Lies, Inc. – #BookReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another book from my July to be read list. I know it’s August but I was close. And boy have I got a weird one for you today.

SUMMARY

When catastrophic overpopulation threatens Earth, one company offers to teleport citizens to Whale’s Mouth, an allegedly pristine new home for happy and industrious émigrés. But there is one problem: the teleportation machine only works in one direction. When Rachmael ben Applebaum discovers that some of the footage of happy settlers may have been faked, he sets out on an eighteen-year journey to see if anyone wants to come back.

REVIEW

2/5 STARS

It is the far future and Earth has become overcrowded. To make matters worse, the planets in the solar system that might have been habitable could not for one reason or another be colonized. But one company has a solution. A satellite found a planet that did have a habitable environment. For years now, people have been stepping through a teleportation gate that will take them to this planet. It seems like a perfect solution and a perfect paradise with plenty of room. At least, that’s what the videos that come back seem to indicate. Not everyone in the world is convinced. One man, Rachmael ben Applebaum is convinced that the videos from this planet are fake. He happens to own a ship and wants to go to the planet and see if anyone there is dissatisfied and if possible bring them home. The problem? It’s an eighteen-year trip to get there.

While this sounds like a great setup and could have made for a classic Phillip K. Dick novel full of interesting ideas about the future and the meaning of life and governmental control. Instead, we got a novel full of bizarre images with a plot that just barely holds together and never quite works.

The opening lines are brilliant. “The Sub-Info computers owned by Lies, Incorporated had been caught in an unnatural act by a service mechanic. Sub-Info computer Five had transmitted information which was not a lie.”

This is the type of opening that makes the reader think we are in for an incredible ride. However, by the next page, our main character is hallucinating about rats because of this. It just gets stranger from there. There is a plot that can be followed relating to the planet and the companies that are competing for dominance on it but at least a good third of the book is a bizarre collection of hallucinations including a book that tells the present and the future and strange alien creatures that eat their own eye-stalks for food.

This was a missed opportunity for what could have been a brilliant deconstruction of government, authoritarianism, capitalism, and espionage. Those elements are there but they are not explored nearly as much as the odd hallucinatory monsters that our main character is infected with, creating a dizzying narrative that simply does not make enough sense.

If you like Phillip K. Dick’s books and want to read all of his work, of course, this should be on your reading list. But, if you are a casual science fiction fan and want an introduction to Dick’s incredible work, go with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Also known as Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) It’s a much more engaging read.

Hallucinatingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Petr – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

After years of living in his grandfather’s shadow Petr Drexel, a member of the space-faring nomadic Star Folk, is on a quest to prove his worth to himself and his family. On his first job, Petr’s shuttle is shot out of the sky in the middle of a Martian civil war. Ship repairs put Petr in debt to Alfred Zwinger, who offers Petr a deal he can’t refuse: pay off the debt by completing jobs for a powerful Martian noble named Rickard d’Helion.

During his first job for d’Helion Petr’s shuttle is stolen by Henrietta, a Star Folk Navigator on the run. Petr retrieves his shuttle only to discover the work he was hired for isn’t as simple as it seems. Deliver mining equipment – and fight off an army to protect the site; capture a rogue Star Folk mech pilot – only to discover it’s Henrietta’s brother, and that Henrietta isn’t who she appears to be. Petr and his motley crew quickly become entangled in solar system spanning intrigue, and now Petr’s problem is no longer just paying off his debt, but whether he will survive at all.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Petr Drexel needs to prove himself worthy of his tribe and his family name. He is a space pilot and on his very first job, his shuttle is shot out of the sky, making it a whole lot more difficult for him to earn a living, let alone a name for himself. Repairing his ship puts him in debt to a wealthy merchant named Alred Zwinger. Petr finds three mercenaries and a navigator who may be hiding secrets to accompany him. Together the team travels throughout the galaxy, performing jobs big and small, from recovering lost goods to stopping highly skilled thieves. As the jobs play out, it becomes more obvious that there is something going on behind the scenes and Petr is determined to find out what that is.

The book is action packed and a fun ride. It’s the story of nomadic viking tribes in space which makes for some entertaining situations. Petr is a charismatic leader and his band of mercenaries provide for not only enjoyable action but humorous scenes as well. The problems in the book stack up for Petr as not only is he indebted to a ruthless loan shark, his shuttle is stole right from under his nose.

At times the politics of the space galaxy could get confusing in the story and it wasn’t always clear what those politics meant for Petr. However, the rest of the book makes up for it with plenty of space fights, power armor, and intrigue. The story of how the mercenaries come to respect and trust Petr is interesting and plays out naturally. There is even a romantic entanglement to deal with. The combination provides for a story that is well worth reading.

If you enjoy military space fiction or books that deal with explorers and mercenaries traversing new territory while trying to survive, then Petr is for you.

Space-ily Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Garden and Other Stories – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

With The Garden and other stories, his first exciting collection, author Aaron Ramos skilfully weaves tales of powerful human emotion, modern scientific concepts, and ancient myths and legends within eight beautifully diverse stories.

