Posts Tagged With: sci-fi

Long Road to Mars

Mars has beckoned us since ancient times. The red orb traveling across the sky, stoking imaginations around the world. Then came the telescope and sightings of shifting dark areas and “canals.” Armadas of robots would reveal a desolate world, once wet and dynamic, laid waste by some cosmic catastrophe. Yet it was writers that kept us looking to the Red Planet.

From the epic John Carter adventures, to The Martian Chronicles, to the more recent The Martian, there has been a steady stream of visions of Mars. Now comes J.C.L. Faltot‘s The Road to Mars.

Decades from now, Mars has been colonized, but war came between the planets. Earth was left in a ruined state and its people blame Mars. Darion and his daughter Olivia travel through the ruined cities, looking for a way to leave. He believes life on Mars is better, like Earth once was. But there is more.

The Darklight is destroying Earth. Shadows lurk in the darkness. What is the Solfire? And do those who lived before the Pulse, know the truths of both worlds?

The Road to Mars, part one of a trilogy, begins differently than most Mars novels. Here we are in a dystopian landscape, and a father and daughter fight to survive, somewhat reminiscent of The Road. Elements of Light versus Darkness lurking in the background and simmering under the surface, remind me of Chris Walley‘s The Lamb Among the Stars series. Combined, these create a fresh new story of survival, choice and destiny.

Road is a compelling journey with well-realized characters, who don’t all end up quite as one would expect. All this before anyone reaches Mars, so you will be anticipating book two and what lies among the red sands.

RTM

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Fly to the Green Star

Man is dissatisfied with his life. The never-ending, ever-repeating, events of daily life threaten to kill him with boredom

Then he finds himself on another world, in one peril after another. And nearly always, he encounters a woman that was meant for him and he must fight for her by conquering unimaginable dangers.

This is the classic foundation of the stories perfected by Edgar Rice Burroughs in lost worlds, hidden jungles and on faraway planets. He managed to keep each creation fresh and exciting, as did Otis Adelbert Kline who followed in his footsteps. Another is the underrated Lin Carter, who’s creation of Thongor we have already reviewed. Now, travel to a distant world in the Green Star series.

Here a crippled man finds a way to send his soul to a faraway world. There he enters the dead Chong the Mighty, and later Karn the Hunter, taking his place in this tropical world where the races live in towering forests. Soon he encounters Niamh the Fair, a princess, who he quickly falls in love with. However, and this is no surprise, before he can forever be her mate, five books full of death-at-every-turn adventure must be overcome.

Why have such stories, so often derisively called “pulp,” endured for decades? They all have the underlying theme of being fed-up with conformity, the status quo and what society has decided life should be like. Sure, they are often told from the perspectives of men, but the women they meet are not fragile flowers.

The desire to be better, to find one’s purpose, is a call that never goes quiet. These are tales of earthlings finding and doing what their own world won’t allow. As I have written before:

Read to be entertained. Read to get lost. Read to be inspired.

thon

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Revolt Against Captivity

I have occasionally examined the appeal of speculative fiction such as sci-fi and fantasy. Here is what astronomer Fred Hoyle, in the Introduction to the 1963 edition of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, wrote on the subject:

…the potentiality for the highest form of writing lies also in science fiction…When most men had little chance to travel, distant lands on Earth still gave a setting for stories that could be exotic, mysterious and exciting. Nowadays our lives resemble one another perhaps too much…Man as a person has never materially had it so good. Yet the technical world that makes us affluent also holds us captive. Our existence is ruled by the clocks, whose ticks subdivide the days into dull monotony. We revolt against this pattern of existence. The storyteller is here, and those who listen escape to new horizons.

So now, 53 years later, has our captivity decreased, or exponentially multiplied?

Fiction reminds us to wake up before it’s too late.

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Eris Miller Was Having a Bad Day

I have followed Michelle Proulx for awhile (her site that is), but never checked out her sci-fi book Imminent Danger.

I’ve long been a sci-fi fan, but I think the “YA/Romance” label threw me off. Not really into either of those genres, well, not at all. And was this one of those “cute girl gets abducted by aliens” stories?

