Category Archives: Action-Adventure

The Fields by Erin Young

book cover

Never tell.
It was an oath she had broken first, many months later, the words heaved from her in sobs, her parents’ expressions frozen, Ethan stumbling from the room, his face ashen. The secret once shared—once detonated—had destroyed them. Not in the first blast, but slowly, inexorably. A sickness in the heart of their family. A poison that lived for years, quietly working in each of them.

It’s not heaven. It’s Iowa.
———-Ray Kinsella in Shoeless Joe

Damn, did he have that right. The Iowa of Erin Young’s The Fields is a hell of a lot closer to The Children of the Corn than it is to any Field of Dreams. After spending some time in Cedar Falls and it’s larger sibling, agro-urban-wasteland town, Waterloo, where the rust-belt meets the corn-belt, you might swear off dreaming altogether. Well, town might be down-playing it a bit. Between the two (both are real places) they total about 100,000 souls (not counting livestock), so maybe small cities rather than towns. Abba may have been on to something when they referred to Waterloo. (Couldn’t escape if I wanted to) Some truly can’t. One of those turns up dead in a cornfield.

If not for the University of Northern Iowa—where she’d majored in criminology—with its annual influx of students and money, Riley guessed Cedar Falls would have slumped into the same depression as Waterloo. There had been some brave attempts at regeneration in recent years—microbreweries sprouting on weed-covered lots, kayaks for hire on the Cedar River and an annual Pride festival, fulminated against by local churches. But they were fighting a strong downward pull.

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Erin Young, nom de plume for Robyn Young, showing off her Thriller-writer pose, or her “You expect me to believe that? Come on now.” face – image from her facebook pages

Riley Fisher is local, mid-thirties, single, grew up in Cedar Falls, her grandfather a former head of the Blackhawk County Sheriff’s Office. She knew early on that she wanted to follow in his footsteps. Now, after a detour or two along the way, she is head of investigations, to the consternation of others who had hoped for the promotion. The new-found body is in a field owned by the Zephyr Farms cooperative.

Cooperatives were how some smaller Iowa farms had been able to survive the relentless advances of Big Ag. By dominating the market in hybrid seeds, fertilizer and pesticides—the holy trinity of crop production—through aggressive trademarking, swallowing up the competition and tactical lobbying at the highest levels of government, giants like Agri-Co had come to control much of the nation’s agricultural wealth.

Been out there for days, been ripped at in an unusual way, was maggoty, ripe, and unsettling. No problems with an ID, though, once Sergeant Fisher arrives on the scene. Chloe Miller (nee Clark) was one of Riley’s besties two decades back, in high school. But they’d gone their separate ways. Seeing Chloe brings back a terrible time from Riley’s youth, a time that had derailed her life, a time she could never forget.

So, we are faced with two mysteries. What happened to Chloe in that field and why, and what is it about Chloe’s death that has brought Riley to such a state of emotional turmoil? Something happened back when they were still friends, something major. And the revived memories are not exactly a source of comfort. Both mysteries are peeled back like leaves on a lovely ear of you-of-what, bit by bit, the present-day crime via procedural investigation; the personal mystery through intermittent, mostly small recollections.

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Blackhawk County – Image from Lands of America

But wait, there’s more. The discovery of Chloe’s body is the spark that starts the action, but Young has a wider field of view in her sites. A writer of very successful (over two million sold) historical novels, she wanted to have a go at writing thrillers, finding inspiration in

an article she read about the menacing power of Big Agriculture. A decision to set the novel in Iowa, corn-capital of the world, led her to make a fascinating journey across the state – from chance encounters with cops and farmers, and an audience with a local mayor, to shooting Glocks and getting caught in supercell storms. – from her website

A voice is given to concerns about the darker implications of increasing concentration in the age of the agro-industrial complex.

A necessary evil, some called them. Progress, said more. But to those whose forefathers had farmed this land since the days of the first families from New York, Philadelphia, and Virginia, who’d settled here after the Black Hawk War when the Ioway had been driven west, these corporations were vultures, polluters and thieves.

(Entirely unlike the settlers who drove out the natives, I presume.) So, not exactly a tension-free relationship between local growers and the bigger side of the farming industry, personified here by the Agri-co corporation. We get a strong oppo position from an activist determined to head off even more governmental pro-corporation actions.

Companies like Agri-Co only care about profit, not the soil and water they infect with their chemicals, or the wildlife they destroy. Cancer rates are rising from pesticides, and, still, their political allies and lobbyists help them sow their poison.

