Reviews of Free Sci-fi - A

Reviews of free sci-fi with titles beginning with A.

A Guiding Light – Gerard A. Whitfield

** sex = 0, action = 10, prose = 7

A confusing mash-up of zombies, werewolves, bird men and demigods in an all-out, many sided war. Unrelenting violence from beginning to end without a real point. The zombies are much more gruesome and with even less science than those of Abomination. There is no real science in this, just blood, guts and gore. There is no sex at all, and only one female character. There are no positive emotions. The characters are all bit players but the demigod who rules one of the factions and even he is rather shallow.

Of you are looking for action, action and more action with no entangling message this is a good bet. The proofreading isn't great, but it's not bad enough to really hinder the reading. It is definitely not my cup of tea, but it may be yours.

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A Matter of Honor – Ann Wilson

*** sex = 1, action = 7, prose = 9

The galactic Empire, psi powers and non-human sentients looking like cats are all part of this story. These common elements are woven into an entertaining and moving tale of treason, honor and heroism. Non-human species have just recently been added to the Empire and the leaders of the cat-like species believe they should rule the Empire because they have Psi power and humans do not. A young women among the cat like ones remains loyal to the Empire and tries to warn them, thus beginning the plot of the story.

Cat-like beings are popular aliens in Sci-fi, the Kzin of Heinlein, the Kreelan of Micheal R. Hicks' 'In Her Name' series are just a couple examples. Some cats do seem to have an understanding far beyond their station, almost seeming like intelligent aliens on a mission to observe us. In all these stories the creatures are all more human than cat-like, they walk on two legs and in the case of the Kreelans, are human enough to mate with. I can accept it as entertainment, but I still think they are too human-like to be likely in the real universe.

In this case the characters almost notice an attraction between them, otherwise there is no sexualiy in the story at all. The characters are well done for a tale as short as this. The setting makes use of what you are already familiar with about the Empire and adds little detail. There is a fair amount of violence but it is not gory. There may be an effort to make a statement in favor of ESP in this tale, or it may be just used for its entertainment value and familiarity. In any case the story is entertaining and worth reading.

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A Matter of Oaths – Helen S Wright

**** sex = 3, action = 5, prose = 9

In this human space universe novel there are two governments, each headed by one of the two known immortals. The time is 5043, which I think is much more realistic than stories which have a full blown galactic empire in a year beginning with a '2.' I don't beleive the coming dark age will be over by then. In this era the crew pilots starships with mind links to the ship's computers via implanted connections. The 'Spacing Guild' as it is called in this story, or 'gatekeepers' as I call them, is a powerful organization that controls all interstellar transport as in 'Dune.' The fact that the two emperors are 'immortal' (= unaging, not indestructible) is not the point of the story. No mention is made of how they got that way and there are no riots or other unrest among the population because they have it and the common man doesn't.

The ship in the story needs a first officer when the story begins, and the man they interview is known as an 'oath breaker' which is a terrible crime. The story begins with the texts of various oaths as background material, so you know they are important. When their other candidate for the position is murdered, they have little choice but to take the oath breaker as their first officer.

That starts them into a deep and complicated conspiracy involving suppressed memories, both emperors, a plot to take over the Guild and possible alien intervention. It is more about the plots and counterplots than space battle action, but there is some and it is well done. There is no gore or excessive body counts. People have feelings for what they've done.

All the sexuality in the story is male on male homosexuality. It is important to the plot and not pornographic. This is not a universe where hommosexuality is required or even much more common than today's western world.

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A Vessel For Offering – Darren R. Hawkins

***** Sex = 5, action =7, prose = 9

I don’t find it easy to give five stars and this took a lot of thought, but in the end I feel this work deserves it. This is a long, far-ranging story in two parts, with many flashbacks and reminisces. There is an awful lot in here, many twists and turns and many openings of new vistas. It is not obvious at first what the story is really about, who are the good guys and who are the bad. In fact it seems to change from time to time, always growing in scope and power.

