Tag Archives: #Aliens

Thoma, C. (2014). Boreal and John Grey Season 1. Self-published.

I absolutely loved the scifi/fantasy/thriller story Boreal and John Grey, Season One. Thoma is an author that justifies self-published works.  Season 1 contains the novellas “The Encounter” (45 p), “The Gate” (70 p), “The Dragon” (94 p), “The Dream” (100 p) and “The Truth” (107 p).

Although it was early September, the cold bit to the bone and the air smelled like snow. Snow and piss and trash. The alley stretched ahead, empty of life and strewn with crushed cans and paper.

Ella didn’t move. Faint humming filled her ears, and clicking noises sounded. The clouds above shifted, though no wind blew. The Veil was thinning. Shades would be lurking, waiting to pounce. In the past, faint, frail faeries came through; these had recently turned into more malevolent creatures — kobolds and goblins with a taste for blood. (p. 1.)

Right off the story reveals the quality of Thoma’s work and the kind of story we can expect. The first two paragraphs seethe with potential action and foreshadow a dark story. For Boreal and John Grey, Season 1 is a dark and action-filled story about elements of the Paranormal Investigation Bureau (PIB) and its dealings somewhere in the US.

PIB Voyants (“Sight”, i.e. can see Shades) are paired off and sent to investigate and deal with possible sightings of Shades (Vaettir). Ella Benson and Simon Esterhase make up one such pairing. An anonymous call was redirected to their team, yet only Ella turns up to hunt. What she discovers about the Veil and the Shades disturbs her boss, David Holborn. She does not reveal that when a goblin was about to kill her, it was instead destroyed by a man who fought “like a hurricane” and who left after making sure she was OK (without sharing his name). Throughout the story Ella finds that trusted people aren’t trustworthy while suspicious characters might not be suspicious after all. We also meet the ever-trustworthy Mike, Ella’s neighbour, friend and also Oracle (“He hears the Shades.”, p. 116).

Ella and the mysterious stranger are our main characters. Both are “Heroes“, i.e. “solitary people who fight for the greater good to the detriment of themselves and who do what must be done so others can live normal lives.”

Thoma tells us that she was inspired by the Icelandic saga Eddukvæði by Sæmundar (English translation). I saw this in the details of the story and how the characters from the Edda fit into modern US and  its paranoia. Edda’s inspiration made for recognizable yet new and original characters. I loved the description of the alternate evolution on a Boreal world (brrr).

Any steady reader of this blog knows that romance is not my thing. A majority of romance authors seem incapable of writing believable character interaction. Not so with Thoma. In this case I believed both the emotional and physical interactions that took place. The sex was European vanilla, and the violence held back yet remained believable. Swearing fit with its position in the story.

Certain issues were extremely relevant in a global context. Hatred left from wars leading to atrocious actions from extremist groups on both sides (e.g. Dave and Adramar) is one issue. Relationships across racial/ethnical divides is another. Child abuse a third. No preaching was involved. I hate preaching, even when I am the one doing the preaching. The worst part of the story was that it ended.

Information was weaved into the story in a manner that kept the drive going. No stutters or dissonances were found. Due to Thoma’s world-building, and how tight the story was, I found it difficult to  take breaks.

Each episode flowed flawlessly into the next and the amount of editing that must have gone into this showed. Fortunately, the novel ended without a cliff-hanger. There was a clear opening for continuing the story.

By now you must realise that I heartily recommend this scifi/fantasy/thriller. Fun characters, great resolutions, sex and some violence are all wrapped up into one of the better stories I have read this year.

I bought my copy at Amazon.


My other Thoma reviews: Rex Rising

Wells, Martha; The Siren Depths; (2012); New York, Night Shade Books

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As the last mentor hopped out of the chamber, Moon saw that the seed had sprouted new white tendrils. They snaked out and twined around the crumbling remnants of the dead tendrils to follow their path into the heart wood. The tension ran out of Moon’s body and he leaned back against the wall, letting his breath out. That’s it, he thought. The seed was alive and well and back in its place. ………….