In Elevated, a young man living in a dystopian future struggles with personal development and romance. In Zero, an elderly woman is confronted with a robotic visitation in small town America. By the Light of the Fire is one woman’s journey to peace with her father in the mountains of ancient Norway. Knocking on Heaven’s door sees a man come face to face with both the Devil and God in an effort to question what it means to be human. In the title story, a father and daughter try to make sense of prejudice, love and what it means to be truly happy in a post apocalyptic universe.

Ramos’ detailed and sensitive imagining of both future and past is an invitation to readers to consider who they are against the vast backdrop of multiple universes.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

The Garden and Other Stories is eight different short stories, varying in both length and subject matter. Most of the stories have some element of love, be it romantic, parental or even societal. While some stories might be stronger than others in terms of tale weaving, there is certainly something here to satisfy any reader who enjoys science fiction or fantasy stories.

At times the stories focusing on myth and fantasy felt a little more contrived in my opinion, but the stories dealing with technology were fascinating. Other readers might find the opposite is true, as it all depends upon one’s taste. Again in my opinion, the strongest stories of the bunch were Zero and Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Both dealt with futuristic technology and what that means to humankind. Zero is a more serious tale about artificial intelligence while Knocking on Heaven’s Door takes on the very idea of creation in a humorous and thoroughly entertaining light. The centerpiece of the book, The Garden is able to blend technological advances with the love a father has for his daughter. An unconditional love that is refreshing to see in a short story.

A nice through line in the stories was how most of them did have to do with love in some way. Even in the stories that were not the strongest, Ramos is able to pull the reader in emotionally. We can all relate to longing or yearning, or familial love and this is what makes this collection stand out. Even inside of fantastical settings full of monsters, myths and technological wonders, the protagonists are decidedly human. The one drawback to this book is that it would have been nice to have more stories in the collection. For that reason, I am looking forward to more from this author.

This is an impressive debut collection from a new author. If you enjoy short story collections such as Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman or the short story collections of Isaac Asimov, then at least one of these stories is sure to entertain.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Vast of Night – #MovieReview

It’s Like a Long Twilight Zone Episode and I’m NOt Complaining

Hey people out there catching my signal, it’s Slick Dungeon. I’m back again with a movie review for ya. This time I watched the sci-fi, quiet horror film that is getting all the buzz lately, The Vast of Night.

The film takes place in the fictional town of Cayuga, New Mexico and is about Everett and Fay, two characters caught up in things they can’t explain in the 1950’s. Fay is played by Sierra McCormick and Everett is played by Jake Horowitz. Both performances are fast paced, tense and low key brilliant.

Just a warning that there will be mild spoilers in this review but I won’t give too much away.

The film starts off with us looking at a television screen and getting an opening that essentially mimics The Twilight Zone. That sets the tone immediately as we transition into the town of Cayuga, where everyone is abuzz with getting ready for the high school basketball game. We met Everett immediately and it’s clear that he is the smartest guy in the room considering that everyone at the school wants his attention on a number of random things, including fixing scoreboards, setting up recording systems and repairing cables that have been chewed through.

One of the people wanting Everett’s attention is Fay. She has just bought a new fashioned tape recorder and wants Everett to show her how to use it. The dialogue in these scenes if fast paced and cigarette filled and it takes a moment to get your bearings as the viewer. We find out quickly that Fay would be a good match for Everett because she is able to talk about science in a way that impresses him. In fact, for me the scene that really got me into the film is when Fay starts describing these far in the future science articles that perfectly describe smart driving cars and cell phones. After that I was all in on this film.

Fay

Everett is not going to the basketball game because he hosts a radio show and needs to be at work. Fay works the telephone switchboard and is also unable to attend the game. They are about the only ones in town that won’t be there.

Every once in a while the movie reminds us how this begins by pulling back and showing us, or someone or something, watching the events unfold on a screen.

Things really get going once Fay starts to pick up an odd noise on the phone lines. She thinks it’s odd and has Everett listen to it. After that he plays the sound on the station and asks if anyone can identify it. Things get really interesting once a caller says he can.

I don’t want to give the story away from here but let’s just say Everett and Fay spend the rest of the night trying to understand what is going on. Whether or not they do, you’ll have to watch the film to know.

The film does miss on one point, it does not really address some of the injustices that were prevalent during that time period. While this film is not about that, I think that any film taking place in that time period produced now has a bit of a duty to at least address how bad it was for anyone who was not a straight, white, man at the time. There is a little bit but it barely brushes by the audience. But I digress.

The only other thing that really bothered me about this film is one that I have seen in multiple films, books and even in songs. The town is in New Mexico but the radio station is called WOTW. Not to put too much geography on you here but that’s west of the Mississippi. Any station west of the Mississippi is supposed to start with a K. I know how easy it is to make this mistake if you are from the east of the Mississippi. As someone who lives on the west of that river, it is always 100% confusing to see a station in New Mexico start with the letter W. So please, if you are east of the Mississippi and you make a movie on the west coast, start your stations with a K and if you are west of the Mississippi and you set your movie on the east coast, start your stations with a W. There are some people like myself who would really appreciate the effort.

