Scott Sigler is one of those new fangled podcast novelists who is revolutionizing the publishing industry. Sigler offered audiences his first couple o...moreScott Sigler is one of those new fangled podcast novelists who is revolutionizing the publishing industry. Sigler offered audiences his first couple of novels free to the whoever wanted to download them. Through hard work and shameless self-promotion, Sigler got his name out there, drew in audiences and created a network of 30,000 plus rabid fans who couldn’t wait for the next insallment or novel.
Eventually, the publishing industry took notice and signed Sigler to a contract to put his stories in the old-fashioned brick and mortar stores. And unlike some first-time authors of this kind, Sigler wasn’t going out in paperback or a trade paperback. He was going hardcover with a full-on marketing push and blitz.
The first major label publication is Sigler’s popular story “Infected.” Not only because it’s one of his better books, but also becuase it’s creating the universe that Sigler plays in other novels. Hopefully the blitz and the publication will create new fans for Sigler as they realize what many of his podcast fans have known for years–the man can write one hell of a novel.
“Infected” is an alien invasion story, of sorts. Every-man Perry Dawson’s body has been invaded by some kind of alien virus. It starts out as a rash, but slowly evolves into something worse, to the point that the virus can communicate telepathically with Perry. The organisms are slowly turning into something, something sinister. But what they are and where they came from aren’t exactly know to Perry.
Meanwhile, a government team is trying to find a connection between a set of seemingly well-adjusted people who suddenly go mad and on a killing spree. One connection is the crazy person become suicidal and their bodies decay quickly after death.
These plot threads slowly and inevitably come on a collision course.
The first thing to warn readers is that “Infected” is not for the faint of heart. Perry’s attempts to get the sores out of his body become more and more intense as the story goes along. This is not a book to be read while eating or even if you’ve eaten lately or if you’re thinking of eating later. It is, however, a great book to lose weight by reading. Sigler finds the perfect balance between giving enough information on what’s unfolding and allowing our imaginations to fill in the rest.
The portions of the story with March are the most compelling of the book. Sigler seems to channel Stephen King or Richard Matheson in finding the everyman who is in some bizarre circumstance and trying to figure out how to react to it. March’s descent into madness works because Sigler lays out the journey and the decisions that eventually lead to his actions. That said, you’ll never look at chicken scissors in quite the same way again.
Where the story does drag a bit is in the governmental pursuit of the virus. While March’s story has a definite beginning, middle and end, the story of what the virus is and the pursuit of it feels more like the opening salvo of a larger storyline. If you’re looking for a lot of answers on that front, you’re going to come away being disappointed. “Infected” clearly leaves itself open for a sequel and I just hope sales justify the next installment of this series.
Of course, I guess even if they don’t the good news is that Sigler would still deliver the novel via podcast.
But why not pick up the book and encourage them to give us more? At times, “Infected” is a white-knuckle thriller that will keep the pages turning and there are certain scenes that will huant you long after the final page is turned. It’s a bloody, dark, violent gruesome affair and one of the best “first novels” I’ve read in a long time. Some day we may all look back and say, “Oh yeah, I read Sigler back when….”
Get on board the train now. You won’t regret it. (less)
Harry Dresden's universe keeps expanding with the seventh installment of The Dresden Files, "Dead Beat." I read somewhere that Jim Butcher takes a lot...moreHarry Dresden's universe keeps expanding with the seventh installment of The Dresden Files, "Dead Beat." I read somewhere that Jim Butcher takes a lot of joy in putting his hero through the wringer and no where is that more true than in this book. Harry is beaten up physically and emotionally over the course of a novel that expands the on-going conflict between the Red and White councils, puts Harry at the center of a conflict to bring forth a god-like being and pushes some of the on-going plotlines of the series forward in an interesting fashion.
Harry's hired to find a lost book. Well, maybe hired is the wrong word. More like blackmailed in order to keep his friend, Karin Murphy out of trouble. Harry agrees, not realizing what he's getting himself into. Things quickly go from bad to worse for Dresden as the story unfolds.
