Coming Soon: Reckless Faith for Audible

I’m pleased to announce that an audio book version of Reckless Faith is in the works, due to be out next February.

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Reckless Faith VI, Prologue

This is the beginning of the 6th book in the Reckless Faith Series.

September 30, 2029

It was a beautiful early fall day on Boston Common.  Other than fading contrails catching the last of the sunlight of the day, the sky was clear and the air crisp.  John Scherer, Arianna Ferro, and Seth Aldebaran were walking along Beacon Street, and though the first two were overcome with nostalgia, neither had yet to admit it.  Their purpose in visiting wasn’t just to reminisce; they had business in the city.  Their ship was parked next to Frog Pond nearby, easily hidden from both human sight and electronic detection.  They had arrived early so Ari could walk past her old apartment on Marlborough Street, and now they were headed to Omega Group’s headquarters on the corner of Beacon and Park.

Due to the effects of time dilation through their many journeys through the galaxy, twenty-five years had passed on Earth, while John and Ari had only experienced a little less than one year in their own lives.  During their flyover of the city on the way in, they had spotted six or seven new skyscrapers; other than that, nothing much appeared to have changed.  After walking in silence for fifteen minutes, John was the first to speak.

“You’re sure about this, Seth?”

“As sure as I am the last time you asked me, John.”

“We’ll miss you,” began Ari, “but we all understand your decision.”

The trio arrived at the desired building, and took the elevator to the fourth floor.  Lauren Hill was there to wave them through security, and led them to her corner office overlooking the capitol building.  Once everyone was seated, she spoke.

“So this is the Aldebaran I’ve heard so much about.”

John raised an eyebrow.  “Have you?”

“I’m joking.  I only know what you told me over the phone.  Sir, it’s nice to meet a bona fide extraterrestrial that isn’t a corpse.”

“You get used to it,” Seth replied.

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Coming Soon: Hard Stripes, A Novella In Episodic Format

On the streets of San Diego, a black-market deal goes horribly wrong, throwing an unsuspecting cop, a FBI agent, and a newly-recruited CIA operative into a violent confrontation with mercenaries, and uncovering a clandestine global network intent on selling US military technology to foreign governments. Will they be able to recover the technology before it’s too late?

Within the next two months, Amazon will be launching a new service: Kindle Vella. It will allow authors to post stories in an episodic format, releasing new installments as often as they like. Readers will be able to read the first three episodes for free, and unlock subsequent installments after purchasing tokens.

I’ve decided this is a perfect venue to publish Hard Stripes, a prequel novella to the Reckless Faith series. Departing from my normal genre, this story is mostly action-adventure with a bit of thriller. There is a sci-fi aspect to the story but it’s essentially a MacGuffin – it drives the characters but ultimately doesn’t impact the plot. It should appeal to existing fans of my writing as well as anyone who wants to add a few shootouts and explosions to their day.

While not a good fit as a traditional Kindle title – there isn’t really a way to add a prequel to a series – it seems like it will fit well on the new Vella format.

As usual, the cover art is by Alejandro “Alex Knight” Quinones.

https://imgur.com/a/lvWXP5l

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Logan’s Legionnaires, Prologue

Spoiler warning: This is the beginning of a sequel to Dun Ringill

Prologue

Though he was no stranger to pain, Aberlade had never felt pure agony before.

The pain was the first thing to enter his conscious mind, as he lay sprawled out, face down, on the stone floor of the church’s vestibule.  Next was the ringing in his ears, and the acrid smell of smoke.  Though briefly knocked out, he hadn’t forgotten the urgency of the situation, and willed himself to move.  He felt the stock of the shotgun still clenched in his right hand, and kept ahold of it as he rolled over onto his back.  The only thing he could see was the bright sunlight streaming through the open doorway in front of him, until a misshapen form appeared and cast a shadow over him.

He raised himself to a seated position, and his left hand found the handguard of his weapon.  Aiming from the hip, he squeezed off a round toward the doorway.  The nine pellets of 00-buckshot found something important, and the creature slumped forward.  He clambered to his feet, shucking another round into the chamber, and looked at his companion.  Lying next to the heavy oak door, Seamus was clearly dead, having been torn almost in half by the grenade he tried to throw.  As his hearing slowly returned, Aberlade tried not to look at his friend’s corpse, nor the one of the monster at his doorstep.  Not without effort, he pushed the door closed.

Though pockmarked and seared by the grenade, the door and its lock were still functional.  He secured the door, casting the room into almost complete darkness.  He wanted to check himself for injuries, but first he would have to make his way to the bell tower, a place where he had spent most of every day for the last two months.  Grabbing his rucksack, he headed for the stairs.  Arriving there without passing out was a good sign, and with sunlight entering on all four sides, he looked at his body.  Despite the pain of the initial concussion, the grenade seemed to have spared him from any penetrating or lacerating wounds.

He leaned over the edge of the tower and looked at the street.  The remaining creatures seemed to be losing interest in his location.  Visible at this distance as only a shuffling mass of red tentacles, they began to wander back toward the swamps.  He sighed in relief.  Later, when he was sure they were gone, he would have to go back for Seamus’ weapon.  If there was any sadness at the loss of his friend, it might come later.  Right now, all he could think about was the fact that his supply of provisions had just doubled.  This was a comfort, however fleeting, as their forays further into the outskirts of the city were becoming more dangerous.  Today’s assault could have been avoided if they simply had more food.

Still, he would run out eventually, leaving him the unenviable choices of starvation, eating one of the monsters, or suicide.  As the last resident of the hell that Edinburgh had become, he knew he should have never expected any less.

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Here Goes #7

Work has begun on a sequel to Dun Ringill, tentatively titled Logan’s Legionnaires. In this story, Carthage and Logan, formerly members of the Space Expedionionay Force and now freelancers, return to Skye in advance of a new mission of their own. New chapters will be posted here as they are created.

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The Heart of the Swan is Live on Amazon

The fifth book in the Reckless Faith series, The Heart of the Swan, is now available on Amazon in Kindle format. The paperback edition will be available in a week or two.

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Book Review: A Canticle of Two Souls by Steven Raaymakers

In a world where magic is just a whispered rumor of an ancient past, any hint of this lost power is met with derision, fear, and anger. For a boy on the edge of manhood, and a girl near the same age, magic will soon come to define their lives, though in two very different ways.

Raziel, his past clouded by rage and a thirst for revenge, and Alicia, her own origins equally uncertain, are thrown together by circumstances seemingly beyond their control. Though not allies, they soon come to realize that traveling together may be the only way they can survive, at least until they find a way to pierce the veil of emotion that shrouds where they came from, and where they are going.

In a kingdom united under a steady ruler, any magic allowed to roam free threatens to upend that peace, though the eradication of such forces soon becomes overshadowed by the power that same magic offers. Sought not only by the emperor but also his underlings, the magic these children possess may maintain that peace; or bring it to a terrible end, despite any best intentions originally espoused.

So, Raziel, and the mysterious sword that grants him the strength and skill of twenty men, and Alicia, whose powers of the mind can be used for good or ill in an instant of indecision, find themselves pursued across the land, their own journey toward truth and peace met with lies and horrific violence at every turn. If they are to survive, remember and accept their tumultuous histories, and even become victorious against foes both from inside and without, they must learn to understand each other, and the power that burns inside them.

Lavishly detailed, A Canticle of Two Souls is nonetheless a tightly-woven tale. The reader is dragged along quite the same as our two stalwart protagonists, to a dramatic and satisfying end. The author is an easy hand with the English language, describing everything from raindrops on steel to a nightmarish dreamscape with equal aplomb. The only quibble this reader could mention, and a minor one at that, is that certain subjects and themes are covered repeatedly, to the point where one might begin to wonder if the plot is stuck in a roundabout. Other than that, this is an enjoyable and promising first novel in what is rapidly becoming a series.