This takes place in the early days of the Empire. On Earth there is war in the middle east (as always) but it seems more like 2040 than the distant future. Out in the galaxy it is far enough in the future that there are quite a few settled planets and even ‘new’ colonies have generations of history, a state of affairs that I don’t think can come about for a few thousand years.

The first part of the story takes place on a starship en route to the remote colony of New Holyoke. The main character is a technician working with robotic data drones. He even has a pet one that looks like a rat and acts like R2D2. We soon find he is actually a federal agent on the trail of secessionist terrorists. When a murder is committed on board, he is reassigned to head up the investigation. He doesn’t feel qualified to do so, but his boss back on Earth leads him thru a long reminisce about a supernatural being he encountered in the Iraqi desert that is supposed to qualify him for the job. He doesn’t understand the connection for quite some time. For awhile the story becomes a sci-fi mystery as he tries to solve the murder.

There is a strong romantic interest in the story, and a few well done love and sex scenes. The romantic interest becomes stronger as the story goes on, especially once they reach New Holyoke in the second section of the story. The affair eventually becomes the pivotal point of the story. There are hints in the last half of how the love affair will end.

The characters are quite well done. We get a lot of thoughts from the main character, and quite a bit of philosophy, but this is not a philosophy driven story, and considering the length of the book, it does not get bogged down in it, nor is the story a vessel for a philosophical viewpoint.

My biggest complaint is that there is quite a bit of violence with deaths of many innocents near the end of each half of the story. That and a few proofreading errors are the only things that made me hesitate at giving this five stars. There are some points where it seems like characters know things they have no means of knowing, making the story seem illogical, but in the end it becomes logical because at the time we don’t know a lot of secrets, especially about the main character.

All in all, a great read and noticably better than the average paid sci-fi.

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Across the Zodiac – Percy Greg

**** Sex = 2, Action = 2, Prose = 7

This ‘story’ is the most like The Second Expedition of any story I have ever seen. It is as I first wrote The Second Expedition in the 1970’s, more of a textbook than an adventure. In the plot a man in the late 1800’s uses a material that exerts a repulsive force to build a spacecraft that takes him to Mars. You’ll need to forgive his notions of conditions on Mars, in the 1800’s astronomers didn’t have data from numerous landers to tell them of the real conditions there, and it was open to the imagination. His Mars has oceans, a tropical climate, a vigorous fauna and humans more identical to us than the current residents of Kassidor. The science is clearly past its shelf life, but leading edge in its time.

The society of Mars is the real reason for the book and it shares a few things with Kassidor. It is exceedingly ancient, it has an advanced agrarian economy and the women are beautiful. It was more advanced than Earth at the time, having telephones, phonographs, zeppelins, submarines and all the household conveniences of 1905 on Earth, all run with electricity. That was twenty five years in the future when this was first published. For quite a while it appears he is documenting a utopia, but that changes as you get deeper into the society. Not only the physical science is dated, so is the social science. They thought the greed of autocratic rulers could be appeased by giving them all possible material comforts.

The biggest difference between Percy’s Mars and Kassidor is the role of women. On Kassidor equality is so complete that some have said, ‘There are no women on Kassidor, only frat boys with vaginas.’ On Mars women are slaves, bred for beauty over hundreds of generations instead of buying it at a cosmetic geneticist. The women of Mars are as subservient and mistreated as a bad caricature of old Japan, Close to the Pikosas of The Sex Slaves of Borlunth. They are property of the alpha males in harems, more like Centorin than Kassidor. The main character, an alpha male from Earth, treats them as well as a chivalrous European soldier of the late 1800’s would treat prostitutes and completely confounds them with his overwhelming kindness.

The society is structured to be logical. Few parents raise their children, they are raised in nurseries and schools, few know who their parents are. The emphasis is on utility, emotions are denied and suspect. This document could very well be the source of the coldly logical archtype of which Star Trek’s Vulcans are a recent example. There is a bit of a Christian message in that they have no courage or compassion because they don’t believe in an afterlife and God. In truth there is an ancient religious order that is powerful and secret as the tale begins.

