Tag Archives: science fiction thriller

Dropnauts (Liminal Sky: Redemption Cycle Book One) by J Scott Coatsworth Review

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

The fate of mankind years after the Earth’s destruction rests in the hands of a select few as they venture back to the Earth’s surface and discover a hidden truth that can rock humanity to the core in author J. Scott Coatsworth’s “Dropnauts”, the first book in the Liminal Sky: Redemption Cycle series.

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The Synopsis

Over a century after the end of the Earth, life goes on in Redemption, the sole remaining lunar colony, and possibly the last outpost of humankind in the Solar System. But with an existential threat burrowing its way to the Moon’s core, humanity must recolonize the homeworld.

Twenty brave dropnauts set off on a mission to explore the empty planet. After training for two and a half years, four of them—Rai, Hera, Ghost and Tien—are bound for Martinez Base, just outside the Old Earth city of San Francisco.

But what awaits them there will turn their assumptions upside down—and in the process, either save or destroy what’s left of humanity. 

The Review

This was such a brilliant and emotionally-driven sci-fi read. The author did such an amazing job of connecting readers to the larger narrative through dynamic character development. Not only was the emotional core of all four protagonists felt intensely as the story progressed, but the way their story intersected with the survivors on Earth was so great to read. The tensions and stakes that this created for the survivors both on Earth and the lunar colony of Redemption were amazing to read and watch unfold on the page. The inclusion of LGBTQ characters and relationships made the story feel more well-rounded, and the emphasis on AI-driven character developments was a great sci-fi element to include in this discussion.

The world-building and setting really became the heart of this narrative. So many sci-fi stories involve space exploration and focus on the colonies primarily, whether it be on the moon, Mars, or outside our solar system, but the whole concept of “Returning” to Earth to find a means of survival was a brilliant creative decision on the author’s part. The imagery and atmosphere this helped create really showed in the author’s writing style.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and thrilling, author J. Scott Coatsworth’s “Dropnauts” is a must-read sci-fi novel and the perfect start to the author’s Liminal Sky: Redemption Cycle series. The vivid and detailed settings were perfectly paired with the gritty narrative that was being told and balanced out the heartfelt and emotional character beats that made readers fall in love with this cast of characters. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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J. Scott Coatsworth’s diverse hopepunk space opera Dropnauts Is out in audio, narrated by Kevin Earlywine. And there’s a giveaway!

Life after the Crash.

Over a century after the end of the Earth, life goes on in Redemption, the sole remaining Lunar colony, and possibly the last outpost of humankind in the Solar System. But with an existential threat burrowing its way into the Moon’s core, humanity must recolonize the homeworld.

Twenty brave dropnauts set off on a mission to explore the empty planet. Four of them—Rai, Hera, Ghost and Tien—have trained for two-and-a-half years for the Return. They’re bound for Martinez Base, just outside the Old Earth city of San Francisco.

But what awaits them there will turn their assumptions upside down—and in the process, either save or destroy what’s left of humanity.

Amazon Audio | Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47248/?


Excerpt

Dropnauts meme

Listen to chapter one:

We’re going home.

Rai sweated inside his suit, white-knuckling the arms of the retrofitted launch chair under his suit gloves. He watched the Zhenyi’slaunch countdown clock.

Sixty, fifty-nine, fifty-eight…

Outside he was calm, but inside he vibrated like an erhu string, his stomach doing acrobatics in his chest. I’m not ready.

Five teams of dropnauts had strapped themselves into their jumper ships, prepared for the ascent from Redemption on the lunar surface to Launchpad station. Outside his porthole, the blue-green marble of Earth beckoned.

Forty-five, forty-four…

Rai cast a nervous glance at his three teammates. Hera was doing her preflight check, her back to him, sweat dripping down the umber skin of her neck from her short-cropped, curly black hair.

Behind him on his right, Tien’s eyes were closed, and she was still as a golden statue. Zen.

He turned to find Ghost looking at him from behind. His ex grinned, running his hand through his lanky, dirty blond hair, his green eyes twinkling. His skin was as white as Rai’s own, but with a dusting of freckles over the bridge of his nose.

Rai managed a pale imitation of a smile back. –It’s totally safe.– Ghost’s voice pinged in his head, em to em.

Easy for you to say.- Ghost had never feared a thing in his life.

