Fateful Impact: A Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed remain my own.35556066

Title: Fateful Impact (Crimson Nightmare #1)

Author: Samantha Hoffman

Setting: Future space around Earth

Genre: YA science fiction

Plot Summary:

Cressida has lived on the Olympus Station her entire life, having been born in space just like the last several generations before her. When her class is allowed to take a field trip to a neighboring military station, everyone is excited at the chance to see someplace new. Everyone except for Cress. While her classmates are eager to get a glimpse of life at the most prestigious military academy on this side of the universe, she’s more worried about what lies below. 

When several convicts organize a prison break from the maximum security prison lurking in the bowels of the station, Cress and several of her classmates are taken hostage during the escape. With the convicts in charge of their shuttle, they crash land on an uncharted planet far away from home and even further from any hope of rescue. 

The students band together in an attempt to survive as long as possible, but it won’t be easy. Aside from the convicts who are willing to do anything to survive, they will have to fight starvation, the elements, and the many surprises the planet has to offer. With their lives falling apart, Cress begins to understand that things were never truly as they seemed back home. While lost, she finds a sense of purpose, and it drives her to survive at all costs. 

My review:

It’s not often that we get YA in space. YA fantasy is extremely popular, as is dystopia or contemporary fiction. When I heard this one was set in space, I admit to being curious. Then add in a penal colony, starships, and a crash landing on an alien planet, and that checked all kinds of boxes for me.

As for the characters, I admit I didn’t love Cress at first. She seemed very stuck on herself, but by the time they got to the planet I began seeing another side of her. She begins to take charge from the time they’re kidnapped. I like seeing her strength. Her friendship with Pandora and the other girls was well written. I’m not sure I bought the love interest though. It seemed awfully sudden, just sort of thrown in there at random.

The story is gripping. I raced through it. I’m not sure it all made sense, but it was so much fun that I wasn’t feeling especially picky. It was a killer ending – quite the cliffhanger! So if you pick it up, be prepared. Recommended.

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Author Interview – Simon Petrie

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You might remember that back in August 2017 I told you about a space mystery than I really enjoyed. Now I have a follow up post about the author, Simon Petrie. I asked him about the story, set on one of Saturn’s moons, about his main character, and about his writing process.

Simon, where did you get the inspiration for this story?

I’ve written quite a lot of SF stories set on Titan; Matters Arising is the tenth and also the longest. I’ve always been interested in the mixture of SF and mystery, and I fancied the idea of making one of my Titan stories a mystery. Matters Arising was the result. It started, I suppose, with the image of a person deliberately breaching their own spacesuit, and then I needed to answer for myself the question of why someone might feel compelled to do such a thing. Once I had that answer, the story almost wrote itself.
I’m not always kind to my characters, and there’s a certain satisfaction to be had in giving a character an imaginative death. The idea of someone dying from a ruptured spacesuit is, I suppose, one of SF’s tropes, but such events in fiction usually dwell on the fatal and grotesque effects of exposure to vacuum. A ‘spacesuit containment failure’ on Titan, with its thick, cold, poisonous atmosphere, would be quite a different kind of horrible death, and I wanted to write that.

Where did you get the title of the story and the name – Guerline Scarfe – for your detective?

The title, Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, suggested itself as the sort of dry, longwinded title that a bureaucrat would use to disguise something unpleasant. In my mind’s eye, it was the title Guerline gave to her report on the incident. And it has at least a double meaning in the context of the story – I’m always a sucker for a double meaning, so once I’d realised that, the title was fixed.
Guerline Scarfe’s name fell together somewhat haphazardly. I collect names – both first names and family names – that seem interesting and somewhat unusual, and try to find intriguing combinations. In this case, I had her surname sorted well before her first name. I actually wrote the first draft with a very different first name for her, but then decided it was too similar to the name of the main character in another Titan story; and since I couldn’t be sure she wouldn’t meet this other character in a new story, I figured I should change her name before it was set in stone.

This story is set in the solar system. If you had a chance, would you travel in space? Would you live in space?

