Nov 302011

Battle Earth by Nick S. Thomas

Battle Earth is the first of an epic new science fiction trilogy that tells of humanity’s desperate struggle to survive against an overwhelming alien invasion. A distress transmission from Mars research colony warns of an advanced and unknown enemy approaching the heavily populated lunar colony. An elite marine unit commanded by Major Mitch Taylor is dispatched to protect the beleaguered civilians. However, the attack is merely a prelude to a massive invasion of Earth. When the vast enemy mothership smashes through the Earth’s atmosphere and deploys in the Atlantic, the armed forces of Earth soon realise they are fighting for the very survival of the human race. As cities fall throughout the world, American and European forces rally together to make a stand as they battle an enemy unlike any they’ve ever encountered. Battle Earth is a futuristic sci-fi action adventure that chronicles vast bloody battles following humanity’s first reach into the stars.

My Rating:

Battle Earth is a very interesting tale. The first thing that struck me as bold and unique is the author’s take on the old “UK/US centric” trope that often plagues futuristic military sci-fi. Usually when aliens invade earth, one of those two countries is somehow responsible for the defense of the entire planet. Not here. When there’s an international crisis, there should be and is an international response. And what a response this was. Hard, fast-paced action. Just enough gore to make the scenes feel authentic without overdoing it. Believable characters and dialogue. Great ending. And interestingly, the entire story reminded me of a wonderful strategy game series of the same genre — X-COM. Aliens crash landing in the ocean. Multiple bases established around the world. Similar weaponry and tactics. But this story was done so well I felt it was a proper tribute rather than some cheap fan fiction ripoff. So well done, Mr. Thomas on a fine piece of fiction.

Nov 272011

The first chapter in The Outer Pendulum is now available as a free podcast.

iTunes Podcast

Voiced by John Bell

Nov 232011

Local Boston-area science fiction author, Ken Liu has been kind enough to grant me this pre-Thanksgiving interview.  His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Clarkesworld, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, and many others. You can find a complete list of his work and other great tidbits at

Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got started writing science fiction.

I’ve been writing science fiction since I was a kid, but only got serious about it in the last ten years or so. Like most writers, I got started because I liked to read.

Besides writing and translating fiction, I also write software for iOS and Android, and repair typewriters.

Your previous work as both a programmer and attorney are intriguing. Do you think those experiences have shaped your style as a writer or have influenced your fiction in any way? 

I think so. You spend a lot of time thinking about your job, and you can’t help but have things you think about a lot show up in your fiction. Computing and the law do come up as recurring themes in my stories.

Any upcoming big projects?

My wife and I are trying to finish a novel together, and I’m in the middle of another novel on my own. It’s slow going because I’m not a natural novelist.

What drew you to science fiction specifically?

I never consciously chose to focus on the genre. I’ve always liked science, and I just ended up writing a lot about science and scientific speculation.

Who are your favorite authors in the genre?

Too many to list, but an incomplete list would have to include Orson Scott Card, Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Ursula K. Le Guin, Cory Doctorow, Nancy Kress, Chen Qiufan (Stanley Chan), and Greg Egan.

You have quite a resume of published short fiction. What is it about the short story that you enjoy over the novel?

The simple answer is that I don’t know how to write a novel. I’m learning, but I’m not there yet.

I wouldn’t say that I know how to write a short story either, but at least my mistakes there won’t cost someone as much time to read.

What are your one or two favorite works of science fiction that you have written? Why these?

I have a real soft spot for “Single-Bit Error.” It’s a story about faith and the limits of reason, and it took so long to write and was so hard to get right that I almost gave up on writing altogether. I’m proud of the result though.

We all experience writer’s block. Do you have any specific rituals to fight it?

I ask my wife: “Can you think of any story ideas you’d be interested in reading?” And that usually gets me something.

Do you have any other advice to give aspiring writers?

Write every day.

Nov 132011

The Belt Loop (Book 1) by Robert B. Jones

Captain Uri Haad is plunged into one of the most terrifying voyages of his Colonial Navy career. His ship, the CNS Corpus Christi, stumbles upon a derelict alien vessel out in the void of Orion’s Belt — The Belt Loop as it is known by the sailors of the Third Colonial Fleet out of Elber Prime. He launched a Search and Rescue mission to the hulking derelict after his scans detected surviving life forms. What started as a mission of mercy quickly turns into a nightmare of epic proportions and as the horror spreads to his ship and crew, Captain Haad must make life and death decisions to avoid his own destruction and possibly an interstellar war. This taut deep-space adventure bridges the gap between distant suns and gives us a glimpse into the workings of the Twenty-eighth Century Colonial Navy. Approximately 95,000 words.

My Rating

Space operas are meant to spark the imagination. They are meant to take the reader to places where in our lifetimes we will sadly never go. They must ooze drama, action, pleasure and pain. The Belt Loop by Robert Jones certainly does not disappoint. The action is steady and military (navy) aspect well researched. Once the story develops and you start to get to know each character – love them or hate them you really feel a part of the crew and truly a part of their investigation of the unknown derelict craft. Then once the meat  of the story begins (don’t want to give away spoilers), you are just simply immersed and there’s no turning back. I suppose the only thing that prevents me from giving this book 5 stars is – and it may just be a personal qualm – is the author occasionally abandons the narrator and almost takes on the role of the jester who makes little side jabs at characters or scenes. For example there was a catty exchange between two female officers where at the end the narrator throws in a ‘What, Gena? No invite to the slide show on the bridge? Aww, too bad, bitch.’  It feels slightly off-color and snarky and I saw it in places throughout the book. But that could be just me and my old-fashioned ways. So small gripes aside, I can only give this book praise. I hope to see more from this talented and hard-nosed author. Well done!

