10 Recent Sci-Fi Books I Am Ready To Devour — Or Maybe Just Read

12 03 2014

Ever since I walked into a movie theater in Tipton, Iowa, at the age of 4 and watched “Star Wars,” I have been a fan of science fiction. Many of my favorite TV shows, books and movies are from the genre. I have always been drawn to the tales of adventure, often wrapped in a larger social message.

As a teen, I devoured books by Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke. I don’t read as much sci-fi as I used to, but there has been a large number of science fiction books released in the past few months that definitely caught my eye and are at the top of my seemingly-infinite To Be Read list.

For this post, I have picked the 10 science fiction books that have released in the past two months that I definitely want to read. It is a varied list, with dystopian futures, licensed products and alternative views of the afterlife, among other things. But they all have some aspect that caught my eye and made their way to my TBR list.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

red-rising Book description from the publisher: Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to  infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

13638125Book description from the publisher: Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their  thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

Alien — Out of The Shadows by Tim Lebbon

Out_of_the_Shadows_CoverBook description from the publisher: The massively acclaimed Alien franchise is one of the most successful of all time, beginning with the first film in 1979.

In a dramatic twist, this novel will return us to that time, to Ellen Ripley, and to never-before-revealed secrets of the Weyland-Yutani Corporations…secrets that lead into the events of the second film, Aliens…and beyond!

The Martian by Andy Weir

martianBook description from the publisher: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die
there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price

flightsilversBook description from the publisher: Without warning, the world comes to an end for Hannah and Amanda Given. The sky looms frigid white. The electricity falters. Airplanes everywhere crash to the ground. But the Givens are saved by mysterious strangers, three fearsome and beautiful beings who force a plain silver bracelet onto each sister’s wrist. Within moments, the sky comes down in a crushing sheet of light and everything around them is gone.

Shielded from the devastation by their silver adornments, the Givens suddenly find themselves elsewhere, a strange new Earth where restaurants move through the air like flying saucers and the fabric of time is manipulated by common household appliances.

Soon Hannah and Amanda are joined by four other survivors from their world—a mordant cartoonist, a shy teenage girl, a brilliant young Australian, and a troubled ex-prodigy. Hunted by enemies they never knew they had and afflicted with temporal abilities they never wanted, the sisters and their companions begin a cross-country journey to find the one man who can save them—before time runs out.

Influx by Daniel Suarez

influxBook description from the publisher: Are smart phones really humanity’s most significant innovation since the moon landings? Or can something else explain why the bold visions of the 20th century–fusion power, genetic enhancements, artificial intelligence, cures for common disease, extended human life, and a host of other world-changing advances–have remained beyond our grasp? Why has the high-tech future that
seemed imminent in the 1960′s failed to arrive?

Perhaps it did arrive…but only for a select few.

Particle physicist Jon Grady is ecstatic when his team achieves what they’ve been working toward for years: a device that can reflect gravity. Their research will revolutionize the field of physics–the crowning achievement of a career. Grady expects widespread acclaim for his entire team. The Nobel. Instead, his lab is locked down by a shadowy organization whose mission is to prevent at all costs the social upheaval sudden technological advances bring. This Bureau of Technology Control uses the advanced technologies they have harvested over the decades to fulfill their mission.

They are living in our future.

Presented with the opportunity to join the BTC and improve his own technology in secret, Grady balks, and is instead thrown into a nightmarish high-tech prison built to hold rebellious geniuses like himself. With so many great intellects confined together, can Grady and his fellow prisoners conceive of a way to usher humanity out of its artificial dark age?

And when they do, is it possible to defeat an enemy that wields a technological advantage half a century in the making?

Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler

17910119Book description from the publisher: Lord Scott Oken, a prince of Albion, and Professor-Prince Mikel Mabruke live in a world where the sun never set on the Egyptian Empire. In the year 1877 of Our Lord Julius Caesar, Pharaoh Djoser-George governs a sprawling realm that spans Europe, Africa, and much of Asia. When the European terrorist Otto von Bismarck touches off an international conspiracy, Scott and Mik are charged with exposing the plot against the Empire.