I’d quite like to live in space, in a colony on the Moon or an asteroid or on Titan, but I’m actually not mad keen about travelling through space – even if I passed the physical for spaceflight (which I suspect I wouldn’t), there’s a lot that can go wrong with rocketry and I’m a somewhat anxious traveller. I’m still profoundly envious of those who do get to spend time in space, even if (at the moment) that seems to mean only low Earth orbit.
(And, while still Earthbound, I console myself with the thought that zero-gravity plumbing is not for the faint of heart.)

How long do you think it will be until we send humans off our planet again? What country do you think will do it first?

I’m pretty useless at predictions like this, but I think it’ll be between ten and fifteen years before we see humans on the Moon again. As to who manages it, my three guesses would be India, China, or a corporation like SpaceX.

How long have you been writing? Is this your first book finished?

I’ve been writing fiction seriously for eleven years now, but there had also been spells of writing quite a long way further back than that. Matters Arising isn’t my first book, but it’s the first of my books that’s only one story – I have a couple of SF short story collections out (Rare Unsigned Copy and Difficult Second Album), as well as a novella double (Flight 404 / The Hunt for Red Leicester). All of those are out through Peggy Bright Books, but a lot of my short fiction has appeared in various magazines or websites before that.

What’s been your biggest writing challenge? How did you overcome it or deal with it?

My biggest writing challenge has been finishing a novel, and I haven’t yet overcome that. I’ve written several novellas and lots of short stories, and my written work is getting longer. Matters Arising is my longest story yet, and its follow-up is looking to be longer than that.
Of writing challenges I have met, most of it has been a matter of having confidence in my ability to write, and learning from feedback – whether from my longsuffering editor, Edwina Harvey, or from my colleagues in the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, who provide awesome (constructive) criticism.

What writers do you look to for inspiration?

I suppose for Matters Arising, my main inspirations would be Kim Stanley Robinson, whose ‘Mars’ trilogy pretty much sets the benchmark for solar-system-based SF, and writers like Isaac Asimov and Larry Niven who pioneered the SF/detective subgenre. (I’m really looking forward to Alastair Reynolds’ new SF/detective novel, too, which is due out in a couple of months.) But I’m trying to absorb some of the techniques of Scandinavian crime writers, who I’ve been reading a lot of lately; and other SF writers that have influenced me at one time or another are Douglas Adams (as well as my ‘serious’ stuff, I also write a fair bit of humorous SF, and I think The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a strong influence there), Iain M Banks, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Amy Thompson.

What’s your favorite space movie?

I would’ve been ten or eleven when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, which has a perplexing storyline but incredibly realistic space scenes; I enjoyed the original Star Wars; I’m a fan of the first two Alien movies; I was quite impressed by Gravity; and I quite liked The Martian (though I think the book is better than the movie). I don’t think I could pick a favourite out of those.

Will there be more in this series? What are you working on right now?

Yes, there’s definitely more in the ‘Guerline Scarfe’ series, and the next one (which is called A Reappraisal of the Circumstances Resulting in Death) should be out around the middle of 2018. Other than that, there are a couple of Titan short stories I’m trying to finish off, a new ‘Gordon Mamon’ (humorous space-elevator mystery) story, and a novella about human colonisation of an interstellar cloud. There’s no shortage of things to write, it’s just a matter of organising myself …

What would you like readers to take from this story?

That human nature doesn’t change in a different environment, although the consequences might be different.

What advice would you give writers?

Know when to break the rules.
Read widely across different genres, and read deeply in the genre you want to write in.
Write what you want to, not what you think publishers want.
Find a writers’ group, and learn to recognise and accept constructive criticism.
Try to learn from rejection, and don’t get discouraged.

How can readers best stay in touch with you?

I’m pretty backward when it comes to social media, so probably the best way is to use the ‘contact’ page on my WordPress site.

Coming This Week!

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Stay tuned for another excited author interview! Science fiction author Simon Petrie will be here answering questions about his book, Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, about his writing, and with a bit of advice for beginners. You may remember that I was pretty excited about this story. You can read my review here, and there’s a link to the story here.

Artemis: Book Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions, however, remain my own. 

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Title: Artemis

Author: Andy Weir

Think Ocean’s 11 on the moon!

