Wake the Sleeping Giants for a Fun, Exciting Adventure

imageSleeping Giants
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Publisher: Del Rey (April 2016)
Pages: 320
Genre: SciFi / Techno-thriller
Twitter: @neuvel
Facebook: SylvainNeuvel
Website: Neuvel.net

Imagine you are a young child who happens to fall down a hole in your backyard only to find a giant, metal, glowing hand. A decade or so later you are working on a project that is trying to find and piece together the remaining parts to a large metallic robot that may or may not have been left here by aliens more than 6,000 years ago. Except now, you no longer are looking in your own back yard. The pieces to the robot are scattered across the globe.

Sylvain Neuvel’s thrilling debut novel, Sleeping Giants, is the first book in the Themis Files series. I think the key word here is files. Each chapter is written as either a journal entry or as the transcription of an interview. The interviews are led by a mysterious, unnamed individual who is leading the charge to find and put together the mystery of the giant robot.

The story is told through the perspective of key characters and their reaction to the world changing events they are involved in.

Neuvel has a firm grasp on dialogue, giving each character a distinctive voice and tone. Hardly ever did I find myself feeling that the conversations were repetitive or expository. He mixes intrigue and suspense with wit and humor to create a truly enjoyable literary experience.

The plot is fun, exhilarating and quite enjoyable. It’s fast paced and, while not predictable, makes sense in a global kind of way.

My only complaint is toward the latter half of the novel, some characters are quickly introduced and some plot points happen so fast that they lead you to wonder if they could have been better planned or foreshadowed. The character’s personalities are revealed through their interviews.  These latter events and characters have little time “on page” to leave that much of an imprint on us and seem not as developed as other.  There really isn’t that much time for their (one in particular) motivations to be clear.

Although it’s the first in a series, Sleeping Giants stands alone. The author has written a riveting page-turner, leaving just enough speculation at the end to create a craving for the next novel in the series…which I hope comes soon. I received an advanced review copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Sleeping Giants is scheduled to be published in April 2016 but I read this back in December of 2015. Only now, at the request of the author, am I publishing this review.  I hope the next novel in the series is quickly on the heels of this one.

Sleeping Giants looks to be the start of a very enjoyable science fiction series. I’m looking forward to seeing what Sylvain Neuvel will do next.

3 ½ stars out of 5

CLICK HERE and order your copy of Sleeping Giants.

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What Lies Beneath The Surface’s End? A Good Parable.

imageThe Surface’s End

Author: David Joel Stevenson
Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (November 2, 2015)
Website: davidjoelstevenson.com
Twitter: @geekoffgrid
Facebook: Davidjoelstevenson

Jonah Whitfield lives in a small farming village near the Deathlands, a strange desert in the middle of a lush and green landscape. The inhabitants of his village live a pastoral life, one free of excess, electronics and sloth.  Hard work is valued, family life is cherished and citizens strive for a strong sense of community. But the land holds many secrets.  Rusting mechanical machines litter a nearby junkyard.  Tools and homes are crafted from the remnants of objects  whose original uses are lost to time.  One day, while hunting, Jonah explores the forbidden Deathlands area only to find a passageway to a hidden complex, a series of tunnels filled with glowing lights, working machines…and the voices of other humans.  Here he finds questions that may very shake his view of the world.

Thus begins David Joel Stevenson’s Young Adult (YA) Dystopian novel, The Surface’s End. I have to say this was a welcoming and pleasant surprise, if not a bit formulaic.

The YA and Dystopian novel market is booming, helped in part from the success of The Hunger Games, and the self-published sensation Wool.  It seems we all can’t quite get enough of a futuristic world filled with crushing authority, bleak lives and young protagonists that offer a glimmer of hope for a better future. I know I can’t. I practically thrive on it.

Stevenson turns the tables on the basic dystopian formula by starting off in a quite comfortable place where residents have found a bit peace after what appears to have been a time of violence many generations past. History is forgotten, but not altogether gone. The shells of the former world litter the landscape, raising questions for those brave enough to ask.  Only after Jonah discovers a hidden world do we begin to see a society living in a questionable future, a future filled with laziness, lack of values and systematic separation of classes. A future that looks surprisingly like our own present.