Their adventure takes them from the sands of Memphis to a lush New World, home of the Incan Tawantinsuyu, a rival empire across the glittering Atlantic Ocean. Encompassing Quetzal airships, operas, blood sacrifice and high diplomacy, Ramona Wheeler’s Three Princes is a richly imagined, cinematic vision of a modern Egyptian Empire.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

annihilationBook description from the publisher: Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as
its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Annihilation is the first volume in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, which will be published throughout 2014: volume two (Authority) in June, and volume three (Acceptance) in September.

Archetype by M.D. Waters

18079523Book description from the publisher: Emma wakes in a hospital, with no memory of what came before. Her husband, Declan, a powerful, seductive man, provides her with new memories, but her dreams contradict his stories, showing her a past life she can’t believe
possible: memories of war, of a camp where girls are trained to be wives, of love for another man. Something inside her tells her not to speak of this, but she does not know why. She only knows she is at war with herself.

Suppressing those dreams during daylight hours, Emma lets Declan mold her into a happily married woman and begins to fall in love with him. But the day Noah stands before her, the line between her reality and dreams shatters.

In a future where women are a rare commodity, Emma fights for freedom but is held captive by the love of two men—one her husband, the other her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which. . . .

The first novel in a two-part series, Archetype heralds the arrival of a truly memorable character—and the talented author who created her.

The Waking Engine by David Edison

waking-engineBook description from the publisher: Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times . . . until they come
at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found.

Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls . . . and one very confused New Yorker.

Late of Manhattan, Cooper finds himself in a City that is not what it once was. The gateway to True
Death is failing, so that the City is becoming overrun by the Dying, who clot its byzantine streets and alleys . . . and a spreading madness threatens to engulf the entire metaverse.

Richly imaginative, David Edison’s The Waking Engine is a stunning debut by a major new talent.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi books of the recent past? Or what science fiction books are about to be released that you are really looking forward to? Please share your thoughts. I’m always looking for new genre books to devour. Or at least read.





The 300: Sharing the first chapter of my WIP

10 02 2014

300Recently, I promised that when my Facebook author page got to 300 likes, I would post the 1st chapter of my current Work In Progress.

Well, I reached that landmark today, so as promised, here is the first chapter. I hope you like it. Any comments or feedback are always appreciated

Chapter 1

I used to drive past the pristine homes, the well-manicured lawns, the white picket fences, and wonder what manner of evil really went on behind those walls, away from the prying, curious eyes of well-mannered society. Now, I wish I could go back to wondering.

My name is Mike. Mike Wise. And my personal nightmare started about five years ago. It was the summer after my grandpa died, a steamy July Saturday night with no distinguishing characteristics. I don’t remember the date anymore, but it doesn’t much matter, does it? That day might as well have been the first day of my life, because nothing has been right since.

I might not remember the date, but I will never forget what happened that night. Believe me, I’ve tried to wipe away the unbearable stain of the memories of that night, and all the craziness that has happened since, with an endless stream of alcohol and pharmaceuticals. But nothing has even made a dent.

Sorry. I’m not telling you this story to make you feel sorry for me. Only in hopes that you might understand me. And possibly understand yourself better. I know, lofty goals for a piece of literature most of you will dismiss as pulp fiction or the ramblings of the criminally insane. Let me tell you how it all started. I’ve always thought that was the best way to tell a story, don’t you?

In the last moments of my former life, I was behind the wheel of my recently-acquired prized possession, the 1969 Corvette my grandfather left me, with the windows rolled down and Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” blasting from the CD player I had just installed earlier that day. Hey, I like 80s rock music. I was a child of the ‘80s after all. Don’t judge me for my taste in music. I have much worse faults, as you will soon see.

My grandpa Joe had died of a heart attack about six months before and had left me the classic car in his will, much to my dad’s dismay. Dad always said grandpa had promised him the car, but apparently grandpa didn’t get the memo. It wasn’t the first communication problem between father and son, so it really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. In death, as in life.

The two had barely spoken, as far as I knew, in the last two or three decades, so I was really unsure why my dad had continued to cling to the irrational belief that the car would somehow make its way into his possession after Grandpa’s death. I guess sometimes our long-held hopes and dreams can blind us to the cold, stark visage of logic and reality that is staring us right in the face.