4/5 Stars

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First Draft Complete: Reckless Faith 5

The first draft of the fifth book in the Reckless Faith series, The Heart of the Swan, is complete, and is now in the hands of several beta readers. Once their edits and suggestions have been compiled, and cover art procured, it will be ready for publication. I hope for it to be available by December.

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Book Review: The Blackshade Machine by William Latoria

In the not-so-distant future, the global political landscape has changed dramatically. Canada and the United States have merged, and with the advent of high technology, especially in the areas of governance and social monitoring, each country is left to either let their citizenry prosper or harshly control them. There is peace, but the age-old doctrine of mutually assured destruction looms greater than ever.

When a mysterious alien race appears at the edge of the solar system, humanity’s harmonic balance is quickly thrown into chaos, magnified by rampant speculation on social media. When first contact occurs, many humans feel that their entire existence is threatened. While the new visitors appear to be friendly, at first, early revelations of their nature, and that of humanity as a whole, threaten to shake the whole world from their technology-driven symbiosis into anarchy. At the center of this, unwittingly, is Colonel Blackshade, a high-ranking officer in Canderica’s military force. It is he who must facilitate some kind of communication with the aliens, and finds himself holding the fate of the entire planet in his hands. Though these strange creatures may come in peace, many are leery of their potentially ominous long-term plans, as well as what other horrors the galaxy may hold.

Expansive and pensive, The Blackshade Machine may be the most well thought out tale of first contact ever to grace the page. The author’s world building and character development are central throughout the book, and don’t disappoint. No aspect of Canderica’s society or technology is overlooked, especially how these things are affected by the arrival of the aliens, and the narrative rewards the patient reader.

Ultimately, what keeps this book from rating a full five stars, in my humble opinion, is that these details sometimes slow the pace of the story, turning what should be an up-all-night adventure into something a bit more technical in nature. Still, as the promised first book in a series, these slow points shouldn’t deter the reader from finishing up quite ready for the next chapter… which I hope is coming soon!

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New Cover Art for Reckless Faith

Work on the fifth book in the Reckless Faith series slowly continues, but I recently hit the 50% point for its projected length.  In the meantime, I was so happy with my cover art for Dun Ringill by Alejandro Quinones, that I commissioned him to redo the cover for Reckless Faith.

This scene depicts the first time the main characters find Seth, the repository of technological data sent to Earth from Umber.

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Inspiration and the Creative Process

My fifth novel, Dun Ringill, is complete.   Though it took me over a year to write, I only recently stumbled upon a bit of information that I wanted to share.

Some of you already know that Dun Ringill is a real place, an approximately 2,000 year old fort on the Island of Skye off of Scotland.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dun_Ringill

I was inspired to name my book after it because of its reference in a song by Jethro Tull, the progressive rock group introduced to me by my mother at a young age.  Most of Tull’s lyrics were written by its frontman, Ian Anderson, who lived near Dun Ringill during some of his youth.  Anderson’s recurring themes are rife with references to the ancient peoples of England, their culture, and rituals.  They are all explored in depth on the outstanding fan website Cup of Wonder,

Edit: 27 OCT 2019:  It has come to my attention that the website Cup of Wonder is no longer up.  I’m disappointed as no other website seems to have the level of in-depth analysis of Tull lyrics.  Below are some alternatives.

Including, of course, Dun Ringill itself, from the album Stormwatch.

Stormwatch

Though often inscrutable, Anderson’s lyrics are not always difficult to decipher, and Dun Ringill’s meaning is fairly easy to discern if you know the history behind the ancient structure.  Though in reality the fort probably has no special meaning other than a defensive position that long ago became obsolete, it inspired me to research other ancient English structures that almost certainly did, including the most famous, Stonehenge.  In fact, many ancient structures in England feature astronomical alignments at significant times of the year (solstices and equinoxes, most notably).  Whether built merely for utility or for a ritualistic purpose, people who visit these places often remark on there being a peculiar feel to them, probably the same sense of mystery that Anderson himself experienced at Dun Ringill.

It was while researching these places that I learned about cursus lines, man-made ditches, barrows, or earthenworks put in place thousands of years ago for unknown purposes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursus

I thought these were interesting enough to apply them in a practical way to the science fiction of my novel.  However, I also decided to use them because I suspected that one of Anderson’s lines from Dun Ringill, lines joint in faint dischord, referred to cursus lines and their possible importance in ancient rituals.  As courses constructed by people who may have believed that some kind of mystical power flowed through them, they are related to the pseudoscience of ley lines:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ley_line

But are things like this what Anderson was really referring to in the song Dun Ringill?  I wasn’t sure until I started studying the lyrics of Jethro Tull songs that weren’t my favorites, either growing up or today.  So, it was just last week that I came across an explicit reference to ley lines in the song Cup of Wonder itself.

Songs From The Wood

For the May Day is the great day, sung along the Old Straight Track.  And those who ancient lines did lay will heed the song that calls them back.

If you looked at the Wikipedia article I linked above, you may have noticed that The Old Straight Track was the first published book on ley lines.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Old_Straight_Track

D’oh!

Still, despite that I could have answered my own question a long time ago by being more familiar with Jethro Tull’s discography, I was elated to learn of this relationship.  Maybe this makes me a verifiable Turbo Nerd but this revelation sent chills down my spine.

In all of my writing, I’ve been inspired by astronomy, ancient legends, and music.  Whether any of this translates into good science fiction is certainly up to the reader, but the fact that it keeps me going back to the page is good enough for me.  However, now that my characters have solved the mystery of Dun Ringill, it seems that I have, too.

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Book Review: Outer Demon by Gabriel Landowski

Outer Demon is a fun, fast-paced fantasy novel that combines a cohesive storyline with a well-timed twist near the end.

The main character is a young man filled with a mysterious power passed down through a familial legacy, though he begins this classic hero’s journey quite unaware of his potential. He is forced onto his path by a strange illness that almost kills him, an affliction that is only quelled by the appearance of a beautiful woman. Her interest in the boy, along with her own origins, are closely kept secrets, though he quickly begins to suspect that their destinies are intertwined.

Filled with action, deft storytelling, and a well-defined arc, Outer Demon is an easy choice for a reader looking for a new and accessible tale. Some may notice a few grammatical errors of the type often overlooked by all but the most tenacious editors, but it’s not enough to detract from the story. Overall it should appeal to fantasy fans of all types.  4/5 stars.

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Book Review: A Happy Bureaucracy by M.P. Fitzgerald

I’m not usually a fan of post-apocalyptic sci-fi. This book caught my interest because of its unusual but thoroughly plausible premise – that in a United States ravaged by a nuclear apocalypse, the Internal Revenue Service would be the only governmental entity to survive.

Fitzgerald excels at juxtaposing a ludicrous scenario with fast-paced storytelling and humor. Unlike anything I’ve seen before, this book was refreshing for its originality and accessibility. In a world where violence is the rule of law, we can always rely on one constant – the IRS, and its stalwart agents.

The protagonist undergoes a predictable character arc, and his weathered, hard-boiled companion is a trope by herself. These foibles are easily forgiven due to the enjoyable story and clever narrative. The author also makes a few grammatical errors, undetectable with spell check but pernicious nonetheless. Still, these problems hardly detract from the story and will probably go unnoticed to all but the most IRS auditor-inclined readers.

4/5 Stars

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New Fiction in the Reckless Faith Universe

The last three months have been a boon for my books.  The Fox and the Eagle has been doing particularly well, and my other titles are doing better than average as well.  With so many new readers, I’ve decided to revisit past ideas for a fifth book in the series.  As usual, I’ll be posting the content as I create it.  The first draft of the prologue and first chapter are below; if the prologue seems familiar it’s because I’ve posted it here before.  However, it concludes differently now.

Prologue

 

“Hey, Agent Smith!”

 

Val was on his way from the front desk to the elevators when he heard someone call his name. He turned to his right and looked into the lounge area. His contact, Special Agent Ben Jones, was sitting at a small table near the bar. Val approached him.

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Infinity Publishing has gone dark. Consider my books with them as out of print.

