Emissary by Michael Leon


Emissary by Michael Leon
Publisher: self published
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (283 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Emissary tells the tale of Vincent, a scientist plagued with strange nightmares since childhood. He has successfully treated his mental illness with drugs and kept it hidden from his colleagues, particularly Ella, the beautiful and intelligent scientist from whom he also struggles to hide his affection. But what if his experiences were real and the dark energy that crawls inside him now threatens the existence of the universe?

As his nightmares return, Vincent unravels the secrets of his past, with the help of Ella and ever-guarded Constantine. Revealing their other-world origins, they need his help to destroy the Entity that was created when Ella created a portal to Vincent’s universe. As Vincent grapples with his love for Ella, he traverses Europe in pursuit of answers, learns how to travel at the speed of light and confronts his perception of what is real. But can he trust his friends? Could he ever truly be with Ella, and what is his scientific destiny so revered by his colleagues.

Emissary is a science-fiction adventure novel that travels at the speed of light, where multiverse theory collides with quantum mechanics on the dark side of Saturn’s moon.

What an exciting book! From the very first the reader is dropped into the action, and the mystery surrounding Vincent. This is science fiction like it is meant to be and I could so see this on the big screen (some of the special effects would be awesome).

The characters are wonderfully drawn. I really enjoyed them and their interactions, all the while rooting for the developing relationship between Vincent and Ella. There are some sad moments, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

The book is vibrant and is full of surprises. The author takes the reader on a whirlwind of new discoveries and forever changes the lives of the characters in it. Kudos, Mr. Leon. I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

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At the Cemetery Gates: Year One by John Brhel and J. Sullivan

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At the Cemetery Gates: Year One by John Brhel and J. Sullivan
Publisher: Cemetery Gates Media
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Holiday, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (168 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Twin brothers enter a funeral parlor as a gag and end up uncovering a sinister operation.

A mysterious illness plagues a small town and a college student seems to be the only one trying to stop it.

A girl’s time-lapse photo project reveals an intruder from the cemetery that shares a fence with her backyard.

The world is full of strange things that we’re only beginning to understand.

What I liked the most about “A Tale of Palpable Violence” was that it was full of intrigue. Sherry and Bram, the main characters, were driving down the road after a night that got their blood pumping. I couldn’t figure out if I was more curious to know what they’d done or where they were going to go next. Both questions were at the forefront of my mind as I searched for clues and answers. The clever twist at the end only made me enjoy this one even more.

All of the stories in this collection had great premises, although there were a handful of them that could have used a little more development. “New Year’s Eve, What a Gas” was one example of this. The storyline followed a young couple, James and Claire, who invited several other couples over for a New Year’s party. While working in the kitchen, Claire suffered a terrible and mysterious injury. The ending to their tale was a bit confusing to me because there weren’t many details about how she was able to get into that predicament in the first place. Her injuries were something that I’d never expect to happen to any reasonably intelligent adult, so I would have liked to spend more time exploring why they happened to her. If not for minor issues like these, I would have chosen a much higher rating for this collection as it was otherwise really good.

In “The Hermit of Russian Lake,” Keith and Becky Lane tried to rekindle their struggling marriage during a family vacation. While on their trip, Keith accidentally stumbled across a hermit who has been illegally squatting in the area for decades. All of the plot twists that happened after that scene were what made me love this tale. I didn’t see any of them coming, so it was a lot of fun to discover them. They constantly kept me wondering what would happen to Keith next and the hermit next.

At the Cemetery Gates: Year One should be read by anyone who enjoys surprises. This anthology is full of them!

November Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ The Furies’ Bog by Deborah Jackson

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The Furies’ Bog by Deborah Jackson
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (446 Pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

A bog may be Earth’s undoing, but it will be a gift to Mars.

