Category Archives: SciFi

Blu-Ray Review: Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack)

SYNOPSIS:
Jupiter Jones (Kunis) was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along—her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

REVIEW:
Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a humble housecleaner from a close-knit family of immigrants. Somehow, the galactic royal family discovers that Jupiter is the genetic successor of royalty. And her life is in sudden danger. Channing Tatum is Caine, a genetically spliced human with a wolf hybrid, has been hired to protect Jupiter and get her to safety. The two have a cute, easy camaraderie that is fun to watch. I really enjoyed Sean Bean as well. The only person I couldn’t stand was Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax, the main villain. He had an annoying, whispery voice that was hard to hear and just over-done. His character was a corny, one-dimensional villain.

I did enjoy the universe and special effects of Jupiter Ascending, however. The visuals were spectacular. The story was unique and full of suspense, intrigue, drama, and humor. It was fairly predictable, but still a fun science fiction adventure that was very entertaining.

Continue reading Blu-Ray Review: Jupiter Ascending

SciFi Book Review: Alive

Alive by Scott Sigler

Synopsis:
A teenage girl awakens to find herself trapped in a coffin. She has no idea who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Fighting her way free brings little relief—she discovers only a room lined with caskets and a handful of equally mystified survivors. Beyond their room lies a corridor filled with bones and dust, but no people . . . and no answers.

She knows only one thing about herself—her name, M. Savage, which was engraved on the foot of her coffin—yet she finds herself in charge. She is not the biggest among them, or the boldest, but for some reason the others trust her. Now, if they’re to have any chance, she must get them to trust one another.

Whatever the truth is, she is determined to find it and confront it. If she has to lead, she will make sure they survive. Maybe there’s a way out, a rational explanation, and a fighting chance against the dangers to come. Or maybe a reality they cannot comprehend lies just beyond the next turn.

Review:
Em (as she calls herself after seeing the name on her coffin) wakes up with very few memories and no idea where she is. She quickly becomes the leader of her small group of survivors, as they explore their surroundings. The group of kids vary in their vivid and engaging personalities.

Alive is a science fiction thriller for young adults. It’s compelling and completely unpredictable. It has the feel of a futuristic Lord of the Flies surrounded in mystery. I can’t talk too much about the setting, character, or events without giving away large spoilers. But it was fast-paced, captivating, and very hard to put down. I highly recommend this compelling and intense story.

SciFi Book Review: The Machine Awakes

The Machine Awakes by Adam Christopher

Synopsis:
In the decades since the human race first made contact with the Spiders–a machine race capable of tearing planets apart–the two groups have fought over interstellar territory. But the war has not been going well for humankind, and with the failure of the Fleet Admiral’s secret plan in the Shadow system, the commander is overthrown by a group of hardliners determined to get the war back on track.

When the deposed Fleet Admiral is assassinated, Special Agent Von Kodiak suspects the new guard is eliminating the old. But when the Admiral’s replacement is likewise murdered, all bets are off as Kodiak discovers the prime suspect is one of the Fleet’s own, a psi-marine and decorated hero–a hero killed in action, months ago, at the same time his twin sister vanished from the Fleet Academy, where she was training to join her brother on the front.

As Kodiak investigates, he uncovers a conspiracy that stretches from the slums of Salt City to the floating gas mines of Jupiter. There, deep in the roiling clouds of the planet, the Jovian Mining Corporation is hiding something, a secret that will tear the Fleet apart and that the Morning Star, a group of militarized pilgrims searching for their lost god, is determined to uncover.

But there is something else hiding in Jovian system. Something insidious and intelligent, machine-like and hungry.
The Spiders are near.

Review:
Agent Kodiak is put in charge of finding out who is behind the Fleet Admiral assassination(s). And it looks like an inside job. Meanwhile, Caitlin Smith is trying to evade capture, after she decided not to pull the trigger on the Fleet Admiral. Kodiak wants to bring her in for questioning. But he’s not the only one after her. It’s seems she’s a more powerful psi than even she knows.

