Big Sci-Fi Giveaway!

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OK. See that picture up above? All you have to do is click it, enter in a few details and BAM, you’ll get FOUR free sci-fi books in your inbox. If you happen to be one of five lucky winners, you’ll also get ebooks for all the books pictured. And one lucky winner gets a prize package that will include over 17 (!) signed physical books sent to your house. So…what’re you waiting for?! Get clicking!

Book Review — The Future Chronicles

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12016174_10153528189235170_522376485_oOver the past year, Samuel Peralta has diligently and deliberately put together a powerhouse science fiction anthology series. He’s been able to attract big name authors such as Hugh Howey, Ken Liu, Seanan McGuire, Robert J. Sawyer, Jennifer Foehner Wells, and Matthew Mather among many others. But, what makes the Future Chronicles volumes great is the platform for new and emerging talent from the trenches of indie authors. While the established authors have been the cornerstone for these collections, the indie talent Sam chooses for each book is exciting and raw.

Full Disclosure: I’ve been privileged to be in three FC anthologies so far (Alien, Z & Immortality) and have spots reserved in at least two more scheduled to run in the next six to eight months. Other than reading and loving The Future Chronicles Special Edition anthology, I have no involvement in the collection.

So if the different anthologies released in the past year were all-star teams, then The Future Chronicles is a best of the best. Some of my favorite stories from collections like The Robot Chronicles, The Telepath Chronicles, The Alien Chronicles and The A.I. Chronicles appear, inviting you to rediscover them, to read them again for the first time in the context of this new collection, outside of the confines of their genre-specific collection. For some, it seems to imbue them with new meaning. When reading A.K. Meek’s The Invariable Man (later expanded to a longer book) with a brand new story on one end and stories about telepaths just pages later, it almost can be read with a new and different point of view.

In The Future Chronicles, we get eleven stories previously released in those first four of the Future Chronicles collections. Each of these stories is excellent and represents those anthologies wonderfully. What is an extra treat are five brand new stories from Sam Best, Susan Kaye Quinn, Deirdre Gould, Angela Cavanaugh, and Moira Katson, as well as a Foreword penned by Hugh Howey. Each is a breath of fresh air. With the general theme, you don’t quite know what to expect…will these stories be about robots, telepathy, aliens, or something else entirely. I’m thrilled to say each of these could very well serve as a foundational block for an anthology of their own.

While I don’t want to ruin any discovery a reader will make on their own, Sam Best really rocks the beginning of the entire collection, Quinn again provides her own brand of singularity fiction with her story, Gould presents a mind-bending tale that will leave you shaking your head, Cavanaugh could give you nightmares (or are they…) for her story The Assistant and Katson threatens to leave you with tears after reading her heartbreaking story of defiance in the face of death.

What’s really amazing is how each of these stories works not only in the confines of their own specific genre, but also all alone and then back in the comfort of other Future Chronicles stories that may or may not be in the same vein. Peralta has crafted a juggernaut and readers are reaping the benefits. If you get the chance, read The Future Chronicles and then explore the other titles available in the Kindle Store.

Immortal Ponderings

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about eternity. In a mostly scientific sense at least…well, science fiction sense I suppose. The search for immortality and the quest for eternal life has been at the forefront of human existence for millenia. We want to live longer…we want to push the boundaries of life and death…we want to be a part of the universe for just a moment longer…

11796327_10153423837640170_1900403244562143189_nIn the past few days, I’ve been able to read through the next Future Chronicles anthology, entitled The Immortality Chronicles. Samuel Peralta, the braintrust behind the FC series, has already laid the foundations with Robots, Telepathy, Aliens, A.I., Dragons, Zombies, and Alternate History. I have the privilege of having a story in Immortality and after finishing reading the entire collection, it’s safe to say we’ve done it again with a fantastic group of stories.

As I read through the various stories, I found a few different themes kept popping up. Life. Death. Agony of existence and purity of the grave.

