Readers Will Identify With Van Rompaey’s Ascension

imageAscension
The Oasis Series
Author: Jeannie Van Rompaey
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing (April 2016)
Pages: 312
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
Twitter: @JRompaey
Website: JeannieVanRompaey.com

I’ve always has an affinity for mutants and Greek mythology. Well, pretty much any mythology, be it Greek, Roman, Finnish, Native American, you name it. Imagine my delight in reading Ascension by Jeannie Van Rompaey which combined the two. I received an advance copy of this novel in-exchange for a fair and honest review.

Without spoiling much of the novel, I’ll attempt a synopsis:  At some point in the near future, the Earth’s environment has been destroyed through a combination of environmental neglect, war and scientific meddling into genetics (of plants and humans). The result is a fairly medium-sized population of mutants living in sheltered domes, protected from the harsh environment. These mutants are not your ordinary super hero variety; they have two heads, four eyes, wings, multiple arms, etc. Their character traits are based loosely on mythological beings (Mercury, Heracles, Siti, etc.) and they spend much of their time performing mindless tasks of preserving the culture of Past Earth.  Through a series of events the mutants in one sector  learn that non-mutant humans, or Completes, are living in a utopian society on satellites that orbit the Earth. Our adventure continues from there.

Told in short, engaging narratives from the viewpoint of several main characters, Van Rompaey did a great job of keeping me interested in their development as she moved the plot along at a fairly quick pace. A definite plus is van Rompaey’s richly drawn characters and the believable dialogue between them.   One challenge I did have was the lack of real threat for our main characters. Yes they have all lost something in either the past or the present, but as the conflict picked up, some of the resolution seemed glossed over only to move on to the next part of the story. I never really sensed any “danger”. At times it felt I was reading parts of several novels, each based in the same “universe”.  Ascension is a part of an ongoing series of novels, which may be why this feels the way it does.

Who we are and how we think of ourselves is a prevalent theme in the novel. In a world filled only with mutants, the three-eyed-three-legged man is a sex symbol, right? How comfortable we are in our own skin defines who we are. What happens when we find out we can change? Van Rompaey deftly navigates these questions and conflicts and creates a relatable morality tale.

As the plot progresses, Ascension seemed more like a novel that put a twist on office politics and social interaction than about identity. It definitely finds its own footing, turning managerial shake-ups, an office sexual affairs, quotas and competition between other offices into excruciating yet hypnotically funny rituals of humiliation. Readers who have spent any amount of time in an office setting will identify with our crew of colorful characters. Some situations may seem utterly implausible (even in a post-apocalyptic world filled with mutants) but its easy to overlook after investing in each of our characters.

This is a fun read; it evokes a subtle satire of the everyday workplace but its appeal is far broader. Readers will find something to enjoy in this very human tale of being comfortable in your own skin.

Van Rompaey tells an astonishing good tale, mixing up pop culture references and diverse myths into a tale you will identify with.  There are enough plot twists  to keep you surprised. Definitely worth picking up.

3-1/2 Stars out of Five for Ascension by Jeannie Van Rompaey

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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.

Spotlight on Astounding Authors

Welcome to another week of Astounding Authors. We are spotlighting four novels this week that I’m sure you will enjoy. This week, please share us on your Facebook or Twitter streams. It only takes a moment to click the share button. This not only helps us, but it helps spread the word about out Amazing! Astounding! Authors!

imageBucky Ball
Author: Fabian Roy
Publisher: Amazon Digital (Jan. 2016)
Pages: 168
Genre: Science Fiction
Twitter: @lokisarrow
Facebook:  Lokisarrow
Website: LokisArrow

James Pesola tells the story of how one night of partying in South Beach with his best friend changed his life forever. Listening to a specific song always transports him back to the same time and place which happens to be the Miamillennium nightclub in Miami. These flashback moments are called lifeturns, and James claims to have lived over one hundred and seventy-one of them, some lasting between 13 and 26 years.

Download what some are calling a “Fun” and “Imaginative” read today! CLICK HERE for Bucky Ball by Fabian Roy.

imageThe Sabbath
Authors: Arthur Nsenga & Shaunakay Francis
Publisher: Say La V. Publishing (Jan. 2016)
Pages: 197
Genre: Science Fiction / Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic
Twitter: @artDaGreat
Facebook: Nsenga-Arthur
Website: Arthurnsenga.com

Would you rather suffer for eternity, or die peacefully?

What if you had no choice?

The morning after witnessing a spectacular meteorite shower, Cory and his girlfriend Lana didn’t expect to wake up immortal.

News bulletins claim the meteorites have released a chemical compound called ATHENS which has caused mutations in the human race. The twisted outcome has left people unable to die but with an increased sensitivity to pain.