The Machine Awakes is a science fiction adventure set in a far future, where humans are at war with a machine race called the Spiders. We only get a glimpse of the Spiders at the end of the novel however. The novel is set in the same universe as Christopher’s space horror novel The Burning Dark but it’s wholly standalone and a space opera with a different feel. Fast-paced and action-packed, this reads like an action movie. Events build to a climactic, exciting, and surprising finale that does not disappoint.

*Republished with permission from Bookspan. Originally published at http://www.sfbc.com/

Fantasy Book Review: A School for Unusual Girls

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Synopsis:
It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies-plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible-until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads-or their hearts….

Review:
Georgie is a bright girl who has a penchant for science, much to the chagrin of her parents. The would rather she behave like a lady, instead of burning down their barn while trying to develop an invisible ink. The Stranje House is no finishing school, as her parents believe. Instead, it caters to remarkable young women who don’t necessarily fit into society’s conventions.

A School for Unusual Girls is a brilliant series debut set in Regency England. This first installment revolves around political intrigue and drama. It was nearly impossible to put down. The characters are as fascinating as the time period. And the plot is full of danger, suspense, mystery, and a bit of mysticism. And the ending only left me wanting more. I look forward to the next in this impressive new series.

SciFi Book Review: Omega City

Omega City by Diana Peterfreund

Synopsis:
Gillian Seagret doesn’t listen to people who say her father’s a crackpot. His conspiracy theories about the lost technology of Cold War–era rocket scientist Dr. Aloysius Underberg may have cost him his job and forced them to move to the middle of nowhere, but Gillian knows he’s right and plans to prove it.

When she discovers a missing page from Dr. Underberg’s diary in her father’s mess of an office, she thinks she’s found a big piece of the puzzle—a space-themed riddle promising to lead to Dr. Underberg’s greatest invention. Enlisting the help of her skeptical younger brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and Howard, their NASA-obsessed schoolmate, Gillian sets off on a journey into the ruins of Omega City, a vast doomsday bunker deep inside the earth,

But they aren’t alone inside its dark and flooded halls. For while Gillian wants to save her dad’s reputation by bringing Dr. Underberg’s secrets to light, there are others who will stop at nothing to make sure they stay buried . . . forever.

Review:
Gillian and her brother Eric are good kids with an eccentric father. But even after their father being discredited, Gillian and Eric believe in him and his work. So when his new girlfriend seems a bit too suspicious, the siblings and a few friends begin to track down clues to Dr. Underberg’s secrets before anyone else can.

Omega City is first in a new trilogy for middle readers. Fast-paced with plenty of mystery, suspense and humor – science fiction and adventure fans of all ages will appreciate this exciting story. The book details compare it to The Goonies and The City of Ember – and I agree. In fact, the characters reminded me a lot of The Goonies – which made me love it even more. And the underground facility felt a lot like The City of Ember . The combination of strong characters and an intense plot made for a highly enjoyable read.

The Novice Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway

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Creating Fantasy Worlds
by Taran Matharu

Writing in a fantasy world is no easy task. World building is tricky – too much too soon and you’re info dumping. Too little too late and the reader will have very little idea of what the world is like.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Instead, I want to talk about creating the world in the first place, before you write it all down. In fantasy, the world is often the first thing readers look at when deciding if it’s a book they would like to read, so it’s important to make it a good one.

So here goes. My five stages of creating a new world:

Step 1: The Premise

Very often, you will know what the premise is already; otherwise you would not be writing a book. Maybe you want to write about dragon riders vs. necromancers. So drill down into these things first. Is there a military element to the dragon riders and if so, what’s it like? How many types of dragon are there? Are necromancers born with the ability, or is it taught?

Step 2: The Wider World

Once you have the main stage set, ask yourself, how does this affect the day to day of the wider world? Are there dragon transports, carrying goods back and forth? Do people no longer fear death, knowing they can return as the undead? Is this a medieval fantasy, or are there gunpowder weapons powerful enough to take down a dragon? These are the things you need to explore before you begin writing. It will add detail and colour to the world you build, and the story will be all the richer for it.