Due to a messy merger with a new company called FastPencil, Infinity Publishing is no longer responding to communications, nor are they fulfilling orders.  As such, I’ve re-published The Fox and the Eagle directly on Amazon.  Please be sure you are ordering the correct version, especially the paperback.  The easiest way to distinguish these versions are that the new versions are significantly less expensive.

I’m taking action to have Infinity’s versions of my books officially listed as out of print, which could take a few months.  For now, all five of my novels are available directly through Amazon, both in Kindle and paperback.

Here is the link to The Fox and the Eagle, new Kindle Edition.  The link to the paperback is in the sidebar.

 

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Dun Ringill is Live on Amazon

I’m pleased to announce that Dun Ringill is now available for the Kindle on Amazon.  Thank you to everyone who helped me edit and refine the final version.

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Dun Ringill: First Draft Complete

The first draft of Dun Ringill is complete.  Next begins the process of editing, and finding a source for cover art.  Until the book is ready to be published on Amazon, I’m making the first four chapters available to a wider audience.  If you would like an advance copy of the whole thing, please let me know, and thank you to all who provided feedback so far.  Below are links to the first four chapters.

Prologue and Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

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Dun Ringill: Prologue and Chapter One

PROLOGUE

 

When Carthage stumbled onto the bridge, his heart was racing, but not because he was scared. He had to pry open the doors to get there, as they had apparently malfunctioned, and this effort was great in comparison to his quick sprint to the command center. The doors might have been trying to spare him the horror of that day, the stark reality of which was all too plain as he entered.

Carthage’s crewmates lay dead, their blood almost luminescent in the bluish glow of the well-lit bridge. The compact space left no room for imagination, though there was no doubt as to the manner of their demise. Holland stood at the helm station, his back turned toward him, and his right hand grasping a bloody bayonet. The weapon belonged to Carthage, obviously stolen from his quarters at some point in the recent past. His four friends must not have suspected any ill intent from Holland. And though Carthage was surprised as they must have been, he was at least fortunate enough to see it coming.

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Book Review: Hard Magic by Larry Correia

I normally write reviews in the passive voice, but in this case I’ll make an exception because my feelings are a bit more personal and the book has been out for several years now.

Hard Magic was published in 2012.  I was very slow to get into it because it’s outside of my preferred genre and I don’t generally like alternative history novels.  Once I was able to get over my own foibles, I was glad to once again immerse myself in Larry’s enjoyable prose.  Hard Magic is Larry’s second series, continuing the fun mix of action and epic adventure that he began with his wildly successful Monster Hunter series, but this time with a noir, steampunky fantasy set in the 1930’s.

The description on Amazon, astonishingly, calls it a cross between The Maltese Falcon and Twilight, and while the former comparison is in the right zip code, the latter is the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen on Amazon since the last review-for-hire attached to a self-published albatross.  The story bears about as much resemblance to the Twilight series as a Twinkie to Foie Gras, insofar as they are both edible (allegedly).  A more apt comparison would simply be to X-Men, though as the reader soon learns, the power behind the enhanced humans is far a far more complicated matter than simply “genetics.”

Comparisons to the Monster Hunter series are inevitable, though I found that Jake Sullivan is the only protagonist that seems like a cookie-cutter version of Larry’s previous characters.  This can hardly be considered a weakness, as his predecessor, Owen Z. Pitt, is a good character and easily carries his own series.  I will say that Jake seems a little more introspective, probably due to his war record.  The rest of the characters are reasonably unique, and Faye stands out in particular.  She was my favorite character in Hard Magic by far.

Each of the “actives” has some innate ability, and it is enjoyable to see the way that Larry pits them against each other.  Jake is a “heavy,” who can manipulate gravitational fields, and Faye is a “traveler,” who can transport herself instantly from one place to another.  There are other actives who can create (and extinguish) fire, those that can heal, manipulate electricity, and augment mechanical devices, to mention a few.  Both sides of the story employ actives for their forces.

The plot is a typical “good guys versus bad guys intent on world domination” affair, but Larry does a good job with his unique alterative history and it remains engaging throughout.  There are extensive reviews with summaries, so I’ll refrain from my own here. The climax of the novel is cinematic, to say the least, and leaves ample room for a sequel without clubbing the reader over the head with it (cough).  One advantage I have with waiting this long to read Hard Magic is that the sequels have already been released, so I don’t have to wait to dig in to the next book.

My rating: 4/5 Stars

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Novella Review: The Demon Cross by Nathan Shumate

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a small-town private investigator tangled with a passel of occult-obsessed neo-Nazis?  This is the premise of The Demon Cross, a taut novella by Nathan Shumate.

Rennie Avalon is that PI, atypical of the breed as a single mother, but well qualified for her work nonetheless.  She is approached by Mister Enrst Vielstich, an academic from the Old Country and a collector of rare books.  A particular specimen from his library has been stolen, and he needs Rennie to recover it.  He can’t go through proper law enforcement channels, for reasons that quickly become apparent.  Rennie takes to the case with aplomb, but a bit of recklessness, and soon discovers that the case is more complicated and dangerous than she could have ever guessed.

The Demon Cross is an enjoyable tale, successfully combining the feel of Dashiell Hammett and H.P. Lovecraft.  The pace is excellent, and most readers will finish it within one or two sessions.  The author has a knack for description, giving adroit attention to details that are necessary without languishing on unimportant minutiae.  Shumate is an expert on “B movies,” as evidenced by his prior non-fiction work, The Golden Age of Crap, and his love of the genre is well channeled in this story.  It is also strongly reminiscent of the television series Supernatural, and fans of the show will see obvious similarities with it.  Whether intentional or not, it is a positive aspect.

One weakness of the novella is the slight character development, though this can be excused due to the short length of the story, as well as the fact that more adventures of Avalon and Company are expected.  Of particular criticism is the character of Rennie herself; her background needs to be expanded to explain her steely resolve and courage in the face of an increasingly bizarre case.  Hopefully the reader will be offered this information in future volumes.  The last issue is the sudden drop in editing quality in the latter fifth of the story, which up until that point had been flawless. However, these errors are not overly distracting.

In all this is a fun, exciting story that is well worth the reader’s time.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Cross-Avalon-Company-ebook/dp/B004RIGZYQ/

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Book Review: The Quiet Place by Scott Ferguson

In this quick read for the Kindle, a ragtag platoon of soldiers is sent to a small planet on a recon mission.  Reports have filtered in that Earth’s mysterious enemy, the Tarturans, have set up a weapons research facility on the planetoid, known as Elysium.  Corporal Adams is put in charge, and the platoon heads out.

Upon arrival, disaster strikes, as the undisciplined pilot of the dropship comes in too hot and the vessel crashes.  Adams and a handful of survivors find themselves in a harsh wilderness of rivers, swamps, and mangrove-like trees.  They scrounge for weapons and supplies and set up camp, determined to complete the recon mission despite the hardship.

The Quiet Place is a very difficult novel to assess.  The placement of valuable military resources in the hands of an obviously troubled platoon stretches belief, and the explanation of why soldiers with so many discipline problems were sent on the mission is slight.  One would have to assume that dropships, weapons, and equipment are in surplus in the military of the future.  It is also strongly implied from the outset that the mission was never really intended to succeed, again forcing the reader to wonder why the brass even bothered.

If one can take these problems in stride, the rest of the story is at least interesting.  The soldiers encounter local flora and fauna that proves to be deadly, and the survivors of the dropship crash begin to dwindle in number.  The incompetence of the marginalized soldiers only adds to the chaos, creating a frustrating situation where the reader is doubtlessly rooting for them to succeed, but is forced to watch them make several recklessly idiotic decisions.  Corporal Adams appears to be the lone voice of reason, and he does not have the weight of character to hold the group together.

All of that being said, the narrative and description are good.  Ferguson creates a vibrant, terrifying world.  The pace is also excellent and pulls the reader through the story relentlessly.  There is also a complication about two-thirds of the way through that comes at a perfect time and breathes new life into the story.  The last third of the book is arguably the most interesting and the story ends on a high note.

