Tag Archives: dystopian science fiction

Sky Curse (Book One): The Chosen Five by Janet Kravetz Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

In a futuristic world where climate change is worsening and mental health and population control have gotten out of control, one woman seeks a means of using technology to prevent a total apocalypse in author Janet Kravetz’s “Sky Curse: The Chosen Five”, the first book in the Sky Curse series. 

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The Synopsis

The Sky Curse series follows Cecilia Miller, a coder of artificial dreams living in the year 2045. It’s a time when climate chaos has become the norm and the collective mental health of humanity has fallen to a grave state. The world’s population has grown to a horrific twenty-five billion people, maxing Earth to its limit. Most are planning to abandon Earth and leave it to its fate as they colonize a new world through Titan pioneering (those beings are called Universalists). However, there are those who still hold on to hope for Earth and a humanity untainted by AI (those beings are called Localists). As humanity struggles to survive, it seems like only technology can help, and Cecilia is determined to be the one to bring it about. When planet Earth faces apocalyptic events, she must summon her resolve and resilience if she’s to have a chance to save this world.

The Review

This was such an intense, captivating conspiracy thriller that meets YA sci-fi and a dystopian novel. The novel read like a very mature story, with strong characters who represented the complexities of this novel’s themes. The tension and atmosphere the author creates in this novel were so palpable and captured the reader’s attention, allowing the narrative to shine through brightly. The characters felt organic and honed into the world around them so well, and each character, including the protagonist, became a vocal representation of the themes the narrative brings to life. 

What stands out in this novel are the incredibly complex themes and the rich world-building the author utilizes. The themes the author explores included the advancements in technology, climate change, humanity’s impact on the world, and the slippery slope between controlling humanity and curbing destructive behaviors. The reader is immediately treated to the themes through the advanced AI systems, virtual reality becoming virtual dreams and even the protagonist’s status as a Cyborg. The idea of a “big brother” state and the question of how much control humanity has on the impact of the world around them and how much is left up to fate was incredible to read and watch unfold on the page.

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, adrenaline-fueled, and entertaining, author Janet Kravetz’s “Sky Curse: The Chosen Five” is a must-read sci-fi meets dystopian conspiracy thriller novel of 2022! The concept and execution of this narrative felt very much like George Orwell’s 1984 meets Issac Asimov’s expansive sci-fi collection, including I, Robot. The intimate way the author is able to capture the concept of finding one’s voice and stepping into your own power made this such a rich and unique story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Janet Kravetz (sometimes writing under the pen name Topaz Ruby) is an award winning author, poet and artist as well as a mental health advocate.   

Janet was born in Ukraine and grew up in Israel, where she had a career in legal research and public policy, joining the Israel Bar in 2009. Soon thereafter she immigrated to Nova Scotia, Canada and continued working in the field of legal research and public policy, while volunteering with various local committees for the promotion of diversity and inclusion. She speaks Russian, Hebrew and English. 

In 2013 she launched a career as an award-winning poet and in 2014 as an award-winning author, when her self-published book of poetry and art “Reaching Beyond Ourselves – Leading a Spiritual, peaceful and Diverse World” won the international Beverly Hills Book Awards for both content and presentation (under the pen name Topaz Ruby). In the following years Janet turned to writing more poetry and also a few unpublished manuscripts about topics of spirituality, mental health, diversity and the environment. She writes in plain language that children and immigrants can understand.

https://www.authorjanetkravetz.com/

Into the Mist (Into the Mist Book One) by P.C. Cast Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A group of women who gain supernatural abilities in the midst of a biological attack have to survive and face untold danger as they battle the impending apocalypse in author P.C. Cast’s “Into the Mist”, the first book in the series of the same name.

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The Synopsis

As men fall to the mist, the age of womankind begins to rise.

The world as we know it ends when an attack on the U.S. unleashes bombs that deliver fire and biological destruction. Along with sonic detonations and devastating earthquakes, the bombs have also brought the green mist. If breathed in, it is deadly to all men—but alters the body chemistry of many women, imbuing them with superhuman abilities.

A group of high school teachers heading home from a conference experiences firsthand the strength of these new powers. Mercury Rhodes is the Warrior, possessing heightened physical powers. Stella Carver is the Seer, with a sixth sense about the future. Imani Andrews is the Watcher, with a rare connection to the earth. Karen Gay is the Priestess, demonstrating a special connection with Spirits. And Gemma Jenkins is the Healer, a sixteen-year-old student who joins the group after losing her parents.

As they cross the Pacific Northwest, trying to find a safe place to ride out the apocalypse, the women soon learn they can’t trust anyone, and with fresh danger around every corner, it will take all their powers to save themselves—and possibly the world.

The Review

This was a gripping and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic read. The elements of sci-fi and fantasy that play into the narrative are perfectly utilized, for they don’t necessarily overpower the story at all but enhance it, and add more depth to the overall drama of the sequence of events that begins this cataclysmic event. The imagery and atmosphere (both figurative and literal) are well defined and give the reader a true sense of the world that has become their reality, delving into themes of survival, relationships, and the breakdown of society as a whole. 

The character dynamics and growth was superb in this read. The author really did an amazing job on page 1 of defining the relationships and connectivity of these characters, especially the core cast of women who serve as the backbone of this story. The way the author is able to flip the script so to speak on the post-apocalyptic story by having a group of women takes on the roles of protectors and heroes in a world that has turned into a nightmare was an inspired choice, and making the women feel realistic and vulnerable in one breath while also exuding strength and determination in the next was great to read.

