Daniel M. Bensen – Junction

Author: Daniel M. Bensen

Title: Junction

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

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

 

Synopsis: There’s a wormhole in New Guinea and, while much isn’t known, one thing is for sure – on the other side is a planet similar to ours, with a habitat suitable for life. Japanese nature show host Daisuke Matsumori will be one of the first to visit Junction, a patchwork planet of competing alien ecosystems. But his exploratory party crashes in the wilderness and members continue to die. What is causing these deaths? At first it seems clear that is must be an alien predator or the hazardous landscape, but Daisuke starts to wonder wheter human politics might be more deadly than alien biology.

Review: 

One of the significant challenges of science fiction is world building, a key factor for any novel-length work. If the author fails to deliver a believable world, then everything else fails, no matter how good could be the prose or how accurate could be the cast of characters. It’s a dangerous game, balanced between the need to portray something different from reality and the challenge to win the suspension of disbelief from the readers.

Daniel Bentsen apparently doesn’t like to play safe and starts this novel with a bang, placing a wormhole on Earth. That’s a bold move for sure, followed by another – on the other side of the wormhole (!), there’s a planet that connects an unknown number of wormholes (!!), each with a different ecosystem in the closeness.

Add to the mix one of the most peculiar cast of characters ever seen, set up as an exploration party in this strange new world, then put in a massive dose of well-built scientific speculation about different life forms and biochemistry (yay!) plus the familiar thrill of the adventure and a whodunit that leaves corpses scattered along the path. What do you get? Well, it’s one of the most unique science fiction novel in the last ten years or so. What’s even more interesting is that there is the potential for much more, for more novels or even a shared universe, all along the n-ways to get in and out of Junction.

The pros of this book are about originality, solid bases on real science (biochemistry), humor and some great choice in the development of the main characters.

The cons of this book are about a lack of perspective about the potential of such a discovery in the “real” world. We get a lot of hints about the tension between countries and such, but it’s the weakest part of the book.

Where to find it: Flame Tree Pressamazon.com

Vote: 08,00 / 10,00.

Five reasons to say NO to the Global Compact for Migration

A few days from now (10-11 December 2018) will be held in Marrakesh (Morocco) a United Nations conference for the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration (from now on, GCM).  This will be the end of a long journey for GCM, and a very important step in the fulfilling of the  New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.

As previously stated in the title of this post, I’m all against this agreement. I’m also fully aware of the growing problem of forced migration all around the world, not to mention the growth of a number of endogen factors that will likely cause more migration in the near future.  To state the obvious, I’m not some kind of racist nutcase.

I’ve spent a bit of time reading the full GCM text, available here courtesy of the UN. Well, it’s not what the mainstream media are trying to sell.

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The Chuck Wendig Case

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The news about Chuck Wendig and the end of his work relationship with Marvel have been making the rounds in the social media in the last few days; if you don’t know what’s going on, then please refer here for the public statement by Wendig. By now, I haven’t found any statement available online about this matter from Marvel.

In a nutshell, Marvel decided to fire Wendig for reasons unrelated to his projects and without any prior litigation between the firm and the author. According to Wendig, that happened for his political activism on the social media. It looks like that Marvel evaluated all the adverse reactions about this activism as a serious marketing problem for its products and acted by consequence.

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Now and then – Forensic Sciences

Compare modern-day forensic techniques with was in use in the Jack The Ripper years (1888-1891) may seem absurd, at the limit of parodistic.  Even for those who are less than competent about this matter, the technological comparison is totally unequal. 130 years of progress are a lot, but it would be profoundly wrong to assimilate the late nineteenth century to a kind of stone age, where the criminal investigation took place only based on the intuition of the investigators and the testimonies. Similarly, it would be wrong to think that current technology is the necessary and sufficient condition to solve any crime, including serial killings. Just read a newspaper to realize it.

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J.D. Moyer – The Sky Woman

Author: J.D. Moyer

Title: The Sky Woman

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

[Advance reader copy, due to be published on September 6th, 2018]

 

Synopsis: Car-En, a ringstation anthropologist on her first Earth filed assignment, observes a Viking-like village in the Hartz mountains. As Car-En secretly watches the Happdal villagers, she begins to see them as more than research subjects (especially Esper, a handsome bow-hunter). When Esper’s sister is taken by an otherwordly sworld-wielding white-haired man, she can no longer stand by as a passive witness. Knowing the decision might end her career, she cuts off all communication with her advisor and pursues the abductor into the dark dangers of the mountains below.

Review: 

Imagine a new world. Our planet came back to its wild state, the damages of the antrophocene almost undone. A score of well-maintained ringstations are all that’s left of our bold civilization and, on Earth, a few pockets of our descendants make a living in a pre-industrial culture much alike of their Viking ancestors. It’s a dream for any anthropologist to observe on the field one of these villages, hidden by magic-like technologies.

All around them, the memories from a long-gone past. Our civilization, the Builders, left ruins and strange things and more subtle memories of centuries of high-level progress. This is a post-human world, where a good sword and a swarm of insect-like drones may coexsist. But it’s also a very human place, where the love of a woman may move mountains and change the course of the future.

J.D. Moyer spares nothing in this story in his efforts to give us a fast-paced novel, where even the necessary bits of backstory are delivered smoothly until every piece clicks into its place. This book is the first I read from this author and has convinced me to keep in mind his name for the future. Read his interview at the end of the book, the guy got the right stuff.

The pros of this book are many, but the first place award goes to the worldbuilding. This version of our future, the differences between a pre-industrial society and off-world culture are fuel for many things to come (guess what, a second novel in the same scenario is on the way). The whole set of characters works fine, even for the more borderline, and the plot runs fast. I was more than a bit wary about the romance, but it works just fine.

The cons of this book are small stuff, details that are a bit cranky here and there. No spoilers here, but there is a fantasy element that entirely doesn’t work, and a couple of the minor decision made by Car-El looks more than a bit abrupt, not quite in line with the general profile of the character.

Where to find it: Flame Tree Pressamazon.com

Vote: 08,00 / 10,00.

Dear Left-wing Leaders, we need to talk

Dear Leaders,

We really need to talk for a moment. You see, I’m just a common man but it looks like that I’m more in contact with reality than any of you. I’m also willing to confess that I do not support any of your kind, that after many years of voting and a few stints as a local representative.

Maybe I’m wrong, or naive, or both. I remember that left-wing parties were used to work for the better of our nation, that their leaders were ready and willing to discuss their strategies and accept some input from the lower ranks. I also remember that the voices of dissent were tolerated and often respected. Being in a left-wing party was something that makes you feel like you were apart of something bigger, a positive force in the society.

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