She blames the current governor, up for re-election, for his role in this. Concern with big-Ag concentrating power at the expense of smaller producers and fouling the environment in the process finds an echo in another part of the country.

It was almost a year since Logan joined the department, moving with his folks from Flint. His father, niece, and nephew had been badly affected by the crisis there—when lead seeped into Flint’s water supply after city officials changed the system in an attempt to save money, then tried to cover up the devastating consequences.

It is clearly impossible to run from the national corporation-led degradation of our environment, or from pervasive public corruption.

Riley is an engaging lead, clever in the way we expect our fictional detectives to be. We also expect our lead to carry some personal baggage, challenges at the very least. Her beloved grandfather, Joe, has been in decline for quite a while, coherent and in possession of his memories on an increasingly part-time basis. Her brother Ethan is a bit of a disaster, divorced, a ne’er do well with some substance issues. Riley can usually count on Ethan to step back whenever she needs him to step up. Ethan’s daughter Maddie is a teenager, a decent sort, overall, in a tough situation, but, you know, a teenager, so offering the family their RDA of stress. And Riley still carries the weight of what happened all those years ago. Unfortunately, Riley is saddled with the addition to her team of Officer Cole, an asshole cop straight from central casting, toting the usual bigotries, inflated self-view, and presumptions, with an extra dose of jealousy. Thankfully, Riley’s other partner, Logan, is another good cop.

And then a second body turns up, (not in a field) also not discovered until well past passing, also in very nasty shape, also featuring some remarkable damage. Is there a serial killer on the loose?

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Abandoned meat-packing plant – image from sometimes-interesting.com

Thrillers have tropes like Ruffles have Ridges. Black SUVs put in an appearance. Are they good SUVs or bad SUVs? Ya gotta figure, when Riley spots a large poisonous snake on her property, (Chekov’s snake?) that it will rattle into play at some point. The question is how, when, to whom, and to what effect. News of a coming storm is another one. Usually this signals that the violent final resolution will occur against an atmospherically dramatic background. Young preps us with a mention of eight twisters having touched down in Iowa since April. Will one drop down into the mix here? Now, that would be a real twist. The upcoming Iowa State Fair is also noted, and gave me visions of snakes dropping on fair-goers, transported by a tornado, as everything is revealed in a climactic disaster scene. But Chekov surely does not have to take ownership of all these things. They could also just be foreshadowing images or external representations of the fear and turmoil Riley is experiencing, or the dangers she is facing. (But I sure do like that State Fairground snakenado notion).

So how does the historical novelist fare at the thriller genre? Young ticks off many of the usual boxes that make up the type. The author has to make good with the reader on explaining things at the end, the main things, anyway. Check. A ticking clock? “I’ve had the county attorney on the line already. Less than two months from the state fair and with the gubernatorial coming up? You know how vital this next budget is to the department. I want this case handled quickly. Efficiently.”, so, check. Our hero must face an increasingly perilous set of challenges, no escaping, victory can only be had by overcoming. What’s she gonna do when all those snakes start dropping out of the sky (Ok. I got carried away, again.) But yeah, Riley rolls, doing battle on multiple fronts. An element of suspense? Sure. Got that. Whodunit, why, and who’s next. An appealing hero? Sure. A reliable sidekick with an alternate skill set? Yep. Logan fills the bill. Plot twists? Of course. Red herrings? Bring your fishing pole. There are a few swimming about. Alternate POVs? The story is told in third person, but there is one first person POV that appears a few times. Cliffhangers? That is what made it tough to read only 20-30 pages a night of this book. An exciting climax? Yeah, for sure, even though I was really kinda hoping for the snakenado thing, even though I know it would have been really cool silly.

I quite enjoyed Young’s simple, but dark descriptions.

Waterloo was lifeless in the stagnant air. Smoke seeped from factory chimneys and the Cedar flowed sluggish and brown. Although the roads were clogged with trucks and trailers, there were few people about, just a few vagrants shambling along broken sidewalks, and cleaners and hospital workers trudging to or from shifts…It wasn’t long before she saw the old meatpacking plant on the outskirts of the city…Its twin smokestacks were dark fingers against the pallid sky, old bricks the color of rust. The bottom windows were boarded over, the ones higher up mostly shattered. A chain-link fence surrounded the site, bristling with barbed wire…stepping over heaps of rubbish, she found herself in a cavernous hall. Metal steps ascended to gantries that crisscrossed in between pillars and snaking pipes, conveyor belts and wheels. It all looked like some complex ride at the state fair, only made of metal and rust, fractured glass and hooks. She imagined the steers and hogs shuddering round, the iron spike of blood, steam from spilling guts. Parts of the gantries had collapsed. In places, the floor yawned into darkness.