The Verdict

Heartfelt, engaging, and exhilarating, author P.C. Cast’s “Into the Mist” is a must-read suspense thriller that meets dystopian apocalyptic sci-fi read, and is one of my top suspense reads of 2022! The chilling nature of the attacks that lead into this main narrative and the heart-pounding thriller aspect of the narrative that keeps readers on the edge of their seat as alliances and distrust form in the wake of civilization’s breakdown was so compelling to read. The shocking twists and turns will leave readers eager to read the author’s sequel when it inevitably arrives. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today, or preorder the book and receive it on July 12th, 2022!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

PC was born in the Midwest and grew up being shuttled back and forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with Quarter Horses and mythology (at about the same time). After high school, she joined the United States Air Force and began public speaking and writing. After her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for 15 years before retiring to write full time. PC is a #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today Best-Selling author and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and the Laurel Wreath. PC is an experienced teacher and talented speaker. Ms. Cast lives in Oregon near her fabulous daughter, her adorable pack of dogs, her crazy Maine Coon, and a bunch of horses. House of Night Other World, book 4, FOUND, releases July 7th, 2020. More info to come soon about the HoN TV series!

https://www.pccastauthor.com/

New Life in Autumn by Michael G. Williams Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A newly dead detective tries to find a group of missing children and solve the mysteries of the floating city of Autumn’s long-lost history in author Michael G. Williams’s “New Life in Autumn”. 

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The Synopsis

RETURN TO THE MEAN STREETS OF AUTUMN

Valerius Bakhoum is dead and buried.

Too bad he’s still flat broke and behind on the rent.

Unsure what to do with himself—and of who he is—Valerius resumes his career as a detective by taking up the oldest case in his files: where do the children go?

Throughout his own youth on the streets of Autumn, last of the Great Flying Cities, Valerius knew his fellow runaways disappeared from back alleys and other hiding places more than anyone realized. Street kids even had a myth to explain it: the Gotchas, who steal urchins away in the night.

With nothing but time on his hands, Valerius dives in head-first to settle the question once and for all and runs smack into a more pressing mystery: who killed one of Valerius’ former lovers?

And do they know Valerius is still alive?

Stalk the shadows of Autumn’s hidden places by Valerius Bakhoum’s side as he shines a light on secrets both sacred and profane, ones with shockingly personal connections to who he was—and who he might become.

New Life in Autumn is the sequel to the Manly Wade Wellman Award-winning A Fall in Autumn.

The Review

What immediately struck me about this novel was just how much the setting of this floating city called Autumn felt so alive on the page. A beautiful blend of dystopian sci-fi meets fantasy and hard-boiled detective mysteries, the author found a way to make the city itself feel like a character all its own. The intrigue and drama that the author’s narrative brought forth kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

The character growth of this narrative was such an engaging aspect of the story. The protagonist was so versatile and complex, both emoting the tough-as-nails attitude one expects of a seasoned detective and showing the raw emotions and shock of experiencing death and rebirth all at once. The LGBTQ-forward romance and inspired character development made this story shine brightly as well, making for a rich and diverse dystopian read.

The Verdict

Gripping, captivating, and entertaining, author Michael G. Williams’s “New Life in Autumn” is a must-read novel! The action and mystery surrounding this story feel both classic and yet futuristic all at once, and the rich character development, both the protagonist and the city, in particular, make for an emotionally engaging and mind-blowing hook that keeps us readers invested in this series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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A New Life in Autumn - Michael G. Williams

Michael G. Williams has a new gay sci-fi mystery out, Books of Autumn book 2: A New Life in Autumn. And there’s a giveaway!

THE HARDEST PART OF DYING IS DECIDING HOW TO PASS THE TIME

Valerius Bakhoum died and kept no living. Now he can walk the streets of his city with a new face and a new name and finally feel a little bit respected. Too bad he’s still flat broke and behind on the rent. Unsure what to do with himself—and perhaps even of who he is—Valerius resumes his career as a detective by taking up the oldest case in his files: where do the children go?

Throughout his own youth on the streets of Autumn, last of the Great Flying Cities, Valerius knew his fellow runaways disappear from back alleys and other hiding places more than people realize. Street kids even have a myth to explain it: the Gotchas, who steal them away in the night. With nothing but time on his hands, Valerius dives in head-first to settle the question once and for all and runs smack into a more pressing mystery:

Who killed one of Valerius’ former lovers?

And do they know he’s still alive?

Return to the mean streets of Autumn by Valerius Bakhoum’s side as he shines a light into shadowy corners and finds secrets both sacred and profane with shockingly personal connections to who he was—and who he might become.

Warnings: This book does involve mild violence, capture and impending torture by antagonists, and discussion of the murder of children.

About the Series:

What would you do if you found yourself free at last–and all alone–in the sin-drenched paradise you were told you’d never reach?

Books of Autumn is a series telling the story of Valerius Bakhoum, a down and out private eye in Autumn, last of the great flying Cities, at various points in his life.

In A Fall in Autumn (2020 Manly Wade Wellman Award), we meet Valerius as he winds down his career and his too-short life.

In New Life in Autumn, Valerius navigates a surprising second chance and questions of who he is–and who he might become.

Walk the mean streets of Autumn by Valerius’ side in this award-winning study of the kindness and compassion found in the places where humanity’s lowest ambitions lurk!

Universal Buy Link


Giveaway

Michael is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

a Rafflecopter giveawayhttps://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47243/?