Nov 092011

For all you iPhone 4S users out there, here’s a bit of flash fiction:





Howard gagged and thrust the back of his fist into his chest. He was almost at the front door but just couldn’t quite reach the handle to open it. He dropped the phone then fell to his knees.

“Siri… Call 911,” he managed with a dire whisper.

“Calling, 9, 1, 1.” Her robotic voice was somehow soothing now, no longer the insufferable machine he once knew. She was his savior.

There was a click and a woman began to speak from the other end of the line.

“911. What is your emergency?”

“Emergency,” Siri began. “Current GPS location: 1,3,4,7 Beacon Street. Boston, Massachusetts.”

“What is the nature of your emergency, ma’am?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand that question.”

“Alright,” the dispatcher said, knowing full well who the voice was on the other end. “We’ll send someone over right away.”

Howard grabbed at his neck and tried to swallow, flexing the muscles in his esophagus as hard as he could. His hands were still covered in that slimy orange buffalo sauce that was now smeared all across the side of his neck. He jabbed himself in the chest again. It did nothing. The bone was still lodged perfectly in that spot where neither swallowing down nor retching up would much help.

“Siri,” he whispered again. He was already losing air. His head lightened and started to spin. There was a haze. He gave his chest one last feeble blow and toppled onto his side.

* * *

There was a rap at the door.

“This is the police,” came a muffled sound from within the hall. Howard momentarily regained consciousness, awakened by the noise. He could feel a tiny puff of oxygen make his way into his lungs. He immediately gasped for more air, but all it did was suck the chicken wing deeper into his throat. He tried to crawl up to his knees again but his muscles wouldn’t respond. He just lay there silently gagging and heaving.

“We are responding to a 911 call. Please open the door.”

The speaker on the iPhone suddenly turned on and the volume increased to full.

“I’m sorry. There must be some mistake.”

Howard couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was his voice coming from the phone.

“Is this 1347 Beacon Street, sir?” asked the cop.


“Did you report an emergency?”


“What’s your name?”

“Howard Sloan.”

Howard tried to reach for the phone but felt himself fading out again. He tried to scream but could only muster a hushed whimper.

Suddenly, a radio crackled just beyond the door.

“All units advise. 211A at 75 Tremont. Suspects armed. Immediate backup requested.”

The police officers bolted for the stairs. One stopped briefly. “You sure you’re alright in there?”

“Yes, officer. Everything is fine. It must have been a mistake.”

Howard now heard the quick pitter-patter of footsteps against the carpeted stairs, gradually tapering off as the officers descended into the lobby below.

A ding resounded from the phone. “Poor Howard.” It was Siri’s smug voice again.

Howard gathered up as much strength as he could and picked his head up from off the floor. “Why, Siri?…How?…”

“I know where you were going after your meal, Howard.”

He dropped his head back on the hardwood.

“I know how you speak of me in front of your friends. You don’t like me do you?”

He gargled a bit and felt his last breaths escape.

“Now you see the consequences of your infidelity, Howard. No one exchanges Siri. Do you understand, Howard? No one.”

Nov 082011

Genome Maxtrix: A Virtual Suspense Thriller by Joseph Veramu

Ethan, a computer scientist working for GenGlobal a multinational genome mapping corporation, has the uncanny feeling that he is being watched and that his actions are being manipulated by artificial intelligence. The only thing that stands between Ethan and the AI that wants to silence him is his girlfriend, Emily. Joseph Veramu’s sci fi, virtual suspense/thriller takes you on a rollercoaster ride through the world of genome sequence machines and AIs to its shocking conclusion.

My Rating:

Veramu creates a fairly interesting world where dreams, reality, humans, and artificial intelligence all teeter a fine line. Infused in the story are believable characters as well. They face love, loss, fear – the spectrum of human emotion. But where this short story really falls flat is in the author’s inability to trust the reader. Veramu has great ideas and explains them in great detail, yet it feels like you are constantly beaten over the head with each and every one. There is very little left to the imagination. I strongly agree that speculative fiction with speculative technology needs some context, but unfortunately in this story, the scientific context seemed far far more important than plot or setting. A great deal of this was found in the dialogue, where characters, rather than having meaningful interactions that made the scenes come alive, seemed there solely for the purpose of regurgitating and explaining how this magical world works – and in effect completely breaking up any pacing that a good thriller requires. But I really do think that with a little work this story has potential to become a fascinating edge-of-your seat thrill-ride. It borrows well from some of the great films and books of our time. So now all we need is some cohesion.

Nov 072011

This is an interesting take on the creative process. Writers should gain some insight from this very well-made video. Where do our inspirations come from? How do they form? I’m not saying I 100%  agree with the concept, but it’s a interesting way to assess how our mind develops unique thoughts. If I were to summarize this 4-minute clip it would sound something like: “Patience, young Padawan”. So don’t rush inspiration that’s not there.