18 April 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A Hunger in the Soul by Mike Resnick

A Hunger in the Soul (Birthright #24)A Hunger in the Soul by Mike Resnick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mike Resnick takes us on a new journey across alien landscapes in this powerful quest. Dr. Michael Drake, a great medical researcher, chose to disappear into the jungles of the world called Bushveld, but now the human-settled Galaxy needs him to combat a new plague. Journalist-adventurer Robert Markham has determined to locate Drake and bring him back to civilization...whether he wants to come or not.

A good novel with a good story and some good characters that is set inside the framework of Resnick's Birthright universe along with many of his other novels. It's a short book but very enjoyable and demonstrates how good Resnick is with shorter works. Following along with the members of an expedition to find a man on a primitive planet, we're treated to a good tale of survival and an interesting narrative of humankind's place in the galactic community. The title itself hints at the greater philosophical theme of the story, where humankind has forged a way for itself across the galaxy and subdued anything and everything that gets in the way. It's a quick read with just the right amount of action and tension to keep the reader interested and there's lots of interesting creatures and beings encountered along the way. The conclusion of the story fits really well with the overall concept and leaves you quite satisfied.

"Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Mike Resnick once again shows why he so often wins those two major honors from fans and writers of the genre of science fiction."

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15 April 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Guardians of the Phoenix by Eric Brown

Guardians of the PhoenixGuardians of the Phoenix by Eric Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Global warming has taken its terrible toll. The seas have dried up and deserts cover much of the Earth's surface. Humankind has been annihilated by drought and the nuclear and biological conflicts following the Great Breakdown. Desperate bands of humans still survive. Some live far underground, away from the searing temperatures and ongoing conflicts on the surface; others scrape a living in the remains of shattered cities above ground. In Paris, Paul lives like an animal among the sand-drifted ruins of the once great city. Near death, he faces a choice: join the strangers heading south in search of water, or remain in the city and perish. Guardians of the Phoenix tells the story of the last survivors on planet Earth, their desperate fight for survival and their last hope to save the world.

Given the fact that Eric Brown is one of my favorite authors, this book has been sitting in my 'to read' stack for a while now. It's typical stuff for Brown, well written with good characters and plenty of action, which is surprisingly graphic and sometimes rather gory, but the plot and the nature of the story calls for this. I admit to being a little concerned when I first started the book that it was going to be no more than just another post-apocalyptic survival of the meanest tale, but Brown managed to keep me hooked with hints of a greater story that lends hope and interest to the otherwise bleak outlook. A good dystopian type novel with a real sci-fi plot at it's center that I think any Eric Brown fan will enjoy, as will most other readers who enjoy well crafted fiction with a bit of pace to it.

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11 April 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Hitler's Terror Weapons: From Doodlebug to Nuclear Warheads by Geoffrey Brooks

Hitler's Terror Weapons: From Doodlebug to Nuclear WarheadsHitler's Terror Weapons: From Doodlebug to Nuclear Warheads by Geoffrey Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the story of the Terror Weapons developed by Hitler and Nazi Germany that were intended to be unleashed with devastating effect on the rest of the World. The book charts the development of the V rockets and their successes against allied targets. It then goes on to look at the even more sinister deadly weapons that Hitler was planning and developing, but fortunately did not succeed in producing. Hitler's Terror Weapons tells of the desperate efforts of the Nazis to produce war-winning weapons, and the measures taken by the Allies at the high levels to frustrate them in their aim.

Not a bad book at all, but it focuses more on the philosophy and doctrine behind the development of the infamous terror weapons and not so much the details of the devices themselves. Such information is present, albeit in lesser amounts than I would have liked. Among the information presented by Brooks is some really interesting stuff about the origins of the Ayrean doctrines and how this affected scientific thought in Nazi Germany of the day. Also the alleged fact that the Nazi movement was, in fact, an evolution of ancient Tibetan/Oriental mysticism was quite startling and the first time I've come across this idea. Overall an interesting and well-written book that would've got another star from me had there been more about the nuts and bolts of the weapons themselves.

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09 April 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Starhawk by Jack McDevitt

Starhawk (The Academy, #7)Starhawk by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Priscilla Hutchins has been through many experiences. This is the story of her first unforgettable adventure….

Priscilla "Hutch” Hutchins has finally realized her lifelong dream: She’s completed a nerve-bending qualification flight for a pilot’s license. 
Her timing is far from optimal, however. Faster-than-light travel has only recently become a reality, and the World Space Authority is still learning how to manage long-range missions safely. To make matters worse, efforts to prepare two planets for colonization are killing off native life-forms, outraging people on Earth. 
So there’s not a lot of demand for space pilots. Priscilla thinks her career may be over before it has begun. But her ambition won’t be denied, and soon she is on the bridge of an interstellar ship, working for the corporation that is responsible for the terraforming. 
Her working conditions include bomb threats, sabotage, clashes with her employers—and a mission to a world, adrift between the stars, that harbors a life-form unlike anything humanity has ever seen. Ultimately, she will be part of a life-and-death struggle that will test both her capabilities and her character...

The first of the Academy series for me, I chose this one because it's apparently a prequel to the other six books in the series and introduces Priscilla who is the main character of the series. I give it four stars because of how well written it is, and how smoothly the story rolls along with good characters and fantastic world-building. However, there is a small (very small) level of disappointment because the story didn't really seem to go anywhere terribly interesting or exciting. There was enough action and mystery to keep me involved but I found myself waiting for a jump into a big scene where things really open up. This wasn't to be, but I guess the purpose of the story is to introduce us to the main character of the Academy series, and this the book does well, enough to make me take an interest in the other books. A very well written story by one of the most popular authors of the genre. Aside from what I said above, I say try it. It's pretty good.

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05 April 2014

Tranz Alpine Scooter Safari 2014

For those of you who don't know about it, the Tranz Alpine Scooter Safari is on again this year (May 24th) down here on New Zealand's South Island, and again I'm helping to run things on the day.

The Scooter Safari is not a race – it’s an awareness-raising and fundraising event for the survivors, families of those with cancer and those committed to making a difference. In raising awareness and also funds for the Cancer Society of New Zealand, we'll help them continue their amazing work making sure those people living with cancer, their family, friends and colleagues as well as the health professionals that support them get access to information and support, from the moment of diagnosis right through to treatment and recovery.

In 2012 a staggering $245,000 was raised. It will be interesting to see if that can be topped.

Check out the website at the following link to learn more about the event and also ways that you can help.

04 April 2014