Category Archives: Science Fiction

Solaris by Lem

I had no idea what to expect here. the description seems to imply a love story and Very Serious Deep Thoughts. Man was I disappointed.

Solaris: The Definitive Edition
By Stanislaw Lem
Audible
1961

I’m going to tell you what I wish someone had told me [SPOILERS]: this is boring as heck. Not the charming slow moving classic SciFi with quaint science and thoughts on the future. No, this is an incredibly long winded story where long sections are nothing but back story on the planet. At first I thought it was interesting and wll thought out. After a time I just want to move on.

As for love, the way the main character treats the female lead is incredibly chauvinistic and demeaning. Very little actual love. In fact, he “falls in love” with the alien created version of his dead wife for almost no reason even though he loves her for not being his wife. Huh? If he doesn’t love her because she looks and acts like his wife what exactly is it he loves? Her lack of memory? Her charm? The fact that she a fake version of his dead wife? Makes no sense. But he does fall in love with his suicidal alien construct. Maybe. I don’t care. This story isn’t about love, it is about a man who longs for something he can’t have. That’s not romantic. It’s pathetic.

The alien (Ocean) is interesting. You’ll get no resolution here and that’s actually fine. But I’d prefer more time spent on the Ocean than on the constructs. A better solution is the main character recognizing that the Ocean is sentient and attempting to contact it, rather than longing for his dead wife/ dead construct to come back.

I powered through this but I don’t recommend it. There are simply too many better options.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Hell to Pay by Chmilenko

Book 2 of Ascend Online was very different than book 1. Unlike most series, it seems that Chmilenko is focused on the world of the game (and perhaps the battle between in-game sister “gods” Order and Chaos) rather than the players.

Hell To Pay
Ascend Online 2
by Luke Chmilenko
Ætherworld Productions
April 2017

In book 2, the setting changes to the nearby (three days away) large city briefly discussed in book 1, and the goings-on of one of the Thieves Guilds and two players in the guild. It’s also more of a mystery as the story begins with our anonymous hero waking up in a torture room with a new magical sigil on his chest and his guild master dead. He doesn’t remember anything from the point that he took on a quest called The Heist. How a human player could actually have their memory wiped by the game is confusing and scary – both to the players in the story and to the reader.

Interestingly, the characters in this book never interact with the characters in book 1 – and that’s fine with me. This thriller was significantly more than the normal introductory story, allowing book 1’s explanation of the game and the world to suffice so we could jump right in to the new characters.

A down side to this Ascend Online, in terms of LitRPG, is that it seems to make no effort to tell any part of the story outside the game. So it’s simply a fantasy book with gaming stats and some pseudo third wall breaking. Even though it is much better written than The Dark Herbalist series, I find the real lives of the players to add to the main story and avoiding any consideration of that part of our main characters is a weakness so far in Ascend Online. Still, the third book is in my queue and I’m excited to jump in to it.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

The Dark Herbalist series

Salvage Trouble by Morin

From the publisher: Carl Ramsey has a starship to run. Down on his luck, struggling to pay the cost of fuel, he’s just looking for some quick, easy cash. While looting the wreck of a passenger ship, they discover that one escape pod never ejected, and the passengers are still alive. A routine salvage job turns into a rescue mission, and a good deed never goes unpunished. With two refugees aboard, Captain Carl Ramsey finds that his ship, the Mobius, has a target painted on its hull. Someone is after the new passengers, and willing to stop at nothing to get them back.

Salvage Trouble
Black Ocean #1
by J. S. Morin
Magical Scrivener Press
October 2015

My take: Interestingly, Morin calls his books, “episodes” which makes a ton of sense because each story, really novella at about 150 pages or so, are very much like what you’d expect to see on TV, especially the golden age of SyFy’s in-house shows like Lexx, Dark Matter, and Farscape. Add magic to science fiction space ship based television and this is what you’d get. And it’s not bad, but it’s also not deep.

