Mr. November, Matt Hogan

Mr. November, Matt Hogan

Mr. November

Samuel Webb is a time-traveller, altering the past investment by investment for his company. In the mutable present, he lives in a shrinking oasis of luxury, with every need catered to almost before he voices it, and his main source of companionship his downstairs bartender. However, when people from his past begin to vanish from the present, Webb begins to look under the shiny surface of his life, without the insulating layer of alcohol, and what he finds forces him to act – but is there any way that he can salvage the past he remembers from the present his actions have created?

Mr. November offers some interesting ideas for contemplation – what if one company were able to travel through time, and invest with knowledge of the greatest booms and busts of the future? With a plot underlaid by time-travel paradoxes and a concept of how each of those small changes to the past could impact the future, the story shows the care that went into the plotting. I did feel that the plot was let down to a degree by some of the technical aspects of the writing, which occasionally side-tracked me from the read, but overall this book was definitely worth-while, with some nice inter-personal dynamics.

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.

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.

Peace Warriors of the Galaxy: Journey to Lyrica, Tessie Jayme

Peace Warriors of the Galaxy: Journey to Lyrica, Tessie Jayme

Peace Warriors of the Galaxy: Journey to Lyrica

The epic science-fiction, Peace Warriors of the Galaxy: Journey to Lyrica, by Tessie Jayme, is set in a future where an institution known as the Special Abilities Training Institute explores extraordinary mental abilities of all kinds from telepathy to eidetic memory, and where Earth has made contact and treaties with a planet named Lyrica, home to a race of powerfully telepathic beings. Dwylla and Brig-Aaron, attending a SATI recruitment trial, are picked up immediately for training. Neither they, nor their recruiters, suspect that before they’ve even completely finished their training, they will be part of a team picked to journey covertly to Lyrica to join the Earth Embassy there.

Peace Warriors of the Galaxy: Journey to Lyrica explores an unusual slant on the sci-fi staple of psionic abilities, where Dwylla’s ability to block another’s telepathy is one of the rarest talents. This book is very clearly the first book in a series, with a number of romantic and plot arcs opened, but where the resolutions for almost all of them are held for the second or even the third book. I did feel that the Ryndell character was damaged somewhat by his transformation into the kind of martinet leader who sets edicts, disobeys them, and then demands obeisance from his inferiors. Overall, I found the story to be a pleasant read, although the pacing was impacted by the sheer volume of adjectives that embroidered the many of the descriptions of persons and scenes. The development of Lyrica and the Lyricans also added some interesting touches.

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End of a Girl, Nia Sinjorina

End of a Girl, Nia Sinjorina

End of a Girl (Folio 55 Book 1)

Nia Sinjorina’s End of a Girl is the story of a teenage Molly Peterson, at school in an English comprehensive that she hates, told alternately from her own diaries and the point of view of one of her acolytes, tasked to write her history in the last days before Earth’s defeat. Molly, the class misfit, finds herself unexpectedly developing powers beyond her understanding; powers to destroy, but also powers to communicate…and powers to raise the dead. As the incidents become more public, Molly finds herself teetering on the edge of exposure, with not one, but two, covert organisations desperate to get their hands on her.

End of a Girl offers a story written from two very different viewpoints; one from the perspective and in the dialect of an English teen, and the other from the point of view of an acolyte who has passed beyond the use of language to communicate, and whose writing style is dense, obscured by the attempt to fit full-spectrum mental communication into marks on a page. While the container of the story is distinctive and well-done, the high level of the language may discourage some readers from giving the book the attention it deserves. Certainly an interesting and unique take on the genre.