3 out of 5 stars.  Readers who are looking for a more generalized sci-fi adventure may be disappointed.  If you like stories about surviving disaster and exploring harsh alien worlds, this book is for you.

http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Place-Scott-Ferguson-ebook/dp/B007GRTB32/

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Book Review: Swords of Exodus by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari

In a lawless region of the world, nestled in an inhospitable mountain pass in central Asia, a warlord dominates.  Sala Jihan is his name, and the area is known as The Crossroads.

While various factions are allowed to operate in the area under his purview, Sala Jihan remains the undisputed king, overseeing his mining operation with a large number of enslaved workers.  An army of enthralled soldiers are at his disposal, including the mysterious and seemingly invincible Brothers, elite men who fight like demons.  Exodus, a global network of fanatical warriors, has set their sights on Jihan, and intend to wipe his scourge from the face of the Earth.

It is into this struggle that Lorenzo, an accomplished mercenary, is recruited.  Brought out of pseudo-retirement, he and his tried-and-true tech buddy Reaper and his girlfriend Jill (herself a competent fighter) are contacted by Exodus and asked to participate in the strike against Jihan.  Normally rue to get back into that world, Lorenzo is compelled to join when he learns that his brother Bob, a federal agent, has gone missing in The Crossroads.  Lorenzo gathers his team and equipment, but first they must rescue an old acquaintance: Valentine.

Michael Valentine is also a former mercenary, held in captivity by a shadowy arm of the US government.  He is of value to both them and Exodus for what he may know about Project Blue, a program many wish to know about but few actually do.  Whether or not Valentine will be of any help elucidating the facts behind Project Blue remains to be seen, though his value as a fighter make him worth the trouble.  Lorenzo has no particular love for the man, so it is an uneasy arrangement in all aspects.  Once Valentine joins the action, the story really takes off.

Swords of Exodus is a sequel to Dead Six, an excellent action-adventure novel in its own right.  Both books follow the same formula, trading perspectives between their two protagonists as they weave their way through the story.  It is not an easy technique to pull off, and as the series goes, Swords sometimes falls short of the standard set by its predecessor.  It remains a very good adventure, and is well worth the attention of fans of Dead Six; however, the balance between Lorenzo and Valentine isn’t as exact this time around.  Lorenzo seems to receive more attention in this story, with Valentine more of a hapless participant by proxy than a motivated adherent.  While it makes sense contextually, returning readers may be slightly disappointed by it.

There are many other aspects that help make up for this.  For one, Lorenzo continues to be a fascinating and entertaining anti-hero, and one of the best action-adventure characters ever conceived.  Like Correia’s other notable protagonists, he is a lot of fun to follow and does not disappoint.  Valentine’s sections are well-written and add a critical perspective to the narrative, and his introspection helps to provide contrast to Lorenzo’s gonzo (though often cynical) attitude.  Both authors do an excellent job of illustrating the world of the story, and The Crossroads in particular comes alive vividly.

Another positive aspect is character development.  Lorenzo and Valentine are fleshed out in more depth, with more details from their past revealed including interesting tidbits from the events in Dead Six.  While adding a lot to the story, neither author dwells on it to the point of slowing down the narrative.  Each man becomes more human in the eyes of the reader, even as they’re surrounded by inhuman chaos.

Also carrying over from the first novel are the action sequences.  Correia and Kupari outdo themselves again.  They are taut at the same time they’re relentless, described with just the right amount of detail to be exciting and rewarding.  As usual, some scenes are depicted with a sanguine, cringe-worthy edge, which might dissuade the casual reader if they happened upon this novel randomly but are right at home regardless.  Valentine’s handiwork with his S&W 629 .44 Magnum revolver is the most obvious example of this.

Overall, Swords of Exodus has a different tone than Dead Six.  It is more of a slow burn, more contemplative, with a slightly more meandering pace.  For returning fans, it should be well-received, but in a microcosm, it might not be as popular as its predecessor.  One common aspect for a sequel is to raise the stakes, and in this case, while the mission is extremely important to Exodus, the involvement of the protagonists does not feel as critical as before.  Also, as previously mentioned, Valentine’s participation leaves something to be desired, an aspect that one hopes will be addressed in Project Blue, the upcoming third addition to the series.  Also in that regard, Swords is very much a middle story, leaving a great deal unresolved.  However, it serves only to make the third book more compelling, and hopefully we won’t have too long to wait for it.

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Hard Stripes: Episode One: Guardian Angels

Posted to my blog for the first time, Hard Stripes is a novella that explains how Kyrie Devonai, Chance Richter, and Evangeline Adeler first started working for the CIA.  It is set in May of 2003, five months prior to the events in Reckless Faith.  My plan is to expand this story into two episodes, and after putting it through the typical feedback/editing process, publish it for the Kindle.  This current version has been significantly modified and cleaned up.  I hope you like it!

Episode one is six chapters, approx. 17,000 words.

Hard Stripes: Episode One: Guardian Angels

 

It was a beautiful, mild late spring night in San Diego, and a man with a machine gun in a helicopter was trying to murder Devonai’s friends.

Over a wind-swept hotel rooftop, the gunner in the iconic Huey was shooting at a man named Richter with a FN M240B, a thirty caliber belt-fed weapon, from a flexible mount.  Devonai watched in horror as rounds streamed toward Richter, the latter man firing his pistol in return even while trying to take cover behind a large conduit.  His other friend, a young girl named Evangeline, cowered in fear underneath an air conditioning unit nearby.

Devonai took a knee and aimed at the gunner with his recently acquired Colt carbine, and tried to concentrate on hitting him.  If his rounds missed his mark, his friends would almost certainly die.  He considered using the AT-4 rocket launcher strapped to his back instead, but it would take too long to get into action, and he couldn’t risk sending a flaming wreck crashing down on the police officers gathered on the street below.  Even as the enormity of the situation threatened to send him into a panic, Devonai couldn’t help but resent his sudden involvement in it.

“This is not what I imagined myself doing tonight,” he thought, and opened fire.

May 25, 2003 – 20 Hours Earlier

In his mind was an incomprehensible jumble of images, too indistinct to be identified but compelling enough to manipulate his emotions.  Kyrie Devonai was pleased when he awoke, taking a deep breath and stretching his arms.  The low hum of the airplane was relaxing, but his subconscious seemed reluctant to let him rest peacefully.  He glanced out of the window, securing yet another view of the featureless night.  In the background he could hear the voice of a flight attendant doing her job.  He realized the drink cart was going by again, and he considered ordering another drink.  The martini from a couple hours earlier had created a fantastic haze around his worries, even if it was too heavy on the vermouth.  A quick mental checklist of alcoholic beverages allowed Kyrie to make a choice, betting on the fact that they couldn’t possibly get it wrong.  However, one couldn’t be too careful.  Kyrie raised his hand when the attendant approached.

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Short Story Review: Homecoming: A Near Future Western by GW Quadpentic

In the aftermath of a second civil war, one man begins the long journey home after years of brutal combat.  The country may recover in time, but first it must shrug off the weight of local tyrants all too eager to take advantage of a power vacuum.  For John Paul Ribens, his personal journey cannot end without first confronting this persistent, lingering wound.

Homecoming is a classic story that hearkens back to such films as Walking Tall, and more recently, Open Range.  It is a familiar tale, told here with a science fiction angle that enhances the typical western theme with something more elaborate.  Indeed, it is the author’s use of interesting and plausible technology (perhaps only a decade or two down the road) that sets this story apart.

It is difficult to encapsulate an entire world in a short story, but that task is accomplished here.  The narrative itself is merely competent.  The author relies on too many cliches to let it really shine, though if one is hoping for a classic western feel then it may not detract from the story.  There are also a few inconsistencies in the narrative but they are so minor as to be almost unnoticeable.  Taken as a whole, this story will most likely appeal to die hard fans of this specific sub-genre.  However, there were enough positive aspects that new readers would do well to remember this author for future works. Hopefully they will appeal to a wider audience, and I look forward to checking them out.