A good book should teach you something about the world while delivering a good story. You will certainly get a sense of the perils of Big Ag, the history of how such concentration got started, and the impact it has had on the economy and the people of this area (presumed to be comparable in all farming states) You will learn a bit about the potential and potential dangers of genetic research for crops. And will learn some Ag lingo.

Good writing is good writing whether it is for historical novels set across the pond (well, across for us in the Western Hemisphere. For her, living in Brighton, the pond is right there.) or for a gritty thriller set in America’s heartland. Young has made the transition smoothly, with an engaging procedural-cum-political-thriller, featuring a strong lead, a diverse supporting cast, well-paced action, and plenty of mystery to keep one’s curiosity on high alert, all while offering a bit of information about the world, and highlighting very real issues concerning Big Agriculture. I am looking forward to the further fleshing out of Riley’s story and those of her supporting cast. Seeds have been planted. The soil is fertile.

The shoots are emerging for the Riley Fisher series, and look very promising. A bountiful annual harvest is forecast. Volume #2 will be set in Des Moines. I am betting that when she writes it, readers will come.

The lifeblood of rural America was being drained, leaving husks of cities, where poverty and crime rushed in to fill the void. It was a legacy all too visible in the boarded-up factories and processing plants that loomed like broken tombs around the city, haunted by vagrants and hookers, and cruised nightly by the squad cars of Waterloo PD.

Review posted – January 14, 2022

Publication date – January 25, 2022

This review has been cross-posted on Goodreads.

I received an ARE of The Fields from Flatiron in return for a review that was not too horribly corny. Well, I tried, ok. Thanks, too to NetGalley for facilitating.

=======================================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s Erin Young and Robin Young personal,
FB, and Twitter pages

Items of Interest
—–Ruffles have Ridges
—–Master Class – Masterclass: What is the Thriller genre?
—–A bit of silliness
—–Reedsy Blog- Chekhov’s Gun: Don’t Shoot Your Story In the Foot
—–Crop Prophet – Corn production by state
Corn Production Rankings: 2020
Rank State Production (M bu)
1 Iowa 2296.2
2 Illinois 2131.2
3 Nebraska 1790.1
4 Minnesota 1441.9
5 Indiana 981.8
6 Kansas 766.5
7 South Dakota 729.0
8 Ohio 564.3
9 Missouri 560.9
10 Wisconsin 516.8
11 Michigan 306.5

Items of Interest from the author
Young has a few items coming up for publication soon, one in CrimeReads on her research trip to Iowa, and another in The Big Thrill Magazine. There is also an interview upcoming on Jeff Rutherford’s Reading and Writing podcast

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Filed under Action-Adventure, Cops, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Thriller

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

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Thirty years. I looked out at their little faces. In thirty years they’d all be in their early forties. They would bear the brunt of it all. And it wouldn’t be easy. These kids were going to grow up in an idyllic world and be thrown into an apocalyptic nightmare.
They were the generation that would experience the Sixth Extinction Event.

Knock-knock-knock.
No, that’s not creepy at all. Being in a spaceship twelve light-years from home and having someone knock on the door is totally normal.

At least Mark Watney was in the same solar system. At least Mark Watney had a rescue ship that might, at least, have been on the way. At least the sun that was shining down on Watney’s potato garden was not being nibbled to bits by some intergalactic pestilence. At least life on Mark Watney’s home planet was not looking at an expiration date measured in decades. Pretty cushy situation next to the one in which our astronaut finds himself in this story. At least Mark Watney knew who he was.

I slide one leg off over the edge of my bed, which makes it wobble. The robot arms rush toward me. I flinch, but they stop short and hover nearby. I think they’re ready to grab me if I fall.
“Full-body motion detected,” the computer says. “What’s your name?”
“Pfft, seriously?” I ask.
“Incorrect. Attempt number two: What’s your name?”
I open my mouth to answer.
“Uh…”
“Incorrect. Attempt number three: What’s your name?”
Only now does it occur to me: I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I do. I don’t remember anything at all.
“Um,” I say.
“Incorrect.”
A wave of fatigue grips me. It’s kind of pleasant, actually. The computer must have sedated me through the IV line.
“…waaaait…” I mumble.
The robot arms lay me gently back down to the bed.

