Monday, October 5, 2020

Review: Neurogarden

 


Book Overview

Where can you run when there is no place to hide?


Brenna Patrick is a brilliant technologist specializing in neural-cognitive functions and AI. She has cracked the code to solve one of the most troublesome problems in the field, and turned that into the multi-billion dollar NeuralTech Corporation.


Working quietly with the U.S. Department of Defense, NeuralTech is poised to leapfrog the competition with a revolutionary system for tracking people, starting with the world’s most wanted terrorists. But there are only so many terrorists in the world, so who’s next?


When a pair of Columbia graduate students, Jenny and Leo, stumble on the dark secret of NeuralTech’s success, it kicks off a tense game of cat and mouse. As they fight to defeat the powerful forces arrayed against them, nothing less than the fate of humanity hangs in the balance…


NEUROGARDEN is a roller-coaster ride of a thriller, one that will have readers pondering the nature of memory, and of reality, long after they've read the last page.




Author  Bio and Links:


Ever since reading Douglas Adams back in my formative years, I have had an interesting relationship with humor, science fiction, and technology. My first computer was a TI-99/4A, so yeah, I’m old, but only until scientists have cracked the code on transplanting our brains into shiny new vessels.


My body may be showing signs of wear, but I’m keeping my brain tight.


When I am not dreaming of far off worlds and writing, I am living a semi-normal life working in New York City, and watching movies with my wife and her spastic cat, Moss.


Web site  Facebook  Instagram  Twitter  Amazon  




In Conversation with Bryon Vaughn


What are you passionate about these days?

Aside from my current obsession with writing, I am working on finishing up my masters degree at Columbia in strategic communication and that has become my new passion. I have an unnatural affinity for data analytics, finding patterns and telling stories with information. When I find a hidden nugget of insight in a 20MB dataset that nobody else has noticed it is intoxicating. Like I said above, nerd.

If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have gone straight to self-publishing early on. As a data researcher, I looked at all the numbers and despite the strong case for taking the indie route, I held on to the traditional publishing model as the best approach. In my early years, it was difficult to break through using traditional methods, and honestly pushed me away from doing what I loved. Now that I am in a place where I have gotten my groove back, I’m confident that my work will find its audience, and if not then that’s on me.

Ebook or print? And why?

I love a printed book. I have many bookshelves in my apartment, and despite the fact that all of my books fill over 30 boxes every time we move to another apartment, there is no way I’m leaving them behind. That said, I will release my books in whatever format people want to buy. The feel of a book in my hand is satisfying in a fetishistic way, but the words are what matters, so to each their own. But give me something I can stick on a shelf and show off to my friends any day.

What is your favorite scene in this book?

I don’t want to give away too much, but my favorite scene is one between the heroine, Jenny, and the antagonist, Brenna. It takes place in the mind of Brenna, and folds in on itself with an earlier event that makes it an interesting look into reality and memory, and the blurry line between awareness and the sub-conscious. We get to know these two characters in a way that is nearly impossible in the context of our own traditional perception. All that, and it’s hot.



Review

Neurogarden, Bryon Vaughn’s imaginative debut novel, delves into the possible future of AI technology. The theme is a familiar one: 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 powerful and accurate facial recognition system. Unsurprisingly, it has attracted the collaborative funding of the Department of Defense, but there are illegal company secrets being withheld from the public.


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 narcissistic 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 interesting and imaginative journey. It took some time to reach the action as it introduced character back stories, at times 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





Thursday, August 27, 2020

Book Launch: Sentient




Blurb
In 2120, the human species has been relegated to minority status. A century of rampant unchecked climate and technological change and subsequent catastrophic global pandemics, has laid claim to the very young, accelerating post-human development. With the help of biots, ironically the human race’s finest creation, post-humans’ fulfil their aspiration, colonisation of the galactic, led by the largest post-human corporation on Earth, Apollo Corporation. 

Gaea, a preeminent human organisation is tasked with returning Earth’s climate to preindustrial conditions and developing new off-planet habitable zones. One such zone is run by Dr. Zi Walker, who’s extracting a rare, highly prized natural resource (Elithium), that fuels nuclear fusion reactors to drive the terraforming process. But, there’s one last piece of the puzzle to make terraforming of the whole planet a reality. The development of a multiverse quantum computer (Trojan), a Gaea funded project, overseen by her brother, Dane. 