"Dead Beat" finds Dresden become more world-weary from his battles with various demons, mosnters and villians, but he's still the same guy we met back in "Storm Front." He's a good man, trying to make the right choices, no matter how tempting the lure of the dark path might be. The story is an epic, sweeping one that will draw you in from the first page and keep the pages turning until the last one is done. Then, you'll be eager and anxious for the next installment, especially give some of the series-changing events that happen here.
And while it's good, I didn't find "Dead Beat" as great as the last several installments of the series. Part of that may be that missing elements of Murphy, who is off in Hawaii during these events.
That said, this is still the best fantasy series in print today and well worth the time. (less)
Star Trek novels used to be about whatever crew you were reading about showing up at a planet, finding something wacky and then spending the novel sol...moreStar Trek novels used to be about whatever crew you were reading about showing up at a planet, finding something wacky and then spending the novel solving whatever crisis they stumbled across. You could jump in and out of the Trek novels without much knowledge of prior events beyond which characters you were reading about this week. Rarely did the novels build on one another and create some type of overall cohesive storyline or continuity.
Then came New Frontier and changed the equation. Now it seems as if every Trek novels wants to tie-in to either an on-going series or the entire novel line as a whole. And as with all things Trek, there are some that do it well (New Frontier, DS9) and some that just don't quite spark my interest (Voyager). Somewhere in the middle are the voyages of the Titan, a spin-off from Next Generation featuring the adventures of Captain William T. Riker and his crew. The Titan is an explortion vessel and after spending the first three books dealing with the fall-out of Nemesis, "Sword of Damocles" finally feels as if it's the first official stand-alone episode of this new series.
Not that you can't or shouldn't have read the first three to get everything that's going on here. There are some subplots that will be richer if you know the background, but on the whole this is the first truly independent Titan novel and the best of the series to date. The Titan explores a region of space that disrupts the ability to generate a warp bubble and power the ship. Finding a nearby planet is the culprit, Titan sends a shuttle (they work out some technobabble way to get there) to investigate and ask the planet's inhabitants to cease their experiments in order to allow the ship to go free. The storyline opens up some real-world implications in the application of the Prime Directive that are far more compelling than a lot of the standard Trek episodes that look at if a captain and ship have the right to interfere or not. The argument that it's a nice policy until it bites you out on the frontier is fascinating.
The story does involve time travel, paradoxes and the notion of fate and destiny. However, in a story that could easily have been muddles under the weight of its various eras, paradoxes and solutions, the story stays straight-forward and it's easy to figure out where the characters are and what is happening. The only bad part is that solution becomes fairly evident early on in the crisis and plays out pretty much as you'd expect for a Trek novel.
That's not say it's a bad thing. There's a comfort in the obvious solutions of Trek novels at times and this one is no exception.
Not exactly a sequel to "Doomsday Book" but a novel set in the same universe with the appearance of several minor characters from the original. Ned is...moreNot exactly a sequel to "Doomsday Book" but a novel set in the same universe with the appearance of several minor characters from the original. Ned is suffering from time lag, a condition brought about by making too many jumps to the past to try and find the bishop's bird stump. In the future, a rich benefactor is restoring the Covington Cathedral at great expense and wants every detail perfect. She has promised the University funding if she can utilize their time travel technology to make sure everything is exact, something which seemed like a good idea at the time but comes with unintended consequences.
To escape the nagging of Lady Shrapnel, Ned is sent back in time to a different era to restore history. Seems a fellow historian brought back an artifact, something that should never happen. Ned's goal is to return the artifact before history is set completely off course.
Willis' book is a fun, entertaining read that has a tendency to wander down the primrose path at times. For the middle third, Ned is trying to figure out what his assignment is and not having a good go of it. The book also starts at a deliberate pace, setting up the universe and the characters. However, the final third that examines the nature of time and the implications of time travel is fascinating and will please most sci-fi fans. (less)
While "I, Robot" may be more recognized as the source for Asimov's famous three laws of robotics, it's his series of books about the partnership betwe...moreWhile "I, Robot" may be more recognized as the source for Asimov's famous three laws of robotics, it's his series of books about the partnership between a human detective, Lije Bailey and his android partner, R. Danell Olivaw, that are the more compelling and fascinating.
