Peace Force is a funny scifi action-comedy about poor Harriet Walsh who finds herself invited to become part of the planet Dismolle’s Peace Force.
As she skimmed the flowery sentences, Harriet realised she had been mistaken. The letter wasn’t a scam or a lottery, and it wasn’t asking for money. No, it seemed to be offering her job … and it wasn’t caring for the elderly.
Harriet was certainly correct in being sceptical of the job offer. Nothing is as she expected when she arrives at the address given. I could never decide if I should feel sorry for Harriet. On one hand, her job with the Peace Force saves her from becoming evicted. On the other hand, there’s Bernie, her senior officer. Bernie and Steve are the only ones working for the Peace Force when Harriet is hired. They serve on a planet whose inhabitants are mainly retirees. There is little crime to be found on the planet. Or at least there was until Harriet arrived at the station.
Peace Force is intended for 14+ audiences according to Amazon and I think that is a fair evaluation. Its comedy is of the farcical and slap-stick variety. The covers aren’t representative of the content although they are representative of the current fashion within scifi covers for female leads. The publishers get a big minus for that. Its blurb is honest and representative of the content.
This is the kind of lighthearted read that is not intended to impress or wow its public but rather divert from whatever life throws at you.
Once again Alan Scott serves us a plateful of humour with a dash of serious. OMG, that talk-show. “Women Who Bitch With Other Women” remind me of some very popular talk-shows that definitely do not have ASD’s in mind. “Next season’s must-have fashion accessory!” indeed.
Once again, the idiotic government wants to kill their once-upon-a-time tool. This is one of the worst thing about governments around the world. For heavens sake, let SCoT-1 get his well-deserved revenge instead of wasting unnecessary lives trying to stop an unstoppable person – especially with Terminal Flatulence on his side.
“Darling Annie!” He took her in his arms and kissed her. Annie wanted to should it from the rooftops. She had a sweetheart, and he was a toff to boot.
Poor little Annie Crook became involved with the wrong man. In Victorian times, whether they be in alternate or our history, the rabble risked much if they caught the attention of the upper class. Yet, sometimes, the rabble manages to surprise. Young Annie is one of the voices David Barnett introduces us to in Mechanical Girl.
At first, he thought the knocking was a gear slipping, or one of the spring wearing. He sat up in the chair, suddenly alert, and peered around. “Anybody else hear that?”
Arthur frowned. There it went again. He stood and walked to the port side. Probably a piece of driftwood or rubbish hauled over the side from one of the factory farms. He leaned over and looked at the black, oily water.
Lives of trawler-fishers are dangerous one. In the past, more so. Usually, lives are lost because of the ocean’s wiles, but for Arthur Smith the cause of death of was much more sinister. Left behind is 24-year-old Gideon Smith (our main protagonist). To him Sandsend seems like the end of the earth and he wants nothing more than to leave it behind and experience the adventures he reads about in World Marvels & Wonders.
To have his father’s death be the impetus for his investigation was not how Gideon thought his adventure would begin. Investigate he must, for there is something distinctly off about the disappearance of the crew of the Cold Drake. Anger can be a marvelous tool when we suspect something needs fixing. Anger at our gods, the fickleness of nature, people dying and leaving us behind and even at our own fears are all angers that can prompt action and change. Gideon is an angry man, and rightly so. Life in Victorian times (both alternate world and our) was unfair. It still is. Being wealthy makes life easier to navigate while poverty keeps people in their place. Annie was certainly kept in her place. Now Gideon has to find a way to leave his and investigate and explore.
Which is why he goes seeking Captain Trigger, that wonderful hero of the penny dreadfuls. Such a hero must see that Gideon’s cause is worth pursuing (taking Gideon with him). Getting hold of Captain Trigger proves difficult and Gideon must seek help. Who should turn up but Bram Stoker. Yes, that one. David Barnett throws conspiracies and magical names at us through the story. We just have to pay attention to where we are going.
Once Bram becomes involved, officials finally pay attention to Gideon’s worry about a smuggler’s cave. Stoker is just higher enough on the layers of society for him to be taken more seriously than Gideon. Let’s face it. That is the way the world works. I am taken more seriously than a homeless person. My husband is taken more seriously than I. Writing about inequality in a manner that is fun to read is something Barnett does well. Intended or unintended.
In the end, Gideon gets to meet Captain Trigger, a meeting that changes both men. Gideon also meets wonderful and strange Maria. As he and Maria get closer to an answer to both of their questions, stranger and stranger creatures turn up. Conspiracy indeed.
I had fun. Lots of fun reading Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. Definitely recommended.