Excerpt

New Life in Autumn meme

Across three quarters of the City of Autumn, street kids are an unthinkable paradox. For the most part, the Pluses and the PlusPlus and all the other manifold forms of intentional humankinds only ever run into the sorts of kids someone wanted badly enough to design. There are already a billion people in the world between the Empire, the Eastern Expanse, and the less-organized places nobody’s fought over quite yet. Having kids willy-nilly wouldn’t add up, not with so many people already in line for the breakfast bar. That’s one of the many objections the Spiralists put forward to continued cultivation of Artisanal Humans like me—well, like I was.

That’s going to take some getting used to.

Anyway, widespread cultural insistence on bespoke offspring leaves a lot of kids out in the cold, literally. The ones I described before, orphaned by chance or abandoned for turning out imperfect or who got tired of their old life and decided to chase a new one are, in the remaining fourth-to-fifth of the City, as common as cobblestones and just as underfoot. There are plenty of them, and the supply continually refreshes, and I went to distinctly other streets than theirs. It isn’t that I wanted to avoid them, but talking would have taken money or some sort of barter and I was too short by half on either. I suspected it would have generated too much information rather than too little. A street kid asked to tell a story for a steam bun or a little reliably spendable scrip will gin up all the story you want and then some. I didn’t need urban legends. I needed facts, and that meant a much more gruesome start than some urchin milking my wallet with tall tales of what goes bump in the night.

I mentioned to Clodia one time that I had a friend who worked the Cisterns. The City of Autumn is like any town: its people have to piss like anybody else and its gutters often swell with rain. Autumn routinely flies into weather systems to gather up fresh water, and there’s a vast infrastructure to purify it for use by humankinds. I could spend ten pages telling you about the ponds in Down Preserves where rainwater burbles and bubbles under pressure, mixing in fresh air. The whole City sleeps atop a bed stuffed with pumps and gravity lines, charcoal and scrub algae, grates and artificial reefs and purpose-built shrimp—but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll simply say this: by the time water gets to us, the only thing left is the scent of the air where it first fell as rain. I don’t understand how the process works. I don’t care, either. The important thing, the thing none of us think about too much in case it, too, is another pretty lie in the quilt of them we make over our lives, is it happens. Sip from Lotta’s to remember the dead, cup your hands in the fountains of Domino, turn on a tap in the average Autumn kitchen, and you’ll enjoy the aroma of a field somewhere in Afrique, or a mutant blossom somewhere on a nameless plain in the vast Recovery Zone between Big River and the Salt Flat.

But on the other end of the system? Once all that delicious water has run its course through bodies and beer kegs and ice machines and steam plants?

That’s called Cistern Intake. I knew a gal who worked that part of the system. You could smell it on her from ten meters away. I always felt sorry for her, because it was so baked into her skin, ground down into her pores, she didn’t even smell it anymore herself.

On the plus side, she always had plenty of room in a bar. Nobody crowded her for long.

Frankie was a Mannie. Generally speaking, no variety of Plus—nice, “normal” people with designer genes—would even be considered for her job. Even applying for it might result in getting a replication error assessment. Odds are good you’ve already heard the story from a few years ago about the PlusPlus whose big ideas on “lived egalitarianism” got her carted off for genotoxicity screening. What most folks don’t know, however, is it was a stunt on both sides. Sure, she only wanted to make a point by suing the City for the right to join a scrubber team, not actually take the job if they offered it. But the City went out of its way to make the counterpoint in response, escorting her kicking and screaming away from the workhouse where they keep the little gliders they use to clean the Fore Barrier’s external face.

I assume she hoped to drum up publicity for her so-called perverse beliefs. I think she expected the City would do something to make an example of her, sure, but something more symbolic. You know, a big fine she could never pay, or maybe a few nights in the Palace of Imperial Justice. Something Imperial media could print without making anybody lose their lunch.

Instead, they dragged her —did I mention the kicking and screaming?—straight to the Hive. No trial. No judge. No pretenses. The Hive is right there at the front of the City, and the tiny portion of it sticking out above street level is visible if you climb high enough in Down Preserves and look to the Fore. The joke goes, they put the City’s worst criminals out there so we’ll hear them screaming if we crash into anything. This lady’s worst crime, though, was trying to prove we’re not all equal, not in the lives we’re allowed to lead or the risks we’re expected to take in the course of them. It sounds like heroism to you or me, but to the powers that be, the Sinceres, the Spiralists, and all the other people who don’t care if the Empire is a heap of shit as long as they’re near enough the top to catch a breeze, she’d committed the worst kind of social treason: she’d violated the spoken and unspoken rules propping up the class system on which they relied.


Author Bio

New Life in Autumn - Michael G. Williams

Michael G. Williams writes queer-themed science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror celebrating monsters, macabre humor, and subverted expectations. He’s the author of three series for Falstaff Books: the award-winning vampire/urban fantasy series The Withrow Chronicles; the thrilling urban fantasy series SERVANT/SOVEREIGN featuring real estate, time travel, and San Francisco’s greatest historical figures; the science fiction noir A Fall in Autumn, winner of the 2020 Manly Wade Wellman Award; and a bunch of short stories. He strives to present the humor and humanity at the heart of horror and mystery with stories of outcasts and loners finding their people.

Michael will be the Guest of Honor at Ret-Con in 2023, co-hosts Arcane Carolinas, studies Appalachian history and folklore at Appalachian State University, and is a brother in St. Anthony Hall. He lives in Durham, NC, with his husband, a variety of animals, and more and better friends than he probably deserves.

