Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Heaven's War Will Grab You and Not Let Go

Heaven's War 
David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt
ACE July 2012

Review by Ann Wilkes

I called Heaven's Shadow a thrill ride. Heaven's War keeps that ride going from the first page to the last. In this second book in their Heaven trilogy, authors Goyer and Cassutt take an interesting cross-section of humanity and put them in an alien environment as castaways. The struggle to survive inside the Near Earth Object that has been dubbed Keanu (Really? Still don't like the Matrix reference. Probably because I'm not a big Keanu Reeves fan.) is only the beginning of the conflict that the shipwrecked crews and the abducted humans face.

In Heaven's Shadow, astronauts from a Russian/Indian/Brazilian Coalition and NASA are sent to investigate the NEO. They soon discover that the NEO is an alien spacecraft. Not only that, it can recreate people from the Brahma and Destiny crews' pasts to communicate with them. At the end of the last book, two big white blobs or "vesicles" sent by Keanu scoop up about 100 people from Bangalore and another 80 from Houston. One of the pod people hatched by the NEO is the Destiny Commander Zack Stewart's dead wife - who he must watch die again. Feel free to read or reread my review of the first book, Heaven's Shadow, herein.

While some of the Bangalore folks acquaint themselves with the alien technology in "The Temple", replicating food and vessels to serve it in, a small group led by Zack Stewart search for a way out of the human habitat into an adjacent one in hopes of increasing resources and finding the control center of the ship.

Camilla seemed equally surprised (at seeing the lipstick duplicated). Hesitantly, she reached out for the "new" lipstick. 
"It's warm," she said. She handed it to Valya.

"Shouldn't you keep the new one?"

"My mother told me I couldn't wear lipstick until I was twelve."

Valya wanted to laugh. This girl had died and been reborn on another planet! She had just taken part in some type of alien techno-magic! Yet she remembered some argument with her mother! For an instant, Valya wished she could become mother to a daughter — just to know that one of her parental strictures would sustain itself across time and space, and through death!

On the heels of finding one of the refugees murdered, Zack's 14-year-old daughter Rachel and Pav, the 16-year-old Brahma commander's son, go missing. You know that the new normal is really whacked out when former astronaut and close friend Harley Drake sends a murderer out to find Rachel. The interplay of the characters with each other is nearly as riveting as their struggle with the aliens and the alien environment. Each of the main characters stands out in chapters in their own point of view. I have seen this done better, but still the technique was effective, allowing the reader to see not just the outward reactions, but the inner thoughts that we dare not utter. How would you react in a situation in which almost nothing is familiar? That's what I liked best about the book, though the plot and descriptions were top-notch. I love seeing how humans react when pushed to the limit and when put into foreign situations where they have little or no control. 

The humans have not been the first to be scooped up and brought to Keanu, where a war wages among the residents for control of the ship. Both Zack's group and Rachel's meet creatures along the way that may or may not share their goals.

My only complaint about this book, and its the same as with its predecessor, is the poor editing. It wasn't just the stray typo. Some sentences just came out plain wrong and indecipherable. And there were more than a few places where it was hard to tell who was speaking because of the inefficient placement or lack of proper dialog cues. Both authors are primarily screenplay writers, with an impressive list of credits. In fact, they simultaneously wrote the screenplay, which perhaps accounts for some of these anomalies popping up.

I can't wait to read the final installment and see Heaven's Shadow, the movie! It's still in development, but is slated for a 2013 release. You can check back with IMDB for more details as they are made available. I also invite you to read my July 2011 interview with the authors

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Romance? It belongs in real life!

I started a rather lively discussion here on romance in sci-fi. I like mine kept to a minimum. However, in real life, baby, bring it on! I mentioned here on Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys that I have been spending much of my time dancing. Well, you know what dancing leads to…

Guess who's engaged? w00t!!! Kevin wrote a song for me that ended in a proposal and played it during the band's break at my 50th birthday party (yes we hired a band for the occasion!).

I knew he had been writing a song for me, and knew he was going to play (kinda hard to tuck an electric guitar in your pocket), but didn't know the song was finished, that that's what he was going to play, nor that it contained his proposal. Is that romantic, or what?

And the insurance came through, so I can replace my MacBookPro…then they promptly cancelled Kevin's policy. What bastards! His one and only loss and it was chicken feed. Really! I will name names this time. It was Hartford. Steer clear folks.

Enough about me. Here's what's new in Sci-fi circles:

A new spec fic mag, Waylines Magazine, is offering short films in addition to short fiction. Not a bad idea! Send them some love via Kickstarter. Their first issue in January will feature Cat Rambo and her Near + Far, which will be reviewed shortly here at SFOO. I interviewed Cat three years ago here on Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys. 

The Host trailer is now available at I tried to load it. Maybe you'll have better luck.

Iron Man 3 - Booyah!

The Hobbit is less than a month away!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bobby Dollar series worth the bucks

Dirty Streets of Heaven
Tad Williams
DAW Sept. 2012

Review by Carl Cheney

Bobby Dollar is an angel. Not like an angel, not angelic (decidedly not angelic!) but an actual angel sent by heaven to do God’s work on Earth. When someone dies, Bobby meets them and advocates for the now ex-person in his post-life judgment. There’s an opposing demon from hell prosecuting and a neutral judge supplied by heaven. It’s a lot like going to court but being judged for your whole life. The judge decides and the person goes to hell, heaven or sometimes purgatory. Bobby’s territory is San Judas, the region south of San Francisco and west of the San Francisco Bay. But saying this misrepresents the tone of the book badly—these are dirty streets. Think Sam Spade or film noir. 

When confronted by a mystery, the cagy down-and-out detective consults informants, trades insults with the opposition, gets in people’s - or rather demons' - faces, cavorts with fallen females, has fights, gets beat up, and so on. Along the way he’s displeasing his superiors, his friends and the opposition. But all the way he exhibits panache and swagger.

This is a fun read. It’s a fantasy but set in a mythos familiar for those with an Old Testament background. Tad Williams concocts a delightfully refreshing universe view of the big questions confronting believers, disbelievers and agnostics. He answers some of these questions. Is there a heaven and hell? Yes. Is God real? Yes, but you have to be far above Bobby’s pay-grade to get anywhere close. Bobby’s never met anyone who’s met God. Other big questions get dodged or answered in hilarious ways. For example, working for heaven is a lot like working for a Fortune-100 company with heavy bureaucracy, accountability, standard procedures, executive privileges, snitches and so forth. 

An angel occupies a sturdy body on earth and has to cope with normal earthly existence, i.e. eating, sleeping, vices, parking and so on. Though angels know they can survive the demise of their bodies, they are not spared the pain and trauma of the morbid event. 

The plot, like the mysteries it descends from, has numerous twists, turns, surprises and colorful characters. The mystery at the core of the story is a grand puzzler, way outside the box.

Bobby turns out to be a lot like most of us, rationalizing his often unsupportable choices even while plunging into his next misadventure. He takes his chances often, hoping for the best but sometimes taking lumps. The story gathers plenty of momentum as the questions pile up. I’m delighted by The Dirty Streets of Heaven and I’m suddenly interested in reading more from Tad Williams. Next time I find a Bobby Dollar novel on the shelf, it’s a lead pipe cinch it’ll be coming home with me.