Tag Archives: science fiction

Review: For Us Humans, by Steve Rzasa

For Us Humans, by Steve RzasaFor Us Humans, by Steve Rzasa (Enclave Publishing, 2018)

Fun and fast-paced, with snappy commentary from point-of-view character Caz Fortel, For Us Humans puts a science fiction spin on the classic mismatched detectives story, rife with nods to iconic science fiction shows.

Caz poses as an unprincipled art buyer to help the authorities catch art thieves and reclaim stolen art. Now he’s tapped to find a missing piece of alien art—and failure will not bode well for Earth.

He’s cocky enough to think he can do it on his own, but the powers-that-be pair him with a four-armed alien named Nil.

Fifteen years earlier, the aliens arrived. In Caz’s words, it wasn’t so much an invasion as a corporate takeover. The governments love having access to new technology, but the population resents the alien presence. Caz is no exception.

As well as the action plot of Caz and Nil chasing the missing sculpture and the subplot of their slowly-changing attitudes toward one another, the novel has a faith subplot I don’t remember seeing before.

Proof of alien existence triggered a worldwide crisis of faith. A minority of Christians still worship together, but most—including Caz—can’t reconcile aliens with their beliefs. Ironically, Nil claims his own culture has hints pointing to something special about Earth and God. That’s why he’s here.

Meanwhile, their assignment is about to get a whole lot more complicated.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. We need more science fiction like this. And the cover’s great.

Steve Rzasa writes both science fiction and fantasy. For more about the author and his books, visit steverzasa.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Stealthy Steps, by Vikki Kestell

Stealthy Steps, by Vikki Kestell Nanostealth Book 1Stealthy Steps, by Vikki Kestell (Faith-Filled Fiction, 2015)

Gemma Keyes tells readers her story in first person, as she writes an account of what happened one fateful day in her physicist friend’s secret lab. She’s funny, direct, and sometimes speaks directly to the reader.

She’ll tell you why she’s in hiding and who’s chasing her. She’ll explain enough of the nanotechnology (microscopic bits like computer chips, if I understand) but she’ll reassure you it’s okay if you don’t get it. She doesn’t get it, herself. She was simply the scientist’s assistant in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or in the right place at the right time, to keep his creation from being stolen by a corrupt general.

As well as being a fast-paced techno-thriller, delivered with strong, fresh description and the aforementioned humour, this is a story with heart and with a thread of faith. There’s more going on with the 10-year-old neighbour boy than Gemma wants to see and there’s a friendly pastor with a criminal past who could be more than a friend… if he wasn’t a Christian, and if Gemma’s life wasn’t in danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the rest of the series. The mix of heart, faith, and action made the characters real to me. And since the story’s set in present-day Albuquerque, it’s only the science that’s a stretch from the real world. Otherwise, it’s just a corrupt-military-official-out-to-destroy-innocent-civilian-with-a-secret story.

Vikki Kestell writes faith-filled fiction—the 4-book Nanostealth series and a number of historical novels. Stealthy Steps is free in ebook format from most online stores, and if this is your type of story, I heartily recommend it. For more about the author and her work, visit vikkikestell.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Asrian Skies, by Anne Wheeler

Asrian Skies, by Anne WheelerAsrian Skies, by Anne Wheeler (2017)

Avery Rendon needed special permission to leave her home planet, Asria, to join the interplanetary Commonwealth forces as a pilot. Asria’s government has many restrictions, especially for a member of the royal family. Add to that her doubts about her culture’s faith, and she’s happier elsewhere.

Naturally she finds herself back on Asria, embroiled in all she wanted to escape—and then things get worse. When Asria is invaded, she must do her part to fight the oppressors without pushing them far enough to kill her.

Interacting with those she trusts—and those she doesn’t—not only shapes her as a leader but it makes her take a second look at faith.

Asrian Skies is well-crafted, with unexpected twists and reversals. It’s a bit heavier in places than I’m used to (the planet is under occupation by a brutal enemy after all) but it’s not graphic.

Anne Wheeler writes character-driven Christian science fiction. The sequel to Asrian Skies, Unbroken Fire, is now out. For more about the author and her books, visit anne-wheeler.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Stillwaters, by Yvonne Anderson

Stillwaters, by Yvonne AndersonStillwaters, by Yvonne Anderson (Gannah’s Gate Publishing, 2017)

A novel written like an autobiography… about someone who’s famous on another planet. How’s that for a premise?

