Category Archives: Thriller

Dick, Philip K.: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)

Palmer Eldritch

Weird. Strange. These are the words that describe this book to me most. So, I had to go on the net to figure out if Philip had written about a LSD trip he’d had or whether the novel was just part of an avant-garde milieu. I can’t really say that I found a satisfactory answer, so this is what it is. While the technology in this books was dated, the book itself could have been written today by someone with the right mind-set (not mine obviously).

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was first published in 1965. In it he explores a possible future where humanity has the same questions to deal with today: what is good and what is evil, are drugs bad, how to deal with global warming, how far do we take genetic research.

Palmer Eldritch is a business man who went for a space trip ten years ago. He has now returned and is offering the world Chew-Z (a hallucinogenic). His three stigmata are: his artificial eyes, his artificial teeth and his artificial arm.

His competitor, Leo Bulero, produces the drug Can-D which enables the users to inhabit a shared illusory world.

Barney Meyerson works for Leo as a precog and ends getting involved in competition between Palmer and Leo.

Tenn, William: Of Men and Monsters (1968)

Of Men and Monsters

Of Men and Monsters is another novel that belongs in the classic category. It’s not very difficult to see that William Tenn likes to turn things upside down. He is considered one of the foremost satirists of his generation and he is very good at making me think about mankind in a different way. Like all good satires, the ending is bizarre but at the same time believable, given the circumstances described. I’ve seen that others have found the book hilarious, but I can’t say that I did. To me, Of Men and Monsters was more thoughtfully funny.

I couldn’t help thinking of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read) when I read the title. Of Men and Monsters is Tenn’s only full-length novel. I read it one reading, not wanting to put it down. These old-timers were excellent writers.

In Of Men and Monsters the earth has been conquered by gigantic aliens (monsters). Humans have become vermin, living in the walls of the houses of these monsters living like mice, rats and cockroaches off the spoils of the monsters. One of the tribes of men calls itself Mankind. In Mankind lives a boy (soon to be man) called Eric the Only (single child). As part of his initiation as a man, Eric needs to go out into the Monster territory. As his journey progresses he finds betrayal, adventure and love.

People are treated pretty much as we treat our own lab animals. Experiment on them or kill them. Tenn also makes fun of the way people behave when their beliefs self-images are challenged. We pretty much see people behaving as people would, and there really is nothing funnier than that.

Asimov, Isaac: Foundation series

The Foundation series continues on from the Elijah Bailey series. The reason I call it a continuation of the series becomes apparent as one reads the books (too much of a spoiler to tell). If you go to Wikipedia, they will tell all. Having said that, their page carries quite an excellent description of the books along with analysis and links. For another in-depth analysis of Asimov’s work go to Wimmer & Wilkins’ blog. Asimov’s home page contains more general information about his life’s work.

Isaac Asimov brought fresh air into science fiction when he arrived on the scene in the 40’s. He wasn’t afraid of taking a hard look at the possible future of mankind based on what he knew of the day’s theories on sociology and psychology. The Foundation series is considered one of the most important contributions to the field of science fiction, a well-deserved opinion.


PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION (1988) AND FORWARD THE FOUNDATION (1993)

SciFi and Fantasy Art PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION by Slawek Wojtowicz
Cover for Polish Prelude to Foundation
by Slawek Wojtowicz

The Foundation series was started in the 1940’s, but for easier reading you should start with Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation. In Prelude we meet Hari Sheldon, the inventor of psychohistory. Hari’s goal was to be able to predict the general future of humanity, and during a conference he presents his fledgling theory to fellow scientists on the planet Trantor. Unfortunately the Empiror finds Hari’s theories a threat and begin to persecute him. This makes it necessary for Hari to flee, and his flight takes him around Trantor. In Forward the story of how Hari develops his theory continues. Sadly for Hari, the people he loves die off (naturally and unnaturally). Hari refuses to give up and finally develops what ends up being called the Seldon Plan, a way to save the future of humankind.


