Tag Archive: sci-fi


RICHMONDcover

“Richmond Smokes a Joint”
By Larry Weiner
Starring: Patricia Tallman as Jean Richmond, Kris Holden-Ried as Sid, Jerry Robbins as Herm
Produced 2014, The Radio Repertory Company of America
Also Starring:
Shells: Michael Burkett, Cap: Jerry Robbins, Sears:D J Vogel, McCarthy: Bob Hunt, Maitre’d: Tom Dheere, Bartender: Bob Arsena, Goin’ North: Kevin Crawley, Robot 365: Tom Dheere, Man: Jon Duclos, Sous: D J Vogel, Man in Stall: Angelo Panetta, Gunner: D J Vogel, Marangian Scout: Tom Dheere, Doplar: Bob Hunt
Length: 37 minutes.

If you are looking for about a half an hours worth of some quick entertainment this may be your book or audio production whichever you prefer. I of course preferred the audio version, since I am a big fan of audiobooks. This one attracted my attention because of my love of the TV series, “Babylon 5.” The lead actress in this production is Patricia Tallman who portrayed Lyta Alexander, the telepath assigned to Babylon 5 by the Psi corps. I see that this is a short space adventure and that seconds my decision to give this production a listen.

With the title “Richmond Smokes a Joint,” I really wasn’t sure what I was in for. Sid “Bum” Knee knows the secret location of the mythical Sacred Plate of Marange. He approaches Richmond’s Boyfriend, Herm, about grabbing the priceless item they are all set on an adventure across space to find the plate and untold riches. The problem is the journey is filled with double crosses on double crosses and by the end of the story you still don’t really know who the good guys are. The ship’s crew is full of colorful characters that keep the story rolling along until the final double cross.

Take a large helping of “Barbarella,” mix in a few dashes of “Airplane” (actually “Airplane 3,” the one that wasn’t quite as funny but tried really hard) and you have this space adventure. Some definite plays on words insert humor throughout, but, to be honest, they may be trying too hard at times. Still, though, it is a nice short mystery space adventure that will entertain most folks.  I know I had fun, even while groaning.

The acting is what really brings out this story, Patricia Tallman pretty much steals the show, but everyone is carrying their weight in the voice talent department. This keeps the story running smooth and helps when some of the “forced” humor actually stings a little.

 

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13154150

“Attack on Titan, Vol. 1”
by Hajime Isayama
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 19th 2012 by Kodansha Comics
(first published March 7th 2010)

I can’t say I’m a big fan of Manga, I like most of the stories, but the books seem gimmicky to me. I love comic books, and I love a good story, but with Manga comics the books are printed backwards and it takes me about halfway through the book before I start to get the hang of reading right to left. I understand the original printings in Japan are written that way, but they could easily be printed in the same way books are printed on this side of the planet and nothing will be missed. When Western hemisphere books are printed in the other countries that read in the opposite direction they are printed to make it easier for the readers there. So to be geek chic when you find a good Manga they are printed to be read “backwards.” The only reason this happens is to be different, cool, or hip.

I had to overcome this bias because I had heard a lot of good reviews about both the “Attack on Titan” Manga books and TV series. When I started reading this book I hadn’t yet started watching the TV series and all I knew was that it was a survival series much along the lines of “The Walking Dead.” Yes it did take some time to get used to reading backwards, but once I started flowing with the story I was rewarded with a great story told in comic book form and using the tools of flashbacks, and weapon and tactics specifications all interwoven in the story. Again I say, I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t have to retrain my brain to read backwards.

As for the story, it is a survival story set 100 years after the Titans have forced humanity to live behind walls. Humankind is down to just a few thousand people who live in a city surrounded by three concentric walls. The walls protect them from their enemies, the Titans. The Titans are humanoid giants that eat the humans alive. Untouched by the Titans for a century, humanity has become complacent. But Eren Jaeger, a trainee in the Army has had enough. While his fellow citizens are content to hide, Jaeger has the passion to take action to not only protect the city, but to learn what the Titans actually are. But on his first mission he comes face to face with horrors beyond his imagination and secrets from his own past that could shift the tides of war.

