Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, Simon Petrie

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, Simon Petrie

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body: A Guerline Scarfe Investigation

Titan is a hostile environment. When people die, it’s the job of someone like Guerline Scarfe to make sure that all the details are correctly recorded and all angles are examined to ensure that the future of Fensal’s citizens is as safe as it can be. The investigation into the death of Tanja Noor Hainan Morgenstein should have been one like any other – despite her influential parents. However, when Guerline starts asking why the daughter of one of Titan’s most influential families would have committed suicide by Titan right outside an airlock, her investigation starts sprouting inconsistencies.

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body is a well-written mystery thriller in a science-fiction setting. Details of terrain and technology add to the backdrop, but the author has resisted allowing them to overwhelm the story. The characters are well-developed, and while Guerline is at first glance the epitome of the harassed separated parent with a spoiled child, her obstinacy makes her the ideal protagonist for the plot. The final plot twist reveal was particularly nicely handled, with enough presaging to make it credible without giving the game away too early. Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read – there’s something there for everyone from detective mystery fans through to die-hard sci-fi readers.

Our Only Chance, Ray Else

Our Only Chance, Ray Else

Our Only Chance: An A.I. Chronicle

Manaka Yagami was a genius, off-the-charts, a student working towards a degree in neuro-genetics in Osaka. Obsessed with her work to the point of being oblivious to her surroundings, she was surprised and flattered to be approached with a project by a prominent professor; a project to incorporate an organic brain into a robot. When the project turned out to be a resounding success, her mentor proposed that they go into business together to develop the concept further – but once he involved the Yakuza, neither he nor she understood how much power they might be relinquishing over their greatest breakthrough.

Our Only Chance is sketched in a spare, flowing style that complements the pacing of the story, and the subject matter covers a range of topics from medical ethics to local spirits to the history of manga. For me, as a reader, the strongest point of the book was the character development. Author Ray Else has created not one but several characters who are brilliant, and utterly alienated from human society, while at the same time being eminently readable. The writing was also technically excellent, which I always appreciate. All in all, this is a book that fans of speculative fiction will be sure to enjoy, couched in a setting that avoids many of the traditional clichés of AI development.

The Fountain boxed set, Ellison Blackburn

The Fountain boxed set, Ellison Blackburn

The Fountain – boxed set

The Fountain trilogy set is a highly worth-while read, peopled with strong, well-fleshed-out characters who will pull you into their struggles and demand your understanding of their points of view. I don’t usually consider myself a reader of speculative fiction, but author Ellison Blackburn has a unique gift for evoking the human side of the stories and providing that occasional lightening-strike moment of ‘yes, yes, that right there is something I’ve felt too’.

With subject matter dear to the science-fiction genre such as time travel and rejuvenation, these books have the kind of genre-spanning appeal that merits a moment of respect, not to mention utterly plausible world-building that supports the dilemmas the characters face.

Flash Back

In Flash Back, we meet Charlotte Rhys Fenn. Charley is in her fifties, has been married for nearly twenty years, has plenty of income – and is bored out of her mind by her life. In desperation to alleviate the humdrum of her life, she finally begins to research a cutting-edge surgery, known only as Renovation.

The mess of issues Charley faces in trying to make peace between her desires and her responsibilities will be shockingly familiar to many readers. Flash Back is well-written, with an analytical, laser-focus on the workings of inter-personal connections.

Second Nature

In Second Nature, the human population on Earth was ravaged by a disease that targeted anyone with genetic modification. in a small underground community near what used to be Seattle, the descendants of Charlotte Rhys Avery still live. Emery Kidd, 68 years old with the appearance of a 17-year-old, is illicitly researching her connection to the mother of regeneration.

Where Flash Back in many ways studied the dissolution of a long-term relationship as its back story, Second Nature deals with love, commitment, and how the urge to reproduce could be affected by effective immortality. This series is sci-fi that will make you think, its concepts framed in very human stories.

Being Human

Being Human continues the story of Emery Kidd, newly engaged to Aiden Brodie, and living in the community of Tymony, a bubble outside time. Emery’s slowly driving herself crazy with boredom, to the point where she’s almost relieved when Sera Strong blows into town and proposes a project to save the future of humanity – again.

With a star cast of Ellison Blackburn’s incredibly well-written, deep characters, Being Human is the third in the trilogy, tracing the history immediately after the start of the Progeny Project. While the underlying fascination of the plot is time, mortality, paradox, and sexual fidelity, the story frames it in a rich tapestry of events and realistic characters, sliding the serious concepts in via sleight of hand amid the emotional drama between the characters.

Beyond the Vale, Kerry Alan Denney

Beyond the Vale, Kerry Alan Denney

Beyond the Vale

Logan isn’t sure if he’s dreaming, dead, or simply finally lost his marbles. There’s a woman he should know, a personal history he should know, and all he has is a blank in his head. There are doors that lead to impossible geography and photos that could never have been taken. However, crazy or not, something is clearly very wrong – and like it or not, Logan has apparently been elected general saviour of the world.

Beyond the Vale is one of those books where you spend the first few chapters just as confused as the protagonist, trying to figure out what’s going on. The author succeeds in conveying that utter disorientation particularly realistically in this book. However, coming out of that disorientation, you will pretty much perforce be very keyed in on the characters in the plot; Logan’s development through the book is a key theme and provides a lot of food for thought, especially since his development is all you find out about him until the latter stages of the book, where some of his missing past comes to light. The storyline is richly layered, and provides more thinking material the deeper you choose to delve into it. Definitely something to pick up for all the fantasy fans out there.

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Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody, Joe Canzano

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody, Joe Canzano

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody

Suzy Castillo, better known as Suzy Spitfire, doesn’t have a lot of friends since she killed her uncle and ran away from her family and her father’s legacy. Aiko is one of them, so when he invites her to meet him in a seedy bar, she shows up with her guns on. Unfortunately, their meeting isn’t quite as quiet as they’d hoped; Suzy’s father left something behind that everyone wants, from government agencies down to the local gangs, and they’re willing to kill for it.

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody is a sci-fi adventure painted with a rich palette of AI, space fights, high-powered spaceships, and crooked cops. The story is fast-paced, and the twists and turns make for an enjoyable read as Suzy and her squad try to make their way across the inner solar system to retrieve their prize. I did find that there were elements of the story that stretched my ability to suspend my disbelief, not least the appearance of the Shakespeare troupe. On the other hand, the technical aspects of the writing were solid, and the read, given the plot elements, was surprisingly light-hearted overall. If you like your sci-fi with undertones of ‘Fast and Furious’, you’ll enjoy this book.