Author Website: https://michaelgwilliamsbooks.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/mcmanlypants

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/MichaelGWilliamsAuthor

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/mcmanlypants

Author Instagram: https://instagram.com/mcmanlypants

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6429992.Michael_G_Williams

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/michael-g-williams/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Michael-G-Williams/e/B001KIYBBU/

Other Worlds Ink logo

Duatero by Brad C. Anderson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A soldier and his team must take a final stand to protect Earth’s abandoned colony of Duatero from a deadly ecosystem that poisons crops and turns humans into mindless monsters in author Brad C. Anderson’s “Duatero”.

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The Synopsis

Majstro Falchilo Kredo has devoted his life to protecting the abandoned earth colony of Duatero from Malamiko, the indigenous ecosystem that makes their crops fail and whose contamination turns humans into mindless monsters. But Malimiko is changing, becoming more dangerous, more aware, even as the ancient technology they use to combat fails piece by precious piece. Kredo and his fellow soldiers must risk everything or see all they hold precious wiped away and forgotten. Kredo is prepared to sacrifice himself—and anyone around him—to do his duty. But what if the price demanded is even higher?

The Review

The author did such a great job of crafting a vivid and unique world. The story of Duatero was mesmerizing, bringing the study of society and how it evolves (or doesn’t evolve) over time in response to the natural dangers of a world to life. The natural character growth and dialogue let both familiar yet unique to the narrative, as the speech and dialogue of the characters felt unique to the characters and their world, and yet the camaraderie and the personal issues they face also felt realistic and something that people could relate to if they were in a similar situation, making these characters very relatable. 

The world-building and mythos of this world were what really stole the show here. The way the author was able to create a threat and danger that dwelled not in the minds and hearts of mankind solely, but in the natural ecosystem of an entire planet, was a great way to explore the biology of the sci-fi genre and the language and terminology that the characters used highlighted the rich mythos that was developed for this science fiction meets dystopian adventure. 

The Verdict

Haunting, action-packed, and entertaining, author Brad C. Anderson’s “Duatero” is a must-read sci-fi dystopian read of 2022. A unique and creative tale, the rich characters that are both flawed yet highly emotional in their delivery and the impact this harsh world has on those surviving in this lost colony create an engaging story that will have readers drawn into the narrative wholeheartedly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Brad C. Anderson lives with his wife and puppy in Vancouver, Canada. He teaches undergraduate business courses at a local university and researches organizational wisdom in blithe defiance of the fact most people do not think you can put those two words in the same sentence without irony. Previously, he worked in the biotech sector where he made drugs for a living (legally!).

His stories have appeared in a variety of publications. His short story, Naïve Gods, was longlisted for a 2017 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. It was published in the anthology Lazarus Risen, which was itself nominated for an Aurora Award.

Civil War (Chronicles of Rondure Book 1) by TC Marti Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young woman trained for years to be the best warrior and Smoke Master of her people must fight her way to expose her world’s corruption within it’s political system and go rogue against the very people who trained her in author TC Marti’s “Civil War”, the first book in the Chronicles of Rondure series. 

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The Synopsis

I was Culled at age five into the Bastille Military, the World of Rondure’s superpower…

…Having lived on-base for thirteen years, military life taught me two things: Mastery of the Smoke Element and to never apologize about using it on enemies.

Now that I’m awaiting a sure life sentence for the crime of exposing Bastille’s true crimes, they’ve left me with no choice. When they try to extradite me, I will call upon my Sword of Smoke and escape this predicament, using every combat technique they taught me against them.

Then, I’ll take it upon myself to finish a mission I started years ago; to unplug the People of Bastille and let them know who the real enemy is: their home nation and its Capital City of Paramount.

As I go rogue, every authority figure with money, power, and influence in the Bastille Empire will want me dead. Thanks to them, I’m one of the most powerful Smoke Masters in the World of Rondure. And I’m ready to break the spell the people of my nation have lived under for over a century.

Calling all fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and George Orwell, Civil War features a strong heroine, with epic fantasy tropes bending into science fiction with dystopian and thriller elements, non-stop action, and stakes so high that Mina Hirai’s success or failure will set forth the fate of Rondure forever.

The Review

This was yet another fantastic entry into this beautifully written world of the author’s creation. The first book to connect the author’s original trilogy with the next trilogy in the Elementals of Nordica Saga, Civil War takes readers on a much more intimate journey than previous iterations of this series had done. Focusing instead on a first-person narrative, the story shows one young woman’s fight to escape a deadly prison sentence after learning of her government’s betrayal, and the fight to lead an insurrection to liberate the people of the government’s negative influence. The same balance of sci-fi and dystopian settings with the fantasy elements of the characters and the mythos overall made this such an impactful story to dive headfirst into.

The protagonist was definitely the driving force behind this narrative. The author’s ability to craft a more intimate and emotional narrative from the view of Mina Harai was a brilliant call, as it allowed a more personal view of the chaos and corruption Rondure was experiencing and the painful fight those who saw the corruption had to endure to reveal these dark truths. The connections she made, the horrors she was both witnessed and experienced, and the heroism she showed made her arc so engaging and the world-building and mythos as a result much more captivating.

The Verdict

Mind-blowing imagery, entertaining, and brilliantly written, author TC Marti’s “Civil War” is a must-read novel of 2022 for fans of sci-fi, dystopian, and fantasy-driven action-adventure narratives. The rich mythos that was expanded upon and explored in this narrative was amazing to read, and the personal development of one of the world’s heroes made this a stunning story to get lost in. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

TC Marti has been an avid reader/writer for over three decades. He is the author of the Elementals Universe, a shared speculative fiction universe spanning multiple series. He is also a workout fanatic and a fan of Arizona sports teams.

