Photography by Andrew Mccoll; Cover design by Pat Naoum
There are some seriously messed up people in this world and many of them hide behind the cover the religion of Purity gives them. Like many religions most of the grunts seem to want to believe the propaganda while the higher-ups are in it for other reasons. Propaganda is difficult to fight and more and more people fall under the spell Purity casts. Lithuania’s border guards now test people passing into Lithuania for genetic tinkering.
When we last left Sophia, unfriendlies came to visit. Enclave begins with Hal’s side of the attack. He is not, at all, happy with Sophia and her people and is set on destroying them. Except things aren’t really going his way lately. The cavalry arrives to save most of Sophia’s crew.
Olesya brings Sophia and her gang with her back to the enclave in Russia. Lithuania is too dangerous for any person with tagged genes. When she gets back to Kaliningrad she discovers that Illarion is leaving her as acting commander of the enclave. Things aren’t really going his way either. Then, to top it all, Olesya discovers they have a mole in their midst. It might be fair to say that things aren’t really going very well for any of our players, except for Purity. Or are they?
Finding the time and money for Hélio to figure out the kill-switch is not going to be easy. Especially when things keep blowing up in their faces.
As with the rest of the Episodes that Farrugia has published, Exclave is “size novella”. And like the rest of the Episodes of the Helix serial, Exclave uses a typical serial ending, ie a cliff-hanger. Farrugia continues the pace of the previous stories. He keeps writing believable make-believe stuff. If I got into as many fights as Sophia, Olesya and their crews do, I know I would want some Regen added to my genes. Enclave is well-edited and well-written. Recommended.
I know Farrugia had to crowd-fund to get Enclave up and running, and that might also happen for the rest of the episodes. I know I would rather help fund quality work, like Farrugia’s technothrillers, than some of the weird stuff I have tried to read.
Steamfunk! is my first encounter with the genre. Like all anthologies I have ever read, some of the stories appealed to me while others did not. No wonder really, considering the span of genres. Steamfunk is a US-centric collection of stories that love their steam. I keep on wondering to what extent steam could be an energy source. There are some ideas here that I have not seen before.
The Steamfunk anthology came about from a conversation that I and several authors had online about the lack of Steampunk stories told from a Black / African perspective. We all agreed we would create an anthology in which we would tell such stories. Author Maurice Broaddus suggested we call it Steamfunk and author / publisher Milton Davis agreed to publish it.
They chose the correct person to illustrate the cover. Marcellus Shane Jackson has done a great job capturing the essence of each story. There are cosmetic problems with my kindle version, mostly to do with ↵. It’s a distraction from the stories themselves.
In the late 1800’s women needed chaperones to go anywhere. Anthony Wainright paid for one of the puppet-men (steam-powered robot) from GWC Factories to escort his fiancée, Miss Appelgate, from Freedonia to New York City. When they get there, Mr. Wainright has not come to meet them. Instead she is kidnapped by a Beuregard Clinton. Clinton shot the puppet-man and managed to hit one of the steam veins. Mr. Stiles, from the airship, fixes him. The puppet-man is fixed and he and Mr. Stiles must off to find and save Miss Appelgate from her kidnappers.
Problem-solvers Rudy and Boatwright get off the hopper at Thomasville. They have been hired by head gang-boss of the underbelly of Thomasville, Stanford “Rip” Tatum, to solve the problem of Rip’s ex and her river-wolf. Grace Baptiste-Neely and Lloyd “Daddy” Green supposedly hijacked and killed people Rip would prefer lived. Plenty of surprises line up to whack them in the face like a marching band on coke.
The title does not have anything to do with cockroaches invading earth. Whitewood and Blackwood are neighbouring towns. Mainly whites live in one of them and only Blacks live in the other. 40 years after slavery ended tensions still run high and it takes little to get lynching blood cooking. Laurence, from Blackwood, heard his dad say that this next lynching of a coloured man was unjust. So Laurence convinces Big Walter to see what it is all about. Whitewood certainly gets the surprise of its life during the sham trial.