The performances are outstanding and I felt like it was a really gripping, if a bit long episode of The Twilight Zone. Lucky for me, I love that show, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed this. The tension is quiet and builds very well. Enough happens to keep the viewer engaged while still allowing for a low budget film.

Right now the place to find this is on Amazon. It’s a worthy 90 minutes to spend if you want to watch a bit of eerie mysteriousness. For my money it’s definitely worth a watch.

Mysteriously Yours,

Slick Dungeon

Equilibrium – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, back to tell you about a dystopian country where feelings are not allowed, Sean Bean, does what he does best, and people are not able to shoot each other because of angles.

Equilibrium is a 2002 science fiction film starring Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs and Emily Watson. Now, don’t get me wrong when you read this review. I really enjoyed the film. The film feels oddly prescient for the time we are in now. The action is really good and all of the performances are engaging. But I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t over think this by a million degrees. So just because I am pointing out inconsistencies and giant plot holes doesn’t mean I didn’t like it or that you shouldn’t watch it.

Fair warning that there will be spoilers ahead. I mean, this was made in 2002 so I think the expiration date on that warning is a bit old but I can’t continue the review in good conscience without mentioning that.

It’s the early twenty first century and world war three has just happened. I should mention this film is fiction. A dystopian society much like you would find in 1984 or A Brave New World or even Fahrenheit: 451 has developed. I should reiterate that this film is fiction. As a result, there is a menacing and vaguely defined police force that is cracking down on insurgents for doing such things as looking at art, loving one another, and reading poetry. I should again mention that this film is actually fictional. It was made eighteen years ago but a lot of this film feels like right now is feeling. And it was even more striking when the villain, who turns out to be leading the whole thing says this, “…it is not the message that is important, it is our obedience to it.” He says this to get a law enforcement officer (Christian Bale) to commit an unlawful act. So yeah, spot on to how this moment in America is right now. But let me remind you, this film is fictional.

Enough with my tangent, on with the plot. The whole idea of this society is that we need to suppress our human emotions chemically, to maintain peace. It’s illegal to feel anything at all and those who break this rule are subject to imprisonment and ultimately death. Christian Bale plays John Preston, a “Grammaton Cleric” who is trained in advanced weaponry and fighting skills. It’s his job to seek out and bring to justice, “Sense Offenders”, who are basically anyone that feels an emotion. Preston is good at his job and is ruthless about meting out his twisted version of justice, up to and including, burning the Mona Lisa and killing his partner for reading a volume of Yeats poems in the first ten minutes. R.I.P. Sean Bean. Again. He’s really good at getting killed in the first act of anything isn’t he?

Preston’s back story is tragic because his wife who seems to have loved him, was executed by the same police force he works for. He has since dedicated his life to stamping out all those who feel emotion and is very good at spotting anyone who does. But, he ends up missing a dose of his emotion suppressing drug and starts to feel. Meanwhile, Taye Diggs, who plays Andrew Brandt, a replacement Cleric for Sean Bean’s character, is starting to suspect something is up with Preston. There is a bit of cat and mouse and Preston does some things he’s later not proud of. He ends up meeting Mary O’brien who is played by Emily Watson. It turns out she was dating the Sean Bean character. Preston brings her in but his world view is starting to change.

The movie continues with a bit of action, some subterfuge, some back and forth and lots of gun violence and slick action sequences. In the end, we of course want to see Preston beat “Father” who is the man behind the totalitarian regime. We also want to see Preston show some emotion to his own children. I won’t tell you quite how we get those answers but I don’t think it’s spoiling too much to just say the good guys generally win.

There is also this stark contrast from the beginning of the film, full of drab and dark colors, including the uniform the Clerics wear, that changes at the end when Preston dons a white suit, because, you know, good guy and all.

As enjoyable as the film was, I still wanted to know a few things.