Now with the majority of food supplies contaminated, and the rich controlling what little is left, the desperate young couple are force to go on merciless food raids just to stave off the pain.

During which they accidentally discover a secret government device and find themselves caught up in a diabolical plot to control the future of humanity.

Realizing that there is more to ATHENS than what they were led to believe; Cory and Lana set out on a crusade to uncover the truth. Their journey will lead them into the darkest depths of humanity. If they can follow the trail, they may be able to find some answers.

But will the cost of knowing the truth be too much? Find out by CLICKING HERE and ordering your copy of The Sabbath by Arthur Nsenga & Shaunakay Francis!

imageLeaves of the World Tree
Author: Adam Misner
Publisher: Adam Misner (Dec. 2015)
Pages:  108
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Website: Adammisner.com
Goodreads: Leaves of the World Tree

Leaves of The World Tree is a 108 page short story collection.

Each one is meant to give you a window to a soul. To introduce you to motivations of a person unlike yourself. The stories follow a Viking cursed with being average amongst a group of extraordinary warriors; a man who has never slept who experiences both the productivity and loneliness of his gift; an evil pirate that wants to save the girl; a necromancer who wants to be a romantic; a shapeshifter who wants to find a friend to reveal his secret to; and finally a knight who has always been ordered to do good and wants to choose for himself to be a good man.

Get started on the Leaves of The World Tree today by downloading your copy.  CLICK HERE!

imageNightfall
Author: Moshe Ben-Or
Publisher: Amazon Digital (Jan 2016)
Pages: 363
Genre: Hard Science Fiction
Facebook: Moshe-Ben-Or
Goodreads: Nightfall

There will be war!

Leo Freeman is a bored young aristocrat who flies fighter jets in peacetime, but will never be allowed to fly them in combat. All he wants is a bit of adventure.

Yosi Weismann is a scarred war hero who has seen enough “adventure” to last six lifetimes. All he wants is a little peace and quiet for a change.

Isabella van der Rijn is a ruthless tyrant perched unsteadily atop a seething pyramid of venal nobles. All she wants is power, at any price.

Patricia Sleager is the socialite daughter of an up-jumped ne’er-do-well whose fortune and prospects are rapidly fading. All she wants is to keep up her social status, no matter what she has to do.

Miri Legraf is an ordinary schoolgirl. All she wants is to pass the next midterm, and fit in with her friends.

But the universe does not care what they want. It does not care what anyone wants. When alien monsters from beyond the stars come barreling into Known Space with a war fleet larger than anything anyone has seen in six centuries, all well-laid plans and all vague dreams will come crashing down. And the only things that matter will be survival and victory. Victory at any price. For without victory, there will be no survival.

What is the price of victory?  Find out now by CLICKING HERE and purchasing Nightfall by Moshe Ben-Or!

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!

Floor 21 Offers Post-Apocalyptic Fun

imageFloor 21
Author: Jason Luthor
Publisher: Amazon Press 2015
Pages 144
Twitter: @jl_TheProfessor
Website: Jasonluthorwriting.com
Facebook: Facebook.com/JasonLuthorWriting

 

I have to say this is one of the best surprises I’ve read this year.

I’m a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic / dystopian story, so it’s no surprise Floor 21 by Jason Luthor hooked me from the start.

Jackie is a curious, independent and headstrong 17 year old female living in one of the top floors of a Tower that is besieged by a black, oozing muscle-like mass that reacts to pain and emotions. Everything below Floor 21 is unlivable. The higher you live, the better the conditions. Jackie lives on Floor 4. No one knows or remembers before the Creep infested their massive tower, or what lies below or beyond. Questions and inquisitiveness is frowned upon by the secretive and reclusive Authority who live on Floor 1. Follow the rules and everything is fine.

Except everything isn’t fine. No one talks about the Creep. Jackie’s parents are acting weird. People disappear; some return acting different after going through Reinforcement. When Jackie begins to ask questions, the answers she seeks might just bring the whole tower down around them.

Jason Luthor crafts a compelling, fast paced, mysterious story that creeps up while you are reading. (See what I did there?) At only 144 pages, it’s a short read that seemed like a prologue to a much larger adventure.

The author uses recordings of monologues made by Jackie as a narrative device to tell her story. Halfway through the novel the recordings switch from Jackie to that of a Commander on a Scavenging team, instructed to go below Floor 21 and look for food, materials and any secrets that may unlock the reason the Creep came to the tower.

Luthor expertly manages the release of information that explains the backstory of the Tower. I like that. New information is introduced in a matter-of-fact way and I never felt at a loss. [(Except for the steaks. Like, seriously…Where do the steaks come from? It’s not Creep Meat is it? Gross!) in my best 17 year old voice]. He also doesn’t give away the farm. There is obviously more to the story and that’s the sign of good world building.