I have since started watching the animated TV series and am hooked. The story is phenomenal. I am glad I read the Manga first only because it introduced me to the TV series which I could have easily not watched and would have missed out on a great show. If they do reprint these to be read from left to right I will definitely continue to read the series, but until then I’ll just have to settle with the fact that I’m too old to be taught new reading habits.

all u zombies

Audiobook review “All You Zombies—” Five Classic Stories
By Robert A. Heinlein
Read by Spider Robinson
Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
3.2hours

Every so often I pick up a book by an author, and am forced to ask myself, “Why haven’t I read his stuff before now?” This has been the case for Robert A. Heinlein. I’ve always considered myself a Science-Fiction fan ever since I could consider myself a fan of anything. But for some reason I find myself as an adult just now discovering Heinlein, only within the last five years or so reading the stories from this classic sci-fi author. Better late than never.

Most of what I’ve read by Heinlein have been short stories that were aimed at the young adult reader. I have yet to tackle his major works such as; “Starship Troopers,” or “Stranger in a Strange Land,” but they are on my list. This collection of short stories looked to be very entertaining and when I saw they were read by another science-fiction author, Spider Robinson, I was intrigued. I thought it would be very interesting to hear how one sci-fi author interprets another’s work. Robinson not only did a great job bringing these stories to life through his narration, but he was also able to do some vocal acting bringing some of the characters to life. His voice was very pleasant to hear and kept me listening throughout the collection.

The five stories in this collection are:

The title story, “All You Zombies – “ tells of a time traveling bartender who creates one of the biggest time paradoxes ever conceived. The synopsis of this story weaves in and out and around itself so much that there is not one single section that doesn’t give away the surprise ending. It all starts with a bartender and a patron trying to outdo each other with the most unusual origin story, but they seem to be telling the same story. Recently a movie has been released titled, “Predestination,” which is supposed to be based on this story. I’m not sure how this could be portrayed in a movie, but just to see the story unfold on the big screen has me curious enough to go see this oddity.

The next story in the collection is “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants.” The title was out their for me that I kept seeing that scene from “Ace Ventura; Pet Detective,” where Jim Carrey emerges from inside a fake rhinoceros. But alas, that was not the case. Basically this title is from the vernacular of the time where traveling salesmen were identified by what they were selling, for example; if a salesman was selling Fuller brushes he would be known to be traveling in Fuller brushes. So, the man in this story is a traveling salesman selling elephants. That still is an odd thing to do. His wife and he were a couple who traveled in elephants before she died and he continued the business after she died. One day the man is traveling to the next city to sell elephants to a circus but after a bus accident finds himself along with the other passengers on a beautiful side venture that leads to one of the most happy endings I’ve seen, read or heard since the movie, “What Dreams May Come.”

Story number three is, “They.” The story is told from the point of view of a patient in a mental institution who seems to suffer from the solipsism, but not quite, he doesn’t think he’s the ONLY being in existence but one of the few who are real and that the other real entities have created the rest of the universe in a conspiracy to deceive him. With the perfect Heinlein twist, this story may have the reader/listener questioning reality.

Story number four is a humorous story about a parking attendant named “Pappy” who has a pet sentient whirlwind named Kitten. With the help of Pete, a reporter, all three team up to try and take down the corrupt city government.

Finally, to round out this collection is “ – And He Built a Crooked House.” This story is a nice short adventure through the fourth dimension which starts with a genius architect who, while studying a tesseract, an type of cubic prism, decides he could build a house with the same parameters that would have more room on the inside than appears on the outside. The problem is that the house cannot exist as such in a three dimensional world, so he has to unfold it to build it into a three dimensional world. His unfolded tesseract home is finished and on the day he goes to show the home to his friend an earthquake occurs throwing sections of the home into another dimension. The architect, the friend and the friends wife then go on an adventure trying to find all the rooms of the house and when another earthquake occurs they find themselves on an alien landscape. How will they ever make it back to Earth?

Some great sci-fi stories from a sci-fi master. I can’t wait to read or hear more.

