Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Sweet Sleuthing: A Review of Junkyard

Junkyard by Lindsay Buroker book cover. Image on cover is of a spaceship flying above a forest and below a large moon above the planet. Title: Junkyard (a Fractured Stars Novella) 

Author: Lindsay Buroker 

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 5, 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery

Length: 81 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

McCall Richter works as a skip tracer, tracking down criminals, con men, and people who stop making payments on their fancy new spaceships. 

Her job description says nothing about locating vast quantities of stolen maple syrup, but thanks to her helpful new android employee, she finds herself tramping through a “sugar house” on a frosty moon full of suspicious characters. The only witness to the crime? The junkyard dog next door.

Junkyard is a stand-alone novella set two years before Fractured Stars.

Review:

Talk about a sticky situation! 

It only took me a few scenes to find McCall endearing. She was an independent person who knew exactly what she wanted out of life. I was intrigued by the quirkier aspects of her personality, too, and was eager to get to know her better. The short introduction to her was more than enough to whet my appetite for more from this character and series. 

I would have liked to see more time spent developing the mystery elements of the plot. The basic structure of it was there, but it was so simplistic that I didn’t have to put much effort into sorting everything out at all. There was a lot of space here to add nuance to the question of what happened to the maple syrup and who might have been responsible for the theft of it. This was the only thing preventing me from giving this tale a higher rating. 

Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that showcased McCall’s relationships with Scipio and the other non-human creatures she spent a lot of time around, especially given how much she struggled to relate to other humans at times. It was marvellous to see her relax and enjoy the company of a select few companions who understood her so well. I’d love to see more of this later on in this series if it happens to be included there. 

Junkyard would be a good read for fans of both the science fiction and mystery genres. 

A Review of This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story 

This Time Around - A Canadian Werewolf Story by Mark Leslie book cover. Image on cover shows a city skyline at night. Superimposed on that photo is a photo of a wolf's head that's superimposed on a maple leaf in front of a full moon.Title: This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story

Author: Mark Leslie

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: February 16, 2013

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 70 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Caught Between the Moon and New York City 

Being a werewolf isn’t all about howling at the moon.

Or running carelessly through boundless fields feeling the wind in your fur.

Not when you live in the most populous city in the US.

For Michael Andrews, a Canadian living in Manhattan and afflicted with lycanthropy, there are odd side effects to being a werewolf in the middle of a bustling metropolis.

Such as waking up naked in Battery Park with absolutely no memory of the night before as a wolf and trying to figure out why there is a bullet hole in his leg.

Just another day in the life of a man living with the odd side effect of his werewolf affliction.

(This 10,000 word short story is the original short story written by Mark Leslie that eventually inspired the full length Mark Leslie Novel: A Canadian Werewolf in New York)

Review:

Content warning: blood and brief violence. I will briefly mention the former in my review.

If you think you know what it’s like to be a werewolf, think again. 

Humour wasn’t necessarily something I was expecting to find when I began reading about Michael’s adventures here, but it was exactly what he and I both needed. Some of the scenes were subtly humorous in ways that nodded at Canadian culture. While they certainly had universal appeal as well, it was nice to see the author acknowledge his character’s background like that. 

The only thing that held this story back from a much higher rating were the typos in it. I can ignore the occasional grammatical or punctuation error, but they happened so often here that I felt compelled to mention them. With another round of editing, this would have easily been a five-star read for me. I loved everything else about it. 

This was such a unique take on werewolves. The plot showed how Michael coped after waking up naked and covered in blood in a park after spending his night in his wolf form. Obviously, that’s not the ideal way to start anyone’s day, and somehow things only became more complicated for him from that point. I was immediately sucked into his quest for clothing and, eventually, answers about what happened to him the night before. The author went into the perfect amount of detail about what this sort of experience is like for a shifter and how many different things they must consider as soon as they revert to their human form. 

If you enjoy lycanthropy fiction, definitely do check out This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story.

Placid Revelations: A Review of The Lake

The Lake by Tananarive Due book cover. Image on cover is of lightning striking a lake in the middle of the night. Title: The Lake

Author: Tananarive Due

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: August 11, 2011

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 21 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

A free short story taken straight from the pages of THE MONSTER’S CORNER, an all original anthology from some of today’s hottest supernatural writers, featuring stories from the monster’s point of view.

In THE LAKE, Abbie LeFleur, a lifetime Bostonian, who hides her scales, webbed feet, and an incredible hunger for people, has relocated to Graceville to start her life anew when she sets her eyes on a young student in her English class.

Review:

Every town has its own unique way of doing things.

Abbie’s character development was well done, especially given the short length of this piece. I loved picking out new clues about how she was changing as she adjusted to her new job and home. Sometimes they were subtle, but they always made sense given who she’d been in the beginning.

There was one small thing I never understood about this story, and it had to do with the way the citizens of Graceville reacted to a new person moving there. In my experience, secrets are nearly always quickly exposed in small towns whether they belong to the newcomer or those who were born there. It didn’t make sense to me that Abbie could have lived there for as long as she did without anyone stopping by to welcome her and give her advice. Whether or not this character would heed their warning was an entirely different manner, but I struggled to understand why it was never given in the first place.

The ending made me shudder. While this was firmly rooted in the horror genre, but it wasn’t bloody or gory at all. Instead, the author relied on hints about what might happen next to frighten her audience. I love this sort of horror and had a wonderful time imagining what a sequel might be like. If the author ever writes it, I’ll read it for sure!