Rai sighed. If he had to, he could take the small ship apart and put it back together with his bare hands, a skill learned under Sam’s supervision—the mech was as harsh a taskmaster as any human Rai had ever worked for. Still, he felt like puking. The speeches and adulation of the farewell celebration were over, and now his doubts circled like vultures. I’m not ready.

Thirty-two, thirty-one…

-You’ll be ok.- Hera’s determined voice this time. She turned to squeeze his knee, and then fired up the Zhenyi’shydro-fuel engine. He flashed her a sheepish grin.

A hundred meters away, the Bristol’s takeoff shook the landing pad. Rai watched it rise, carrying Dax, Jess, Ola, and Xiu Ying, the London team, toward the bright stars above. The jumper’s expelled water froze almost instantly, falling as snow over the snaking lava tube that held the city of Redemption. A lunar blizzard whipped by them and shimmered into nothing.

Rai closed his eyes, remembering the night before. Jess, laughing and dancing with him at Heaven, the clear dome of the lunar sky sparkling above them, the heavy beat of the thromb club pulsing through his chest. Dancing like no one was watching.

He rubbed his jaw. It still ached from the fist he’d taken to the face. Wild party. And a wilder night with Ayvin, the jack he’d picked up at the club.

“Zhenyi, ready for liftoff in T-Minus ten seconds.” Sam’s voice, coming from Team Five’s ship, the Liánhuā, was cool and collected. Did the mech feel emotion, like the nausea that was boiling in Rai’s guts? His teammates were strong, smart, and prepared for anything. I can do this. Besides, it was too late to back out now.

“Affirmative.” Hera shifted in her seat, her biframes stretching her paralyzed legs for her.

“You’ll do okay, tiger.” Ghost elbowed him in the ribs.

“Six, five, four…” Hera swiped the glossy white control deck, and the launch controls appeared, floating over the white surface.

“Leave him alone.” Rai could hear the icy frown in Tien’s voice.

He closed his eyes, willing his stomach to calm. Here we go. Nothing he could do about it now.

“Three, two, one… hang on.” Hera fired the engines, and the craft lifted on a cloud of steam into the star-filled skies of Luna.

Rai squeezed his armrests again as G-force pushed him hard back in his seat. He was committed now. Poppies, Chinese Houses, Fiddlenecks, Baby Blue Eyes, Yellow Pansies, Star Lilies… Reciting the flowers of the old San Francisco basin helped soothe his abraded nerves as the rumbling of the little craft rattled his bones.

He opened his eyes to see Redemption receding below them. The great lava tube was striped with sparkling bands of solar receptors that let sunlight into the city below. Rail lines snaked out from Redemption to the transit center like roping vines—to the seed launcher at Copernicus Crater, to Renewal colony, and beyond.

As the city shrank below them, his fear turned to sadness, a lump forming in his throat. He’d taken his home for granted, enthralled by the idea of joining humankind’s greatest adventure in a century. Now he might never see it again.

The hydro rocket thrust them up out of Luna’s gravity well into naked space, toward the bright blue skies of the empty Earth above. Rai stared at it, that enigmatic ball in space which no one had visited in over a century. What secrets are you hiding?

The roar cut off as quickly as it had begun, leaving the Zhenyi drifting upward in silence as they slipped out of Luna’s grasp.

Hera’s hands flew across the deck, swapping the launch controls for navigation, and nudged them onto a new course following the Bristol toward the Launchpad.

Rai let go, his breath coming out in a heavy sigh.

“See? That wasn’t so bad.” Ghost unbuckled his seatbelt and stretched, yawning as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

God, he’s beautiful. Pale as his namesake under his mop of dirty blond hair, the engineer’s thick arms were just a suggestion under the bulky suit, but Rai could still see them in his mind. Ghost’s well-toned muscles, the smell of his skin after—

“You okay, buddy?” Ghost was staring at him, one dark eyebrow raised in concern.

Rai bit his lip and looked away. “Just nervous. Wondering if we’ll ever make it back home”

“Hey, if things go well after the drop, maybe you and me could open the first Earthside bar since the Crash.” Ghost leaned over him from behind to stare at the Earth through the porthole, his cheek close to Rai’s

“That’s crazy.” But his spirits lifted. It was idiotic. And just the distraction he needed.

Ghost sank back into his own seat. “Every outpost needs a good bar where the colonists can blow off a little steam, right?”