The astronaut struggles to find out not only who he is, but where he is, and how he got there. Part of that is a running joke in which he makes up names to tell the computer. It’s pretty adorable. After working on a pendulum to help with an experiment, for example, he answers the computer with I am Pendulus the philosopher. Incorrect. He does, eventually, remember his name.

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Andy Weir – image from his Facebook pages

The title of the book may seem opaque to some folks outside the US. Weir is referring, of course, to a last-ditch play to win or tie American football games. It is called the Hail Mary pass. Keep enough blockers back to protect the quarterback while all available receivers head for the end zone as the quarterback lofts a pass, usually of considerable distance, in the hope that one of the receivers can haul it in through an act of divine intercession. The play is named for the prayer of course.

It’s caused a lot of headaches with the translators. Nobody outside the U.S. knows this phrase. Even English-speaking countries like the U.K. don’t have that expression. In most of the language translations, they’re changing the title. In one of them it’s just called The Astronaut or something like that. – from the GR interview

In Andy Weir’s latest novel, the survival of life on planet Earth, and whatever other life might be swimming, flying, creeping, or otherwise meandering about in our solar system, is imperiled by an invasive species. (Not really a spoiler, more of an aside. OK, a pet peeve here. We have a few names for our home planet, and for the rest of the rocky and gaseous chunks floating about our particular star. So why has humanity been so singularly unable to come up with a decent name for our solar system? I mean calling our solar system “the solar system” is like slapping a label on a can that says “food.” (Yes, I know this was done in the movie Repo Man, but it was intended to be ironic. At least I hope it was.) I mean how generic and undescriptive can we be? There are billions of solar systems out there, and I bet there are plenty that have nifty names. So, I am gonna go for it and claim that from now on our solar system should be called the Will Byrnes Planetary System (WBPS). Recognizing that this is in no way deserved, I will happily cede it to a more reasonable name, one grounded in actual achievement or cultural significance…for a cup of coffee (20 oz at least) and a couple of doughnuts (one glazed, one jelly). Until then, it’s mine, all mine. The nasty little buggers have a talent for converting energy to mass and mass to energy. Their little eyes (if they had eyes) light up in the presence of an active power source the way some of us feel compelled by the sight of pastries in a shop window. Which would make our sun a doughnut shop with a few quadrillion hungry customers beating down the door. Not a wonderful situation for the shop. A more apt, if somewhat less entertaining image, is that of a vast swarm of locusts denuding a landscape.

Hoping for an act of god might be worth a shot. His ship, and the project that spawned it, are named for the prayer, even though by way of a sport. Hail Mary full of…um…Ryland? Well, Ryland Grace. It remains to be seen whether or not the Lord is with him, or his ship. But he is not alone, although, after finding that his crew-mates did not travel well, it seems like he would be.

Luckily for Ry, Earth is not the only populated planet imperiled by this galactic pain in the neck. He encounters another, and thus begins a beautiful friendship. I won’t bother with describing Rocky, other than to say that Rocky is not at all humanoid. Through engineering ingenuity and commonality of purpose the two find a way to communicate with and help each other in their mission to save their respective planets. There is a child-like quality to Rocky, as well as a very creative brain, and a universal decency, that will make you care about him/her/it/whatever. There is no one better than Weir at writing adorable.

Weir, the Ted Lasso of science fiction writing, has been trying to work on his character-writing skillset. He is amazed that so many people loved The Martian, despite the fact that his hero goes through absolutely no change during his ordeal. He had given Watney his best personal characteristics, on steroids. Then had a go at a less idealistic character in his novel, Artemis, using what he saw as some of his lesser personal characteristics to inform his lead.

Ryland Grace was my first attempt to make a protagonist not to be based on me. He’s a unique character I’m creating from whole cloth, and so I’m not limited by my own personality or experiences. – from the GR interview

I am not sure he has succeeded. The special energy that powered astronaut Watney was a combination of superior technical skills, a wonderful, wise-ass sense of humor, a can-do attitude, and a deeply ingrained optimism. Mark Watney could have been on the Hail Mary in place of Ryland Grace and I am not sure most of us would have noticed, well, except for a couple of personal downsides. The sense of humor is pretty much the same. Ditto for the technical talent and scientific problem-solving predisposition. He may be a tick down from Watney on the optimism chart, but you will get the same satisfaction from watching Grace as you did his Martian predecessor. But while Weir’s character development skills might still be…um…under development, his story-telling skills remain excellent.