Ultimately though, a few of the stories kept coming back in some small way to one thing. And that one thing kept running through my head long after I put my Kindle down.

Memories.

We all have them. Whether it was the thoughts from this morning when you ate pancakes for breakfast, or the memories of climbing the oak tree in your backyard as an eight-year-old, memories are a constant in our lives. Some are welcome: the rich memories that flood my mind whenever I smell a fresh donut…the times I spent reading books on my bed as a teenager, dying to spend a split second in the worlds I jointly created with the author…the small moments I’ve spent with my wife from our first time holding hands to now.

Some memories are seemingly random. For example, whenever I iron clothes, my mind backtracks to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Its the one where Picard is basically a babysitter for some of the children on board the Enterprise when the power on the ship fails. He has to be their leader and their comfort, even singing with them in a powerless lift shaft. I have no idea why I think of that when I iron clothes, but that’s where my mind goes. Always. Every morning when I comb my hair, I think of a scene from the zombie movie Dawn of the Dead. The one from 2003 or 2004. I don’t even like the scene so much, but whenever I’m applying hair spray in the morning, my mind drifts back to that stupid movie. Memories are silly and capricious. At times they seem to control us more than we control them.

Some memories…maybe are more difficult: the pain and anguish we went through as we struggled to get our son home from Africa over the past few years…the torture of seeing siblings struggle with infertility and adoption setbacks of their own…rejections and losses throughout my life.

Ultimately though, a running theme that seemed to reverberate with me was memories. When a person ends up immortal (or close to it), we as the author tends to assume the human brain would run out of space to hold the memories. That there is a finite space for those and an infinite life is too much for that grey matter to hold on to. How do we solve that problem? Maybe the protagonist simply discards chosen memories here and there, perhaps the memory wipe is more…invasive. Perhaps the brain does its own purging and keeps the memories that it deems more important and relevant to life…

It’s really fascinating how the authors handle these situations. I don’t want to give anything away, but for some, the memory issue is a key factor in the plot of the story and yet in other stories, the memories are a side mention.

If I was facing eternal life, I would think that my memories would soon be my preferred currency. What is life if we cannot remember the times we surprised someone with a birthday party or a puppy, or even a nice pizza? What would be the purpose of elongated life if we couldn’t remember how we got there? If the lessons we learned in hundreds of years of life were suddenly stripped away and gone, I would mourn the loss of those memories. I’m not sure that eternal life is worth it if I can’t take a look back on where I came from along the way. It’s really hard to say what we would actually choose, however, when we’ve never had this option before.

There is so much more to The Immortality Chronicles from David Bruns’ courtroom drama, to Harlow Fallon’s deep space prison ship, and John Gregory Hancock’s cigar shop on an alien port. I loved reading all the stories and I think you will too. If you haven’t preordered The Immortality Chronicles yet, get on it. Just $2.99 during preorder and then it will go up to $5.99 after the launch, so you want to buy it now.

Chronicles Week! (with Kindle Paperwhite Giveaway!)

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Been radio silence around here for a couple months. Sorry about that…I’ll fill you in later. Suffice it to say this summer didn’t go exactly as planned on the writing front, but was still productive as well.

(Yes, yes…I’ll get to the Kindle Paperwhite giveaway in a bit…)

But while I haven’t been updating Ye Olde Blog at all this summer, I’m breaking that fast now for Chronicles Week.

Let me back up a bit. When I started writing, I credited a lot of the reasons why to one man — Hugh Howey. After reading his blog and WOOL, I was heartened by his approach and the success he had. Not success as in worldwide blockbuster multi-millionaire success, but rather just simply getting that book written and published success. I told anyone and everyone that it was due to Hugh Howey’s career that I had one as well.

