This week and next week we’re featuring some fun books for you to read on cold winter nights. This week’s selections are science fiction and fantasy novels while next week’s selections will be thrillers. I hope you’ll find a book or two among these novels that will be as fun for you to read as they were for me.
The first book is If Then by Matthew De Abaitua. This dystopian science fiction novel looks at life in the near future and how one English town decided to survive the collapse of society by using a computer algorithm. I found the premise to be really interesting, especially having worked for internet companies where algo’s came to rule many functions for better or worse. It gave me the shivers to think what would happen if those same kinds of algo’s were literally in charge of people’s lives. I think this story will give you shivers as well.
When society broke down, people everywhere stumbled to try to survive. And that is when the Process was born. The Process seemed to know exactly what to do to ensure the town survived, no matter what. It allocated the town’s resources, providing exactly what it decided each person needed to survive and ensuring in that way that everyone was treated in a logical, equal manner. The town bailiff is in charge of ensuring all of the Process’ orders are carried out. He has been physically altered so he can do so without emotion interfering, no matter how harsh those orders might seem to other townspeople. They all recognize that these things must be done for the town to survive. After all, the Process has kept them alive when many others have died. The Process knows best.
And then one day the Process began recruiting and making soldiers out of certain townspeople. And then it began preparing for war – one specific war – World War I. It has been over 100 years since World War I was actually fought, yet the Process is intent on recreating its Dardanelles campaign. Why? When the bailiff is called upon to also go and fight, he begins to learn things about the Process that he had never known – things that make him realize the Process is not at all the benign entity he and the townspeople had imagined. Can he do what’s needed to protect the town, even from the very entity that’s kept them alive?
Our second book is Hunter, a young adult dystopian fantasy novel by bestselling author Mercedes Lackey. It’s written for middle school readers and up (and adults will enjoy it too). I’ve been a Mercedes Lackey fan for a very long time, but I hadn’t read one of her novels for years. So I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read and possibly review Hunter. It has all of the hallmarks of the best of Mercedes Lackey so, if you’re a fan, I think you’ll really enjoy this one. If you haven’t discovered her work yet then this just might be a great place to start.
The barrier between worlds broke down a long time ago, allowing monsters from the Otherworld to invade this one. They destroyed whole cities and all of the people in them before anyone found a way to keep them at bay. And keeping them at bay is still an iffy proposition. This world’s citizens (Cits) have to live in completely encapsulated cities and don’t dare venture outside of them. Even so, the monsters constantly try to breach the city walls. And that’s where hunters like Joyeaux come in.
Joyeaux grew up in a monastery, learning the skills necessary to fight the monsters and then protecting her mountain village from them. Now she’s been called to Apex City to join an elite force of Hunters who protect the most important people on this world. What she doesn’t realize at first is that her every move is not just recorded but is broadcast for all the Cits to see. She’s appalled when she learns that the Hunters are the most popular entertainment in Apex City. Not only that but they are highly competitive with each other when they should be banding together to keep the monsters at bay.
It soon becomes apparent that the Cits have no idea how precarious their safety is, thinking the whole thing is like some reality TV show. In fact, the monsters are encroaching more and more into the city in a way that doesn’t make sense. Bizarre Hunter accidents begin to erode Joyeaux’ confidence in those in power. How could these things be happening when supposedly everyone is determined to keep the monsters back? Could someone be actually trying to let them in?
Meanwhile everyone’s focus, including the focus of those in power, seems to be more on keeping the Hunter entertainment ratings high than in finding out what’s really going on. With her fame growing, it could be easy to get sucked into the accolades and trappings of celebrity. Can Joyeaux keep her focus on protecting the clueless Cits of Apex City and discover what’s rotten underneath Apex City?
Our third book is The Ark. This is Book #1 of the new Children of a Dead Earth science fiction series by Patrick S. Tomlinson, with illustrations by Larry Rostant. This is outer space science fiction – purely wonderful old school sci fi with a 21st century vibe and a detective story twist. I love that kind of sci fi and don’t read it as often as I’d like, so it was a joy to pick up The Ark. Put a bunch of people in an enclosed space ship and watch all the dynamics play out, because people are people whether they’re on Earth or drifting out in space somewhere. Sound like it might be your kind of read?
Despite everything, the Earth is dying. The hopes of the continuation of its life forms, and civilization, are put onto a humongous multi-generational space ship and launched into outer space. It only seems right that the ship should be affectionately known as The Ark. The hope is that the last of Earth’s inhabitants can find a planet that will support them and that they can rebuild there, using more sense than they had on Earth and working with this new planet instead of exploiting it.
Among the current generation of people inhabiting The Ark is Bryan Benson. He’s become the ship’s biggest sports hero, a major celebrity on board, even though he’s now retired and working as a detective in his ship module, Avalon. He’s now Chief Constable Benson, thank you very much. It’s quite a cushy gig with easy hours, lots of free time, great perks, and good pay. Yep, Bryan has landed on easy street. It also doesn’t hurt that sports fans still think he’s the best there ever was.
But, as with most things in life, nothing stays the same forever and Bryan’s life is about to take an abrupt turn. It all starts when an important scientific crew member disappears. Now how could someone disappear on a space ship, even one as huge as The Ark? As Bryan begins to dig around to find a logical explanation, at first he’s sure the guy will turn up and it will all resolve itself as some big misunderstanding. But what he discovers is something else entirely…a murder.
Why would someone kill some quiet, unassuming, scientist? Bryan doesn’t know but he’s determined to find out. Nobody gets killed on his watch – how embarrassing is that? What he still doesn’t realize is what he’s going to uncover about mankind’s last hope for survival in the process. Could this murder be tied to a conspiracy that puts everything The Ark stands for in jeopardy? Will The Ark even survive? (Well, obviously it does one way or another since this is a series, but you get the point.) FYI: Trident’s Forge, Book #2 in this series, comes out in April 2016.
Can’t wait to read one or all of these books? If Then, Hunter, and The Ark are all available now at your favorite online bookseller below, and some at bargain prices! Just click on the link and download them for some fun reading that will take your mind off of the chilly temps outside.
I’d love to get your comments on these three books, their authors, and/or this review.