The Lake is a solid summer read for anyone who enjoys psychological horror.

The Last-Chance Mission: A Review of Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir book cover. Image on cover shows an astronaut floating through space while tethered to their ship. There is a large sun or planet in the background. Title: Project Hail Mary

Author: Andy Weir

Publisher:  Ballantine Books

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery

Length:476 pages

Source: I borrowed it from my local library.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could deliver, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

Review:

Content warning: Death and serious bodily injuries. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Failure isn’t an option here if humanity is to survive.

There were multiple sections of this book that went into great detail about the physics and math behind the experiments Ryland ran as he attempted to solve the scientific mystery that was threatening to drive humanity to extinction. This was most definitely a work of hard science fiction. I suspect that people who have university-level degrees in math, science, or technology will get the most out of those passages, but I did understand what the main character was saying. Keep pushing through those passages if you struggle with them. They’re important for the plot, but the narrator will often explain them again in other ways later on if you need a refresher.

I loved the foreshadowing. Yes, it was a little more heavy handed than what I’d typically expect to find in this genre, but given the complex and technical nature of most of the problems Ryland needed to solve I think that was the best choice for most people who will be reading this.

The hopeful nature of the storyline was delightful, so don’t be fooled by the urgent and sad vibe of the first couple of scenes. There were so many wonderful plot twists after that point, some of which I didn’t see coming and found quite relieving once they did arrive. As much as I want to go into vivid detail here, I keep my reviews spoiler-free and want you all to discover these moments for yourselves.

Ryland was a well-developed character whose wry sense of humour often made me chuckle. I enjoyed seeing how quickly and (usually) calmly he came up with new ideas when he was in a crisis and his previous solutions didn’t pan out. He honestly reminded me a bit of Mark Watney from Weir’s earlier book, The Martian. While these characters lived in different universes, I enjoyed comparing and contrasting them. Some of Ryland’s strengths were things that Mark probably would have found difficult, so that was an extra layer of amusement for anyone who is already familiar with this author and his previous works.

Project Hail Mary was an amazing adventure that I heartily recommend to anyone who loves hard science fiction.

First, Do No Harm: A Review of Restore

Book cover for Restore Stories of Singularity #1 by Susan Kay Quinn. Image on cover is of a white robot staring off into the distance. Title: Restore – Stories of Singularity #1

Author: Susan Kaye Quinn

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 2, 2015

Genre: Science Fiction 

Length: 42 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Blurb:

Restorative Human Medical Care Unit 7435, sentience level fifty, is happiness level five out of ten to serve and heal the human master it loves. But Unit 7435 finds there is a price to be paid for love… and for failing in its primary mission. 

Restore  is a standalone short story that takes place in the world of the Singularity novels. 

Start the novel series with The Legacy Human (Singularity 1).

Review:

Content warning: Terminal illness. I will be not discussing this in my review.

A happy medical care unit is a productive medical care unit.

I liked the fact that Restorative Human Medicine Care Unit 7435 had such a distinct personality. This wasn’t something I was expecting to find, especially based on my first impression of this bot who originally came across as someone who followed strict protocols with no room from deviation. This changed once 7435 decided to identify as female for the day and began receiving commands that were in direct opposition to her programming. (Medical care units in this universe can alter their gender presentation and preferred pronoun based on what makes their patient most comfortable)

With that being said, I struggled with the thin plot. It was difficult to remain interested when so little was happening, especially since 7435 had such a limited understanding of anything other than the various types of psychological and physical medical care she was programmed to provide to her patients. She was an interesting protagonist for sure, but developing a well-rounded storyline from someone whose perspective is naturally so limited is tough.

The world building was otherwise well done. My curiosity was piqued by the differences between legacy and ascender humans in this universe. The narrator knew just enough about this topic to keep me wondering why humanity decided to branch off in these ways and what other ways the two groups might be distinct from each other that a medical bot wouldn’t necessarily be aware of.

I’d recommend Restore to anyone who is a big fan of stories about artificial intelligence. 

Myths Come to Life: A Review of Ambush Predators

Title: Ambush Predators – a Post-Apocalyptic Urban Fantasy Short Story Author: Marina Ermakova  Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: September 30, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction  Length: 18 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author.  Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: Mythical carnivores that prey on humans…and the researchers who study them. New graduate student Jordan begins… Read More

The Last Minute Decision: A Review of Clocking Time

Title: Clocking Time Author: Mark McClure  Publisher: JFR Publishers  Publication Date: October 31, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult  Length: 31 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: Two teenagers share a secret superpower: clock jumping. Confined to his house by the authorities, remote viewer Briann enters into… Read More

A Review of Apeiorn – Tales of an Argonaut 1

Title: Apeiron – Tales of an Argonaut 1 Author: M.P. Cosmos Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: November 28, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction  Length: 25 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author.  Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: “It’s the 20th millennium. Humankind has extended throughout the galaxy fighting against alien species to earn its place.… Read More

Murky Moments: A Review of Fragments

Title: Fragments – A Collection of Short Stories Author: Jachrys Abel  Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: November 21, 2020 Genres: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical, Futuristic  Length: 40 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author  Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Fragments explores various facets of humanity through eight short stories—each of different… Read More

What Bears Do in the Woods: A Review of The Ursus Verses

Title: The Ursus Versus Author: Nathan Waddell Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 29, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult Length: 66 pages Source: I purchased it. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Do you like bears and black holes and squid monsters and dragons and cowboy dragon slayers and riding your bike all around town looking… Read More