

MCDU was a mysterious voyage taken by John and a travelling companion, Chris, more a ghost story than sci-fi, but nicely told.

Andy and the Core was my favourite, telling the story of an AI sentient and his travels across the universe. Although a short story, Rousov took the time to develop Andy and the choices he made, even on becoming a male. His travels across the universe followed, offering an imaginative view of the different life forms that had evolved across galaxies, just a 'pinch' away from this voyager of the cosmos.

The two longer stories, The Harvest and The Blue Planet, were equally intriguing. Still, they ended abruptly, leaving the reader to wait and wonder about the next instalment, a successful strategy for a television series, but for me, less successful in a novel. 

All in all, Antithesis is an enjoyable read for lovers of SFF in the short story form. If you enjoy Twilight Zone style SFF, I recommend you read this novel. 4 STARS


Antonella walked down the corridor. Some of her crew scurried away as usual when she passed, but she also noticed a few looks that lingered. She turned a corner and saw that no one was there. Off to one side was a maintenance hatch, one that led to the outer hull of the Maiden. With a glance over her shoulder, Antonella opened the hatch and squeezed herself in.

It wasn’t easy going in the maintenance corridor. Antonella had to hunch over, constantly wary not to hit her head against scorching-hot pipes. Finally, she arrived at her destination, a viewing bubble that stuck out from the outer hull, allowing repair crews to see any deformation in the ship’s skin.

But what Antonella saw nearly stopped her fluidic pumping organ. There were hundreds of invaders clinging to her ship, like Alerian moths on a stag’s back. They were dressed in vac suits with magnetic shoes. More floated silently toward the Maiden, keeping away from viewing ports and making sure to stay in the blind spot of the bridge. Thud! She again heard the metallic noise that had triggered her initial reaction in the engine room. It was an invader landing on her hull and taking their position.

There was only a moment of doubt in Antonella as she tried to understand what was happening, but it all then became crystal clear. This was the crew of the freighter. They were going to board the Maiden.

Antonella could feel her jaw clench, her back arch. She turned to head back to the corridor, vowing to kill each one of them. But suddenly, she stopped with a thought: someone must be helping them from inside. She shook her head angrily; it must be the engineer who had betrayed her, and she was now certain who was pulling his strings.

AUTHOR Bio and Links

Svet Rouskov started his career as a graduate from the University of Toronto Mechanical Engineering program and became a successful automotive industry executive. After fifteen years he discovered that his real passion was writing. Once he took an introductory screenwriting class, Svet realized he was hooked and continued his filmmaking education at Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre. Since that time, Svet has written, developed, and produced feature films, television shows, video games, and web-based series. His passion for writing has now extended to literature, which offers him another exciting avenue to tell stories. This is Svet's first work of fiction.

Please check out his IMDb page for details of his work and representative contact information.








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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Electric Girl

Book Overview

Polly Michaels is trying to forget that her mom has cancer. She keeps busy at school and plods through a normal social life. Until a freak storm and a unicorn appear in the orchard next to her house.

Sy’kai wakes on an orchard floor to the smell of rotting cherries and wet earth. She doesn’t know where she is - or who she is - but she knows something is hunting her. 

Polly recruits her friends to find the mysterious creature she saw from her window while Sy’kai, a confused shape-shifting endling from another dimension tries to piece her mind back together. Once the human girls find Sy’kai (whom they nickname Psyche) the mystery unravels and the danger facing all of them comes into focus.

A gritty struggle ranges throughout the girls’ rural hometown and in the wild terrain around it. All while two questions hang over their heads. Can an alien deliver a miracle for a human mother? Can a group of teens defeat an inter dimensional demon?

My Review

I thoroughly enjoyed the cracking introduction. Christine Hart showcases her considerable writing skills, quickly moving the story forward and effortlessly building intrigue. However, the middle section doesn't quite reach the heights of the promising opening. That said, The Electric Girl should be an entertaining read for young readers.

Polly is your typical fifteen-year-old, filled with dreams of unicorns and boys, but she has to deal with her mother, who is seriously ill with cancer. Fortunately, Polly has a group of loyal friends to help her cope. 