While I still credit Hugh a lot, I’ve taken my own course in the past year. And what a year it’s been in my life. Exactly a year ago this week, I arrived home after flying to Africa with my wife to adopt our four (now five) year old son. If you’re familiar at all with international adoption, you know that the transition isn’t always smooth. Our son has been a blessing on our lives, but my writing schedule took a huge hit. I went from being able to write hundreds or thousands of words a day to dozens. Maybe.

So it was a huge boon when I worked up the courage to introduce myself to Samuel Peralta.

robot chSam is the publisher and curator of The Future Chronicles. A year ago at this time he’d only published the first of the series — The Robot Chronicles. I nabbed an early copy and wrote up a review for it and honestly included it in my best-of-the-year list. I saw some of the authors he’d included in that volume and knew I was as qualified as some of them. I asked about being considered for a future anthology and he graciously read my novella Ant Apocalypse. A few weeks after returning from Africa (and writing virtually nothing the whole time), Sam got in touch with me and offered me a spot in The Alien Chronicles.

I will honestly tell you my heart skipped a beat when I read the message that Sunday afternoon (yes, I can tell you exactly where I was) and I had to read it a couple times before I would believe it.

I knew the quality of story the Chronicles called for, so I took a personal day off teaching and wrote all day. The worst part of that? I ended up scrapping the entire story I spent the day on and went a different direction. But I needed that time to convince myself the first story wasn’t as good as the story I ended up writing — Uncle Allen.

(Hold on, the Paperwhite giveaway is down a bit, hang in there…)

alien chWhen The Alien Chronicles released in early January 2015, my story was one cited in a number of reviews as a favorite, and I reached a bigger audience in that month than I had in the previous year and a half I’d been publishing put together.

The Chronicles allowed me to keep writing, but adjust my new life around quality stories with a larger audience thanks to the dozen writers featured in each volume. Being put alongside writers like Hugh Howey(!), Jen Wells, B.V. Larsen, W.J. Davies, Ann Christy, and… (I could literally go on all day…) has elevated my stories and pushed me to write even better than I did before. The relationships I’ve developed in the past few months have shown me the different ways to be an author in today’s new publishing system and Samuel Peralta is a true visionary with goals for the Future Chronicles for multiple anthologies down the road. I’m as thankful for Peralta and the universes he has had a hand in creating as I am for Hugh Howey at the start of my career.

the-z-chroncilesUncle Allen led to Z Ball (my editor says its my best yet) in The Z Chronicles and I’m one of the few veteran voices to be featured in The Immortality Chronicles (now up for preorder — get your copy now!)

With all that said, it’s CHRONICLES WEEK! All the authors behind the current Chronicles books (so far we’ve had Robot, Telepath, Alien, A.I., Dragon, Z, and Alt.History 101) plus the half-dozen or so planned in the next eight to nine months are showcasing the Future Chronicles anthologies. If you haven’t yet read a Chronicles book, there is a special edition due out in a month, entitled (appropriately enough) The Future Chronicles. It will feature ten stories which have previously appeared in Chronicles books and five NEW stories, as well as a Foreword by Hugh Howey himself(!). It’s up for preorder right now for just 99 cents.

And in honor of the celebration, The Future Chronicles authors are giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. Wait, there’s more! Not only will you get a brand new Kindle Paperwhite, this amazing machine will be pre-loaded with all the Chronicles titles already released. Each of these books have hit #1 in the Sci-fi/Fantasy Anthology list and you want to win this thing. Visit here to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway (GIVEAWAY is now closed. Thanks for all who entered!)

Still here? 

uncle allenOkay…visit The Future Chronicles this week and check out all the amazing books there. If you want a taste, my Alien Chronicles story, Uncle Allen is FREE this week only. Check it out as a taste of the collection.

Book Review – Invariable Man

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in manWhen I was in high school, I adored Isaac Asimov. I devoured nearly everything I could get my hands on that he had written or had his name plastered on from short stories, novels, works he edited, and even fact books. One of those was the short story Nightfall.

