Accidental Gods – Andrew Busey

Yes, Accidental, it’s always that way, isn’t it, you suddenly become an omnipotent being and you have control over life and death, and it’s always an accident that makes it happen, right?  Well, in this case, it’s the inadvertent result of an experiment that went far better than the experimenters ever hoped.  Sort of.

In this novel, the scientists from Texas University decide that it’s about time to see if they can properly model the universe, and perhaps recreate in in a simulation.  Doing this is not necessarily a bad thing, but who knows what could come of it, what information about the origin of the species, the origin of galaxies and solar systems, perhaps even the origin of the origin itself.

Andrew Busey writes a novel that brings us a different view of the universe, and how it might have come about.  I know the old “Science experiment” view of the beginning of life as we know it is a fairly popular idea among many, it’s always been one of my favorites.  Imagine if you would, a select group of scientists decide that they might just be able to re-create the universe, albeit, in a simulation, just what do you think would happen?  What could we possibly learn?

It turns our we could learn an awful lot, like it just may be that our own universe is a simulation/creation too.  It’s a very good story, and shows you just what sort of impact having absolute power could possibly have on a regular everyday person, suddenly those life and death decisions become very personal, and change the way you think about your creations, and yourself, and may cost you your very soul.

Brain Web

Author Douglas E. Richards writes a compelling tale about the advent of new technology and how it affects us.  The main character in the story, Nick Hall, is one of the only people in the world who has been implanted with “Brain Web” technology.  What this does, is allows him instant, virtual access to the web, simply by thinking about it.  Technology can be a tricky thing, and reaching this type of success has it’s costs, in this case, a boatload of people are kidnapped by an unscrupulous tech mogul, simply so he can best test how to implant this technology into their brains.

Being a test subject is one thing, but being a test subject against your will, while they try to implant something into your brain, well that’s something else.  Sadly, there are few survivors of the attempts, but Nick is luck enough to have survived the ordeal, with his kidnappers being taken into custody.

The side benefit, in the case of Nick at least, is now an ability to read people’s minds perfectly, which comes in handy when he’s called in to interrogate a terror suspect that is part of a plot to carry out unspeakable crimes on American soil.  The good news is that he succeeds in stopping the terrorists, the bad news is that the amazing Hugh Jackman is killed in the process.

But it’s not just a case of bad guy be gone, it gets a little more complicated than that, the technology is a game changer, and could be quite dangerous if it got into the wrong hands and suddenly a lot of bad guys had Brain Web and the ability to read minds.  The government has to do something, and the bad guys want it in a bad way.  Plus there’s the love interest, who feels that this technology may be taking her partner away from her.  The ability to easily slip into “net mode” while appearing to be listening can be very tempting.  If you don’t really want to hear what is being said, you can slip away into the net and forget.  So maybe this is a novel about the perils of technology, and how we are being affected by it.  Is technology changing the way we see others, definitely, is it in a good way, not always.

The Hauntings of Playing God.

Chris Dietzel may have written one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read in a long time. In his view of the future, it’s not with a bang, or Zombie infestation that the world ends, but something roughly akin to severe catatonia, for lack of a better word.

In the future, babies are born that have no reaction to the world around them, but still continue to grow and survive well into adulthood. Not just some babies, but all babies, in what he terms the Great De-evolution. Humanity just suddenly stops.

Well, not entirely, more like the next generation never happens, the current generation of Walking, Talking, Earning and Learning individuals find that they now have to find a way to take care and find a cure for the “Blocks” which is what he terms the catatonia-like immobile zombies of his future world.

The story is told from the point of view of an elderly lady who was one of the last “living” individuals left on the earth. She, along with a few other “caretakers” around the world, are left to care for the blocks while the rest of the world slowly winds down. It is her exploration of self, and her memories, and her actions that brings us to perhaps question the way we live, and the actions we take. Would we do the same things as Morgan? Would we be able to remember the good times and places we visited in the past, when the rest of the world was coming to it’s close? Would we be able to hold on to those memories as we deal with the passing of other co-caretakers. Leaving us with more and more blocks to take care of, we would have to make the same decisions as Morgan on how to best work to ensure the best possible care.

Morgan makes life and death decisions for her charges, she decides how to care for them, all the while knowing that when she’s gone, there will be no one left for them. The cure was never found, she is alone. How do you behave when there is no one left to judge you, except for yourself? How do you face the impossible unknown when you no longer have anyone to confide in, and to help you understand your role in the world, and what comes next.

