Category Archives: Science Fiction

Triplanetary by E. E. Smith

Originally published as a four part serial in Amazing Stories in 1934, E. E. Smith, called “Doc” for his PhD, later turned these stories into a prequel to his popular Lensmen series in 1948. Doc Smith was a contemporary of other such early 20th century Science Fiction writers as Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and others. This period is often considered the Golden Age of Science Fiction – and rightly so.

Triplanetary
by E. E. Smith
read by Mark F. Smith
published in 1934
Librivox.org

As I considered the next book to read / listen to in my trabels through the late 19th and early 20th centery classics I chose Triplanetary. Unlike some books, like Jules Verne’s Master of the World, I found myself right at home in this narrative. Like so many others of its time, the story moves slowly through an adventure filled with inexplicable enemies and events, with a dashing hero finds a blushing damsel and sets out on saving the day. Just in space.

The story starts out on a spaceliner at the outset of an attack by space pirates. Conway Costigan is an undercover agent of Triplanetary the agency that keeps the peace between the populated planets and in space – a prequel to Star Trek’s Federation, if you will, only with less debate and more decision. Costigan quickly realizes the attack is under way and begins working on saving some of the people nearby. One of them, Clio Marsden, becomes his love interest in standard damsel-in-distress early 20th century fashion.

Triplanetary forces move to intercept the pirates at their home base Roger’s Planetoid and a furious battle ensues. In the midst of the death dealing, another party shows up and wipes both sides out with its even more futuristic weaponry and defenses, which niether Triplanetary nor Roger’s pirates can withstand. These Nevians, as we come to know them, take Costigan, Clio and another survivor Captain Bradley back to their planet for study. But before they get too far out of range, Costigan sends a beam of detailed information on their new enemies, including details of weaponry and scientific breakthrus.

Triplanetary agents recieve the information and begin working to incorporate the new technology into their own super-ship, the Boise. And so the real battle begins. Through the adventure, be it on the home front with the Boise defending Earth (or Tellus as it is called,) or with the three captives attempting escape we are taken from one exotic setting to another and placed into one dangerous situation after another much like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped that I reviewed a few months ago.

As far as adventures go, this one hold up well over time. I found that the use of terminology, which at the time probably sounded extremely scientific, now sounds preposterous (ultrawaves, beams, rays and such,) but is understandable since I have the perspective of nearly 80 years of innovation. Unlike some so-called civilized books of the time, E. E. Smith doesnt shy away from big themes, which perhaps he would have if this story were written just a few years later, like weapons of mass destruction used not only by evil characters, but also by so-called good characters. The question of what is ethically permissible in situations like those of this book is never fully fleshed out as both Humans and Nevians use their weapons with no regard to ethics.

Like most books of this time, the males are completely male and the females – with one exception when Clio late in the store takes up armor and a weapon – are classicly female. Again, this seems outdated and at the least quaint, and at most offensive at times. It is hard to imagine that women were expected to act the way that Clio does through most of the book. Were I to come across a woman like her, it is extremely likely I would have little or no tolerance for her neediness and whining. Clearly a differnent time.

Mark F. Smith is excellent as always and remains one of the best readers at Librivox.org. His soothing voice was up to the task of the varied accents and nuances of characters.

The attention to detail, varied adventure and keen insight into the Golden Age of Science Fiction make this book a very enjoyable read and recommended to fans of the genre.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. He also reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

Like Clockwork by Bonnie Dee

Victoria Waters, a rich scientist who created synthetic skin to clothe automatons, called Clockworks, is on her way to speak to the Commission for Animatronic Affairs when she is kidnapped by Dash, a member of the Brotherhood, a group of unemployed and disenfranchised who want to stop the spread of Clockworks in society due to the effect on employment on the lower income caste.

Like Clockwork
by Bonnie Dee
December 2010
Carina Press

When Victoria wakes, Dash finds an ally to the cause and a willing partner in trying to slow Clockwork adoption in society. Their plans to challenge the Commission are thwarted when Dash’s former mentor is killed by the Southwark Slasher, a fiend who kills women and steals their hearts.

