Tag Archives: #Technology

De Pierres, Marianne; Peacemaker 1 (2014)

The Peacemaker series begins with Peacemaker. Peacemaker also has a first installment of the webcomic edition on De Pierres website. De Pierres has called her Peacemaker stories cowpunk, meaning they are Australian Westerns (yes there is such a thing) with possible aliens/paranormal creatures, technologically enhanced humans and animals and an environmentally challenged country. Australia has gone from having its current 500 national parks to only one, Birrumen Park. There was still an outback while Virgin’s father was alive. He started a park lobby because he saw the direction real estate developers were dragging the country in. Now, Birrumen lies, as the last of its sort, in the heart of a supercity and is surrounded by a road, The Park Esplanada. Noise, people and buildings drench the outside of the park.

Peacemaker is told by Virgin. She is our main character.  She was pretty much raised in the park by her father. He taught her to not trust anyone, least of all those closest to her, and he passed on his love for the park to her. Virgin is passionate about keeping the Park out of the hands of real estate developers. As long as the tourists keep coming, the Park still has a chance.

… the company scientists deemed it too environmentally fragile to handle the impact of permanent residents. Tourists did enough damage.

And we had to have tourists.

The Park saved Australia’s tourism industry and tourists save the Park. My daughter just did her BA dissertation on eco-tourism. Many places depend on tourists to stay alive, but tourists bring their own set of problems that aren’t compatible with keeping a place “untouched”. Inhabitants make concessions like the Wild West theme of Birrumen. The future we see in Peacemaker is a likely one. Humans don’t have the intelligence to control our population growth or ecological foot-prints.

Benny, Virgin’s horse, and the Park both ground Virgin when the chaos of outside becomes too much. Both are filled with technology. Benny has been augmented with recording equipment, and endurance and cognitive enhancers. All of his augmentations send information back to Totes, the park tech, and then on to the company storage and processing centre. Birrumen has all sorts of measuring equipment to make sure the park is left as undisturbed as possible. An electromagnetic field above the park keeps unwanted people out and the view in.

No human is supposed to be in the park after dark. One evening Virgin forgets her phone inside and has to go back in.

Even though I’d been ranger here for a few years, I was suddenly a little nervous. The sand and rock and palms that I knew so well during the day had taken on an eerie quality.

The company didn’t like us “on board” (their expression for being in the park) after dark – something to do with insurance. I always pushed that directive to the limit because I like to see the sunset. …

As I bent to fumble with the pump, I felt my phone underfoot. Then another sound attracted my attention – muffled voices from the other side of the semicircle of palms that skirted the Interchange area.

Voices? Impossible! I was the last person out of the south-east sector every day. Park scanners and satellite imaging confirmed it, as well as my own visual sweep.

I picked up my phone and crept towards the sound, my boots silent on the sand. There were two of them, arguing, but I couldn’t get a handle on the thread. …

A strangled cry got me running toward them, hauling my pistol free from my holster. …

But the pair had fallen down onto the sand.

I flicked my phone light on and shone it at them. Only one person was there. Blood trickled from a small, deep wound on his neck.

Impossible! There were two! …

Weirdness arrives in the form of a crow. Virgin is attacked and wounded but manages to escape. On top of that, Virgin is late in picking up her new partner, Marshall Nate Sixpence. Then her imaginary friend from her childhood reappears, a large wedge-tailed eagle called Aquila. Virgin thinks she is going insane because she is the only one who sees her. Except she isn’t. Nate can also see imaginary friends. Hmmm. Maybe they aren’t as imaginary as Virgin thinks. Nathan calls them disincarnates.

Her life is turned on its head. She goes from routine to chaos, from safety to one life-threatening situation after the other. Some constants remain. What is going on? Virgin’s investigative journalist friend, Caro, helps Virgin many times. Her boss, Bull Hunt, Superintendent of Park Ecology, remains on her side even when the police go after her. He used to be friends with her father and has continued to take care of her.

In some ways Virgin is a loner. She certainly thinks of herself as one, but tends to gather friends because of the way she treats people. Blunt but tries to protect the weak. Some of those friends are interesting cases. Totes, the park tech, is one such. Even though he bugs her apartment, Virgin keeps him on because she believes he is on her side. Chef Dabrowski feeds her and is as much of a surrogate parent as she will let him. She is the kind of person who does not want to be a burden to the people loves, yet does her best to help the very same people. Her personality appeals to my Asperger.