Babouc’s Vision by Glenn Searfoss Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

An appliance repairman finds himself overwhelmed when the gods choose him to be the one to condemn the people of his city, and as the lives of several others flood his mind, he must prove the people’s lives worthy of saving instead in author Glenn Searfoss’s “Babouc’s Vision”.

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The Synopsis

Babouc’s Vision is a riveting dystopian science fiction novel with thought-provoking commentary on society.

The year is 2041– and the gods are angry. While Carissa scours the city garbage for food and pretty things to show her grandfather, Tom and April strive to prove themselves genetically suitable to conceive a child. Luis becomes a man fighting to protect his unborn son from the gangs. Nora sits alone in her dark apartment, old, tired, and ready to die. And Izzy, how did he land in the streets destitute? In the backroom of his appliance repair shop, Harl putters at his workbench unaware the Gods have chosen him to condemn the people of CynCity. Harl’s world turns upside-down as his mind explodes with the lives of strangers. Struggling to remain sane, he must somehow prove the city’s population deserves to survive.

The works of Voltaire (The World as it is) and Dante (The Divine Comedy) inspired this book. As well, many events in the work reflect newspaper reports of criminal, social, environmental, and scientific events happening around the world. The bleak nature of these accounts explains the book’s overall dystopian feel, while the hope buried in the stories is gleaned from human perseverance.

The Review

The author found such a striking balance of world-building and thought-provoking themes. The exploration of humanity’s worst aspects and how the people in one city fair against those sins was so fascinating to read. The detailed way the author approaches this dystopian sci-fi read was amazing, as was the narrative overall, which did a great job of playing into the themes and genres of this novel with grand futuristic settings and larger-than-life characters.

The characters were the true heart of this narrative. The vast array of different characters really brought this sad and brutal reality to life so perfectly, either by adding to the chaos or becoming a victim of that chaos themselves. Yet the way the author brought out small glimmers of hope throughout the narrative to showcase how there exists those within the darkness to fight for a brighter tomorrow was amazing to read.

The Verdict

Creative, engaging, and thoughtful in its approach, author Glenn Searfoss’s “Babouc’s Vision” is a must-read dystopian sci-fi thriller. A philosophical and introspective look into the mistakes and sins humanity inflicts upon itself far too often, and those who work to fight for change for the future, this novel shines and does an amazing job of exploring the depths of humanity in an entertaining way. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Glenn Searfoss is an American author of works in science fiction, mythology, computer science, and natural history. He lives in Colorado, USA with his wife.

Trashlands by Alison Stine Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A mother struggling to save enough money to rescue her child finds an opportunity to change her and her child’s life through her art in the sci-fi dystopian thriller, “Trashlands” by author Alison Stine. 

The Synopsis

A resonant, visionary novel about the power of art and the sacrifices we are willing to make for the ones we love

A few generations from now, the coastlines of the continent have been redrawn by floods and tides. Global powers have agreed to not produce any new plastics, and what is left has become valuable: garbage is currency.

In the region-wide junkyard that Appalachia has become, Coral is a “plucker,” pulling plastic from the rivers and woods. She’s stuck in Trashlands, a dump named for the strip club at its edge, where the local women dance for an endless loop of strangers and the club’s violent owner rules as unofficial mayor.

Amid the polluted landscape, Coral works desperately to save up enough to rescue her child from the recycling factories, where he is forced to work. In her stolen free hours, she does something that seems impossible in this place: Coral makes art.

When a reporter from a struggling city on the coast arrives in Trashlands, Coral is presented with an opportunity to change her life. But is it possible to choose a future for herself?

Told in shifting perspectives, Trashlands is a beautifully drawn and wildly imaginative tale of a parent’s journey, a story of community and humanity in a changing world.

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The Review

Captivating and thought-provoking, author Alison Stine shines brightly in this emotional and relevant eco-thriller/sci-fi dystopian read. The novel’s brilliance comes through early on in the use of shifting perspectives, allowing readers not only to see how this dystopian world evolved and grew but allowing them to see how the bonds between these characters formed and how they came to be who they are. The chilling atmosphere comes not from some horrendous mutant beast or alien invasion, but the horrors humanity inflicts on our own planet, forcing the Earth to reshape its landscapes and forcing good people to do whatever it takes to survive.

The character arcs in this narrative are the true heart of this book. The various perspectives we have to allow the reader to see the balance Coral must find in not only surviving for herself but in finding the means to save her son, taken years ago from her to work in a factory. Her ability to find beauty and the means to create art for others while still putting herself through perilous work to earn the means of leaving everything behind and saving her son showcases mankind’s ability to persevere in the face of adversity and find hope in the darkness that surrounds us, a message that rings true for so many people. 

The Verdict

An engaging, emotionally-driven, and thematically important read, author Alison Stine’s “Trashlands” is a must-read novel of 2021! The perfect story of survival, hope, and finding beauty in the most troublesome of times, this story will take readers on a roller-coaster of emotions and showcase a depth of world-building that readers will come to love from this eco-thriller. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Alison Stine is an award-winning poet and author. Recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and an Ohio Arts Council grant, she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and received the Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism. She works as a freelance reporter with The New York Times, writes for The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, 100 Days in Appalachia, ELLE, The Kenyon Review, and others, and has been astoryteller on The Moth. After living in Appalachian Ohio for many years, she now lives and writes in Colorado with her partner, her son, and a small orange cat.