“Well, we’re home now.”

The Indigo Cloud Court mountain tree survived the adventures of The Serpent Sea and is now ready for the adventures of The Siren Depths. The last story of the trilogy begins with the leavetaking of Niran and his two air ships. Stone, the line grandfather, and several warriors and Arbora travel with him to return him safely to his family on the Golden Islands (floating islands).

Stone was cranky, moody, and had lied to get Moon to follow him across the Three Worlds, and Moon wanted him to leave slightly less than he wanted to lose a wing.

Moon loves deeply. In spite of his fears of getting thrown out of the Indigo Cloud court he cannot help loving many of them and hoping that this is his home. A place he does not have to leave. A place to feel safe. A place to belong. In the past six months Moon has come to know what he is (a Raksura Aeriat Consort) and that there are other beings like him (the Indigo Cloud Court). Except for vague memories from early childhood, up until he met Stone, he had never encountered another like himself. His foster-mother and foster-siblings were eaten when he was around 4-5 years old. For the past 35 years he made the best of what survival skills his foster-mother had taught him to survive The Three Worlds and its diverse groundling populations. However, getting accepted by the court’s members has not been a simple matter.

“He doesn’t have to think about it,” Root said suddenly, with a pointed glance around at the others. “Nobody wanted Moon here, remember?”

There was a moment of appalled silence. Then Floret hissed and aimed a slap at Root’s head. He rolled out of reach, bounced up to stand in the safety of the passage door, and hissed at them all. “You know it’s true!”

The past six months haven’t been safe. He has battled the Fell and magicians and has saved the Indigo Cloud Court mountain tree. Not by himself, but he played a major part in all three situations. That is a lot of danger for six months. In spite of proving himself several times over, a faction of the Indigo Cloud Court see Moon as a threat to the Raksura way. That makes sense, when you think about it. Living in a variety of cultures, over a number of years, has shown Moon alternative life-styles and he has trouble fitting into the various views of what being a consort entails. Both consorts and queens are high-strung creatures yet Queens are taught to channel this into aggressive and assertive leadership while Consorts are taught to be timid and nurturing. In healthy courts consorts are pampered and protected from the outside world until they reach maturity. They then go to the consort halls. After a while, they are either claimed by a queen of their court or given away to another court to cement relations between them.

“The courts in the Reaches have to see us as something besides struggling refugees coming back to our old mountain-tree to die off in peace. It’s bad enough that they know we have a feral consort with no bloodline; when you act like one your’re shaming all of us, making us look weak.”

Yet Moon never received that socialization and that is a good thing for the survival of Indigo Cloud Court. Moon has endeared himself to most of the Arbora and the fledglings. Getting the mountain tree up to its old standards takes hard work. Hard work that he is willing to put in but that Aeriats like River are not. Moon has shown much of the Aeriat that they, too, can help make platforms safe, hunt animals and clean house. Particularly Jade has taken his example to heart. Because he is her consort, his behavior reflects upon her. By joining in when she is able to she shows the entire court her approval and her willingness to get dirty. The Arbora appreciates Moon’s example and leaves him small gifts in his bower (the consorts’ rooms).

Not only the Arbora and the Aeriat have benefitted from Moon’s untraditional life. His experiences with dealing with trauma has made him the ideal person to help the three fledgling Summer Sky court survivors, Frost, Bitter and Thorn (clutch queen and two consorts). They trust him implicitly and take advantage of him in all ways he allows them. He benefits by having someone to share his knowledge with who will not judge him on what he “is supposed or not supposed” to do. Moon underestimates the impact he has on the Indigo Cloud Court.

When they went to the Emerald Twilight Court, Ice, mother-queen of Emerald Twilight Court, saw something about Moon that made her wonder about his heritage. In an attempt to make up for Halcyon’s behavior she looks into the matter. What she discovers turns Moon’s life up-side-down once more.