This is my favorite De Pierres series thus far. Her writing is compelling and the story asks interesting questions, is fun, full of action, full of interesting characters and has a great female lead. Plus it’s in Australian English. So, a definite yes from me.


Reviews:


Winner Aurealis Award– Best Science Fiction Novel, 2014


Peacemaker can be found at:

Buy at Amazon.com

Buy for Amazon Kindle

Buy at Amazon.com UK

Buy from Barnes and Noble

Buy from Barnes and Noble Canada

Buy from Barnes and Noble (UK)

Buy for Barnes and Noble Nook

Buy from The Book Depository

Buy from Fishpond

Cheek, Kater; Parasitic Souls (2016)

Cover art by: Fiona Jayde Media and Kater Cheek
Cover art by: Fiona Jayde Media and Kater Cheek

About five years before the beginning of Parasitic Souls, the Earth experienced a magic apocalypse. As a result of the apocalypse, some people became magical. The strangest form of magic is SL (spontaneous lycanthropy), in this case to coyote . More common is magical talent. Those who had practiced magic before the apocalypse, like brujas/brujos and witches/wizards, had a head-start. The magically talented are able to use their energy to set wards, make charms or influence people. Scientists study magic in hopes of understanding its underlying principles.

One of the magics discovered is a fountain of youth. Not a particularly ethical magic, but one that might potentially earn the inventor loads of money. Many people would be willing to use this highly questionable form of magic and pay almost anything. However, before this fountain of youth could be sold to the wealthy and unscrupulous, it needs testing. Which is how we meet Lenny.

The apartment was dark except for the streetlight shining rudely through the curtains. Since she had a raging thirst and an urgent need to pee, Fiona got up. She managed to find the bathroom without shinning herself too badly on the birch Ektorp coffee table, and she only had to open four cabinets before finding a cup to drink out of. As she was downing her third glass of water, she heard a non-human voice creak at her through the kitchen window.

“Let me in!”

She dropped the glass on the floor. It bounced and rolled under the table, spilling water everywhere.

Fiona gets called to Clementine, California, by her step-mom’s assistant, Sophie. Fiona’s step-mom, Carlotta, had done a disappearing act. There was little the two girls could do to find her, except wait and hoped that the only thing wrong is a severe hangover. Turns out, Carlotta’s problem is a bit more serious. In fact, her whole demeanor changed from warm and kind to cold and mean. At least towards Fiona and Sophie. Something is up, and the two of them know it has to be bad.

Fiona is 24-years old and born to a messed up mother and father. One of her father’s marriages had been to Carlotta. Carlotta was everything Fiona needed, and she was there for Fiona even after she divorced Fiona’s father. So Fiona has reason to expect Carlotta to, at least, let her sleep on the couch. Instead, Fiona has to shack up with Sophie.

Sophie is 18-years old and the adopted child of adoring and overprotective parents. Because Carlotta is related to her mother, Sophie was able to move to Clementine and apprentice with Carlotta. Up until the personality change, Carlotta had treated Sophie kindly. Now neither Fiona or Sophie has a job, and they certainly have no idea what to do about Carlotta. Should they go back or stay and try to fix things?

Parasitic Souls would be a terrible, and probably realistic, story if they chose to give up. However, the two do not. Things happen, and through them we meet Marcello and Xavier. Marcello teaches magic theory at Clementine Preparatory Academy for Magic and Technology. Xavier is apprenticed to his grandmother, the bruja, Luna. Luna is a woman you do not want as an enemy. The two men are in their early twenties and both of them are interested in the two women. So. Some romance.

Parasitic Souls is a Young Adult story with three types of stories in it. Coming-of-age, romance and “what if”. There is plenty of action, some of it rather unusual. Kater Cheek also manages to thrown in her odd, but cool, sense of humor. I liked it and recommend Parasitic Souls.