Rai laughed in spite of himself, warming to the idea. “We could call it ‘The Frontier’.”

“Or ‘The Wild Hookup’.”

“Best beer this side of the planet.”

Only beer!”

Rai snorted. Just like old times. He hadn’t forgiven Ghost, though. Not yet. He looked down at his gloved hands, emblazoned with the leaf-and-orb of Redemption’s space service.

Things had ended badly between them—crash and burn bad. Still, they’d be too busy the next few weeks to think about anything but the drop. The survival of Redemption and the remnants of humanity depended on them.

He could let it go. I have to. He’d managed the launch, after all. I can do this too.

Ghost squeezed his shoulder and closed his eyes, touching his temple and bobbing his head to a song only he could hear.

Rai turned away.

You’re stronger than any of us. Hera had told him that the night before. Still, he didn’t feel strong.

He looked out of the porthole again at the Earth—the same view they’d had from Heaven. And yet somehow, it looked different. More real.

Poppies, Chinese Houses, Fiddlenecks, Baby Blue Eyes, Yellow Pansies, Star Lilies…

He touched his hand to the porthole. Even through the glove, it was cold. We’re going home.


Author Bio

J. Scott Coatsworth

Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.

He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

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

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

Author Twitter: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com/jscoatsworth

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Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

Author BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/j-scott-coatsworth

Narrator Bio:

Kevin Earlywine

Kevin Earlywine is an actor, director, singer/songwriter, and audiobook narrator who hails from Rockford, Illinois! His debut album DANGER was released February 28th, 2017. Kevin started writing songs for the album in 2012, and finally in November, 2015, he started recording the songs!

Other Worlds Ink logo

Infernum by Jayson Adams Review

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

A desperate race to the center of the universe sends a Captain and his crew on a dangerous mission with little hope of returning in author Jayson Adams’s “Infernum”.

The Synopsis

A weapon of unimaginable power. A desperate mission to the center of the galaxy. Mankind’s fate hangs in the balance.

Captain Thomas Holbrook has wondered how he would brave being sent on a one-way mission. When he receives cryptic orders to divert his CentCom warship to the black hole at the center of the galaxy, a region from which no vessel has ever returned, he stubbornly refuses to take them at face value.

It’s the year 2330. The “aughts,” robots that won independence from their human creators, seek insurance against the ever-present human threat. An aught ship speeds to the galactic center to collect Planck Matter, a substance formed in the heart of black holes, the basis of a weapon that could destroy the Earth.

CentCom can’t allow the aughts to obtain Planck Matter. They enlist the help of Dr. Rebekah Riesen, a brilliant, beautiful, reincarnated physicist with her own reasons for joining a mission that might not return, and Tentek, an aught informant whom Holbrook’s executive officer insists is a double agent. Together, they must travel to the galactic center while keeping a mutinous crew at bay, stop the aughts from obtaining Planck Matter, and somehow find a way back home.

The Review

I absolutely loved this sci-fi read. The author was able to capture the raw emotions and world-building that Battlestar Galactica captured (the 2003 remake), without sacrificing the realistic dialogue and intensity that this narrative demands. The powerful themes that the author explores here, from philosophical debates of reincarnation and faith in a time of scientific discovery to the idea of AI gaining sentience and the dual nature of humanity between the darkest moments they exude and the hope that comes from their persistence for life all come crashing down into this layered and driven story.

It was the alternating POVs and rich character development that really drew me into the narrative. The interactions and ways in which these characters came together felt very natural in such a rich sci-fi story. Yet the way the author crafted a narrative that employed both original sci-fi elements and yet felt very grounded at the same time allowed for a more entertaining and gripping read. 

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, action-packed, and engaging, author Jayson Adams’s “Infernum” is a must-read sci-fi novel of 2022! The rich character development and balance of humanity with outstanding mythos made this story shine so brightly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

At age sixteen Jayson dreamed of starting a software company and retiring by twenty-five. He achieved his dream just before thirty, working for the likes of Steve Jobs and selling one of his start-ups along the way. Five years later he returned to computers with another start-up. He currently works at Google.

Computers were always Jayson’s creative outlet, the screen a “blank slate.” He now channels his creative energies into writing compelling science fiction.