Wells’ stories about the Raksura blend current issues with an imaginative world into a compelling story. My brain harmonizes with her writing. It baffles me that her stories have not been translated into other languages.


My review of:

Wells, Martha; The Serpent Sea (Raksura II)(2013)

All countries/societies/cultures/etc. have their own rules and regulations (written and unwritten) that must be followed to avoid being ostracized. Small communities, in particular, have a difficult time with newcomers, because those newcomers shake up their beliefs about right and wrong. Aspies are often life-long newcomers to the places they are born. We cross invisible lines and are called socially deficient. When Moon came to the Indigo Cloud Court he knew only what Shade had told him of their ways.

Moon had been consort to Jade, sister queen of the Indigo Cloud Court, for eleven days and nobody had tried to kill him yet. He thought it was going well so far.

As much as the world of the Court confuses Moon, Moon confuses the Arbora (cannot fly) and Aeriat (can fly).

Moon caught hold of the railing and slung himself up to crouch on it. He said, “Tell the others.” He leapt away from the boat, shifted to Raksuran form in midair and caught the wind.

Consorts are raised to be timid creatures and do not learn to fight. Generally, they are obedient and do not raise their voices. Moon, who takes the lead, changes form in mid-air and joins in hunting for and guarding the Court, is a person who will not accept Raksura strictures. Through his example, he shows others that changes aren’t necessarily a bad thing and that there are options to traditional patterns. In return, the Court shows Moon that living forever in a place can be a good thing. Unfortunately, Moon’s past leaves him expecting to be kicked out of the Indigo Cloud Court.

What is left of the Indigo Cloud Court, after the Fell have decimated them, travel onboard the two wind-ships, the Valendera and the Indara, to their ancestral lands, the Reaches, to find a Mother Tree to live in. Moon’s experience with living in trees has not left him wanting more.

The multiple layers of branches reached up like giants’ arms, and the trunk was enourmous, wider around than the base of the ruined step pyramid that had formed the old Indigo Cloud colony. from the lower part of the trunk, greenery platforms extendet out, multiple levels of them, some more than five hundred paces across. A waterfall fell out of a knothole nearly big enough to sail the Valendera through, plunged down to collect in a pool on one of the platforms, then fell to the next, and the next, until it disappeared into the shadows below.

In Serpent Sea Martha Wells has given us a mystery, a moving island, and an arrogant neighbor. Everything I have to say about Serpent Sea is positive. I love the way Wells blends major and minor tones. The text winds its way through dangers and peace creating a symphony of words that fits my taste and, with ease, draws me through the story. Once again, Moon is the only POV. Seeing through those eyes shows me a complex world and interesting characters. Like Nobent. Talk about excellent predator. And the moving island. Oozing darkness and goo. Not a human society in sight.


My review of The Cloud Roads

Green, Dominic: Saucerers and Gondoliers (Ant & Cleo 1) (2008)

Saucerers and Gondoliers cover
Cover by Dominic Green

It was the cover that lured me in. Sometimes I am lucky and the cover actually presages the contents.

Dominic Green‘s Ant & Cleo series is as well-written and ridiculous as only British humor can be. These two young (12 years old) people go through experiences that are disconnected to reality as we prefer to believe it. Unless, of course, Britain, Russia (USSR) and the US have actually managed to get colonies into space. I suppose it is possible?

First, Antony and Cleopatra, the main characters. Their characters have little to do with the portrayal by Shakespeare but more in common with the originals. Ant seems to be bluff, passionate and a little simple-minded (and highly underestimated by Cleo), while Cleo is fairly intelligent and practical.

It all begins with a trip to the woods with Ant’s father. Forests are great places for adventure, though I doubt many people get to go into space with an alien from Lalande 21185. Strangely enough, this alien looks like a human:

“The new man looked tired and thin, and had a haircut that suggested he spent a lot of his time in prison. He was wearing neither a suit nor combat fatigues, but a pair of Levi’s which still had the label dangling from the back of them, and a maroon T shirt. The T shirt had aliens in flying saucers on it, along with the words SPACE RASTA.”