The author did a fine job of building the mystery in the first half of the novel. Unfortunately, the second half fell into the trap of revealing too much information too fast. While I have no doubt Stevenson has more to tell of what lies beneath the Deathlands, revelations seemed to come faster than expected. The fun is in the build-up! I like my dystopian stories dripping with dispair and a protagonist that struggles  with a world that makes little sense.  There is also a not-so-subtle message that Stevenson is trying to convey to the reader – a philosophy of hard work, good values and unquestioning loyalty to family and community.  But here too, the delivery is  a blunt object over the head. Stevenson needs to trust the reader to make their own conclusions to the message he’s sending.

That aside, this was a quick, enjoyable page-turning read. The author provided me with a review copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.  My foray into the world of first time authors and self-published novels from up-and-coming independent writers, continues to be a welcomed experience. Finding a small jewel like this in the stacks of requests is what makes my hobby of book reviewing so enjoyable.

The Surface’s End was engaging, creative and hopping with energy. The author has a clean and tight writing style that is effective and affective.  Readers will eagerly want to learn what comes next. I know I do. But let the mystery build a little slower next time, ok?

Three Stars out of Five. A good, enjoyable novel that you will not be disappointed in reading.

To read The Surface’s End, pick up a copy by CLICKING HERE.  When you are done, head on back here to Astounding Books and let us know what you thought!

Spotlight on Astounding Authors

Welcome to a new year of Astounding Authors. Check out this week’s offerings from exciting and new independent writers. Don’t forget to come back later and tell us how you enjoyed it. Please tell your family and friends about us. Now to this week’s Astounding Authors!

imageMoore Hollow
Author: J.D. Byrne
Publisher: CreateSpace (October 2015)
Pages: 253
Genre: Paranormal/fantasy
Website:  JDByrne.net
Twitter: @JDBAuthor

Ben Potter’s life is a shambles. As a journalist he’s hit rock bottom, writing dreck about monsters and ghouls to make ends meet after a big story blew up in his face. As a son he’s a disappointment, unwilling to follow his father, grandfather, and great grandfather into the family business. As a father, he’s mostly just not there.

Now a new assignment could change all that. All he has to do is go from London to the hills of West Virginia to investigate the strangest of stories his great grandfather told. Did a sleazy politician really raise the dead to try and win an election? And if he did, what happened to the zombies? Could they still exist? Ben needs to find out, to solve the mystery and find a way to get his life back on track.

But finding the answer only presents Ben with a whole new batch of problems. Does he use what he learns to put his life back on track? Or will he be compelled to do the right thing, even if it leaves his life a mess?

The hardest part of a mystery is deciding what to do once you’ve solved it.

Click here to learn more about Moore Hollow.

 

imageBasquiat Bounce
Author: Chris Murphy
Publisher: CJM Publishing 2015
Pages: 227

Acclaimed Abstract artist Sun Yat Pill has just had his most successful Gallery opening. After the exhibition, he goes home and retrieves the painting he has been working on for the last 2 years, his masterpiece, ‘The St. Matthew’. With painting in hand, he takes the subway to the South Bronx. On a deserted ghetto block, he leaves ‘The St. Matthew’ in the backseat of an abandoned, rusted Volkswagen Bug. With his mission accomplished, he returns home and promptly hangs himself, committing suicide.

Where is ‘The St. Matthew’ and why did Pill take his own life? As these questions grow in the media, a Basquiat Bounce begins to creep into play.

The Basquiat Bounce is a novel that highlights the talent and absurdities of the contemporary art world. A business where Terence Koh’s ‘Dialectic’ (A dried turd wrapped in gold foil) or Mark Kostabi (Who has his assistants paint for him) can command hundreds of thousands of dollars and have solo exhibitions around the globe. Through its cast of eccentric characters, The Basquiat Bounce tries to make sense of this industry in an often hilarious and always entertaining fashion.

Click here to purchase Basquiat Bounce by Chris Murphy.