The stakes are high, global extermination, multiple global exterminations actually, and the future of life as we know it, and some life we know very little about at all, is dependent on two creatures working together to solve the biggest problem of all time. No pressure. So, a buddy story. A tale of friendship far from home.

The narration alternates between two timeframes. In the contemporary one, Ry uses his special scientific-method powers plus base of knowledge to figure out the situation he is in, and come up with serial solutions to serial challenges. This is totally like The Martian, although this guy is maybe a bit less funny.

I’m a smartass myself, so smartass comments come naturally to me. For me, humor is like the secret weapon of exposition. If you make exposition funny, the reader will forgive any amount of it. And in science fiction—especially with my self-imposed restriction that I want to be as scientifically accurate as possible—you end up spending a lot of time doing exposition. – from the Publishers Weekly interview

The other is the history of how he came to be there. This will also remind one of the back and forth of the on-Mars and Earth-politics alternating streams of Weir’s mega best seller.

Although his writing is out of this world, Weir’s process ain’t exactly rocket science. Like his characters, he uses available parts, plus a base of knowledge, to build what needs to be built. He had a few lying about in his shop.

After The Martian, I had this idea for this massive space epic—a traditional sci-fi pilot with aliens, faster-than-light travel, and telepathy and a war and, yeah, a ten-book series and everything. I worked on it for about a year; it was going to be called Zhek. I got 70,000 words in, and…I realized that it sucked…But there are a few nuggets in Zhek that were solid. There was one interesting character who was this absolutely no-nonsense woman with a ruthless drive to get what she needs to get done and a tremendous amount of secret authority. And she became Stratt in Project Hail Mary. The other thing is, in Zhek there was this substance called black matter, which was a technology invented by aliens that would absorb all electromagnetic waves, all light, and turn it into mass and then turn it back into light…if humanity got ahold of some of that, it would be neat, but it would suck if we accidentally let any of that get into the sun—that would be a disaster. I’m like, “Wait a minute, that would be a disaster! That’s where books come from!” – from the Goodreads interview

And divorce lawyer billables. Love his evident excitement at this EUREKA moment. There is a decided innocence to it, and a natural-born optimist’s way of seeing the bright side of life, a characteristic with which Weir very successfully endows his leads, well, some of them anyway.

I quite enjoyed The Martian, despite Watney’s immutable self. And I liked Artemis as well, with its more nuanced lead. This one feels like more of a throwback to his earlier work. If you loved The Martian you are gonna love this one. Tough situation, far from home, charming, brilliant, smartass lead, with an adorable, brilliant, very non-human mensch of a pal, lots of mostly accessible science, and some fabulously interesting concepts. For a book that is pretty down to earth in many ways, Project Hail Mary is absolutely out of this world.

Science teachers know a lot of random facts.

Review posted – May 7, 2021

Publication date – May 4, 2021

Thanks to Ballantine books for an early look at Project Hail Mary and to MC (you know who you are) for interceding on my behalf to make that happen. You have been an answer to my prayers.

This review has been cross-posted on Goodreads.

=======================================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

Interviews
—–GoodReads – The Science (and Math) of Andy Weir’s Sci-Fi Success by April Umminger – a particularly good one
—–Publishers Weekly – Weir(d) Science: PW Talks with Andy Weir by Lenny Picker
—–Writer’s Digest – The Writer’s Digest Interview: Andy Weir, Author of ‘The Martian’ and ‘Artemis’ by Tyer Moss – as is obvious from the title, this 2018 interview was done when Artemis was released. But it still offers a good look at Weir
—–Salon – “I don’t want to be L. Ron Hubbard”: Andy Weir on writing escapism & new book “Project Hail Mary”

I do not put current events or modern analogs or anything of that sort into my stories. My stories are 100% focused on entertaining the reader with no message or moral. I’m not trying to educate you on anything or change your mind about anything. When you’re done with my book, I want you to put it on the shelf, and the only emotion I want you to have is, “That was fun!” and that’s it. Then you move on with life. I’m not so arrogant as to think that I have some duty or even the right to tell people what they should think or how to live their lives. I just want it to be fun. It’s simple. My books are simple light-hearted reading. They’re not deep. They do not have any hidden meaning. I just want you to have fun. That’s all.