Concept: 4/5

Plot: 3/5

Narrative: 2.5/5

http://www.amazon.com/Homecoming-Near-Future-Western-ebook/dp/B00EXX4SD0/

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Book Review: The Soldier and Squad in Night Combat

While the technology of warfare marches on, there are some tactics that will always be important, regardless of the gizmos and gadgets that are available to modern warriors. Squad level infantry strategy and maneuvers at night are basic, if challenging, skills.

Presented for us by Boris Karpa is a faithful translation of a 1942 Soviet Army manual on that subject.  Originally written by K. I. Ogloblin (an Army supernumerary for whom a Google search reveals nothing), it is a fairly dry book, with little more than basic information presented without much fanfare.  This is in contrast to Karpa’s previous translation of the Soviet Army manual Destroy the Enemy in Hand-to-Hand Combat, which was far richer in patriotic tone and had a certain historical humor and charm to it.

Still, the entertainment value of these manuals is obviously not the main reason to read them.  They are a fascinating look into classic military tactics, and as a member of the infantry for several years, I feel they offer a critical perspective into the development of fighting skills over the decades.  Indeed, most if not all of the information in The Soldier and Squad in Night Combat will still be of use to the modern infantryman, night vision goggles and GPS devices notwithstanding.  I have spent more than my fair share of time trying to move as a squad or platoon in complete darkness, with only hand signals and whispers to communicate, so I can relate to the difficulties of such maneuvers.

As a companion to such other manuals as US Army FM 7-8, it is well worth checking out and I recommend it to any soldier or student of military history.

http://www.amazon.com/Soldier-Combat-Authentic-Manuals-ebook/dp/B00EN948NO/

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Novella Review: Outbound by Brad Torgersen

When war devastates all but the furthest reaches of our solar system, a young boy is cast out to face the seemingly endless depths of space.  While nothing remains but destruction, there may be a glimmer of hope ahead, if the legends are true.

Initially one of many desperate survivors, Mirek is soon rescued by the inhabitants of a mobile astronomical observatory.  They are seeking the Outbound, colony ships that left long ago to explore the possibility of forging a new civilization in the distant Kuiper Belt on the edge of the solar system.  Cut off from the rest of humanity, striking out into the unknown is their only option, especially considering that the enemy still controls the system.

What follows is a story that crosses millions of miles and several decades.  Introspective in scope, it is essentially a coming of age story for the boy Mirek, who must grow up in an isolated environment with very few other humans to guide him.  His relationship with the former astronomer Tabitha and her uniquely transformed husband Howard is complicated, to say the least, as neither is adequately prepared to meet his changing needs.  Eventually, Mirek is forced to adapt in many ways, pushing to the very edge what it means to be human.

Outbound is an ambitious story in that it covers so much ground.  As a novella, it is effective, but it seems reasonable that this story could be expanded into a full length book. It is the laconic nature of the narrative that creates the greatest obstacle to the reader; one may be left wanting for more detail more often than not.  Though perhaps not intended for young adults, it would be appropriate, and in fact it reminded me of Robert A. Heinlein’s young adult stories.  Still, it should be accessible to all readers, and all but the most stalwart adherents to hard science fiction will find it enjoyable and evocative.

My rating: 4 out of 5.

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Book Review: The Church of the Wood by E.J. Weber

The relationship between faeries and humans has always been a complicated one.  Whether joined by a mutual past, or wholly divergent in their origin, they are regardless fated to share the same space.  And while time and distance may have set them apart from each  other, their eventual alliance may rest with the actions of a few… or even just two individuals.

The Church of the Wood explores this complicated relationship between peoples, and touches on tragic missteps that prior generations have engaged in.  Though that history has impacted everyone, few remain who remember the gravity of such things, and even fewer care to make it their business.  Myth, legend, and rumor all serve to put up barriers between faeries and humans, often replacing reality with fear and insurmountable preconceptions.

Ultimately, this book is about individual relationships.  Unwitting friendships, leaps of faith, and eventually romance, follow several characters through journeys both personal and collective.  The story deftly addresses both the mysteries of ages past as well as the complicated future of Calundra, the starkly idyllic but troubled country in which the stories are set.  While intensely personal, the narrative and its well-defined characters cannot exist in a microcosm.  An undercurrent of connectivity is maintained throughout the tale.

It would be easy to define The Church of the Wood as a romantic fantasy, and indeed such a description is apt.  However, rarely has such a simple concept been so lavishly described, or with such careful detail.  The greatest strength of this book is Weber’s ease of narration; confident, expansive, and extremely endearing.  Each of the main characters will rapidly gain the support of the reader, and anyone who is even a casual fan of the genre will find them to be captivating.  Beyond just the actors involved, the story maintains enough of an air of mystery and magic to keep the reader’s attention throughout.

The only criticism I can levy against it is the pace of the plot.  This is a slow story by anyone’s estimation, and it rewards the patient reader.  The plot is meandering at times, and as a fan of more action-oriented stories I often found myself waiting for the next significant revelation rather than simply enjoying the journey itself.  Though this may not detract from the overall impact, it may be a deterrent to some people who are easily distracted.  Additionally, some minor characters are introduced that are given some attention, but not enough to really carry the scene or enhance the central themes.

Despite these minor problems, the book remains a positive experience and I would recommend it to any fan of fantasy, romance, or a combination thereof.  It is unarguably a very impressive first novel from Weber and is every bit as good as any commercial offering.  I am looking forward to future works from her!

http://www.amazon.com/Church-Wood-ebook/dp/B00CCJB4L6

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Flash Fiction: The Five Years of Eternity

Last night I was nearly delirious with a fever, and as I drifted in and out of sleep, I thought of this short story.

 

My name is Anderson, and I have lived for almost one thousand years.  I wish I could claim to have seen ancient Babylon, Rome, Jerusalem in the time of Christ, the dark ages, the renaissance, and the industrial revolution.  Instead, what I got was 2003-2008, one hundred and ninety four times in a row.  I am here to plead for your help.

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Project Redwood

This is the beginning of an attempt to create a new story not connected to the Reckless Faith universe.

 

“Major, what the hell are you doing?”

The interior of the C-5 Galaxy had just become very quiet.  Major Furlong stood next to the hulking prototype reactor, pointing an M9 pistol at his fellow scientists.  The other men, both Department of Defense civilian physicists, glanced at each other in shock.  They also peered past him toward the ladder that led to the flight deck, but the rest of the crew was topside, and unaware of the drama that was about to unfold.

Suddenly too warm, Major Furlong unzipped the front of his flight suit with one hand while keeping his weapon trained unwaveringly on the other men.  The long, cylindrical reactor hummed calmly, though this reassuring noise was almost completely drowned out by the drone of the aircraft’s engines.  He saw the uncertainty in their eyes as he accessed the main control panel on the reactor.

“I wouldn’t try it,” he warned.

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Revisions of Reckless Faith (Spoiler Alert)

In anticipation of publishing the Reckless Faith trilogy in Kindle format, I’ve hacked up the first book based on the pretty much universal criticisms I’ve received over the years.  It only took me two hours to cut almost 10% of the novel, addressing perhaps the most common complaint that the story was longer than it needed to be.  Other revisions include:

1. The scene introducing Devonai and Richter investigating the destruction of the USS Portland has been moved to the prologue as a flash-forward.  Chapter One begins with “Eleven days earlier.”

2. Added a scene where John breaks up with his girlfriend in the first chapter.  It is also made clear that he was an avionics technician in the Air Guard.

3. Deleted the scene where Ari buys her pistol.

4. The bank robbery, shootout, and death of Ray’s partner have been deleted.  These events are revealed later by Ray at his cabin, prior to the arrival of the orb.