Dane is compelled to leave those he loves, to help Zi terraform Mars. He and his biot assistant, Hali, accompany the smuggled Trojan computer on a shipment of terraforming equipment bound for Mars, but enroute, the project is infiltrated by Apollo secret operatives assigned to stop them and take the Trojan computer. An epic battle ensues, that will prove to become a flash point in human, post-human relations and the evolutionary fate of mankind.


Excerpt 
The reconnaissance soldier, Harvey, was the first to walk into the cave, his adversary not just Draven, but to his shock, four Dravens. The soldier attempted to fire his pulse gun, but it failed to activate, causing him to back away to com Jarvis, when it too failed. 
Draven was unarmed except for a single dagger, which he removed from his sheath and pointed his assailant’s way, inviting him to battle. Harvey, like all military biots, was a robotised killer, programmed to fight in the fires of hades if there commander required it. He welcomed Draven’s challenge, exchanging a steel salute with his blade.
In that moment between standoff and battle, both combatants exchanged an inscrutable glance that signalled the opening gesture, acceptance that what they now started would only end with one standing. War-like adrenaline saturated the cave like the Martian dust as they began a dance they’d spent their lives honing. Both were masters of the blade. 
The soldier relished rather than feared Draven’s advantage as he rotated 360 degrees to confront the four assailants that encircled him. It was a Russian roulette encounter, with only one holding the real weapon of death. But which? The soldier flicked his handle, extending his knife to a sword, showing he too brought tricks to the arena. Masterfully, he swept the sword in a Samurai-like movement of grace and skill glancing all four assailants, clicking real metal on only one, establishing his real target.
He attacked Draven, slicing, carving and driving his sword in every possible direction and angle but each time Draven evaded his assault untouched, toying with him. The soldier grew bolder with every exchange as if the challenge was all that mattered. Ever faster, he launched attacks that ultimately pushed Draven into the rock wall. Cornering Draven, he felt emboldened to make a devastating but risky assault, successfully finding the small opening in his defence allowing Harvey to plunge his sword deep into Draven’s core. 
The sound of steel driving through Draven’s body echoed through the cathedral signalling victory, but to the soldier’s shock, Draven stood tall, before the flickering of his holograph gave way to the cold rock where he stood.
“You’re fast, soldier. But I’m as quick as light,” he said, pulling his knife from the soldiers back, spilling his blood to the Martian dust, decommissioning the young soldier with a single decisive incision. 

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, August 13, 2020

Book Blast Tour: Dark Matter

 


Earth is dying. The only salvation for humanity is colonizing space, yet so far that has failed. The last hope for survival exists on a planet light years away…and the mission is fraught with danger. Teenager Selina Alois leads a group of six high achievers who pass the exam of a lifetime to earn a position on the precarious expedition. As the mission launch approaches, dark secrets are exposed about the planet. Further digging reveals a sinister plot that not only risks humanity’s fate but also puts Selina and her team to the ultimate test.


Read another Excerpt

“We don’t have much time.” 

The first words out of my mother’s mouth were not what I had expected. I had expected to find both of my parents home from work early; I had expected them to want to talk to me; I had expected an endless stream of questions. But not this. 

The urgency in my mother’s tone told me this was more than a melancholic response to my impending departure—this was much more. Frowning with concern, I looked from my mother’s knitted brow to my father’s taut jawline. I stood frozen in place, hesitant even to close the door behind me. 

“Come in,” my mother rushed on impatiently. “We really don’t have much time.” 

Obediently, robot-like, I took a segmented step. My father pulled me forward and deeper into the kitchen until the door clicked shut behind me. 

“You need to listen very carefully to what we’re about to tell you,” my mother told me sternly. 

“We won’t have a chance to say anything twice. What you hear, you must never repeat.” 

“If any of us are caught sharing this information, we’ll be executed,” my father cut in, voice low and grave. 



About the Author

Alyssa Huckleberry grew up in San Diego as the oldest of four children. After earning a business degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Alyssa spent a short time working in finance before transitioning to work in education. Today Alyssa works as a fifth grade teacher and she LOVES her job! 

When she isn't teaching or writing, you can find Alyssa running, reading, practicing yoga, traveling the world, or spending time with those dearest to her. She loves spending time outdoors, growing in her faith, and learning new things (hence, the great amount of time spent reading, traveling, and going on adventures!). A true lover of whimsy, she also believes everything is better with a latte in hand.