Then I found myself considering the book while reading one of Ms. Proulx’s posts the other day. Maybe it was the cover — the woman on the cover resembled the person on my book cover. Parallel universe, perhaps? Or maybe it was the intriguing blurb. Plus, I need to get my money’s worth out of the Kindle and the book is only $2.99, so I might as well give it a try.

I’m happy I did.

The story of Eris Miller being abducted and her subsequent perils across the galaxy is a fast-paced adventure that will keep you turning the pages. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy vibe makes Eris’ bad-day-that-just-got-a-lot-worse an entertaining departure from all the super-serious books out there. It was like I was back in my Space Quest days (gamer fans, you know what I’m talking about).

Even though the author has labeled this YA, I think it will appeal to all sci-fi fans. As for the “romance,” I don’t think there is any more in here than in many sci-fi or other adventures (I’m not counting that creepy Luke-hitting-on-Leia-before-he-knew-she-was-his-sister stuff). That’s a common enough thread in many books not strictly in the romance genre. So don’t worry (if that worries you).

So hold your breath and prepare for hyperspace. Eris is about to make the galaxy wish E.T. never snatched her.

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Return to Mars

Ever wish there were new adventures of your favorite books? One more trek across Middle Earth? Just a few more stories from Bradbury? Another voyage to Barsoom? Once an author has passed away, all such chances fade away, with rare exception. Tolkien’s son did complete his fathers The Children of Hurin. When Robert Jordan knew his health was failing, he made sure someone was going to finish his Wheel of Time series. There also has been a number of attempts to bring back Edgar Rice Burroughs quintessential space hero, John Carter, back to life through the world of comics.

First, I’ve never been into comics. I think I owned one at some point long ago. Now even the word “comics” is archaic and they have been replaced with graphic novels (graphic in the sense of lavishly illustrated). I may have to make an exception here, if it means more epic adventures across the Red Planet.

Back in the late 1970s, Marvel created the John Carter: Warlord of Mars series of new tales that took place within the first book, The Princess of Mars. A few years ago, all of the issues were collected into one volume (it’s surprising how vivid the artwork is when printed on high-quality paper as opposed to the old comic newsprint).

In recent years, Dynamite has brought Carter back in its graphic novels. One of the spin-offs of the series features the princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris, in her own adventures before she ever met earthling John Carter. Because of the highly visual nature of this iteration, these stories are usually labeled for “mature” readers.

Burroughs’ books weren’t explicit in nature, but what happens when the violence is visualized – and those barely clothed Martians are depicted? Whereas the books leave much to the imagination, these graphic novels — not so much. Ironically, Burroughs’ blink-and-you-miss-it description of Dejah Thoris in the first book would inspire decades of sci-fi and fantasy art.

So if you long to return to high adventure on the distant Red Planet, John Carter and Dejah Thoris are still out there generations after we first read of their meeting.

The ultimate action couple.

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The League Through Stenibelle’s Eyes

It wouldn’t be Christmas without…The League of Elder.

Say again?

Well, it seems that for the past couple years, I usually have a new volume of Ren Garcia’s sci-fi series in my hands around this time. This year is no exception with book 9 of his unique universe, Stenibelle, but one must back up a bit for those not familiar with the books.

The series has a couple self-contained stories (the first two books, then a trilogy, then another dualogy, etc.), and I always recommend starting at the beginning, but here we will go back to book 6, Sands of the Solar Empire.

This is where we are introduced to Paymaster Stenstrom who has had one dream: Becoming a captain in the Fleet. He gets his chance, but his life is never the same (if it was, it wouldn’t be very interesting). Set in Garcia’s unique sci-fi/fantasy/steampunk universe of the far future, Stenstrom faces evils, bizarre beings and death around every corner — only to learn there are many more versions of himself in alternate dimensions.

That’s where Stenibelle falls into place. In this dimension Stenstrom has lost his ship, ended up in jail and lost pretty much everything. And he isn’t a he — Stenstrom is Stenibelle, a woman. No, this isn’t what is sounds like, but it isn’t the typical parallel universe story either. In what is the author’s shortest book, it is almost like an alternate version of the previous volumes. Not word for word, but a tiny glimpse of what the Stenstrom books would have been like had the character been a woman. Steinbelle, though, is different enough (beyond the obvious) from her parallel self that fans may want to see her own adventures in the League. By the end of this book, she has become a strong, fierce hero of sorts — and still very much a woman.

