Midnight on Mars, M C Glan

Midnight on Mars, M C Glan

Midnight on Mars

Earth is dying. Nature has forestalled humanity: with the impending reversal of the magnetic field, dormant super-volcanoes are on the brink of eruption, and the output will blanket the atmosphere in enough ash to extinguish agriculture in the areas not drowned in lava or damaged by the accompanying earthquakes. Humanity’s one off-world colony, on Mars, is viable, but a covert scientific experiment has encountered an unlikely issue: human clones born or awakened off Earth are functionally sociopathic. Only Kari Keskiyo is able to provide an explanation – and it’s not one offering an easy solution.

Midnight on Mars is a dystopian sci-fi, positing the perfect storm of natural disasters that would wipe out most, if not all, life on Earth, as well as a renewed cycle of dangerous religious fundamentalism. The setting is dark, and largely convincingly written. I enjoyed the originality of some of the religious beliefs; author M. C. Glan managed to mostly avoid the common trap of adhering religiously (pardon me) to the Judaeo-Christian version. However, I found that overall the characters were lacking in that extra quality that would have captivated me, and some of the story elements would have benefited from more development. This may have been a function of the story length, but it impacted the book’s ability to draw me in.

The Last Prophet, Michael J Hallisey

The Last Prophet, Michael J Hallisey

The Last Prophet

Riley McKee is a brilliant trauma surgeon, one of those rare people able to connect the dots and save a life while others are still fumbling for a diagnosis. With her best friend and fellow surgeon, Genevieve Neugold, she shares an obsession for riddles and puzzles, and a compulsion to save lives. However, when Riley’s determination to solve a centuries-old mystery gets her killed, Genevieve is drawn into Riley’s last and greatest puzzle – the secret of healing the sick and bringing the dead back to life.

Michael J. Hallisey’s The Last Prophet is a twisty story of murder, crime, and hidden connections, from Riley’s CIA brother to the secrets hidden in the lost paintings of Caravaggio, carving a path across time and space from a modern trauma wing in America to one of the last hidden bastions of the ancient Knights Templar. Think Indiana Jones meets the Da Vinci Code. The only thing standing between this book and a much higher rating was strictly technical; the author’s detailed research and depth of knowledge occasionally impacted the pacing of the story, and the punctuation was odd to the point where it was frequently difficult to figure out if someone was talking or not, and if so, who. It’s a shame, because with a solid edit under its belt, this book would be a top-flight read. As it is, definitely worthwhile, but there are issues that impact the read and will sometimes yank the reader out of the story.

Book of the Wonders of the Galaxy, Simon Chun Kwan Chui

Book of the Wonders of the Galaxy, Simon Chun Kwan Chui

Book of the Wonders of the Galaxy

The account of an impossible traveller, his stories spanning impossible distances, Book of the Wonders of the Galaxy is a guidebook to many worlds, a vignette of places that most travellers will never see, including glimpses inside the mysterious stations and cities of the sapient AI. Winding up on Earth, home of mankind, the writer adds some interesting points on evolution, civilisation, and human psychology to wind up his epic journey.

This book is essentially a series of short stories, each featuring the protagonist’s experience on a given world. While the amount of thought and imagination that had been put into each setting blew me away, I found that the structure of the book was a little too true to the theme of a guidebook to make it easy for me to read; each section offered me a perfect point at which to stop and get distracted. That said, I can’t fail to admire the attention to detail and uniqueness of the individual stories, and the finale offered some intriguing food for thought. I can honestly says that this book will be a treat for anyone looking for a non-standard sci-fi read, and a godsend for sci-fi writers in need of something to get them over writers’ block.

The Chronocar, Steve Bellinger

The Chronocar, Steve Bellinger

The Chronocar

Bored students will get into trouble. Always. In this case, Tony, a gifted young engineering student, has stumbled across an obscure article dating to the early 1900s, discussing how to build a vehicle to move through time – and has built a successful prototype. Determined to meet the genius whose idea it originally was, Tony sets his first journey through time to the time and address of Dr. Johnson. However, his arrival sparks a brutal race riot, and in his efforts to fix the fallout caused by his presence, Tony finds himself more and more embroiled…

Steve Bellinger’s The Chronocar is a striking story, based on the well-loved sci-fi theme of time travel, and the paradoxes that it spawns. The threads of race and survival woven into the plot add depth, not to mention food for thought, and reading gives the feeling of strands of causality twisting and parting at every turn, while the characters meshed in the web live and die with them. This book snared my interest early on, and held it right through to the end, making it a highly satisfying read with a very nice twist in the finale. Certainly something I would recommend to any sci-fi enthusiasts.

The Chronocar cover

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Between Two Worlds, Christy Santo

Between Two Worlds, Christy Santo

Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds is a fantasy story, following the experiences of a woman whose concussion turns into a coma of several months’ duration. It offers an interesting perspective of a combination of the protagonist’s real life experiences of her coma and the events around her, observed as through from an out of body perspective, interspersed with the experiences of another older woman from her hometown.

While the idea was interesting, I experienced some challenges with the read. The book is written in a first person, present tense style that, as a reader, always makes me wince. Some of that is the jerkiness that it gives a book; I find it impacts the smoothness of the writing and keeps pulling my attention back to the writing rather than allowing it remain on the story. That’s a personal perspective.

From a more technical side, the level of description of trivia in the story often overwhelmed the events, and dulled the emotional impact that the scenes may have been intended to convey. There were also a number of punctuation issues that periodically forced me to stop and re-read to ensure I had the passage correctly, and combined with the rest, meant that the story didn’t really draw me in and hold my interest as I read.

Overall, I think that the basic idea was strong, but the book itself would benefit enormously from a strong developmental edit or critique.