Brian Pinkerton – The Gemini Experiment

Author: Brian Pinkerton

Title: The Gemini Experiment

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

[ARC copy, the book will be published in May 2019]

 

Synopsis:

Tom Nolan has just learned he is going to die. The young father is terminally ill and coming to grips with his fate until he is recruited into a privately funded, covert experiment. In a secret lab, Tom’s physical appearance is immaculately duplicated into a sophisticated robot. The robot will host the digitized consciousness of him. But when Tom’s replica escapes before the transfer can take place, he is faced with the horrors of an alter ego bent on death and destruction. As the experiment draws the attraction of spies, Tom is caught up in an international crisis with a showdown that could change the course of the world.

Review: 

The concept of a robot replica of a human being, perfect in every detail and equipped with a digital version of a human mind, is a long-standing trope in the science fiction narrative and a tough subject to approach given all the technical aspects and, more important, the ethics involved in such a project. It is also one of the most fascinating ideas of the modern era, suspended between the paradise of eternal youth and the hell of a possible Skynet-style future.

Brian Pinkerton chooses a narrow path, conceding little or nothing to the technical mumbo-jumbo and skipping most of the ethical questions. This book is about action, about the struggle of the main character to survive and squeezing out the good old “normal man in big troubles” pulp concept until the last drop. To say the least, it’s a bold move. The results are somewhat mixed. The plot runs smoothly, the rhythm is always fast, but there are some issues (see below, “cons”) that somewhat take me out of the book.

The pros of this novel are about a very well-conceived plot, its successful delivery to the reader and the action-oriented approach. We get a light science fiction/action thriller, with excellent management of plot twists. The Nolan family is well portrayed, the same can be said for many supporting characters.

The cons of this novel are basically three; the first is about the general feeling of being inside an ‘80s movie, that could be enjoyable but doesn’t work with the science fiction premise. The second is about the villains, that share the same ‘90s taste (to shout it out loud, USSR and modern-day Russia are very different!). The last is about action scenes, those are straight out a rerun of some Chuck Norris ‘80s movie. I love that stuff, but it’s totally outdated.

Where to find it: Flame Tree Pressamazon.com

Vote: 06,50 / 10,00.

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The AfPak riddle

The news about a new round of official peace talks between Taliban, the Afghan national government and US envoys are opening the door for some serious considerations about the future in one of the most troubled areas of the world. The Trump administration wants to get out of the country, without the American presence all the allies will withdraw as well, leaving the Afghan government on its own. By all means, Afghan armed forces aren’t ready to stand against the Taliban, nor they could be able to take back control from the warlords in the north.

A few days ago I was thinking about the worst case situation; a full reverse to 2001, with Taliban in control of most part of the country, with ISIS ready to set up shop in Kabul and Pakistan in the role of the unofficial nuclear-powered protector. By all means, it will be a nightmare.  Then I made up my mind, realizing that a significant number of changes had occurred in the last 18 years.

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The Churchill Quote On Democracy

Every time a democratic kind of government comes under discussion, sooner or later somebody will pick up a famous quote of the late Winston Churchill on the subject.

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

Winston S. Churchill, 11 November 1947 (*)

This is a perfect show-stopper. It’s a strong argument; it comes from a famous historical character, it also has that kind of British humor that always hit the spot. The real question here is: can we put democracy under a real debate?

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Michael R. Johnston – The Widening Gyre

Author: Michael R. Johnston 

Title: The Widening Gyre

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

[Advance reader copy, due to be published on March 2019]

 

Synopsis: Eight hundred years ago, the Zhen Empire discovered a broken human colony ship. Given a place to live by the Zhen, humans are safe. But it hasn’t been easy. Not all Zhen were eager to welcome another species, and humans have faced persecution. One of the first humans to be allowed to serve in the Zhen military, Tajen Hunt became a war hero but he failed in a crucial mission and resigned in disgrace. When Tajen discovers his brother has been killed by agents of the Empire, he and his crew set out to finish his brother’s quest: to find Earth, the legendary homeworld of humanity.

Review: 

Every now and then the Space Opera genre wakes up from its current day mediocrity, and something good shines under the light of a different star. This is what happened with this book, which has the predetermined potential to become the first of a series. The basic concept (see the synopsis) is not new, and the setting is also a well-known trope in the business, what shines is the craft of the author and his ability to create a real page-turner that releases here and there moments of fun alternate with a lot of well-depicted action.

Quite frankly, it’s not a back-to-the-basics novel. Space Opera was pulp action set in a science fiction environment (back off, this is my opinion!), most of the time centered on a likable character and a set of useful cardboards supporting actors. The gist was the struggle against big enemies, with a flamboyant third act to prepare the final triumph. In this book we got plenty of conflict, drama and almost impossible odds; but the characters are all well-portrayed, believable and “real” enough to keep the reader close to every page. Plus, we have a current level of complexity in the world building and a lot of hints about the backstory of the whole alien civilization in charge.

The plot is a crescendo, which is a tradition for a Space Opera. The difference between this book and many others is about the plot management. Every step, every bump-and-grind moment of the story, flows naturally with ease. That keeps the reader comfortable, well set in the story. The use of the first person is often criticized in a story full of action, but it works just fine in this novel. It’s an old trick, a way to tell the reader that there is always a way out for the main character. Just stick with Tajen Hunt and ride shotgun in his spaceship, the ride will be worthy of your money.

The pros of this book are based on a magnificent world-building, with a believable alien race. The backstory of the Zhen empire is solid, and it’s functional to the comprehension of their civilization. The main character development is also substantial, and the same applies to the main cast.

The cons of this book are about tropes. I know, it’s tough to create something new in a subgenre explored for decades, not to mention the movies. Let’s say that the ghost of Han Solo and the spirit of the Millenium Falcon are in their places, OK?

Where to find it: Flame Tree Pressamazon.com

Vote: 07,50 / 10,00.

A Quick Sketch – because Neil Gaiman say so

You know, sometimes it just happens. You stumble on a quote, some strange connections work in your head and here it is, you find yourself drawing again after too many years.

This is the original quote, from Neil Gaiman:

The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked…that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

You don’t have to put the blame on him, of course. It’s about my Pilot V5 and a few minutes of free roaming from some brain cells.