 

imageAlawahea: The Azellian Affairs, Book One
By Sara L. Daigle
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fiction, Fantasy
Book Publisher: Merry Dissonance Press
Pages: 478
Web: SaraDaigle.com
Twitter: @SaraLDaigle
GoodReads:SaraDaigle

Tamara Carrington always felt different. One event in high school left her wondering if maybe she really was a freak, although she’d managed to leave that experience in the past—buried deep in her psyche. With the arrival of the exchange students from the planet of Azelle to her college, Tamara’s long buried memories threaten to erupt. As Tamara’s emotions build and her friendship with the Azellians grows, so does the knowledge of secrets within her own family.

With the deterioration of her mother’s health, Tamara doesn’t know where to turn for answers or solace. What has her family been hiding? Why does she feel inexplicably drawn to the Azellians? What will happen if she unleashes her long-suppressed passion? Will she survive or even recognize herself afterwards? Wanting answers, yet being afraid of what she might find, Tamara wonders if it would be better to remain asleep.

Click here to read.Alawahea: The Azellian Affairs, Book One by Sara Daigle.

That will do it for this week. Be sure to Like the Astounding Books Facebook page so you won’t miss any updates.

Spotlight on Astounding Authors

It’s been a great inaugural year for us here at Astounding Books. Let’s end the year off right with three Astounding Authors who published novels in 2015. As always, please let us know what you thought of their novels. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @AstoundingBooks to find more Astounding Authors in 2016.

 

imageBeyond the Storm
Author: Adam Jones
Publisher: Tea Cosy Publishing (2015)
Pages: 325
Twitter: @adamjoneswrites
Website: AdamJonesWrites.com

Man tries to remember his past while Jude tries to forget hers.

Years after the nuclear holocaust decimated Britain, Man wakes up, naked and alone but for the murdered corpses which surround him. Struggling with amnesia, Man travels the wastes trying to piece together his past.

Across the crumbling remains of the city, Jude flees a depraved fiend, running for her life. Beyond the Storm is a journey of horror and suspense which paints a broken future world and the events that made it that way.

Click here to purchase Beyond the Storm by Adam Jones.

 

imageRibbonworld
Author: Richard Dee
Publisher: Silverwood Books (November 2015)
Pages: 201
Twitter: @Richarddockett1
Website: RichardDeeScifi.co.uk

Miles Goram has a problem. All the down-on-his-luck journalist planned on doing was writing a hotel review and now there’s a body in his bathroom. Far from home on a strange planet, Miles must deal with the fact that somebody wants him dead.

Welcome to Reevis, a planet without days or nights where life is only possible under a vast pressure dome. It is on this airless wasteland that Miles finds himself caught up in a mystery involving a huge interplanetary corporation, a powerful man and his ambitious PA, and a beautiful young heiress who has been missing for years.

Crossing the galaxy in search of answers, Miles begins to uncover a web of deceit that stretches further than anyone could have imagined. With his life becoming at greater and greater risk, he realizes that there is no one he can trust. Will he discover the truth and finally come to terms with his past? And, if he does, will it be enough to save his future.

Click Here to purchase Ribbonworld by Richard Dee.

 

imageStarlight (Book 1 in the Dark Elf War Series)
Author William Stacey
Publisher: Bastard Sword Press (August 2015)
Twitter: @williamstacey2
Website: williamstaceyauthor.com

A secret power. The revival of magic. An ancient evil stirs. When two worlds collide, a new hero will rise.

When an impossibly localized lightning storm hits the surrounding forest, twenty-year-old university dropout Cassie Rogan discovers her supernatural side. After centuries of atrophy, the forces of magic are flowing back into our world, and Cassie can now wield arcane powers. Cassie must quickly master these new abilities to protect mankind because a dark entity secretly watches from the shadows. The Fae Seelie (a.k.a. the Dark Elves)—humanity’s ancient enemy—have returned to settle the score.

Click here to purchase a copy of Starlight by William Stacey.

That will do it for this year. Thank you for supporting all of our Astounding Authors in 2015!

Spotlight On Astounding Authors

Santa left an early present for us.  Check out our recent offering of Astounding Authors! Give them a look and come back later to let us know what you thought. Now, without further ado, this week’s Astounding Authors!