FOUNDATION (1951) / FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE (1952) / AND SECOND FOUNDATION (1953)

Cover for Polish Prelude to Foundation
by Slawek Wojtowicz

After this introduction to the future Galactic Empire, The Foundation Trilogy with the books Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation, follow. These are Asimov’s first installments in the Foundation history. When you read these books, please keep in mind that the series was written well before Wikipedia or the internet came into existence. As such, they seem a bit dated. Some of the theory can be tedious, but the adventures and people we meet are quite fun. The titles are a dead give-away, so we know well ahead of time that the Foundation is bound to survive. But we know nothing about the road taken.

In Foundation and Empire the leaders of the Foundation has become corrupt. The internal strife that arises from that makes the organisation susceptible to “The Mule”. The Mule advances, conquering planet after planet, making the Empire deviate from Seldon’s plan. The Foundation does not have it in them to win over the Mule, and desperately some of the members begin seeking a rumoured Second Foundation.

The title Second Foundation kind of gives it away. In this novel we are going to discover the rumoured savior of the Empire while enjoying adventure, science and social interaction. The only way to kill the Mule is by allowing members of the Foundation to find members of the Second Foundation. But this also reveals the fact that there is a Second Foundation and that its nature is somewhat different to the First one’s. Herein lies the conflict.


Foundation’s Edge
by Michael Whelan

FOUNDATION’S EDGE (1982) AND FOUNDATION AND EARTH (1986)

And so we come to the two final books in the Foundation series: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth. We meet Golan Trevize as main protagonist in both books. He is convinced the Second Foundation has survived the attempt to exterminate its members, and goes looking for them. His search brings him to many planets and finally to the ancient planets (no longer on any star-chart) of Solaria, Aurora and Melpomenia. Each journey brings Trevize closer to a conclusion that may or may not satisfy the reader. I felt ambiguous, and that seems to be the intent of the author.


  • 1966 –  Best All-time Novel Series Hugo Award for the Foundation series
  • 1983 –  Hugo Award for Best Novel for Foundation’s Edge
  • 1983 –  Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Foundation’s Edge
  • 1996 –  A 1946 Retro-Hugo for Best Novel of 1945 was given at the 1996 WorldCon to “The Mule“, the 7th Foundation story, published in Astounding Science Fiction

Aldiss, Brian: Non-Stop (1958)

Here comes quite a treat. Brian Aldiss is one of the classics within science fiction. His type of science fiction likes to explore the human psyche through adventure. While written in 1958 this novel is as fresh as if it had been written today. We get a look at what a Freudian/Jungian world could look like all wrapped up in a great yarn.

Roy Complain, a hunter of the tribe of Greene, lives according to the “Teachings,” which valorize egotism and violence. Along with his tribe’s priest and four others, Complain set off on a to “Forwards,” the front of the ship (as the priest assures them it really is), to find the “control room.” On the way they have adventure – battles, discoveries and unexplained phenomena. Eventually they find the “Forwards” section. From then on revelation upon revelation leads us to the inevitable and bitter (and sadly believable) conclusion.

Schroeder, Karl: Permanence (2002)

French cover

“Permanence” is a stand-alone novel. Karl Schroeder brings us to a future where man-kind is spread across the galaxy. As he states on his website, he wanted to bring a new hard science into the world of science fiction. There, space-opera could run its course in whichever manner the book dictated. The added knowledge of our universe in 2001 made it possible to theorize in a new manner.

So in “Permanence” we get to meet brown dwarfs and the human habitats that surround them. Schroeder has used this knowledge about their strong magnetic fields to create a place where humans can exist. In this brown dwarf world interstellar cyclers are used to maintain contact between human habitats.

On one of these Halo worlds we find Rue Cassels. She runs away from home and finds an empty but functional cycler. She lays claim to it and in a race against other factors she works towards the right to ownership and the right to explore and exploit the cycler. We know right away that in such a plot there has to be conflict. There is plenty of that.

Schroeder has written a book that I’ve just read for the third time. There are some books that are like old friends. You don’t have to meet them all the time, but when you finally get together you have a really good time – as did I. Schroeder even managed to convince me to stay up late. Old age really does not teach us any sense. When I get a really fun book between my hands, I’m hopeless. Oh, well.