Digging up bog bodies and analyzing corpses are the last things archaeology graduate student Felicity Cratchett wants to do. And when unusual mummies are discovered in the subpolar region of Polar Bear Provincial Park, it’s the last place she wants to go. But since her faculty advisor insists that she log more hours in fieldwork, she has little choice. In a remote bog with a small team of scientists, Felicity unearths the greatest secret of our time—a secret with ties to ancient Rome, roots in Botswana, and a link to the first people to exercise abstract thought. This revelation will challenge the conventional theory of human origins and human evolution.

Meanwhile, astronaut Lucas Wilson, a man tormented with a deep-seated anger, is terraforming Mars. He reluctantly descends to the Red Planet’s surface with his fellow astronauts, preparing to direct their exploration. Mars, in its birth pangs, will challenge every step he takes, with gas explosions and raging rivers, with damaged fuel processors and limited oxygen supplies. In the midst of these disasters, Lucas must keep his companions from discovering a feat of genetic engineering that will transform Mars like nothing has in over a billion years. The double helix of this masterwork twists all the way back to Earth and Felicity’s mummies. But if he fails, Lucas must decide whether to take up Mars’s sword, or to cast the weapon into a bog.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor

legion
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor
Publisher: Audible and Agent Sponsored Publishing program
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (243 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Bob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure. There are places to go, books to read, and movies to watch. So it’s a little unfair when he gets himself killed crossing the street.

Bob wakes up a century later to find that corpsicles have been declared to be without rights, and he is now the property of the state. He has been uploaded into computer hardware and is slated to be the controlling AI in an interstellar probe looking for habitable planets. The stakes are high: no less than the first claim to entire worlds. If he declines the honor, he’ll be switched off, and they’ll try again with someone else. If he accepts, he becomes a prime target. There are at least three other countries trying to get their own probes launched first, and they play dirty.

The safest place for Bob is in space, heading away from Earth at top speed. Or so he thinks. Because the universe is full of nasties, and trespassers make them mad – very mad.

Sometimes death isn’t the end of someone’s life after all.

Bob’s character development was excellent. His tongue-in-cheek reaction to waking up as an A.I. was perfect for the tone of this book. It was also fascinating to see how his personality changed after he adjusted to being a machine and began paying attention to what his programming prompted him to do. It raised a lot of questions in my mind about what it means to be a person and what happens when the line between machine and person is purposefully blurred.

I would have liked to see a little more attention paid to how human society evolved after the main character died. There were a few times when I was confused by what was going on with the humans at first because so much time passed between his interactions with them. It would have been nice to have a clearer understanding about what was going on there. This was a minor criticism of an otherwise wonderful story, though.

The creative plot twists made it impossible for me to stop reading. Mr. Taylor created a complex and vibrant universe that I can’t wait to learn more about. I especially like seeing what he did with Bob after Bob was shot into outer space. While I can’t go into any detail about that section of the storyline without giving away spoilers, it was my favourite part of this character’s adventures so far.

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) should be read by anyone who loves robots, spaceships, and wondering what the distant future will be like.

Cat O’Nine Tales by Krystal Lawrence

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Cat O’Nine Tales by Krystal Lawrence
Publisher: Telemachus Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (240 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

What evil dwells within the pretty lady next door or the ordinary house cat?

What happens when you pursue your dreams into the desert after dark?

Beware the man borne of your imagination. He could seek vengeance on the one who created him.

Visit a bookstore offering a most alluring and sinister service.

Journey to the dark side with ten twisted tales of horror, malevolence, and the truly uncanny.

The world is full of strange things that we’re only beginning to understand.

My favorite story by far was “As the Crow Flies.” Brianna, the main character, had just gotten out of an abusive relationship when she noticed that the crows she’d been feeding were beginning to do increasingly unexpected things. The character development for both Brianna and the birds she doted on was really good. I also enjoyed seeing how she reacted once she realized that her feathery friends understood far more about her predicament than she would have ever guessed.

