Tag Archives: Science Fiction

A Review of Judith – A Triorion Universe Story

Judith - A Triorian Universe Story by L.J. Hachmeister book cover. Image on cover shows the sun breaking through the clouds over a hill that has a bare tree on it. Title: Judith – A Triorion Universe Story

Author: L.J. Hachmeister

Publisher: Source 7 Productions (Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 1, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 19 Pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

With a broken heart and the resurgence of cancer, Judith Derns’ life comes to a halt. Some odds just can’t be beaten. But when she encounters a strange being in her countryside home, she discovers a chance to do something more than just survive another day. With a dying body and the military invading her home, Judith taps into a strength she didn’t know she had, and with a single decision, unleashes the greatest power of all.

Review:

Content Warning: Cancer, pregnancy, infertility, grief, death, and car accident. I will not discuss these topics in my review.

Bad days happen to everyone eventually.

Judith had been through so much in her life! I raised my eyebrows when the narrator described the many losses she’d already endured, and it made me curious to see how she’d react to yet another piece of terrible news. She seemed like the sort of person who knew how to take things one day at a time and who would reserve her true feelings about her diagnosis for when she arrived safely at home and had no one around to interrupt her. I liked her as a person and found myself wishing she could finally catch a break after such a long string of bad luck.

I would have liked to see more conflict and character development in this tale. So much time was spent focusing on Judith’s reaction to her diagnosis that there wasn’t much space left over for her to explore the bizarre activity on her property or come to terms with what her life was going to be like after she arrived home. This also left me a little confused about the meaning of the final scene, especially as it pertained to Judith’s future. While I totally understand leaving space for additional plot and character development in later instalments, there unfortunately wasn’t enough of either of these things for me to choose a higher rating even thought I was intrigued by the main character and wanted to know more about her.

With that being said, the science fiction twist added a jolt of excitement to the plot. I was curious to see how it would tie into her cancer diagnosis and who she would decide to trust. She didn’t seem to know anyone who was on her property, so I couldn’t begin to guess how she’d react to their competing requests from her. This was one of those cases where I quickly developed an opinion on what a character should do but didn’t know if she’d actually follow through or if my gut instinct about what was happening was correct. It was amusing to get an answer to this question.

This is part of a series, but it can be read as a standalone work.

Judith – A Triorion Universe Story piqued my curiosity.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Something from Sci-fi You Wish Were Real

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

The sickbay of the Enterprise-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The sickbay of the Enterprise-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Image credit: Derek Springer from Los Angeles, CA, USA

I wish Star Trek medical bays were real.

Some countries like Canada offer universal healthcare. Well, the basics are covered by taxes. The majority of us still have to buy insurance or pay out of pocket for things like prescriptions, dental care, (most) mental health care, basic vision care, private hospital rooms, and many medical devices that are meant for home use.

I’m grateful to be able to visit my family doctor without worrying about how much the bill will be, but I dream of a world where everyone can visit a Star Trek medical bay.

Imagine almost instantly getting a diagnosis after having a tricorder painless waved in front of you instead of waiting days or sometimes even weeks for results from our current and more invasive diagnostic procedures to come in.

Then you would probably be given a hypospray or a little pill to permanently cure any illness or injury faster and with less pain than even the most revolutionary treatments that are available today. All of this would happen without anyone worrying about how they can afford the treatment.

I dream of living in a world like that. Wouldn’t it be marvellous?

As much as I’d also love to experience a few hours of amusement in the holodeck or order all sorts of fancy dishes from a replicator in the mess hall, real-life medical bays would be life-changing for humanity as a whole. I hope they really do exist someday.

Hidden in Plain Sight: A Review of A Terrifying Fact About Ants

A Terrifying Fact About Ants - Science Fiction Short Story by Adam Leon book cover. Image on cover shows a colony of ants crawling on each other and on some red soil. Title: A Terrifying Fact About Ants – Science Fiction Short Story

Author: Adam Leon

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 11, 2022

Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 24 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Review:

“I discovered a strange relation between ants and another fascinating insect; spiders. Specifically, the Myrmarachne formicaria; the spider that looks exactly like an ant that was discovered by researchers back in 2001.

How strange it must have been to be the researcher suddenly noticing their colony of ants becoming cannibalistic. The Myrmarachne formicaria’s evolutionary convergence had the primary purpose of mimicking their prey to allow the creature to invade anthills without being attacked, allowing the creature to burrow deep into their homes and devour the larvae of their undeveloped children, and then walking away as if nothing ever happened. Terrifying, yet unbelievably fascinating.