Author Links: 

https://www.facebook.com/fictionfactorybooks

Giveaway: 

https://woorise.com/travellingpages/infernum

Infernumhttps://cdn.woorise.com/e.js

TimeLab Episode 1: San Francisco by Jackiem Joyner Review

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

Two men ridiculed and persecuted for their scientific pursuits yet separated by time find themselves forced to work together to stop a brutal invasion in a forgotten time in author Jackiem Joyner’s “TimeLab Episode 1: San Francisco”. 

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The Synopsis

Two Scientists. One from long ago. The other from modern day 2018.

Both on the precipice of greatness.

Both met with disdain, and in one case, branded a witch.

Sir Bernard, a seasoned and trusted scientist, living in the time of King Caesar, is lauded by many… until his invention sparks rage and fear among the people. When they brand him as a witch, practicing dark magic, he makes a daring escape via his time machine.

He finds himself in San Francisco, 2000 years in the future. There, he befriends Kyle, a young, talented physics student, whose brilliance also sparks distrust, and in some cases, maltreatment.

Together, the two scientists are a formidable force, but there are barriers that prevent them from making good use of their scientific theories.

Sir Bernard’s homeland is on the brink of war. To save his people, he must go back in time, but first he’ll need a new, more powerful time machine.

Kyle has struggles of his own. His brain puts him ahead of the class, but he has trepidation about his mother’s legacy. He wants to clear her name and prove that she didn’t intentionally detonate a scientific lab, killing everyone, including herself.

Two scientists from vastly different worlds fight to erase the past. Can they prove their theories are real and can they save lives and reputations, including their own?

Find out in Episode 1 of this adrenaline-rushing science fiction novel, featuring time-traveling scientists! Scroll and click Buy-with-1-click today!

The Review

This was such a fun and fast-paced sci-fi thriller! The story does a fantastic job of packing a punch and hitting readers with a large sense of world-building in such a short amount of time. The imagery and mythos that the author layers into the narrative are both unique and fascinating to behold, giving readers just enough of a hook to keep them invested while also ending the story on a cliffhanger to keep the reader captivated.

The character building was great to read. While Kyle and his tragic backstory are alluded to, it is Bernard’s story that really propels the mythology to the story’s stratosphere, infusing both sci-fi and fantasy elements into the narrative and keeping readers entertained. The episodic format of the story is also quite unique, making the story feel like a television show that keeps the reader hanging off of the author’s every word and eager to binge the next book in the series.

The Verdict

Thoughtful, fast-paced, and engaging, author Jackiem Joyner’s “TimeLab Episode 1: San Francisco” is a must-read sci-fi story! The brilliant world-building and mythology the author integrated into these two relatable and passionate protagonists and the cliffhanger of an ending will have readers eager to devour more of the author’s work. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jackiem Joyner has loved Science Fiction ever since he was a child, fascinated by all the stories and imaginations of futuristic worlds. But it wasn’t until later in his life, after experiencing huge success in the recording business, that he decided to put pen to paper – the result of which is his debut novel, Zarya.

Gathering from his experiences traveling the world as a recording artist, he developed a knack for good science fiction stories after reading several books a month. Having used and operated many devices from the future, he incorporated exciting equipment and imaginary scientific ideas into dramatic thrillers that are sure to keep readers on edge.

Jackiem was born in Norfolk, Virginia and spent most of his young adult life in Syracuse New York before moving to Los Angeles, California where he currently resides. In addition to writing fun stories, Jackiem Joyner has experienced huge success as a recording artist, with multiple songs peaking at number 1 on the billboard charts and 5 international records released.

https://joynerbookclub.com/

After Io by Elliot Wink Review

A routine mining expedition turns deadly and the fight for survival turns friends into foes in author Elliot Wink’s sci-fi novel, “After Io”, the first in the Far Light series!

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The Synopsis

Bryn Michaels is a pilot on the spaceship Persika and she has just killed her captain.

The crew of the Persika was hired to mine platinum ore on Io, but the simple job becomes complicated when their drill malfunctions. Although the crew agrees to head back to the space station with the job unfinished, they don’t make it far before something greater threatens the safety of the ship and its crew.

Bryn is determined to survive, but as she takes steps to ensure her rescue, she begins to wonder if the cost of survival is too great.

After Io is the first book in The Far Light Series by Elliott Wink.

The Review

The suspense and intrigue are felt immediately with the author’s very first sentence. The tension and haunting quality of the character development are prevalent as the opening chapter sets the stage for the direction the novel is going. The character growth was crucial to this novel’s narrative, as the closeness and emotional bond the captain has for her crew elevates the danger and sadness of the ship’s situation, while the fear and chilling nature of isolation in space and the need to survive make Bryn a tragic figure. 