The story quickly moved into conspiracy and politics, which would have been satisfying if not for the fact that these areas are severely underdeveloped. Instead, Bonnie Dee takes this novella (just over 100 pages on a Kindle) straight and true on the well worn and shallow path of lustful romance. The overused themes of love overcoming class, loss and providing redemption become more important than the plot itself. I admit that much of my dissatisfaction with this novella is that it is sold as Steampunk Romance, but in reality is it trashy, dime store romance set in a Steampunk world that is fully unnecessary to the story.

Readers who enjoy Romance – and I know there are many of you – will enjoy this story as well, but you already knew that as all cheap romance novels are basically the same with different names and settings. But those looking for a smart Steampunk novel that includes romance will be sorely disappointed. As for me, I have to admit that I moved through the book quickly and I never lost interest. In the end, though it was over too quickly with little to no resolution to the societal issues and too little development of the murders.

A final note for those readers who may be sensitive to this topic: the book includes sexuality and a detailed description of sexuality in the epilogue to the point that it can only be describes as pornographic. Be warned.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on current events and Christianity.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Amazing Screw-On Head by Mike Mignola

Animatronics, self-sustaining heads, zombies, vampires, romantic snakes, martians, mad scientists, President Abraham Lincoln and many more improbable, impossible creations that can only be, and are accurately described by the author/artist as…curious objects; invade this graphic novel comprised of short stories that keeps one turning the page.

The Amazing Screw-on Head and Other Curious Objects
By Mike Mignola
Dark Horse Books
September 2010

An entertaining and visually stimulating work that has no rhyme or reason from page to page accept to achieve just that…no rhyme or reason. The imagination that went into this work is so sporadic that one wants to continue reading to not only complete the story they’ve started, but to also see where the author could possibly take the story next. Because, there is no predicting from story to story, page to page, or even panel to panel, as a reader you can’t help but be entertained and involved with your own imagination. One story may have you fighting zombies at the request of a great American president. Another will have your heart strings jolted for the romance between a snake and a magician. Even ghosts make an appearance working with the martians. And, even as each story becomes more outlandish than the next, you become more curious as one loses oneself going from story to story.

The artwork in the story is also very detailed and will keep you examining it, long after you have finished a panel. The backgrounds, which are often left undefined in graphic novels, have as much details in them as the main characters in the foreground. Also, the author’s use of shadowing interestingly conveys a sense of darkness, coupled with the types of characters from the occult, but which directly contradicts with the nature of the story, to form a very interesting nature while reading. As though one should feel scared, but cannot help but smile at the absurdity the stories take you through in this dark world.

The Amazing Screw-on Head and Other Curious Objects is a great read. If anything, it is entertaining to let your mind wander with the stories and have something that can be taken at face value. Finally, to add to the reader’s enjoyment and help bring light into an otherwise entertaining confusion; the author completes the work with a few short synopses on each story, explaining how they all came to fruition for him. A very entertaining work.


Kyle Stack, an avid reader of all genres from textbooks to comic books and everything in between, divides his time among work, studies, violin, and a new book for new perspective whenever possible.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

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Girl Parts by John M. Cusick

After a local girl commits suicide live on the internet, and no one tries to stop it, the high school counselor determines to interview all of the students. In his interview, it is determined that David suffers from “dissociative disorder” and is prescribed that he utilize a Companion – a robot designed to encourage human interaction. At first David would have none of it until the day that it arrived. Rose, red hair flowing over tight curves, was in David’s words, “smoking hot!”

Girl Parts
by John M. Cusick
Candlewick Press
August 2010

Charlie is a geek. He and his scientist father live off the grid across the lake from rich kids like David. In the aftermath of the suicide the councilor determined that Charlie is depressed and prescribes anti-depressants. Rejecting this prognosis, Charlie lives in anonymity longing for an opportunity to ask out the bombastic celebrity star of the school drama department but worries that she is out of his league.

While Charlie pines away for his crush, David and Rose slowly move forward in their relationship always getting further around the bases. David becomes consumed with getting into Rose’s pants but is hindered in his lusts by Rose’s programming which sends a violent shock through David if he touches her prior to building up their relationship past a certain level. Like a game, David puts in the time ranking up their relationship until the night finally comes where Rose takes off her clothes for him.

