Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Stay Home, Stay Safe: A Review of The Machine Stops

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. Vintage Science Fiction month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:

 – read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier

 – talk about it online sometime in January

 – have fun

If any of my readers are also interested in participating this month, let Little Red Reviewer know about your posts if you’d like them to be included in her official roundups. 


Title
: The Machine Stops

Author: E.M. Forster

Publisher: The Oxford and Cambridge Review

Publication Date: November 1909

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 25 pages

Source: I read it for free on the UC Davis site 

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

“The Machine Stops”” is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster’s The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928. After being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965, it was included that same year in the populist anthology Modern Short Stories.[1] In 1973 it was also included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.The story, set in a world where humanity lives underground and relies on a giant machine to provide its needs, predicted technologies such as instant messaging and the Internet.”

Review:

Book cover for The Machine Stops Here by E.M. Forster. Image on cover shows a big, red bow on an analogue clock. Who needs in-person contact when you have virtual gatherings?

There were some fascinating parallels between how Vashti had lived her entire life and what the Covid-19 pandemic was like for those of us who were lucky enough to work from home and order many necessities online. Vashti could summon anything with the touch of a button, from food to a warm bath, to an assortment of friends who wanted to hear a lecture on human history. She virtually never had reason to leave her home at all, and neither did the rest of humanity. It was supposed to keep everyone safe and content, and yet not everyone Vashti met was necessarily happy to live this way for reasons I’ll leave up to other readers to explore. What I can say is that staying home to reduce the spread of a pandemic is quite different from spending your entire lifetime in one room no matter how nice that room is. The various human reactions to them are similar, though!

The ending was confusing to me. I needed to google it to make sure that my understanding of what happened in that scene matched what the author was trying to convey. While I did find my answer, I do wish the author had been more forthcoming about what was going on there. He had several thought-provoking ideas he was working with throughout the course of this tale. All he needed to do was develop them a little more fully and I would have given this a much higher rating.

With that being said, I did think the conclusion was much more realistic than what typically happens with dystopian tales published in modern day. I appreciated the fact that the themes and hints embedded in earlier scenes were allowed to play out so naturally. While I did wonder if this twist was coming in advance, that was a good thing. It was nice to have a consistent experience even if it wasn’t something that most contemporary authors would do.

The Machine Stops was ahead of its time. Anyone who likes dystopias should check it out.

Suspicious Town: A Review of The Dunwich Horror

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. Vintage Science Fiction month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:

 – read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier

 – talk about it online sometime in January

 – have fun

If any of my readers are also interested in participating this month, let Little Red Reviewer know about your posts if you’d like them to be included in her official roundups. 

 

Title: The Dunwich Horror

Author: H.P. Lovecraft

Publisher: Weird Tales

Publication Date: April 1929

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Historical

Length: 58 pages

Source: I read it for free here

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Dunwich Horror is the story of Wilbur Whateley, son of a deformed albino mother and an unknown father, and the strange events surrounding his birth and precocious development. Wilbur matures at an abnormal rate, reaching manhood within a decade–all the while indoctrinated him into dark rituals and witchcraft by his grandfather.

The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft book cover. Image on cover is an abstract drawing of a white smoky blob against a black background. Review:

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

Nobody really knows what goes on behind their neighbour’s front doors.

Lovecraft had such a descriptive writing style. Whether he was telling the reader what the unwelcoming landscape looked like or exploring the hidden depths of the people whose families had lived there for generations, he knew exactly how to pull the audience in and make them listen closely to what he was saying. This is a special gift, and it’s something that leads me back to his stories over and over again even though I completely understand the many valid criticisms of his work and personal beliefs. I think there’s something to be said for acknowledging the flaws in famous creators while still leaving room to enjoy the ways they used their talents.