The ironic thing is I’m not even into cars. My dad can tell you the specifications of every car made in the last 50 years, but I can’t tell you the difference between a carburetor and a fuel injector. My previous car was an eight-year old Toyota Camry that I maintained to manufacturer’s specifications, but otherwise didn’t pay much attention. Like I said, I’m not that into cars. But you don’t have to be a car aficionado to appreciate the aesthetic value of a 1969 Corvette Stingray. The sleek lines. The lush curves. The way people watch as you drive by. Who couldn’t appreciate those things?

Not that I really care too much about such things. I’m a pretty simple man. At least I used to be. I live alone in my ranch-style 3-bedroom home on the edge of town. I go to work every day at Mansfield Plumbing, the local factory where I have worked ever since I graduated high school 18 years ago. Unlike most guys here in my hometown of Loudonville, Ohio, my idea of fun does not include hunting, fishing and drinking beer. I’m more of an intellectual.

Yeah, I know. What’s an intellectual like myself doing living in this Podunk town working a dead-end factory job? Life’s a funny thing. Like my grandpa used to say, life is what happens while you’re busy making plans. But this is really a nice place to live.

I love spending time among nature, either with a pen and paper in hand or a camera at my eye, and the nearby Mohican River and its lush ecosystem provide plenty of opportunities for me to enjoy the wonders of God’s creation. Plus, I’m not too far from the big cities of Cleveland and Columbus and all the wonderful opportunities they provide – museums, galleries, restaurants, coffee houses. So, for me, Loudonville was a perfect place to live.

That Saturday night, I was heading home from a day of photography and hiking at Mohican State Park. I was cruising along the lonely streets in my quiet hometown, watching as the current crop of hormone-driven high school heroes posed and preened in the sports cars that their daddies bought for them. All in the hopes of luring some unsuspecting prom queen or cheerleader into their web.

I’m not a vindictive, hateful person, but there was a part of me that wished that those pompous teens could get knocked down a peg and be forced to feel what real life is like for most people. Not all of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths. I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but I just can’t help it. You know you feel the same way. Unless you happen to be one of them.

My family wasn’t poor, but we certainly weren’t rich, either. We were definitely what you would call a middle class family. My dad managed the business office at Mansfield Plumbing, keeping the company’s books. It wasn’t the most prestigious job in town, but it definitely paid the bills and kept us living in one of the nicer neighborhoods in town. The mayor lived on one side and the chief of police on the other side. Not a bad way to grow up.

That night, as I slowly cruised past the rows of two-story Victorian houses that lined my hometown’s narrow streets, my fertile imagination was busy creating nightmarish scenarios of horrific happenings in that serene, small-town setting. It was a little game my mind liked to play – imagining what atrocities could be taking place within the confines of the ordinary-looking homes that I drove past every day. Visions of abuse and neglect danced across the movie screen of my mind. Violent, tragic scenes played out against the idyllic backdrop of life along the Mohican River in rural Ohio. I know, it is a macabre hobby, but that’s just the way my disturbed brain works. What can I say? I get bored easily.

Of course I knew that in most of those houses, there was nothing more awful going on than old Bill Lewis forgetting to lower the toilet seat, pissing off his wife, Margie. Or poor Natalie Holtman sitting home alone watching “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” while her husband Mike was out late again, supposedly playing poker with his buddies, while he actually is busy playing a much different game with his alluring secretary, Val.

Most of my neighbors are relatively honest, law-abiding citizens who go to church, pay their taxes, love their spouses and kids and do their civic duty by voting at least once every four years. But for every Bill Lewis there was a Larry Wallace. Who’s Larry Wallace? Before that night, he was just another anonymous face in the small crowd that made up my hometown.

On that July Saturday night, I was driving past Larry’s house when it happened. What happened you ask? I can explain it to you, but you probably won’t believe me. Or you’ll think I need to see a shrink. Or both. And if I was in your place, I’d probably think the same thing. But I experienced it myself, so I am sure it really happened. At least as sure as anyone can be about that kind of thing.

It started as a quiet buzz, an insidious gnawing irritation that threatened to bore its way through my skull. The melodious sound of Kelly Keagy belting out the Night Ranger classic was cut short, replaced by the unexpected crackle of static. I glanced down at the CD player, ready to fix whatever problem had short-circuited my favorite song, when my windshield went from crystal clear to a sheet of impenetrable white.