As the story progresses the three characters intertwine perversely. Charlie does end up asking out Rebecca, the actress, but ineptly handles the date causing more doubt and depression. Charlie and Rose end up friends through happenstance and end up having an easy relationship, without hindrance of sexual tension. David ends up hooking up with his ex-girlfriend in college who, after waiting months to get into Rose’s pants, he ends up getting into hers for a brief one night stand. Afterwards, she promptly takes her leave of him. By the end of the book more characters end up having sex and, in fact, the book seems to revolve only around sex.

Lost are the issues that the book started with so promisingly, like the effect of cyber interaction instead of social interaction, dissociation, and the lack of connection with other humans. Instead this book devolves into the search for sex.

I still held out hope late in the book that the moral of the story would be the emptiness of the search and the glory would be found in true human friendship. This was supported by David’s careless one night stand and the way it cheapened sex for him. But in the end, at the culmination, it is all about sex; all about girl parts.

So what are we to take from this book? That the ultimate goal of high school students is to connect sexually to other high school students? This is after all a “14 and up” book according to the publisher – an age that would be entirely inappropriate to recommend this book to.

A fast starting book with lots of promise, Girl Parts ultimately goes off course midway and by the end has completely lost its purpose and we are left with an emptiness more pronounced but less profound than the one we begin with. As much as I love the idea, I cannot recommend this book.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on current events and Christianity.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

originally Published at BuddyHollywood.com

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

In the most recent 111th congress, representatives discussed and argued new laws concerning regulation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) as food (for instance, should cloned animal meat be sold and consumed and if so should it be labeled?), a carbon emissions trading scheme (also known as Cap and Trade) where polluters trade carbon credits as an incentive to lower carbon emissions, green jobs to help with the United States jobless rate all the while dealing with radical Islam and its rise in the Middle and Far East. Proponents of these regulations asked us to imagine a world where global warming cause sea levels around the world to rise, where GMO foods are the norm and unanticipated damaging side effects cause food shortages and possibly contagions and oil and other non-renewable resources are no longer in abundance. Fortunately, we don’t have to imagine this world. Paolo Bacigalupi, Hugo and Locus award winning author, has done it for us.

The Windup Girl
by Paolo Bacigalupi
Night Shade Books
2010

The Windup Girl is set in a future Thailand where steep walls are all that hold back the rising seas, where gene-ripping (using genetic material from food to create genetically modifying foods) has led to terrible food shortages as meddling with the food sources has led to several incurable defects that not only destroy the crops but also infect humans virally, and where countless refugees live after leaving certain death in China after an Islamic revolution and subsequent purge. Gone are the empires and nations of our time, replaced instead by powerful corporations that hold power by constantly creating new versions of food that the starving world needs. The Thai Kingdom is one of the final South Asian nations still independent of the militant corporations and their quest for dominance.

If the setting alone doesn’t set Science Fiction fans salivating then consider the characters and their actions to the terrifying future setting. Bacigalupi adds murder, revolution, countless “gun” fights (with weapons that use springs to shoot spinning discs instead of bullets,) racial and religious tension, the mob, and more all surrounding one unassuming windup girl, a genetically modified person (called New People,) held captive and sexually abused nightly for the pleasure of a curious mob at a seedy bar.

When tensions between two powerful government agencies rise to the tipping point, the windup girl becomes the key player in the future of the Thai Kingdom as she struggles to rise above her genetic programming and secure her freedom.

The setting is timely and filled with social commentary without being heavy handed. Like good Science Fiction should, The Windup Girl sets about asking the question of what if as a way of warning us of the possibilities. This book isn’t about taking positions on current debates and laws. Instead it takes for granted that the worst imagined has happened. Now what?

Not an easy book to access, Bacigalupi uses language and social customs that fit perfectly in the Thai scenario and setting. Unlike movies like the Prince of Persia where Caucasian actors play Persian characters and speak with weak English accents, The Windup Girl is authentic. I was never once startled out of the narrative by an out of place or time phrase or word used. Once past the steep learning curve, the book really hits its stride as the several forces in the story align against each other and characters are revealed for whom they really are and who they work for. The last hundred pages are breathtaking. The conclusion is uplifting and terrifying at the same time. It will stay with you long after you put this book down.