 

 

Enders-Game

Audiobook Review:  “Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition”

by Orson Scott Card

Multiple Readers

Published 2002 by Macmillan Audio

Duration: 11 hours 5 minutes

 

Having read “Ender’s Game” many years ago I thought I should revisit this book.  This revisitation was prompted by two events.  The first was listening to the audiobook “Ender’s World” which was a collection of essays and information on the creation of this wonderful book.  Second is that the movie will be coming this November.

 

The movie is based not only on this book but in order for these events to be properly displayed in a movie format but also based on the book “Ender’s Shadow” which parallels “Ender’s Game” but from the point of view of the character Bean.  So with that in mind, you can probably guess which book is next on my list.

 

But let’s get back to this book for now.  When I first read this book (over 10 years ago) I was just enthralled by the complexity of the story.  There are so many things going on in this book that just grab you and pull you into the ride that you get lost in the story.  One of the features of the story is the ageless factor of Ender Wiggin.  Ender is only six years old when the book starts and by the age of nine he is given his own army to command.  Ender’s age is only mentioned once in a while through the book, and that, I think, is just to remind you that he is a kid.  The events that take place not only seem like something that is beyond a child that age, but the way Ender handles himself the reader/listener forgets that he is only a child.  This fact would be brought up once in a while that I would have to stop and rethink the section I just heard, in the case of this audiobook and put the book back into perspective.

 

This having to pause and reflect reminds me of when I first read “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”  After reading the entire book, I stopped and realized that the main character, Arthur Dent, was going through all the wacky space/time adventures while still in his pajamas and robe.  While Orson Scott Card provided the drops in the changing of Ender’s age throughout the book at the proper moments it does cause the reader/listener to pause and reflect.  This pause is especially needed for this book since there are so many facets of life and war given to the reader throughout the tale of Ender Wiggin.

 

This book is definitely one of those great sci-fi novels that takes more than one reading to fully enjoy.  Much like the “Dune” series by Herbert, or the “Foundation” series by Asimov so much more is gleaned through multiple readings.  This time around I was able to absorb a lot more of the themes running through this book.

 

I’ll touch on some of the themes and what I gathered out of them but will leave most of the concepts up to you on your individual reads. Before I do that I have to talk about this audiobook version.  The multiple voices used in this production really helped sort out the sections that are told through various characters in the book.  All of the performances were top notch and able to fully reflect the characters in thought and dialogue.

 

The idea of this all being a game is one of the first things that grab you in the reading and listening of this book.   All of the other important ideas in the novel are interpreted through the context of the games. Ender does win all of the games and he thinks that the games are no more than they appear, and he does not realize the real meaning of his final game until it is far too late. The difference between what is a game and what is reality becomes less and less clear as the story unfolds. The very first game played in the book is “buggers and astronauts,” a game that Peter, Ender’s bully older brother, makes Ender play, and it is a game that all kids play, pretty much like cowboys and Indians used to be played in my childhood (I always wanted to be the Indians). However, in Ender’s case the game is more than it seems, because Peter’s hatred for him is real, and he inflicts physical pain upon Ender in the course of the game. This is one game that Ender never wins.

At Battle School, Ender plays two different types of games. On his computer he plays the mind game, a game that even its creators do not properly understand and one that effects Ender’s life in direct ways. It is through this  game that Ender is able to come to terms with the changes in his life.  In this game there is also a bit of a surprise in the end of the book, which I won’t spoil for you.  In the battle room Ender plays war games. These games are everything to the kids at the school. Their lives revolve around playing games, and so the meaning of the word itself shifts from a voluntary fun experience to a necessary and crucial aspect of life. These games and their implications cause Bonzo’s death and create rancor and jealousy throughout the school.

Finally we come to the greatest games that Ender plays, while he is the commander of the Third Invasion. Playing these games is debilitating to Ender’s health. He cannot sleep, he barely eats, and he is forced to be a leader and not a friend to those whom he cares for. This game also has a bit of a surprise for the reader.