5. Most of Dana and Levi running around New England, including their car accident, has been deleted.

6. John’s confession to Ray that he could have prevented Ari’s capture by the CIA has been deleted.

7. Changed the location of the theft of the GAU 8/A weapons systems from Barnes to Bradley, and added a more realistic response by base personnel.  Also mentioned the theft of B-29 turrets from the New England Air Museum.

8. Added a brief dream sequence with Dana and the Kira’To, which is mentioned again in Bitter Arrow.

9. Deleted other minor parts here and there that neither served to further the plot nor developed characters.

The book is now 91,000 words, and hopefully a more tightly plotted story.

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The Sweet Sound

“That’s one of our Advanced Infantrymen?”

Doctor Sato’s first impression of Staff Sergeant Damascus was a surprise to her.  She was expecting a man somewhat different from the one who sat in her office.  She gazed at him on a monitor in the adjoining room for a few seconds.  Her supervisor stood beside her, an older and gruff man by the name of Doctor Mariella, silent for the moment.  He had insisted on the monitoring equipment, which would normally be a clear violation of the client’s rights, but both of them were begrudgingly convinced of its necessity by the higher-ups in the military.  After all, Staff Sergeant Damascus didn’t have any rights, yet.

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Of Errors and Evangeline (minor spoilers)

When I wrote the timeline for The Fox and the Eagle, I was only thinking about Reckless Faith, which is fine, but I made a mistake in another regard, and that error made it into the book.  

Some years ago I took a stab at rewriting my first two full-length novels, Marionette and Indemnity, which were contemporary action/adventure stories with only a slight sci-fi aspect.  They weren’t very good, rife with ponderously detailed action sequences and action movie tropes.  However, the characters were pretty decent, so I decided to give them new life in Reckless Faith.  The rewrite came soon thereafter, and was an origination story for Kyrie Devonai, Chance Richter, and Evangeline Adeler.

The result was Hard Stripes, a novella that I previously posted on Live Journal and Facebook.  I was happy with it, but I couldn’t figure out how to expand it into a full-length novel.  I’d always considered diving back into it, so I was reviewing it yesterday and I noticed a big problem.  It is set in the year 2000, three years prior to the events in Reckless Faith.  Eva is supposed to be 19 years old.  In The Fox and the Eagle, set in 2019, Eva is 31.  Oops.  The easiest fix, had I noticed, would be to change the date to 2002 and make Eva 36 years old in 2019.  But there’s another problem, too.

In The Fox and the Eagle, Evangeline mentions that she had a romantic relationship with Chance Richter, a relationship that would have had to occur prior to his departure on the Reckless Faith in 2003.  Even if I’d corrected the above error, and made her 36, she and Richter would’ve been in a relationship with him at 26 and her at 17.  As it stands right now, if you’d read both books you would have noticed that Eva couldn’t possibly have been any older than 15 when the relationship occurred.  D’oh.

As such, I’m left with Hard Stripes either being apocryphal, or a tale of a budding romance between an adult male and a minor female.  Even without the novella, the age difference already evident in my books would give one pause.  I’m only inspired by Heinlein, I’m not trying to take his place!  The easiest way to fix this would be to change Eva’s age to 36 in the next book and hope that nobody notices the discrepancy.  And to salvage Hard Stripes, I’d still have to settle for the 26 and 17 age difference.

The last possibility is to have the relationship be nothing more than a crush on Eva’s part.  While it’s sort of creepy that she would refer to Richter as the “love of her life” for an unrequited crush from sixteen years ago, I think it would be a lot better than Richter returning her affection.

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The Fox and the Eagle has shipped to Amazon

I spoke with my publisher today, and my author representative reported that all copies of The Fox and the Eagle ordered through Amazon, as of 11/18, have been shipped.  This means that almost four dozen copies are sitting in Amazon’s Arizona warehouse, waiting to be delivered.  My author rep also confirmed that several publishers have been experiencing problems with Amazon this month, so it’s not just us.  If you ordered with Amazon, the books are there, and hopefully you will receive your copy soon!

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Book Review: Monster Hunter Alpha

In a world where lycanthropy is a horrific and permanent curse, only one man has ever tamed the tvar, or beast within.  Throughout the ages, sympathetic humans have sought to  help those unwillingly stricken with this curse, to reach some sort of equilibrium between the man and the monster.  Only one, with the sacrifice of a dedicated few, has achieved it.  His name is Earl Harbinger.

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Entry for a Writing Competition

Writer’s Digest is running a science fiction writing competition that I’m considering entering.  As such, I’ve expanded and modified one of my short stories, Future Imperfect.  I’ve posted the old version here before, but I would also like to get some feedback on the new version, which is hopefully superior.  I am not a fan of the short story format, but placing in the competition would have obvious advantages.  The deadline is the 14th of this month, so here it is again:

Future Imperfect

Major Taylor knew full well he was under the influence of the military equivalent of beer goggles, but the lab technician with whom he was making small talk was, at the moment, the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He was on his way to a meeting with his boss, Colonel Darius, when he abruptly made a left turn into a laboratory, following the sweet scent of perfume and chlorofluorocarbons. There, he met Veronika Sharpikova (or something like that), who was responsible for maintaining the equipment that could achieve within a few K of absolute zero. The technician, and the equipment of her specialty, were all part of a larger machine, one that Taylor and his superiors were very interested in keeping safe. Still, there were many civilians involved in the project, and none of them were as comely as Veronika. In fact, in the two days he’d been staying there, he’d only seen a few other women.

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New Story Idea: Quick Treatment

I’m still entertaining the idea of an entirely new story for my fifth novel.  Here is the summary of a screenplay I wrote in 2001, which could be adapted into a novel.

Timecrash

The protagonist, Hugo Wells, is a quantum physicist working at a small research company in Burlington, MA.  He has a radical idea for a new piece of technology, and while his company has not agreed to work on it, they have allowed him to pursue the project using their equipment on his own time.  Wells hopes to invent a time capsule device, a machine that would remove anything inside its sphere of influence from the current timeline for a specified period.

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New Introduction to Reckless Faith

So, it turns out that Amazon has their own sci-fi publishing venture, 47North, supported by none other than mega-auther Neil Stephenson.  They accept unsolicited manuscripts, so I’ve decided to revisit Reckless Faith and The Tarantula Nebula.  I may submit both books as a single volume this time, as I believe the story has a better chance of being accepted in this format.  My first effort at a new edit is a rework of the opening scene for Reckless Faith.  It’s a flash-forward, snipped from later in the story, meant to bring an element of mystery into the story immediately.

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Publication Anniversaries

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the publication of Reckless Faith, and coincidentally, the second for Bitter Arrow.  If you’ve read either one, and haven’t already, please post a review on Amazon.  I’ll buy you a beer!

As always, signed copies are available directly from me, so let me know if you want one.

Editing continues on The Fox and the Eagle, and I hope to send it to Infinity by the end of April.  I’m already considering ideas for my next story, though a short story might be in order first.

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Classic Book Review: DEAD SIX by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari

“Is it still considered a miracle if it comes from the devil?” – Lorenzo

In a war where governments and corporations are vaguely defined entities, each with their own agenda and means, the foot soldiers are left to fight and die for those ends.  Sometimes, though, that same separation from the true masterminds can lead to a certain level of autonomy – a freedom that allows those on the lowest level of the conflict to follow their own convictions, grudges, and even vengeance.

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Future Imperfect

This is a short story I wrote a few years ago, with the intention of submitting it to a publication.  I can’t remember if I posted it on LiveJournal or MySpace, but I haven’t posted it here.  I tweaked it a little bit today.

 

Future Imperfect

The day the Quantum Entanglement Receiver was activated, the theory of multiple universes came one step closer to be proven as fact.

The device was the result of several years of research into the theory of quantum entanglement. Every three hundred milliseconds, a subatomic particle was sent through a supercollider, dividing it into two smaller particles. Each division was sent along a path, one short, one long. At the midway point of the long path, the particle was nudged into a slightly higher energy state. Due to the property of quantum entanglement, the particle sent down the short path also jumped into this energy state. The result was that the change in energy state could be detected before the modified particle returned to the starting point.