To say my mind was blown by Nightfall was an understatement. Asimov took a concept completely foreign to an earthling, and made it terrifying and compelling all at the same time. When he teamed up with Robert Silverberg to expand the story into a full-length novel, it became a book I would read over and over.

Fast-forward to 2014 when The Robot Chronicles was released. Once again, it harkens back to my love of Asimov and all of his amazing robot stories. One of the tales in the anthology was A.K. Meek’s Invariable Man. It was one of my favorites from the collection with headfakes left and right, showcasing Meek’s great storytelling along with a great robot theme.

So you can imagine my delight when I found out Meek had taken his story and expanded it for a longer – and richer – robot experience. Just like with Nightfall, the story becomes a new animal, separated from the confines of a pre-set wordcount, and given the ability to breathe on its own While IM was a great addition to The Robot Chronicles, it makes a wonderful read all on its own as a short novel.

Just like in the short story, our protagonist is Micah, an old man living in the wreckage – literally, and psychologically – of a war between robot and human. He fixes things, and uses the scrap metal all around him to improve his own lonely life. I really don’t want to say too much because the twists come less than a quarter of the way into the story and don’t let up until the final page. Suffice it to say Meek has a plan for Micah and that plan may not always turn out like you might expect.

I really enjoyed reading the expanded version of Invariable Man and look forward to more of Meek’s writing into the future.

Anthology Awesomeness!

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Whoa…time got away from me and I forgot to update you guys over here. In the span of one week in the beginning of 2015, I have two stories in two separate anthologies to tell you about. Let’s start with The Powers That Be.

Cover3Back in early 2014, I was privileged to be in my first anthology — WOOL Gathering. All the stories were centered around Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe and were penned by authors who had all previously written WOOL stories. It was a fantastic collection that I will forever be proud of. One of the best parts is that all the proceeds will go towards the National Novel Writing Month Young Authors program.

So, the authors of LOOW (the League of Original Woolwriters or perhaps the Loofah of Obstinate Wetness) have brought forth another charity anthology — The Powers That Be. It’s already been for sale for a few days and been holding steady on the Kindle Science Fiction Anthology sales charts. Nine stories, all centered around superpowers. Authors are: Ann Christy, WJ Davies, Samuel Peralta, Logan Thomas Snyder, Carol Davis, Thomas Robins, David Adams, Paul K. Swardstrom, and myself. And, I was able to cajole Ernie Lindsey into penning a wonderful Foreword to the book. All great stories, confirmed by the outstanding reviews we’ve received so far.

My story is called “To Sacrifice A King,” and deals with the oft-overlooked role of superhero sidekick. A touch of humor, a smattering of pop culture superhero references, and a question: do powers really make a hero?

For a limited time, just 99 cents and all proceeds for this book will go towards the Sickle Cell Clinic at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. The price will go up soon, so get your copy before it’s too late.

alien chrThe next book to tell you about is The Alien Chronicles. Throughout the back half of 2014, I watched a few independent anthologies get published — From the Indie Side, Synchronic, The Robot Chronicles & The Telepath Chronicles. After reading the first three and absolutely loving The Robot Chronicles (enough for it to make my top 18 list of 2014), I approached Samuel Peralta about joining in a future installment. He looked over my meager qualifications and invited me to join The Alien Chronicles.

To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. But I was also incredibly nervous. These anthologies are showcasing some amazing independent publishing talent and I was going to put my stuff up against theirs and say it’s on the same level. I worked hard to put out the best story I could — ultimately drawing back to my roots visiting my grandmother’s farm growing up. My story is called “Uncle Allen,” and has about the same vibe of my short story Ant Apocalypse.