The way the author leaned so heavily into the sci-fi genre was not only entertaining but was well-balanced with characters that were relatable and themes of survival that readers could become invested in. Forgoing any alien themes or more heavy AI-style sci-fi for well-developed characters and a narrative that could fit in any genre actually made the setting and tone of the sci-fi-themed story feel more vibrant and engaging to the reader.

The Verdict

Emotional, haunting, and captivating, author Elliot Wink’s “After Io” is a must-read sci-fi novel! The twists and turns in the novel that bring Bryn to the breaking point of killing her captain will have readers entranced, while the heartfelt bond the captain had with the crew will keep readers invested as the final pages play out. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer with a day job. I’ve been teaching English for nearly a decade, so I spend my days analyzing writing with my students and my nights putting my own pen to paper.

I have a master’s in psychology and I find people fascinating, so I usually spend a lot of time in my characters’ heads. Whether that character is drifting through outer space, navigating through a dystopian future, or in another universe entirely, they are unlikely to escape the nature of the human condition when it comes to my stories. We are human, even when we are forging through the unknown.

I live with my very supportive husband and tri-color collie-pit mix in Northern California. When I’m not writing or watching movies, you might find me on the golf course or cooking elaborate, celiac-friendly meals.

https://www.elliottwink.com/

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.

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s 

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @AlisonStine

Instagram: @alistinewrites

Goodreads

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.

Into the Violet Gardens by Issac Nasri Review

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

Social mistrust and tensions rise after a government operated cyborg cripples the cartel controlling Latin America in the future, and soon a cyborg and a CIA operative find themselves caught in the middle of an impending battle between humanity and the cyborgs they built and then rejected in author Issac Nasri’s “Into the Violet Gardens”.

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The Synopsis

The year is 2024. A ruthless cartel dominates Latin America, and the FBI’s Troy Levi gets commissioned to intervene. A cyborg for the bureau’s Virtual Division, Levi delivers a devastating blow to the cartel’s power but encounters a wave of social resentment in the aftermath.

As the people’s feelings for cyborgs grow bitter, former black-op cyborg ally and CIA operative Soriana Salazar finds herself caught between sides. Eliminating the cartel destabilized the region, fueling anti-cyborg sentiments in neighboring countries and afar. But tough decisions await Salazar after civil unrest forces the agency to sever all cyborgs ties. And that’s only the beginning…

Betrayed by the government, hated by the people, a vengeful league of cyborgs spawns a sinister scheme of liberation. And While Levi searches for Solace amid the turmoil and Salazar seeks balance, both will have to take a grave stand if they hope to stall the impending chaos. 

The Review

This is a well-balanced sci-fi and action read. The author does a great job of weaving important political and social themes into the narrative, crafting a thought-provoking read that engages the reader while also entertaining them with high-octane action and shocking twists that will keep the adrenaline pumping in their heart. 

The emotion that the author found within the character growth of this narrative was both surprising and welcomed. The story that revolves around cyborgs and heavy sci-fi themes does a marvelous job of implementing the human element into the story and showcases the good and bad that both humanity and technology can house, as well as the often fearful state that humanity finds itself in when dealing with any sort of advanced technology and life beyond our own. 

The Verdict

A memorable, action-packed, and thought-provoking sci-fi thriller, author Issac Nasri’s “Into the Violet Gardens” is a must-read novel. The emotional bonds the protagonists make not only with each other but the supporting cast is great to see, and brings a real sense of heartbreak and hope to the book’s finale that will leave readers wanting more. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!


Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Isaac Nasri is a self-published author. He grew up in Washington DC and graduated in May of 2017 from the University of Maryland, College Park with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. His stories focus on offering allusion to recent events happening in contemporary society and how they affect his characters.

Heart of the Scrapdog is his self-published work that was released in 2020.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20806995.Isaac_Nasri

Gaslight Paradise by Walrus Review

Three people discover how far they would go to live forever as they discover the sinister motivations behind an innocent seeming party in author Walrus’s “Gaslight Paradise”.

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The Synopsis

What would you do to live forever? Three very different people contemplate this question after it is posed to them at a lavish party where everything is more sinister than it seems.