At the opening of Stillwaters, Jem (the narrator) is a feral child of perhaps twelve. Her “death” is the end of everything she ever knew and the beginning of a new life in a new place. The bulk of the novel traces her second life.

Although Jem’s home planet is much different than ours, some of the interpersonal struggles are quite relatable. We see the distrust between country and city folk (here, there’s the one City: either a benefactor or an oppressor, depending on your point of view). There’s distrust between the uneducated poor and the educated rich.

It’s interesting to watch a character like Jem, with deeply-held opinions and prejudices, learn to see her world differently as she becomes like those she once despised. Watch how she views her new surroundings soon after being taken from her wild existence:

All the plant life was tamed, confined to pots or standing alone and afraid in a bare expanse of gravel. [Kindle location 611]

And, much later:

At a time when many were discovering what an ugly place the world could be, I saw its beauty for the first time, now viewing it through the narrow lens of love. [Kindle location 4583]

This is in some ways a difficult novel to read. Jem’s traumatic beginnings have made her a foul-mouthed, hard-edged person. (Her world has different cuss words than ours, but the sheer volume wearied me at times.) Her experiences, past and in the novel, include some moments that are hard to read but discreetly presented.

In other ways it’s a treat to read. Yvonne Anderson nails world-building. I always enjoy the setting details she creates, exotic and yet relatable. In the middle of a tense time, there’ll be a spot of humour. And there’s heart. It’s good to see Jem grow and make something of herself.

Faith… Jem’s world has a number of religions, much like the gods and goddesses of Earth’s past. Jem doesn’t have much use for any of them. In the novel we find casual mention of a minor religion called Sonmanism, where “one god had a son who became a man.” [Kindle location 2947]

From the progression of the story, I think we’ll see the development of a Christian thread as the series progresses. For now, it’s begun but this isn’t your grandmother’s Christian fiction. It is, however, a well-written and worthwhile read. I’m glad I toughed through the hard parts.

Yvonne Anderson has previously written the Christian science fiction series, Gateway to Gannah. She describes her writing as “telling ‘the old, old story.’ In surprising new ways.” Stillwaters is book 1 in the series The Four Lives of J.S. Freeman. For more about the author and her work, visit yswords.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Shadow of Tunguska, by H.C. Beckerr

Shadow of Tunguska, by H.C. Beckerr #bookreview Hill of Great Darkness seriesShadow of Tunguska, by H.C. Beckerr (Archway Publishing, 2017)

Shadow of Tunguska is book 2, “The Final Chapters,” of the Hill of Great Darkness series, and because it’s closely linked to the events of book 1, Hill of Great Darkness, I believe they’re best read in order.

The series is set on Earth, the moon, and in space, in the not-so-distant future. Ugandan scientist Simone Sytte finds herself in the middle of a highly secret military operation on the moon, one that conflicts sharply with her Christian faith.

At the same time, in Russia, a covert team of Americans explores macabre findings at the Tunguska event site—findings that link it with an archaeological site in the US. While I’m not conversant with the theories around the Tunguska event, I suspect this one’s a new twist on it.

This is a book for people who enjoy high-stakes science fiction adventure with high-tech equipment. It’s told in an omniscient style that explains multiple characters’ motivations and reactions in a given scene, which won’t work for all readers.

Although primarily an adventure story, the novel looks at what it’s like for a Christian caught in circumstances she wants no part of, learning “to be light in the darkness around her.” [page 79]

Favourite line:

At that instant, the forest became as silent as deep space, and three men leaned toward an old man, like children who were examining their first firefly.” [page 78]

H.C. Beckerr writes Christian science fiction, or “Chri-fi,” as he calls it. For more about his novels, or to check out his blog, visit shadowoftunguska.com. You can read my interview with H.C. Beckerr here.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Author Interview: H.C. Beckerr

H.C. Beckerr writes Christian science fiction. His recently-released novel, Shadow of Tunguska, is the second and final instalment in the Hill of Great Darkness series, “an epic sci-fi thriller that spans two millennia and two galaxies.”

Janet: Welcome, H.C., and please tell us a bit about yourself.

H.C.: Well, Janet, I’m just an old-fashioned farm boy from the midwestern area of the U.S. I grew up in a time where folks sent their children to Sunday School to learn about Jesus and learned the difference between right and wrong.