But check out the list of authors joining me: Hugh Freakin’ Howey, B.V. Larson, Jennifer Foehner Wells (her Fluency was on my Top 18 List, too!), Daniel Arenson, Blair Babylon, Annie Bellet, Peter Cawdron (I love that dude), my good friend and writer WJ Davies, Patrice Fitzgerald, Autumn Kalquist, Moira Katson, Samuel Peralta, Geoffrey Wakeling, and Nicholas Wilson. Foreword by my pal Stefan Bolz. Holy Smokes. Edited by the incredible David Gatewood with a cover by the incomparable Jason Gurley and you have about a perfect package. People are going to love this book.

It’s up for pre-order right now and will officially be for sale on Friday, so pick up your copy and get to reading. Between these two books, you can read 24 stories for less than the cost of a Value Meal at McDonald’s. Amazing value for some amazing stories.

My Top 10 (actually 18) Books of 2014

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It’s December, so that can only mean one thing – end of the year Top 10 lists! I did my favorite reads of 2013 last year, so now this can be a yearly thing. Just like last year, most of the books I read over the last 365 days or so were independently-published. Just like last year, I really believe we are in the midst of a publishing renaissance thanks to the new digital publishing tools at our disposal.

Personally, I did manage to get my second novel published, but everything else I published ended up being short stories (a couple will even be showing up in the first couple weeks of 2015). Due a lot of family situations, including a major addition to my family in August, writing just wasn’t as much of a priority during a few stretches. I can say I was able to get about 1/3 of Dead Search written and will endeavor to write the rest by spring. The year 2015 will be a great year and I encourage you to check back on this blog for future updates.

Anyway, back to the list. There are more than 10. Yep—a top ten list with more than 10. Deal with it. I took all my honorable mentions and just included them as well. Also, these are books I got a kick out of reading. Me. So if you don’t agree, I understand, but this is my list.

I don’t want to rank them, even though it will certainly come across that way, just due to seeing them in an order. So, the order will be assigned in alphabetical fashion, with one exception. The top spot belongs to one book that I know I will be reading over and over again. That book is:

The Martian by Andy Weir

martianHands down, The Martian was the best book I read in 2014. I read it in February and also listened to it as an audiobook this summer. Even after that, I still long to re-read it with fresh eyes. That’s the notes I was getting from friends when I first started reading it. From my Amazon review:

“I can honestly say I understand and I will have those jealousy pangs when I recommend it to a friend. The last book I honestly felt like that with was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. My brother was reading it for the first time a few weeks ago and I felt that. Like I wished I could go back in time, read it for the first time without spoilers and experience all those feelings I did for the very first time. This book was fantastic.”

From there, I will put the rest of my 2014 favorites in author reverse-alphabetical order (cuz those at the end of the alphabet get screwed. Jennifer Wells knows what I’m talking about), starting with:

Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells

fluencyI kept getting recommendations from Amazon and other places to buy and read this book. Finally I ran out of excuses a couple of months ago and I am glad I gave in. Fluency is a terrific tale of first contact with an alien race. Told from the perspective of a non-astronaut, Dr. Jane Holloway, a linguist, who is along on the trip to hopefully help find an “Alien Rosetta Stone,” of a sort. Instead, Holloway herself ends up being the Rosetta Stone and we see what happens in deep space when you begin to question all you know, your own sanity, and even your crewmates. Fluency is well done and I am intrigued by what Wells will offer us next.

 

The Violet Series by Logan Thomas Snyder

BV-Full-Cover-e1408487510867Three parts into a multi-part story and I’m fully engrossed. Logan Thomas Snyder has given us three tales so far—Becoming Violet, Being Violet, and Breaking Violet, and each have given us a great story with artificial intelligence as a fascinating backdrop. Here’s a part of my review of Becoming: “At first, I thought it was a typical “Bicentennial Man,” Isaac Asimov robot story with a man dissatisfied with his robot. Snyder, however, took the story in a new direction, giving the reader an introspective, yet action-filled tale of love in the face of trials. What does it mean to love? Does it have to be between two humans or can it be more than that?”
I know Snyder has a few more parts up his sleeve, but I also suspect that the farther he goes, the more the story will continue to grow and thrive. If you haven’t checked these stories out, they are just 99 cents a pop and are a great, easy read.