Themes: crime, loyalty, love, trust, SUPER COOL SPACE STUFF

Official synopsis:

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

My review:

In the future, humans have figured out that the moon is full of stuff we need, like aluminum and other minerals, and that people will pay good money for that and for tourism. So a little community of craftsman, engineers, sex workers, millionaires, and hospitality workers have set up shop there.

Jazz is an Artemisian. She’s lived there for 20 years, in the only city on the moon. It’s a small city, but still, it’s a permanent colony up there in space. Just don’t say “in space.” She’s also a porter. At least, that’s her official title. In reality, she’s a smuggler. She operates under the noses of the official law there because she doesn’t break the laws badly enough that they elect to take notice. One of her best clients comes to her with a truly big job, a job that will set Jazz up in a solid middle class lifestyle. Unfortunately for Jazz, things don’t go as smoothly as she’s hoped.

I like Jazz as a character. She’s stubborn as hell, and doesn’t always think things through, but she’s scrappy and smart and funny. I liked the other characters too, Svoboda the engineer, Dale her former friends, her conservative dad, the “town sheriff” – Weir does a great job building characters you honestly care about. Jazz has made some major mistakes and is trying to use this big job to fix things. I like the way the writer uses these mistakes to flesh out the characters, so you can really see how Jazz has changed from her youth. She becomes a smarter, more responsible adult. Of course, she’s still a hustler, though, and I like that too.

But it’s the worldbuilding that shines here. It’s a story ON THE MOON! Like, how cool is that? My son was asking me how it compares to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and I have to say that it holds up really well. That book was a five star read for me, just amazing and mindblowing and everything else. Well, this one is just as good. I couldn’t pick a favorite, but it’s definitely one that I’m going to be reading again.

There was some technical stuff in there that I didn’t follow, but I don’t know that it’s because it was badly written. I just have a hard time picturing things in my head sometimes. But that didn’t slow my enjoyment of the book.

Andy Weir is well on his way to being sci-fi writer of the generation.

What are you reading?

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? I had a yucky cold! Which means I got lots of reading and gaming done, but not much else. I did go to Winger’s for burgers with my husband, and that was fun. But otherwise it was a slow weekend.

Now for what I’m reading!

The old opened book is christian Psalter

I guess I got on the Net Galley’s good list at last, because I got everything I asked for! I’m happy and stressed, because now I have even more to catch up on. Plus I got an ARC from Library Thing too. Add all my indy review requests, and I really don’t need to go to the library for a month.

Currently reading:

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This is one of the ones I got from Net Galley. I was SUPER excited at that, because I loved The Martian, book and movie. I’ve already finished it and a review is coming soon. My son, who discovered this author before I did, is really jealous. Let me just describe it briefly as a space version of Ocean’s 11.

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This one is my audio book from Overdrive I’ve been listening to while I sew. It’s about the scientists who discovered aspects of evolution before Charles Darwin. It’s interesting, but not so much that it’s keeping my attention. I find my mind wandering and realize that I missed everything for several minutes.

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This book is a different story. The plot and the characters are so well done that I keep wanting to drive somewhere just so I can listen. This one is on audio book in my car on CD and it’s so good. It’s got magic and wizards and hints of evil plots to steal the throne. I think something bad is about to happen and I can’t wait!

I’m also reading a CERTAIN BOOK that I can’t name because it’s SECRET! It’s about to be revealed on Friday and then you’ll have plenty of time to tell your friends to follow my blog and have a chance to win a SIGNED COPY. But it’s really exciting, with an orphan MC, an oppressive government, and a fairy tale twist.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are you reading? Comment below and let me know.

Space Mystery!

This book was provided to me for free in exchange for an honest review.
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Title: Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body: A Guerline Scarfe Investigation

Author: Simon Petrie

I’m a big nerd when it comes to space. I don’t know a lot, but I love stories set in space, science fiction stories, and stuff like that. I also love mysteries. When I got asked to review a book that had both, I couldn’t resist.

Guerline Scarfe – what a name – is the equivalent of a police officer sometime in the future. She’s been asked to investigate a suicide. It looks like a pretty straightforward case, but she is a thorough officer and figures that any death deserves an explanation.

