Posts Tagged With: science fiction

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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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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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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Traveling the River of Time

We are often implored to remember the lessons of history, and on a more frequent basis, ignore that suggestion. Yet fiction has long been fascinated with time travel. Particularly science-fiction, but it seems we have this unconscious desire to return to better times, sight-see or change what came before.

The time travel story isn’t always an easy one in a world where science is so dominant. There are those armchair physicists who pride themselves in red flagging every potential or actual flaw in a story that moves against the river of time. For those of us who rather enjoy or be immersed in a good story, we look for the tale to be largely plausible. Though if writers cannot be creative time to time, who needs fiction?

Movies have some of the best examples of jumping through history. Frequency had a father and son, years apart, talking to each other via solar phenomenon. Deja Vu had the FBI remote view into the recent past and sending an agent into time to solve a crime. In hard sci-fi, some of the most successful adventures in the Star Trek world involved warping through time. Witness the films The Voyage Home, First Contact and Star Trek. Or whole series such as the Back to the Future or Terminator predicated on opening rifts in time and avoiding (or creating) paradoxes. In a few weeks, X-Men Days of Future Past will add to the long list, and become the most expensive and, perhaps, most successful jump through the veil.

I never thought to write any time travel stories, as much as I have enjoyed those of others. Especially not weaving it into a fantasy epic, but then it just happened. More on this to come.

In the meantime, with time being part of the universe’s structure as it is, what if someone could transcend that dimension? Will this remain fiction?

Or has it already happened?

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Have you Joined the League Yet?

I reviewed awhile back the first three books of the League of Elder series. It’s an impressive sci-fi epic from the mind of Ren Garcia. Keep in mind, once upon a time, sci-fi was my main genre of choice. Then I got bored. It was hard finding anything to keep my interest. The League of Elder changed that.

An original mythos set somewhere else in the universe where space battles are not unusual, castles are not uncommon homes, people like to bowl, and of course, evil beings are trying to throw everything into disarray. In all the details in between, Garcia has managed to create a universe with a little bit of everything. By themselves they — the strange creatures, mix of advanced and esoteric technology, and that seal — would all seem a bit odd. But here it all works and becomes expected. This all set against a measured dose of action and romance.

I have just finished book four, The Machine — which is actually two in a trilogy — in about two days. Like any good series, it keeps getting better and draws the reader in further. Last time, Kabyl, son of the famous Captain Davage, falls in love with the tormented Sammidoran. These Monama people aren’t usually the type that the upper-crust mingle with in the League. Evil must be conquered if they are truly to be together. And now Kay and his friends set out across the galaxy to find what Sam needs, to save her and the League. It’s not the old Black Hats that are much of a threat anymore, but the far worse evil of the Horned God and his demon and zombie-like minions.

It’s quite a ride, trust me. Like always, I recommend starting at the beginning of the series. Only then will the full scope of Garcia’s world be grasped, and the characters from the first two books have returned to a primary place in this part two of the trilogy. Now, on to part three.

Get ready for one amazing ride.

P.S. I like how Garcia has had artists sprinkle illustrations throughout his books. It’s like a throwback to the old days of Burroughs and Tolkien.

P.P.S. Finished part three, The Temple of the Exploding Head. Don’t be disturbed by the, well, stuff, on the cover. This is a spectacular conclusion to this trilogy. One hopes Garcia will revisit these characters someday, but it’s also good that he isn’t dragging them on endlessly like some book series do. Closure is needed at some point. It’s also a mark of a great series when you can look back to the beginning and think of the adventure you have been on and say, “I’m sorry to see it all end.”

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