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!
Alt.History 102 is up in the Top 10 of the Sci-fi Anthology charts and is getting some fantastic reviews, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t done meeting some Alt.Historians! Here is a few words from Adam Venezia. Who is he? I’ll leave that to him to answer…
Give us a brief introduction to you. Who are you? What else have you written? What brings you to Alt.History 102?
A few years ago, I walked away from a PhD program in Structural Engineering to pursue a career in writing. Seven years of studying engineering taught me that science fiction is more fun than science. Alt.History 102 is my first time publishing. Most everything before it has been practicing the craft.
What’s your story about? What gave you the idea for your story?
“The Black Network” is about what would happen if we didn’t have all this lovely access to the internet and computing. But, it’s not about a time before computers were invented. They exist, and are just as powerful as we think of them now. But access is limited, controlled by the wealthy, prohibitively expensive for just about everyone.
If you could pick a previous Chronicles anthology that you could alter history to go back and be included in, which one would it be and why?
Time Travel Chronicles. I actually got into the Chronicles by writing a story just for Sam – a sort of audition piece. Time Travel Chronicles was on the verge of coming out at that time, and I just barely missed my chance to be in that collection. A shame, because time travel is easily my favorite subject within science fiction.
Anything else you’d like to plug?
I recently started a blog. I’ve spent the past few years teaching myself to write, and put up the blog as a way of organizing and sharing what I know so far. That’s at adamvenezia.wordpress.com
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.
Sam 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…)
When 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.
Uncle 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!)
Okay…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.
Whoa. Been a while since I’ve updated my blog. Going to do better at that in the coming weeks, but for now…how about a few reviews of a few novels I’ve read lately. Some great stuff out there right now. Here are four:
When I was in high school, I starting reading Tom Clancy novels. I don’t remember if I saw Hunt for Red October as a movie first or read the book, but it all happened about the same time. Clancy had a knack for showing the military side of the U.S., the intelligence behind it all, the home life of the operatives, and yet give the audience a glimpse of the enemy at the same time. The formula works and David Bruns and his writing partner on this book, J.R. Olson, make it work to perfection in Weapons of Mass Deception.
Bruns and Olson give us a simple premise — what if the weapons of mass destruction President George W. Bush said Saddam Hussein had actually existed? From the get-go the reader is given a very plausible scenario of what might’ve happened to the nuclear warheads in the early days of the Iraqi invasion and the entire book spirals from there.
Just like Tom Clancy gave us Jack Ryan and Clive Cussler gave us Dirk Pitt, Bruns and Olson gave us Brendon McHugh, a Navy Seal, complete with a well-rounded backstory and friends throughout the U.S. military and intelligence community. It’s the details where the authors really shine as both are former Navy and completely convince you the story you are reading is real and authentic in every way possible. If it wasn’t for the “fiction” tag on the book, I might’ve been convince this was a true story, ala American Sniper.
I thoroughly enjoyed Weapons of Mass Deception. Bruns and Olson are right up there with Clancy, Cussler, and Vince Flynn in terms of a military and terrorism thriller. I think this is a perfect book to start a long-running series with McHugh as a central character. Well done!
I first started reading Linear Shift by Paul Kohler when he first released Part 1 as a serial installment. I loved the premise and was intrigued enough to keep reading to Part 2. I somehow got off track when Parts 3 and 4 were released, but thankfully I was able to catch up and read all four parts together with the omnibus collection of Linear Shift, which makes for an interesting and moving time travel tale.
In the book, we meet Peter Cooper, an architect whose family is falling apart. After his wife’s death, his teenage kids are struggling and Peter isn’t much better. One day Peter is offered a chance to travel to 1942 on a mission to correct a mistake during World War II. The mission would be fairly straight forward if those in charge of the mission were more honest with Peter in the first place.
There is a fair amount of action before Peter and his traveling partner Julie actually travel to the past, but the book really takes off and gets interesting once they are in the past. There are plenty of subplots in 1942 and the world is rife with different agendas between the U.S., the French (even the Vichy), the Nazis, and plenty of issues even on the American side of things. Suffice it to say, Peter and Julie don’t have an easy time in the past, but it seemed that sometimes they made it harder on themselves. I really enjoyed it and don’t even have a huge problem with a time or two that seemed a bit “Ex Machina” to me.
I think Mr. Kohler did a great job on Linear Shift and his growth as a writer is evident throughout the four installments of the story. The first few installments are good, but the fourth part (which ends up being nearly half the overall book) is by far the best. I look forward to seeing what Kohler will do next.
I’d had The Heretic by Lucas Bale sitting on my bookshelf for a while, but for some reason never started reading it. I don’t know why I ever waited — The Heretic is a fantastic read and the beginnings of something special.