The Windup Girl is an excellent work of literature that should find itself on a short list of modern must reads in the same vein as venerable classics such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 (while at the same time being somewhat more entertaining.) A must read.

Originally Published at BuddyHollywood.com

Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka and Fransesco Sedita

BookGateway is dedicated to encouraging people of all ages to get into reading – including children. They offer perspectives that adult readers just won’t get. This review is the first by an 8 year old who we will call Sunshine. Note: We did not edit her answers because they were amazingly funny. We did fix spelling and punctuation errors.

From the publisher: Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren’t kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. They have a mission to complete: to convince 3,140,001 kids to BE SPHDZ. But with a hamster as their leader, “kids” who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment?

BG: Was this book easy to read for you? Were you able to get into it quickly?
Sunshine: The book was easy to read (even for me and I’m eight). I got into it quickly.

Was it fun to read? If so, what was fun about it?
Well it is hard say there wasn’t much fun in the story so I say well duh nothing. Well I can’t say it was kind of both, well maybe yes. Or no. I don’t know. I didn’t like it much. It was a good book. As I said there was no fun in the story. Not really. I mean totally.

Would you recommend it to your friends to read? What age group is this book for?
Well let me think NOOOOOOOOOO! I already told you it was boring not fun and the worst book I have ever read in the whole earth people! There is the reason why I don’t like it: it was meant to be for middleschoolers not me. I am eight years old. Well I am not OLD.

Is this a good book for girls?
No way never! The girl is an alien. She stinks.

Do the characters show good moral values? Is it religious in any way? Do people pray or read the Bible?
Ok, for the tenth time NO.

Is there any language or actions that parents should worry about?
Maybe. I think so ya. There arent, well, that is to me, there is everything that is in my brain is wrong I think so.


Sunshine is an 8 year old avid book reader at school and home, with a reading level several classes ahead of her current grade level. She loves to read and we love to ask her what she thought of the books she reads.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: Spaceheadz

Master of the World by Jules Verne

I’m going through a phase where I’m reading quite a few classics and – as in this case – books by authors of classics. There is something special about the way that English in literature was used a hundred years ago. I love the tempo and naive hope and civility of the stories. And thanks to Librivox.org, many of the classics are available by excellent readers for free. Verne’s book was read by Mark F. Smith, one of the best readers – at least as good as any professional I’ve listened to. So when I decided to listen to this book I was excited by the prospect of another great classic. Verne’s greater known books are adventure and excitement, dashed with science fiction. I expected the same here, but was sorely disappointed.

The Master of the World is about a man who creates a machine that can change forms between automobile, submarine, boat and airplane. At the time of the writing, submarines and airplanes were anticipated but not realized. To readers of this time, an automobile that could travel 120-200 mph would indeed seem near impossible. As a result of the invention, the Master of the World decides to flaunt his superiority, ignoring offers by governments to purchase the invention. Investigator Strock is charged with discovering and capturing the madman before his invention can cause harm to citizens of the United States.

One would think, as I did, that the premise would serve up an adventure worthy of reading. However, the book is a complete failure. The hero is merely a bystander, affecting the plot and the story in almost no way. The chase is wholly unsatisfactory. The resolution is so ridiculous and abrupt that when it was over I cried out loud, “Really? That’s it?!” Nothing happens in the book. And the book is not worth reading. By far the worst book I’ve read in years. There is a reason this is not a well known story by Verne.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. He reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com and previously on Bookboro. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Matched by Ally Condie (Golden Reviewer)

This review by the Golden Reviewer, an 80 year old avid reader.

Cassia and her family – father, mother, younger brother Bram and grandfather – live in Mapletree Borough and the entire country is governed by the Society. Her father is one of the Officials. The era is sometime in the future. The Society provides everything – food, clothing, schools, jobs and one has no control over their own life – it is controlled by the Society. Most of the old information – books, poems, etc. have been destroyed and there is only 100 poems and 100 books by authors the Society deems worthy to be preserved. All diseases have been eradicated and everyone have healthy genes that allows them to live until their 8oth birthday. On their birthday they are given a Final Banquet, visits by family members bringing gifts and then mysteriously die in their sleep. DNA is collected from the individual, frozen to a time in the future when the Society had discovered how to bring people back to life. Are they dying of old age or are they being murdered?