A few nitpicks:

It’s often hard to get a good deep look at the secondary characters of a novel when the narrator is “recording” their actions. These important characters often come across as one dimensional or cardboard-like. Also, I think Luthor had to explain a few times how Jackie was actually recording given what she was doing.

Jackie’s use of modern slang was a bit distracting. The events of the novel are set decades or centuries in the future. Her dialogue just didn’t come across as that of a 17 year old girl; maybe 14 years old. Of course it’s been a while since I was a teenager so who knows.

The ending felt a bit rushed, but the plot wrapped up nicely, paving the way for the next installment in the series. (There will be a next installment right?) It’s certainly not a stand-alone novel.

All-in-all this had the feel of a very good novel in the Young Adult category. NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Personally? I think there are some fantastic YA novels out there today that I wish were around in my time. My point being, while it’s not deep-thought science fiction, it’s light enough to hook the most adamant of sci-fi fans, while appealing to a much broader audience.

I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to read and review this novel and look forward to more stories from Jason Luthor. Floor 21 is a wonderful start to what looks like a promising series.

Discover a new indie author today. Head on over HERE and pick yourself up a copy. At 144 pages, Floor 21 is a quick, enjoyable read that I know you will appreciate.

3 stars out of 5.

(Looking for more independent authors? Check out The Indie View. )

Spotlight On Astounding Authors 2

We are back this week with four more Astounding Authors. While I was not able to review their novel, please give them a look. Then come back here to Astounding Books to let us know what you thought!

Now on to this week’s Astounding Authors!

Jubilee Year: A Novel (Erelong Book #1) by Gerard O’Neill
imageWebsite:   Gerardoneillbooks.com
Facebook:  Gerardoneill.books
Twitter:  @GONeillBooks

What if the world were about to end, but they weren’t going to tell you? Eighteen-year-old Storm lives in a small country town in Australia, next to one of the most famous telescopes in the world. When he falls for Penny, the daughter of the chief scientist at the observatory, he discovers a global conspiracy of silence.
He learns a mini-star system approaches Earth, and the penalty for any scientist who talks about it is death. If Storm and his companions are to survive they must stay out of the way of the government’s security forces, assassination squads working for powerful hidden entities, and the internment camps for dissenters.
Even his special ability is not going to be enough. He must accept help when it’s offered. But others are not who they seem to be and neither is the reality of a world Storm thought he knew.

Click here to purchase Jubilee Year: A Novel (Erelong Book #1)

Wave Mandate by A.C. Schneider
imageWebsite:  acschneider.com
Twitter: @howtofightfor

This is undoubtedly the biggest:

…day of Kelerin’s life: A warrior/scholar from the prestigious all-boys Academy on Osmos, he’ll be facing off against his arch rival in what many are already calling the ‘duel of the year.’
…feeling Analel’s ever had: A telepathic ascetic from the Academy’s all-girls sister seminary, she’s suddenly sharing a psychic connection with the boy Academic, Kelerin, in a way that should not be possible.
…accomplishment of Jonas’ career: The valiant Academic has returned victorious from the Mandate Race, but at what cost, and future consequence?
…opportunity of Bar-Kas’ one-man-war against the Islands: The Second Son of the Mainland has waited long for this moment, to avenge his brother’s blood honor.
…and all of Osmos will never be the same for any of it.

Chick Here to purchase Wave Mandate

A Stalled Ox (1888 novellas) by Dean Moses
imageTwitter: @DeanMoses
Website: 1888.center.com

A Stalled Ox, looks at faith, human consumption, morality, addiction, and the basics of human desires all wrapped up in a neat package of satirically coated horror and suspense. A short synopsis: An isolated religious cult has reportedly been consuming meat while the rest of the planet has been forced to live a life without it. Presuming this sect has resorted to cannibalism, two agents from an organization known simply as The Agency are dispatched to investigate. Will they find evidence of humans eating one another? Or is something even stranger taking place?

Click here to purchase A Stalled Ox (1888 novellas)

Sugar Time by Joy V. Smith
imageWebsite: Joyvsmith.com
Twitter:  @JoyVSmith
Pinterest:  Pinterest.com/joyvsmith/
Facebook: Facebook.com/JoyVSmith

Her name is Sugar. Sugar Sweet. When her Uncle Max falls ill and his collaborators disappear, he asks her to investigate the old Victorian mansion where he conducted his research–inventing a working time machine. Sugar must act quickly to unlock the secret of time travel so she can set things right and dispose of the bodies… She really could use the help of the police who showed up, her time travel techie, and those aliens… Sugar Time collects all four of Joy V. Smith’s Sugar Sweet stories into one volume.

Click here to purchase Sugar Time

That’s it for this 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