Genetic tinkering brought about Aeshna with her compound eyes and insect mouth parts. All she and Petal want is to be left alone. But that cannot be when Aeshna is able to judge a person’s soul and mete out appropriate punishment. Petal is another changed human fitted with a steam clock for a heart and a compost boiler for guts. One day Bald Man Head comes on an errand from the Hanged Man. I liked these two women and the story was fun to read. Especially towards the end.
Zahara and Porter are left in the desert to die. They had both fallen a long way from a steady income with Cross Continental Airship Line. Was all that was left for the two friends a slow and painful death in the desert?
In the world of Kochava Green humans must extremely careful around bodies of water or they risk the fate of the Lepidoptera larvae. The St. Lauritz All-Mother cloister are extremely lucky in getting a woman from San Lazare wishing to become a novice. The All-Mother cloisters accept women from all walks of life, no-holds-barred. Sister Amelia brings unique strengths that aid in the survival of the women. She, in turn, finds a new purpose to life. Refugee is one of my favourite stories.
Revolutions seldom bring change, only new overlords. Z100 was a key player in the revolution that made women property. Because she had been a spy, she was exempt from those rules. But only as long as she did not marry. She was careful in her choice of men by never having humans for lovers. Life-like robots were her get-out-of-jail card. What is easy to forget is that no matter how tight your security is, all security protocols have weaknesses.
Slavery is a common tool in human history. One of the many problems with slavery is the de-humanizing of people. In rare cases that might actually work to a slave’s advantage because masters generally do not see slaves or servants. Infiltrating the slaves is the only way our investigator, Sam, sees to find out what Cicero Jensen and Secretary Patterson are trying to hide in Jensen’s barn. In the process Sam learns a bit about himself, his attitudes and how far people will go to keep a secret.
This was another favourite. Nansi is a shape-changing human/spider. Imagine the size of that spider! Her dual identity is a result of her Trickster father. At night Nansi, the spider, fights crime in the city. She is not the only shape-changer. There are wolves and tigers as well. One night, to protect a new-born baby, Nansi kills a tiger. That choice changes her life and the life of the city.
Through the journal of the Headmistress of a women’s college we learn what happens when the ocean brings a dock, or part of it, to the beach by the college. The dock is to be brought inside the city walls. A short time later, body parts turn up on the same beach. Then a sub-mariner hears a pulse coming from the depths of the ocean.
I really liked this one as well. It is time for the initiation of the Masai boy Saitoti into the ranks of lion-hunters. Eleven lion-hunters travel to Mombasa to meet with Ethiopian Bahati Mazarin. She tells them that there are two lions she wants killed. That is, if they are lions. Rumours would have it otherwise. Bahati Mazarin is coming with them to hunt. Saitoti cannot help but wonder why she is coming along with them or why she specifically asked for their group and hopes it has nothing to do with his history.
Clara Perry is on the strangest journey of her life. Unbeknownst to her, Clara’s cryogenic chamber was not sitting in Las Vegas waiting to be opened years into the future. Instead, persons unknown had sent her to the planet Pless to introduce them to technology. It turns out Pless has human-like people on it, people who breathe air Clara can breathe, eat food Clara can eat and behave in a manner Clara can relate to. She soon establishes herself as a woman to be reckoned with. Widow Perry breaks gender roles and class roles enabling her integration with people from the various walks of life on Pless. I really liked this story as well. There is something about realistically portrayed strong women that I like. Not that steamfunk is realistic, but I hope you understand what I mean.
Every ‘jack knew that secrets were death on the rim. But secrets had been kept from the younger generations of Breaktown. When a rip tears Kally Freeman from Other Country to somewhere else, Bannecker Jack does not hesitate to jump after her. “Where did we come from?” “How did we get here?” were questions the child Bannecker often asked his mother. He is about to find out.
Warden Clemons tells prisoner John William Henry that he is about to experience the breeze of the Virginia wind and the smell of its dirt again. Only thing is, John Henry will do that by being part of a chain-gang working on laying tracks for The C and O Railway. Oh joy. John Henry uses this as a chance to run away. He is shot but manages to make his way into an opening in the side of a hill.
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.
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.
Hi, I’m Nathan and I make up stories. There’s a word for that. Delusional. And sexy.
Helix: Episode 1is 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.
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.
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.