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Q&A with Author Alison Stine

1.      Give us an out of context quote from your book to warm our hearts.

“People had thought there would be no more time, but there was. Just different time. Time moving slower. Time after disaster, when they still had to live.” 

2.      What’s the last book you read that inspired you? 

Lily Cole’s Who Cares Wins: Reasons for Optimism in a Changed World. I’m quoted in the book, which is how we met. She had me on her podcast. It’s a book of ideas and hope for sustainability and environmental action. And it inspires me that she is able to leverage her platform as an actor and model to try to do good in the world. This world really wants you to be just one thing, and she resists that, and converts the attention into calls for action.

3.      Name one song or artist that gets you fired up.

Lana Del Rey’s “Swan Song.” It has a slow build, dark and intense, like I hope my work is. I don’t listen to music with lyrics when I draft, but I listen to the same song over and over again when I revise. That song becomes the heartbeat of the book. And “Swan Song” was one of the heartbeats of Trashlands.

4.      How do you find readers in today’s market?

There’s only so much a writer can control. I do everything in my control–post on social media, do events, publish essays–but at the end of the day, my job as a writer too is to tell the best story I can, to the best of my ability, in the time I’m given. What happens after that is a function of money and attention and decisions that don’t include me. As a disabled writer, it’s especially hard– nobody does year-end best lists about us. I try to remember that the writers I most admire–Octavia Butler, Angela Carter–wrote a ton. They just kept writing. I have to just keep writing, keeping going, too. 

5.      Do you come up with the hook first, or do you create characters first and then dig through until you find a hook?

Every book is different and every book teaches you how to write it. For me, trying to be analytical about things like plot or meaning doesn’t work. If I have a story I can’t let go of, something I dreamed, or something that keeps coming back to me, I listen to it. Often a character speaks first.

6.      Coffee or tea?

Definitely coffee. I’m a lightweight, so I try to limit myself to one cup a day.

7.       How do you create your characters?

One thing that I think is missing from some contemporary literary fiction is work. As someone from a working-class background, what characters do for money, how they feed themselves and live, is important to me, and can define character. Often what you want to do is different than what you have to do. I try to make it very clear how my characters support themselves, which can be a big part of characterization and plot–like in Trashlands, where several major characters work at a strip club at the end of the world– but also, what are their larger wishes? What are their unfulfilled dreams? What do they regret? 

8.      Who would be your dream cast if TRASHLANDS became a movie?

Lana Del Rey as Foxglove, Erin Kellyman as Coral, Eric Roberts as Trillium, MJ Rodriguez as Summer, and the late John Dunsworth as Mr. Fall. 

9.      If you could grab lunch with a literary character who would it be?

Jet from Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic series. I just read The Book of Magic, which reminded me how much I love Hoffman’s characters and that world. We all need an aunt in our lives who’s a witch, someone who’s both no nonsense and a lot of nonsense–and who serves cake for breakfast. (It just occurred to me that I may be turning into that kind of witch myself.) We need someone to remind us of our own personal magic. 

10.  What are you currently reading?

Township, a collection of stories by fellow Ohioan Jamie Lyn Smith, which is slated to be published this December. 

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Here is an Exclusive Excerpt From “Trashlands”

1

Early coralroot

Corallorhiza trifida

Coral was pregnant then. She hid it well in a dress she had found in the road, sun-bleached and mud-dotted, only a little ripped. The dress billowed to her knees, over the tops of her boots. She was named for the wildflower which hadn’t been seen since before her birth, and for ocean life, poisoned and gone. It was too dangerous to go to the beach anymore. You never knew when storms might come.

Though they were going—to get a whale.

A boy had come from up north with a rumor: a whale had beached. Far off its course, but everything was off by then: the waterways, the paths to the ocean, its salt. You went where you had to go, where weather and work and family—but mostly weather—took you.

The villagers around Lake Erie were carving the creature up, taking all the good meat and fat. The strainer in its mouth could be used for bows, the bones in its chest for tent poles or greenhouse beams.

It was a lot of fuel for maybe nothing, a rumor spun by an out-of-breath boy. But there would be pickings along the road. And there was still gas, expensive but available. So the group went, led by Mr. Fall. They brought kayaks, lashed to the top of the bus, but in the end, the water was shallow enough they could wade.

They knew where to go because they could smell it. You got used to a lot of smells in the world: rotten food, chemicals, even shit. But death… Death was hard to get used to.

“Masks up,” Mr. Fall said.

Some of the men in the group—all men except Coral—had respirators, painter’s masks, or medical masks. Coral had a handkerchief of faded blue paisley, knotted around her neck. She pulled it up over her nose. She had dotted it with lavender oil from a vial, carefully tipping out the little she had left. She breathed shallowly through fabric and flowers. Mr. Fall just had a T-shirt, wound around his face. He could have gotten a better mask, Coral knew, but he was leading the crew. He saved the good things for the others.

She was the only girl on the trip, and probably the youngest person. Maybe fifteen, she thought. Months ago, she had lain in the icehouse with her teacher, a man who would not stay. He was old enough to have an old-fashioned name, Robert, to be called after people who had lived and died as they should. Old enough to know better, Mr. Fall had said, but what was better, anymore?

Everything was temporary. Robert touched her in the straw, the ice blocks sweltering around them. He let himself want her, or pretend to, for a few hours. She tried not to miss him. His hands that shook at her buttons would shake in a fire or in a swell of floodwater. Or maybe violence had killed him.