Not only would the spider have to evolve to look exactly like the ant, but the species would also have to understand the simple psychology of ants, matching pheromones, behaviors, antennae communication etc. just to pull off this horrifying heist. How could random evolution be responsible for such deliberate manipulative complex action?

Of course, in recent years, it’s been understood that the Myrmarachne formicaria is not alone in its formation, countless other spider species have mimicked ants so well that researchers were only able to recently discover their existence through the use of DNA testing.

I started to wonder if a similar case could be applicable to human beings. Are there people among us who are not people? Are there psychological manipulators camouflaged as their prey so expertly, for the sole purpose of devouring our young and bleeding the public dry as if we were nothing more than livestock? And I’m not just talking about politicians here.

Be careful who you trust.

I have two quick notes to share about this short story before I jump into my review. First, be sure to read the introduction. It contains some important information that readers will need in order to understand what’s happening. Second, I also wanted to mention that the original Spanish version of this story is happily included in this version, too, for readers who understand that language.

Antonio, the protagonist, and John, the gringo who had recently moved to the area, had a relationship that made me chuckle. Both of these individuals made assumptions about each other that may not have been as accurate as they assumed. I was also amused by how Antonio’s gentle and trusting personality was matched by John’s fierce independence and unwillingness to trust anyone with even the smallest scraps of information about his life until he’d known them for a long time.

The implications of what John had to say about why he left the Anglo world for such a remote Hispanic community were chilling, but I found myself wishing he’d shared more details about what his life had been like before the events that drove him so far away from his original home. I’m saying this as someone who loves analogies and solving the riddles authors sometimes share in their works. It simply would have been easier for me to emotionally connect with John if I knew some basic details about his past like the names of his loved ones or the precise location of English-speaking country he’d left behind.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that explored the cultural differences between Antonio and John. For example, John thought he should pay for help by the hour while Antonio thought it made more sense to pay by the task so that workers would finish the job as soon as they could. These sorts of cultural misunderstandings can lead to all sorts of amusing miscommunications that work so well in otherwise serious works like this one. The fact that their personalities were also so different from each other as I mentioned earlier only made this aspect of it even more memorable. They had so little in common, and yet I loved seeing how both of them worked together as John built up the courage to share a small sliver of his past.

A Terrifying Fact About Ants made me shudder.

In the Deep Depths of the Ocean: A Review of Aegan and the Sunken City

Aegan and the Sunken City by D.G. Redd book cover. Image on cover shows an anchor falling through the ocean and about to touch the ocean floor. Title: Aegan and the Sunken City

Author: D.G. Redd

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 26, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Futuristic

Length: 17 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

The Cartographers have announced that the Triton will drift over an old city. Aegan finds himself lucky enough to be ready to drop in his deep-dive submersible, the Argo, and scavenge for riches. If he can collect enough salvage, he can buy his way into the upper-decks, to the levels of peace and quiet. For now though, he’ll need to make do with the solitude of his boat as he slowly descends to the sunken city.

Review:

Content Warning: sea monster. I will discuss it in this review.

The ocean is only as trustworthy as who or what is swimming around in it.

Morally ambiguous characters are so interesting to read about, especially when they’re as personable as Aegan was. Would I trust him with my credit card? No, but I would love to sit down to dinner with him and hear some of the stories he could tell about the slippery and sometimes downright illegal things he’s done in order to survive. There is no doubt in my mind that he’d have a few acts of heroism to throw in there as well. He excelled at bending and even breaking the law, but he never struck me as a cruel man. He was simply someone who was trying to game an unfair system in order to make his own life easier.

I would have liked to see more time spent describing the sea monster and it’s intentions. Yes, Aegan was used to such distractions, but this reader was not! It was hard for me to picture what it looked like or why it was so interested in Aegean’s vessel in the first scene. I was also surprised by how the plot veered away after that moment, so having a more detailed description of why the author went in that direction would have been helpful as well. This is a minor criticism of something I otherwise enjoyed quite a bit.

The world building was nicely handled. While the author didn’t have a great deal of time to go into detail, he shared enough information about how global warming changed the sea levels and human society to keep me interested and eager to find out what else had changed between our present and this nebulous time in the future. This is the sort of thing I’m happy to wait around for so long as I have a basic understanding of how e everything works, and that was definitely provided here.

This is part of a series but works perfectly well as a standalone work.

Aegan and the Sunken City piqued my curiosity for more.