  1. Okay, so emotion is bad but even these Clerics go around talking about being proud or feeling guilt or whatever. The also say things like good morning. Good is pretty subjective and an emotion could be attached there so are these Clerics just exempt or what? It doesn’t seem like it since they have to take the drugs too. How do they define emotion? I didn’t see the consistency here at all.
  2. The Clerics are specially trained to be total killers. They go through this rigorous program and are able to beat hordes of people shooting at them. How do they do this? Because they train to counter the angles of gunfire that are most probable to come at them. Essentially the point is that they would use probability and physics to best their opponents. While that sounds and looks really cool, uh I have a question here. Has no one ever killed one of these guys because they held their gun at a weird angle, got off a random shot accidentally, or you know, found out this secret method of training that seems to happen in the middle of the public and like, lowered their gun by three degrees? I mean really, it seemed to me that maybe James Bond wouldn’t have a shot at killing these guys but what about Mr. Magoo? How did that Cleric die? The guy couldn’t see that well so he shot at a 34 degree angle and well, what can you do about that am I right?
  3. My next question is about the emotion suppressing drug. How the heck did they get that formula so perfect? It seems to be an absolutely identical injection for every human taken at the exact same time. No one has a weird reaction to this? Not a single person feels no effect from this? Heck, we can’t even give Tylenol to the entire human population without huge problems for a good portion of people so, whoever made that drug, give them a raise.
  4. Back to the Cleric emotion thing, there is one point where Taye Diggs’ character and Christian Bale’s character are facing off in a fight, in front of the head honcho of the dystopia. Diggs, great actor that he is, is clearly angry during the whole kerfuffle. I mean no question from his body language and what he says. How did he not get fired for that?!?! I mean that is an emotion! Anger is an emotion, so what the heck. And to believe the dictator here, what he wants is to stomp out these negative emotions that caused war in the past. I can’t say for certain how WWIII starts in this because they don’t say but I bet you anger was involved. Come on evil megalomaniac if you are gonna make that big a stink about reading poetry, get rid of people getting mad too.
  5. Christian Bale lives in this drab apartment with no decorations on the walls and no sheets or blankets or pillows on his bed. They show him at least twice sleeping on his bicep. So, uh, are pillows just to emotional in this world or what? Like, no you can’t have a pillow because you will cause a war if your neck is comfortable. Burn that.
  6. There are a ton of hidden rooms in this movie. Preston is really good at looking at or feeling a wall and punching through to find like a secret room with all kinds of art. Who built this stuff? I mean how do you get a secret contractor so you can build a room where you look at art and play a phonograph? Vinyl was really in during this whole movie too btw.
  7. My last questions get kind of involved and give a bit of a spoiler for the end so again be warned before you read on. The guy who was supposed to be Father is really a sort of simulation that is run by another guy we have seen earlier in the film. This guys plan is to get Preston to start to feel something so that he would be able to join the resistance so that he can get to the resistance to wipe them all out. So Preston does do that, then they trick Preston into coming to where this guy is in a ruse to make it seem like the resistance wants Preston to kill Father. But it turns out that Father brought Preston there so he could kill Preston, knowing that a. Preston is deadly and b. there are still members of the resistance out there. I have two questions about this. First, wasn’t there a freaking simpler way to get to the resistance? You had a woman who was taken prisoner you could have just let her go and then followed her. Pretty sure you could have found them then. Secondly, why would you bring Preston to you to kill him? I mean Taye Diggs’ character had like thirty-seven opportunities to just shoot him at point blank range. Why do that though, when you can bring him to your bunker so that he can just mow through all your dudes and kill you right? I mean, I guess that’s what we needed for the movie to happen? Classic bad guy stupid move and in my opinion it takes what was a smart movie and makes it dumber than it should be.

All that being said, there was some sweet, sweet sword fighting going on, so all good.

I hope you are all staying safe out there and that you enjoyed this review. If you want to feel like you are living in the film, you know, turn on the news. The film is better though, it’s fictional.

Equilibrialy Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Bastion Awakens – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

A sovereign empire, the Consortium, defies both science and religion in its race to colonise the Solar System. They carved a God from ones and zeros.
It searches for the Devil.

A hidden planet, Bastion, lies home to a descendant colony of humanity. Its original inhabitants are thought long gone.
But something stirs beneath the surface.

TAREV is a harvester. A moonblood. His life, indebted to the Consortium, entails trudging along the harsh, icy surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan. A life of struggle, harvesting methane for the rest of the Solar System to use, until he and his brother, Sevastian, discover something buried deep within the ice.

Something that will change their lives forever.

ELIA is a Weightless, a gravity wielder, after being injected with the biometal that litters the alien planet on which she lives. She’s also the genetic reprint of an ancient hero, a Catalyst, who paid the ultimate sacrifice over two hundred years ago. Elia struggles to live up to the expectations that come with being a Weightless. She struggles to live normally, while wearing the face of a Catalyst.

She struggles to live, when her planet refuses to die.

REVIEW

5/5 Stars

Bastion Awakens is almost two books for the price of one. In one story we follow Tarev, a methane harvester from Titan. His life is not easy and he and his brother Sev do the best they can to make a living. Things seem to be set to improve when they find a huge pocket of methane to mine but they discover something completely unexpected while they are at it. The other story deals with Elia, a so called Weightless from Bastion, a hidden colony that has no contact with the other colonized planets. Elia not only is able to wield and bend gravity to her will, she is also a genetic imprint from an ancient hero, a Catalyst, who died over two hundred years ago. Needless to say, she has huge shoes to fill and is doing the best she can to live up to enormous expectations.

It takes a little while to get your bearings in the book (at least it did for me) but once you see how the stories reflect one another and start to understand the nature of the current state of civilization, the book is utterly gripping. It’s a huge space opera that touches on thematic elements from expectations brought about by ones surroundings, to grief, love, loss and self sacrifice. All this while still having a ton of action and life threatening situations to keep the reader engaged the whole while. And while a reader might wonder what the two stories have to do with one another, by the end, all is made clear, while still leaving questions out there that make one instantly want to read another volume in the saga.