Tanja Morgenstein was working on Jupiter’s moon Titan when she pulled off her helmet. Despite the doctors best efforts, she died. Now it’s up to Guerline to figure out why she did it.

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the mystery aspect, I liked the characters, and I really enjoyed the setting. It’s a world enough like our own that I could identify with what was going on, but enough different that it was completely fresh. I recommend this one and I’m looking forward to the next book in this series. Apparently Petrie has other books out but none in this series yet, but who knows? 4/5 stars and thanks for the chance to read it.

Review: Undeniable

MV5BMTgyNTU3MzIzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDA2MDY2NDE@._V1_UY317_CR3,0,214,317_AL_Title: Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation

Author: Bill Nye

Themes: science, religion, space, technology

Engineer and science educator agreed to debate creationist Ken Ham in a well-publicized event in 2016. You can see a Youtube video of the debate here. I have to admit that I’ve never watched the entire video. But I have watched clips. I am myself religious. I’m a LDS and a Christian, and I do believe in a form of Creation. However, my church doesn’t teach that it took X amount of time or anything like that. I don’t have any trouble reconciling my belief in a God who created the world (using whatever scientific rules necessary) and in scientific evolution at the same time.

I listened to this book, so I can’t go back and quote things, but my favorite parts of it was about space. That’s always my favorite part, really, but he had some fascinating stuff about what it would take to colonize Mars or explore Europa and so on.

There was a lot of humor in this book, but he talks about sex like A LOT. That makes sense, because it’s a book about evolution, and a species can’t evolve without sexual reproduction. But because of that, I wouldn’t recommend the book for kids who might enjoy Bill’s show. There are other Bill Nye books that are written especially for younger readers. This one is for adults.

I can’t say I loved it though. He is pretty relentless is making fun of religion and Creationists. I think he could have easily taken it down a notch. Just because he can’t comprehend how a god could operate within such limitations as Bill sets out doesn’t mean that 1/God isn’t more powerful that Bill imagines and 2/Those limitations aren’t just plain wrong.

Anyhow, I would recommend it and I want to read his next book, Unstoppable, on climate change. But I think maybe I’ll go with print format.

Stand Alone Sunday: Mars One

Title: Mars One

Author: Jonathan Maberry

Themes: Space, love, terrorism, family, engineering, friends/teamworks

Setting: Near future Wisconsin then space

I really liked Mayberry’s zombie series, the Rot & Ruin series with teen Benny Imura. When I heard he had a new book out, a science fiction one  which was getting great reviews, I couldn’t wait to read it, and then the library had a copy just sitting there with the new books. It was meant for me.

Tristan is a typical high school guy. He has a best friend, he’s kind of a nerd, he’s crazy about his girlfriend Izzy. But maybe he’s not entirely typical. He’s a brainiac, has an entire assembly dedicated to him plus a reality TV show, he has terrorists trying to kill him, he has two bodyguards who go everywhere with him, and oh yeah, he’s going to Mars. His whole family is going. His dad is a botanist and Tristan and his mom are both mechanical engineers.

His family was accepted a couple of years ago, but time is running out and they’re finally ready to leave earth. Now he has to say goodbye to his girlfriend Izzy, then say goodbye again for the cameras, and make his way to mission control. It’s time to leave for Mars.

I really liked this book, so much that I finished it in a day. I keep saying I’m done with YA, but books like this are the reason I read it. It takes all the same issues that an adult book would have but condenses them down to the essentials so that what’s left is the central story, no political subplots, no sex (usually), no gloomy angles, just the story. And it’s a good story.

My family has actually discussed this–would you go to Mars, knowing that for now at least, it’s a one way trip? Knowing that you’d never see your family again, that life would be completely unpredictable and that you’d die on an alien planet? Knowing that you’d be doing something no one else in the history of life has ever done? We’re divided. I wouldn’t do it, but I have one kid who absolutely would. (That one is also the hugest Star Trek fan, which is no coincidence, I think.)

Reading this book would make you think about what choices you would make and why. It’s a fast read and a compelling one. I’m giving it an easy 4.3 stars and I recommend it for anyone who likes space or well-written YA.