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! 


Review by The Faerie Review

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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 reviews.

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.






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.

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