"The Caves of Steel" is the first (and best of the four) entry in the series, introducing us to Bailey, Daneel and a future world in which humanity lives inside massive, interconnected steel domes. Humans rarely venture outside and Earth is slowly dying due to overpopulation. A group of aliens called Spacers are colonizing other worlds, using robotic help but have limited how and where humanity can colonize.
When a Spacer is killed, Bailey is called upon to solve the case. Bailey must overcome his prejudice toward Spacers and robots to work on the case and with the robotic partner. It's the conflict between Bailey's dislike and distrust of robots and Spacers that drives a lot of the novel and makes it an utterly compelling, character-driven, world-building effort by Issac Asimov.
If you've only read his "Foundation" novels, you've missed out on one of the biggest pleasures in all of science-fiction by overlooking the Robot stories. Yes, later in life Asimov did work to tie these books into the Foundation series, but the first three in the series can be enjoyed purely on their own merits.
Add to all that world-building, a fairly well done murder mystery and you may have one of the most perfect gems in not only science-fiction but also all of literature. Asimov said that he could create a mystery within a sci-fi story without having to resort to a deus ex machine type of resolution and he does here. He establishes the rules for the universe early in the novel and doesn't change them to fit the ending or solution he wants or needs.
A fascinating book and one of my favorites. Definitely worth reading or reading again. (less)
Created specifically for audio book, "Pest Control" is an entertaining little story that encapsulates everything that's right and wrong about the mode...moreCreated specifically for audio book, "Pest Control" is an entertaining little story that encapsulates everything that's right and wrong about the modern Doctor Who.
Read by David Tennant, the story finds the Doctor and Donna arriving on a planet torn apart by war. Each side has secrets and there's another evil lurking out there.
Not exactly ground-breaking Who, but it's still enjoyable enough for a quick listen. (less)
Before vampires were brooding, sparkly and sexy, Bram Stoker and Richard Matheson made them scary. They were creatures of the night, meant to be feare...moreBefore vampires were brooding, sparkly and sexy, Bram Stoker and Richard Matheson made them scary. They were creatures of the night, meant to be feared and avoided at all costs.
If it was Stoker that introduced us to the world of the undead blood suckers, it was Matheson who took the genre the next step forward, exploring how the tropes of vampire mythology could be true based on scientific principles of the time.
But to categorize "I Am Legend" as just as vampire story is a huge mistake. As with all of the best Matheson stories, the supernatural element is the gateway to exploring something deeper about human beings. In this case, it's an exploration of loneliness and the depths it can drive a person to.
Robert Neville is the last survivor of the vampire apocalypse, started when China and Russia unleashed germ warfare as part of a border war. The germ proved too effective, quickly spreading across the globe and wiping out large chunks of humanity. Neville is immune to the disease thanks to a vampire bat bite he got while serving in Central America years before. Neville faces not only the horror of being tormented each night by a hoard of vampires led by his old friend, Ben Cortman, but he also has to live with the guilt that he had to kill his wife and daughter when they were resurrected as vampires by the virus.
As the story begins, Neville is eking out a day to day existence in which his only concerns are ensuring his house is safe from the vampire hoards each night and trying to deal with the oppressive loneliness he feels every waking minute of the day. It's been a long time since Neville had any company of any kind and the hope of female companionship is just one of the lures the vampires try to use each evening to draw Neville out in a moment of weakness.
Neville's essential isolation is underlined by his attempts to connect to anything that could possibly be a link to a normal life. Neville feels hopes when he sees an uninfected dog roaming the neighborhood and spends weeks trying to get the animal to trust him. Later he sees what appears to be an unaffected woman and he chases her down like a madman, trying to keep her from fleeing. Of course, what Neville doesn't realize is that the vampires are evolving and creating their own society. And that to them, he's become the monster and stuff of nightmares--an unchanged human with no regard to the fact that there are two different types of vampires now--some who are mindless killing machines and others who are evolving into something more.
Neville is typical Matheson hero--the everyman facing extraordinary circumstances and trying not only to come to grips with them but to survive. Unlike many of the movie adaptations (when will Hollywood get this story right?!?), Neville doesn't start out as scientist but becomes one over the course of the story. Circumstances force him to begin a process of learning and studying to see if a cure is possible and why certain elements of the vampire lore might be true. Matheson's idea may or may not be scientifically credible in the real world, but they work within the confines of the story and make the entire novella that much richer for it.