Compassion is the redeeming feature in “Ender’s Game.” Compassion is the theme that runs through Ender’s life. It is the defining feature of his existence. This is what separates him from his brother Peter and the other cruel people in the story.  The reason that he plays the games so well is his ability to understand the enemy and to inspire loyalty. More than that, it is compassion that saves Ender. If not for his compassion he would have become either a killing machine or a power hungry creature like Peter. This compassion and empathy are one of the features that redeems this whole book and what made room for it to be required reading in the Marine Corps Officer training.

So not just your everyday sci-fi, “Ender’s Game” has a lot to offer.  Even if you have read the book before, pick it up again, or try out the audiobook and find out what more it has to offer.  On top of all that it will be a good refresher for when the movie is released.

gameboard-of-the-gods

Audiobook Review: “Gameboard of the Gods”

By Richelle Mead

Read by Emily Shaffer

Published by Penguin Audio

Total Playing Time: Approx 16 hours

 

 

When I became aware of this book as a potential read, the first thing I noticed was that it hit me with a triple whammy of my interests, thus making it a must read to find out what it was about.  The first thing that grabbed me was that the book is a sci-fi and I love sci-fi.  Next is that the book is a dystopian story, and I have always enjoyed a good dystopian to find out what different authors see as a possible bleak future.  The third aspect that grabbed me was that the book is the first in a series, “The Age of X” series from Richelle Mead.  If the characters are strong enough I enjoy a good fictional series because I know that I will have more stories to continue my reading enjoyment.

 

Those were the three aspects that grabbed me enough to start listening to the book but were they good enough to keep me listening?  The fact that I’m writing this review is a sure sign that they were, If a book is not good enough to keep my attention then I just don’t finish the book and don’t write a review.  (This explains why sometimes there are long gaps of time between my reviews,  I get through parts of books only to put them down and try another.)  Richelle Mead did create a very interesting tri-fecta of features that kept me interested in this book and eager to hear/read any future books in this series.

 

In the sci-fi aspect of this story Mead has created a future for planet Earth where we all have Egos.  In this case the Ego is really more of a smart phone that’s even smarter.
The Ego controls communications and is synced to the media stream (internet), as well as the owner’s identity chip. Everyone is chipped in the future.  The chip is keyed to the person’s DNA and an entry in the National Registry, which contains all of their basic information. Chip readers scattered throughout the country regulate who enters secure areas and also help locate criminals and outsiders.

 

The Dystopian aspect sneaks it’s way into the story as the characters work through the solving of a series of murders.  There is first the disease called Mephistopheles which killed off billions on the planet.  The survival of humans from this diseases is helped by genetic blending.  In other words different races are forced to interbreed.  Those that stay pure are part of the elite but they also bear the scars of the disease, which leads to the elite having to rely on plastic surgery.

 

On top of this there is only one religion; The Secular Church of Humanity, which is basically just a voice for the government.  All other religions must be registered and prove on a regular basis that they have a purpose and admit they worship a fictional entity.

 

Justin March is a servitor, an investigator of sorts employed by the government to investigate religious groups and supernatural claims.  Something happened to Justin that caused him to be exiled to the provinces away from the civilized RUNA (Republic of United North America).  He is called back to the RUNA to investigate a series of religious based murders.  His escort, Mae Koskinen is a Praetorian guard (the elite of the elite in world military).  After a one night stand with each other they find out their true identities and their mission together, which makes matters uncomfortable.

 

The two find out that there is a fine line between mythology and reality and that line is encroaching on reality threatening Justin’s and Mae’s careers and lives.  Mixing space age sci-fi with mythos and fantasy, Mead has started a series that will keep you going and helping to solve the murder mystery along with revealing the forgotten gods seeking to reclaim the planet.

 

Emily Shaffer does a superb job of performing the book.  She is able to differentiate between voices during dialog and perform the various emotions through here vocal talents, making this audiobook a very easy listen.

endersworld

“Ender’s World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic ‘Ender’s Game’”

Edited by Orson Scott Card

Various Readers

Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc

Length: 7 hours and 46 minutes

Originally published as a novel in 1985 (before that, in 1977, it was a short story), Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi military novel has found a place in many sci-fi fans hearts.  This novel has also found a place in military training.  The U.S. Marine Corps Professional Reading List makes the novel recommended reading at several lower ranks, and again at Officer Candidate/Midshipman.   The book provides useful allegories to explain why militaries do what they do in a particularly effective shorthand way.