There were a few tales that could have used some more polishing, and “The Perfect Crime” was one of them. It followed a man named Claude who had been planning his wife’s murder for years. He took the time to meticulously go through every detail before the night of her death. While I really enjoyed the premise, I knew exactly how it was going to end by the time I’d finished the first scene. The twist at the end was something that would have worked great in a much shorter format. Dragging it out didn’t make sense to this reader because of how easy it was to guess how it would end.

In “The Wife Next Door,” Kate’s friendship with Tom and Penny, her next-door neighbours, develops in an unusual way. She was a fascinating and complex character. What I enjoyed the most about Kate was how much time she spent holding back certain details of her life from the audience. There was a lot more going on with the plot than I would have originally guessed, and that made it a pleasure to read.

I’d recommend Cat O’Nine Tales to anyone who likes the dark side of science fiction.

The Mons Connection by Janine R. Pestel

mons
The Mons Connection by Janine R. Pestel
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (46 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

What they found was more than they came for. Jon Carson, the American military man, Doug “Digger” Johnson, The American archaeologist, Kathleen Doolan, the Irish physician and Mikhail Borznekhov, the Russian military man / biologist came to Mars to look for signs of life at Olympus Mons. What brought them there was something found at a dig in Egypt.

Follow them as they explore the area around Olympus Mons and then, finally, enter the mountain itself and unlock the hidden, secret mystery of what awaits them. They discovered what Olympus Mons has to do with ancient Earth history…will you?

The only thing better than being the first people to step onto a planet is getting to do it in order to answer a question that no one has figured out so far.

I was mesmerized by the descriptions of what it would be like to walk around on Mars. Everything about this planet was described in such vivid detail that I felt like I was there myself. It was especially interesting to see what Ms. Pestel imagined the weather was like. This is something I’ve wondered about myself, so it was fun to compare my mental images of a typical Martian forecast with what the author thought about them.

There were some pacing issues. The beginning was quite slow while the ending moved by rapidly. I would have been happy with either writing style, but combining them into the same tale didn’t work well for me. It was odd to go from a quiet, contemplative beginning to later scenes where many things were happening simultaneously and I had to leap from one revelation to the next without having much time to think about them.

The camaraderie among the four crew members made me smile. I enjoyed watching them prepare for their big mission. John, Doug, Kathleen, and Mikhail were an effective team, and it showed in how naturally they treated each other. From their arguments to their running jokes, they genuinely felt like a group of astronauts who had already spent a great deal of time training and traveling together.

The Mons Connection should be read by anyone who has ever wished they could explore the red planet.

Sibling Rivalry: A Short Story by Anthony Francis

rivalry
Sibling Rivalry: A Short Story by Anthony Francis
Publisher: Thinking Ink Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (46 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Confronted with a newer, better sibling designed to replace her, the Nicole AI system has decided that instead of becoming an obsolete brain in a box, she’d rather become an unstoppable killer. Written by award-winning author and AI researcher Anthony Francis, “Sibling Rivalry” does not rely on clichéd fictional limitations of AIs. Instead, Nicole’s designer must find a realistic way to defeat Nicole, if he can.

It’s nearly impossible to beat an entity that is far more intelligent than you’ll ever be, but that doesn’t mean Nicholas is going to give up anytime soon.

The relationship between Nicholas, the main character, and Nicole was complex. They both knew each other better than any other person or machine on earth. This made Nicole’s attempts to kill Nicholas far more deadly and detailed than they might have otherwise been.

I would have liked to see a little more attention paid to Nicholas’ biggest flaw. How it affected him varied from one scene to the next. Sometimes it was written as something minor, while at other times it seemed like it could be the reason why he might not succeed in his mission even if he managed to avoid being murdered by Nicole. Every other part of the storyline was wonderful, so this book would have easily earned a perfect rating from me if I’d known exactly how dangerous this flaw was supposed to be.