Meaney, John: Resolution (2008)

Cover art by Jim Burns

While the third and final book in the Nulapeiron Sequence, “Resolution” lacks the brilliance of “Context“, “Resolution” is certainly a well-crafted book. Meaney’s work is moving, engaging and interesting. He manages to braid his thoughts on time and space into the text in a manner that fits in with the rest of the book. This is quite a feat.

Tom Corcorigan leads a complicated life. He’s on top or he’s at the bottom of the social ladder. His life is never the same from moment to moment. Love, friendship and home can change in an instant. I’m glad I’m not he. As in the previous books, we also get a look into the lives of the pilots.

In “Context” the Blight was defeated. But Tom is certain the war has not been won. He is worried that the Anomaly, the mother of the Blights, is on its way to Nulapeiron. There is no-one else that will believe him when he tries to convince them of the seriousness of the situation. Losing his demesne has made life a bit more challenging for him and Elva, but when his friend Corduven dies that all changes. Now they finally have the chance to influence matters. And what do you know, the Anomaly appears. From there on the action is non-stop.

The Nulapeiron is an intense series. The reader is drawn into Meaney’s world and kept there by the force of his words. His science fiction is fun and weird.

Grant, Mira: Newsflesh trilogy

Writing under the pseudonym Mira Grant, Seanan McGuire published the political thriller/zombie trilogy Newsflesh including the books “Feed”, “Deadline” and “Blackout”. I am anything but a zombie fan, but Grant has written a thriller that goes far beyond zombies. We become embroiled in politics and corruption, discussions on freedom of the press and get a look at dysfunctional societies and families. Excellent author that she is, Grant brings her characters alive and gives them depth and color. And the action. My goodness is there ever action in this trilogy. And death. Prepare yourself for a heavy toll on people who made me care about them. Did I say I liked these books??????? Keep on writing under either name and the world will be a better place.

The concept of the Newsflesh trilogy is based on the unforeseen consequences of biological research. By 2014 cancer and the common cold had been defeated. Unfortunately, the side-effect was that when you died you became a zombie and started feeding. Oops. The world was changed forever.  The mainstream media fell, Internet news acquired an undeniable new legitimacy, and the CDC rose to a new level of power.

by dust-bite

FEED (2010)

Set twenty years after the Rising, the Newsflesh trilogy follows a team of bloggers, led by Georgia and Shaun Mason, as they search for the brutal truths behind the infection.  When Senator Peter Ryman of Wisconsin decides to take a team of bloggers along on his run for the White House, Georgia and Shaun Mason are quick to submit their application.  They, along with their friend Georgette “Buffy” M. are selected, and they view this as the chance to launch their careers to a whole new level…that is, if they can survive the campaign trail. Feed follows the Masons and their crew into a world filled with the living dead—and the much more dangerous living.

Shaun Mason by Rowan

DEADLINE (2011)

In Deadline, the members of the After the End Times staff are reeling…none more than Shaun Mason, who can’t figure out what he’s supposed to be doing with his life now that he’s found himself unexpectedly in charge.  The arrival of Dr. Kelly Connolly from the CDC provides a new direction, and a possible new route into the conspiracy that caused so much damage just a year before. However, it turns out that Dr. Connolly’s arrival heralds more death and despair for the crew.

From All Forsaken

BLACKOUT (2012)

The world is getting more and more bizarre by the moment for Shaun and now Georgia. Both of them have had their worlds turned topsy-turvy and struggle to maintain their sanity and belief in humanity. Nothing is as they thought it would be and they are both bruised and battered. But there is hope. Not a great one, but nevertheless. The cost of a free press is clearly portrayed in the courage and sacrifice of the characters of this novel. Sometimes no price is too high to pay to share the truth with the general public.