The plot may have been imitated a thousand times in sci-fi since it first came out. This may be the source of the romantic interplanetary travelogue archtype, of which The Second Expedition is an example. I sure ended The Second Expedition differently than this however.

While the main characters are often alone together in the same room, you may be assured that the text is as chaste as would be required in a fine British finishing school of the day, much like the ones on Mars that sell their products at auction upon ‘graduation.’ They are sold into a society that sometimes delights in inflicting suffering on lower status members, and women almost never have any status. Another big difference from Kassidor.

The prose score is because the language is more ornate and convoluted than anything in The Second Expedition. It’s pedagogical in a very antique tone, making Mark Twain seem very 20th century. Even so, I should have heard of this before if it hasn’t been seriously overlooked. Remember, this was first published in the Jules Vern era.

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After Life – Simon Funk

*** sex = 2, action = 2, prose = 8

A quick little story about simulated humans. The main character is the first person to have their personality transferred to a computer upon their death. It takes the character quite a while to figure out what has happened to him, and to the world around him. It also seems there are many copies of him, and by the time the story takes place there are almost no flesh and blood humans remaining.

The technology and society in the story is very close to that of the 'Angels' in the Gordon's Lamp cycle (The Second Expedition, Love in Exile, Tangle in the Dark, The Tdeshi Quest, The Aluminum Quest, and Vermin Rising). A possible story of how Ava was first resurrected in silicon would be similar enough in subject to this one that, after reading this, I feel little need to do one. Since this story was published at the same time the first books in the Gordon's Lamp series were, it is not a case of one copying the other, but independent parallel evolution.

The story is mainly about the afterlife as implemented in silicon. There are many good observations and a good look at what it would be like, especially what it would be like to 'wake up' as a simulate not knowing that is what has happened to you. There is some sexuality remaining among these simulates, but it isn't explored in as much detail as in the Gordon's Lamp series. There is a plot, but the adventure of the plot is not the main focus of the story. The story is a little too short for extensive character development, but some of the characters feel like they might be 'cherubs' or 'houris' as seen in Gordon's Lamp cycle, but those turn out to be some of the last remaining mortals. If you are interested in a good and thoughtful look at what living as a simulate might be like, this is a worthwhile read.

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Alien Cradle – Jeff Inlo

*** sex = 0, action = 5, prose = 8

Jeff is mainly known for his Delver Magic series, but this foray into the edges of science fiction is an enteraining enough story. You do have to overlook the lack of science quite a bit to keep up with it but if you think of it as a fantasy in space it works okay.

The story is another on a common theme in sci-fi, the society that is advancing in science much faster than we are capable of. Unlike others on this theme, in this case it is a major point of the story to try and find out how the species could be advancing so fast. In this there is an answer, but I won't be a spoiler and say what it is.

The writing is good, professional grade. The characters have enough depth but it is not a character-driven story. The universe is one in which no life beyond Earth has ever been discovered, something I think is pretty much impossible. A worse problem with that however is that all those planets have atmospheres as rich in oxygen as our own while we now know that free oxygen is a sure sign of life. (Alright, some chemist can come up with an improbable but possible way to create free oxygen some other way, but life is the much more likely cause.)

With a few words changed here and there it would be possible to believe this story was written in a universe where there is no such thing as gender or reproduction or affection. While one of the main villains is female, she is as celibate as everyone else in the story. They don't do it, they don't think about it, they don't seem like they know it exists. The main character's dream is to find an uninhabited planet where he can be the only living thing on it.

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Alone Again Or... – Michael Bassette

*** sex = 5, action = 7, prose = 6

In a post apocalyptic world, telepaths are illegal and hunted down to either be killed or reprogrammed as 'wives' which are sold to the public. A drug dealer decides to buy one and soon finds that her telepathic powers are intact and that he soon falls in love with her. When she runs off and is killed, he vows vengence and that starts his relationship with the Telepath Resistance Movement.