Her everyday life among the cherry orchards suddenly changes when two aliens, morphlings, crash through a time portal onto Earth. One, Sy'kai, morphs into a young girl. The other, Nur-gahl, her deadly pursuer, transforms into a wild bear. 

Polly and her friends soon get caught up in the alien encounter. For me, extended scenes of Polly and her friends in their rural hometown slowed the story's pace, although, for younger readers, it may reinforce the strong bond these loyal friends share as they face life-threatening events. 

The author gave tantalising glimpses of Sy'kai's world in a meditation scene with Polly. But, as a science fiction fan, I wanted to know more about the two aliens and less about Cherry Orchard and its young inhabitants. 

Overall, young readers should enjoy Christine Hart's magical realm of unicorns, aliens, and the band of courageous friends who help an inter-dimensional being. A 3.5 STARS read for the young adult audience.


Sparks cut the space in front of her, dancing in a lacy ice and sapphire ring. If I can close the portal with him inside, it won’t matter what we leave behind or where I land. Trapping Nur-gahl was nearly impossible because Sy’kai needed her wits about her to close a portal. If she closed it too quickly, Nur-gahl would be left behind, free to devour an entire world, unchallenged by beings not capable of understanding what he was let alone the depths of his hunger, his fury. With every new passage her brain grew increasingly muddled by the energy expenditure and the instant intake of information—the new world and all its life being taken in at once. Her only chance to weaken and then destroy Nur-gahl was to find a world at the moment of its death, with nothing left for him to mimic. Sy’kai focused every molecule of her consciousness on finding this elusive destination. Her electricity stretched into a clumsy oval as a window to the unknown tore open. Energy exploded outward. Fresh, sweet air rushed at her, filling her lungs with relief.

But this new world was far from barren.

“I smell a feast on the other side! Go ahead, jump in. I am right behind you, ssssister!”

Rage flared in Sy’kai’s core. She risked a glance back and saw the dark silhouette of a gargantuan, monstrous creature racing toward her. She faced the portal again and plunged through.

Heat and light devoured Sy’kai’s flesh as the fissure enveloped her. What will I be on the other side? Please, please, let this be the final shift, she thought as the vacuum of the portal crushed her entire being.


And then she was spat out from the portal, into the dark of night. Atoms pulled other atoms into minute clusters as millions of electric implosions sucked matter off the ground and out of the surrounding terrain. Pure instinct flowing from a primal mind scanned the landscape for a blueprint of sentient life. A mental tentacle scraped and slurped, hungry for material until it finally latched onto something in the distance and made its decision. Another explosion crackled behind her elemental brain, but the sound hardly registered in the morphling’s still-forming body.

Gray matter coalesced, bone materialized, and muscles knit themselves around the skeleton as it built itself from nothing. White light and raw energy found purchase through four glowing hooves. Delicious soft gas kissed her forehead, a body part that felt somehow heavy. Light hovered overhead, illuminating the way forward through dark leaves and moist dirt.

Brightness flooded the field ahead of her. Moments later, as her eyes adjusted, she sensed another life form somewhere inside the light. Instinctively, she walked toward a face she couldn’t see. A slight figure, a willowy bipedal creature with orange-red hair slowly came into focus. And the morphling brain, still crude with instinct and ability, reached out telepathically to evaluate this opposing alien heartbeat.

She turned back to the trees then as she felt the heat of another uncontrollable transformation taking hold.

Author and Bio Links

Christine Hart writes from her suburban home on BC’s beautiful West Coast. She specializes in speculative fiction for young readers. Her stories feature detailed real-world landscapes as a backdrop for the surreal and spectacular. 

Christine’s backlist includes YA, NA, and MG titles, including the speculative trilogy The Variant Conspiracy. Her debut YA, Watching July, won a gold medal from the Moonbeam Children's awards in the mature issues category and an honourable mention from the Sunburst Awards. 

Christine holds a BA in English and Professional Writing, as well as current membership with the Federation of BC Writers and SF Canada.