Mending Fences: A Review of A Prayer for the Crown-Shy

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers book cover. Image on cover is a close-up painting of a covered wagon travelling through a forest. Title: A Prayer for the Crown-Shy

Author: Becky Chambers

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication Date: July 12, 2022

Genres: Science Fiction, Utopia

Length: 160 pages

Source: I borrowed it from my local library.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.

They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.

Becky Chambers’s new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?

Review:

Content Warning: Theology and religion, but they share little in common with any theologies or religions of our world. I will discuss these topics in my review.

What could be more cozy or wholesome than a Tea Monk and a robot going on a road trip in a utopian world?

I am once again going to need to tread carefully in my review in order to avoid spoilers, but I did want to talk about the theological discussions and religious practices in this universe. Ms. Chambers created such a gentle framework for those beliefs that I was quickly able to relax and follow the characters’ thought processes as they compared beliefs and asked intelligent questions of those who disagreed with them. You should know that Sibling Dex loves and accepts everyone. Their beliefs are sacred to them, but they would never use them against those who have other beliefs or no beliefs at all. Don’t be nervous about reading this if you’re like me and generally avoid stories about religion or theology based on previous negative experiences with those topics in our world. It was important part of the plot for sure, but there wasn’t a single ounce of unkindness in Sibling Dex’s worldview.

My review of A Psalm for the Wild-Built gently criticized the loose plot structure of that book. I’m happy to report that the plot was thicker in this one. Yes, it retained it’s meandering philosophical and religious discussions that are so important to Sibling Dex and Mosscap’s character development, but they faced more conflicts and obstacles to their goals this time around as well. It was fascinating to me to see how they handled abrupt changes to their travelling plans and interactions with other living things that didn’t always go as predicted. This was exactly what they both needed to in order to show the audience how they’d changed as a result as their earlier adventures.

It was exciting to see how the world building was expanded. I finally learned more about how the villages and cities in this world are connected to each other and what their relationships with one another are like. Yes, I wanted to dive even deeper into this topic, but it made sense to stop where we did. I mean, it’s not like I welcome friends to Canada by going on a long monologue about my country’s history, culture, or social customs before asking if they want to try poutine. The important parts are shared as they come up in conversation, so it made total sense for the author to do the same here.

The character development was once again handled beautifully. Sibling Dex and Mosscap changed in all sorts of interesting ways as a result of their journey and their friendship. I chuckled as their assumptions about what humans or robots should be like occasionally bumped up against realities that bore little resemblance to what either of these individuals thought was going to happen. While I did find myself wishing the last scene had been given a little more time to flourish, I’m betting that it was written that way on purpose in order to set up whatever comes next.

This is the second instalment in the Monk & Robot series. I strongly recommend reading it all in order as there were several important scenes in A Psalm for the Wild-Built that are critical to understanding the character development.

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy made me yearn for more.

Gentle Science Fiction: A Review of A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Note: I’m (finally) reviewing the first book in the Monk & Robot series today and will review the sequel next week. Stay tuned!  Title: A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot #1) Author: Becky Chambers Publisher: Tor Books Publication Date: July 13, 2021 Genres: Science Fiction, Utopia Length: 160 pages Source: I borrowed it… Read More

Canadian Tidbits: A Review of Northern Gothic Stories

Title: Northern Gothic Stories Author: Helena Puumala and Dale Olausen Publisher: Dodecahedron Books Publication Date: December 19, 2012 Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Horror, Historical, Contemporary Length: 123 pages Source: I received a free copy from the authors. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: Do you like stories featuring aliens, legendary monsters, psychic children, mysterious disappearances, gamblers, cheats,… Read More

Side Effects: A Review of The Visitor

Title: The Visitor Author: Mark Lawrence Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 18, 2021 Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary Length: 48 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: A stand alone short story that originally appeared in Book 26 of the Wild Cards universe. The only thing you need… Read More

Unexpected Results: A Review of Untethered

Title: Untethered Author: Nick Stephenson Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: February 24, 2021 Genres: Science Fiction Length: 20 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 2 Stars Blurb: When a scientist discovers the secret to teleportation, he struggles to figure out what to do with it. This short story is a love… Read More

Fixing Everything: A Review of Solaria

Title: Solaria  Author: Thomas Volz Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: June 7, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction Length: 42 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: After encouraging his savant daughter to build a theoretical time machine, Eduardo Solmar scrambles to complete the project after Elishia mysteriously vanishes. His tampering… Read More