The characters are pretty good, not as deep as a psychological novel, but as good as the average adventure novel. The setting is the remains of an American city somewhere, with fifty to one hundred miles of abandoned, ruined, pre-apocalypse city around it. It's done well enough to support the plot. The story is plot driven, not as tense as a major thriller, but well worth the time spent.

There's some sex and affection, it is all clean and consensual and free from the games and guilt in most 'romance' novels. The major drawback to this novel is the poor proofreading and grammar. Parts of speach and tenses are often wrong, quite a few words are missing and a few extras are thrown in. There is little to tell you when the point of view changes to the other main character. I didn't find it bad enough to impair the reading, but some who are sensitive to it will. If there is a message to the story it is that evolution will march on and we have to accept it.

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Alpha Rising – G. L. Douglas

** sex = 0, action = 2, prose = 4

This is an adaptation of the story of Noah, Genesis 7 and 8, retold in space opera format. Like the Bible, it is not a science book, though there is enough technobabble to make it sound like space opera. There is an adventure here, with obstacles to overcome and an evil villain to escape. There is little actual violence but plenty of talk of it. There is no actual sex.

The narration and dialog are stylistically almost as much like the Bible as modern prose, but that is probably intentional in keeping with the Biblical theme. Characters are rather shallow and stereotypical, but if this is a parable, that could be the intent. Unlike the Bible, there is dialog and at times the author does slip into modern prose.

It is a bit long for a parable, but shorter than an average novel. The story waits too long to reveal it's true nature. People reading it as a space opera adventure will be put off because it doesn't work very well on that level. As a biblical parable it is cute and at least as engaging as the Biblical text. Could be of interest to Christian readers.

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Amerindian 2192 – J. Scott Garibay

*** sex = 1, action = 7, prose = 7

In spite of the fact that this was fantasy in sci-fi clothing and didn't seem to actually have much real insight into Native American ways, the story was entertaining enough to give it three stars. I suspect the author is not really native American, or if so, is quite assimilated into American culture. I just happen to be reading 'Sacajawea' at the moment, which is very realistic in Native American ways, at least for 1804. Granted no one still lives that way but reading that and a few more would have helped this be a little more authentic.

This story uses the 'Empire' as in many other stories. In this it is small, but just as evil and corrupt as in many other stories. There is even a Darth Vader like admiral who is the embodiment of evil. There is a population of 'clones'that seem to be engineered people instead of actual clones since they claim to be superior to uncloned humans. They could have had a larger part in the story, but their part sort of fizzled out. There is not much depth in the main stream culture. There is some depth to the Amerindian culture, but it is more reminiscent of special ops teams than anything else.

My main gripe is the total disregard of science in this. If there is no attempt to stay within the laws of physics, the story should be labled as fantasy. Even though there are space ships and people travel from planet to planet, enemies are defeated by magic spells and in 2192 the human race has traveled billions of light years to remore galaxy clusters and in all that space found only nine habitable planets.

On the other hand the characters, plot and prose are good. There are plentiful proofreading errors, missing words and a few others but not enough to make it very difficult to read.

Some characters have affection but there is less sex than in Victorian fiction. There are lots of battles and thousands die, but the gore level is only moderate. There does not seem to be a message to the story, maybe that Native Americans still resent loss of sovereignty over their land, but I don't think that was the intent.

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An Obsidian Sky – Ewan Sinclair

*** sex = 1, action = 7, prose = 5

After the destruction of Earth, a group of adventurers travel to an artifical planet where a madman has tried to create a utopia. The artificial planet was a wonderland, and is still impresive, but it has been destroyed. The inhabitants had all gone mad, turned into murderous zombies by an artifact that the madman who built it had retrieved from an alien civilization. The plot of the story is about finding a way to destroy or disable that artifact because it is believed it and others like it will exterminate the human species. There is quite a bit of action fighting those zombies on the way thru the artificial planet.