Janet: That’s not too long in the past, but we’ve sure seen changes. Are your novels set in the near future, or farther distant?

H.C.: The entire story line of Hill of Great Darkness/Shadow of Tunguska is set in the spring/summer of 2037. So, it’s just around the corner and, truthfully, the world isn’t much different then, than it is right now.

Janet: Twenty years from now! Where did the story idea come from? [May not need this one if you were inspired by those locations I ask about next]

H.C.: Here is where y’all will go…WHAT???? Believe it or not, the idea for this story came from The Davinci Code. Yup…. that book. I gotta admit, when I read TDC I was inspired by the writing style of Mr. Brown. Especially since I had just finished a Church History class at Brookes Bible Institute (now College) in St. Louis, Missouri.  I saw how the author took real history and ‘twisted’ it into a lie (a technique I call twistery). You see, fiction is always better when based on truth. And, in my case, I wanted to bring glory to God, not shame.

Janet: Fiction based on truth feels more real, doesn’t it? The Hill of Great Darkness books are science fiction and venture into space, yet they’re tied to real but mysterious locations on earth. What kind of research did that involve?

H.C.: That was the fun part. Book 1 is all about a location here in the Midwest known as Cahokia Mounds Historical Site, an area of earthen mounds built by the Mississippian culture between about eight hundred to twelve hundred AD. Somewhere in the latter years the entire culture disappeared without a trace. Sounds like sci-fi to me (or, as I like to call what I write; Chri-fi…Christian science fiction).

Anyway… Book 2 picks up three months after the end of Book 1. It really is not a sequel so much as the end of the story. I wanted to go somewhere else on Earth that would be just as much an enigma as Cahokia so I (more or less) immediately turned to the Tunguska Region of Siberia where, in 1908, some sort of cataclysmic explosion occurred. We are talking of a blast that was one thousand times bigger than Hiroshima. This event leveled over seven hundred square miles of deep forest. Now, there’s something to lie…um, I mean, write about!!!  

Janet: In your research, what’s the strangest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?

H.C.: That’s easy…. Cahokia Mounds at its zenith was a metropolitan area that was only equaled in size by Paris, France, which happened to be the largest city on Earth at that time.

Also worth mentioning is Lake Cheko in Siberia, which, according to eyewitnesses to the Tunguska Event, did not exist before that fateful morning in 1908.

That’s some cool stuff to think about!

Janet: Indeed! Now, your novels include strong female characters. Are they more difficult to write, as a male author?

H.C.: Not at all. The dynamics are individualized to the point that each character is a joy to create. And, if I may; the story itself is what allowed the characters to come alive. To be real.

Janet: Do you have a favourite character in the books?

H.C.:  That’s easy. Simone Sytte (that’s See-yet-tea). I don’t remember if I have shared this with you before, but Simone is a confluence of three people I have ‘met’. Her lineage as a Ugandan is from a young woman that I had taught alongside in a preschool class at my church. She was, if I remember correctly, from Kenya. I loved to hear her speak English with her deep African accent! Another person who is part of Simone’s soul is another lady from my church who was involve in our music ministry. A very strong Christian with the reality of not always being perfect. And…never hiding that fact. Thirdly… Simone’s physical stature is borrowed from a fictional character from (I know you’ve been expecting this) one of the Star Wars movies; Episode 2, on a planet where clones were being made into an army by a race of tall, slender aliens (and NO… I don’t believe in aliens. Ask me about that one sometime when you can afford the time…. Ha!).

Janet: Simone is my favourite character, too, as a reader, likely in part because she’s exceptional but not perfect – and she trusts Jesus even when there’s crisis all around her. Why is it important to you to include faith in your fiction?

H.C.: That’s probably the easiest question of all, Janet. My faith in the God of the Bible through His Son Jesus Christ is the only reason I write! I want to share the glorious hope of the Gospel message in any way I can.

Janet: Jesus used story, too! What got you started writing?

H.C.: Here is where you will get a laugh; In grade school!!! I can remember writing short little stories in 5th or 6th grade and selling them for a few pennies so I could get an extra half pint of chocolate milk… always an entrepreneur, LOL!!!!!!!

Janet: My friend, Kimberley Payne, would call you an authorpreneur. I love it. What do you like best about the writing life?