Parasitic Souls is available at Smashwords


Kater Cheek gave me a copy of Parasitic Souls in exchange for a review

Farrugia, Nathan M.: Helix: Episode 1 (2016)

Hi, I’m Nathan and I make up stories. There’s a word for that. Delusional. And sexy.

Helix: Episode 1 is part of the world of The Fifth Column. What I like most, aside from how well the text flows, is its realism. No mental leaps are required of me to believe in the likelihood of the methods used to acquire soldier material, how these people are tested, what training they receive and their use. The military and population application of all of the genetic manipulation described, especially unquestioning loyalty, is frightening.

Some of the brainwashing techniques described in the Sophia serial is brainwashing we all go through. Propaganda is poured at us from every available medium from the time we are born. Our ethics and moral values are all part of this propaganda. Soldiers who are sent to kill, especially the ones who end up in some form of black ops, must endure even more. What military and intelligence leaders want are people who obey and find a way to achieve whatever their leaders command them to do as efficiently as possible. Unlike religious cults, though, the military cannot have unquestioning loyalty in such men and women. At least not in officers.

The Fifth Column is not an officially sanctioned group. They aren’t interested in their doings getting out to the public. So their brainwashing needs to be more thorough.

One of their tools for finding relevant children is the Human Genome Project. Based on certain genetic markers, children from around the world get tested by Project GATE. Olesya, our main character, is one such child. Except she does not seem to have the desired genetic marker. However, she does make it into the program.

“For a while, he was silent. It was the longest she’d seen him not talk. Above the, fireworks crackled, then trickled down the velvet sky. Olesya tried to imagine what this scholarship on the other side of the world would be like without her big brother.

The snow squeaked under Zakhar’s jacket. He rubbed his face with a gloved hand and she realized he’d been crying. The fireworks had faded now, golden glitter in the night.”

Project GATE aims to make the perfect killers. By combining extensive testing, combat and assassin training, brainwashing techniques and an engineered virus, Project GATE gets unquestioning, loyal and adjustable soldiers.

After one of their tests, Olesya, together with other team-members, is broken out of Project GATE by the Sixth Column and de-programmed. The Chimera Vector took us through that process and it was not fun for either the programee or the de-programmer.  Getting de-programmed is only the beginning of Olesya’s life with a mind of her own. Now the Sixth Column wants her to be their soldier. She, and the others from her old team, fight to free other Fifth Column members and to find their own people who seem to be disappearing. Theirs is a race against time and a superior power.

It turns out the Sixth Column is not only fighting against the Fifth Column but also against an organization whose members wear white armbands. All of these conspiracies give us much action, well-written action. With his background, Farrugia has the tools for being able to make the fighting realistic. Realism by itself, would not work well for some of the car-chases, so we get a bit of Bondism as well.  We reacquaint ourselves briefly with Sophia and it is interesting to see what that tells us about the Sixth Column.

Helix was fun, had great flow and interesting people who kept me entertained. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


My reviews of other Fifth Column stories


Helix, Episode 1 is available at Amazon

Anderson, Blackthorn & al: A Forest of Dreams (Edited by Roy C. Booth) (2014)

A Forest of Dreams - Anthology edited by Roy C. Booth
Cover art by Drusilla Morgan

I tried to find a link to all of the authors in A Forest of Dreams. As you see below, I couldn’t find them all.

Allan B Anderson: The Trouble with Dragons: This is a funny and cute story all about perspective. In The Trouble With Dragons we find a dragon, a town and knights.

Rose Blackthorn: When Darkness Falls, The Light: Flint Harmattan walks into the camp of Zaelryn and Vaeryn. Vaeryn is suffering from PTSD (an almost constant dissociation). Zaelryn makes sure she stays alive.

Cynthia Booth & Roy C Booth: Trespassers: Jenny, who is on her way to a job, stops at a cafè when her car becomes unsafe to drive. She is offered a ride to a safe place to stay.

Dave D. Burgh: The Bell: This is a really great and strange take on eternal life. Uldo and Emin are fun characters.

Jesse Duckworth: Runaway Clydesdale: A two-headed man, by the name of Clyde and Dale, is an exhibit at a freak show. He grows tired of this life and decides to run away.

Mani Fadn: Songs For Dead Hearts: People getting what they ask for isn’t always a good thing. Poor “young man” (all we ever know him as). A victim of his own abilities and the fickleness of the other villagers.