One of the good things about "I Am Legend" is that the vampires in it are scary monsters, something to be feared and protected against. But Matheson also shows not only the evolution of Neville, but the evolution of the vampires as well. Early on, the vampires try to tempt Neville with the women pulling up their dresses and Cortland telling him to surrender and leave his safehouse. But as the novel goes along, the vampires become less aggressive in their attack, setting up a devious trap that eventually leads to Neville's downfall. It's a fascinating arc to consider and one has to wonder what the vampire society being created might be like once the final page of the story is turned.
"I Am Legend" is a great portal to exploring the literary world of Mattheson. Most editions of "Legend" will include a few short stories to give you a bit more of a taste of how good Matheson can be. In many ways, he's one of the most prolific and influential writers that most people haven't heard of. Stephen King often cites him as one of his biggest influences and the more you read of both, the more you'll see the connection.
"I Am Legend" is a classic of multiple genres and worthy of a read or even a re-read. I've read it several times now and enjoyed it each time. If you've not read it, put it on the to be read list. If you have read it, maybe it's time to visit it again and sit back in wonder of how good Matheson can be.
And Hollywood--it's about damn time you got the movie version of this book right.
I've been aware of Philip K. Dick as an author since I was 12 or 13 years old. That's not because I was reading novels by Dick at that age, but more b...moreI've been aware of Philip K. Dick as an author since I was 12 or 13 years old. That's not because I was reading novels by Dick at that age, but more because his novels were often placed close to the "Doctor Who" novelizations by Terrance Dicks in the sci-fi section of the bookstore and library.
It wasn't until I was a bit older and saw "Blade Runner" and "Total Recall" that I decided it might be time to sample a little bit of what PKD had to offer.
One of my first entries into the literary world of PKD was "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep." This is probably the case for a lot of people given how easily accessible it is--not only from a literary standpoint but because it's easy to find in multiple paperback editions at most new and used bookstores. "Androids" is very much an entry level PKD work and it's a good place to get your bearings and find out if you'd like to go deeper into PKD's world of questioning reality and paranoia.
Next up in my literary overview of PKD was his second most famous novel, "The Man in the High Castle." It was the selection of the month by a science-fiction book club I'd joined. I remember reading it at the time, feeling a bit perplexed by book and feeling like if there were an audio version of the book that George Takai should read it.
"The Man in the High Castle" is certainly a deeper PKD novel that "Androids" but it's one that I'd argue is just as accessible to readers. It's one of the first alternate histories published and it deals with what question of what would the world be like if the United States had lost the second World War. Interestingly, the novel doesn't really start off telling you what its premise is, but instead introduces this universe over the course of several chapters. There's no long infodump of how the universe ended up this way and where history took a different turn from the one we're used to. Instead, PDK fills in the details as needed throughout the story and even leaves it up to the readers to fill in some of the rest.
But make no mistake--while this is, on the surface, an alternate history story, many of the standard PKD themes are on full display here.
One is the question of what is real and what isn't. This is most evident in the story of Robert Childan, an owner of a shop that specializes in pre-War American "artifacts." Childan believes that his offerings are authentic antiques but finds out that some of what he's offering are cleverly forgeries. Childan than begins to question everything in his store and whether it's real or forged. Chidan has built a reputation on offering quality, authentic pieces and while he bears a great deal of ill-will to the totalitarian Japanese regime and people, he's still conflicted by his need to win their approval and possibly become part of their social structure. Several scenes with Childan trying to impress a young Japanese couple who has come into his store are intrigued as we watch his internal struggle to say the right thing and not offend them, all while wondering why he bothers because he also finds them inferior.
Of course, this being a PKD book, the question of what's real doesn't just extend to trinkets like a gun from the old West or a Mickey Mouse watch. (Both are pivotal to the story). The book ingeniously creates an alternate history within the alternate history in the form of the novel, "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy." The novel speculates on how the world would be if the Allies won World War II. And while it gets the broad strokes right, it still misses a few things. The book is banned in the Nazi dominated sections of the world and the Nazis have a plan to assignate the author.