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Flash Fiction: Jim’s Retreat

Here is a piece of flash fiction I wrote tonight.  Thanks to Dave E for the writing prompt!

 

Hank was nervous. The cabin was becoming stale and the smell set him on edge. From his right pocket, his cell phone rang. He jumped. He had forgotten that it was there.  He removed the phone and looked at the screen.  The man he was expecting in person was calling.

“What’s up, Jim?” Hank said after pressing the talk key.  “I didn’t think we’d get phone service way out here.”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line.  Hank looked at his phone again to confirm the connection.  The call timer hit ten seconds before Jim spoke.

“Did you have any trouble finding the cabin?”

Hank chuckled.   “You gave me an azimuth to follow across five kilometers of Alaskan wilderness.  Define ‘trouble’.”

“Well, I’m glad you made it.  I’m surprised you haven’t built a fire yet.  Aren’t you getting a little chilly?”

Hank instinctively looked out the nearest window.  “Are you almost here?”

“I’ve been here since last night, but I haven’t touched the cabin.  How is the place holding up?”

“There’s a recently deceased rat in here.  It must have come down the chimney.  If you’ve been here since last night, how come you didn’t open the place up?”

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Book Review: Sons of Dragons by Gabriel Landowski

Sons of Dragons is a military science fiction novel that follows Private Kyle Evans on his first combat mission. Loaded into dropships with the rest of Echo Company, Evans and his fellow soldiers are expecting to leap through hyperspace aboard the carrier Rosalie to help keep the peace on an urbanized planet. Instead, they find themselves in orbit around an unknown planet in an unrecognizable part of the galaxy.

The mistake is realized only after the dropships are away, and the Rosalie comes under attack from an unknown ship. The Commander recalls the dropships, but is forced to jump away before the final three can return.

Stranded, the troopers have little choice but to land on the planet and scout around, and hope the Rosalie brings back reinforcements. The soldiers establish an outpost, and eventually run into the native population. After some initial unpleasantness an alliance is formed, with the soldiers benefiting from the specific knowledge of the locals, and they from the advanced technology of their visitors.

The new alliance is soon tested by a hostile force known as the Horde, along with the chilling possibility that the fearsome raiders are being controlled by a malevolent alien force.

Sons of Dragons is a fast-paced novel with plenty of action to drive the story. Author Landowski puts his military experience to good use and tactical details are represented with the highest authenticity. Readers who appreciate such detail will be pleased, and those less familiar with military tactics shouldn’t be overwhelmed as the narrative remains straightforward throughout.

The story is told almost entirely from the perspective of Kyle Evans. He is a believable and likable protagonist and Landowski is at ease in his mind. However, he is the only main character, and occasionally I found myself wishing for a broader perspective. For a narrative in the third person, limiting the perspective to just one person was conspicuous to me, and perhaps a first-person perspective would have been a better choice. Still, the author offers snippets of thought directly from Kyle’s mind, which overcomes the issue for the most part.

I also found it conspicuous that there are no female characters other than the brief mention of native women. This makes sense for the infantry company, of course, but I would have enjoyed a female dropship crewmember or a female local who was actually integral to the plot.

Overall, Sons of Dragons is an enjoyable story and very engrossing. I read it in five hours and did not want to put it down. The story ends on a cliffhanger, and I definitely plan on buying the sequel when it comes out. 4/5 stars.

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Book Review: Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt

One part Y.T from Neil Stephenson’s Snowcrash and one part the titular Friday born of Robert A. Heinlein’s imagination, the main character of Sarah Hoyt’s novel Darkship Thieves may well take her place among the most memorable female protagonists of science fiction.

Patrician Athena Sinistra is the daughter of a weathly politican, and is used to posh social gatherings and the trappings of a relative rich lifestyle.  She’s also a rebel at heart, and spends much of her free time engaging in “brooming,” an illegal, fly by the seat of your pants airborne race.  Her mostly carefree life is interrupted by an attempted kidnapping from her father’s ship, and we soon find out that her father may have been complicit in the attempt.  Thena, as she likes to call herself, makes a daring escape, but is hardly better off as her tiny escape vessel careens into the solar system’s power pods.

The pods are part of an ancient network of bramble-like branches that ring Earth, engineered in the distant past by super-intelligent, genetically modified humans.  While such modifications have long since become illegal, all of human society continues to benefit from their creation, as the power pods are the best source of power available.  The pods are also the target of the mysterious Darkship Thieves, beings who use their stealthy vessels to interlope through the pods and make off with them.

Thena’s outlook is grim until she runs into a Darkship, and she finds herself rescued… for the moment.

Darkship Thieves is a solid science fiction novel, with a very likeable main character and an interesting supporting cast.  The plot is coherent and the main arc runs smoothly throughout the story.  Fans of Heinlein will be in familiar territory here.  I thought the novel suffered slightly from pacing issues, especially in the middle, and the main character’s stream-of-consciousness narrative is sometimes hard to follow.  Still, it is a fun book and well worth your time.  4/5 stars.

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Miscellanea: MPHI M24C Mass Driver Cannon

Matesia Planetary Heavy Industries M24C Mass Driver Cannon

(translated into English, numerical values have been approximated from the original)

Physical Properties

Weight: 2000 kg

Height: 15 m, including magazine

Width: 5 m

Length: 50 m (receiver 5 m, barrel 45 m)

Projectile Weight: 60 kg (typical)

Muzzle Velocity: 9,000 mps (ideal)

Overview

The MPHI Model 24C Mass Driver Cannon is a direct fire, unguided, kinetic energy impact weapon commonly mounted on space vehicles.  While it is compact enough to be used on ground-based vehicles or atmosphere-only aircraft, proper stabilization of the projectile can only occur in a vacuum.

Implementation

The M24C uses a 60 kg elemental Osmium ellipsoid slug.  The magnetic rails are typically mounted parallel to the forward axis of a spacecraft, making it into a direct-fire weapon, although optional guidance systems can take advantage of gravity “whipping” to fire at targets not in the direct line of fire.

Method of Action

The M24C will damage or destroy the target using nothing more than a transfer of kinetic energy from the projectile into the target.  A 60 kg slug moving at 9,000 meters per second will yield 2.43 billion Joules, or 1.79 billion foot-pounds of energy.  Ultimately, the exact yield will depend on relative velocities and any intervening environmental factors (such as considerable gravitational forces).

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Miscellanea: Cooper Mk IV 92-6M-9 Reactor Stardrive

The Cooper Heavy Industries Mark IV Uranium Hexafluoride Reactor Stardrive has been a mainstay in medium-range space vehicle construction for twenty years.  While the exact details of its energy-producing process are still a corporate secret, physicists have been able to deduce the following:

Primary Catalysts: Oxygen, Nitrogen, Radon, Uranium Hexafluoride

The energy production process usually begins with readily-available oxygen or nitrogen in liquid form.  The gas is allowed to vent into a cloud chamber, where high energy protons from a particular source (which varies with end-user design, including cosmic rays) create 10-beryllium as a fission product.  10-Be has a half-life of 1.36 million years, making it useful as a secondary power source (since electrons are its decay product), but is primarily combined with Alpha particles from Radon to form 12-Carbon and a slow neutron.

Neutrons liberated by this process are used to bombard gaseous Uranium Hexaflouride, which bypasses expensive refinement procedures to produce 235-Uranium, which is captured via micro-loop cyclotron and stored within Stage One of the reactor.  Slow thermal neutrons from the same Be/a process as before induce a highly-controllable fission reaction, allowing for a precise level of reactor energy output as well as an end-user selectable fission product menu.  This process also makes a runaway reaction impossible, since an undesired level of fission would simply require the operator (or an automated system) to cease primary neutron bombardment.  Some third-party companies offer neutron moderator customization (such as in the form of graphite rods), but there is no evidence that use of these moderators has ever been necessary.