My reviews of other work by the author
—–Novels
———-2014 – The Martian
———-2017 – Artemis

—–Short Stories
———-Annie’s Day
———-Diary of an AssCan
———-The Egg

Songs/Music
—–The Beatles – Get Back
—–The Beatles – Sergeant Pepper – Chapter 18 – refs the album – I linked the title song
—–Aretha – Chain of Fools – Chapter 19
—–Monty Python – Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Items of Interest
—–A stack of Weir’s writings
—–Amatersu – no, not named for amateurs, but a Japanese sun goddess. This is the name of a Japanese probe that is studying the sun.
—–JAXA – the Japanese space agency
—–Panspermia
—–Spin Drive
—–Poseidon Adventure – Chapter 20
—–Aeon – Proof of Life: How Would We Recognize an Alien If We Saw One? by Samuel Levin

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Filed under Action-Adventure, Artificial Intelligence, Fiction, Reviews, Science Fiction

Departure by A.G. Riddle

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It seems I’m involved in a conspiracy that spans space and time and a conflict whose outcome will determine humanity’s fate in two separate universes.

Oh, is that all? Flight 305 from New York to London runs into a little space-time turbulence and finds itself, or a piece of itself, anyway, in an English lake. Help should be along shortly, right…um, right? The passenger list included five people of interest. Venture capitalist and take charge sort Nick Stone has done nicely in tech and is en route to meet with some folks who are looking for him to invest in their projects. Harper Lane is a ghost-writer of biographies. She is facing a knotty question about her career direction, to take on the bio of a very high profile businessman and philanthropist or attend to her heart’s true writing passion, an original adventure series. Can’t do both. Theirs are the alternating viewpoints we have throughout Departure. The other three are Grayson Shaw, son of a billionaire, who seems determined to make everyone loath him with his persistently boorish behavior. How he got that way, as the King of Siam might say, is a puzzlement. Sabrina Schroder is a German genetics researcher, a doctor with a less than warm and fuzzy crypt-side manner, and Yul Tan (or you won’t) is that mysterious Asian guy who not only kept banging away at his laptop through the abbreviated flight, but who is at it still. What’s up with that? There are plenty of LOST-type goings-on in the opening, but we soon get an inkling of the predicament that underlies everything and that is when the story gets going for real. And who are those guys in the latest Haz-mat couture being dropped off by airships and why are they pointing weapons at us?

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A.G. Riddle – from PBS

A.G. Riddle is one of those rarest of the rare, a very successful self-publisher. His trilogy, The Origin Mystery has, according to his site, sold over a million copies and has been optioned for film. Riddle used to be involved with starting internet companies. Not sure what that means, but he was able to quit his day job and devote himself full-time to writing, so I guess it worked out well for him. It is not hard to see Nick as a magnified version of the author. Departure was, likewise, a self-pub. It came out on January 1, 2014 and did well enough that a major publisher made an offer.

Departure is a turbo-charged maze of sci-fi action adventure tale that will keep you flipping the pages, wanting to find out what happens next. There is plenty of high tech, some of which seemed a bit gratuitous. And there is even some substance, with a focus is on the importance of decisions.

I wonder what the world would be like if we could all glimpse our future before every major decision. Maybe that’s what stories are for: so we can learn from people living similar lives, with similar troubles.

Yeah, sounds a bit teenaged to me too, and this is not the only example of such fourth-wall breakage about writing. But it is fleeting. The book is actually very much about decisions, turning points in which the future is determined. Harper may be looking at a tough career choice, but it has implications that might affect the future of the human race. A butterfly effect of Mothra-like dimensions, but without the adorable twins.

There are a few mysteries to be sorted out, for the first half of the book anyway. What was Yul Tan so into on his computer? And if it’s a game where can I get it? Where can Grayson find more alcohol? When will Nick and Harper get a room? Can the future of humanity be saved? And can you please explain quantum entanglement?

Yes, there is eye-rolling over-simplification, and character names that sometimes sound like they came from pulp novels of a bygone age. There are some absurdly large, Akashi Kaikyō Bridge level, (or for us Yanks, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge level) suspensions of disbelief that one must endure in reading this book. I will not specify them here, but am putting them in a spoiler-protected portion of the EXTRA STUFF section. Your eyes will roll, and if they don’t, they really, really should. Skip on by those and try not to let them interfere with the story. These items have nothing to do with time travel, but more with land use and international politics. But there are always complexities and minds to be bent when it comes to explaining movement and communication across timelines. Riddle offers a particularly nifty take on the communication piece. Kudos for that.