As I read The Heretic, I kept feeling like there was something familiar to the story and when the book ended and I read Bale’s author note where he credited the TV show Firefly with much of the inspiration, I knew the similarities were not just coincidence. Like many other sci-fi fans, I too wished the show would have continued with the adventures of Captain Mal and crew. In a way, Bale fulfills that wish with the story he gives us in The Heretic.
But this is so much deeper than a simple hour-long TV show. Bale has intertwined the Roman Empire in a dystopian post-earth setting with the Firefly homage. The galaxy is under control of an authoritarian regime, using terms straight out of ancient Rome like Consul and Praetor. Only what is approved is taught, leading to conflicts between the government and unauthorized “Preachers.”
Our main character is named Shepherd and seems straight out of the Firefly character book, which is not an unwelcome thing. He and his ship are hired to take a town and their Preacher out of danger, a situation he would naturally like to avoid, but something keeps him around — something that nags him from his past.
I really enjoyed The Heretic and have the next two books ready to go on my Kindle. Mr. Bale is a welcome addition to the sci-fi genre and I look forward to more stories from him.
After reading previous books by S. Elliot Brandis in his Tunnel series, I thought I was prepared for The Pearl Diver. I was wrong. Starting a great new Young Adult series, Brandis does the unexpected, taking the reader in new directions with each step along the way.
In The Pearl Diver, we are quickly introduced to Elsie, a 17 (nearly 18) year old living on the planet Caelum, which is 96 percent water. Based on the descriptions, it seems wonderful, almost like a year-round tropical island in many respects, but Elsie longs for more, just like many young protagonists in stories like this. She wants, desperately, to be The Pearl Diver.
Caelum is one of six (or seven??) planets in the system, but each year administrators from the planet Dunamis, the head planet, organize a contest for a black pearl. The winner, if there is one, is named the Pearl Diver, and is taken to Dunamis where they are honored. The first half of the book is all about Elsie’s journey to the contest and her attempts to be the Pearl Diver, but it’s the back half of the book that really got me.
In Brandis’ previous books I’d read, he was liberal with hurting his characters physically. He literally plunged the knife in and twisted at times. In The Pearl Diver, Brandis has learned to do the same with emotions. The physical challenges and harm is still a factor, but when Elsie learns what life is like after the contest, we find the knife sticking out of our backs as well.
Well done, Mr. Brandis.
I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a larger and much broader plot Brandis has mapped out beyond the contest to find the pearl. I would definitely recommend this to any fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, or Susan Kaye Quinn’s latest The Legacy Human.
I like to include my Amazon reviews over here as well, and there are a few that I missed lately. I am so impressesd by so much that I see coming out of the indie publishing scene — so many great and new ideas and great voices to showcase their works. Without further ado, here are my reviews for Stefan Bolz’s Apocalypse Weird entry Genesis: The White Dragon, the latest short story from Carol Davis entitled Being of Value, and a great novel by Travis Mohrman, Humid.
Stefan Bolz has a unique style to his writing that I have yet to see duplicated. Even as he destroys the world in his Apocalypse Weird story Genesis, there is a hope and an optimism that is still visible. But, while that hope is there, that sometimes makes the violence all the more brutal knowing the end may not be pretty for everyone.
In Genesis, we follow Kasey Byrne on the day she turns 18 years old. What should be one of the best and most joyous days of her life takes a dramatic turn in the opposite direction very quickly. She watches in horror as hundreds of dolphins turn up en masse to commit suicide on the beach, then is helpless as her mother commits suicide, and is stuck with an insane police officer who is about to murder her and her boyfriend in cold blood. And that’s just the first couple hours.
What’s great about Bolz is that he presents a Young Adult Apocalypse Weird tale. The immediacy of Kasey’s actions are all the more intense as we follow her life from the graduation party on the beach to the end when everything changes. The emotions and inner turmoil of teenagers is so much more intense, then say a 35-year-old man. We sense that not only is it the end of the world, but it’s also the end of everything Kasey knows. Everything is ripped from her as the forces of evil search for something only she would have.
I loved Bolz’s take on the apocalypse and if any is due a sequel, it’s this one. Bolz bold and memorable characters are prime for the next chapter in their lives and I know his fans will eat up the story Bolz has up his sleeve next.
In Carol Davis‘ writing, the reader can almost always get a clear picture of the drama and action. She has a definite style that lends itself towards visualizing the story on the screen, whether as a movie or TV show. Her latest sci-fi short Being Of Value is right there as well, putting the reader in an unfamiliar environment, but making the story so palatable and palpable you can picture it immediately.
As is the case with so many great A.I. stories, the protagonist of BOV, Matthew, makes you question what it really means to be human. Is it just flesh and blood? Is it an organic mind, born from a lifetime of experiences? Or…is it something else? Is human even something to aspire to? The tale moves along at a good clip, but the questions of ethics, of right and wrong, of whether humanity is defined by our morals continue to haunt Matthew and the reader along the way.