(The Red Dog Conspiracy Vol. 1)
Author: Patricia Loofbourrow
Publisher: Red Dog Press (November 2015)
Pages: 242
The once-beautiful domed neo-Victorian city of Bridges is split between four crime families in an uneasy cease-fire. Social disparity increasing and its steam-driven infrastructure failing, a new faction is on the rise: the Red Dogs.
Jacqueline Spadros has a dream life: a wealthy husband, a powerful family. But her life is not what it seems. Kidnapped from her mother’s brothel and forced to marry, the murder of her best friend Air ten years before haunts her nightmares. She finds moments of freedom in a small-time private eye business, which she hides in fear of her sadistic father-in-law.
Air’s little brother disappears off his back porch and the Red Dogs are framed for it. With the help of a mysterious gentleman investigator hired by the Red Dogs to learn the truth, Jacqui pushes her abilities to their limits in hope of rescuing the child before the kidnapper disposes of him.
Author: Nicholas Conley
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing (October 2015)
Pages: 318
Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away. When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus. Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work. As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?

imageSailor to a Siren
Author: Zoe Sumra
Publisher: Elsewhen Press (2015)
Pages: 272
Twitter: @ZoeSumra
Author Page: Zoe Sumra

When Connor and Logan Cardwain, a gangster’s lieutenants, steal a shipment of high-grade narcotics at their boss’s orders, Connor dreams of diverting the profits and setting up in business for himself.  His plans encounter a hurdle in the form of Éloise Falavière, Logan’s former girlfriend, who has been hired by an interplanetary police force’s vice squad.

Logan wants a family: Éloise wants to stop the drugs shipment from being sent to her home planet: Connor wants to gain independence without angering his boss.  All of their plans are derailed, though, when they discover that the shipment was hiding a much deadlier secret – the prototype of a tiny superweapon powerful enough to destabilise galactic peace.
Crime lords, corrupt officials and interstellar magicians soon begin pursuing them, and Connor, Logan and Éloise realise they have to identify and confront the superweapon’s smuggler in order to survive.  But when one by one their friends begin to betray them, their self-imposed mission transforms from difficult to near-impossible.

 

Don’t forget to comeback later and let us know how you liked the novels from our Astounding Authors! See you next week.

 

 

The Windup Girl Is Sci-Fi At Its Best

imageThe Windup Girl
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Publisher: Night Shade Books (originally published 2009)
Pages: 480
Awards: Hugo and Nebula Award for Best Novel
Author’s Website:Windupstories.com

Paolo Bacigalupi’s Hugo and Nebula award winning debut novel The Windup Girl is an upsetting, dirty and vivid look at the near future of a dystopian world on the brink of extinction.

You can hear the roar of the megodonts; smell the rotting algae; feel the heat of the wind-up girl’s skin; and see the fear and anxiousness in the faces of the Thai people as they live a life under the brutal thumbs of two warring factions: the Environment Ministry and the Trade Ministry. The setting of Thailand is hot, steamy, hungry, threatened by rising seas, overcrowded, angry and ripe for revolution and chaos. This book is not pretty: it’s cruel, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s harsh. The characters are devious, but ultimately pawns for those in power. Social hierarchy is defined, not by wealth, popularity, gender or race – it’s by power and power alone.

When all is said and done, there is one big theme that goes through this book: that of survival. Each element of the book deals with this very issue, from the ultimate survival of the human race in a hostile world, to the immediate survival of several characters who are neck deep in political and economic conspiracy to the various branches of government who want to see their vision of the future for their country to survive the coming turmoil.

What truly stands out for this book is the rich detail and fantastic prose. What Bacugalupi puts together is a superior story, one of the best science fiction novels that I have read in a long time, one that takes the best from well thought out characters, possible economics and science and a complicated story.

And complicated it is. From the very start the reader is thrust into a foreign time and place. Several times I needed to search Google or Wikipedia to see if what I was reading was true or came from the creative mind of Bacigalupi. Being unaccustomed to the culture of Thailand, it was like I was plunged into the middle of Bangkok without a translator, without a tour book and without any money.