Morgan never does find out what the next world holds, but she does do a lot of soul searching, coping with the choices she has made, and letting us all wonder how our behaviour, even if unwitnessed by others, determines our future. Are we always as moral as we would like to be, perhaps we are a little more selfish than we thought, but maybe, just maybe, we’ve done enough for others to enable us to sleep peacefully at night.

Good and Free?

Remember when I said that you can get free books from Amazon through Bookbub or Pixel of Ink? Remember when I said that you could get good books even? I wasn’t lying, I’m superbly impressed by the fantasy novel “The White Tree” by Edward W. Robertson!

“The White Tree” is the first novel in a trilogy called “The Cycle of Arawn” and is about a youth who sees a miracle that changes his life path. Upon seeing a priest revive a dead dog, he becomes fascinated by the how, and moves to learn all he can about the “nether.” But this is only a small part of the story, as Dante soon learns, the priests and members of the “cult of Arawn” have been banned and have had their temples burned our and members killed in at least three scourings.

One of the gods betrayed another, and it is this betrayed god that has been banned from the physical realm, but with Dante’s help, Arawn may yet regain their place.

The first book focuses on Dante and his attempt to learn all he can about the Cycle of Arawn and how he can manipulate the mystical “nether”. It’s a classic fantasy tale about how one person can learn to be more than they once were, find friends along way they can depend on, and find a way to rise against overwhelming odds.

Dante starts by finding more about how this priest was able to use a nebulous black nether to revive that poor dog, and stumbles upon an abandoned temple guarded by more than one swordsman. Being able to defeat that guardsman and find his way into a vault which contains the Cycle of Arawn. Stealing this precious artifact, he learns all he can, but as he’s hunted down, he finds a protector in a similarly aged swordsman named Blays, and it is their attempt to protect the book, and each other that is the focus of the story. The other major story is of a priestess who wants to restore Arawn at any cost, and another who opposes her rush to get his done, believing a more subtle approach is necessary. In the end Dante and Blays are recruited to help, and at the end, when things seem that they may go one way, they go another, to a satisfying conclusion.

The second book is called “The Great Rift” which initially starts with a bit of political intrigue, as one group tries to help another achieve independence from the regional governor/king. I’ve only gotten a little way into the story, so I”ll write more as we go along. The second book is not a free book, but it is definitely worth the 5$ or so I paid for it. As I’m sure will be the third and final book of the trilogy.

And a reminder, for free books for your kindle or other electronic device, take a look at Pixel of Ink, or BookBub. As always Amazon has a top 100 list you can find Here and a top 100 free list here.

Strange Cases

I never had the opportunity to read the “Strange Cased of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, so was encouraged when I noticed that the book was available for free on Amazon. I consider myself a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson ever since I first saw the movie Treasure Island, and read the book. I’ve since had a number of opportunities to read other works of his, and I’ve never been disappointed.

I have to admit that considering Jekyll and Hyde wasn’t exactly a no-brainer for me, I had heard so many different takes on the character over the years, with probably more than one done by Disney in one animated form or another. And often the “refreshed” versions of classic tales leave a great deal to the imagination.

Most tales I’ve heard or seen about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde revolve around the story of the man and his attempt to release his hidden side, the one we all keep carefully tucked away behind a mask that we’ve put on with the help of society. Whether you care to admit it or not, you are not wholly what you present to the outside world, you are a creature molded by your family, your friends and even strangers, who make silent comment by the way they look at your person.

It’s not entirely a bad thing, to be concealed by a well worn mask, something that allows us interact and be acceptable in society, it is often those who don’t wear a mask, and are too obvious about their wants and desires and too easily swayed by their inner selves, who find themselves either at the mercy of the law, or in hospitals awaiting evaluation by a psychologist.

In the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, Jekyll finds himself fascinated by this mask, and seeks a way to allow his baser emotions to be revealed. But I get ahead of myself.

The story is really about Mr. Utterson, the lawyer to Dr. Jekyll, and how he comes to know about Dr. Jekyll and his nemesis Mr. Hyde. You see, Mr. Utterson slowly learns of Mr. Hyde when he is on a stroll with his distant cousin and is told about an incident where a “little man” ran into a little girl, and trampled her body on the sidewalk, then proceeded down the lane and entered a nearby house. Remember, this is set in 19th century London, the girl wasn’t run down by a car, but by the plodding feet of the little man as they bumped into each other, and the little man must have stepped on her as he continued onward. Whether he stepped on her in haste, or perhaps pounced in some way isn’t exactly clear, but it seems that the little man hurt the girl significantly enough to cause the family to seek reparations, which is given to them in the way of a cheque made out on Dr. Jekyll’s account.