My vision impaired, I slammed on the brakes, thankful to not hear the crunch of metal on metal, which meant there was no traffic behind me on the sleepy Loudonville roadway. I jumped out of the car and saw that from the outside, my windshield still appeared normal. I could see through the windshield into the interior of the car. Thinking that maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me, I got back in the car and looked out again, but still saw nothing but white.

That was when the little buzz in my head crescendoed to a deafening roar. For a second, all I could see was pitch black, then a few flashes of light. And then my whole world went dark.

When I came to, I saw that nothing had changed.  Except, everything had changed. I glanced down at the clock on the stereo. 10:30. Almost an hour had passed while I was unconscious. I looked in my rearview mirror, half expecting to see the flashing lights of some law enforcement vehicle parked behind me. How could I have been sitting here for an hour without someone noticing and calling the police? When I glanced back up at the whitewashed windshield, I wished I could lose consciousness again. Before my eyes, I saw a nightmarish scene being played out that almost defied description.

I saw a woman, fear clearly splashed across her visage, huddled on a tiled floor with her thin arms held defensively over her face. She was wearing a t-shirt with a redbird on it – the mascot for our local high school – and a pair of black athletic shorts. She appeared to be about 35 or 40, and I thought I recognized her but couldn’t quite put a name to her. I could see a white porcelain toilet with “Mansfield Plumbing” printed on its base behind her.

I recoiled as an arm flashed into the image from the right, sweeping across my view, followed by a red flash. The arm came back into view from the left, followed by more flashes of red. Blood, I realized. The hand was holding a knife or some other sharp object, and the crimson splashes were the blood spurting from the helpless female figure, now completely prone.

The woman’s mouth opened as if for a scream, but I couldn’t hear a sound, a fact for which I was very thankful. I could only watch the continuing bloodbath, which was horrific enough. The vicious slashes continued for at least 10 more seconds, and the torrent of bright red continued to spray across the windshield of my car.

It was like I was watching a silent horror film, playing out before my eyes in brilliant technicolor. I thought I must be losing my mind. What was I seeing? Was it a hallucination? A vision? A part of my mind was telling me to look away, but I was transfixed by the images coming to life on the windshield of my car. Yes, I know how absurd that sounds.

Eventually, the arm stopped its assault and the woman lay still, a river of blood continuing to flow from the slashes across her face and neck. Then the view shifted, as if a camera was changing angles, and I could see more of the bathroom where the scene was taking place. The hands that just moments before had conducted such a ferocious attack were now reaching for a towel, trying to wipe away the damning evidence.

The view spun a little further, now facing a plain white pedestal sink, as the killer turned on the water. He grabbed a bar of soap and began working it between his hands, building up a soapy lather. He feverishly attacked the bloody remnants of his assault, trying to wash away every last trace. But no matter how hard he scrubbed, there were tell-tale streaks of red left all over his hands and forearms.

He looked up from his scrubbing, revealing his face in the mirror. I had no idea who the man was, but he didn’t look like a killer. Whatever a killer is supposed to look like. I guess I’ve always had this idea that you can tell the good people from the bad people just by looking at them. Now I realize what a naïve idea that was.

With his close-cropped dark hair and goatee, the man in the mirror looked like any one of a thousand other average Joes who populated every corner of our country. He grabbed a purple washcloth from a rack next to the sink, passed it under the running water, then dabbed at a patch of red on his cheek.

And then, just as soon as it had started, it was gone. My windshield returned to its transparent state and the bloody scene vanished back into the netherworld from where it came.

The tiny sound of an approaching vehicle caused me to look down the road behind me. Two glowing eyes stared accusingly at me through the veil of darkness. I wasn’t sure what had just happened to me, but I really didn’t want anyone to see me sitting in the middle of the road in the dark. I threw the car in gear and slammed my foot on the gas pedal, spraying up a shower of stone bullets as the Vette pulled me away from what I hoped was just a momentary lapse of reality.





Dark Rising – An excerpt from my upcoming short story

15 06 2013

As I neared completion of my novel, I decided there was a part of the story that I wanted to tell but it didn’t necessarily fit within the novel. So I decided to write a short story prequel to introduce people to the world where my story takes place.

Today, I am sharing an excerpt from the first chapter of the short story which have titled Dark Rising. My story is a sci-fi action/adventure/thriller set in the very near future.

Any comments would be appreciated. I hope you enjoy this sneak peek and that it leaves you wanting to read more.