Davis’ background of writing with the sci-fi TV screen in mind definitely plays a part in this story. There is a general positive futuristic vibe to it, almost a Star Trek related theme of sorts when we see Matthew host some foreign dignitaries in the Dome — a Holodeck of sorts in a contest between man and android. Although androids have advantages of a body and mind that never tires, the contest ends up more than he was counting on.
I enjoyed the story and could definitely see a continuing series with Matthew as he continues to discover who he is in relation to the human universe and what that means.
Ever since I read Travis Mohrman’s book Singular Points, I’ve been excited to see what else he had up his sleeve. In many ways, Humid is a spiritual successor to SP as we see Mohrman’s signature style on full display with a flair intense sci-fi action.
What happens when all of a sudden, the weather patterns stop, the humidity gets cranked to levels off the scale, and water all over the earth no longer stays on the surface, retreating to the atmosphere? That’s what everyone wants to know, including our hero, Wendy, a meteorologist living in St. Louis. Wendy is tasked with being the lone researcher left at a weather station as the humidity continues to ramp up, destroying modern society in its wake.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the book, but Wendy encounters interesting characters along her journey to discover the truth of what is happening to the planet. Eventually that truth leads to a confrontation between her and the cause of the entire planetary disaster. I liked the characters, and was constantly looking for what Mohrman had up his sleeve next.
One of the best things about the Indie Book Revolution is that readers have the chance to read stories that never would have seen the light of day under the previous model of publishing. Compelling, interesting, and engaging stories that would have been shunned by the New York publishing houses. Yet thanks to the digital revolution, we get to enjoy these imaginative tales for ourselves. We get to be the Gatekeepers.
Michael Bunker’s newest book Brother, Frankenstein is one of those books. Of course, we don’t know for sure, but it is too daring, too out of the box, too…Amish…to be a traditionally published book. We like our Amish in neat little romance books. A girl in an apron on the front cover, clutching a bouquet of flowers, and a covered wagon driving away in the distance. There’s too much risk to allow the Amish to mix with sci-fi in the way Bunker does in Brother, Frankenstein.
But in that risk, in taking a leap of faith that readers can cope with “out of the box,” Bunker has achieved a wonderful book that transcends many of the books you would be able to find on the shelf of Barnes and Noble today.
In a way, this was always meant to be. The simple life of the Amish, combined with the world’s first truly science fiction story – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The moral dilemmas that Dr. Frankenstein encountered and dealt with in the groundbreaking novel are presented here as well. In Bunker’s work, Dr. Chris Alexander has a military grade robot body that is just in need of a heart and brain. The donations come from an autistic Amish boy who was dying anyway. Dr. Alexander believes he is giving the boy a gift. Another chance at life…in a body that can wipe entire towns off the map with the firepower contained within.
As Dr. Alexander goes on the run with Frank, the government sends in an agent who is as ruthless as he is skilled at his job – Cyrano Dresser. Dresser approaches the search for Frank and the Doc as his own White Whale, and has no problem in running over whoever gets in his way. He is a special type of evil villain and I can totally see the character on the big screen.
So, with the government hunting them down, where do the fugitives go? Amish country of course. There they fit in (as best they can), and Alexander works to contain Frank’s emotions. Emotions aren’t Frank’s friends – that’s because when he gets mad, he transforms into a Voltron-type robot capable of mass destruction. Not quite Amish.
In the end, I found the book to be quite enjoyable and Bunker’s best work to date. Pennsylvania was a Bunker’s previous attempt at “Amish Sci-Fi” but he’s refined his style and his pacing in Brother, Frankenstein was much improved. The stakes are high for Alexander and his experiment, and the emotional payoff for the reader and for Frank is worth it.
What a beautiful tribute, not only to the namesake author Hugh Howey, but also to the art of writing. Daniel Arthur Smith has written a wonderful book that explores a future where writing and art are not only rare, but obsolete. In that future, we see life exist with books written by machines, but a few books may be written by Howey, who has become a legend at this point.
There are moments in this book, where I could place myself exactly in Kay’s shoes. Kay and Tia are on a boat, searching for the elusive Mr. Howey, even though it’s set 160 years from today, when Howey would be roughly 200 years old. As the title of the book implies, yes, Hugh Howey Lives, but of course there is so much more than that.
Early on in the book, Kay, an aspiring author, is talking to Tia about Howey, and seemingly every other word out of her mouth is about the reclusive author. As a indie author myself, I can sympathize. I have written fiction set in Howey’s WOOL Universe, and have spent one of my birthdays reading one of Howey’s books that had been released that day. I have worn off the ears of loved ones with my praise and admiration of Howey as a writer and a source of inspiration for independent publishing. At one point, I have been Kay, and my wife was Tia, putting up with me, but not always understanding. To read the first half of this book is understand the mid of a writer and is a cast metaphor for how indie writers have put Howey on a pedestal over the past few years.
