Category Archives: Books

Between

Between
by Joseph R. Lallo (2016)

Philo Middleton wasn’t having a very good day. It began with him waking up strapped to a chair inside a strange, high-tech chamber. His mind was wiped clean, even his own name unfamiliar to him. And yet somehow things went sharply downhill from there.


The Author writes in his Intro (abbreviated)

Some ideas just don’t fit anywhere. Maybe they are too comedic. Maybe they bend the rules of a setting a little too far. Maybe, let’s face it, they aren’t very good. I’m sure plenty of people can just throw these ideas away and move on, but I’ve got a terrible habit of fixating on something until I get it written down.

To solve the “stubborn bad idea” problem, I started a Word document on my computer labeled The Bad Idea Exercise. I would jot down, or sometimes even flesh out, the awful ideas that I couldn’t get past.

I’d decided I’d scrape the best of them together into a patchwork setting and start putting them out once a week, unedited and free, for anyone who wanted to read them. I called the result Between.

The Bad Idea Exercise continued to grow, and eventually I realized I might just have the dots necessary to connect into a complete story. I hope you enjoy this, the literary equivalent of turning spoiled milk into tasty cheese, because it was a riot to write it.

What he has ended up with is a very long (203k word) novel that hangs together surprisingly well. It contains elements of science fiction and fantasy, but it all comes under the ‘imaginative fiction’ genre. So I’m not sure why he thinks this would be difficult to sell. It could be compares to Terry Pratchett or Simon Haynes. There is a lot of comedy in the story, especially between the main characters.

Philo is a human dumped in a strange land. Trixie  is a Demoness with attitude and Trill a three headed snake.  They eventually get to solve problems and try escaping.

The main problem is the novel’s length. With a good editor it could have been halved in length and would sell well in the ‘Comic Fantasy’ genre.

 

Apocalypse Machine

Apocalypse Machine
by Jeremy Robinson (2016)

A chain of sub-glacial volcanoes erupt in Iceland. The melting ice floods the countryside. Poisonous gas descends on Scotland. A tsunami devastates the Norwegian coastline. An ash cloud rises into the atmosphere, blotting out the sun across Europe, ushering in a new Ice Age. Dozens of nuclear power plants, flooded by ocean water, experience meltdowns. Millions perish. Many more are displaced. All on the first day.

Jeremy Robinson returns to the Kaiju Thriller, but this time it’s different. The first half of the book feels like a lot of his previous books. The narrative switched between first person (Abraham Wright) and third person to describe world-wide events.

Then, half-way through the story everything jumps forward 15 years. I wasn’t expecting that and it takes a few chapters before the story builds up steam again. Then character re-appear and the battle is on to save the world. Eventually things come together for a suitable exciting ending.

This is more science- fiction than thriller, but yet again a great read.

 

Morning After

No Morning After
by Arthur C. Clarke (1954)

First published in Time to Come, ed. August Derleth, 1954

 

Also published in the June 1954 issue of Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

 

Another short and silly story about what happens when a alien civilization reaches out to humanity. Unfortunately the only person they can reach won’t take them seriously.

 

Babylon

I Remember Babylon
by Arthur C. Clarke (1960)

This first appeared in the May 1960 issue of Playboy.

It appears to be a first person account of an encounter between Clarke and a person involved in launching the first communications satellite. In it, the story predicts the distribution of TV via satellite and how anything can be broadcast as it will be outside the jurisdiction of nation states. While that isn’t accurate, it does depict the tendency towards sex and violence in modern media.

 

 

 

Earthlight

Earthlight
by Arthur C. Clarke (1951)

It may be because this is a a longer novelette (19K Words) length, but here is classic Clarke. It’s the story of conflict on the moon between Earth’s government and independent settlers on other planets in the solar system. There is a lot a plausible science and and the tension rises to it’s devastating conclusion.

The story was expanded to a novel of the same name in 1955.

AC Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke
The Other Tiger (1953)

 

First published in Fantastic Universe, June/July 1953 and collected in ‘Tales From Planet Earth’. Originally entitled ‘Refutation’, this story was re-titled by Sam Merwin, editor of Fantastic Universe, as a nod to Frank Stockton’s classic but now forgotten ‘The Lady or the Tiger’.

As it’s coming up to the anniversary  of Clarke’s birth (16 Dec 1917). So I’m reading some of the stories I missed over the years.

The first is a very short story (1.2K words)  based on the multiple universe theory:

‘Well, let’s be perfectly logical and see where it gets us. Our only assumption, remember, is that the universe is infinite.’

‘Right. Personally I don’t see what else it can be.’

‘Very well. That means there must be an infinite number of stars and planets. Therefore, by the laws of chance, every possible event must occur not merely once but an infinite number of times. Correct?’
‘I suppose so.’

It’s rather silly and in the end, everyone is eaten by a tiger.

Disaster

Occasion for Disaster
by Randall Garrett (1960)

A very small slip, at just the wrong place, can devastate any enterprise. One tiny transistor can go wrong … and ruin a multi-million dollar missile. Which would be one way to stop the missiles…. (reprinted in 1963 as “Supermind).


This is a random read from the ‘Golden Age of Science Fiction‘.”

It’s well written, but the plot meanders around too much. I had the impression that the author started this without a plan. There are mildly interesting ideas, but with a weak ending it’s not surprising this has become obscure.

 

Killer Bees

Attack of the Killer Bees
by Chris J. Pike (2017)

 

Jim Jones and the unlikely heroes on the Barnburner must stop The Hive before it turns Earth into its latest honey-producing world.

This Novelette (20,000 words) comes from the “Pew! Pew !” collection. It’s a light and slightly amusing tale of a small ship saving the earth from Killer Bees.

There are modern cultural references and most of the humour comes from the situations. Although Jim Jones is the main protagonist, it’s Captain Spectacular that provides the most fun. I though of him as Zapp Brannigan from Futurama.

 

 

Thrawn

Thrawn
by Timothy Zahn (2017)
(Star Wars Disney Canon Novel)

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond.

This is the story of Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks.


Despite writing well received  Thrawn Trilogy:

  1. Heir to the Empire, 1991
  2. Dark Force Rising, 1992
  3. The Last Command, 1993

This story just doesn’t measure up. It has the feel of distinct episodes strung together, rather than a tightly integrated narrative. It’s difficult to find sympathy or empathy for the character, maybe except for Eli Vanto, Thrawn’s assistant. Zahn’s prose is to his usual standard. But he has done something different – while it’s mainly written in third person, a lot of the descriptions are italicized and in second person. This is unusual and interrupts the flow of the reading.

The book is long, but never reaches the pacing and intensity to make it exciting. Most of it was a bit of a plod through to the end.

The original trilogy is recommended reading for Star Wars fans, this  is not.

 

Prosecution Witness

The Witness for the Prosecution
By Agatha Christie (1925)

Originally published as “Traitor Hands” in Flynn’s Weekly, edition of 31 January 1925. In 1933, the story was published for the first time as “Witness for the Prosecution” in the collection The Hound of Death that appeared only in the United Kingdom.

In 1948, it was finally published in the United States in the collection The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories.

 


1957 Film version

 

Adapted for TV and broadcast on BBC One over Christmas 2016. The two-part program was adapted by Sarah Phelps and directed by Julian Jarrold. Broadcast on NZ TV November 2017.


This is one of the best Agatha Christie productions. Not only does the story keep you guessing to the ens, but it adds drama by making WW1 a central theme.

Cast