Cassie Maria Reyes is seventeen years old and she is going to the Matched Banquet. Today is her birthday and tonight she will be matched to her future husband. There are other girls being matched this night and Cassie is both scared and impatient as she awaits her turn. When her name is called, she is surprised to learn her matched husband to be is her life long friend Xander Thomas Carrow. How can this be – you are never matched to someone you know. The marriage will not take place for two years – after she has finished Second School. She is given a microcard that supposedly contains information about Xander. What has the Society decided she should know about him, the person she’ll spend most of her life with. She and Zander have lived on the same street all their lives. Is there something new about him she doesn’t know? However, when she insets the card and touches the words Courtship Guidelines, Xanders face disappears. The new face that appears is that of Ky Markham – an Aberration. What is going on – no one has two matches, Did the Society make a mistake?.

Cassia is constantly thrown together with Ky and her feelings start to change. He is teaching her how to write which is strictly against the rules of the Society. Her grandfather recently died on his 80th birthday and her father has lost his DNA sample. What will the Society do when they learn about this? Will they demote her father or just punish him. What will they do to her when they learn of her feelings toward Ky? An Aberration cannot be match with anyone.

Wow! The book is riveting, page turner, intriguing , full of sadness, love and hope, even murder – subtle murder, but murder just the same.. A must read – thoroughly enjoyable.

Highly recommended. Ms. Codie is an excellent fiction writer. The book is a keeper for your personal library. Can’t wait to read the sequel – hope it is already in the works.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.” Her former blog was at http://GoldenReviewer.blogspot.com.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

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Matched by Ally Condie (Arieltopia)

This review by Arieltopia, an 11 year old avid reader.

From back: In the society, officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die. Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s barely the price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainly that he is the one…until she sees another face flash for just an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she has ever known and a path that no one else has dared to follow-between perfection and passion.

I recommend this book to all young adults including junior high and high school. I think it is a great book and all readers looking for a romance (but nothing parents need to worry about,) with a hint of adventure. This book was great, but not God related. It is a very good book and I hope everyone goes out and buys one. It was fun and certainly not boring. I got into it very quickly and loved it to the very end. The only problem was it seemed unfinished to me. I have no idea if she ever finds unnamed and if so when? What happens? Other than that this is a great book!


Arieltopia is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. She is an 11 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult and Teen Fiction; an actual teenager’s perspective. Her blog is http://Arieltopia.blogspot.com.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon:Matched

Cinco De Mayo by Michael J. Martineck

A mind changing event, simultaneously across the globe everyone experiences excruciating pain that lasts a matter of seconds and then instant relief, as if your mind has completely reset.  Then the memories slowly flood in, but these memories don’t belong to you. You have another person’s memories as if you lived them yourself.  You can feel what they felt, remember smells, and even how to speak different languages.  A rich playboy learns what it is like to be a Indian slave boy, a man in Chicago suddenly has recollections of murder in the Aryan Brotherhood, a third grader can speak fluent Korean,  an ad exec in New York experiences life as a blind railroad worker in China.  Phones begin to ring as people’s Others begin calling, because they know everything about them. They know phone numbers, family member names, bank accounts, personal details, everything about their lives and they know their other knows just as much about them. There is nothing hidden, nothing left behind. And no one has an answer as to why this happened.

How weird would it be to trade memories with someone? Learn every single possible memory in someone’s head. There were numerous characters introduced in this book and a lot of them overwhelmed me a bit. It was overwhelming with everything that was going on and the POV switches so suddenly (each chapter was one to three pages long and rotated between the characters).  Then in the end even more characters were introduced that we had never heard from before. I felt at times the book was overly condensed and skimmed over each person’s life. I wanted so much more! It really had me wondering if this could actually happen.  Overall it was a good read.


Amanda Gray is a book lover who generously supplies reviews to BookGateway.com whenever she gets a chance.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

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