Catastrophic Failure

This does not mean that the Cooper Mk IV cannot fail catastrophically by another method.  Uranium Hexaflouride is highly corrosive, and if containment systems fail, any number of critical systems could be damaged.  While aluminum alloys are the only storage and transfer conduit construction materials authorized, careless doping of those alloys can result in substandard material susceptible to failure.  Furthermore, the popular secondary energy modification of 197-198-Gold/neutron flux/gamma generation can be fatal to organic life if not properly shielded, but of course Cooper Heavy Industries warns against this sort of modification in their standard EULA.

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The Mirrored Canvas (continued)

I suppose I should have gone to see the painting at the beginning of my investigation, but I’ve always been a pragmatic, Joe Friday type of agent.  It was Westerian who was missing, not the painting, and I doubted that the piece itself held any clues to his location.  I also had the artistic ability of a Ritalin-addled four year old, and no ability of artistic discernment whatsoever, so it never even occurred to me to go to the museum.  Perhaps if I had gone there earlier, a group of otherwise normal citizens wouldn’t have tried to murder me over the whole damned affair.

The FBI got involved with the case because of some legal vagary regarding Westerian’s out-of-state bank account.  His ex-girlfriend seemed like the most obvious first stop after I received the assignment.  She lived in an apartment in Somerville not far from a Korean grocery store I knew from my college days, so it didn’t take me long to find the place.  Her name was Nora, and she made an invitation for me to come in by way of an odd pseudo-greeting that mostly involved the words “publicity stunt.”

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The Mirrored Canvas

This is the beginning of a short story I was working on three years ago.  It was inspired by a dream, and I may still finish it someday.

 

The Mirrored Canvas

I never actually saw the painting myself.  The closest I ever got to it, before an angry mob destroyed it and half of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, was one hallway away, where a kindly old grandmother from Revere tried to hit me with a fire ax.  My name is James Buchanan, formerly of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and this is my story about the short life of Tycho Westerian and his masterpiece, The Mirrored Canvas.

Tycho Westerian was born twenty years ago in the small New Hampshire town of Center Strafford.  His parents were unremarkable by most standards; his father owned a small All-Terrain Vehicle dealership and his mother was a high school teacher.  Tycho had a normal childhood until the age of four, when he was diagnosed as suffering from Pervasive Personality Disorder, a condition similar to Autism.  He would seem normal during some social situations but could not properly adjust to the majority of them.  Unable to afford special schooling, the Westerians struggled to find a way to address Tycho’s needs without burning themselves out.

When Tycho turned ten years old all of his symptoms disappeared, literally overnight.  His parents awoke to find a perfectly well-adjusted boy with a sharp wit and a sense of humor.  While not unheard of in the psychology world, Tycho’s recovery was important enough to receive at least two articles in the appropriate journals.  Soon after his minor celebrity status faded, Tycho discovered that he had a keen eye for art.  His talent was immediately evident and it wasn’t long before the word “prodigy” began to be whispered.  His classic style led some critics to call him “the next Michelangelo.”  Used to being in the public eye, Tycho all but ignored the buzz around his work.  It was said that he would sequester himself for days at a time during each distinct project.

In his eighteenth year, Tycho began work on a piece that he would call The Mirrored Canvas. By then he had the luxury of a private studio, and for six months he worked on that piece.  His former girlfriend would later tell me that while his personality didn’t change during that time, she couldn’t help but feel like he was setting himself up for a mental breakdown.  She was wrong, at least insofar as who eventually went nuts.  Their relationship did not survive the birth of that painting, although as far as I can tell Tycho made a valiant attempt to save it.

After that turbulent half-year, Tycho revealed his work.  It got a more vigorous reception than some extremely controversial works I might mention that featured the debasement of religious symbols, although there was nothing of that sort here.  The image itself was simply of a crowd of people staring forward, forlorn or expressionless, rendered in oil paints on a 8’x10′ canvas.  People likened it to images of the holocaust or Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Before too long it was decided that the Museum of Fine Arts was the only space that could accommodate the volume of viewers.  And there were a lot of them, even though the consensus was that the piece was “highly disturbing.”

Even before the painting had become a must-see among art lovers and the pretentious journalists that responded to them, certain unique properties of the work had become apparent.  Most obvious was the inability of anyone to obtain a decent photograph of the painting.  Traditional film came out black, and digital cameras offered nothing but motion-blurred pictures.  A steady stream of professional photographers attempted to record the work, each insisting that their predecessor was an idiot, and each failing.  It wasn’t until someone thought to take a picture with an infrared camera that a decent result was obtained, and that was… well, that bit of the story will fit better in the narrative.

Amongst the humans who had no trouble viewing the painting there was another controversy.  People disagreed on the number of figures represented in the work.  Nobody could agree on whether there were 46 figures or 47.  There were no figures half in frame or far in the background or anything like that, so the count should not have been subjective.  One thing that everyone who viewed the painting agreed upon, however, was that one of the figures was a dead ringer for themselves.

Three months after The Mirrored Canvas was made public, Tycho Westerian disappeared.  That’s where I come in.

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Book Review: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

I am currently reading the sequel to Monster Hunter International, MH: Vendetta, so in anticipation of that review, here’s my review for the first book:

 

Monster Hunter International

When Owen Zastava Pitt narrowly avoids becoming a late night snack for his boss-turned-werewolf, he discovers that monsters are real, and most of them need killing. During his painful recovery, he is kept under watch by the FBI to ensure he does not turn into a werewolf himself, and he is approached by a shadowy private organization, Monster Hunter International, for possible recruitment.

Pitt’s doubts are mollified by a large commission check, courtesy of the government, for the elimination of a werewolf. He joins MHI as a raw recruit, attending the company version of boot camp as he and several other neophytes are trained in the art. Almost immediately a problem larger than localized monster infestation arises, and Pitt is dragged into the heart of an epic struggle, not just for the world but for his soul.

The name of the game here is action, and author Larry Correia delivers this in spades (and bullets, explosives, and silver bayonets). He challenges his protagonist to survive situations that would put most of us in a box, or in the loony bin, and each encounter ups the ante. Pitt is accompanied by several erstwhile companions, who add brains and additional firepower to his brawn.

Cinematic in scope, the dramatic impact of Monster Hunter International is only reduced slightly by common use of hyperbole by the author, although anyone would be hard pressed to describe such incredible circumstances with any other kind of language. I also thought Correia might be making it tough on any future sequels by having so much on the line in the first novel, as it is the fate of the world that is at stake here. Still, Pitt may go on to save the world again in a different way, and I look forward to being along for the ride.

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The Fox and the Eagle: Prologue through Chapter Two

Prologue

“Eva, this is suicide, you must realize that.”

Evangeline nodded stoically to her companion, although the fear in her eyes was impossible to hide. The pair, similarly dressed in traditional crimson sparring clothes, knelt on a drab gray rug in an otherwise empty room adjacent to the arena. When the younger girl, named Reiko, finished tying back Evangeline’s hair into a tight bun, she tightened the saya of her weapon into her obi. The wide black canvas belt would hold the scabbard into place well enough for the next five minutes. Securing it further would be unnecessary.

Evangeline was as prepared as possible for what lay ahead. She stood up, and bowed to Reiko.

“Whatever happens to me,” she said quietly, “make sure my journal is kept safe.”

“I’ll guard it with my life,” Reiko replied sincerely.

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Welcome to the Reckless Faith Blog!

Hello Earth Creatures, this is Devonai from Beta Vulpeculae broadcasting through my unwitting fleshy conduit David Kantrowitz, and I’m here to introduce my new blog to this planet.

Wait, what?  This is David Kantrowitz, and I’m the author of Reckless Faith, The Tarantula Nebula, and Bitter Arrow, a science fiction adventure trilogy.  This blog will feature new fiction, published in episodic fashion.  I also plan on posting book reviews of other favorites I have read or will read in the future.

As a disclaimer, you should take any anti-radiation meds you have on you, as it has just been conclusively proven that all blogs are a source of deadly radioactive iodine.

Cheers!

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