Needless to say the “little man” was none other than Mr. Hyde. And this is how Mr. Utterson comes to know of Hyde, and slowly comes to realize that this Hyde person is in face a contemporary of his good friend Dr. Jekyll, for whom he has recently drawn up a will, in which this Mr. Hyde is named as benefactor.

So Mr Utterson becomes involved in finding out how Dr. Jekyll could associate with such a person, and later when a murder is committed by the same person, he is really having misgivings about the will which names Mr. Hyde as a benefactor. He becomes quite the researcher and it’s really a tale of his discovery, but ends with the truth being outed by Dr. Jekyll himself, in his own handwriting, which is given to Mr. Utterson, and which is used to close the story.

Definitely different than I had imagined it, and all due to the “translation effect.” That is, the effect of the story being retold and renewed both on the big screen and the small, until you really don’t know what the true story is. The same thing happens every day, just go ahead, play a game of Telephone with 5 of more people, and tell me how the phrase changes at the end.

A gap in time

When reading books, there is often a space of time where you find yourself other than when you started, that is, you’ve escaped to a different world or realm, when reading “Awakened” by Jason Tesar, you not only find yourself in a different world, but in 2 different worlds!

Awakened is the tale of a chosen one who can bridge the worlds and perhaps bring them back together, or at least prevent the bad guys from making too much of a mess. Awakened is a series of books, and the latest one, “Hidden From Men” finally reunites father in son in a strange land. Well, strange to them anyway, for you and I, it’s home.

I downloaded the first book in the series in April of 2012, and have been keeping an eye out for each sequel. I’m one of those buy a bunch, read a bunch type of readers, and if something is particularly good, I’ll try to get a few similar stories all together. For instance, I waited a bit before picking up #4 & 5 of this series so the pleasure of reading them would last just a little bit longer. They definitely are “series” books, and can be a little difficult to read from the middle. Although I do have ot say that the fourth book, “Seeds of Corruption” seems to be able to do a pretty good job of standing on it’s own.

It was book 5, “Hidden from Men” that started giving a synopsis of the previous books, which makes it easier to get into the story. I heartily recommend the series, and you can still get the first one “Awakened His Eyes” for free. But trust me, when you start, you won’t be able to stop. A fair bit of mysticism, some spy action, and a fair bit of adventure awaits. It’s funny, the books seem to have evolved from primitive to modern, but that’s mostly because the worlds are not all equal. Our world is far more advanced that Kael’s world,and who know’s what advancements may be present elsewhere?

The books talk of the Earth being split between 3 worlds, with there being an elevated plane as well. The story starts on a world that might be best described as stuck in the middle ages with fortified cities and towns, although there are some areas that are more advanced thanks to a controlling power, one of 9 beings who sought to create worlds for themselves to rule as gods. Seeing a that went wrong, and only 3 worlds were created, there is some amount of conflict, and it is up to the Awakened to put things right. Whether he will eventually “merge” the three worlds, we don’t know yet, but I’ve a feeling that won’t happen, but perhaps we’ll get a chance to visit between worlds on our summer vacations.

So far we’ve seen the world of Kael, and our present day earth, but we’ve not yet traveled to the third world, so perhaps that’s still to come. Or perhaps that world will remain sealed off for all eternity. There’s really only one way to find out, keep reading.

The Tournament Trilogy

B.B. Griffith may have been inspired by the games of the coliseum when he wrote this trilogy, or perhaps medieval games, like jousting. The Tournament itself is a secret game for multi-millionaires/billionaires to gamble their vast fortunes, make business deals, and recently, to settle political disputes. It seems to be a game for the 1%, where they can enjoy a little high stakes gambling, without having to leave the comforts of their own mansions. Yes, it’s online, but through secure channels.

The story, though, is really about the players, some who are rough criminals, and some who are just in the right place to make the cut. The players are modern day gunslingers, without the blood and guts. Using a specially crafted bullet called a diode, they can shoot each other, suffer the pain of getting hit by a bullet, without dying. The players hit will eventually go into a coma, from which the Tournament doctors can revive them.

The first novel introduces us to the game, and the idea that the diode is not as safe as they claim, with one of the lead designers dying after getting hit by a diode. This results in an investigation that threatens to reveal the truth of the Tournament to the public.