To anyone who loves a good space adventure with intricate complexities and deep human emotions, you have got to read this book. While I am tempted to compare this to something like Dune, in that it takes place in space and there are complex politics happening,this stands in its own right as a unique story. By the end of the book the reader cares deeply about Tarev and Elia and can sympathize with all they have been through, gained and lost. To me this can stand with the best of space fiction and is an absolute must read.

Space Operatically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

An Interview with G.E. Hathaway Author of Burn

Hi everyone, Slick Dungeon here and guess who crawled into my dungeon! G.E. Hathaway, the author of the spectacular book Burn about a post apocalyptic Tucson, Arizona, that you should all go and read, right after you finish reading this post. She was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions about the book, about Tucson and about her writing process. Welcome to my dungeon, G.E., and thank you for joining me! Without further ado let’s get into the interview. 

Slick: Let me start with the obvious question. How does it feel to have a book out that is post apocalyptic while we are in an actual worldwide pandemic currently?

G.E. Hathaway: I have to admit, it’s a bit strange to drive around an empty downtown Tucson- like I’m a character straight out of the book!

I’ve been doing a lot of observing. There’s the world I imagined dealing with a large-scale emergency in Burn, and then there’s our actual reality dealing with COVID-19. I think the fears associated with living in a desert city are quite consistent with the reality. Water and shelter are essential against the heat, and we started hitting three-digit temperatures this week. If the power grid gets overwhelmed, outages occur. Something I’ve been greatly encouraged by, however, is the way people have come together to support each other during this difficult time. Even when things seem the most divisive and hostile, there’s always the helpers.

Slick: Your book is set in Tucson and it’s clear from reading it that you have a love of the area. What about the area inspires you and how did you decide to set your story there? Was there any consideration of setting it somewhere else?

G.E. Hathaway: I was greatly influenced by my time living near downtown Tucson and the University of Arizona campus. It’s a very old neighborhood, first of all, with a unique charm that you don’t find in many other places. With the development of the downtown area, you have an interesting combination of worlds; modern industrial and traditional Sonoran styles. As a result, the culture is delightfully mixed, and there’s great support for artistic expression. I wanted to present the city in a way that is recognizable to the locals today, and not just as another cowboy western. Tucson has evolved, but at the same time, I knew I needed to introduce it to new readers in a way that may be accessible to them, hence the idea of the “new wild west.”

Slick: What is your writing process like? Do you dedicate time to it every day or do you wait for inspiration to hit?

G.E. Hathaway: I write full time in a different industry and I’m a parent, so my creative writing goals are structured for maximum efficiency, which sounds so dry and uncreative! Basically, I keep a journal of writing concepts, and once I think a concept has enough legs to keep my own attention let alone someone else’s, I flesh out the beats. I sit on it for a while, making edits as needed, and if it continues to hold my interest, I outline the chapters. It takes a couple months before I’ll even sit down for the first draft, and by then I’m dedicated to a full writing schedule. I try not to go too long without writing during this time, because I don’t want to lose momentum.

After I complete the first draft, usually over a couple months because I write straight through without editing, I put it down for another month. Then I revisit it, edit it as best I can, then submit it to beta readers. I want to catch huge plot holes and narrative issues early before I send it to a professional editor.

Slick: Do you remember when you first got the idea for Burn? What was that like and why did you feel the need to tell this story in particular?

G.E. Hathatway: I was driving across town near the end of a very dry, hot summer, when the first monsoon storm hit. The monsoons here are gorgeous. The clouds roll in like a wild animal. Similar to how someone in the Pacific Northwest may come out to enjoy a sunny day, everyone in Tucson will go out to watch the rain. As I watched the first storm roll in, I realized wanted to capture that transition and heighten the stakes of what that relief means for the locals. I imagined the opening scene of the book that day. While the rest of us humans are enjoying the rain, there’s an actual battle going on between the weather, and I wanted to personify that. Although in those early days of brainstorming, the fight between the gods happened in the open desert instead of a convenience store!

Talisa

Slick: In Burn there is a technology called the Grid, which seems to be a renewable power source that doesn’t rely on any traditional power supplies. How did you come up with the idea? Do you think this sort of technology would be something that could exist in reality in the future and, if so, do you think it would be a good idea to use it?

G.E. Hathaway: It’s funny, after I started distributing an earlier draft of Burn to readers, I started getting articles from them they’d found on experimental technology that supposedly generates electricity from ‘thin air,’ either through microbiomes or water vapor. The future is here! I think one of the biggest things to think about is how to set up boundaries to the technology and keep it contained. Similar to dropping a boom box in a bathtub, how can you use the energy without having residual effects somewhere else? I’d also be curious about its finite conditions. If there’s no catastrophic fallout, I think it would be cool to see.

Slick: I loved the interplay of nature and technology in the book. Do you feel that the two can coexist well together or do you have more of an affinity for one or the other?

