Wednesday, March 14, 2018

RECOIL! by Micky Neilson

This was a terrific, fast-paced thriller.

If you liked the first Die Hard movie you'll get an idea of the structure of the story.  There is even a quick reference to the movie.

Jimmy is a young man who has been allowed to work on a new first-person shooter by a friend.  He is allowed to create textures for the game, after hours at the office.  One day he gets engrossed in simply playing the game in its "alpha" phase.  He loses track of time and when he finally stops he discovers that the office is taken over by armed thugs.

What follows is a cat and mouse situation where Jimmy just wants to get out of danger.  But then the circumstances change.

The story was a stand out in the collection.

Micky Neilson's website -

Micky Neilson

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dayfall by Michael David Ares - Book Report #222

This was a terrific read.

I am a big fan of SF mysteries, which can have a wonderful twist on the noir novel.

If you're a bit of a detective fiction fan you'll love the sprinkling of classic PI names used throughout the book. That little tip of the hat made me extremely happy.

I was a little bit apprehensive when I started the book since it used an antagonist that I simply do not like - the crazy serial killer.  There is something about insane characters that I just find so boring.  Give me an antagonist with some real intelligence, passion and a willingness to take calculated actions and you've got a winner with me.

The opening scene establishes our main character and protagonist Detective Jon Phillips as a brash, young and dedicated police officer.  Much like a good Bond movie the book starts with a chase scene and the wrapping up of a case, which sets the tone of the book.

The novel is set in a not-too-distant future, in the years following a nuclear war.  Interestingly, the exchange of missiles did not occur between the US and Russia.  All of this is exposition but I did appreciate the author's touch at allowing other parts of the world to play a part in the story.  Far too much fiction today makes the West, and the US in particular, the center of the universe.  It's just refreshing to expand the world, just a little bit.

Jon Phillips' work in the opening pages gets him noticed and sent to New York city to help in solving the case of the Dayfall Killer.  Dayfall is an environmental event that has had people worried for some years.  After the nuclear war the Earth was subjected to a long period of darkness as the ash made its way into the atmosphere to block out the sun for years.  Now that the cloud cover is predicted to dissipate and the return of direct sunlight is anticipated, there is growing worry that the light may drive the population into a kind of frenzy.  The Dayfall Killer is singled out as an example of what may happen.

Capture the Dayfall Killer in time and you may help to calm the citizens of New York.

Having just seen the movie Blade Runner 2049, I was eager to enjoy more of that kind of story.  I was not disappointed.  It was so much fun to see New York as it coped with a changed environment and how the society changed with it.

The story was very satisfying and believable.  I kept returning to the book every chance I got.  In another nod to the old detective fiction of the paperback era, the page count comes in at 286, making it a fast paced book with no contractual filler.  I am glad that Tor Books took the chance on a short novel like this.  It shows that they are not afraid to publish good stories without the hang up of believing that page count plays such a big part in a book purchase decision.

Oh, and the bad guy?  Not insane.  I loved it.

Highly recommended.

Michael David Ares' website -

Michael David Ares

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dead Men Run by Gregg Taylor - Book Report #221

I have been listening to the Black Jack Justice Podcast for at least ten years and I can't get enough of the adventures of Jack and Trixie.  They are such a great team.  The stories are all self-contained and performed to perfection.

That's why I get a thrill whenever I hear:
Once again, Decoder Ring Theatre presents another page from the casebook of that master of mystery, that sultan of sleuthing, Martin Bracknell’s immortal detective: Black Jack Justice ...
I always know that I will be in good hands and that the dialog will crackle.  Gregg Taylor should be a big, big star.  He should be publishing books and be rolling in a big pile of cash because of it.  This blog is my little way of helping him to live that life.

The novel is structured much like the podcasts, with Jack and Trix taking turns at the narration of the story.  Here Jack is suspected of killing a cop and, instead of explaining the circumstances to the police, runs and hides.  Only a guilty man would run.

But Trixie does not believe it.  Both of them work the case on their own, which brings me to the only complaint I have of the book.  Black Jack and Trixie Dixon are a team; the stories work best when they are together.  Some of that great banter was missing and how they help each other to work a case was also gone.