Smith could have ended the story there, but takes it in a different direction. When I was younger, I remember a short story by Isaac Asimov where a man’s computer slowly learns to be his own word processor, and eventually, writes just like him. That’s a huge part of this story, which is actually somewhat inspired by a blog posting by Howey last year (hence the tribute). What happens when computers write all the stories? The wave of originality from a human becomes all the more important.
I loved this story and look forward to more from Smith. Well done. On behalf of indie authors, thank you.
When 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.
Just like in his massive hit, Cyberstorm, Matthew Mather does what he does best: he takes reality and adds just enough of a sci-fi touch to make it terrifying and relatable.
When I first started reading Darknet, it took a little while before I became really engrossed in the high-tech world of finance that the protagonist Jake O’Connell lived in. Just like some of the characters themselves, I found myself in over my head in the world of crypto currency, algorithms, assassin markets, and dark networks, but my patience was rewarded when the reader learns alongside those characters.
Mather makes sure the reader knows no one is safe in his world, introducing and killing off multiple characters throughout the book. In fact, I wasn’t totally sure if his protagonist Jake was really truly safe to get comfortable with until about a quarter of the way into the book.
As a stock broker in New York, Jake is familiar with the high-stakes game of Wall Street finances, but is unprepared when his world crumbles around him. His childhood friend dies in a mysterious accident in London, his boss is arrested on charges by the SEC, and he himself is framed for rape, causing his wife and daughter to leave him. All the while, Jake is trying to clear himself and ends up uncovering a massive secret that could threaten the economies of nearly every country on the planet. Along the way, he finds his own life in danger as well as those of his family and friends.
Once I really got into the story, I couldn’t put it down, reading in every spare minute until I was done. Mather is a phenomenal storyteller, weaving a thriller like the best out there. I was impressed with the immense and complex world he had created in Darknet, topped only by the characters and the situations they find themselves in around every corner.
The scary thing about Darknet is that Mather completely creates a plausible scenario for a near-future event. What if some of the technology we use and employ today evolves to the level of where it exists in Darknet? What would happen? Just like the potential of catastrophe in Cyberstorm, Mather presents a worst-case scenario of sorts in the midst of a thriller.
I loved this book and will look forward to reading it again in the future. Well done, Mr. Mather. Keep writing them like this and I’ll keep reading them. I received a free advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
There’s just something about science fiction that causes the reader to look, not just towards the future, but also to our past and our present. I found myself thinking about a lot while I read the latest Future Chronicles installment – The A.I. Chronicles.
Throughout humanity’s existence on earth, we’ve continuously defined what it means to be a person. Men (especially white men in the Western hemisphere in the past 2,000 years) have long since had the power over everyone else, determining a person’s humanity by their gender, their skin color, their age, even the amount of property they owned.
Along with the growth of science and technology, mankind has evolved to the point where nearly all of those disputes are in our past. The next wave of humanity may deal with a similar issue, but it will be of our own making. What is intelligence? Does intelligence equal humanity? Do those with “artificial” intelligence deserve the same rights as those born naturally?
Those are tough questions for sure, and many of the stories in The A.I. Chronicles tackle those issues head-on. I thoroughly enjoyed each of the thirteen stories put together in this collection and know I will go back in the future and re-read them again and again.
There were more than a few that caught my attention, starting first and foremost with “Vendetta” by Chrystalla Thoma. The story tells about a future war between humanity and the A.I., long since fought and nearly forgotten about. Humanity has moved on, keeping technology in their lives, but not at the center. As a reader, I really enjoyed this story which kept me asking questions about who the protagonists were and their place in this futuristic society.
I also loved Patrice Fitzgerald’s “Piece of Cake.” As someone who is overweight, and struggles with those issues, I see stories in the news about the government taxing additional calories, prohibiting super-size drinks and snacks, and imposing restrictions on meals for kids in school. It is troubling to see the government legislate those things, and Fitzgerald takes that and advances the idea to include a 1984-type society complete with the food police around every turn, thanks to an A.I. who monitors food intake and weight. Fascinating and scary, with the trademark Fitzgerald humor attached.
I could talk about each and every story and some reviews may do so, but I’ll leave it at this — you won’t regret buying this collection.
The short story is a wonderful form, especially in science fiction where so much unmined ground can be found. I am constantly amazed by each and every story I find in the Future Chronicles anthologies and eagerly anticipate each to come.
(Reviewer Note: I received an Advance Reviewer Copy in exchange for an honest review. In the interest of full disclosure, my story “Uncle Allen” was previously published in The Alien Chronicles and I am slated to appear in the upcoming anthology The Z Chronicles.)