There were some parts of the storyline  that I struggled to understand, especially when it came to Wilbur’s origins. While I completely understood why the surrounding community wouldn’t know all of the details about his parentage, especially in an era when children born to single mothers were so heavily stigmatized, I had a ton of unanswered questions about this stuff that would have really helped me to understand later developments. Was there perhaps something lost in the nuance of it all over the last century? Is the world I grew up in too different from this one to easily make comparisons between the two? Sometimes I wondered if this was the case since the characters seemed to piece some of this stuff together in ways that I as a modern, urban reader did not. This was still an enjoyable read, but those passages did make it feel dated at times.

Small, rural communities can be pretty unwelcoming places to live, especially for anyone who stands out from the crowd due to their appearance or membership in a minority group. I liked the way the author stretched the tendencies of some members of our species to be insular and suspicious of outsiders to its limit. It truly brought out the absurdity of it all while also explaining why humans can react so harshly to people they don’t understand or relate to for any number of reasons.

I’d recommend The Dunwich Horror to anyone who is at least occasionally little disquieted by small, sleepy towns.

Too Old for Santa: A Review of Christmas Presence

Book cover for Christmas Presence by Tony Bertauski. Image on cover is a closeup of a man who has a white beard and moustache and is  wearing a wool hat.Title: Christmas Presence

Author: Tony Bertauski

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 31, 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Holiday

Length: 25 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Worst Christmas ever.

Christmas was about traditions. Currently, Zay and her mom had about five traditions, things like gingerbread cookies and tree decorating. Not going to work.

Zay has to stay home. On Christmas. Alone.

Mom said her boss felt real bad about the whole thing so he was sending a nanny. It just keeps getting worse. She’s fourteen years old. She doesn’t need a nanny. But then the nanny shows up. She’s not really a she. Or a he.

More of an it.

The nanny shows her that it’s not really magic that makes Christmas special. It’s the adventure. And when it’s all over, she’ll never forget.

The best Christmas ever.

Review:

Teenagers don’t believe in magic, right?

Fourteen is a tough age. Zay was too old to truly get into many of the Christmas traditions she enjoyed as a little kid, but she was also a bit too young to understand why some adults get so excited to keep them going. Mr. Bertauski did a wonderful job of capturing this confusing stage of life and how it can affect not only the teenagers going through it but also everyone around them as well. I had compassion for Zay as she decided how to respond to her mother’s love of the Christmas holidays.

This short story was marketed as an introduction to a new series about retelling of classic holiday legends. Even though it was the first instalment of this series so far as I could tell, I still struggled to understand what was going on at times. There was never quite enough information about the nanny who showed up to entertain Zay or why he was so different from what she was expecting. While I did understand some parts of this universe, other portions were never quite clear to me.  I would have happily gone with a much higher rating if these things had either been explained in greater detail or if the blurb had been clear that this wasn’t necessarily something that was supposed to be a standalone read.

I was a huge fan of the author’s reinterpretation of Santa Claus as an individual as well as a mythical figure. This was where the science fiction elements of the storyline shone the brightest. They made me perk up and wonder how everything worked, especially once Santa began to reveal a little bit more about himself. There was so much creativity in these passages. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what the author comes up with next based on how much effort he put into rethinking this classic character.

Christmas Presence was a lighthearted read that I’d recommend to anyone who is either currently a teenager or who has a teenaged loved one in their life.

Quiet Lessons: A Review of Foresight

Book cover for Foresight by Matilda Scotney. Image on cover is a planet with rings around it and three golden moons in orbit around it. Title: Foresight

Author: Matilda Scotney

Publisher: Off the Planet Books (Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 21, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Length: 61 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

 

Starlight, star bright,
The very first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish, I wish tonight.

A metaphysical tale…

Review:

Not only are there two sides to every story, sometimes there are far more sides than that!

The subtlety of the first scene made me smile. There are precious few tales out there that are set in December but are purposefully not about Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or any other holiday that occurs during that month. I was impressed by the way the author captured the beauty that can be found at the end of the year, from the crisp, clear skies to the sharp nip of the wind as autumn slowly turns into winter. These descriptions might not seem to be related to the themes of later scenes at first glance, but give them time to grow. They have a message to share with any reader who is patient enough to keep going and to avoid making assumptions about what might happen next.