Some of the characters, not the narrator, have some depth, but this is not a character driven story. There is no pretense of scientific accuracy, it must be read as if it was fantasy. The only sexuality is a tiny bit of homosexual affection. The prose score is low mainly for a lot of proofreading and gramatical errors. There are wrong parts of speach, a few wrong tenses and some punctuation errors. A few places one needs to backtrack to figure out what was said. If it wasn't for that it would get an eight. Some passages are very good, as good as a professional writer, but some are a bit juvenile. A couple more proofreading passes would have helped this story a lot.

The point of the story seems to be that there can be no utopia as long as people compete for power and dominance. I've probably said it before, but I'll say it here too, each person's utopia is the one where they have the highest status and the most power. How they decorate it is immaterial.

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Argo – Vasieios Kalampakas

** sex = 1, action = 3, prose = 8

A short story of a universe ruled by machines. Humans are slaves with no art, no love, just fuel and energy that the machines need. This is probably a metaphor for the corporations where only money matters since machines run our corporations already. (The CEO may think he's in charge but it's really excel that runs the company.) In this people are hooked up to the machines (slaved) and have no more use of their bodies. The story gets very abstract toward the end and really doesn't make a point.

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Astra: Synchronicity – Lisa Eskra

**** sex = 3, action = 3, prose = 9

Astra is the name of the human space in this universe. Technologically it feels more like a thousand years in the future than three hundred, sociologically three hundred seems right. The universe is in the sci-fi mainstream. There are echo's of Czeneda's 'Thousand Words for Stranger' in this, and echo's of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels. The prose, characterization and setting are as well done, but unique and thought-out.

This is the first story I've come across to make good use of new science regarding extrasolar planets with people living on moons of warm gas giants and tidally locked worlds. I think science is ready to agree that three out of four habitable planets will be tide locked, and we get a glimpse of life on one here.

Like so many other stories, this has aliens that can be played by humans in baggy costumes that are fifteen minutes more technically advanced than we are. It makes a good story, but I find it unbelieveable. I believe it is unlikely the first aliens we encounter will be as much like us as a sea slug, and will probably employ technology far beyond what we currently attribute to God. As it is unlikely that WE will continue using sound for communication many more generations, I cringe when seeing aliens conversing with humans using sound waves, much less learning a human language. All this when there are HUMAN telepaths in the story. With that said, let me also point out that this book is professional enough that this is hardly even noticeable, unlike many others that are so close to fantasy that one expects the 'aliens' to be human enough to intermarry.

The story is interesting from the start, and there is an action scene near the end which is a bit gory, but most of the story is quite free from the 'body count' that is so common in free sci-fi. There is a bit of sex and some off-beat romance.

The story does not end in this book however, but is part one of a trilogy, and unlike The Second Expedition, the second and third are not free, but are $3.99 on smashwords. There are plenty of reviews of paid Sci-Fi so I will not review them here, but be warned that if you read this, you will probably want to go on to the others.

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Aupes – Les Broad

* sex = 4, action = 1, prose = 6

If it were not for the author's claim to be writing 'believable' sci-fi, I would not have finished nor reviewed this work. To give him credit, he undoubtedly wrote this decades ago as a young man and didn't put it up utill 2011, late in life, when it became possible to self-publish for free on the internet. It may even be that someone else put it up. I would not put up the stories I wrote as a child. Even 'The Second Expedition' was originally written in the 1970s, but was updated in physical and social science until it was released in 2009

The story is not believable in any way. Even the premise that life on Earth will be wiped out by chemical and biological war is not believeable. We have had the capability to sterilize the planet since the atomic age. We've scared each other with it, but somehow, often on the very brink, we found a way to keep the missiles in their siloes and the world is still green and teeming with more billions of us than ever. I have confidence that we will, somehow, continue to muddle thru. After all, most of the men with their fingers on the buttons have grandchildren too.