She works as a content and communications specialist for a technology studio in Vancouver. And when not writing, she creates wearable art from recycled metals under the guise of her Etsy alter-ego Sleepless Storyteller.  She shares her eclectic lifestyle with her husband and two children.


Buy now on AMAZON  The book will be $0.99. 


Christine Hart will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC, in addition to the prizes listed, the author will award a $50 gift certificate to the author's Etsy shop Sleepless Storyteller ( and a $100 gift certificate to the author's Etsy shop (International) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Sunday, June 13, 2021

The City We Became


There is a threat to New York of ‘Lovecraftian’ proportions, waged on New York by parallel universe apparitions. I thought I’d try the 2020 BSFA winner, a disappointment to me as there was more fantasy and less science fiction, apart from patchy references to multi-verse theory. Jesmin moves away from the ‘other world’ settings of her previous award-winning novels to an Earthbound location. New York is where five avatars representing the major Burroughs of New York defend their city against an ‘other-universe’ threat that feeds on cities that are about to transform to a higher level of consciousness.

The five characters are pitched in the same direction to find a primary avatar unconscious somewhere in the city. Finding and joining him is their only hope of defeating an adversary that destroys whole worlds. Jesmin’s new novel, as always, is filled with witty prose, but it wasn’t enough to engage me. In the end, I skimmed through the story, so it would be unfair to rate it. Readers looking for insightful fantasy with a strong social commentary bent will rate this highly. Science fiction fans may do better to read Jesmin’s earlier work.

Monday, April 12, 2021



Necrogarden (Book Two: NeuralTech Rising Series)

Necrogarden, the second in Bryon Vaughn's trilogy, moves straight into the action as agents Landry and Mack give chase to Jenny and Leo. They, against the odds, escaped the Garden, a terrifying, secret technological construct powered by human minds. 

As the title implies, Necrogarden takes a sinister turn from its prequel, Neurogarden, introducing a dark assortment of antagonists, Takahiro and Mack, both prepared to unleash brutal violence on their targets, "seeking the next level of pain". The quick move to action grips the reader from the beginning, although it helps to have read book one. 

Brenna, the ruthless CEO of NeuralTech, barely holds the reins of her company. Now she enlists Artificial Intelligence, in the guise of her virtual assistant, Hal, to run the Garden. However, Hal goes rogue, carefully manipulating all around him to gain control.

All the main characters from the first book, Brenna, Jenny and Leo, are unwittingly caught in Hal's deceptive web, challenging their motives. Other characters, such as Brenna's father, are seamlessly linked into the story without any drop in pacing.

Vaughn's novel takes a decidedly dark turn from the first novel, moving more to horror than science fiction, but it's the thriller elements that bind this fast-paced story. For those who like their antagonists with a sadistic bent, this novel is for you. 4 STARS

Neurogarden (Book One: NeuralTech Rising Series)

Neurogarden, Bryon Vaughn's imaginative debut novel, delves into the possible future of AI technology. The theme is a familiar one: the corporate impulse to exploit profit and power no matter how questionable the technology versus those who see the moral disadvantage. It reminds me a little of Neuromancer, but with less tech and more of the thriller element. 

The CEO of NeuralTech Corporation, Brenna Patrick, has developed the world's most effective and accurate facial recognition system. Unsurprisingly, it has attracted the Department of Defence's collaborative funding, but the company's operations are not what they seem.

The antagonist, Brenna Patrick, possesses a ruthless ambition and superior intelligence that drives her to succeed no matter the cost, both to herself or those who dare to cross her path. A perfectionist at heart in all things, Brenna possesses a selfish streak that ultimately leads to her downfall.

The protagonist, Jenny Marcado, loyally supported by her grad student friend, Leo Marino, inadvertently fall into Brenna's dark web whilst innocently pitching their business acumen to NeuralTech. Jenny's presentation fearlessly speaks the truth to power, impressing Brenna and sparking an interest between them that extends beyond professional competence. A fatal attraction develops.