She remembered it felt cool in the icehouse, a relief from the outside where heat beat down. The last of the chillers sputtered out chemicals. The heat stayed trapped in people’s shelters, like ghosts circling the ceiling. Heat haunted. It would never leave.

News would stop for long stretches. The information that reached Scrappalachia would be written hastily on damp paper, across every scrawled inch. It was always old news.

The whale would be picked over by the time they reached it.

Mr. Fall led a practiced team. They would not bother Coral, were trained not to mess with anything except the mission. They parked the bus in an old lot, then descended through weeds to the beach. The stairs had washed away. And the beach, when they reached it, was not covered with dirt or rock as Coral had expected, but with a fine yellow grit so bright it hurt to look at, a blankness stretching on.

“Take off your boots,” Mr. Fall said.

Coral looked at him, but the others were listening, knot-ting plastic laces around their necks, stuffing socks into pockets.

“Go on, Coral. It’s all right.” Mr. Fall’s voice was gentle, muffled by the shirt.

Coral had her job to do. Only Mr. Fall and the midwife knew for sure she was pregnant, though others were talking. She knew how to move so that no one could see.

But maybe, she thought as she leaned on a fence post and popped off her boot, she wanted people to see. To tell her what to do, how to handle it. Help her. He had to have died, Robert—and that was the reason he didn’t come back for her. Or maybe he didn’t know about the baby?

People had thought there would be no more time, but there was. Just different time. Time moving slower. Time after disaster, when they still had to live.

She set her foot down on the yellow surface. It was warm. She shot a look at Mr. Fall.

The surface felt smooth, shifting beneath her toes. Coral slid her foot across, light and slightly painful. It was the first time she had felt sand.

The sand on the beach made only a thin layer. People had started to take it. Already, people knew sand, like everything, could be valuable, could be sold.

Coral took off her other boot. She didn’t have laces, to tie around her neck. She carried the boots under her arm. Sand clung to her, pebbles jabbing at her feet. Much of the trash on the beach had been picked through. What was left was diapers and food wrappers and cigarettes smoked down to filters.

“Watch yourselves,” Mr. Fall said.

Down the beach they followed the smell. It led them on, the sweet rot scent. They came around a rock outcropping, and there was the whale, massive as a ship run aground: red, purple, and white. The colors seemed not real. Birds were on it, the black birds of death. The enemies of scavengers, their competition. Two of the men ran forward, waving their arms and whooping to scare off the birds.

“All right everybody,” Mr. Fall said to the others. “You know what to look for.”

Except they didn’t. Not really. Animals weren’t their specialty.

Plastic was.

People had taken axes to the carcass, to carve off meat. More desperate people had taken spoons, whatever they could use to get at something to take home for candle wax or heating fuel, or to barter or beg for something else, something better.

“You ever seen a whale?” one of the men, New Orleans, asked Coral.

She shook her head. “No.”

“This isn’t a whale,” Mr. Fall said. “Not anymore. Keep your masks on.”

They approached it. The carcass sunk into the sand. Coral tried not to breathe deeply. Flesh draped from the bones of the whale. The bones were arched, soaring like buttresses, things that made up cathedrals—things she had read about in the book.

Bracing his arm over his mouth, Mr. Fall began to pry at the ribs. They were big and strong. They made a cracking sound, like a splitting tree.

New Orleans gagged and fell back.

Other men were dropping. Coral heard someone vomiting into the sand. The smell was so strong it filled her head and chest like a sound, a high ringing. She moved closer to give her feet something to do. She stood in front of the whale and looked into its gaping mouth.

There was something in the whale.

Something deep in its throat.

In one pocket she carried a knife always, and in the other she had a light: a precious flashlight that cast a weak beam. She switched it on and swept it over the whale’s tongue, picked black by the birds.

She saw a mass, opaque and shimmering, wide enough it blocked the whale’s throat. The whale had probably died of it, this blockage. The mass looked lumpy, twined with seaweed and muck, but in the mess, she could make out a water bottle.

It was plastic. Plastic in the animal’s mouth. It sparked in the beam of her flashlight.

Coral stepped into the whale.

Excerpted from Trashlands by Alison Stine, Copyright © 2021 by Alison Stine. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Creatures Most Vile by Chelsea Lauren Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman who has been hunted by creatures her whole life has her world turned upside down when she discovers she has rare supernatural abilities, and is forced to fight the beasts that have haunted her in an arena. She must find a means of escape before the arena’s ruthless Commander before its too late in author Chelsea Lauren’s “Creatures Most Vile”. 

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The Synopsis

Stalked by monsters in the woods and her past, Anora finds safety in the quiet comforts of her small town life.

It’s another ordinary day when she’s sent to a Guardian assessment designed to unleash rare supernatural abilities, until she blasts a tunnel of water across the room. Her coach calls her gift a blessing, but Anora knows it’s a death sentence. Now she must train as a Guardian and battle the very monsters that have tormented her entire life.

After being thrown into the arena with a clawed and cackling creature, Anora refuses to accept this new life. She appeals to the Commander and begs her trainers to let her go home. The more they refuse, the more Anora realizes this isn’t a training camp—it’s a prison and they will never let her leave. Now she must escape the camp before the Commander catches on, for if he does, he may turn out to be worse than the monsters lurking in the woods. 

The Review

The world-building in this novel was fantastic! The author did an incredible job of not only captivating readers with a strong protagonist who evolved greatly over the course of the narrative but crafted a merciless and haunting dystopian world full of monsters, both the ravenous and humankind. The mythos that the author crafted around these fictional nations and the creatures that inhabit them, as well as the Guardians and their purpose, was incredible to watch unfold and did a great job of putting a new spin on the dystopian SCI-FI genre. 