Wells, Jaye: Sabina Kane

Jaye Wells is the author of the Sabina Kane series. Her writing has progressed with each book. In the final installment of the series Well achieves that nirvanic place of writing that I’m certain all authors seek. Her writing flows and she makes me happy to have read her book. The Kane series is entertainment. I’m going out on a limb here, but I believe the books are meant for adults. Some of the content is a bit racy, but the violence avoids goriness. Wells keeps the tension going and the reader hanging on as best they can. This series works is set as an urban fantasy. Most of the books are focused on the characters and not places, so there aren’t a lot of scenic descriptions.

photoSphynx cat – RuthArt

RED-HEADED STEPCHILD (2009)

Sabina Kane is half vampire and half mage – a forbidden product of a forbidden romance. Her grandmother Lavina, is one of the tree leaders of the vampire race. She despises her granddaughter for the impurity that she has brought into the race. Sabina is aware/not-aware of this and does her best to please her grandmother – an impossible task.

Assassin is the only thing that the vampires have deemed Sabina worthy of being, so Sabina makes certain she is the best. When a mischief-demon steps into her living room and stabs her with apple-wood (deadly to vampires), Giguhl comes into Sabina’s life. Slowly, but surely, Sabina’s life changes and magic is introduced – along with the traditional hunky wizard guy who she is bound to fall in love with. One of her magic spells goes haywire and Giguhl gets a form like the above Sphynx cat to use amongst people. You can imagine he was pleased with that.

THE MAGE IN BLACK (2010)

Adam Lazarus by Annie Walls

Learning that she had a twin sister in New York blew Sabina away. She was mostly dreading her meeting with her due to her lack of self-confidence. But Maise accepted her. Now Sabina is in New York and has decided to side with the mages, try to learn magic and work for peace. This enrages her grandmother, who orders her killed. Unfortunately, the process of being accepted by the mages is a difficult one. First she must be cleansed and her abilities decided. In addition Sabina must get used to drinking only processed blood. No more fresh from the vein.

Giguhl and Adam Lazarus continue to be Sabina’s side-kicks – to a varying degree. Giguhl has the humorous part in this play while Adam plays the romantic lead. Sabina struggles with all of the demands placed on her. Whatever a Chosen is, she knows she isn’t it – not matter what the wizards say. Meeting an old flame isn’t doesn’t exactly make life easier on her. But Maise is turning out to be someone Sabina likes and that lightens the burden a little.

GREEN-EYED DEMON (2011)

Maisie has been kidnapped and Sabina sets out to rescue her. First they have to figure out where she is. When all clues lead them to New Orleans, Sabina, Adam and Giguhl travel together to try to find a way to rescue Maisie. As dear grandmother was the one to kidnap Maisie, Sabina worries about the state her sister will be in when they find her.

A local witch and voodoo practitioner and her transgendered assistant find it in their hearts to help in the search. Old acquaintances of Adam end up helping the gang. Will this be enough to do the job?

With Green-Eyed Demon we begin to see the depth of Wells’ writing. She does a good job at portraying her figures. Giguhl is my favorite one. Sabina shows the difficulty of going good when she’s been soooo bad.

SILVER-TONGUED DEVIL (2012)

Cover shoot by Shirley Green

Maisie is back, but she is in trouble. The kidnapping and having to draw blood to survive has taken its toll. Sabina tries to support her, but feels out of her depth. Figuring out who to trust is turning out to be more difficult than she had thought possible, and Sabina is now becoming more and more pessimistic about the possibility of peace between the three races.

Then a string of sadistic murders begin happening, and suspicion falls on Sabina. At the same time her relationship with her lover, sister and demon are getting stronger. Sabina’s investigation into the killings turn up frightening questions and Sabina has to make some difficult choices.

BLUE-BLOODED VAMP (2012)

Now we get to the final book in the series, “Blue-Blooded Vamp”. Sabina is after Cain to revenge the killings of people Sabina has loved. Unfortunately, Cain is hunting Sabina, too.

Abel, the mage who bound Cain is the one who can help Sabina. Sabina sets out for Rome with her friends to find Abel and get some answers. When she gets there, Sabina discovers that the role she and her sister are supposed to play is a game of the gods and she is one of the key pieces.

Good ending. Happily ever after kind of. Wells has given the urban fantasy genre a new and interesting way of portraying the paranormal creatures out there.