 

Mashhad, Iran

It is not going to end like this.

That solitary thought overwhelmed all others as Sgt. Brian Duncan fought to stem the steady stream of crimson that flowed from his shoulder. A jagged shard of shrapnel had slashed a ragged stream along his skin as it flew past him after the blast. The unexpected eruption had upended the truck he and his team had used to get from the Afghanistan-Iran border to the holy city of Mashhad, Iran.

Got to keep moving.

The acrid smoke burned his eyes as he struggled across the debris-covered earth toward the truck that had brought his team into this nightmare, one hand pressing a field dressing against the wound in his shoulder, and the other pulling him along. Bullets flew around him like a deadly blizzard of hot metal.

The bandage he held on his shoulder was stained a bright red, like the rose bushes he remembered his mother growing in her garden back in Royal Oak, Michigan, a vibrant suburb north of Detroit. She always took such meticulous care of those bushes, tending them with the same loving care she showed her two sons. But he quickly put those thoughts out of his head. This mission was too important to be distracted by thoughts of home. If his team failed, there wouldn’t be a home to go back to.

I’ve got to make it. Everything depends on it.

He looked up and felt a surge of hope. He was almost there. With a final, desperate tug, he eased his battered body behind the fiery remains of the truck, which now rested on its side. Brian shielded his face from the heat of the flames that roared from the engine compartment.

It had probably been less than a minute since his team’s mission had gone sideways but it seemed as if he had been crawling for hours. But there was no time to rest. He slowly poked his head up and saw their Iranian driver still belted in his seat. It only took a glance to see that this was going to be the young man’s final mission.

He risked a peek around the front of the burning truck and was greeted by another hail of gunfire. The barrage of bullets seemed to be coming from all directions at once.

How many soldiers are out there and where are they?

 “Ortega. Can you hear me?” No answer on his headset. “Mason. Jamison. Riley. Wilson. Anyone out there?” No one. Either all his teammates were dead or their communications gear was on the fritz.

Am I the only one left? Can I complete this mission alone?

Above the roar of the battle, Brian could hear anguished screams, maybe from one of his teammates. Another yell pierced through the tumult and bore its way deep into Brian’s frazzled brain. This wasn’t his first firefight, but that didn’t make it any easier to stay calm and think clearly when in the midst of the fray. Blood-curdling screams like those could rattle even the steeliest of men. Several deep breaths and a moment of stillness helped clear the surge of adrenaline that threatened to overwhelm Brian’s years of training and field experience.

With his thoughts a little clearer, Brian paused to assess his situation and see what his options were. His wound was serious but not life-threatening, and he would need both hands if he was going to survive this. Usually, someone else applied the trauma dressing, but since he was all alone, Brian removed the bandage from his first aid kid and did his best to apply the dressing one-handed. When he was done, he studied his handiwork. Not ideal, but it would do for now.

He had his Sig Sauer M11 at his hip and his HK MP5 over his shoulder, but only a few clips of ammo for both. He also had three grenades and two flash-bangs in the pockets that lined his legs. Better than nothing, but not much good against the horde of killers that had him pinned down. He had to conserve his ammo if he wanted to have any chance at survival. Once his bullets were gone, so was he.

He tucked himself tightly against the remains of the truck, trying to formulate a plan. His first order of business was to make his way to a more defensible position and attempt to locate the surviving members of his team, if there were any.

As he glanced again around the rear of the truck, Brian saw the gilded peak of his team’s intended destination: the Imam Reza Shrine. The “shrine” was actually the world’s largest mosque – a 1,300-year-old massive complex that was home to a museum, a library, four seminaries, a cemetery, and a university. Millions of Muslims made the pilgrimage to Mashhad and the ancient mosque each year.

Normally, the shrine was home to education, religion and peace. But if their intel was accurate, today, it was housing something deadly. No matter what had happened to the rest of his team, Brian knew that he had to make his way to the mosque and attempt to complete their mission.

Snap!

Brian whirled, squeezing the trigger on his MP5. The approaching figure crumpled to the ground at his feet. He breathed a sigh of relief as he saw that the bloodied form was not one of his teammates, although he knew it could have been. He had pulled the trigger without even a thought; without even seeing who it was. That probably had saved his life, but what if it had been one of his teammates?

OK, get a grip! I really need to get out of here.