The idea that the last survivors could build a starship, using ancient knowledge from NASA and the ESA, without any testing, and have it work was fun in propellor-head fiction from the 1930's thru 1950's, but we are far too sophisticated today to swallow such a notion. Like Noah in ancient times, they carry live humans and domestic animals, not frozen zygotes. They fly off toward a planet they are not sure is there, which is described as being 'at the edge of the galaxy' at one point, and only 11 light years distant at another. The spiral arms of the galaxy are thousands of light years thick, the edge of the galaxy is about 20,000 light years from us. This was supposed to happen in 2207. By 2050 we will know as much about the planets of nearby stars as Galileo (The inventor of the telescope, not the space probe) knew about the planets of the sun. We will know where habitable planets are long before we have the capability of reaching them.

But the most unbelievable thing is that they find humans on the planet when they get there. Not humans from Earth, but humans that can interbreed (with some technical intervention) with humans from Earth. They look identical to Earth humans. They have visited Earth in the past and brought back diseases that almost wipe them out, to the point where their only hope of survival is to interbreed with humans from Earth. These people were thousands of years in advance of us, but have lost the ability to understand their failing ancient technology. The people from Earth however are able to fix it up in a matter of days and recover much of what was lost.

The aliens reproduce using breeding slaves like the Pikosas in 'The Sex Slaves of Borlunth'. They have a society without strong emotional attachments, yet they are capable of emotional attachment when given the chance. I wonder how such a society could have developed?

There are many other little things that are just as unbelievable, one example being the fact that this expedition, leaving in 2207, had no way for one person to communicate with another without finding them in person. In 2011 the cell phone was ubiquitous, but assuming this was written decades ago and never updated, Radio Shack sold cheap walkie-talkies that we played with as kids at the time.

Beyond the unbelievability, this is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. Even though the hybrid community is growing by the end, the ending is focused on the aging and death of the main characters. The Earth is made sterile, a once advanced civilization is reduced to a handful of people barely surviving. There is little love of anything but duty, the characters are uninteresting. It is painful in a way to have to give such a review, but if I can save anyone the pain of pushing thru this, maybe I have helped.

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Awaken His Eyes – Jason Tesar

*** sex = 1, action = 8, prose = 8

Book 1 of 'The Awakening' starts out on Earth but soon goes to a more primitive planet where everyone seems to be in a desperate situation. There are three main characters, a provincial governor in an empire at about the technology level of the Roman empire, his wife and their son. They are all done well enough, but not in as much depth as great literature would do them. The plot is not complete in this volumme, but begins with the governor sailing off in search of pirates and getting captured. Because of that his position, including his family, is given to another. This other is one of the most evil villains you are going to meet in fiction anywhere, so disgusting I almost couldn't finish the book. The bulk of the book is taken up with the son being kidnapped away from his evil stepfather who would have killed him, and trained, over eight years, as a warrior priest in the same organization that is holding his father captive. Meanwhile his mother attempts to help the rebels overthrow the empire.

When I read a story, I usually think of myself in the narrator's shoes. When the narrator is constantly in as much pain and suffering as in this story, I tend to like it less than I do a story where the narrator is having a good time like '2023' by Dr. John Ivan Colby. The narrators in this do a lot of suffering, are often wounded, and never free. The only sex in the book is the rape of the governors wife by the evil new governor. There does not seem to be the concept of love on the planet where this happens.

The planet makes me think this is really fantasy, not sci-fi. All life on the planet is Earth normal. The time this takes place is now. Neither planet has the means to reach the other intentionally, but there seems to be at least one feral wormhole connecting the two as in 'Xenolith' and 'Peregrin' by A. Sparrow. I say this because at the end the original governor escapes from his captors and winds up on Earth in the first scene of the book, which is now seen from his side. If the nature of that 'wormhole' is explained in some way, this could be sci-fi. If it is, it is in a later volume of the series. The later volumes are not free and volume I is not a complete story in itself. There is a lot of potential for this to be a good story if you don't mind getting captured by sadists and don't mind living in a society where you are either royal or slave.

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