G.E. Hathaway: That’s exactly what I hope to explore in follow-up books! I think the big question I’m trying to address is: how can the two coexist in a way that isn’t detrimental to the other? I think having this story take place in the desert is perfect, because the environment is so fragile to begin with. On the one hand, our existence as a species is dependent on the health of the environment, but on the other hand, we need technology to survive the brutal heat. As a Tucsonan, I’m in a place that needs both.

Noah

Slick: To me, this book feels kind of like a cross between The Stand by Stephen King and American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Were you influenced by those authors at all? If not, who are your main influences when it comes to writing?

G.E. Hathaway: American Gods definitely served as an influence because I wanted to explore the deities in this book by how they evolved and are defined by the existing society. I love Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. Their world building is magical. Other authors I love include V.E. Schwab and Jason “David Wong” Pargin.

Slick: What are you reading right now? Any great books you can recommend to people who like Burn?

G.E Hathaway: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai is amazing. I keep going back to that one. A time traveler who lives in the ideal futuristic scifi world we originally envisioned from the 50s accidentally changes the past, and creates the present we currently know and recognize. The science fiction in this book is so interesting, with the time travel machine powered by the Earth’s axis. I also highly recommend Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by Jason “David Wong” Pargin, which looks at a dystopian future where our own social media engagement enforces a surveillance state. It’s also supremely funny and smart.

Liam

Slick: Three of the main protagonists, Liam, Ellie and Noah, all find themselves face to face with Gods and Goddesses. Was it difficult to personify these Gods and Goddesses while still making the interactions believable for the human characters?

G.E. Hathaway: I had fun with this one. Each character is driven by their environmental purpose. The Sun God is ruthless and unforgiving, much like the sun in Tucson. Alternatively, Winter is indifferent to humans, more peaceful. Winter doesn’t have the damaging effects in Tucson like it does in other parts of the world, but it does provide relief from the summer. The Rain Goddess gives life to the region, so I saw her as a motherly figure, and therefore more empathetic to humans. Those characteristics fed their interactions with the main characters. Hopefully trying not to give away too much, the stranger the humans meet in the desert was both the most fun and saddest character to write, because it aligned with how humans interact with the area wildlife as both a threat and a treasure.

Slick: Will there be more books involving these characters and, if so, what are the plans for the next book?  

G.E. Hathaway: Yes! I have book 2 outlined, with ideas for book 3 in development. I just hope my pandemic anxiety calms down enough for me to stick to a writing schedule! Book 2 is going to answer a question that Book 1 leaves hanging. I’m excited about this one, because it will introduce more gods as well as give the readers a glimpse of a modern and active Grid city.

Slick: In the book we find out what happened in Tucson when the Grid goes down but we don’t see what happens outside of Arizona. Will we get a glimpse of that in future books?

G.E. Hathaway: Yup! Our heroes will go outside of their comfort zones and visit the capital Grid city, which is located outside Arizona. Readers will also get to see what politics looks like since we’re in a future where a powerful corporation, Utopian Industries, has merged with the government system.

Ellie

Slick: The book is cinematic in scope and I could see this working as a graphic novel, movie or television series. Have you put any thought to trying to adapt it into any other kind of media?

G.E. Hathaway: I would love that! My hope is that the book picks up some steam in the indie world and attracts the attention of those who could make that happen. I actually have another manuscript with an agent at this time, so maybe if that one takes off, I can bring attention to Burn.

Slick: How can readers buy the book and how can they get in contact with you?

G. E. Hathaway: Burn (Desert Deities, Book 1) is available now on Kindle devices at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086FZ9K4C. I hope to get it formatted for paperback soon.

My website is https://gehathawayauthor.wordpress.com/

Email: g.e.hathawayauthor@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/g.e.hathawayauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gehathaway

Thanks so much for stopping by my dungeon! Now if you could just show me the way out? Oh, um I think she left. Anyway go read the book!

Inquisitively yours,

Slick Dungeon

Note: all art in this post was created by Sofia Bjerned and are property of G.E. Hathaway and can be used for personal/non-commercial use. They cannot be modified/edited for commercial purposes.

Edge of Darkness – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click HERE.

Cyberpunk fans and fans of far future fiction will enjoy reading this book.

SYNOPSIS

In 2065, corporate sponsored governments jockey for supremacy in the biotechnical arena. Bullets and missiles take a back seat to cyber-enhanced soldiers and pulse weapons. In this extreme environment, only the most hardened body and mind can survive.

Calder McKenna was a failed experiment in the military’s push for power. Now a special agent for the metro task force, he lives day by day trying to forget the ones that were lost… the ones that he could have saved.

When technology and humanity collide, Calder is forced to make desperate decisions, but how do you destroy the monster without becoming one yourself?

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Calder Mckenna is an ex-soldier working as a cop who is still haunted by the actions of his past. His life gets a whole lot more complicated when a mysterious package shows up at his door. While what is in the package might unlock hidden potential inside him, it might also make him into a monster. This story is about his struggle to maintain his humanity while still protecting his partner and those around him.