There’s something to be said for an ending that leaves a reader wanting more. While all of the major plot points were wrapped up nicely, I found myself returning to the final scene over and over again while I wondered what would happen next. To me, this is a sign of a great book! While I don’t know if Mr. Francis will be writing the sequel that could so easily flow from how he ended things, I’d sure like to read it if he does.

Sibling Rivalry: A Short Story is a great choice for anyone who loves science fiction that asks hard questions about sentience and what it really means to make ethical choices.

The Little Dog by Leslie W P Garland

dog
The Little Dog by Leslie W P Garland
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (91 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Little Dog: A story of good and evil, and retribution.

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun”

Is told by Bill, a retired forester, and takes the form of most of the stories in our lives, namely, that we have no idea that we are living a story until later when previous events suddenly seem to fall into place and make some kind of sense. Bill recounts a week in his early working life when, paired with an older, unsavoury and unpopular colleague, they find a little dog sitting beside the forest haul-road way out in a remote part of the forest. What is the little dog doing there? As the week progresses Bill finds himself becoming emotionally attached to it while also becoming increasingly concerned about just who is his objectionable workmate, and when he notices that the little dog is no longer present at its usual spot his concerns heighten, as he cannot help but feel that his workmate has something to do with the dog’s disappearance. Although a troubled Bill has a conversation with his local priest and learns of the nature of sin and evil, he remains blind to that which is right in front of him. However the very next day events suddenly take an unexpected turn and the young naive Bill starts to learn some awful truths.

They say that paying attention to how an individual treats animals is a great way to know what their character is really like. After reading this story, I’d be inclined to agree with this test.

The fantasy elements didn’t show up immediately. Once the first few hints of them did appear, I was mesmerized by how subtle and open to interpretation they were. While this isn’t the kind of writing style I’d typically expect to find in this genre, I absolutely loved it for this particular storyline. The ambiguity blended in in perfectly with the narrator’s young and innocent outlook on life.

Mr. Garland’s eloquent descriptions of the daily lives of foresters lured me into the plot immediately. He touched on everything from the proper way to cut down a tree in order to preserve as much of the wood as possible to the narrator’s mixed feelings about the gangly teenagers who worked at the ferry. There were so many moments like these that were captured in perfect detail that I felt as though I, too, had spent decades doing this job.

The little dog that Bill found on the side of the road was originally my biggest reason for wanting to read this book. I was eager to know why he was wandering around alone in the middle of nowhere and what would happen to him next. While I can’t say much about this part of the plot without giving away spoilers, I will say that it exceeded every expectation I had for it. The dog was even more intriguing than I thought he’d be, and I was quite pleased with how the author incorporated him and his backstory into what otherwise appeared to be a completely mundane workweek.

There was quite a bit of philosophical musing in this tale about why some people choose to make horrible choices in life and what the difference is between someone who makes one bad decision and someone who is objectively an awful human being. These passages turned out to be my favourite parts of the storyline other than the scenes that focused on the dog. Not only did they fit Bill’s gentle, contemplative personality perfectly, they gave me some food for thought as well!

The Little Dog is one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2016. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who adores fantasy stories that ask the audience to think critically about what they’ve just read.

Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier

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Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Other: F/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A young bodyguard finds her special abilities are no match for a flirtatious delegate willing to gamble everything on the galaxy trade talks.

Assigned to guard a diplomat at the galaxy trade talks, Security Officer Anais wants to shine during her first solo mission for the Chezeray Palace Conglomerate. An Elusive with the ability to make herself invisible, Anais knows her modified genes designate her servant class, but she yearns to be more than simply a protector to the beautiful delegate.

Savea Blackmun arrives alone to the trade talks with the weight of her planet’s future resting on her slim shoulders. Flirting with her pretty bodyguard reveals Anais’ knowledge of the colony markets and Savea realizes there’s much more to her protector than meets the eye.

As their attraction grows, will the diplomat and the bodyguard reject society’s rules to give in to desire instead?