Several of the characters read the book and are aware of it during the course of the story. The story within the story shows how some of the characters are deeply aware of how their version of history may not be the proper one, but they're trapped within it, unable to escape. This storyline is one that questions the essential nature of reality and is one that is prevalent in a lot of other PDK novels and short stories.
If there's one complaint that I can lodge with "Man in the High Castle" it's that the story isn't necessarily the most linear. PKD introduces a lot of characters, many of whom know each other but many of whom don't. The connections that come to exist between some of them is intriguing. The novel has a beginning and an end, but it's not necessarily following the conventional rules of story and structure we all learned in high school English classes. And yet, I'd say the book is stronger for that. It read less like a drug-induced ranting that many of PKD's later books become and it also is one that assumes the reader is intelligent enough to follow the threads and put pieces together. It's certainly a challenging novel, not only to read but also in its implications.
And that's what makes it a classic for me and one of my favorites books. It's also a story that rewards reading it again every couple of years. (less)
"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine..."
That line from the old REM song pretty much sums up Nevil Shute's "On the Beach." The worl...more"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine..."
That line from the old REM song pretty much sums up Nevil Shute's "On the Beach." The world has ended and everyone's pretty much OK with it.
Written in the late 50's and set in the near future of the early 60's, "On the Beach" finds World War III has come and gone. The final battle was set off by a misunderstanding with the bigger nuclear powers shooting first and asking questions later. The result is the northern hemisphere is gone, nuked to oblivion and the southern hemisphere is waiting for the radiation to slowly spread across the entire planet and kills the survivors.
It's these survivors that we meet in Australia. And they're all taking it pretty well. There's no chaos here. Everything is running fairly normally, except for the fact that we're all going to die in about six months. And not a pretty death, but a slow, painful one.
The big problem with this book is the quiet acceptance every character has of this. Yes, there are some characters deep in denial and some are planning for a world beyond six months from now, but never is there any sense of panic or desparation by anyone. The most panicked we get is they move up an auto race a few months becuase the time it's scheduled to take place will be after the radiation hits.
There are some moments of hope in the story that someone might be alive in the northern hemisphere or that the coming end might not come. But these are quickly dashed and then everyone accepts it with quiet resignation.
I'm sure when it was written, this book was strangely scary and virtually prophetic. But reading it now, it's a story that seems dated, with characters who fail to spark much interest for the reader. I haven't read a book since "Lucifer's Hammer" where I actively rooted for the apocolyptic event to happen already just to kill off some of the characters in the story and maybe get things moving. And that's the biggest flaw in "On the Beach"--nothing happens. We don't get to see the end of the world and nothing seems to make any impact on the characters. It's a hard book to read, not because of the subject matter but because virtually nothing happens and none of the characters are interesting enough to make the investment of time worth it in the end. (less)
“Planet of the Apes” is one of those books that’s hard to approach without bringing along the baggage of the original 60s film adaptation or the less-...more“Planet of the Apes” is one of those books that’s hard to approach without bringing along the baggage of the original 60s film adaptation or the less-than-successful remake a few years ago. The original film is such a part of our pop-culture concsiousness that it’s almost impossible to separate it from what we have here.
This is one of those books that is what it is–no more, no less.
I could spend several paragraphs detailing the differences between the movie and the book, but that would be kind of pointless and wouldn’t tell you much about the book as a whole. That said, Boulle’s original novel is a social satire, as advertises and it’s one of what I’d classify as a fairly light, “bubble-gum” sci-fi read. It has just enough in there to make you think while reading it, but it’s not going to stay with you long after you’ve finished the final pages.
The thing is that not a lot of the characters have much depth. They’re all in here to be part of the satire of modern life and humanity’s relationship with each other and animals. For a satire that wants to point out how drawing distinctions based on external apperances isn’t a great thing, you’d think it would have a bit more depth to the characters. Add to that that the central narrator has a tendency to become a bit pompous in his relation of events and you’ve got a story that works, quite frankly, better as a movie than it does as a novel. I’d even go so far as to say that without the series of movies, this is one novel that would have faded in memory long ago, remembered by some who read it for a few of the twists in the final pages but not much more.