The book starts off strong and is full of action. The integration of technology and humanity is a consistent theme throughout the book. Calder also starts out as a rather interesting character to me. I found myself wanting to know more about him and why he was the way he was. For most of the book I was excited about it and enjoyed the story. There was at least one relationship that I found a little less believable than others but I won’t go into detail about it to avoid spoilers but otherwise I was intrigued.

I was reminded of things like Altered Carbon or Phillip K. Dick novels as I was reading this. While this is not quite as realized as those worlds, this was still an entertaining read. I liked how these mega corporations are controlling everything from behind the scenes but I never got a great sense of what exactly they were doing or why. It was clear that they were not above board and needed to be stopped, but I feel like that is part of the book that could have been strengthened.

The action is fast and continuously interesting and I found myself rooting for Calder to succeed. There is a lot of action and for this kind of story, I find that a great plus. I enjoy a little bit of philosophy about the way things are but then I am ready to get back to the fight. Edge of Darkness provides a constant stream of intense action with real, high stakes.

For me this just narrowly missed being a four star book, mostly because I felt like some of the scenery and background could have been delved into a little more, and like I said one relationship never quite worked for me.

If you like far future fiction, this is a good one to go with and I will be checking out the sequels.

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

To Be Taught If Fortunate – #BookReview

Hello out there in cyberspace. Slick Dungeon here and I just read a book about outer space that I want to share with you. I enjoyed this one a lot and I will be doing a little review. There will be some spoilers but I will not give away the whole plot here. You’ve been warned if you want everything in the book to be a surprise.

To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers is a hard science fiction novella that had me interested cover to cover. It follows the adventures of four astronauts in the far future who have been sent from Earth to explore a few planets and their ecosystems in the interests of science and humanity. Ariadne, Chikondi, Elena and Jack have all been tasked to take scientific recordings, samples, etc. and sent back to Earth for study.

The book is full of beautiful descriptions of new species, the harsh realities of space exploration and the breakdown of difficult scientific ideas into understandable concepts. The characters are very well developed for such a short book. I was pretty gripped throughout, whether it was the personal struggles of the space explorers or the underlying question of the book; should we seek knowledge just for the sake of curiosity?

Those of you out there who are space nerds will probably know that the title is taken from a small snippet of a quote on the golden record on the Voyager space craft. This book takes the idea that we ought to be curious, that we need to find more out about the universe around us seriously. That can be said for a lot of science fiction and especially hard science fiction books. Where I think this one is different is that it also asks if our curiosity does harm. Are we hurting foreign species we might encounter in space? Are we able to minimize that? And if we can minimize it, is that really enough? Should humanity care about space exploration if there are problems on the ground right here on Earth?

What I love about this book is that it does not provide hard and fast answers to those questions. We follow along as the astronauts go to different environments, with different challenges both for the astronauts and the species (or lack of species) on each planet they touch down on. It isn’t a silly novel where there are a ton of bipedal humanoid species. No, the species they encounter might be microscopic or look somewhat like rats but have truly nothing in common with the earthbound creatures we think of. And it’s very well described.

Maybe the one thing I would change about the book is the ending. I feel like it could have been more conclusive. On the other hand, that may have been the whole point. The book doesn’t give us answers to a lot of important questions, but it dares to ask them. So maybe the end is made that way too. So that we have to form our own opinions and ideas of not only what the right thing to do is when it comes to science, but also how our heroes end up in the long run.

If you’re looking for an entertaining, deep, yet short read, and you have any interest in space exploration at all, I highly recommend To Be Taught If Fortunate.

If you’ve read this, let me know what you thought about it in the comments.

Space-ily Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Robot Monster – #MovieReview

we know how it will end

Slick Dungeon here, in the tenth room of my dungeon. This is where I watch the weirdest, baddest and sometimes oldest movies and give you a little review so you know if you should invest your time in them. You totally should.

This week I watched Robot Monster. Also known as the granddaddy of so bad it’s good science fiction films. It was poked fun of by the guys on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was so bad and did so poorly at the box office that the director tried to kill himself. His shot missed though and he survived. His movie, for all of the bashing it gets, is still around and people still talk about it. It’s not every movie that can say that!

This thing was shot in four days in Bronson Canyon. It has a whopping ensemble cast of eight people. Two of which are mostly in a monster getup that was not well thought out. The rushed filming shows if you look closely. There are spliced scenes from other movies, there’s a point where a woman is loosely tied up and unconscious in one shot and when we see her again, she is fully bound and fully awake, you can see a hand controlling the model spaceship in the special effects shots and if that was not enough, you can see the actor’s face in the space helmet when he is supposed to be some kind of technologically superior space gorilla.

But those things I just listed, are the unintentional mistakes. I feel like the conscious choices here are much, much worse. They wanted the monster to look like a huge furry ape creature in a space suit. Mission accomplished and it looks as stupid as it sounds. Let me give you just a brief plot summary here and as we go on, I will point out even more of the ridiculous.

