Category Archives: Science Fiction

The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett

A weird, scary, mystical, unbelievable story that will keep you turning pages. A story you will thoroughly enjoy, but will not always understand what you are reading.

The Company Man
Robert Jackson Bennett
April 2011

Hayes is a company man. He works for McNaughton Western Foundry Corporation – linchpin of Evesden and, according to some, of the world. McNaughton owns everything in the town. McNaughton’s products are far advanced for the times. They have airships, large machinery that can be heard running day and night. What Hayes did for the company was a mystery for everyone. James Evans, deputy director of securities, said Hayes job was to be a “backroom boy,” who saw to it that sensitive matters did not become unfavorable for the company’s interests. Brightly, who is head of the company, chose to say Hayes was “a fixer” or “our man in the field, but here at home”. They did not trust Hayes, but they needed him. Hayes is addicted to opium and spends almost every night at the Eastern Evening Tearoom, located in Dockland, a shady part of Evesden, – high on opium. Hayes suffers from severe headaches that cause him to have visions.

Hayes’ job puts him in a unique position so when a body is discovered in the Construct Canal – a bad part of town, Detective Donald Garvey, Haynes police officer friend, calls him for help. This isn’t the first time he has been involved in a murder investigation. The man looks like a well respected individual – not one of the people who generally inhabit the area. This is the 486th murder of the year. Who is doing all the killings? Is the Union behind these murders? The company is having problems with the Union – riots, sabotage, and general mayhem. Mickey Tazz is rumored to be the one spearheading the trouble. Is he a real man or a myth?

Evesden is built over large trolley tunnel that run the full length of the city. Workers in the tunnels say they hear machines talking to each other day and night – they never stop. When a trolley car arrives at its next stop with all passengers on board dead, Hayes starts an investigation of his own. How had the people died and in such a short time. The time from one stop to another is only a matter of seconds. Hayes interview a number of McNaughton workers and discovers there are in fact machines in the tunnels. He can’t determine what is controlling the machines, but they do appear to be talking to each other.

There is a huge fire in Evesden and when the flames die down, Hayes steals a car and drives out of town. He drives until he sees a sign that reads “See Kulahee Cave, Birthplace of Genius”. Kulahee was the inventor and founder of McNaughton. He gets out of the car and starts walking. He comes across a body of water and looks down into nothing but darkness. He feels strangely cold, a feeling he felt in the city – that strange pounding machinery, deep underground, in the tunnels. He looks again. There is something down there – something black looking back – something that had laid there for uncounted years, sitting in darkness, and waiting. He grabs his torch and dives in. The machine is enormous – huge, long and thin. Deep within were things moving, delicate threads, tubing and minuscule great-works churning away quietly and smoothly. A voice tells him to touch. He touches the machine and a voice inside of him roars, ‘I AM A MESSENGER, SENT FROM AFAR, YOU MUST LISTEN TO ME, YOU MUST LISTEN’. And the world lit up.

What is going on here? What is McNaughton doing? What are in the mysterious boxes being unloaded at a secret dock in Dockland in the dark of night? Have they invented machines that literally talk to each other and can control the world? Read the story – you will be amazed at the ending.

The language is filthy, but the story is captivating. If you love mystery, magic and imagination you will love this story.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is an 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top..

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

Morlock Night by K. W. Jeter

When H. G. Wells completed the Time Machine he left some threads loose and dangling. K. W. Jeter doesn’t so much as tie up the threads as reweaves them into something fantastic and new as he asks questions that thoughtful readers may have wondered, mainly, what happened to the time machine at the end?

Morlock Night
by K. W. Jeter
Angry Robot
April 2011

Hocker, one of the character’s from Well’s book who listened in on the Time Traveller’s story about his past and present adventures, transitions from a quiet, almost shy listener to the main character in this tale that starts just after the fateful telling as Hocker is walking home. We find Ambrosius, who also listened in, attempting to warn Hocker of the dangers of the time machine and the Morlocks as they walk down the London streets. A fog rolls in as Ambrosius leaves the scene. Hocker soon finds himself in a war torn London during a great battle between humans and Morlocks. Saved by a heroine, Tafe, Hocker finds that his London is not at war at all, rather he has been sent forward in time by Ambrosius to prove the warnings are true. The Morlocks have captured the time machine and are using it to set up a base to conquer London and then the world.

This is no true sequel of the Time Machine. Other than Hocker and the Morlocks no other characters take place in this story and no more is seen or heard of from the distant future of the Eloi. For fans of the book looking for a continuation of that story, you will likely be disappointed. However, for fans of science fiction, steampunk and the like you will find much to feast on.