Jan Goeb: Accounting for Change: Here we find a tale that is about the first days of vampire life.

R.A.M. Graham: Dancing Doll: RAM Graham was the reason I bought A Forest of Dreams. I loved her story about Gwenmere. Dancing Doll surprised me. I love that. A little girl REALLY tries to listen to what her mother has told her to do. She really does. But we all know how tempting some things can be.

Rick Hipps: Squire William’s New Charge: What a great squire to have. Squire Williams is cast in the “teen-ager doing something his elders aren’t able to” role. Squire William’s New Charge is a fairly dark fairy-tale.

Axel Kohagen: Mudwife: I like these slightly creepy stories about consequences. Perhaps it could be said about this story that one should not trust first impressions and maybe even that it might pay sometimes to be less curious.

R. Scott McCoy: Only a Nightmare: Only a Nightmare is hilarious and creepy. Once again, things did not turn out how I expected.

Verna McKinnon: Dragon Toast: Dragon Toast is about the life of familiars and a dragon baby. It is adorable. Tupa is the cutest familiar ever. There is magic, action and adventure. My call is that Dragon Toast is a children’s story.

Angela Meadon: Intrepid Dawn. Not a children’s tale. Nope. More for the Young Adults who are able to read dark stories about monsters from the depths of the ocean.

Michael Merriam: All the Leaves Your Bed. I loved this little story about death, environmentalism and tree-magic.

Druscilla Morgan: The Last Unicorn: This is the story of the bunch that fit me the least. Rufus Armstrong is in charge of what appears to be a dangerous horse with a bump on its forehead.

James Pratt: King Kong Died for Your Sins. Oh my god. King Kong Died for Your Sins is a perfect portrayal of certain parts of our society. James Pratt nailed it. Absolutely hilarious.

Dyfedd Rex: Weapon of Mass Demoralization Test: Another story that I really liked. We get jaded old hunters, the military, overconfident magic-users, succubi and nuns.

Maggie Secara: Jack’s Day Out: We meet an old story-book character some years after the event. Jack and his brother Perian are on their way to visit the Lady when Perian disappears. Some of the other characters from the old story turn up as well.

Daminsen Shentay: In the Weft: Some shopkeepers are a little more dangerous to rob than other shopkeepers. Mitch should have been more careful about checking out the details of this job before agreeing to take it.

Most of these short stories were really great. There were two or three that didn’t fit me all that well, but I imagine they were still well-written. I find it difficult to know if a story that does not fit me is well-written. However, I do recommend A Forest of Dreams if nothing else but for Graham, Merriman, Rex, McCoy and Burgh’s stories. Those were my favorites.


Reviews:


A Forest of Dreams at Amazon US

Stewart, Michael F.: Assured Destruction (2013)

Assured Destruction - Michael F. Stewart
Cover illustration by Don Dimanlig: Loved this cover

I believe the title Assured Destruction could be used to describe several factors in this story about Janus and her current life. One, of course, is the firm Assured Destruction. It seems the employees there are having trouble destroying what ought to be destroyed. It is interesting to see how people trust the honesty of others to such a great extent. I’m guessing the level of reliability in the real world is pretty much as described in Assured Destruction.

Jan’s mother is on the road to assured destruction. We all die and could die at any time. But the path MS takes a person on is one of systematic destruction of one part after the other until the body is completely destroyed. Having to deal with her mother’s illness could take Jan on her own road to assured destruction as her Shadow-Net begins to affect real life people.

Finally, we have the Shadow-Net and its assured destruction. Shadow-Net and the personalities it comprises has made up the people Jan considers her close friends. These imaginary friends have helped her through a terrible phase in her life where more and more responsibility has been dumped on her. Her imaginary friends help Jan interpret the world around her.

Like the rest of us Jan sees the people around her through faulty eyes. Turns out people aren’t what she thinks they are, and as that realization hits her harder and harder, Jan gets the opportunity to change her perspective. And she does. That is the cool thing about Jan. She manages to turn around the way she sees others, to somehow overcome her prejudices and move on to changes in her relationships.