Monk, Devon: Magic to the Bone (Allie Beckstrom) (2008)

Devon Monk has written the Allie Beckstrom series. Allie Beckstrom is one of many strong urban fantasy women. What she has that makes her different from everyone else is Devon Monk. Devon Monk is an excellent urban fantasy author. Her writing is delightful and the entertainment value of the books is high. Humor, action, magic and some romance are all ingredients of this series. I see that the series is recommended for ages 18 and up, but am not really certain why. Maybe I’m too Norwegian???

Allie lives in a Portland where magic has become something anyone can use. But magic extracts a price – memory loss, pain or sickness. If you do not want to pay the price, there are actually people who are willing to do so – for a sum.

Allie’s father is Daniel Beckstrom, the inventor of the rods that attract magic, drawing it away from buildings and into wells beneath the city. He and she do not get along, partly due to her choice of career. You see, Allie is a Hound, someone who hunts magic abusers through smell.

In Magic in the Bone Allie has to hunt for someone who is using blood-magic. All the evidence is pointing right to her father as thee perpetrator. This throws Allie into a world of corporate espionage and black magic.

Devon Monk does an excellent job of introducing the reader to Allie’s universe. This is high quality entertainment.

Marsden, John: Tomorrow, When the War Began (Tomorrow I) (1993)

tomorrow_when_the_war_began_poster

The Tomorrow series consists of seven books that should be read in order. The first book of the series is Tomorrow, When the War Began.

In the series we meet a group of young people who have gone camping to celebrate their last summer together. They are:

  • Ellie Linton: Our narrator. Ellie was born and raised on a cattle and sheep farm not far from the edge of the country town of Wirrawee.
  • Corrie Mackenzie: Ellie’s best friend.
  • Homer Yannos: Ellie’s neighbour and close friend.
  • Fiona Maxwell: Fi is more brains than brawn.
  • Lee Takkam: Lee is also more brains than brawn.
  • Robyn Mathers: The pacifist of the group.
  • Kevin Holmes: Corrie’s boyfriend.
  • Chris Lang: An introverted, but well liked boy.

All eight of them are regular teenagers getting ready to enter the world of adults. They are all filled with constructive and less constructive qualities and I can see why so many would identify with them. At the beginning of Tomorrow, When the War Began the gang feel so young to an old person like myself, but that does not last. They certainly retain their youthful optimism but gain some of our adult cynicism. I think another thing that might appeal to readers is John Marsden’s willingness to address difficult topics. One of these is death. Unfortunately death is one of the consequences of resistance in war and so it will be for this gang. And, finally, There is plenty of romance and action, both kept well within the young adult literature boundaries. The writing certainly kept me going and Marsden raised some interesting questions along the way.

In Tomorrow, When the War Began a group of friends (in their last year before college) go camping together. They’re all exited and have a wonderful week together. On their way back they find their homes empty of people and their animals suffering from neglect. It turns out all of their families have been collected at the showground by a foreign power trying to take Australia over. The teens have to decide whether to fight or surrender.


  • ISBN: 9781742612683
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Published: 2012-12-01
  • Subject: Children’s: General Fiction
  • Imprint: Pan Australia
  • Pages: 304 page/s

  • Winner, Australian Multicultural Children’s Book Award 1994
  • Winner, Fanfare Horn Book Best Book 1996
  • Winner, Children’s Yearly Best-Ever Reads (CYBER) Best Book for Older Readers 2000, 2001, 2002
  • Winner, KOALA (Kids Own Australian Literature Awards) 1995
  • Winner, YABBA (Young Australian Best Book Award) 1995
  • Winner, WAYRBA (West Australian Young Readers’ Books Award) 1995
  • Winner, BILBY Awards (Books I Love Best Yearly) 1998
  • Winner, New South Wales Talking Book Award
  • Nominated, South Carolina Book Award 1998

2010: Film-adaptation released based on Tomorrow, When the War Began. Australian adventure movie written and directed by Stuart Beattie.

 

Watkins, Paul: The Promise of Light (1992)

The Promise of Light - Paul Watkins

The Irish War of Independence (Irish: Cogadh na Saoirse) or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought between the Irish Republican Army (the army of the Irish Republic) and the British Government and its forces in Ireland. (Wikipedia)

The Promise of Light is for the most part about the above war that happened between 1919 and 1921 and Ben Sheridan’s part in it. However, we also get a look at some of the background for the war and the hostilities that had brought Ben Sheridan to Ireland.