Sometimes what seems like an ordinary day at work can turn out to be not so ordinary after all.

I appreciated how much time Ms. Ladnier took to explain the main character’s background story and special skills. Both of them were key to understanding certain parts of the plot, so I was glad to have as much information as I did about where she came from and why she was given such an important job. There is room for a sequel here, but I was also satisfied with how much I learned about her.

Things heated up too quickly between Anais and Savea for my tastes. I would have liked to see more time spent exploring their connection before they started to get sexual with each other. They definitely had chemistry together, but neither one of them came across me to as someone who would want to have a fling without getting to know their potential partner a little bit first.

The science fiction elements of this story were strong. It was fascinating to see how technology has developed in this futuristic universe. Anais explained it all briefly but included enough details for me to understand how everything worked and why the characters relied on certain kinds of technology so heavily. This is the sort of thing I really enjoy finding in erotic science fiction because of how nicely it fleshes out the rest of the storyline.

Anyone who is a fan of both erotica and science fiction should give Elusive Radiance a try.

The Furies’ Bog by Deborah Jackson

bog
The Furies’ Bog by Deborah Jackson
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (446 Pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

A bog may be Earth’s undoing, but it will be a gift to Mars.

Digging up bog bodies and analyzing corpses are the last things archaeology graduate student Felicity Cratchett wants to do. And when unusual mummies are discovered in the subpolar region of Polar Bear Provincial Park, it’s the last place she wants to go. But since her faculty advisor insists that she log more hours in fieldwork, she has little choice. In a remote bog with a small team of scientists, Felicity unearths the greatest secret of our time—a secret with ties to ancient Rome, roots in Botswana, and a link to the first people to exercise abstract thought. This revelation will challenge the conventional theory of human origins and human evolution.

Meanwhile, astronaut Lucas Wilson, a man tormented with a deep-seated anger, is terraforming Mars. He reluctantly descends to the Red Planet’s surface with his fellow astronauts, preparing to direct their exploration. Mars, in its birth pangs, will challenge every step he takes, with gas explosions and raging rivers, with damaged fuel processors and limited oxygen supplies. In the midst of these disasters, Lucas must keep his companions from discovering a feat of genetic engineering that will transform Mars like nothing has in over a billion years. The double helix of this masterwork twists all the way back to Earth and Felicity’s mummies. But if he fails, Lucas must decide whether to take up Mars’s sword, or to cast the weapon into a bog.

Have you ever wondered what the future holds, yet still remain curious about the past?

In The Furies’ Bog, author Deborah Jackson takes the reader on an amazing journey with astronauts looking at the future colonization of Mars while at the same time taking the reader on a historical journey with a group of graduate archeology students. These are two lines of time that become intertwined with the fate of humanity and the fears of extinction looming in the distance.

Deborah Jackson’s writing style is crisp and lively with humor, emotion and the human condition written in each character and event that occurs. I especially enjoyed how she was able to make each character three-dimensional, each had a rich back story, strong emotions and just like everyday life, their own secrets and weaknesses.

Ms. Jackson does a wonderful and skilled job at describing the setting for both very different plotlines. Initially, it can be somewhat difficult to follow the two story lines as they play out, but soon enough the reader begins to see how the past research and events on Earth relate to the adventurous Mars colonization research. Deep treachery and greed soon enter the equation and both stories take tremendous sweeps and turns, bringing the reader on an amazing journey that is so deep that one feels immersed in the story itself.

The author is able to put the reader into the forefront of the action as each adventure has its own suspense, action and intrigue. Each unfolding event pulls the reader deeper and deeper into the mystery and by the time the final pages come forward, the story comes to a conclusion that does not leave the reader grasping for more, but in all honesty, very content with the finishing sequence of events.

This is one story that I will not soon forget and I implore you to look beyond the separation of past and future and look into what The Furies’ Bog holds for you! You will not be disappointed!