This book, “Ender’s World..,” is a study into the world created by Card and how it has affected the many who have read it.  This book contains essays from “Burn Notice” creator Matt Nix, “Ender’s Game”  prequel series co-author Aaron Johnston, bestselling author Neal Shusterman and more. The entire book was edited by Orson Scott Card himself and contains sections between every essay that Card spends answering fan questions about the series in length and detail.

With many centers of education, from public schools to the Marine Corps, listing “Ender’s Game” as suggested reading one has to wonder why.  I know I enjoyed the book immensely and especially with the somewhat surprise ending, but what makes this book a phenomenon?  “Ender’s World…” takes the story and the author and places them both under a microscope to find out what went into the creation of Ender Wiggins and what the readers have taken out of the book.

This analysis presents a new view of the book from several different angles.  It has even made it so that I will be reading the book or rather getting the audiobook this time and revisiting the Battle School and Ender Wiggins.  The release of this analysis is timely in that the “Ender’s Game” movie will be coming out this year.  It’ll be nice to revisit the book before the movie, but it was even nicer to hear the different points of view that were put into the book and taken from the book.

If you are a fan of “Ender’s Game,” then treat yourself to an education that is “Ender’s World.”

marvelcw

“Civil War” (Marvel Comics)
by Stuart Moore
Multi-cast production
Produced by Graphic Audio
Approx 6 hours

Okay I have to start this review out with a confession. That confession is that I just experienced a six hour nerdgasm. Holy freakin’ cow, this audiobook just rocked my world.

Now that that is out of the way let explain a few things. I’m a huge Marvel Comics fan and have been for years. What makes me a fan is that all of Marvel’s heroes are realistic. Yes I know super powers aren’t real, but Marvel makes it so that the heroes have everyday problems and how they cope with those problems and fight for what is right is what gives them the everyman experience to which the average reader can relate. Iron Man/Tony Stark struggles with his own alcoholism, Spider-man/Peter Parker has to contend with high school (in the early years) and bullies, the Fantastic Four have family problems and Ben Grimm has to contend with being made of rock, never able to be normal. Being able to relate to the average comic book reader makes Marvel, in my opinion, the most enjoyable comic book publisher around.

Over a decade ago It was announced that a live-action Spider-man movie was going to be released and when this theatrical magic that was thrust upon us by Sam Raimi hit the theatres I was one of the first in line. Spider-man is my all time favorite, by the way. When the opening movie credits started I wept tears of excitement. Finally, my hero is on the big screen. By the end of the movie I was emotionally drained and pumped up at the same time. Not long after the release of the Spider-man movie I was forced to stop my weekly visits to the comic book store due to an economic downfall on my part and later moving to an area that had no comic book stores. I wasn’t able to go back to reading comics until just about a year ago.

During my comics hiatus I missed some exciting events in the Marvel universe. One of which was the mega-crossover event that is covered by this novel. The “Civil War” created a major schism between the heroes in the Marvel Universe. This schism is a lot like the events that happened after 9/11 and the following P.A.T.R.I.O.T. A.C.T. in the United States. Where people (heroes in this case) were forced to give up freedom for the nation’s security. After a major accident that occurs with some heroes and leaves a town in New England decimated and over 900 dead, the government decides that superheroes must become registered and screened before they can use their powers. Captain America does not believe that freedom should be surrendered, and Iron Man (who stands to make lots of money selling weapons to Homeland Security in the deal) thinks that this is what must be done to protect innocents. the superheroes are split on this and thus begins the “Civil War.” Those that do not register are hunted down and imprisoned.

In a curious note, this story can also be related to today’s issue of gun control. Where some events that have taken American lives lead to gun legislation arguments.