H.C.: Creating. That is the plain truth. To sit back, come up with an idea and start writing; all the while letting God have the reins to take the story where He wants it to go.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

H.C.: I think the main driving force behind Hill of Great Darkness was the fact that I refused to one day find myself lying upon my death bed wondering; What if I had only just tried? If a person has an idea or the urge/dream to write… write! Don’t worry about whether or not it will sell. Don’t listen to naysayers…WRITE!!!!

Janet: Simple advice, and wise. We never know until we make the effort. Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

H.C.: I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me. One day we will see our Savior face to face and I long/hope for Him to look at me and say, “Well done!” or…in the words of the President of the United States at the end of the movie Independence Day, “Not bad…not bad at all!!!

Janet: I love that song, too. And yes, one day… Now, from the profound to the superficial: Chocolate or vanilla? Morning person or night owl?

H.C.: C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E.  And not ‘white’ chocolate…I call that vanilla!  Morning or night, hmmm…that’s a tough one. Try getting back to me on that one after a gallon of coffee…

Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

H.C.: Gotta say, the beauty of God’s world where I live. The midwestern United States has a beauty all its own and I am so blessed to live here. Not to mention the fact that I grew up going on picnics to the Cahokia Mounds Site. Always loved that place… the mystery and grandeur of it all.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

H.C.: You know, even Jesus needed some down time to recharge! I like to hike and bike ride out in the great outdoors. There is something ever so precious about being alone with the Lord, outdoors in His creation! Then, there is also worship. Whether alone (in the aforementioned outdoors) or corporately with my brothers and sisters. Life is so good when you are in love with your Creator and God! Amen!!!

Janet: Amen indeed. Thanks for visiting, H.C., and sharing these behind-the-scenes details. All the best with your writing and with life!

===

Shadow of Tunguska, by H. C. Beckerr

Shadow of Tunguska: Hill of Great Darkness Book II presents the final chapters of a saga that weaves together the tale of the surviving crew members of the space craft Magellan as they wake up in a top-secret lunar base station. On Earth, tensions mount as the nation’s masses face a worldwide economic takeover. Meanwhile, a small contingent of American explorers braving the Siberian wilderness make a startling discovery at the site of the 1908 impact of an errant black hole.

Shadow of Tunguska website: shadowoftunguska.com

H.C. Beckerr’s blog: shadowoftunguska.com/blog

Review: Jupiter Winds, by C.J. Darlington

Jupiter Winds, by C.J. Darlington | science fiction, Christian fictionJupiter Winds, by C.J. Darlington (Mountainview Books, 2014)

Grey Alexander and her younger sister, Rin, are “unconnected” –  illegal residents of a desert-like part of a dystopian future earth. Their parents disappeared when Grey was only twelve, and she’s supported her sister by making smuggling runs into a nearby city.

Now seventeen, Grey knows the danger is increasing, but nothing prepares her for the true scope of her enemies’ plans – or for what awaits her on the planet Jupiter.

In Jupiter Winds, that planet has actually be discovered to have a solid land mass under the giant red spot. It’s a place of strange beauty, complete with unusual creatures – which turn deadly when the winds blow.

Jupiter Winds is a good, clean read, with the classic elements of science fiction: adventure, danger, courage, and loyalty. Faith is an element, as well. Although Grey’s parents’ disappearance has made her doubt their Christian teaching, remembered snatches of psalms persist in trying to draw her back to trust God in a challenge that’s way more than she can tackle on her own.

I enjoyed the novel, and look forward to reading the sequel, Jupiter Storm.

As well as science fiction, C.J. Darlington also writes women’s fiction. You can read my review of Thicker than Blood here. For more about the author and her books, visit cjdarlington.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Recruits, by Thomas Locke

Recruits, by Thomas LockeRecruits, by Thomas Locke (Revell, 2017)

Seventeen-year-old twins Dillon and Sean have never had a happy home life, but for the past ten years they’ve been imagining this amazing, gravity-defying train station that couldn’t exist on Earth.

Now they discover it’s real – and on another planet. One they can create a portal and step onto.

They may be the first gifted humans found on Earth, and an ex-military human from still another planet is assigned to train them. He, at least, sees their potential. Unlike the Examiner, who’s waiting for a chance to fail them and wipe their memories.

The twins face unexpected danger, and the authorities don’t believe their version of events. Suddenly it’s Dillon and Sean against the adults (with a few exceptions), racing against time to save an innocent man and possibly stop an invasion.