The League is a big place and readers looking to disappear in a universe that doesn’t look like a hundred others, need to look no further.

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Finding Sexism in Fiction…A Modern Witch Hunt?

There seems to be a trend of searching through books and find reasons to label them sexist. For example, The Lord of the Rings is sexist because there aren’t enough women characters and the ones that are there aren’t doing enough important things. This leads me to ask:

What is the proper woman character quota for novelists? Is the role of someone like Eowyn fighting the Nazgul at a critical moment in the story not important? If a book or film is overwhelming centered on women, is that sexist?

See the overreach of certain critics? We also can suspect that some are looking to push an agenda by convoluting whatever book, film or television show they can. Take a recent criticism of the new show Supergirl in which it was called “sexist” because of her name (girl) and the fact she seem concerned by such things as relationships with men. The show itself smartly ridiculed the problem with the name and shouldn’t the world’s most powerful women be allowed to pick the relationship she wants? When we are oft told to be tolerant and inclusive of everything, only to be told certain relationships are not okay. Is this not a red flag for someone’s agenda? The ultimate irony is that apparently a woman who can do anything is not woman enough.

Continue reading

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Finding Your Destiny Off Planet

Robert Ellsmore Grandon stifled a yawn…He was tired of life at twenty-four, he decided – tired and disillusioned and trapped…[he] yearned for action, adventure, romance – something that seemed to be gone in this world of the Twentieth Century.

That is how Otis Adelbert Kline’s novel Planet of Peril began.

And it was written in 1930.

We often think that our lives are unique to our time, but in many ways they are not. So were the fantastic adventures of Kline and his contemporary Edgar Rice Burroughs, at their foundation, a reflection of buried desires? In particular the desire not to be suppressed and molded by whichever social and political masterminds are currently in style? To not be drug into endless, mindless repetition? The rebellion against conformity and corruption?

Perhaps some think this is reading too much into the over-the-top adventures from sci-fi’s first Golden Era. On the other hand, those extreme adventures may also be reminders of how far we fall from our potential.

Read to be entertained. Read to get lost. Read to be inspired.

popoak

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What’s on Your List?

What’s on tap for your summer reading? Not that summer has any more time for relaxation, but you’ll need something for the beach. Here’s the first three on my list:

Shift is volume 2 of Hugh Howey‘s Silo Saga. The first book was a record-breaking bestseller in sci-fi’s dystopian/apocalyptic subgenre (yes, there is a difference between the two, but there is overlap as well). Part 2 promises to fill in the history prior to Wool.

…robots smaller than human cells [created] to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate…A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event. At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened.

Heir of Hope concludes Morgan Busse‘s Follower of the Word fantasy trilogy. This series gave me hope that there is still a lot of great fantasy stories to be told and I look forward to seeing how the series concludes (and probably will wish Ms. Busse will continue it someday).

The great city of Thyra has fallen and shadows spread across the land. Rowen Mar, the last Truthsayer, is taken before the Shadonae. But the Shadonae are not who she thought they were, and now they want to claim her as their own.

The Name of the Wind the first in a trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss, has been much-talked about in the fantasy world. Only a few pages in and the book has my attention (always a good sign).

…a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic…

srl

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Epic Sci-Fi…From 1933

It seems that many authors think that their sci-fi or fantasy books must run 200,000 words to qualify as a world-building epic. As we discussed before, that isn’t always the case. There are many lengthy books that are must reads, but many others that fail to let their stories breath and trust their readers’ imaginations.

Older sci-fi tended to be much shorter, such as Otis Adelbert Kline’s The Swordsman of Mars and The Outlaws of Mars. A contemporary of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Kline wrote in the same vein of swashbuckling adventures.

Does the short nature of these books mean they lack detail? No, you quickly find yourself on the red world, immersed in another culture. for a short while you are there on a world that never was. I have often argued that just enough detail can go along away to implanting images in the reader’s mind. Describing every last button and rock along the trail just slows down the journey.

A writer must learn when to detail and when not to. Where to pause and give more, and where to forge ahead and trust the reader. Surely reader preferences may come into play, but most want to be pulled in and stranded in a fantastic adventure.

The Red Planet is a good of a place as any to start.

oak

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