Alyssa's first novel, Rescuing Racei, was published in 2004 (while Alyssa was still a high school student) and later won the San Diego Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel. Since then, Alyssa published three other books to complete the series: Stealing Splendiferous, Magicus, and The Maleku Map.

The Struggle is Real was an inspired piece written for an adult audience as a stand-alone work. Her latest novel, Dark Matter, is written for a young adult audience. It is the first book in what will be a science-fiction series imagining a future of space exploration!

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Review: The City in the Middle of the Night



The story of this Hugo nominated novel takes place on the planet January, a sphere tidally locked to its star, creating two worlds, one scorched by constant sunlight, the other a cold world of endless night. Humans barely survive in the narrow twilight world that borders both extremities. 


The story begins with a sacrifice. Sophie takes the blame for a theft committed by her roommate Bianca, her punishment for this trivial misdemeanour, to be hurled down a steep precipice to the night world and almost certain death. Unexpectedly, Sophie is saved by a fearsome alien life form (the Gelids) and returned to her twilight home, Xiosphant.  


The setting up of the story was a delight. Anders builds tension with skilled prose, quickly capturing reader interest. I look forward to completing this novel and delving deeper into the workings of the time-regulated human world of Xiosphant and its relationship with the alien cultures of the night world.


Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January



January Scaller is raised as a ward of the wealthy Mr Locke, a member of the exclusive New England Archaeological Society, who employs her father, Julian Scaller, to acquire objects of interest from around the world. As a consequence, January grows up in an emotionally isolated setting, mostly without the love and guidance of her father. She makes amends for her loneliness, exploring the many artefacts that fill Mr Locke’s grand house, it’s mysteries stirring her developing imagination.


Stifled in her adolescence, January embarks on a journey of self-discovery in her late teens, when she discovers a mysterious leather book that carries the promise of adventure, discovery and love, all just a step removed from ten thousand secret doors.


The dream-like prose is reminiscent of many great tales told a century earlier, with its protagonist yearning to fit into the world, but never fully able. I look forward to finishing this Hugo nominated novel and re-engage with the wondrous world created by Harrow’s polished prose.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Hugo Awards


The 2020 Hugo Awards are fast approaching. A favourite annual literary award for the best SFF works and considered the premier award in science fiction. It has been operating since 1955. A good database to see all the winners of the Hugo’s, as well as all other major SFF awards, is at science fiction awards database

CoNZealand will hold the event in 2020, which due to the Coronavirus pandemic will only be viewed online from July 29 to August 2.

I’ve been reading some of the recent previous winners of the award in preparation for the upcoming event. The author, N K Jemisin has dominated the awards with her trilogy: The Fifth Season; The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky, winning the last three Hugo’s in a row. Prior to that, Mary R Kowal’s novel, The Calculating Stars and Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem took the award. 

There’s an interesting bunch this year, so I hope to read all of the 2020 nominations before the award night. The nominations for the major award are:
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Sanders;
Middle Game by Seanan McGuire;
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley; and 
Gideon the Ninth by Tasman Muir.

Review: The Obelisk Gate


The key protagonist, Essun, remains the hero in The Obelisk Gate, as she settles into the underground community of Castrima. The surprise element of the previous book where all three POV characters are Essun at different stages of her life, is replaced with two main protagonists, Essun and her daughter Nassun, as they struggle to survive in a deteriorating world. 

Nassun flees her hometown of Tirimo with her dangerously unpredictable father to the community of Found Moon where she is ultimately guided by the Guardian, Schaffa, who once guided her mother. Essun, with the help of Alabaster, further develops her orogene skills to prepare for the increasingly violent battle, raged by Father Earth against reckless human activity that led to the loss of its Moon.

Somewhere along the way, I lost interest in both protagonist’s, not really caring for either of them. I’ll put it down to the excessive descriptions used, no doubt setting up for the final instalment, but it read like two separate stories. I’d have given up on this book all together if not for Jemisin’s undoubted writing skills and the fact I so enjoyed book one. I suspect the third instalment will be as enjoyable as book one, as Essun’s and Nassun’s lives finally come together for the story’s resolution. Despite the trilogy’s slow middle, it remains a truly unique fantasy world told by a talented writer.