Assured Destruction is a great action/thriller/mystery. I find Stewart’s writing fun and engaging. His characters are loveable. I am going to read the rest of this series. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Assured Destruction available at Amazon US

Farrugia, Nathan M.: The Seraphim Sequence (The Fifth Column II)

The Seraphim Sequence - Nathan M Farrugia

The main question in The Seraphim Sequence seems to be “who is really on Sophia’s side” in her battle against the Fifth Column. She trusts five people. These are Jay, Damian, Nasira and Benito. Her hero is Freeman, the leader of the Akhana. Anyone else is questionable in her mind, although there are a couple who seem to grow on her. Feeling as though you are able to trust as many as five people, considering Sophia’s background, is actually pretty good.

A group of psychopaths deciding the way the world is run doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me. At one point in the story Jay even feels as though he is in a Dan Brown story to which Damien responds “Please don’t make this any worse than it has to be,”. Jay does his best to keep the fighting off them, but a Farrugia novel will not leave its characters in peace. I can only hope that the main characters survive Mr. Farrugia’s clever pen.

Sophia is still dealing with her guilt regarding the 400 million women she inadvertently caused to die horrific deaths. Therein lies the difference between Sophia and the pscyhopaths, like Cecilia and Denton, that have been and are in charge. One has regrets and one does not. On one point, I will give the psychopaths their due. One of them states that being relieved of feelings of guilt would make Sophia more efficient. That is true. Guilt does slow a person down. It makes us rethink our options and try to find less destructive ones – for the people we wish to save. Destruction for the other side should be as complete as possible. Maybe we are all psychopaths to one degree or another.

There is a lot of action and plenty of fun weapons that aren’t too terribly different to what is available today. The weapons that do deviate are within the realm of possibility – at least they are to my non-weapon knowledgeable mind.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Seraphim Sequence available on Kindle


My review of The Chimera Vector


Can Genes be Turned on and Off in Cells?

DNA building blocks can be made in space, NASA

Human Genome is Part Bonavirus, Tina Hesman Saey

Microwave Mind Control, Tim Rafat

No, diatoms have not been found in a meteorite, Phil Plait

Pseudogenes (from Farrugia’s website)

The Psychology of the Mob Mentality, Nicola Davies

The Roots of Evil by Erwin Staub

Pratchett, Terry: Raising Steam (Discworld 40) (2013)

Terry Pratchett is God. Or perhaps he is Moist von Lipwig. What a name. Seriously! Pratchett has a way with names that I have never seen outdone.

I loved Raising Steam. Goblins are my new favorite race. These people keep on knocking over the expectations of other races time and again. Their freedom from being eaten, chased, beaten and downtrodden (at least in theory) has led to them outdoing many of their old masters.

Perhaps this is the main reason Pratchett has caught my heart. He isn’t afraid to address problems in society, and he does it in a manner that helps me see them in a new light. Moist von Lipwig is an excellent conduit for that message. He races through the story having to face himself ever so many times. Facing myself is not my favorite pastime but it is one that I try to make time for daily. One of the advantages of limited mobility is that I can no longer run from whatever parts of me I might wish to run from. Moist tries but Mister Of the Twilight the Darkness keeps him on track.

In Raising Steam those tracks are technology and the steam engine. But I guess like so many of Mr. Pratchett stories, Raising Steam is about our fears. Facing our fears. In this case our fears take the shape of racism, fear of technology, fundamentalism and basically fear of any person or thing that is not within our scope of experience.

We are all frightened little shites trying to muddle our way throughout life without realizing that all of the others around us are also frightened little shites. For this reason I truly love Pratchett. He shows us our fears, and our fears are many. What we need is a Vimes who asks us difficult questions and at the same time helps us realize that we are dumber than bread in persisting in our fears.

Like von Lipwig, Pratchett is my enabler. He helps me see what needs to be faced and leaves me feeling graced by his presence. No wonder he is my god.


Wikipedia: Raising Steam


Raising Steam available on Amazon UK paperback, Amazon UK hardcover, Amazon e-book, Audible, iTunes, iTunes AudioRandomhouse, Waterstones paperback, Waterstones audio, Waterstones hardback


Other Moist von Lipwig books

  1. Going Postal
  2. Making Money