Mr. Green throws Ant & Cleo into situations that keep them wondering about the things they have learned in school. The spaceship they leave Earth in is their first clue to their ignorance. “Made in Britain by Hawker Siddeley Aviation” seems a bit far-fetched to them. But that is what the maker’s plate says.

Then they meet Americans (US) in space. What a parody of every prejudice non-US citizens have had of them. White-supremacy, a confederate flag and deep southern accents along with names like Billy-Bob, Billy-Hank and Wayne-Bob. A whole sleuth of movies go through my memories as I write this. The funniest thing about these stereotypes is that Hollywood is the worst perpetrator of the image (and early James Bond). Their new compatriots join them on that planet. Glenn Bob and Truman make an odd couple. One very curious and the other diligent in carrying out assigned jobs.

After the US, Ant & Cleo get to meet members of the Soviet Union. Yes. In space the USSR still rules and feelings between the US and Russians continue to be very cold (I guess a bit like today).  Here, too, accents and behavior copies movie and television stereotypes. Mr. Green nails these stereotypes.

“Glorious Soviet Yutopia does not kyill wyomen and chyildren”

OMG, non-russians speaking English with Russian accents drive me crazy. Finally, Ant & Cleo get to meet and talk with the British. Their poor kidnapper has been unconscious ever since their spaceship broke Earth’s orbit, so they do not know who he is and where he is from. He is British. Here again, Green nails every stereotype. These are the British who shake their head and carry on with the job even when they are severely wounded, wring sweat out of their long underwear to make water and express strong feelings by saying things like “Golly”, “Gosh” and “Bally good”.

Nothing is realistic. Well, except that quite a lot of it is. Tension between countries, secretive and lying governments and people who try to follow the propaganda they have been brought up are all things Green portrays as is. Propaganda, my goodness, what a great examples of propaganda and the brainwashing citizens are put through and accept.

I enjoyed this book immensely and think it would be appropriate for people from around 10 years old and up. Adults might have to explain some of the references, but with the I-net available to many, they might not.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Reading order:

dePierres, Marianne: Transformation Space (Sentients of Orion IV) (2010)

Manta ray: Alexander Safonov;  Space crafts: Dale O'Dell/Alamy;  Cover design: www.blacksheep-uk.com
Manta ray: Alexander Safonov;
Space crafts: Dale O’Dell/Alamy;
Cover design: http://www.blacksheep-uk.com

I haven’t really liked the other covers of the series that are like the one above. Nor have I liked the ones similar to the one below. But in the case of Transformation Space both covers have appealed to me. The bottom one is because of the eyes of the main model. In the above cover I love the details that reveal themselves as I review the picture along with the color combination.

Dum, da, rah, dum! The end is here.

 Like this … Nova projected a grave melancholia, a vast emptiness without end that made Mira want to weep.

<you know this? little one?>

We all know. Do you feel it too?

According to answers.com the definition of melancholia is:

Melancholia brings about a form of pessimism that sees the future as blocked and unchangeable. Such pessimism is accompanied by ideas of guilt and unworthiness, which find expression through self-accusation and can even give rise to delusion. …. Mental suffering engenders a continual desire for death.

How far would we be willing to go to get out of our melancholia? At what point does the melancholia cause us to tip over the boundary of no, nos? There are plenty of stories out there about just what happens to people who end up in this valley of bleakness in their attempts to relieve the pain.

The lovely thing about fiction is that the author gets to explore such subjects. The serial Sentients of Orion has explored the issue of how far one particular non-humanesque is willing to go in order to relieve its melancholia. Because its motivations and background is foreign and more or less unknown to us, we only get to see the effects of trying to relieve its pain.