During my comics hiatus I had heard about this crossover and was extremely curious. I can’t say I was too excited because I hate those stories that pit hero vs. hero. But with the political aspect involved I was intrigued to see how each hero would react. I then decided when the chance came up I would find the trade paperbacks of this crossover and read them, this turned out not to be so easy for me. Then I heard a novelization of the event was coming out and I knew I’d be reading that, but just when I heard about the release of the novel I heard that GraphicAudio was going to do an audiobook version of the novel. I was psyched at this point and knew right away I was going to wait for that release. After nearly a year of constantly checking the GraphicAudio website, it was released and to make it even more exciting was offered a review copy. Pure excitement ran through me. Finally, I will hear some of the world’s greatest heroes as portrayed by the excellent productions of GraphicAudio.

I was first introduced to GraphicAudio about five years ago through a DC comics audiobook. That production blew me away. The fights were all realistic, and the otherworldly sounds that can only happen in sci-fi or comics were so original that It seemed as though they had actually gone to a rift in space and recorded a superhero battle. I then started listening to every comic book audiobook created by GraphicAudio. At the time all they did were DC comics and even though I was a marvel fan I took them all in and just let the “Movie in your Mind” aspect of GraphicAudio wash over me. In fact because of GraphicAudio, when I did start purchasing comics again I picked up some DC comics and gave them a chance where I would have not done before.

GraphicAudio’s tagline is, “A Movie in your Mind,” and with every single audiobook they produce they deliver. With surreal sound effects and exciting music the illustrated artistry that is the main punch of comic books comes to life with sound. Once you experience this from GraphicAudio you will not be able to listen to an audiobook the same again.

On top of the excellent ambient sound, GraphicAudio has some of the best voice actors I’ve ever heard. Each actor portraying the heroes in “Civil War” captured every essence of the characters and the plethora of emotions, which really pulled out the basis which makes Marvel my favorite. The actors all related to the characters and made them sound like heroes with the nuance of everyday problems. I was ready to nit pick this aspect, being the big Marvel fan, but there was nothing done wrong. Every hero sounded exactly like I imagined, no wait, strike that, they sounded better than I imagined.

Once again I was so psyched about this marriage of Marvel and GraphicAudio that, again, I wept with excitement at the opening credits of this audiobook, and even doubly so when Spider-man fought his battles. I’m sure the other drivers in traffic would have thought me crazy if they happened to look over while I was cheering Spidey on in his battle.

All I can say is, no matter what your preference in comics, audiobooks or escapism, you must go out and get this audiobook and be ready to be blown away.  When this book was over I was physically and emotionally drained, yet pumped up.  Pumped and ready for more.

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kill decision

“Kill Decision”
by Daniel Suarez
read by Jeff Gurner
published by Penguin Audio
13 hours and 6 minutes.

When I first found out about this book I knew it was a science-fiction novel and because that is my favorite genre, I knew I had to give this a shot. As I was listening to the audiobook I kept hearing more and more news reports about drone aircraft in action around the world and I realized that this piece of science-fiction is not too far from science-fact which is a bit scary.

Before we get to the plot of this book the term “Kill Decision” may need some explaining for the non-military lay-person. The kill decision is what keeps the human touch in modern warfare. While many forms of drone (unmanned) aircraft are used today the actual decision to fire on targets is made by a human, usually a high-ranking military person. This decision to fire on targets is the “Kill Decision.” This book focuses on the idea of what happens if we leave that decision to the machines.

The author, Daniel Suarez, definitely did his homework and covered all bases when creating a technology that sounds like it could logically happen today. We already know about the militaries of the world using drones and doing so with remote control using onboard cameras. Suarez explores not only the possibility of what would happen if someone were to try fully automated drones that pick their own targets, he takes it even further by explaining how all of this technology could come together. From facial recognition software, to graphic analysis software, to hive mentality of insects used as a model for numerous drones working together. Suarez then goes even further to explain how the spin doctors would use social media to create positive views of unmanned warfare. Altogether this creates an in depth sci-fi techno thriller that sounds like something that could be happening right now.