“Well, no one knows,” Caldera said, “but they’ve got a sense of the possibilities. What do they say where you come from? Streggeye, you said? What do you think? Were the rails put down by gods?” Her questions came faster. Were they extruded from the ground? Were they writing in heavenly script, that people unknowingly recited as they travelled? Were the rails produced by as-yet-not-understood natural processes? Some radicals said there were no gods at all. Were the rails spit up by the interactions of rock, heat, cold, pressure & dirt? Did humans, big-brained monkeys, think up ways to use them when the rails emerged, to stay safe from the deadly dirt? Was that how trains got thought up? Was the world an infinity of rails down as well as around, seams of them through layers of earth & salvage, down to the core? Down to hell? Sometimes storms gusted off topsoil & uncovered iron below. The most excavation-gung-ho salvors claimed to have found some tracks yards underground. What about Heaven? What was in Heaven? Where was it? (Railsea, p. 181)
Certain subjects will probably interest me until I die. The lengths to which we go to justify our beliefs and avoid being wrong is one of them. We cling so hard to our philosophies that we end up with mechanised arms, like Captain Naphi, or send our navys out to get hold of two children, the way Maniniki did.
Realizing that my childhood faith was not based on facts, had an immense effect on my ability to handle the thought of being wrong. Debating an issue is now merely fun. No longer do I see other people’s beliefs as something to be feared. Some of the lies I told myself are no longer necessary.
Lying to ourselves, even if we are not aware of lying, holds us firmly in our socially accepted places. Sham Yes ap Shoorap is a brave kid. He often needs to be prompted; but by asking himself difficult questions, he manages to defy conventions and seeks answers. Answers are sometimes only found in dangerous waters, and the metaphoric waters of the railsea are indeed dangerous. The Railsea seethes with life wanting to devour anything and anyone in their paths. One has the choice between being eaten by giant burrowing owls, giant moldywarpes, giant earwigs, giant naked mole rats, giant turtles, blood rabbits, tundra worms and so on. Being on the moletrain was one thing. Going from that to his handcart was quite another.
The Railsea‘s culture is post-apocalyptic. A huge war between rail-barons and other big corporations has caused environmental damage that has lasted long enough for cute creatures to mutate into threats for humans. The heavens are only seen as a smog cover containing angels. Yes, angels. And quite scary ones, too. Scientific knowledge has more or less died along with anything resembling healthy ecology for humans. Yet people keep on messing up the ground even more, especially when greed prompts justification. Greed is a fairly common motivator for destroying our habitat in today’s world. I suppose it always has been. I admit that my own attempts at being an environmentally responsible person are inconsistent, yet I keep on trying. George Carlin has a fitting commentary on the effect humans have on the Earth. Railsea seems a fitting vision of it getting revenge.
While Railsea is indeed a young adult story, it is also very much an adult story.
While I do try to say something positive about all novels I review, some novels need less work from my side than others. David Bridger’s new series Sky Ships is such a series. Right off the bat A Flight of Thieves caught my reader and I had to work to put A Flight of Thieves down when real life called.
A Flight of Thieves is very definitely a young adult novel with intelligent language. It has that warm sense of humour that only the British manage to convey. After so many reviews I feel certain some of you have gotten an idea of how much I enjoy writers from all over the United Kingdom. David Bridger just added himself to that list.
We get a combination of political intrigue, action, steam-punk, robot/human interaction and humour blended into 170 pages worth of enjoyment.
King Henry happens to be one of three robot kings who have ruled the Earth after humans managed to ignore the threat of climate warming long enough for it to be too late. We saw that we had been idiots and Henry and his brothers were created to rule us and hopefully keep us from flooding the Earth once again. 1000 years later he has experienced two rebellions and is looking at a third. Only by chance did he and Princess Victoria discover what was going on. The King joined the Princess on a trip to the Lord of Ireland as her footman (travelling incognito as Henry called it) and discovers that all is not well in his kingdom.
Princess Victoria is our main character. It is through her point of view that we learn of this world 1000 years into the future. She is an adventurous sort of person ready to explore her world if only her parents will let her. There is a little rebellion in Victoria and her sister Anne, but these two are pretty good kids who want to do the best for their kingdom. We get to see how Victoria deals with success and failure, love and death – for not all of her allies will make it through the story. That is the way it is when rebellion enters a land. I liked her optimism and willingness to face reality – panic attacks and all.
Odette C. Bell used to publish her work under the pseudonyms “Muscularkevin” and “Scrabblecat” on Fiction Press. There aren’t really any updated blogs or websites that belong to this author. Fiction Press is the closest I can get.
A Plain Jane continues to be a delightfully light read about the search for identity.