The Review

This was the perfect fusion of otherworldly fantasy, historically-driven sci-fi, and old-time mystery thriller horror stories all in one delicious literary bite. The authors known as Walrus have perfectly captured both a humorous tone amongst the cast of characters and their interactions with one another and a haunting note of terror in the spine-chilling behavior of the “party hosts”. 

The mystery of the doors that take the trio of protagonists to this “party” is inviting and entertaining, to say the least. The author’s ability to translate fantasy, horror, and sci-fi in a mature and adult way was great to see, as so many stories delve into the YA world for these genres that getting a more adult turn in this genre was a breath of fresh air. 

The Verdict

A heart-pounding, chilling, and engaging sci-fi and fantasy read, authors Walrus and their book, “Gaslight Paradise” is a must-read novel. The story is invigorating and does a great job of adding a new twist on the class thriller-mystery genre. The shocking revelation of this party’s origin will stay with readers long after the book’s end, and the cliffhanger of an ending is open-ended enough for fans to want more but mysterious enough to be a brilliant conclusion as well. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Walrus was once believed to be an urban legend. Very little is known other than Walrus is said to sleep very little, eat very much, and write far more than is healthy for the normal mind.

To bestow a great story on the world is Walrus’ only wish.

https://mindofwalrus.weebly.com/

Power Challenges (Jake Ross #4) by Ben Bova Review

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

Space Advisor Jake Ross takes on the challenge of his life when he decides to send humanity out to the stars and put America back on the map by establishing a permanent moon base in author Ben Bova’s final novel, “Power Challenges”, the fourth book in the Jake Ross series. 

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The Synopsis

Sadly, this is the last book Ben Bova left us before his untimely death due to COVID-19 related causes on November 29, 2020.

“Far-thinking ideas and the characters’ determination to grab the last hope are characteristic. Fans won’t want to miss this coda to Bova’s prolific literary life.”―Publishers Weekly

It is time to start the colonizing the solar system. Ex-astronaut, current space advisor, and all-out trouble shooter for the President, Jake Ross, is determined to make it happen.

And what better way to return to America’s glory than by returning to the moon and setting up a permanent moon-base which can then serve as the launching pad for Mars and beyond.

But as usual, political intrigue and conflicting priorities are threatening the whole program. Add to that a President who is about to die, a strong contingent in the legislative body which thinks that money spent on a moon-base is money wasted and the general apathy of the public, and you have an almost impossible task.

Even NASA, natural enthusiasts of a project like this, are dragging their feet because they have lost control of the top spot in the project.

However, none of those opposing forces have contended with the resolve and the skill of Jake Ross. He will create the base on the moon. He will send humans out to many worlds.

The Review

While it is heartbreaking to lose a truly powerful voice within the science fiction community, this final novel from the author is the perfect example of why Ben Bova always had one hand on the pulse of this exhilarating genre. For the majority of this novel, the author took great detail in outlining the politics and struggles that someone trying to build a permanent presence in space would face in the future. From the divide in party lines in the United States to the economic and ecological struggles that would occur and so much more, this novel does an excellent job of creating not only a realistic setting but a perfect tone that highlights the real hurdles once may face in future space exploration and colonization.

The pacing of the novel was engaging, to say the least, slowly building the political thriller aspect of this sci-fi novel. The novel is perfect for both new and returning fans of this series, as newcomers like myself get the opportunity to get to know the protagonist and the supporting characters perfectly, while longtime fans will be thrilled to see the evolution of the protagonist as the story progresses. The balance of the story’s narrative with the incredible and realistic character development made this heavy sci-fi read truly memorable. 

The Verdict

Entertaining, thought-provoking, and incredibly detailed, author Ben Bova’s “Power Challenges” is the perfect sci-fi read and an incredible final chapter in a great sci-fi author’s journey. With a shocking political betrayal and the epic battle that will determine the fate of a nation, the author shocks readers and creates a memorable end to this series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Ben Bova was born on November 8, 1932 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1953, while attending Temple University, he married Rosa Cucinotta, they had a son and a daughter. He would later divorce Rosa in 1974. In that same year he married Barbara Berson Rose.

Bova is an avid fencer and organized Avco Everett’s fencing club. He is an environmentalist, but rejects Luddism.

Bova was a technical writer for Project Vanguard and later for Avco Everett in the 1960s when they did research in lasers and fluid dynamics. It was there that he met Arthur R. Kantrowitz later of the Foresight Institute.