When Ben Sheridan discovers that the man he thought was his biological father isn’t, he also discovers that his adopted father’s background was different from the one he had thought. He and other exiles from the Irish conflict had settled on Rhode Island and tried to gain support for the Irish side of the conflict from the US government. They also collected weapons and money and sent these covertly to Ireland.

Ben Sheridan goes with one of these transports on his way to discover who his biological father was.

Without Ben going to Ireland we would not have had this fictional tale of the Black and Tan war / Anglo-Irish war / Irish war for Independence. Just looking at these three different names for the fighting between 1919 and 1921 shows me how incredibly important the combination of our words is. Words have a great deal of power in forming our world views. Some of the links below use this power in their portrayal of the terrible killings of that time.

Inside my head that is what Paul Watkins shows us with The Promise of Light. We get to see the despair of the innocents and the participants who are brutally murdered and tortured by the other part of the conflict. Except for the people who enjoyed killing, raping and maiming what we are dealing with is a bunch of frightened people who are following some kind of leader. These leaders manage to bring others to their side. Sometimes they use words, sometimes money and sometimes brutality in getting people to support them.

I understand the need to be free of the tyranny of rule by people we feel have no right to rule us. After all I am Norwegian and Norway was used as collateral in wars and went between Danish and Swedish rule for centuries. Then the Germans took us over. But I would stink as a patriotic warrior.

However, I do see how Ben got drawn into the conflict. Chance has the potential of bringing about terrible things in our lives. On his way over to Ireland he did not envision killing others, but that is what he ended up doing. Ben was beaten for the cause and he got to watch people he had befriended killed. He also learned even more about grief than he had thought possible.

Paul Watkins portrayal of this period of Irish history drew me in and kept me reading.


Reviews:


Amazon UK


The Anglo-Irish War (BBC History)

The Black and Tans – who were they? by Tom Toomey

The Irish War of Independence by Noreen Higgins

Timeline of the Irish War of Independence Wikipedia

Morgan, Richard: Altered Carbon (2002)

Altered Carbon to be used

I like mysteries. Anything from Agatha Christie to Richard Morgan. They’re all the same, in a sense. Some crime happens and the detective (police or private) comes on the scene and (usually) miraculously solves the crime. The route from A to B varies, but in essence they’re all the same. That’s why they’re so fun.

Add mystery to cyber-punk. Cyber-punk tends to be cynical and dark. Altered Carbon sticks to that kind of tone. Maybe the whole concept of having our personalities stored and ready to be placed into new bodies is a theme that lends itself to exploitation and conflict. Imagine what a person holding immense power, such as the leader of a mega-corporation, could do with access to both bodies and personalities. The lure of power is what keeps the “baddie” of Altered Carbon doing their terrible deeds.

When Takeshi Kovacs, former United Nations Envoy and a native of Harlan’s World, is killed on Harlan’s World (humans now live on various planets in our galaxy) his personality is beamed from Harlan to Old Earth (good old Terra) for a mission where his only choice is do or die (or even do and die).

There he is expected to solve the mystery of what really happened to Laurens Bancroft. Laurens Bancroft is a Meth (Methusalem from the Old Testament). As the name indicates, Mehts live an incredibly long time through resleeving their personality into new bodies. Imagine living like that and the effects time would have upon you. I imagine that in order to choose such a path and to stay on it for centuries you would have to be somewhat of a psychopath. Otherwise you would probably go insane from every one else around you dying. Insane or not Mr. Bancroft’s death has the verdict of suicide. The reason Kovacs has been revived is due to disagreement about the verdict. Here we arrive at the who-dun-it.

Takeshi Kovacs is an enjoyable character. His past haunts him and being in a new body takes some getting used to. There is explicitness in Altered Carbon. I don’t mind that, but then I am 49 years old and not 15.

I like that Mr. Morgan has kept Kovacs alive past Altered Carbon. He is a character well worth knowing – complicated.


Altered Carbon won the Philip K. Dick Award for best novel in 2003


Movie rights have been bought but the film has not been released yet. Updates on IMDB.