In this story, we meet the crew, especially Captain Ramsey, as they attempt to salvage a ship that had been attacked. They thought it was empty, but it turns out that there was one escape pod left on the ship with a Barbie doll-like priestess and a teenager who may not be who he seems to be. Turns out the priestess kidnapped the teen to save him and to shed light on the genetic experiments going on at their school. The normal obstacles come up – the galactic authorities board them, hirelings attack them, and so on – until an all too quick resolution involving magic, subterfuge and quick talking by the Captain. I said “of course” in my mind so many times during that sentence. This isn’t epic, or dark, or hard science fiction. But it’s fun. So I’ll keep reading the series and see if it develops more.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

A Trap for the Potentate by Atamanov

This is book 3 in the Dark Herbalist series with Amra, the goblin herbalist, and his plotline testers. Continuing after book 2, Amra has turned his sights to defeating the challenging quest to go to the end of the river Styx – a challenge that no group of players have yet won. Along the way, several plotholes open up very wide as Tim has to deal with real world enemies as a local gang takes out a hit on him and he loses his girlfriend early in the book when she completely disappears from the story. The ending – and so far there isn’t a fourth book, but it can’t possibly be done – is far too quick and leaves a lot to be desired.

A Trap for the Potentate
Dark Herbalist #3
by Michael Atamanov
Magic Dome Books
January 2018

Now that I’ve read three LitRPG books, all from Michael Atamanov, I’ve decided on two important conclusions: First, I really don’t think Atamanov is doing a good job writing a story. It’s completely possible that the fourth book will solve many of the outstanding issues, including, importantly, why Amra wins at everything. But I’m not sure that’s the case. He writes women like caricatures of Instagram models. They are there to be beautiful (every woman is) and interested in him (every woman is), while whining and complaining (every woman does) the whole time. There isn’t a three dimensional character in the book. Maybe his AI online girlfriend, Tiesha. Maybe.

Second, I like LitRPG and am totally feeling the itch to play RPGs. I’ve started another author’s LitRPG and am looking for others. There has to be a good LitRPG author and story. I’m a huge fan of Sword Art Online (season 1, especially), so I know this is possible.

If there is a fourth book, I’ll read it just to see if things wrap up. But I have low expectations right now.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Stay on the Wing by Atamanov

This is book 2 in the Dark Herbalist series with Amra, the goblin herbalist, and his plotline testers. This story picks up right where the first one ends with Tim (Amra’s player’s real name), his sister, his girlfriend and friends playing an online VR MMORPG.

Stay on the Wing
Dark Herbalist #2
by Michael Atamanov
Magic Dome Books
June 2017

In part two, other players who watch Amra’s video stream become upset that Amra, a small, weak new player, somehow gets a unique flying mount in the game so the game company decides to put the mount up for grabs to any player who can hunt and kill Amra. The majority of the book is the story of Amra running from the other players, including a large portion of the book where Amra becomes a pirate captain with an orc army. Like the first book, Amra continues his long trek towards awesomeness as just about everything works out for him.

The first book in this series was my first experience in LitRPG or GameLit a sub genere that tells a story through the perspective of a game player – usually a VR player in the near future. Books like Ready Player One or other books with VR as an integral plot device aren’t the same thing as LitRPG. The focus on LitRPG novels is the game playing and RPG leveling aspects. In fact, in this series, the plotline tester aspect of the books was all about the company showing people that playing a goblin herbalist was fun and worthy of their time. The story is constantly interrupted with skill updates, character leveling, experience, game notifications, and other aspects of RPG gaming that gamers know and appreciate. I’m not sure other readers will understand as well or appreciate things. The biggest thing that non-gamers need to know if that the vast majority of how this “game” goes is wrong. No one wins as much as Amra does. Nothing goes wrong for him. Nothing. Even when he makes a mistake the game somehow adapts what he did and makes it a win for him. Real games as grind, loss, playing, fun, loss, grind and loss.

I bought books 2 and 3 at the same time. Otherwise, I’d likely not finish these fun but vapid stories.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Extracted by Haywood

Imagine a time machine. Then imagine checking out the future and everything looks great. Then you look again and the world has ended. Why and how? You aren’t sure so you go back in time to the moment of death for three heroes who you plan to send in time to figure those things out. Of course, there is another group of shadowy, deadly people trying to stop you.

Extracted
by R.R. Haywood
47North
March 2017

It’s not exactly original, but it works in a way. The book drags in the middle and only at the end did I realize that this whole book was only the set up for a series. As much as this book had going against it, I’m inexplicably interested in the next one. Maybe I have unresolved questions or just want to see if anything happens. But I do. So that’s a positive.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

The Collapsing Empire by Scalzi

The Interdependency is a galaxy wide coalition of systems run by a central system where an Empero leads the government, trade guilds, and church. Each system is dependent on the others and not self sufficient – on purpose to ensure they work together. But when the Flow (which I couldn’t help but envision the East Australian Current from Finding Nemo,) that is used to travel to each of the systems because they are too far to get to otherwise, starts to collapse the new Empero faces the very real possibility of the extinction of humanity.