The Sacqr are one of those effects. You know, the Sacqr are seriously bad-ass. Nothing kills them, except maybe something really big stepping on them. Weapons seem to have no effect and their voraciousness has no limit. Even Rast Randall is scared shit-less by them, and Rast does not frighten easily.  Being kept sensory deprived on the Post-Species vessel almost broke her but she pulled through and used her resilience to help keep the three survivors of that trip alive through Sacqr fun:

Jo-Jo’s muscles twitched with an uncontrollable desire to spring at the creature. Attack it before it could find him, surprise and aggression as his weapon. Not crouch here, shitting his pants, waiting for its maw to open and the bone-piercing stamen to extend down and skewer his skull.

Jo-Jo remembered how it was: ‘esque bodies flung across the floor of the food court on Dowl, Sacqr gorging on their body fluids. The adrenaline that had poured through him then now threatened to overcome his self-control, but Randall kept steady pressure on his head, pressing so hard that the pain across the bridge of his nose began to overshadow his fear.

How much garbage do you have to wade through in your life to be able to keep your cool in such a situation? There are people out there who go through similar experiences every day. Syria, Sudan and Eastern Burma spring to mind. Not much fun living there these days and I imagine what they have experienced is close to what the people of Araldis went through as it was invaded. Rast Randall had fought in plenty of conflicts/wars in her capacity as a mercenary leaving her with the tools to possibly survive what the Sacqr had to dish out.

I found myself admiring the inner strength Thales was able to dig up during Transformation Space. When I first got to know him, Thales seemed afraid of his own shadow. Yet by the end of the tale of the Sentients of Orion Thales emerges as a person who has discovered who and what he is and what price he is willing to pay to remain that person. That journey is one we all need to make. Some of us do. Some of us don’t.

Once again Marianne de Pierres caught me in the trap of her words and would not release me until Transformation Space was a done deal.


2011: Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Transformation Space


Reviews:


Transformation Space on Amazon Canada


My review of:

  1. Dark Space
  2. Chaos Space
  3. Mirror Space

Transformation space 1

 

 

dePierres, Marianne: Mirror Space (The Sentients of Orion III) (2009)

mirror space

“Love’s a bitch, ain’t she?”

Not for me, but certainly for Rast Randall and Jo-Jo Rasterovitch who have both fallen for Baronessa Mira Fedor from Araldis. When Mira is captured by the Extropists (nascent humanesques/post-species) Mira shows why Rast and Jo-Jo care so much for her. Resilience is the quality I find most describes the young refugee from Araldis. I’m not certain if resilience is something that most find attractive, but I know that I do. Part of that attraction lies in my own history and perhaps part of it has to do with resilient people radiating some sort of invisible strength. Fighting her fears and going on in spite of the traumas that come her way signifies the kind of courage the young Baronessa has.

Insignia has shown Mira how utterly alien the thought patterns of other creatures can be. Wanton-Poda is about to show her how “evolved” humanesques no longer have much in common with their roots. Indeed, their morals are amoral seen from a Western point of view. Through this, dePierres shows us just how different our own cultures can be in this mix that our global village has become. What one ethnic background considers only proper another might consider sociopathic or paranoid or cruel. Judging others based on our own backgrounds is unwise yet impossible to avoid. Again and again Mira is confronted with the need to reach beyond her own way of thinking. But it ain’t easy!

Tekton is from highly competitive Lostol. Whether the whole population is like him is impossible for me to say, but he and his cousin both seem supremely self-absorbed and willing to do anything to win over the other. Sole (the Entity/God/strange intelligence) knows to use these two qualities against them in its attempt to achieve its own goals. We don’t find out what these goals are until the end of the Sentients of Orion serial (yes, I cheated). As we see in Mirror Space, Tekton learns what being helpless is all about and finds his narcissism challenged. Perhaps there is potential for change in him.

One person who seems to have no hope of changing is Trin Pelligrini. He keeps on insisting that Mira has run off and fights Cass Mulravey for power of the survivors. His ego needs constant stroking, one reason he is so fond of Djeserit. Yet this utter and complete belief in his own superiority might be what the survivors need in order to stay alive.