In 1971 he became editor of Analog Science Fiction after John W. Campbell’s death. After leaving Analog, he went on to edit Omni during 1978-1982.

In 1974 he wrote the screenplay for an episode of the children’s science fiction television series Land of the Lost entitled “The Search”.

Bova was the science advisor for the failed television series The Starlost, leaving in disgust after the airing of the first episode. His novel The Starcrossed was loosely based on his experiences and featured a thinly veiled characterization of his friend and colleague Harlan Ellison. He dedicated the novel to “Cordwainer Bird”, the pen name Harlan Ellison uses when he does not want to be associated with a television or film project.

Bova is the President Emeritus of the National Space Society and a past President of Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

Bova went back to school in the 1980s, earning an M.A. in communications in 1987 and a Ph.D. in 1996.

Bova has drawn on these meetings and experiences to create fact and fiction writings rich with references to spaceflight, lasers, artificial hearts, nanotechnology, environmentalism, fencing and martial arts, photography and artists.

Bova is the author of over a hundred and fifteen books, non-fiction as well as science fiction. In 2000, he was the Author Guest of Honor at the 58th World Science Fiction Convention (Chicon 2000).

Hollywood has started to take an interest in Bova’s works once again, in addition to his wealth of knowledge about science and what the future may look like. In 2007, he was hired as a consultant by both Stuber/Parent Productions to provide insight into what the world is to look like in the near future for their upcoming film “Repossession Mambo” (released as “Repo Men”) starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker and by Silver Pictures in which he provided consulting services on the feature adaptation of Richard Morgan’s “Altered Carbon”.

http://us.macmillan.com/author/benbova

http://benbova.com/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ben-bova

Accidental Anomalies: Book One of the Mutant Fellowship Series by J. Traveler Pelton

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

Two brothers and world-renowned doctors in a world devastated after a meteorite strike leaves some of the population suffering from mutations work at the Center for Genetic Research, but soon questions arise after the two brothers have a string of wives mysteriously disappear months into their marriages in author J. Traveler Pelton’s “Accidental Anomalies”, book one in the Mutant Fellowship Series. 

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The Synopsis

Ever since the meteorite holocaust, mutations have been showing up in the population. Drs. David and Michael Simmons are highly regarded and successful researchers, wealthy philanthropists, and directors of the Center for Genetic Research. They have terrible luck with women, however. When Aspen and Diem, sisters, marry the brothers, like all the other wives, they disappear. What is hidden in the lowest basement of the Center?

The Review

A great blend of YA Dystopian thriller with mystery and suspense, this was a truly unique read. The author blends sci-fi and fantasy elements into a harsh world where the progress made in our modern world was undone after the tragic disaster of the mutant meteorite that devastated the world. Much like in The Handmaid’s Tale, the world is suffering from mutations in births and women with healthy wombs are asked to help repopulate the Earth, no matter their sexual orientation or preferences regarding children. 

Yet the author takes this narrative in a whole new element, adding a domestic suspense and thriller element to the novel with the inclusion of the brothers David and Michael, doctors and researchers who have used sinister means of acquiring test subjects. The story focuses on great themes of good vs evil, facing prejudices in society and justice in a world where money can buy freedom despite the crimes one commits. The pacing of the novel adds the level of suspense this narrative deserves, and the character development really adds depth to the mythology of this dystopian world.

The Verdict

A memorable, engaging and mind-bending read, author J. Traveler Pelton’s “Accidental Anomalies” is a must-read sci-fi and dystopian thriller. A gripping tale of heartbreaking relationships gone wrong and cruelty in the name of progress, the author explores a haunting world that keeps the reader invested and entertained throughout. If you haven’t yet, 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 and was the Nation’s Mother for her tribe for several years. She is still wife to Dan after 47 years (He is so long-suffering!), mother of six adults, a grandmother of nine, a Clinically Licensed Independent Social worker in private practice, a retired adjunct professor of social work at her local university, and an avid reader. She lives on a mini-farm with her husband, seven alpaca, a flock of spoiled chickens, five Siamese cats, four Pomeranians, a talkative Amazon parrot named Gizmo, and her aviary of canaries. Traveler enjoys the intersection of fantasy, possibility, creativity, and speculation. Join her on the other side of the imagination tree. She’ll be sitting there waiting for your visit.