Add into the mix being flung into a future (23rd Century) where the Corporate Agriculture giants of the world gene splice seeds and have unwittingly unleased viruses that attack vegetation, often causing their extinction: dying trees, no fresh vegetables, no nightshades, no fruits. Countries like Thailand seal their borders, employ their own gene splicers and create genetically modified seeds in the hopes of combating the viruses. Elsewhere in the world, countries fall and corporate agriculture companies rule, providing the latest in modified (and sterile) seeds to those with deep pockets or seed vaults.

Man’s desire to play god with nature doesn’t stop at food. Stories-high Megodonts, genetically modified elephants, help provide energy in a world where carbon emissions are heavily taxed and banned. Bikes, fans and machines work on kink springs, using energy based on the premise that once something is wound, it releases energy when it unwinds. Animal species, like Cheshire Cats, Attack Dogs, Megodonts.. and human-like people “created” through gene hacking are derogatorily called Wind-ups.

About two thirds of the way through this book I had to reluctantly  return the digital version back to the library and wait about two weeks for it to be available once more. At first I was a little upset, but was then grateful for the respite. You need to take a breather from this book. It allows for a little retrospection and lets you regroup for the ending. You will need it.

When all is said and done, this book will haunt you.

The Windup Girl is what science fiction is all about. I enthusiastically recommend this novel. 5 stars out of 5.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Windup Girl

 

Sharon Cho Weaves a Good Fantasy Yarn with A Slice of Quietude

A Slice of Quietude
Woven Myths Book 1
Sharon Cho
Published – 2015
366 pages

imageA Slice of Quietude is the story of Kat, a guild assassin, as she struggles to transition from her old, solitary life as a ruthless, unquestioning killer to one filled with friends, love and myths come to life.

Along this journey Kat befriends a Bard, a Warrior, and Tristian – the Scarred Woman. Together the four women deal with their often, and quite literally, tortured pasts. They ready themselves to come to terms with their previous lives and embrace what fate and the gods have in store for them. In between, there is The Quietude, a sort of psychic realm, overlaid on reality that helps characters who use it focus. Not all can use the Quietude, those that can co-exist in both realms simultaneously; some better than others.

Sharon Cho has created a very deep, vibrant, mythical world and crammed it into 366 pages, which can be a bit much. Honestly, the first third of the novel is a bit hard to get through. It’s tough. There are a lot of new places, words, names to take in and Cho goes all in. There were times I found myself screaming “Ease up a bit”!

But Patience! Focus. Stick with it and you won’t be disappointed.

Kat’s journey is fascinating and thrilling. She is a strong character and a powerful personality. It’s fun to read a novel where you can’t predict where it will go next. But at times it seemed like events went too fast. For example, Kat is an assassin. Yet it seemed like I never really got to see the true, hardened, killer side of her before she started falling in love with Tristian. On the other hand, Tristian’s story is rich and mysterious. You will quickly lose yourself in her past.  Cho did a great job here introducing us to this skilled hardened fighter, then slowly showing her vulnerable side and mysterious past.

I particularly liked the character of Kinjara, the almost famous (or famous in her own mind) bard. She weaves tall tales around campfires and in taverns. Are the stories Kinjara tells real or simply myths? They are expertly woven into the novel. As the story progresses, the line between myth and reality blurs, not unlike reality and The Quietude. This was a good technique. Cho does a fantastic job of laying clues throughout the novel, gently teasing the appearance of gods, jesters and mystical realms.

Cho has a fine eye for detail….Almost to a fault. She has some beautifully written passages that draw the reader into this world. Unfortunately at other times, she’s a bit verbose in description, whipping you back out. The fight scenes are well choreographed, but overdone. Some of the dialogue is repetitive and clunky. But as the novel moves forward, Cho quickly finds her own slice of quietude and her writing really starts to flow well.

I was pleasantly surprised by the time I finished the novel, even forgetting that this was “Woven Myths #1” and happy there would be more to the story.

A Slice of Quietude has humor, adventure, action, fantasy, comedy and romance. Overall I recommend this book. Sharon Cho is an author to keep an eye on. Get on over to AMAZON by clicking HERE and pick up a copy.

I received a copy of this book from the Author in exchange for a fair and honest review. A big Thank You! to Sharon Cho for the honor of letting me read her novel. I truly enjoyed it and look forward to her next novel.

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5.