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.

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.

Armageddon and the 4th Timeline, Don Mardak

Armageddon and the 4th Timeline, Don Mardak

Armageddon and the 4th Timeline

Don Mardak’s Armageddon and the 4th Timeline is the story of Eric, an enlightened American spiritual healer.  Following his childhood meeting with a Tibetan priest named Shimahn, Eric had never expected to hear from the old man again, but an unexpected, urgent message sends both Eric and his wife Kathy to an isolated area of Tibet to meet with Shimahn and his acolytes – and finally to receive the revelation that Eric is about to be catapulted into the front lines of a war for the collective human soul; a war that, if he loses, will precipitate World War 3.

Armageddon and the 4th Timeline offers an interesting take on several concepts ranging from time travel to reincarnation. While the role of the wife as the temperamental, supporting character, and the rather sweeping assumption that all Muslims either are radical or at least are at high risk of radicalisation may grate on some readers, the basic ideas the book is plotted around are thought-provoking, and the inset cameos of the world’s intelligence agencies gearing up to meet a massive terrorist threat are well done and weave neatly into the backdrop of the main storyline to build the tension. This book will appeal to thriller and fantasy readers alike, and keep you thinking long after you turn the last page.