Jane has worked her whole life at being as plain as possible. Now it turns out this has been because she has an “Assister” lodged in her head, meant to keep her safe and invisible. It turns out she is anything but plain.
A Plain Jane II begins where no I left off: Jane on the run with Racarl toward somewhere supposedly safe. But Jane doubts his intentions yet still finds herself unable to assert herself and be the Pala (ruler of her people – the mysterious Para) that she is supposed to be.
As I read A Plain Jane (all three of them) I thought about the brainwashing we are all exposed to from the moment we are born (or socialization as it is more popularly called). What if I grew up trying my hardest to think of myself as plain and boring? What would that do to me? Granted, most of us are plain and boring but do not necessarily think of ourselves that way.
I’ve met quite a few people like Jane on my journey through life. They have been told that they are stupid, worthless, boring, ugly and all sorts of other unkind names by the people they trust. Like Jane they come to believe what they have been told and find it almost impossible to break away from that belief.
In A Plain Jane II this is the phenomenon I found the most interesting. Jane struggles against the ingrained belief she has grown up with and works incredibly hard to overcome herself.
But A Plain Jane II is not a serious reality type of novel. It is in fact an extremely entertaining science fiction story with plenty of action and fighting to go around.
Lucas Stone turns out to be not quite as dead as it seemed he might be by the end of A Plain JaneI.
When Lucas was stopped by Element 52 from killing Jane at the end of A Plain Jane I, he fell an entire kilometer before smashing into the ocean. While his armor had been hijacked and caused him to attack Jane, it was also his new and improved armor that has saved him (barely). Luckily for him his true and tested friends Alex and Miranda managed to come after him with the Paran artifact that had helped Jane. Now they are on the trail hoping to get to her before the Darq does.
The Plain Jane covers happen to be some of my favorite covers. Amazing what an imaginative mind can make of a bunch of pictures. The cover details do not say who the cover designer is so I will go with Bell herself as my candidate.
Odette C. Bell is a difficult woman to chase down. For some strange reason her Plain Jane novels no longer appear on Amazon but Smashwords will link you to various sites.
Plain Jane works with people of every variation there is. Most of them are bi-pedal but come in every version from scaly green to purple with a tail. Jane herself is not human, but exactly what she is neither she nor anyone else knows.
As a plain Jane she is fairly average. Average looks, average life and average abilities. In fact, her averageness makes her blend into any group perfectly. For who would notice someone so boring.
I love boring. In fact, I am probably the queen of boring (at least according to my kids). Other people can experience all of the exiting stuff and then I can read about it. Through my own experiences I discovered that exiting has a price, sometimes a very steep one.
Plain Jane is about to discover the same thing. Her dreams of adventure and excitement never included all of the sweat, pain and grit that come along with them. Then reality hits in the form of an assassin robot trying to kill her. Good for Jane that Lucas happened to be near by and had on his special suit of armor.
Jane and Lucas are fun characters. It is obvious that they are going to get involved at some point. That sort of follows whenever a female character in these types of books are annoyed with some male counter-part.
Jane seems to work pretty hard at remaining plain, but sometimes we see extremely different sides to her. Lucas is thrown into helping her time and again and they both end up delving into the mystery that is Jane.
Into the cauldron we also have a bit of politics, a bit of unlikely technology and a bit of extremely unlikely biology. This is the fun part of science fiction. Guessing and/or making up weird stuff is all part of the package.
A Plain Jane is a romantic mystery that has a science fiction background. Thankfully, the romance isn’t a huge part of the plot. Adventure is the prevalent feature. In A Plain Jane we get the more innocent version of murder and mayhem. In addition we get plenty of humor. Bell’s writing is good. She kept my interest throughout the book and nudged me towards buying the rest of the series.
Kin Karad works for the Company. Her job is to oversee the creation of planets. Some of the workers like to play jokes on future inhabitants. The one she has discovered this time is a plesiosaur in the wrong stratum holding a placard reading “End Nuclear Testing Now”. While she is impressed with the inventiveness of the culprit, Kin is getting tired of her life. It has been a long one.
Then she meets a mysterious person who invites her on a journey. Kin Karad decides to go and when she gets to the spaceship she discovers that she is alone, but will be picking up two companions – a kung called Marco Farfarer, and Silver the Shandi. They are told that they will be going to a flat world.
The spaceship takes off and off they go on their adventure.
Strata precedes Pratchett’s Discworld series, but we clearly see how the foundations are laid for the later series. Kin Karad and her fellow explorers are fun characters with clearly defined personalities. Plays on words and concepts are obvious from the first pages. Pratchett was a pretty good author even back in his early days.
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)
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)
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 (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