Recruits is a fast-paced, entertaining read that should appeal not only to young adult males but to anyone who enjoys a good, clean adventure. Written by a Christian author, the book doesn’t have a spiritual thread that I saw, and I consider it a mainstream novel.

Favourite lines:

…they probably saw the scar at the same moment, because Dillon dragged in the breath Sean had trouble finding. [page 13]

Baran’s voice was delicate, like he wanted to speak without actually disturbing the air. [page 305]

Thomas Locke is the pseudonym of well-known writer Davis Bunn. The Thomas Locke books are fantasy, science fiction and techno-thrillers, and for more about them and the author, visit tlocke.com.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]

Christian Speculative Fiction Anthology

What’s more exciting than having something published? Being published in the same project as a good friend or a loved one! Last year I celebrated the release of Hot Apple Cider With Cinnamon, an anthology with a short poem of mine that also included a true story by my mom, Beverlee Wamboldt, and stories from two others from my local writing group, Ruth Ann Adams and Laura Aliese Miedema.

RealmScapes - A Science Fiction and Fantasy AnthologyThis year I’m celebrating RealmScapes, an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories, which has a story of mine and also a story by one of my sons, Matthew Sketchley. (His is better.)

Yes, I write suspense, but I also dabble in science fiction.

RealmScapes is a science fiction and fantasy anthology of 17 tales, each based on the idea of escape. It’s published by Brimstone Fiction, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Christians who write science fiction and fantasy are a small but mighty group within the larger family of Christian writers. For the past few years, those who can have gathered for the Realm Makers’ Conference.

As part of the lead-up to the 2015 conference, the organizers held a short story contest to benefit the scholarship fund. Matthew and I each entered a story, and while neither of us won, our stories are both included in the RealmScapes anthology, which released at the end of July, 2016.

I don’t yet have a contributor’s copy to hold in my hand, but I’ve read all the stories. If you enjoy these sorts of tales, do check it out. Print books are available through various online stores, but at present the ebook seems only available through Amazon. I hope that will change. Don’t feel like paying for a print copy? See if your local library can order one to share with the other patrons.

 

Review: Trial Run, by Thomas Locke

Trial Run, by Thomas LockeTrial Run, by Thomas Locke (Revell, 2015)

With Trial Run, Thomas Locke delivers an international techno-thriller set just beyond our current technology. Gabriella Speciale’s research team has fled danger in the US and set up a secret base in Switzerland, where their experiments with out-of-body consciousness have resulted in an unexpected casualty.

In the US, a shadow group within the government wants to replicate their work for the purposes of espionage.

The third key players are two California university students, Trent Major and a girl named Shane Schearer. The information Trent receives in dreams from an older version of himself puts them in the shadow group’s sights.

This is one of those novels you start reading without a clue about what’s going on. In the hands of a skilled writer like Thomas Locke, it makes for a good ride. (If you want an easier entry, read his free ebook novella, Double Edge, which introduces Gabriella and Charlie Hazard and explains the experiments.)

Trial Run is book one in the Fault Lines series, and I suspect questions that aren’t answered yet will be resolved in future books. (For example, does Trent really see a future version of himself, or who is it really? And how does future-Trent do this?)

The writing is tight and evocative. Some of my favourite lines:

He felt it too. Like the dark had grown claws that scraped the skin off his spine. [page 9]

It was a warrior’s grin. A drawing back of every facial muscle, exposing the raw power of a man who knew the business of death. [page 278]

Part of the plot involves quantum theory, which is presented in small, layperson-level instalments. I didn’t get it, but apparently most people don’t, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. Two minor things that did act as speed bumps: the use of “lay/laying” instead of “lie/lying” (I work so hard to get this right, myself) and the expression “Indian territory” for dangerous territory.

Revell is a Christian publisher, but Trial Run is a clean mainstream novel. If you’re looking for a faith thread, the closest you’ll get is one character’s unexplained compulsion to forgive select people. If you just want a fun read, this is it.

Thomas Locke is the pen name of well-known Christian author Davis Bunn. Under the Locke name, he’s writing this sort of near-future suspense as well as epic fantasy. I’ve reviewed his fantasy novel, Emissary, here. For more about Thomas Locke’s books or to sign up for his newsletter, visit tlocke.com.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]