It was still a very entertaining installment in the cannon.  But now that the podcast is suspended, each book becomes much more important as it just might be the last time I get to spend time Jack and Trix.

Taylor is just as talented a novelist as he is a script writer.  He has those voices so well memorized that reading the book is just like listening to a podcast.

To me the Black Jack Justice series is the pinnacle of what old-time detective fiction should be.  I can't get enough of this.

Absolutely recommended.  Help Gregg Taylor and buy the most expensive version of this book.  Make sure he gets as much money as possible so that he can be convinced to continue writing.

Decoder Ring Theatre -

Gregg Taylor

Monday, February 26, 2018

Moonrise by Ben Bova - Book Report #220

The thing I like about Bova's books are how the exploration and settlement of space are done by private companies.  Governments are usually a hinderance.

Masterson Aerospace is a conglomerate that builds clipper ships, vessels that can launch from earth to orbit and go beyond to the moon.  They also work on nanotechnology, build wall screens and run a moon base.  All of these things take money to run.  Some parts of the business are more profitable than others and some are hindered by world governments.

The novels centers itself on the precarious existence of Moonbase and its uncertain future.  Should the company close it or double down?  The conflict comes from the cold equations of the P&L sheet and the loftier goal of improving the future for humanity.

There are good guys and bad guys and Bova is not scared to kill anybody.  My only complaint, and this spans most of what I've read of his, is that his bad guys tend to be insane in some way.  I would find it much more compelling if the big drama came from a perfectly sane person working for his own interests.  Instead we get a bad guy with mommy issues who should have been in prison in the first part of the book.  Instead Bova keeps him around in a barely plausible way.

I've said this before; Bova comes from the pulp era of SF and I love that about him, it makes the stories super easy to get into.  But it makes his villains so cartoonish that the tension becomes cliché.

But, did the book do its job?  Was it entertaining?  Did I have a good time?  Did it make me wish for a future with spaceflight being as common as air travel?

Yes on all counts.  Which is why I read Bova.  He can still make you think about a future that should have happened if the Apollo program was not abandoned.

And for that reason, I believe he should be read.

If you find it in a second-hand bookstore, it's worth the five bucks to buy it.

Ben Bova

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

All of the People in Your Party Have Died by Robin Wasserman

This story was completely unexpected and touching.

It was much less about a computer game, although there is one, than about trust, and love.

I found myself completely taken by the story and enjoyed it very much.

Robin Wasserman's website -

Robin Wasserman

Monday, February 19, 2018

Street Smart by Samuel L. Schwartz - Book Report #219

This is the kind of real-world stuff a enjoy.

City planning, traffic, pedestrian alternatives, mass transportation ...

These are the kinds of things that Samuel Schwartz dealt with as New York city's First Deputy Commissioner and Chief Engineer from 1986-1990.

He even coined the term Gridlock and is also known as Gridlock Sam.

I found his insights in traffic management completely fascinating and found the book compelling.  It made me look at my own city of Edmonton, Alberta with new eyes.

If there is one lesson proven throughout the book it is that traffic need not flow.  PEOPLE need space to walk and experience the environment outside of an automobile.  It is very good for business.


Samuel L Schwartz

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Past Blogs - February 18 to February 24

What I Read - 2010
Reviewed in 2011
Reviewed in 2011
Reviewed in 2011
Reviewed in 2011
Reviewed in 2013
Reviewed in 2014
Reviewed in 2015
Reviewed in 2015
Reviewed in 2017

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Roguelike by Marc Laidlaw

What at terrific romp!

We all know what it's like to work through a game hundreds of times to get to the end.  This was exactly that.

Here we read the results of many attempts of a first person shooter to save the emperor.  The game is actually a training simulator.

When the end is reached the reward is not what you'd expect.


Marc Laidlaw's website -

Marc Laidlaw

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Past Blogs - Week of February 11 to February 17

Reviewed in 2017

Reviewed in 2016

Reviewed in 2016

Reviewed in 2015

Reviewed in 2014
Reviewed in 2013