It’s not to say I hated this novel. But it’s not to say I loved it or found it nearly as compelling as some of the mid-range works by Issac Asimov or Orson Scott Card. (less)
If your only exposure to Starship Troopers is the movie of the same name, you really owe it to yourself to pick up and read the original. While the mo...moreIf your only exposure to Starship Troopers is the movie of the same name, you really owe it to yourself to pick up and read the original. While the movie and book share some similarities, know that the script for the movie was written and then the rights to the book were optioned. Which means the producers took the familar name, some elements and added them to an existing script, all the while discarding much of what makes the novel so respected among sci-fi fans.
The cover advertises this one as a “controversial” classic, though having read it twice, I disagree with that. Heinlein give us his views on military service, child reearing and what it takes to win a war, but there’s not much in here that I found overly controversial—at least not in the same way as Stranger in a Strange Land or Friday. Instead, you get a few scenes of military combat woven between long lectures on Heinlein’s philosophy.
If anything, this is a melding of the two Heinlein writing styles—the philosophical debate tomes of his later years and his early young adult books. (less)
Takes a fairly forgettable and padded Pertwee six-parter and turns it into something special. Malcolm Hulke embellishes some things, fudges some conti...moreTakes a fairly forgettable and padded Pertwee six-parter and turns it into something special. Malcolm Hulke embellishes some things, fudges some continuity and delivers a story that works better as a novelization than it does on-screen.
Years ago, I joined a science-fiction and fantasy discussion group to try and broaden my genre reading beyond media tie-in novels and the giants in th...moreYears ago, I joined a science-fiction and fantasy discussion group to try and broaden my genre reading beyond media tie-in novels and the giants in the field. One of the books we read in the group was Iain M. Bank's "Excession," set in the Culture universe. The story was a dense, complex and fascinating one.
During the course of our discussion of the book, one particular group member kept saying that while "Excession" was good, "Use of Weapons" was better and that it was a damn shame the book had gone out of print in the United States. He kept hinting about the huge twist at the end of the story that took the entire novel to a whole new level.
Intrigued, I set out on a quest to find a copy of the book. I haunted used books stores for weeks and months (this was in the days before the Amazon marketplace and E-Bay was in its infancy), so when I finally found a copy of the book, I'll admit I was overjoyed. I immediately dropped the other books I was reading and began to devour "Use of Weapons."
And I'll admit, early on, I kept wondering why my fellow book discussion participant was so ga-ga over. Don't get me wrong--the book was good, but it wasn't great. But knowing there was something brewing in the novel's final pages, I kept on going. And I'll admit it--I got to the end, read the twist and was pretty much blown away by it. So much so that the novel jumped into my list of favorite books and one that I recommended to people when they wanted something more from their typical genre reading.
Fast forward to today and once again I'm in a reading group devoted to sci-fi and fantasy. I kept pushing for us to give "Use of Weapons" a chance, saying it was a major novel from a science fiction writer we'd neglected until now. I tried to keep my lips sealed that there a) was a twist and b)what it was in the hopes of my uninitiated friends finding out for themselves.
Reading "Weapons" again, I'm surprised at how well it holds up. It's not a novel that I'd call easy to read simply because it has the story unfolding backwards and forwards. Banks asks his reader to pay attention to things and doesn't spoon-feed the readers on what's going on within the story. And I think the novel is a stronger one for that.
In many ways, the Culture comes off a warped version of the Federation from "Star Trek" here but instead of non-interference, they definitely do interfere in things--for their own gain. The morality and implications of this are explored a bit, but during the course of the story Banks doesn't necessarily endorse whether pushing certain cultures in a certain direction is a good or a bad thing. As is the case in the real world, a case can be made for both sides of the equation.
Reading the novel again and recalling the twist in the final pages, it was fascinating to see how Banks sets up the final twist. It also shows how this story could only effectively work in the way Banks chooses to tell it.
It you're curious about the Culture series, this may or may not be the best place to start. The novels are fairly self-contained, meaning you can start at any point. But I'll be honest--this novel sets a pretty high bar for the series and if you start here, you may be disappointed by other entries in the series. (less)