Book Review – Afloat by Erin Healy

5 06 2013

AfloatAfloat

By Erin Healy

Thomas Nelson

In Stores Now

What will you do when push comes to shove? When everything is on the line, what choices will you make? Who will you choose to trust? Where will you put your faith?

These questions are at the heart of the new supernatural suspense novel Afloat by Christian author Erin Healy. I had already read The Baker’s Wife and The Promise She Keeps by Healy and the description of Afloat grabbed my eye, so I was excited to jump into Afloat when it arrived on my doorstep.

After getting off to a slow start as Healy sets the scene and introduces the cast of characters, Afloat launches into a tale of murder, greed, revenge and love. Danielle Clement is a single mom struggling to raise her son, Simeon. Desperate to make ends meet, she has let real estate developer Tony Dean help her out by providing her a job and a place to live –  the amazing floating condominiums known as Eagle’s Talon. The complex is the dream project for architect Vance Nolan, but his dream is about to become a nightmare. When a sinkhole gives way and the cove is flooded and cut off from the outside world, those left behind are entangled in a battle to survive. Read the rest of this entry »





Sci-fi, spies, superheroes and supernatural: The 10 Shows I Am Eager To Watch In The New Season

22 05 2013

Last week, the five major TV networks announced their lineups for the fall and unveiled the pilots that were picked up. If you watch any TV at all, you know that a majority of the new shows will not make it more than one season, with many of them getting the plug pulled after airing just a few episodes. Yet, in spite of the frustration that goes along with a show you like being cancelled, viewers keep tuning in year after year, hoping that their favorite will survive and thrive.

Many big names are tied to new projects for the upcoming season. Michael J. Fox is returning to TV with a new sitcom. Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar are paired together as a father and daughter in a sitcom about an ad agency. J.J Abrams has two shows picked up. Joss Whedon is bringing the Marvel Universe to the small screen. Legendary literary figures Dracula and Ichabod Crane are following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes as they come to life in new TV series.

I have chosen 10 shows that will launch either in the fall or mid-season that I am most interested in watching. This is not intended to be my list of the Top 10 new shows for the next season, just the 10 that most strike a chord with me. Given my love of sci-fi, superheroes, spies and the supernatural, the list should come as no surprise.

Almost Human

The name J.J. Abrams may not automatically signal success after the quick cancellations of some of his recent efforts, including “Alcatraz” and “Undercovers.” But I really like the concept of “Almost Human,” and  I hope people will tune in to catch this show on Fox. This buddy cop show is set 35 years in the future where humans in The Los Angeles Police Department are paired with life-like androids. “Almost Human” focuses on the relationship that develops between the two lead characters as they uncover a conspiracy involving the later-model “MX” androids, a “logic-based and rule-oriented” cyborg variation that speak in creepy monotone and lack the emotional component of earlier “DRNs.”

Odds of lasting more than one season: 5 to 1

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Did anyone really think this show would not get picked up by ABC? If any show ever screamed surefire hit, this is it. Of course, that is no guarantee that it will actually be a hit. But I have a pretty good feeling it will be.  Set after the events of mega-hit “The Avengers,” “S.H.I.E.L.D.” resurrects Agent Coulson as the leader of a team of lower-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Joss Whedon, director of “The Avengers” and the brains behind TV shows including “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly” and “Dollhouse” will serve as executive producer for the show. It may be a challenge to translate the awesome big-screen action sequences of recent Marvel movies for the lower-budget small screen, but if anyone can do it, I’m betting Whedon and his team can come through.

Odds of lasting more than one season: 2 to 1

Dracula

The Fall 2012 season saw legendary literary character Sherlock Holmes get a new life in the 21st Century. Now, the classic Bram Stoker blood-sucker is being brought to life on the small screen on NBC. Given the success of darker-themed shows such as “The Following,” “Hannibal” and “Bates Motel,” it seems like a good time to bring Dracula to a new generation. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, best known for his role in “The Tudors,” plays the Count, who is in Victorian England, posing as an American entrepreneur. In reality, he is seeking revenge on those who betrayed him centuries earlier. As his plans come to fruition, Dracula falls hopelessly in love with a woman he believes to be a reincarnation of his deceased wife. The producers of the uber-popular “Downton Abbey” are behind “Dracula,” so expectations will be high. Don’t be surprised if this show lives as long as a vampire. OK, maybe not quite that long.