Well written action scenes put you in the middle of the actions, whether you find yourself in the middle of a lunatic spraying “diodes” all around a nightclub, or cool hands using surgical precision to take out their targets. The novels follow the 8 teams as they try to win the latest round of the tournament, the investigation of the death of the scientist who helped develop the diode, which threatens to expose the Tournament, as well as conflict from within some of the teams.

The three novels include murder, mayhem, and misguided attempts to change and control the tournament. The action is well paced, and the intrigue is, well, intriguing! I loved the books, I love the way the players work together and against each other, how the teams collide in some very interesting locations.

If I were to have to mention one drawback, it’s that the three books really have to be read together, reading one without the other may find you missing key information, and stopping in the middle will leave you missing a proper resolution. It’s not one of those series where each story is integral to itself, they are related too much to each other. Which is probably a plus for the author, the first book was a freebie, and was so good I had to purchase the next two, and it was well worth it!

Noble Intentions

With all good books, come a few not so good ones, and sometimes it’s just a change in focus that can be appreciated by some, but not by all.  A little while ago I mentioned that I had started reading “Noble Beginnings” and was eager to write a commentary on it.  It turned out to be a very good book, written by L.T. Ryan, and I immediately started looking forward to the next book in the series, “A Deadly Distance.”  Sadly, I was disappointed by the way it started, and couldn’t get much further than the first couple of chapters.  So I’ve put it aside, for now, and will return to it at a later date.

Truth be told, there are a few books that I’ve had to do this.  And those that have been sitting aside, were eventually read with a fresh outlook, and generally really enjoyed.  So I’m still hopeful for “A Deadly Distance”

But really, let’s get to the one that started it all, and was, in my mind, a really good book, and really well written, “Noble Beginnings”.  This is obviously the start of something, and the main character, Jack Noble, turns from a life in military intelligence.  Well, this book actually focuses on his last (maybe first?) foray in Iraq, and what happens to turn him out of the military.  He’s put in a bad position of having to defend himself for something he hadn’t done, get’s framed for murder and assorted crimes, and is put on the run from the law.  Noble or not, he’s in a lot of trouble, and has to work his way out, and find out what hands are holding the strings on the puppets that are after him.

It’s quite the chase, from Iraq, to America, and from North Carolina to Washington DC, and seemingly all over the east coast.  His quest, with his partner Bear, to prove their innocence and find those responsible takes many turns that would exhaust just about anyone.  And it was a book that proved difficult to stop reading, late nights turned into very early mornings while I read the book, and had me finishing it in record time.  It also left me quite sleepy after it all!

Next, as you know, I read “A Dance with Dragons” which I enjoyed and twisted my insides a bit for my favorite characters.  I also read the classic “War of the Worlds” by H. G. Wells, nothing more need be written about this, as everything that can be said has already been said, a true masterpiece, too bad the recent movie didn’t quite bring it to life with the same feel as the original book.

Also, over my winter vacation, I read a few other books, and just finished a series by B.B. Griffith called the Tournament.  More on these over the next few days.

**Something new!

Over the next little while I will be opening a new section of the blog for original writings by yours truly, short pieces that come to me in my sleep, or somesuch.  Look for the “Writings” tab for these.

You know nothing Ray Dube

I finally got my hands on the latest “a Song of Ice and Fire” novels by George R.R. Martin, and needless to say, I was not disappointed.  This epic tale of life and war in the 7 kingdoms and beyond turned another corner, and did unspeakable things to the readers.  Yes, things happened that I didn’t want to have happen, and things happened that I was glad to see happen.  With a penchant for killing off key players, it comes as no surprise that someone you may have been rooting for gets his head removed, poor Ned Stark was the first to be offed by Martin, but he was far from the last.

Those who have been reading the books are not surprised when these events happen on the television series by HBO, but those only watching the show are quite amusing to watch as things go south for their favorite characters.  Truth be told, I’m much better braced for this inevitable fact than some of those around me.  Sadly, another one of my favorites met with their end…  Or maybe not, George Martin has a way of fooling you at times with what might or might not happen, it happened to me at least once over the span of 5 novels, so I’ll hold on to a slim thread of hope.