The reader of this audiobook, Jeff Gurner, deserves some sort of an award for this production. He was able to present every little detail of the story with some masterful voicework. He presented each character with subtle voice changes that made it so each character, even the minor ones, came to full three dimensional life. Even when two of the major players were free falling from a plane being bombed by drones, through Gurner’s voice work I could see the Earth getting closer and I found myself holding my breath until chutes were pulled. Actually thanks to his delivery and the excellent writing I found myself holding my breath several times throughout this book.

This book takes the listener from Iraq, to Stanford University, to Africa, to Pakistan, to Kansas City, to Utah, to Mexico to China and numerous other places in tracking down who is creating fully automated drones and using them to start a war.

A group at Stanford have created code that allows computers to have their own vision and use video feeds to alert users of strange occurrences. Just as they are about to publish and make millions their lawyers inform them that the code is already on the internet and cannot be patented. Just as the group is discussing what to do about who stole their code their building is destroyed by drones.

Linda McKinney is in Africa studying the swarming behavior of weaver ants when her camp is attacked by drones. Luckily (maybe) for Linda she is saved by a government agency whose members are buried so deep in the secrecy of government operations that they actually don’t exist. The group’s leader, Odin, tells her her study in the swarming of ants is being used as a prototype in creating automated drones. Not believing this Linda escapes and is captured by the FBI. When she tries to explain her story the FBI do not believe her, but once Homeland Security becomes involved Linda thinks someone is about to believe her.

Through thrilling stops around the world the team try to track down the manufacturer of the drones and attempt at preventing a war in which all killing will be done by the drones and all of humanity is in danger. In what is an excellent mix of several science-fiction and espionage genres of storytelling, “Kill Decision” will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last word and after that will keep you looking over your shoulder.

 

“H.E.R.O. – Metamorphosis”
by Kevin Rau
self-published
340 pages

The digital age is upon us and what may have ruined the music industry may be a boon for the publishing industry, well maybe more for the authors than for the publishers. When the mp3 format for music came out it was a nice way to store audio files on the computer but as the market demanded mp3 players became a hit. I had one of the original Rio mp3 players, I believe it only held about 64 megabytes worth of files. Which at the time (late 1990s) it was enough, or so we all thought. Then Apple came along with their iPod and changed the way music was distributed.

This has been a bad thing for the recording industry. The sharing of mp3 files is super easy and pirating of music is pretty common. This caused major losses for the recording industry by way of sales. The recording industry should have stepped up and made sure that all the music released was worth having, but someone along the way dropped the ball and now the only thing major record labels release is the same old cookie cutter pop that sells but has no real artistic value. The positive side of this is that local bands and talent that would have been otherwise looked over can now self publish and distribute their music easily. So now we have choice, but sometimes you have to really sift through the detritus to find a treasure.

This seems to be happening now with books and authors. When the portable eReader “Kindle” came out many authors wrote stories that were available only online. Later the “Nook” came out and then there were many eReaders all competing for your dollar. I purchased a “Kindle” and have enjoyed it ever since. I love having thousands of books in my hand on one device. This also has created a market that made authors able to self publish. I am constantly scouring the internet for free books by up and coming authors and many times they will offer their books for free in order to get their name out. This is how I discovered this book and the entire “H.E.R.O.” series by Kevin Rau.

I’m a huge comic book fan and I often find great audiobook versions of novelizations of comic books. This time around I ran across Kevin Rau on Facebook ( http://www.facebook.com/herobooks )and discovered he was creating his own world of superheroes with his line of books that are all self published, and like any good dealer, the first hit is free. His books are all available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many other online booksellers and you can get this first one for free. I will warn you that this will turn into a habit, because these books are addictive, especially if you love comic books and superheroes.

On his website ( http://www.kevinrau.com ) he has 3D graphic renderings of the heroes and villains in his book. As a full-time computer programmer he is able to use that skill to create the computer generated images which adds to the effect. He has published a book that contains the images, which makes a good companion to this collection.

So let’s talk about this book, “H.E.R.O. – Metamorphosis.” This one is pretty much the introduction to the series and it does a great job of bringing the reader into Kevin Rau’s Superhero and SuperVillain world. Through the changing of three fairly normal college age friends from normal humans into metahumans, Kevin not only introduces the three heroes but the world that created them and even the politics of a world where super powers happen.