 

Zero Echo Shadow Prime by Peter Samet

ZESP_cover650Perhaps the most “holy cow, what did I just read” book I laid my eyes on this past year. I had heard some early buzz about this book and the cover was certainly an eye catcher. Frankly, this book did not catch on for some reason, but it still deserves an audience. From my Amazon review:

“So you might be asking – what is this book about? Zero Echo Shadow Prime is a novel about one character…or is it four…or a billion? My head is frankly still spinning a little…
But even apart from all the action, this book really offers some intriguing questions. What exactly is a human? Is it just flesh and bone or is there something more? If a person was able to move their consciousness to a computer, is there a spark of humanity there?”

Desperate to Escape by Thomas Robins

d2e fullThere are a number of authors on this list that I can claim a friendship with, and Thomas Robins is one of them. Desperate to Escape was published partly in 2013, but was finished in 2014 with a thought-provoking finish.

In four serial installments to the book, Robins gives us the story of Ineeka, an astronaut hailing from the inner city of Chicago, who, like the title implies, is desperate to escape from the constrained circumstances of her life. Throughout a flashback style narrative similar to “Lost,” Robins gives us a complete portrait of Ineeka, a girl lost on earth, but who finds her destiny in space.

Super by Ernie Lindsey

superLindsey is one of the best indie storytellers out there today. He has the ability to tell compelling tales in a variety of subjects and genres, and in Super, he took on superheroes. Super was released in the wake of “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” which showed the corruption of the government and its attempts to reign in the world’s superheroes. Edward Snowden and NSA data mining was also a very contemporary issue during the summer months when Super hit Amazon, which made the book and its subject all the more applicable.

From my Amazon review:

“I didn’t come into reading Ernie Lindsey’s Super with CA2 in mind, but it is hard to distance yourself too much from it after finishing and realizing the complex web Lindsey wove to get to the ending of the book. This is one book that I genuinely had a hard time putting down and when my Kindle ran out of battery life, I had to bide my time until it was ready for me to finish the book off.”

Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese

Starship GriftersI really can’t put it better than my Amazon review.

“After reading Robert Kroese’s Starship Grifters, I came to one conclusion: everyone in the 31st century is an idiot. Rex Nihilo is either the smartest man alive, or a Forrest Gump of a con artist, lucky enough to stay alive in the face of ridiculously deadly circumstances. I’m still not sure — I’ll get back to you on that.
In fact, the only one in Rex’s world that seems to have any brains is his robot, Sasha, who is programmed to turn herself off whenever she actually has an original thought. In a world like that, Rex seems to surround himself with the power players of the galaxy who all turn out to be bumbling morons.
I don’t often laugh at the books I read, but I found myself chuckling, chortling, at times flat-out guffawing — at times uncontrollably — at Kroese’s humor placed in the best places in the story.
At the end of the story, we do get answers to questions I wasn’t sure we were asking, but it certainly paved the way for more Rex Nihilo books, which I will gladly shell out money for whenever Mr. Kroese decides to write them.”

Sand by Hugh Howey

sandSand was one of the first novels I read in 2014, and almost a whole year later, it is still a thrilling book that continues to set Hugh Howey apart from other authors. I was lucky enough to read Sand earlier than most, and shared my thoughts on Amazon:

“I can honestly say I was blown away by Sand.  After I read Part 5, I said SAND > WOOL and I’m sticking by it almost a week later. The book is just magnificent and Howey once again shows off his masterful storytelling with an imaginative dystopian world that is all at once hard to fathom and easy to believe all at once.
Hugh calls Sand the antithesis to WOOL and I can see that clearly. While WOOL is about the absolute control that a small group of people can exert upon the masses, Sand is the opposite. It’s what happens when there is no clear authority and yet people live, work, and die — all under the invisible thumb of some unknown force.