Jenny and Leo are drawn ever deeper into Brenna's shadowy corporate web, leading to a thrilling cat and mouse game between those who wish to expose NeuralTech's secrets and those who want to protect them.

I enjoy the new wave of tech science fiction, exploring the impact of new technology on society. Vaughn's take on 'The Garden' was an intriguing and imaginative journey. It took some time to reach the action as it introduced character backstories, unnecessarily slowing the pace. That said, the second half of the book quickly gathers momentum. Vaughn's atmospheric prose soars when it reaches the beating heart of NeuralTech's technology, 'The Garden'. The imaginative dreamlike experience is effectively counterbalanced with thriller elements, making for an entertaining and thought-provoking story.

Fans of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One and Philip K Dick's Minority Report should enjoy Neurogarden. 4 Stars

Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Australian and British Science Fiction Awards 2020

Australian Science Fiction Awards

The Aurealis Awards are an annual literary award for Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror fiction. It was established in 1995 by Chimera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis Magazine.

The Aurealis nominations are out for the best science fiction novels for 2020. There is a good mix of new writers and previous winners and nominees.

The nominations are:

Ghost Species, James Bradley;

Aurora Burning, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff;

Fauna, Donna Mazza;

The Animals in That Country, Laura Jean McKay;

The Mother Fault, Kate Mildenhall;

Repo Virtual, Corey J White.

British Science Fiction Awards

The 2020 British Science Fiction Awards (BSFA) are awarded every year by the British Science Fiction Association based on the votes of BSFA members, and in recent years, members of the British National Science Fiction Convention, Eastercon.

The 2020 awards will be held online from April 2 to 5, 2021. The nominees for all categories can be viewed on this link.

There’s an interesting group of science fiction novels this year and I have read one of the nominations. 

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. 

Two more interesting standouts for me are:

Threading the Labyrinth by Tiffany Angus; and 

Water Must Fall by Nick Wood.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Best Android Novels and Movies

A shout out to all SFF writers and readers. 

I'm currently writing a genre-bending novel, Chandelier, which merges science fiction and fantasy in the re-imagining of the Phantom of the Opera. So my research is covering a lot of territory. Each month will cover one of the themes I'm researching, from androids to phantoms. So, any feedback would be really appreciated as I finish the task of writing the new novel. 

One of the main characters in Chandelier is Beni, a humanoid (human looking android), programmed to study the human condition, particularly through music. The trouble is, Beni doesn't know he’s an android. He's gifted with a limited set of extraordinary abilities but he's not aware of his past. Writing about androids is a fascinating and challenging task, so much of my research includes reading how others have tackled the task. For anyone out there who like to read or write about androids, let me know your thoughts. 

What are the Best Android Novels/Movies

Novels and movies are filled with interesting android characters and I have listed my favourite five, including a review of Martha Well’s new novel.

My Favourite Five

Blade Runner (Replicants)

2001 a Space Odyssey (HAL)

Terminator Series (T800)

Alien Series (particularly Bishop)

Network Effect (Murderbot)

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. 

For now, 5 STARS for Network Effect's killer introduction alone! I'll report back after I take the entire 'murderbot' journey.

And now for the unabashed self-promotion, in case the book sparks some interest. I’ll keep this short! You can find information about Chandelier on my website or follow the tour, where there are excerpts, Q&A’s, Prizes and more. Here’s the short blurb.

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.

Listen to the Podcast of Chapter One: Benny 

A century has passed since the fabled Phantom ruled the Garnier Opera House. Multiple generations of patrons have felt his wrath, including Madame D'Arenberg, referred to as Diva, a famous French opera singer who is now a centenarian post-human. (humans with technological implants). She prepares for her final appearance at the Garnier for the 2121AD opening night of Verdi's La Traviata. Her greatest love has long passed, and she is now cared for by Peri (a human) and Dr Flynn (a humanoid). On Peri's recommendation, Diva attends a performance by Benny, a musician who scrapes out a living as a pianist in a nightclub. Diva is affected by his unique musicianship and hires him to write a song for her final concert.

If you like the sound of CHANDELIER, read the prequel, PHANTOMS, available on Amazon.