It is no stumper figuring out what AG Riddle is up to, keeping you strapped into your seats, breathlessly turning pages. Departure may take leave of its rational senses a fair bit, (not unlike Dan Brown offerings) but, nonetheless, it is a fast-paced, engaging sci-fi thriller that will impair your ability to make your travel connections. And if it prompts you to think a tiny bit more about the decisions you make in your life all the better. Having secured booking with a major publisher, and a film option to boot, Departure is about to take off and I expect you will enjoy the ride.

Published – January 1, 2014 (self) – October 20, 2015 (Harper)
Review Posted – September 11, 2015

=============================EXTRA STUFF

CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE!!! – Direct relevance as science plays catch-up with science fiction – from NY Times – 10/21/15

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, Tumblr and FB pages

Pods. Although the sort of system Riddle posits is akin to the pneumatic tube notion being supported by Elon Musk , among others, the look Riddle described for the vehicles seemed to me more like that from this article from AllPics4U.com

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I did wonder up above about Quantum Entanglement – Here are a couple of pieces that try to explain this very real form of weirdness
—–Wiki
—–ScienceDaily.com
—–Livescience.comt

Spoilerish eye-rollers. I am not entirely certain that the items noted here qualify as actual spoilers, but why take the chance? On Goodreads, I can hide this text, but on WordPress, I cannot, so am putting it red so you know you may want to skip it until you read the book.

The Podway first united Europe then Asia and finally the rest of the world, enabling safe, convenient, cost-effective mass transit.

Piece of cake, right? The transportation system that is projected to take over mass transit may or may not be a wonderful thing, but little attention is given to how insanely challenging it is to get rights of way, then to build the infrastructure, and what of the existing mass transit? Did it cease to exist? If it didn’t, then what happened to the real estate it occupied? And for there to be an underground tube connection to some building in the burbs or boonies? Really? And there is a bigger eye-roller. The core organization here has put forth a plan to erect a dam across the Gibraltar straits. That is probably do-able. What is not do-able is for every country with a border on the Mediterranean to go along with a project that will wipe out a vast swath of coastal sea for those nations, creating a new nation in the middle of the former body of water. Really? Not only will Mediterranean nations ok the loss of a fishing industry, they will be ok with the creation of another country on their sort-of borders? And what about nations with military ships? Are their navies to be use to decorate the dam? Are you insane? We are in wishing-will-make-it-so land. And not even a wizard, even if he’s a whiz of a wiz, could persuade me that this is doable on a planet still occupied by a large number of humans, hell, by any number of humans. It is possible to look past these bits of silliness, but it is not easy.

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Departure by A.G. Riddle

book cover

It seems I’m involved in a conspiracy that spans space and time and a conflict whose outcome will determine humanity’s fate in two separate universes.

Oh, is that all? Flight 305 from New York to London runs into a little space-time turbulence and finds itself, or a piece of itself, anyway, in an English lake. Help should be along shortly, right…um, right? The passenger list included five people of interest. Venture capitalist and take charge sort Nick Stone has done nicely in tech and is en route to meet with some folks who are looking for him to invest in their projects. Harper Lane is a ghost-writer of biographies. She is facing a knotty question about her career direction, to take on the bio of a very high profile businessman and philanthropist or attend to her heart’s true writing passion, an original adventure series. Can’t do both. Theirs are the alternating viewpoints we have throughout Departure. The other three are Grayson Shaw, son of a billionaire, who seems determined to make everyone loath him with his persistently boorish behavior. How he got that way, as the King of Siam might say, is a puzzlement. Sabrina Schroder is a German genetics researcher, a doctor with a less than warm and fuzzy crypt-side manner, and Yul Tan (or you won’t) is that mysterious Asian guy who not only kept banging away at his laptop through the abbreviated flight, but who is at it still. What’s up with that? There are plenty of LOST-type goings-on in the opening, but we soon get an inkling of the predicament that underlies everything and that is when the story gets going for real. And who are those guys in the latest Haz-mat couture being dropped off by airships and why are they pointing weapons at us?

description
A.G. Riddle – from PBS

A.G. Riddle is one of those rarest of the rare, a very successful self-publisher. His trilogy, The Origin Mystery has, according to his site, sold over a million copies and has been optioned for film. Riddle used to be involved with starting internet companies. Not sure what that means, but he was able to quit his day job and devote himself full-time to writing, so I guess it worked out well for him. It is not hard to see Nick as a magnified version of the author. Departure was, likewise, a self-pub. It came out on January 1, 2014 and did well enough that a major publisher made an offer.