In fact, characters like Trin Pelligrini, Lancer Farr and Tektor Lostol are fascinating people. I find there is something about deviant fictional characters that makes a story much better. However much I hate it whenever such a person turns up in my own life, they surely make for a deeper understanding of the human psyche. Literature serves this function, along with many others, for me.

One thing that is certain is that Marianne de Pierres has the flow needed to grab hold of me and drag me along in her story. Annoyingly, yet wonderfully, I find myself unable to resist her pull.

Orion star chart
Orion star chart (road map)

Reviews:


Mirror Space on Amazon UK


My review of:

  1. Dark Space
  2. Chaos Space

dePierres, Marianne: Chaos Space (The Sentients of Orion II) (2008)

The Sentients of Orion - Marianne dePierres
Cover art by Wayne Haag

The end of Dark Space has left Mira pregnant, raped by Trin so he could ensure his progeny with a pure-blood noble from Araldis. Rast states it so well

“Women get raped,” said Rast harshly, her pale skin flushed with emotion. “Sometimes in war, sometimes just for the hell of it. That’s what happens.” She gripped Mira’s wrist and pulled her close. Then she hugged her tightly for a long moment.

“We’ll get your world back for you, Baronessa. But tell me something: are you sure you really want it?”

Not only did Trin rape Mira and send her off-planet to get help. While staying behind he makes certain to besmirch Mira’s reputation by claiming that she has run off. For Trin does not want Mira to become more popular than he. After all, that might endanger his own shot at becoming Principe after the war.

War, ambition, greed, death.

Trin is more concerned with saving his men than with saving the population of Araldis. Cass Mulravey sees that he has no clue that if he wishes to rebuild his world, he will need women to bear children. The two of them are at odds through all of Chaos Space. Only Djeserit’s attempts to broker a peace between them keeps them from open dispute. Until Trin has managed to finagle the loyalty of the women who have followed Cass, he has to at least give the appearance of working for the greater good. Perhaps all of this pretending will turn to true behavior eventually???

We find out who Djeserit’s mother is. Oh, dear! Poor girl. None of us choose our own parents, but some of us are left with worse parents than others. Bethany Farr is no ideal mother. She seems to have repented of sending Djeserit off and now wants to save Djeserit and thereby Aldaris. But will Bethany carry through or perhaps only work towards the redemption of her daughter until her next “love” comes along??

Insignia, the biozoon carrying Mira, turns out to have an agenda of its own. The vessel has repeatedly tried to get Mira to understand that it does not care about humanesques in general, only the ones with which it can communicate. When its contract with the Fedor clan runs out in the middle of an escape, Mira fully comes to understand how true and real that is.

Mira is one severely traumatized person who is thrown from one chaotic episode to the next. Needing to make decisions pronto goes against her socialization, and tearing herself loose from that socialization is incredibly painful for her. In Dark Space Mira learned to handle a gun, something that was forbidden to the upper-class women. In Chaos Space she has to learn to see through the fallacies of her traditions. Having worked my way out of fundamentalism, makes it easy for me to relate to what Mira must have gone through. Being brought up in a society where women are taught from a young age that they are less and also taught how to internalize this tradition and accept it as right and proper makes the reach through the fog of indoctrination severely painful and self-actualizing. Mira is forced to grow once she makes the choice to make her way through her fog and grow she does.

Asking for help is more complicated than Mira had thought. Naively, Mira had expected that explaining her planet’s situation to OLOSS would bring OLOSS to the rescue. But OLOSS is concerned with what is in it for them and want to get hold of Insignia so they can study it. Having read something about the history of our own world this concern with profit in the face of aid is nothing new. In fact, I wonder if the need to profit from another person’s tragedy is embedded in the human psyche?

DePierres’ writing is as riveting in Chaos Space as it was in Dark Space. Again I found myself struggling to stop reading.


Reviews:


Chaos Space on Amazon US


My review of Dark Space