Jeter’s decision to write this novel (in 1979, reprinted in 2011) was not to provide a sequel but rather to use the original novel as a setting for a much more ambitious and amazing story. The author weaves King Arthur, Merlin, and the Antlanteans into Well’s world of the Time Machine, takes a blender and mixes everything up. The end result is a smoothie that I loved drinking.

Jeter was the first person to use the term “steampunk” back in the 1970s and this book is a seminole example of the genre. Science fiction, fantasy, low-technology all combined in a world that is both believable and unbelievable at the same time. For lovers of the genre it doesn’t get much better than this.

Highly recommended.

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

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

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Take Warehouse 13, make it cool and intelligently written, add in some Sherlock Holmes-ish murders and set it during Victorian London and you would have something almost as good as this excellent steampunk novel.

Agent Eliza Braun, of New Zealand and proud of it, likes to blow things up while getting things done for the Ministry – and she always gets things done. Agent Wellington Books likes to invent devices to make his work in the archives of the Ministry more efficient. When Eliza blows up too much stuff on a mission she is demoted to working in the archives with Books.

Phoenix Rising
A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel
by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
Harper Voyager
April 2011

At first this rubs them both raw as they struggle against each other for autonomy in their assignment. But when Eliza comes across the case files of the case that got her former partner, and almost lover, hospitalized at the asylum she can’t help but pick up where he left off. Intrigued by the case, Books reluctantly joins Braun on the adventure.

People killed in various macabre ways, a secret society, spies, high speed carriage chases, machines that serve beer at pubs and more serve up the most entertaining steampunk book I’ve read in years! More who-dunnit than Sherlock Holmes and more under-cover-ness than most recent spy novels, Ballantine and Morris create a world and a story that you can’t help but smile at while reading.

This book is a diamond in super-affordable rough. Why isn’t there a major publisher pushing this series with hardbacks and advertising? It has mass appeal and would easily translate into film.

I highly recommend this series (hopefully) to fans of steampunk and mysteries. You won’t regret reading it!

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

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

Eternity Falls by Kirk Outerbridge

The Miracle Treatment was designed to make humans – rich humans, anyway – immune to aging, restoring the aged to the bodies of their youth. Those who have taken the treatment spend their unending lives with the understanding that nothing natural can kill them. Until, that is, one of them dies.

Eternity Falls
Kirk Outerbridge
Marcher Lord Press

Rick Macey, a private investigator with ties to the military, is quickly hired by the corporation that created the Miracle Treatment in an effort to disprove natural death, which should be impossible once someone went through the treatment. Macey has other reasons to take the case though as he agrees to become part of the investigation because of an inscription in a Bible found by the deceased.

Soon after taking the case, Macey realizes that this isn’t just a case about the cause of the death of a single person but about bigger questions, like Who has the right to create unnaturally long lives? Who decides how long someone lives? and Who wants to live forever anyway? Like any good mystery, Macey and Sheila Dunn, the scientist who marketed the treatment and would-be partner during the investigation, find that the road to understanding is imperiled at every turn. Fortunately for Sheila, Macey is much more than appearances would suggest.

The book is a rollicking ride through a mix of cyberpunk warfare and tried and true who-dunnit wrapped in theology. This unlikely combination of theology and science fiction makes for an interesting setting, which surprised in its unfettered allegiance to both genres. The sci-fi aspects are fully realized as hacking via mind implants, AI, and cybernetic enhancements all make appearances and are cornerstones of the world that Outerbridge created for us. On the other hand, the theology is a main point of the story and the deeper questions at the heart of the conflict, prompted by the Miracle Treatment, leave the reader unsure which side to root for. And it is important to say that unlike many science fiction books, the religion and its practitioners in this title is never denigrated – something religious people should appreciate.

The only issue I had with the book was that on occasion it was hard to follow who was the first person in the narrative as it switched rapidly and without warning. While it did cause me to reread some passages it was a minor problem that was easy to overcome.

Marcher Lord Press bills itself as the place for Christian Speculative Fiction and this title didn’t disappoint. An action packed, twist filled science fiction book that fans of that genre and those looking to branch out should enjoy.

Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site 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.

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.

by E. E. Smith
read by Mark F. Smith
published in 1934

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 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 and has generously provided this review. He also reviews for the commercial site 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 Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site 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.

Support by purchasing this book through Amazon: The Amazing Screw-on Head

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 Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site 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

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

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

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 by purchasing this book through Amazon: Spaceheadz