The Collapsing Empire
By John Scalzi
Tor Books
March 2017

The book is filled with interesting characters with varying goals and a ton of intrigue. Guild leaders focus on profits and power, the church focuses on control (of course,) and then the is the reluctant Empero who doesn’t want power but may be the best person in that role since she actually cares. The story is fast paced with a well developed Flow dependent universe. And since it’s the first book, the are quite a lot of unresolved issues to keep the reader intrigued.

Scalzi writes the humor that I expect from him. But unlike other books I’ve read, especially his amazing, award winning Redshirts, this book is chaulk full of cuss words and sex. The F word is in every sentence of some characters and at times overwhelming. The sexuality is common place and consequence free. Not really what I was expecting.

Will I read the next book? Maybe. If I do, it will definitely be on headphones.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Video Game Plotline Tester by Atamanov

Timothy needs a job. He’s good at MMORPGs. So when the biggest VR online role playing game advertised “tester” jobs, he saw a perfect fit. And it was in so many ways.

Video Game Plotline Tester
Dark Herbalist 1
by Michael Atamanov
Magic Dome Books
January 2017

He is given the job by the corporation of playing as a rare combination of race and job and then blogging (with video) how to play as that character. His combo? A goblin herbalist. Not exactly a great combo. Furthermore, he can never change it. Even if he quit the job. Timothy makes it work, along with the help of his sister, who also plays, and soon finds that he is making a ton of money and rising in stature at the company. He also moved out of the slums, and has an incredibly attractive (and important company programmer) interested in him. Everything he does works out for him. Every. Thing.

And that’s the weakest part of this book. It’s not the detail that only RPG games may understand. It’s not the plot, which goes almost no where. It’s that everything works out. This book is like a dream the author had about a game he played. In that dream, he got everything he wanted: some online personality, money, stature, the girl. It’s just too much success to be believable.

Still, it’s fun. It’s fun to imagine the same things happening to a character I’m playing. This is a series that has three books so far and I’m most likely going to read the others. Completely for fun. With my brain peacefully at rest.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Hell Divers by Smith

In the near future, the surface of the earth is decimated by nuclear war and the only refuge for humanity are floating fortresses created to drop those same bombs that made the surface uninhabitable. Now, 250 years later, humanity clings to life on just two remaining fortresses, Aries and the Hive. The ships are kept afloat by sending Hell Divers to the irradiated surface on suicide drops for supplies and replacement parts.

Hell Divers
by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Blackstone Publishing
January 2017

Each ship is a world unto itself but when there are only two ships in the world and the total population of humanity is less than a thousand souls the Hive is obligated to respond to a distress call from Aries even though it’s coming from ground zero of the apocalypse, a place called Hades where no diver has ever returned from. It’s up to X, the longest tenured diver on the Hive, and his team to find the parts necessary to keep humanity from going extinct. To make matters worse, X finds out that he isn’t the only thing alive on the surface.

I found this to be very similar to Metro 2033 in both the cramped home of humanity as well as the irradiated surface and “other” obstacles. It even ends in a similar way. Not the same, but reminiscent. No spoilers.

X is a typical tough guy hero who has survived against all odds – at least until this new threat shows up. The other characters are vaguely interesting, but it’s all about what happens on the surface. This is a popcorn book, filled with action and suspense, adrenalin and fun. X-pect that and you’ll have a great time. I enjoyed it and will probably pick up book 2 in the future.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Will Save Galaxy for Food by Croshaw

Imagine that you’re a starship pilot on the fringes of space (the black), saving whole planners of people in the golden age of space exploration. You’re a hero to humans everyone; beloved to all. Then humanity invents a way to get from any two points in space instantaneously. And you don’t have a job anymore. And now you’re scraping by, begging for jobs to fly tourists on quick planetary flybys. It’s a big step down.

Will Save Galaxy for Food
by Yahtzee Croshaw
Dark Horse Books
February 2017

Our hero takes a job pretending to be a different pilot – an incredibly hated one – for a mobster to take his son on an adventure. The boy, and his girlfriend, who happens to be the daughter of the President of Earth, want to go do into space. In an act of fear, our hero and the monsters former secretary decide they would rather kidnap the kids as a plan to escape the clutches of the mobster. It gets more convoluted. The good news is that almost none of it matters as this is incredibly shallow and no details are necessary to enjoy this quick and simple read. It’s supposed to be a satire, and while it is funny at times, this is no Discworld novel.

Complete pass time and nothing more.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.