26 October 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Beyond Area 51 by Mack Maloney

Beyond Area 51Beyond Area 51 by Mack Maloney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The truth can’t be hidden forever.

Few have ventured into the many heavily guarded, top-secret locations scattered across the earth. Even fewer have emerged with stories to tell. Yet every now and then the common man is given an illicit glimpse of something extraordinary...

In Beyond Area 51, Mack Maloney explores the truths behind the many myths and legends surrounding some of the world’s most mysterious locales. From the Homestead Air Force base in Miami, Florida to Russia’s Kapustin Yar, Maloney investigates incredible reports of extraterrestrial experimentation on animals, UFOs with road rage, and other unbelievable tales beyond our wildest imaginings. Filled with fascinating, true accounts, Beyond Area 51 will convince any skeptic of the infinite possibilities of what exists on, and beyond, our tiny planet.

Alien Body 080723 at Kapustin Yar, Russia

This book was actually better than I thought it would be and is very well written. Not really about Area 51 at all, but it's essentially a brief rundown on a number of 'secret' bases and facilities around the globe that are alleged to be connected with the UFO phenomenon (see image above) and other strange events. Maloney presents the information in a relatively neutral way and tends to call a spade a spade, ie. when something sounds bogus or outrageous then he says so, which I liked. A good book for those new to the UFO and conspiracy topic, it's all quite general and impartial in nature with a closer look at a few cases. It introduces the reader to the bigger idea that there's quite possibly more going on around us than meets the eye. I recommend it.

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24 October 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge by Mike Resnick

Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge by Mike Resnick
My rating: 5 out of 5

An excellent piece of short fiction from an excellent storyteller and it's clear to see why this story has won pretty much every major award possible (it won both the Hugo and Nebula awards plus many others).

In the far future, long after the demise of the human race along with it's huge galactic empire, a group of alien archaeologists visits Earth in an attempt to uncover the truth of the dead race's initial success followed by its ultimate death. Sifting through the layers of archaeological sites at Olduvai Gorge (in what was Tanzania in Africa), they discover seven unique artifacts, each related to a different era of humanity's history and each telling a unique story about humankind's strengths and weaknesses. But are they prepared for their final discovery, which will change their worlds forever?

I found it fascinating to look back on our species from the far future after we've built ourselves up, achieved so much to literally inherit the stars, only to descend back to where we started. Ashes to ashes indeed. This story helps to see our ignorance, the arrogance that we seem to possess as a species. I never thought I would find the viewpoints and opinions of a group of aliens so enlightening. A great read and another example of how fiction in short form suits the science fiction genre so well. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.

23 October 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Fatal Boarding by E.R. Mason

Fatal BoardingFatal Boarding by E.R. Mason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“I have never believed in going strictly by the book. My six-foot-two frame has an assortment of scars and marks that readily attest to that. It’s the main reason I’ve never been offered a higher position on a big-draft. But, when things really go to hell, I’m always the first one to get the call. They trust me with their lives, but not their jobs.” -- Adrian Tarn, Chief Security Officer, Starship Electra

Another of those surprises that comes along one in a while and a book that gave me a lot of enjoyment. I received an email from a friend about this book which is a free giveaway at Smashwords. He reckoned it was pretty good, so I decided to have a look. It turns out he was right.
In this great story, the faster than light starship Electra encounters a derelict alien vessel floating inert while cruising on a regular charting tour of space. It's told first-person from the perspective of Adrian Tarn who is the senior security officer aboard the ship. The ship stops to check out the dead vessel and what awaits them on there creates some problems that they were not prepared for. A struggle ensues to survive aboard the ship and overcome the alien menace that has got them by the balls.
The story moves along at a good pace, just right in fact and I found myself really looking forward to my reading time while in this book. Not every book does that. I liked the characters and could really relate to Adrian's viewpoint on many things. We're treated to his philosophical views of life and people and various situations which are interesting and frequently amusing. There's enough action to keep me interested and the conclusion is satisfying.
I'd have given it five stars had it not been for a large number of typographical errors (albeit minor ones, spelling mistakes, etc.) that did start to bug me after a while. Overall a really good book that I think most sci-fi fans would enjoy.

Get the ebook for free HERE.

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17 October 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2013 (Vol 133, No. 12)Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2013 by Trevor Quachri
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2013, Volume CXXXIII No. 12
Trevor Quachri, editor
Cover art by Mark Evans

"Lockstep", part I of IV, by Karl Schroeder 

"Chorus Line" by Daniel Hatch
"Ian, George, and George" by Paul Levinson

Short Stories
"The Deer Girl Hitches a Ride" by Sarah Frost
"Fear Response" by Lesley L. Smith
"Oedipus at the Sperm Bank" by Joel Richards

Science Fact
"Homesteading the Stars: Colony vs Crew" by David Livingstone Clink

Guest Editorial: "Hacked Off" by Edward M. Lerner

The Alternate View: "The 2013 Starship Century Symposium" by John G. Kramer

A good issue with a good guest editorial about cyber espionage and hacking and also an interesting fact article about the feasibility of the classic idea of the colony ship headed for the stars. None of the shorter fiction was really impressive for me, but I enjoyed very much the first part of the serial 'Lockstep' by Karl Schroeder. The concept of this interstellar community is quite different and the plot sounds like it might ramp up quite nicely. I'm looking forward to following the story through. As usual the book review section outlines some interesting sounding books that have increased the length of my 'to read' list (it's long enough already), and there are some good letters to the editor too. I would've given another star had the short stories been more to my liking. Overall a satisfying read, but I guess you'd expect that after all these years.