I’m one of those who tends to accumulate a series, and tries to keep the books in a similar familiar format, in this case, I originally purchased the 4 book collection in paperback, and waited patiently for the 5th to come out in paperback as well.  In doing so, I found myself at times removing myself from conversations that discussed the latest hardback release of the book.  Not a horrible thing, but I’ve also come to realize the paperback versions of the books are too damned big!  They are epic novels of a thousand pages that cover a whole heckuva lot of ground.  But they’re hard to hold in hand without breaking the spine, something I abhor.  So I’m thinking of ridding myself of these paperbacks and moving to something a little easier to read.  Hardback is an option, and they generally last longer anyway, but when it comes to massive novels, I’ve started to lean towards electronic copies.  And a great thing about electronic copies is that you don’t even have to go to the store to get them! 🙂

But back to the book, it was fantastic, it pulled me in so deep once again, and revived one character I was sure was dead, and killed one character I was sure was going to last it out to the end.  But again, what once was dead, may prove to be more robust than one thought.  In the case of those north of the wall, the coming back can prove to be much more devastating than anything else.

There’s a lot left to happen, though, and you see that by the end of the book and the interesting way Martin leaves clues as to what may happen next.  There are still a few characters from earlier that haven’t been heard from for a while, and I’m sure they’ll be making a big comeback in the Winds of Winter, due out, well, who knows when.  I’ll be waiting, after all, Winter is Coming.

Eight days a week

As you’ve heard, I like to read a lot, and I read just about all kinds of books.  I have a bad habit of reading long into the night, and am quite tempted during the day to break for a bit of reading.  You could almost say I read eight days a week.  I can’t, it’s impossible, but it can feel that way sometimes, especially when you’ve read late into the night and are zombie like the next day.  Time seems to drag, and the day seems longer, which may make for a long week.

Last time we met, I had mentioned that I had finished reading “Bad Radio” by Michael Langlois.  Funny thing language, it tends to define how you read other’s names, when I first looked a the book, I read Michel Langlois, a good French Canadian name, but then I looked at it again, and saw that Michel was indeed Michael, and he appears to be an English bloke from the US.  Reminds me to go back to that thought of not speed reading, you assume too much.

Bad Radio was one of those books where the blurb you read about it doesn’t tell you very much, and the cover image even less.  I’m not sure what I expected when i decided on this book, but I sure wasn’t disappointed.  It’s a supernatural thriller, but not in the way of the ones you’ve heard of lately, it’s not a case of vampires, or werewolves.  This is a supernatural thriller of eternal youth brought on by aliens.  So, a sci-fi/fantasy book with evil monsters from outer space.

And it’s a good one.  Abe is the main character given eternal youth during the second world war, although it’s not clear if he’s truly eternal, or maybe just having a very slow aging process.  After the war, he continues to live with his wife, has no children, and tries to keep himself removed from society, lest his secret be revealed.  Having outlived his wife, he’s on the verge of ending it all before he outlives everyone.  Then history comes back to haunt him, and he’s forced to face those same demons he once faced during the war, to finally bring an end to the creature that escaped him then.

Its one of those books you wonder at, what else could this author come out with, and when can I get my hands on it.  Soon, very soon indeed.

But I also read a different sort of book, one called “Final Arrangements” and I have to admit it was a spur of the moment thing to pick it up, and it was picked up because I needed something out of the ordinary to read.  For someone who reads a lot, it can be easy to find yourself in a rut, reading the same types of books all the time, so you have to occasionally look for something different.  Final Arrangements by Donna Huston Murray definitely fits into that category for me.

The book starts off quite slowly, though it is a murder mystery, you don’t really get enough of a glimpse into the victim.  You hardly get to know anything about her, other than she bullies the protagonist for the few pages she is present for, and then she is killed.  Another issue is the general pace of the book.  It seems to plod for almost half of the book before anything really happens.  It’s slower than I’m accustomed to when reading mystery novels, but I suppose that’s not a reason not to like a book.  Except it almost caused me to put it down.

In the long run, I’m glad I held out and continued reading.  The characters may have not been fully developed, but their situations proved to be believable and involved.  These things could happen to anyone, and felt real, so I found myself rooting for them in spite of myself.  I wouldn’t call it an amazing book, but it was definitely a good read.  I do have one big problem though, any good mystery will lead you on with some misdirection, until finally revealing the truth, but this one leave out bits and pieces that would have made it better, and possible, for the reader to solve the mystery.

I’ll be back again in a little while when I finish reading “Noble Beginnings” by LT Ryan.  It’s a cia/military mystery thriller, and so far, I’m enjoying the twists and turns.