Odds of lasting more than one season: Even

The Tomorrow People

I love shows about people with powers. “Heroes” and “Alphas” were two of my favorite shows. Well to be more accurate, season one of “Heroes” was one of my favorite shows. I’d rather just pretend the rest of the show didn’t exist. The CW is introducing the latest entry into the people-with-powers category, “The Tomorrow People.” Like its predecessors that I mentioned, “The Tomorrow People” follows a group of young people from around the world who are the next step in human evolution, with special powers including teleportation and the ability to communicate telepathically. The titular group of young people are being hunted down by a paramilitary group of scientists known as Ultra. The scientists see The Tomorrow People as a threat. Stephen, a teenager whose powers have just started to manifest themselves, is forced to choose between two worlds: the normal world of humanity offered by Ultra or the super-human world of The Tomorrow People. The CW has a good track record with genre shows and shows aimed at young people, so there may be hope for “The Tomorrow People” to succeed.

Odds of lasting more than one season: 15 to 1

Sleepy Hollow

The creators of “Fringe,” Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, are putting a modern spin on the Washington Irving classic short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” In their version, Ichabod Crane wakes up 250 years in the future and discovers that he is the only hope for mankind. Crane must team up with a female detective to unravel a mystery that dates back to the founding fathers. Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman, who is now on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. The official description for the show says it will “draw on the real stories and hallowed secrets this nation was founded on..” I am a huge fan of historical mysteries and love the story of the Headless Horseman, but I have to admit I’m a little scared about this one. I really want to like “Sleepy Hollow,” but I am very worried about how the story is going to be executed. There is a lot of potential, but I can see that it could easily come off very badly. Here’s hoping that Orci and Kurtzman and whoever else they tag to run the show can pull this off.

Odds of lasting more than one season: 12 to 1

Intelligence

Josh Holloway (“Lost”) and Marg Helgenberger (“CSI) star in this high-tech thriller on CBS that questions just how far technology can go. Holloway’s character is an agent in the U.S Cyber Command who has been implanted with a chip that allows him to access the entire electromagnetic spectrum. This makes him the first human ever to have complete access to Internet, WiFi, telephone and satellite data.  Essentially, he is a living computer who can hack into any data center and access key intel in the fight to protect the United States from its enemies. I love Holloway and Helgenberger from their previous shows and the high-tech, anti-terrorism spy stories are right up my alley, but I am not sure about “Intelligence.” It sounds very similar to NBC’s “Chuck,” although “Intelligence” likely will eschew the fun, wise-cracking angle in favor of more serious drama. And it is being held for mid-season.

Odds of lasting more than one season: 18 to 1

 

The 100

“The 100” is an adaptation of a YA novel that hasn’t even been released yet. The CW has “The 100” set as a midseason show. Nearly a century ago, the Earth was destroyed by a nuclear Armageddon. The only survivors were the 400 inhabitants of 12 international space stations that were in orbit at the time of the destruction. Now, the human population numbers around 4,000, all living in the 12 stations, now joined together and known as “The Ark.”  To keep population in check, strict measures have been put in place, including capital punishment and other forms of population control. The leaders of “The Ark” secretly exile 100 young prisoners to the Earth’s surface to see if the planet is habitable. The 100 prisoners are forced to overcome their differences and the forces of nature on a planet they have never called home. TV shows based on YA novels have been a mixed bag in recent years, and since the novel hasn’t even released yet, there isn’t an existing fan base to draw viewers.

Odds of lasting more than one season: 20 to 1

The Blacklist

Following the success of “The Following,” NBC brings us “The Blacklist,” another show involving a cat-and-mouse game between a dangerous criminal and the FBI. In this case, the criminal is former government agent Raymond “Red” Reddington, played by James Spader. For decades, Red has been one of the most wanted fugitives in the country, helping broker criminal deals around the globe. Now, Red mysteriously turns himself in, with an explosive offer: He will help catch a long-thought-dead terrorist, Ranko Zamani, under the condition that he will only work with Elizabeth Keen, an FBI profiler straight out of Quantico. In actuality, Zamani is just the first name on a long list Red has accumulated over his years as a criminal, and he wants to bring them all down, as long as Keen continues to work as his partner. This seems like an interesting premise, but the long-term success of the show will depend on how well the creative team can turn that idea into a full-fledged series that will hold people’s interest.