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12 October 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Seven Rules by D.C.A. Mackenzie

Seven RulesSeven Rules by D.C.A. Mackenzie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Andy Anderson is not a happy lad. His father left him years ago, his mother ignores him and he has a reputation for being a bit of a ‘loose cannon’ at school.
So, it would have surprised no-one when Andy indulged himself in a little petty theft during a school trip. The mystic Talisman Andy ‘acquired’ had hidden powers that unlocked the gates of time and threw him back in history where his sudden appearance causes an innocent man to die a slow, lingering death.
Aided by his good mate Tim and unwittingly coerced by shadowy underworld guardians, Andy bounces between dates three hundred years apart and travels the globe to save the life he put in danger when he used the Talisman. On his travels Andy befriends an obnoxious blue-blooded playboy, London gangsters and Mayan warriors. To avoid capture by the evil sect pursuing him, Andy flies, crashes, fights, runs, gains a father, and even wades neck deep in poo. But it’s only when Andy thinks the danger has past and the end is near, the sect really have him in their sights.

A fun ride through history with action and machines that kids (and big kids) will love.
Andy and Tim are propelled through their adventure at a rapid pace and face challenges and thrills by the bucket load. They are swept up in a thrilling adventure that takes in the present day, pre-World War Two Britain and the 16th century Mayan civilization. There's also really good informative content about the machines and history that are encountered along the way which brings an nice extra dimension to the tale. The epic journey in a really cool de Havilland Comet racing plane is a particular favorite of mine.
The feel and pace of the story is very much like Biggles crossed with Indiana Jones although the book stands on it's own with plenty of originality along with the effective use of numerous tropes and ideas synonymous with the genre. Heaps of hallmarks of great adventure stories are present.
Overall a fantastic book that I reckon any young adult with a sense of adventure will enjoy. I enjoyed it as an adult! Hopefully the first of more adventures from this exciting new author.

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11 October 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Commando: Bandits at 12 O'Clock

Commando: Bandits at 12 O'Clock: The Twelve Most High Flying Commando Comic Books Ever!Commando: Bandits at 12 O'Clock: The Twelve Most High Flying Commando Comic Books Ever! by George Low
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everybody who has ever turned a page of a Commando war library has a favorite air story. The first thing to catch the attention are the names—Spitfire, Hurricane, Typhoon, Tempest, Whirlwind, Mosquito. Who wouldn’t want to read a story with aircraft like that twisting and turning through the pages, machine guns or cannon flaming? And then there are the men who flew the fighters, bombers, seaplanes, flying boats, and transport aircraft into combat. These pilots of every nationality had one aim—to make sure that they won their deadly duels high in the sky. Here is a collection of some of the finest and most exciting air adventures ever published by Commando, so strap in, buckle up, and enjoy the ride!

What a jolly excellent trip down memory lane, reading these stories brought back so many memories from my youth when I would enjoy a jaunt through one of my Commando comics. Some other chaps I knew and I had quite a swap system going on for a while.
I usually would prefer the air combat tales and that is what this collection is all about, with twelve of some of the best Commando air combat stories. There are some real beauties here - we've got renegade bomber crews, glory-seeking heroes and heaps of top blokes hell-bent on inflicting as much destruction as possible on those terrible Nazis and Japs. Oh no.
I loved them all but the standouts for me were 'A Stirling Called Satan' about a Stirling bomber that appears to be jinxed but comes good in the end, and 'Mosquito Ace' which tells of a New Zealander Mosquito pilot who pays back a debt owed to the French Resistance.
As is the idea with this sort of thing there are satisfactory endings to the stories with the goodies winning (not the cursed Krauts or Nips) and lots of 'Aaargh!', 'Aieeee!', 'Himmel!' and 'Banzai!' among other well-used vociferations and buzzwords. Top stuff.

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04 October 2013

Cool old comics and pulp fiction

If you like a lot of the old 'golden era' comics and pulp fiction titles then you will absolutely love Comc Book Plus. To quote the site introduction itself:

"We are the original and still the premier site to read and download Golden and Silver Age comic books. Plus, we also hold a large and growing selection of comic strips and pulp fiction.
The even better news is that all the content is FREE and LEGAL.
This is a historically significant archive, that has taken a great many people thousands of hours to create and we are ever vigilant to ensure that no content breaches copyright or trademark laws."

There is some amazing stuff on this site and there is a load of new stuff being added daily. All of the content is free to read on their site, but if you want to download anything you will need to register - which is free. Check it out.

03 October 2013

FREE BOOK: Halo by Paul Cook

Phoenix Pick continues their free eBook promotion this month with Halo by Paul Cook.

The mysterious alien artifact called the Halo came quietly and mysteriously and then sowed the earth with seeds that threatened to destroy humanity by destroying their souls. But the aliens had underestimated the human spirit and a band of Moon-based scientists survive to fight and take back what is rightfully ours.
A powerful, visionary and scary look into our future and a possible encounter with an alien species almost impossible to beat.

Instructions and download links can be found on Phoenix Pick’s catalog page.
The Coupon Code for the free eBook this month is 9991734 and is only good between October 2nd – October 31, 2013. Grab it now!