Departure is a turbo-charged maze of sci-fi action adventure tale that will keep you flipping the pages, wanting to find out what happens next. There is plenty of high tech, some of which seemed a bit gratuitous. And there is even some substance, with a focus is on the importance of decisions.

I wonder what the world would be like if we could all glimpse our future before every major decision. Maybe that’s what stories are for: so we can learn from people living similar lives, with similar troubles.

Yeah, sounds a bit teenaged to me too, and this is not the only example of such fourth-wall breakage about writing. But it is fleeting. The book is actually very much about decisions, turning points in which the future is determined. Harper may be looking at a tough career choice, but it has implications that might affect the future of the human race. A butterfly effect of Mothra-like dimensions, but without the adorable twins.

There are a few mysteries to be sorted out, for the first half of the book anyway. What was Yul Tan so into on his computer? And if it’s a game where can I get it? Where can Grayson find more alcohol? When will Nick and Harper get a room? Can the future of humanity be saved? And can you please explain quantum entanglement?

Yes, there is eye-rolling over-simplification, and character names that sometimes sound like they came from pulp novels of a bygone age. There are some absurdly large, Akashi Kaikyō Bridge level, (or for us Yanks, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge level) suspensions of disbelief that one must endure in reading this book. I will not specify them here, but am putting them in a red portion of the EXTRA STUFF section.So if you don’t want to know, skip the red stuff. Your eyes will roll, and if they don’t, they really, really should. Skip on by those and try not to let them interfere with the story. These items have nothing to do with time travel, but more with land use and international politics. But there are always complexities and minds to be bent when it comes to explaining movement and communication across timelines. Riddle offers a particularly nifty take on the communication piece. Kudos for that.

It is no stumper figuring out what AG Riddle is up to, keeping you strapped into your seats, breathlessly turning pages. Departure may take leave of its rational senses a fair bit, (not unlike Dan Brown offerings) but, nonetheless, it is a fast-paced, engaging sci-fi thriller that will impair your ability to make your travel connections. And if it prompts you to think a tiny bit more about the decisions you make in your life all the better. Having secured booking with a major publisher, and a film option to boot, Departure is about to take off and I expect you will enjoy the ride.

Published – January 1, 2014 (self) – October 20, 2015 (Harper)
Review Posted – September 11, 2015

======================================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, Tumblr and FB pages

Pods. Although the sort of system Riddle posits is akin to the pneumatic tube notion being supported by Elon Musk , among others, the look Riddle described for the vehicles seemed to me more like that from this article from AllPics4U.com

description

I did wonder up above about Quantum Entanglement – Here are a couple of pieces that try to explain this very real form of weirdness
—–Wiki
—–ScienceDaily.com
—–Livescience.comt

Spoilerish eye-rollers. I am not entirely certain that the items noted here qualify as actual spoilers, but why take the chance?

The Podway first united Europe then Asia and finally the rest of the world, enabling safe, convenient, cost-effective mass transit.

Piece of cake, right? The transportation system that is projected to take over mass transit may or may not be a wonderful thing, but little attention is given to how insanely challenging it is to get rights of way, then to build the infrastructure, and what of the existing mass transit? Did it cease to exist? If it didn’t, then what happened to the real estate it occupied? And for there to be an underground tube connection to some building in the burbs or boonies? Really? And there is a bigger eye-roller. The core organization here has put forth a plan to erect a dam across the Gibraltar straits. That is probably do-able. What is not do-able is for every country with a border on the Mediterranean to go along with a project that will wipe out a vast swath of coastal sea for those nations, creating a new nation in the middle of the former body of water. Really? Not only will Mediterranean nations ok the loss of a fishing industry, they will be ok with the creation of another country on their sort-of borders? And what about nations with military ships? Are their navies to be use to decorate the dam? Are you insane? We are in wishing-will-make-it-so land. And not even a wizard, even if he’s a whiz of a wiz, could persuade me that this is doable on a planet still occupied by a large number of humans, hell, by any number of humans. It is possible to look past these bits of silliness, but it is not easy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Action-Adventure, Sci-fi, Science Fiction