The world was once threatened by an asteroid, and in order to save the planet nuclear missiles were launched to destroy the threat. While a cataclysmic event was averted by the destruction, a side effect was created. Pieces of the asteroid became radioactive and began falling to the planet. These fragments had the power to change human D.N.A. and mutate those that were too close. Some gain powers and become heroes and some villains. In the worse case scenario some become so horribly mutated they not only look horrid, but also lose their minds. An organization was formed to allow those that become heroes to help and to round-up the mutants who present a danger to all.

Lance, Rael and Stephanie are all good friends who have been raised in single parent homes, more to the point, those single parents were all metahumans. They have been raised as if they were to become heroes themselves, taking the proper courses in school and even through weight training and martial arts. One day they are told to be at the mall when the next meteor shower hits, and sure enough they become heroes and their lives change forever.

Lance becomes the hero Spartan, a brick who is super strong (think of The Incredible Hulk). Rael becomes a bit of a mutant in that his eyes become catlike, his teeth sharpen a bit and his hands have turned into claws, he becomes the Black Tiger and is able to use his martial arts training better than before. Stephanie becomes Psystar, a hero who is able to read minds and influence emotions, she is also able to fly. The three have been studying and training for this for all their lives and when a mutant by the name of Shrinker begins kidnapping humans to feed her army of mutants the three go into action to shut her down.

The story is extremely fun and very smooth flowing. My favorite part of the book is that the author tells the story from the different perspectives of the three friends and mixes in third person perspective to tell the entire story. I really can’t wait to get my hands on the next book. I should say that this book does seem to be aimed at a younger audience so don’t go expecting something with intense depth. Just prepare yourself for a fun superhero novel with some very well written fight scenes.

“Doctor Who: The Art of Destruction”
by Stephen Cole
Read by Don Warrington
Published by AudioGo
2 hours 30 minutes

Ever since I discovered these Doctor Who audiobooks from AudioGo, I’m always looking for more stories from the Doctor Who storylines. What I like are the short (3 hours or less) productions. When the new season started I thought I would be happy with one episode a week from television, but once I started on these audio releases I knew they were there and found myself listening again, plus I can go back and listen to stories involving some of the older incarnations of The Doctor.

This book features the 10th Doctor, portrayed on the television series by David Tennant, and his companion Rose Tyler. One thing I really like about these audio productions is that they are usually read by one of the cast members. I really enjoy it when one of the actors portraying The Doctor reads the stories or even better when they are full cast performances, but they can’t all be that way. That said, the books are almost always, at the least read by someone having to do with the series, so that the reader knows enough about the series to know how to deliver the dialogue. This audiobook is read by Don Warrington, who portrayed the president in the “Rise of the Cybermen” television episode, and has had several audio roles in other Doctor Who productions. Warrington’s delivery of the book was excellent, he provided the perfect subtle voice changes reflecting the characters voice and attitudes. In this story there were even some African accents from some of the characters that were performed perfectly providing that extra oomph, that kept the story flowing.

In this story the TARDIS lands in 22nd century Africa in the shadow of a dormant volcano. Agri-teams are growing new foodstuffs in the baking soil to help feed the world’s starving millions, a form of fungus that is grown in the caverns of the volcano. The Doctor and Rose have detected an alien signal somewhere close by. The signal leads them to the tunnels and the delicate fungus which has a bit of a dark secret. Even darker is that all living creatures that enter too close to the center of the volcano’s long kept secret are turned into gold statues. In most sci-fi that would be enough of a mystery to work with, but being a Doctor Who story you know there’s more. When a nightmare force starts surging along the dark volcanic tunnels, the Doctor realizes an ancient trap has been sprung. But who was it meant for? Dragged into a centuries-old conflict, Rose and the Doctor are soon elevating survival to an art form as ancient, alien hands practice arts of destruction all around them. Once again it is up to the Doctor to solve the mystery and save the Earth.

 

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