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Search tags: short-science-fiction
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review 2016-03-25 18:55
Can you keep a secret?
The Initiate (The Rifters Book 2) - M. Pax

They say it's tough to keep a secret in a small town, but in Settler keeping a secret is a matter of life and death. That's because of the rift between the two obsidian columns. Unearthly things come through the Rift. The Rifters protect us from those nasties while keeping their existence secret.


Although she's a newcomer to settler, and hasn't even drawn her first paycheck as town librarian, Daelin is not only a Rifter but has also been recently promoted to Initiate. A lot has happened to her since losing her job and personal goods in New York. There, her boss betrayed her. Here, she's asked to trust the Rifters. It bothers her to be keeping secrets from her new teammates, but her life is full of uncertainties and it's difficult to know where to place her trust. Unresolved issues with family, friendships and teammates fill her head when she's not fighting for her life.


One thing I like about this story is the way it explores the main character's personal issues and back stories. Another thing I like is its location. If you've ever wondered what it's like to live in a small western town and about the secrets that small town people keep, you'll find out here, at least

fictitiously. It's a story filled with goofily repurposed gadgets, missing and temporally misplaced persons, and lots of sandwiches.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-03-12 18:26
Creeped Out
No Dogs in Philly: A Lovecraftian Cyberpunk Noir (Special Sin Book 1) - Andy Futuro


I picked up a copy for free on Amazon.  This book has more than 50 reviews, many quite positive. It's the author's only Amazon entry and the first of a series.


It lives up to its claim of being Lovecraftian cyberpunk noir. The detective noir is well realized, the cyberpunk, appropriate. As for the Lovecraftian bits … well, they creeped me out.


Our heroine, Saru, like many noir detectives, makes steady use of whatever alcohol she carries or comes across. She thinks this makes it more difficult to hack her implants. But it doesn't work. She's prone to odd blackouts and dysphoria. But that's understandable. What's attacking her is not of this world, and it wants to incorporate her, along with the multitude it already has.


This dismal dystopian story is creepier than a Bosch Hell and as conventional as psychotic delusions:


"Looking at his kindly old Santa Claus face it was almost impossible to imagine that he had just shot wires into her neck and sucked out her blood, that he was talking to her above a pit full of thousands of bodies in front of the cathedral of an alien death cult … "


If you like this sort of thing, you'll probably enjoy this book. SPOILER ALERT: It doesn't end like a detective story but in a literal Deus Ex Machina.

(spoiler show)


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review 2016-01-12 01:31
I robot. You robot?
Chinese Room - Martin Chu Shui

Although this interesting story is readably told, I didn't enjoy it much. I found the dialog unconvincing and several points overstated.


The title refers to a hypothetical method by which an artificially intelligent machine could convince a human that its intelligence was natural. In the book, robots were indistinguishable from humans because some humans had embedded chips enhancing their abilities. This seems unconvincing to me since it overlooks other ways of telling humans from robots.


I recently re-watched the movie, Blade Runner. Although it was made years ago I still find it convincing despite the cheesy way in which it presents genetic engineering. I had no difficulty believing that Replicants are intelligent engineered beings which exist in the distant future of 2019.


What makes Blade Runner believable is good world building. It's inadequate to simply state that the climate is over-heated and human extinction imminent. A reader must be shown, and not with garden parties that are indistinguishable from those of the present day. Better world building would have improved this book.


A final point: Although the author sometimes gets it right, he sometimes confuses intelligence with consciousness. This is forgivable because some scientific writers have made the same mistake. However, the two are not the same.


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text 2016-01-01 19:24
My Resolution


It's New Year's Day and I've made a resolution. This year I'll read and review more short science fiction novels. Years ago these thin paperbacks could be found stuffed like bumper crop fruit on the racks of rotating drugstore displays. Now you don't see them much in stores. They've been replaced by longer titles since people want better value when buying much more expensive paperbacks.


Although it's now more difficult to find them in print, many popular books have been short. Consider these:


  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


All contain fewer than 50,000 words. I'll be reviewing books under 65,000 words.


Since these books won't come from retailer's shelves, I'll be reading them as eBooks. Many shorter eBook titles are written by self-published authors. I don't mind that, but I do have standards, so here's what I won't be reading:

  • Anything that begins with a lengthy information dump. Milieu building should be natural.
  • Anything that makes wildly unscientific assumptions. The galaxy is huge. Spaceships that easily travel between galaxies fail to convince me.
  • Anything stuffed with technical or military jargon.
  • Anything that uses convoluted grammar or unpronounceable words.


I'm open to suggestions and free copies. I'm daveloeff at gmail dot com.

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text 2015-11-14 22:32
This author reads all his reviews, and he's pretty awesome, too!
A Man Like Me: A Science Fiction Short Story - Austin Grisham

I was worried about his notice at the end of the book, but I'd read it all, and I had things to say. 


You can read the author's response here.


You do have to scroll down a bit, but, yeah, he took no issue with me pointing out some editing errors.   Given the fact that I liked the ideas, and the editing errors weren't horrendous or too numerous*, and given his response here, I would read more by him in a heartbeat.   Yay!


*If they had been, I wouldn't be eager to read more.

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