If reading Hugh Howey is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

EleanorShould we call this book Eleanor 1.0? After releasing Eleanor earlier this year, Jason Gurley acquired an agent, and sold the rights to Eleanor. A new and edited version of the book should be in stores in 2015, so perhaps Eleanor will grace this list again next December. Regardless, the book I read was a great work; one that was clearly a labor of love.

From my Amazon review:

“There are many different reasons to read a book. Most times I tend to read to think about something in a new or different way. To spark my creativity and challenge my accepted ideas.
This book, Eleanor by Jason Gurley, is not that kind of book. Not that it doesn’t make you think. I had a lot of thoughts while I read this book. I thought about the similarities between it and two other books I’ve read. One was fairly recent – Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane, while the other I read when I was just a child – Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Both had a profound influence on me, but all three of these books didn’t so much make me think.
They made me feel.”
The Robot Chronicles, edited by David Gatewood

robot anthoThere were a number of short story anthologies that I just fell in love with over the last year, but The Robot Chronicles absolutely leads the way. David Gatewood started out with the terrific, but eclectic From the Indie Side, then we got various tastes of time travel in Synchronic, but it was in Robot that the audience really got a treat. So many great stories, told in manageable little chunks. There are a ton of amazing stories inside, starting with Hugh Howey’s Glitch. Among the other authors to pay attention to is Matthew Mather, Wes Davies, Patrice Fitzgerald, Ann Christy, Edward W. Robertson, and A.K. Meek among the others.

I was a HUGE Isaac Asimov fan growing up and still have a lot of reverence for a well-told robot story, so I greeted this collection with excitement and a bit of trepidation, but the authors pulled it off. From my Amazon review:

“One of the best things about this collection of stories is that it got me to get out my collection of Asimov robot stories and re-read and re-discover them in the light of this remarkable modern anthology. Each of the stories in TRC is fantastic, even if I didn’t specifically name the story and author. I’ll carry these stories with me for a long time.”
(Reviewer’s Note: I have a story that is slated to appear in The Alien Chronicles, which is the third in the Future Chronicles series after Robot and Telepath. I was selected after I had already read and loved TRC.)

Dead in the Water by Carol Davis

DITWThis book is definitely different than most on this list. I think you’ll find most are hard science fiction with a great many set in space, but Dead in the Water takes our two protagonists to a creepy lake town in upstate New York to investigate a series of deaths over the decades.

Davis is a heckuva writer. This woman can paint a scene. Her mind works on the level of screenplays, so virtually every scene I can see set before me, as if leaping off the page and onto my TV screen. From my Amazon review: “While she is a pro at putting together a plot for short stories, Dead in the Water shows she is more than capable of adding the complexity a novel calls for. Her writing is sharp, and in this case, not for the faint of heart. She isn’t afraid to scare her readers, putting her protagonists in terrifying situations, only to play out their fears for the readers to see.”

Binary Cycle by Wes Davies

binary cycleI think a lot of people were interested to see what Wes Davies had up his sleeve after he finished telling his Silo Submerged series—one of the first WOOL fanfic stories. In Binary Cycle, Davies gave his readers a novel originally told in three parts that works quite well when put together. After reading the third part, I wrote: “The action is taken to a new level and after the early revelations in the book, Davies pushes his characters physically and emotionally, so much that the reader is left panting by the end of the book.”

Originally, I had a couple issues with the second installment and the pacing of the series, but in the third story redeemed Davies and when put together, I think it all works fairly well.

Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole

spsNick Cole’s Soda Pop Soldier may be a traditionally published book, but it has the heart of an indie title. Cole certainly champions independent authors and his book takes risks like an indie author might. There were certainly moments that harkened to a book like Ready Player One, but there was more to this, and in fact Cole tackles the anonymous nature of online interaction with a violence inherent to modern video games.