Step 3: The People

Quite simply, a world is only as good as the people in it. It is somewhat an extension of Step 2, with more focus on the different groups of people who populate the world. Using the same example, you might ask yourself, are there undead slaves and manservants doing all the work? Perhaps there are activists, campaigning for undead rights. What are dragon riders like? What weapons do they use? Do auxiliary troops support them, or do they fight alone? Again, these questions will not only allow you to build a more coherent world, but also allow you to develop the characters that will feature in your book.

Step 4: The Geography

The fantasy map is always fun to design. But it also serves as an important backdrop for your world. Is it a tropical paradise, full of mountains for dragons to roost in? Or is it a flat wasteland, perfect for roving hordes of zombies.
The landscape the world takes place in is important. Although great swathes of purple prose describing the landscape can be irritating. Find the right balance and your work takes on a cinematic quality. Laying this all out early will help you when developing your world and the plot itself. Do the distances involved have an impact? Are some places impassable, requiring the hero to take a certain route?

Again, Step 2 comes into play here. With zombies everywhere, you might have enormous walled cities, the last bastions for humanity’s survival. Or maybe it is the dragons that are the real threat, scaring people into living in underground cities.

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Step 5: Choosing What Belongs and What Doesn’t.

Be ambitious, but realistic. At the same time, try to stay flexible.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have more ideas than you can count. Keep them all in the back of your mind as you write, but always be aware of one thing:

Sometimes, a world can be too complex and creative. You’ll find yourself bogged down in lengthy explanations, or exploring some aspect of the world’s intricacies that throws the plot off course. Be wary of your book becoming an encyclopaedic exploration of a world, rather than a story.

Finally, don’t be afraid to adapt as you write. Maybe some aspect of the world doesn’t fit, or you can’t do it justice in the text you can spare to feature it in. Perhaps it has no relevance to the story, serving as a distraction rather than a backdrop. When writing, it’s important to keep to the core of the world first and filter in the rest when it feels natural. Your writer instincts might warn you that something isn’t quite working. Listen to them if they do.

I hope these tips help you when you set out on your own writing journeys. Does a world full of orcs, elves and dwarves with an academy for summoning demons tickle your fancy? If so, feel free to check out my debut novel, Summoner: The Novice. Thanks for reading!

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Courtesy of Macmillan, I have a copy of Summoner: The Novice for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends May 29. I’ll draw a name on May 30, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

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SciFi Book Review: Star Wars: Lords of the Sith

Star Wars: Lords of the Sith by Paul S Kemp

Synopsis:
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

Review:
Set after the events in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader and the Emperor are secure in their place as the feared head of the Republic. But pockets of rebellions have begun to spring up.

Star Wars: Lords of the Sith is a solid installment in the much anticipated franchise. Kemp excels at character development, and these characters are extremely fun to read. Cham and Isval are the protagonists and lead the attack against Vader and the Emperor, hoping to assassinate them. Instead, the Emperor and Vader are marooned on a harsh planet where events come to a head. The intense action and adventure as well as the vivid characters made for a highly enjoyable story. Fans should definitely check out this latest Star Wars novel.

X-Wing Knife Block

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In honor of Star Wars Day today, I had to share this X-Wing Knife Block. It’s amazing.
The base wasn’t easy to put together and was a bit wobbly till I added a strong glue. But the knives are really nice and the set just look fantastic. This is a great gift idea for the Star Wars fan in your life.

The set includes:
• X-Wing Style Knife Block and 5 Knives
• Includes Cook’s, Bread, Carving, Utility and Paring Knives
• Individual knife protection sheaths
• Made from Stainless Steel
• 100% officially licensed Star Wars merchandise
• Each knife is strong and durable, with a long-lasting cutting edge

The X-Wing Knife Block is available from these retailers: Amazon, Menkind, Red 5, The Fowndry and Prezzybox.