I would have liked to see more character development in this short story. It included such a large number of characters that it was difficult to get to know anyone well, much less to spend enough time with them to take note of the ways in which they were changing as a result of their experiences with the alien vessels. There was so much more space here to explore all of their personalities and backstories. If that had happened, I would have happily gone with a full five-star rating.

With that being said, I was delighted by the wide variety of perspectives the author included. I can’t say much about the alien vessels the characters were discussing without giving away spoilers, but it was fascinating to see how differently everyone reacted to them. Some characters viewed them as a threat while others had much more creative reactions to the idea that humans might not be alone in the universe after all. Absorbing everyone’s reactions to them was just as interesting as listening to the the reasons they gave for believing these visitors were anything from a security threat to a muse for creative expression.

Foresight is a must-read for anyone who appreciates thoughtful science fiction.

A Hard Day’s Work: A Review of Bounty Hunter Stex

Every Thursday I share a list of free spectulative fiction books on Twitter. Last April, My friend Berthold Gambrel reviewed one of the books I mentioned, and now I’m reviewing it as well! Thank you for reviewing this book and nudging it closer to the top of my to-read list, Berthold! 

Book cover for Bounty Hunter Stex by Vesa Turpeinen. Image on cover shows a gunslinger and cowboy pointing a pistol while standing in front of a space ship on a dusty plain. Title: Bounty Hunter Stex

Author: Vesa Turpeinen

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: April 1, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 23 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Bounty Hunter Stex crashes his small plane hundreds of miles away from civilization while transporting a prisoner.

Stex and his prisoner end up face to face with an ancient evil as they look for shelter from a godforsaken ghost town in the middle of a desert.

This story is written by the award-winning author of the Amazon best-selling Pilot Career Series, Vesa Turpeinen. While he is widely recognized in the non-fiction world, this is his first attempt at writing fiction ”” and it won’t leave you cold!

The story combines science fiction, western, and magic, plus a little bit of Stephen King-style horror. It’s only about a 10-minute read and distributed for free. Enjoy!

Review:

Content Warning: Blood and murder. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

The less you know about this tale in advance, the better!

I adored the creative plot twists. As mentioned above, this is one of those stories that works best if you avoid all spoilers for it ahead of time. That’s going to make it a little tricky to discuss and critique here, but I’m always up for  a challenge. The coolest things about these plot twists were how often they happened and how many different genres they invited into the storyline in order to make everything tie together. I was surprised on a few different occasions, but everything was tied up beautifully together in the end.

This would have benefitted from another round of editing. The typos and punctuation errors happened often enough for me to give this a much lower rating than I otherwise would have chosen. It was distracting to pause and read those sections again to make sure I understood what the narrator was trying to communicate. With that being said, the plot itself was excellent. I am hoping to read more from this author in the future as his writing style was otherwise delightful.

The dialogue was nicely written. None of the characters were the sorts of folks who stand around shooting the breeze. I quickly learned that all of them had a strong preference to get to the point and then immediately figure out what to do next, so it made perfect sense that they’d keep their conversations to a minimum and plainly say what they were thinking when they did decide to speak up. Writing it that was a sensible decision, and I honestly wouldn’t have wanted those parts of their personalities to be communicated in any other way.

Bounty Hunter Stex was a wild romp through multiple genres. Do give it a shot if you love westerns, science fiction, or simply being surprised by clever storytelling.

 

Stex Freeman – MC. Bounty Hunter.

Lucas the Slayer – bad guy he just captured and is taking in.

A Calculated Risk: A Review of Go Outside

Title: Go Outside Author: Adam Vine Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: March 1, 2021 Genres: Science Fiction Length: 8 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: Cal has the opportunity to travel across the stars to the world of the enigmatic and enlightened Hosts… but doing so will mean… Read More

Sweet Sleuthing: A Review of Junkyard

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… Read More

A Review of This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story 

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… Read More

Placid Revelations: A Review of The Lake

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… Read More

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

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… Read More