From my review:

“With a name like Soda Pop Soldier, I half-expected a light-hearted romp through modern video games. What I got was something completely different. Something telling about how many of us live our lives online and the anonymity that we expect. Something visceral and violent, yet clean and sanitized at the same time. Something that fully engaged my head and heart alike.”

Strikers by Ann Christy

strikersAnn Christy likes to call herself an “accidental author.” If it’s an accident, it’s a happy one, as this woman can really tell a story. In Strikersher first full-length foray outside of Hugh Howey’s silos, Ann showed what she can do. From my review:

“Ann Chisty does a fabulous job of world-building, creating a realistic dystopian world where Karas and her friends find out what they are really made of. Her characters are very believable and although she does an admirable job tying up storylines by the end of the story, there are plenty of seeds and avenues to explore in future tales in her Striker Universe. I enjoyed reading it far more than a lot of dystopian young adult books on the market today and I feel she really tapped into the emotion that fuels much of the young adult fiction market these days.”
My Sweet Satan by Peter Cawdron

mssI’ll just start with the beginning of my Amazon review:

“With a title like that, it was a little difficult for me to want to read this book. Peter Cawdron has made a title that is very provocative, but if the reader can just get past it — get to the heart of the story — they will realize that Satan has very little to do with this tale at all.”

In fact, Cawdron has made a great first contact story that is really less about the first contact than it is a character study of stressed individuals in deep space approaching the unknown. Is it really Satan or something else – something worse?

I’ve always been a fan of Cawdron’s stories and can’t seem to get enough of them. The best part of MSS was perhaps the character of Jason, the ship’s AI. Again, from my review:

“I’ll say this about Jason — he may be the best character I’ve seen in a long time. I loved what Cawdron did in creating a character that feels totally real, but is not only fictional, but also doesn’t have a body to call his own. The evolution of Jason was fantastic and I would love to see more of him in a future book if Mr. Cawdron ever decides to revisit his MSS Universe.”

Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker

Bunker_PENNSYLVANIA_Omnibus_EbookEdition-640x1024The first two parts of Pennsylvania were on my list from last year, so this isn’t too much of a surprise. Bunker finished up his book by answering questions, but certainly leaving more than a few unanswered for a sequel in the upcoming Oklahoma.

From my Amazon review:

“The book is a great work, alternating between moments of calm with the Amish lifestyle, and anxiety with the pending war between the two factions on New Pennsylvania. The simple life that that Amish lead with the chaos and politics of the “English” world raging around them. Bunker has painted a brilliant picture of this dichotomy by showing the differences between Jed and Amos. One content to be plain – the other aware of a different calling on his life.”

The Fourth Sage by Stefan Bolz

10338227_10203080505026343_2241684756519716173_nIt hadn’t been very long after I’d read Stefan Bolz’s other novel, The Three Feathers, when I got my hands on The Fourth Sage. I found it to be a wonderful example of a dystopian novel without the depressing tropes that so often inhabit those books. From my review:

“There is a positivity present in Bolz’s work that you don’t find in other author’s books. In a post-apocalyptic, authoritarian society, you would expect to find death and depression around every turn, but for some reason, whenever Aries, her winged friend, Born of Night, or any of her numerous friends appear on the page, it is difficult to not smile and know that somehow, someway, their destiny is to survive and even thrive.”

Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon-Max-BarryLexicon is one of the few books I haven’t written an Amazon review for, but there are a few reasons for that. One – I actually read it as a paperback and wasn’t immediately prompted to write a review, and two – it was the first book I had a chance to read after the adoption of our son was complete.

Regardless, Lexicon was a ride and a half. Hugh Howey had been pushing this book for a while and when I had some money to spend at Barnes & Noble, I specifically looked for this book and devoured it in the days that followed. I loved the secret society nature of the book and the pacing. It was extremely well-written and I’ll certainly look out for Barry’s books in the future.