The character arcs were what really brought me into this narrative fully. Anora was a fantastic hero to watch grow, as her arc from a scared and family-driven young girl into a strong and rebellious young woman was such a great and well-rounded story arc. The antagonists of this book were so vile and twisted, and the author did a great job of shocking readers with twists and turns that would change character perspectives constantly.

The Verdict

A heart-pounding, jaw-dropping, and entertaining read, author Chelsea Lauren’s “Creatures Most Vile” is a must-read dystopian sci-fi of 2021! The perfect read for sci-fi fans during the spooky season, the chilling monster attacks to set up the novel’s setting, and the twisted mind-games that the protagonist must endure making this a tense-filled world that cries out for a sequel. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I never knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. At school, everyone seemed so convicted in their career aspirations while I was constantly changing my mind. My two favorite subjects were science and English, so I decided to follow a biology track in college.  

During those four years my love for biology solidified. A career in research started to take shape. I was accepted to a graduate program winter of my senior year and was ready for a new adventure. Little did I know, that adventure was waiting for me in a Creative Writing 101 course that upcoming spring.  

After a semester of exploring my creative side through poetry and short stories, I was hooked. After graduation, I continued writing for fun and in graduate school it was an outlet for stress. My best friend and I would have de-stress writing sessions. We wrote a little, talked a lot, and she is the one who encouraged me to seek publication and share my stories with the world.   

Throughout the years, my fiancé has been a constant source of encouragement.  Balancing a career in microbiology, a blossoming career as an author, and everything else would not be possible without his hugs and our baby puppy Otis’s cuddles and kisses.  

Here’s a link to a Q&A I did with author Joshua Gillingham. 

https://www.chelsea-lauren.com/

Kai Dante’s Stratagem (The Generations of the Oberllyn Family 5): Present Generations of the Oberllyn’s #2 by J. Traveler Pelton Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Spies, infiltrators, and a web of conspiracy threaten to tear apart the Oberllyn Family as the race to stop a shadow cabal hoping to take control over the world’s population heats up in author J. Traveler Pelton’s “Kai Dante’s Stratagem (The Generations of the Oberllyn Family 5)”, the second book in the Present Generations of the Oberllyn’s series. 

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The Synopsis

Kai Dante for President, indeed! The Oberllyns are back, and the family think tank is successful in diverting the virus that is destroying the fertility of the populace, but in return, Sanctuary is attacked and the family members are scattered to fight radiation sickness alone. Given only a strange poem they are sent by the Ice Lady, will Kai and Micah figure out the puzzle before they all die? Will any in the family survive to destroy the tyrant running the Brotherhood? And what do the Guide-stones have to do with all this?

The Review

This futuristic Christian sci-fi adventure and dystopian read was an exhilarating new chapter in a grand saga the author has been writing. The thing that strikes me every time I read a book in this series is how the author is able to incorporate such intricate and intimate details into the character’s backstories and their daily interactions with one another. The descriptive nature of the author’s writing really makes these characters come to life in a way that other novels are always able to fully capture, and makes the really emotional moments feel much more profound.

The dystopian nature of the novel seems to gain more importance in this book, as the stakes become even higher and the shady actions of this cabal led by the Ice Lady show just how far their reach has gotten inside of our world’s system, especially when it hits close to home for the Oberllyn family. The action and suspense open strong in the first chapter and just continue to ramp up as the author balances this out with engaging world-building.

The Verdict

A remarkable, heartfelt, and shocking series of twists and turns make this a truly remarkable read. The author expertly navigates the hardships and struggles of daily life in this dystopian world while also delving into the shady and heart-pounding nature of the government conspiracy angle of this memorable read. With a shocking finale, this is a truly entertaining story that readers won’t be able to put down. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

J. Traveler Pelton was born in West Virginia in the last century. She is active in her home church; enjoys having theological disputes with her friends, loves to cook a big meal and then takes a walk, discussing the ideas of what her friends/family are studying. She was the Nation’s Mother for her tribe for several years: she is still wife to Dan after 45 years, mother of six adults, a grandmother of eight, a Clinically Licensed Independent Social worker, a retired adjunct professor of social work at her local university and an avid reader. She is a cancer survivor. She studies science, technology, Biblical studies and human behavior. She is quick to draw parallels between different fields of thought and weave the ideas into a cohesive ideology that is at once practical, usable and thoughtful. Her books are the result of blending her life experiences with bureaucracy, studying science and nature, counseling and faith. She greatly enjoys the intersection of fantasy and possibility and hopes you enjoy it as well. We will see you on the other side of the imagination tree.

Her co-author of the fantasy series is her grandson T-bear. T Bear Pelton is a self-proclaimed gamer, a student of Kenpo, a Christian active in his home church, a Native American, a storyteller and a novice blacksmith. He lives with his grandparents, his Amazon parrot, and four Siamese on a small alpaca farm while working full time and dreaming of times when magic still existed and wishes sometimes actually came true. Enjoy this fantasy with him and for just a little while, suspend daily life for a dream of dragons and wizards, beautiful ladies and knights, magic and faith. Travel then with us to another time, another place and another dimension. Come to the future, after the War, when tech and magic combine with faith and fear.

Their farm, Springhaven Croft, is home to alpacas, dogs, Siamese cats, canaries, an eclectic group of chickens and an irascible Amazon Parrot named Gizmo. Traveler’s webpage is travelerpelton.com; she also has a FB page called Traveler Pelton. Come visit real soon!