Odds of lasting more than one season: 5 to 1

The Originals

“The Vampire Diaries” is one of the best-rated shows on The CW, so it’s no surprise the network is trying to capitalize on that success with a spinoff.  When vampire-werewolf hybrid Klaus learns that a plot is brewing against him in New Orleans, the city his family helped build, he is reunited with his former protégé, Marcel. The vampire has total control over the human and supernatural population of The Big Easy. Klaus and his brother, Elijah, form an uneasy alliance with a group of witches to battle Marcel and take back control of the city for The Originals. If you are a fan of “The Vampire Diaries,” you probably will switch over and watch this spinoff. If you have never watched “The Vampire Diaries,” you may feel a little lost as to the backgrounds and motivations of these characters. But if you are a fan of vampire/werewolf/witch stories with a healthy dose of interpersonal angst, “The Originals” is a show you would love.

Odds of lasting more than one season: 8 to 1

Believe

J.J. Abrams’ second pilot that was picked up, “Believe,” is scheduled for a mid-season run on NBC. Like “The Tomorrow People,” “Believe” features a young person with amazing abilities. In this case, it’s 10-year-old Bo, a precocious girl who has has powers including levitation, telekinesis, predicting the future and the ability to control nature since she was 2. Raised by a group known as the “True Believers,” Bo has been protected from those who would want to abuse her powers. But now, her powers have grown stronger and more dangerous. The “Believers” find the one man they believe can be Bo’s guardian – a wrongfully imprisoned death row inmate that they must break out of jail before he can begin his task of protecting the girl. The pair are on the run, trying to protect Bo from the sinister forces who want her powers. I am not too optimistic about the long-term potential for “Believe.” For one thing, if NBC was high on the show, they wouldn’t have saved it for mid-season. Also, I don’t know if people are going to tune in for another show about a young person with abilities who connects with everyone she meets and finds ways to see people for who they really are. Sounds a lot like Fox’s failed “Touch,” which just recently was canceled after two low-rated seasons.

Odds of lasting more than one season: 25 to 1

So in summary, the shows on my list that have the best chance of lasting more than one season, in my opinion are:

1)      Dracula

2)      Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

3)      The Blacklist

4)      Almost Human

5)      The Originals

6)      Sleepy Hollow

7)      The Tomorrow People

8)      Intelligence

9)      The 100

10)   Believe

What shows are you most looking forward to out of the new batch of shows? Which ones do you think will last less than four episodes? Let me know what you think.





Book Review – Domination by Jon S. Lewis

16 05 2013

dominationDomination

By Jon S. Lewis

Thomas Nelson

In Stores Now

As a kid, I loved sci-fi stories. Movies and TV shows like “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica” fed my dreams of space travel and aliens. While those franchises have been reborn and reimagined in recent years, there are also a whole new crop of sci-fi stories aimed at young people. One of those stories is the C.H.A.O.S. trilogy by author Jon S. Lewis.

Domination is the final book in the C.H.A.O.S. trilogy, a young adult sci-fi series that follows C.H.A.O.S. Military Cadet Colt McAllister’s ongoing war against the brutal alien race known as the Thule. Throughout the series, Colt has grown from a high school student to a hero as he discovers the aliens among us. This time, he is the world’s final hope to stop the impending Thule takeover of Earth. Read the rest of this entry »





Book Review – Poe by Brett Battles and Robert Gregory Browne

9 05 2013

poePoe

By Brett Battles and Robert Gregory Browne

Braun Haus Media

Available Now

Award-winning authors Brett Battles and Robert Gregory Browne have both had very successful careers as thriller writers, with legions of dedicated fans. Now, the two have combined their considerable talents, and the result is explosive.

Bounty hunter Alexandra Poe is no stranger to international security firm Stonewell International. She has rejected their overtures several times in the past, but this time, they have an ace up their sleeve – information about Alex’s father, who she has not seen in a decade.

The mission Stonewell offers Alex requires her to go behind the walls of a Crimean prison, where she must then help a terrorist escape. What is so special about this prisoner? She has recently been in contact with Alex’s father. Alex reluctantly accepts Stonewell’s offer in the hopes of discovering her father’s whereabouts. Read the rest of this entry »








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