The film starts out with a nice little family having a picnic. Johnny, the little boy in the film and his sister Carla run off to play unsupervised near a cave. At the cave there are two archaeologists digging out some fossils. They explain to the kids that their job is to dig it out and send this stuff to a museum for people to study. Johnny is more interested in space aliens. The older sister of Johnny and their mother find the boy and then they leave. Johnny can’t resist coming back and there’s a flash of lightning. Dinosaurs (from another movie) roam the planet! Lizards (from another movie) wrestle each other! Action! Excitement!

Next we see a monster. This is Ro-man (Pronounced Row-man not Roman thank you very much) and he is armed with a bunch of antenna, a television screen and even, a machine that makes bubbles! Ooooh watch out!.

But this dude is serious. He’s killed literally everyone on the planet with one stroke. Except for our five remaining cast members. Lucky for them, their father, “The Professor”, had cooked up a serum that protected the whole fam from any sort of disease at all. Yay for illegal science! There’s also a couple of people on a “space platform” that have survived, also thanks to the Professor.

Ro-man spends the rest of the movie, slowly turning dials, slowly wandering around in grass, slowly picking up little girls and women, and loudly yelling back and forth at his leader in space. It’s super obvious that the visibility from this outfit was zero for this actor. It’s awesomely funny.

There are also some choice bits of dialogue from the handsome lead to his love interest. Roy, who is not related to the rest of the family but was an assistant to the Professor also got to have an injection of the serum. Good thing for him too because he is in love with the Professor’s oldest daughter Alice. Alice is a beautiful and brilliant scientist in her own right. How do we know? Well, she almost fixes the screen that speaks with space. And, Roy, says to her, “You’re either too beautiful to be smart, or too smart to be beautiful.” Because you clearly, cannot be both. The fifties must have sucked so much if you were not a straight, white, male. Anyway.

Ro-man, as can be predicted wants to kill the humans. But not Alice because, well, I guess he’s got an open mind about dating. He shouts at the humans on the screen a few times and says they should ask for a painless death, but like, can he date Alice or what? Alice is kinda like, well, if it will save humanity, I’ll go talk to the space alien monster. The Professor and Roy decide to tie Alice up for her own good instead.

Then later, when there is still a dangerous monster out there, Johnny gives up the secret of the serum to Ro=man. Does Ro-man kill Johnny after that? No. Why? Because Johnny is on top of a rock above Ro-man, and that costume is unwieldy my friends.

Even later Alice and Roy decide to go do some necking as they might have said in the fifties. You know, despite the fact that there is a murderous alien. By the way, none of them ever once seems to think it’s a good idea to move away from the cave at all. Also, they don’t seem too broken up about the entire rest of the planet being dead.

When Alice and Roy get back from their fun time, Roy asks the Professor if he can marry Alice. Not like the Professor and his daughter have a lot of options but he agrees. Alice has time to find a veil but Roy doesn’t seem to have time to put his shirt back on. There is a little ceremony and they get married. They head off for a honeymoon. Yes, a honeymoon right near the cave where the murdery space gorilla lives. Roy, you must have been one amazing assistant.

Carla, Johnny’s little sister, runs after the happy couple, gives them some flowers and runs off (in the totally wrong direction). Ro-man finds her and strangles her off screen. Why off screen? Because that costume is unwieldy my friends.

Soon Ro-man finds our happy couple and the epic last battle for humanity begins again. He strikes Roy! He captures Alice! Alice is slowly taken to the cave! Alice has her dress torn (that’s seriously out of line, Ro-man) and she is slowly tied up, loosely! Ro-man turns around and argues with his boss that he should get to keep the girl. Boss is unhappy, Alice is now fully tied up completely!

Roy makes it back to the house with the Professor where they have just buried Carla! Roy dies! For a moment Ro-man seems to regret his actions! Boss zaps everyone on the planet including Ro-man!

Johnny wakes up! Oh, oh wait. This was all a dream. Yep, they went there. They Wizard of Oz’ed this sucker. I guess we knew that from the start since the actors don’t change at all from before Johnny went unconscious. Ah, well, all good they won’t be the last to rip that off. Roy and the Professor turn out to be the archaeologists! And Roy asks Alice on a date! Yay!

Now look, as ridiculous as everything I just described sounds, here’s the thing. I don’t think this deserves the harsh treatment it gets, I get what the film makers were going for and at the time it made sense. It was kind of poorly executed but you know what? This totally could have worked as a Twilight Zone episode. With a little more careful editing you wouldn’t catch the mistakes and the premise is not that bad. One family survives the destruction of Earth. Could be interesting. I recommend checking this out with the realization that this movie has actually lasted. It doesn’t seem that out of place from the rest of sci-fi at the time. Give ol’ Ro-man a break will ya? I mean have you seen the original Star Trek show?? They have a ton of weird stuff in there too and we don’t bash that the same way we do this.

That’s all for now, next week I will be watching Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama. At least Captain Tiger hasn’t gone after the treasure of Rama Lama yet.

Defensively yours,

Slick Dungeon