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 Hero – Stephen Arseneault

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

A recent engineering grad goes to work at a remote mining colony just as war with aliens breaks out. He brings his family with him in spite of half a million red flags about the job and the colony, even before the invasion. He thinks his friendship with the son of the mine owner will save him. It does not, even though his friend may well have tried. His family gets killed while trying to evacuate so our hero quits from the mines and joins the marines. The remainder of the plot is about his life as a marine and how he outperforms most of them and rises more in the ranks than he even wanted to. All he wanted was to kill aliens since they killed his family.

The story is a rant against government inefficiency and corruption. He encounters faulty equipment, bad officers and a government that is ready to abandon the outer colonies in order to save the politicians themselves on Earth and the inner colonies. At some point the corporations take over the war and give themselves working equipment and better officers. The down side is they have no intention of giving up power when the war is over. He might be trying to make the point that democracies move too slowly and deliberately to tackle serious problems. The problem with authoritarian organizations, which most corporations are, is that they depend on the judgement and skill of the guy at the top and if he is wrong, there is no recourse. He tries to make the point that corporations are more efficient than democratic institutions. There are, in fact, some that are, but there are many that aren't. If you have worked for one you may have found that many positions are busy work only. They are there because the big boss' compensation is mainly dependent on how many people he supervises, thus the office is padded with mobs of empty suits who have no real purpose. What he does show, especially at the end, is the toxic workplace environment created when corporate management is obsessed with power. I've seen it myself, one's position in the company becomes much more important than the success of the company.

There is a lot of violence in the story, very high body count and quite a few characters you know die in battle. There is some remorse for their loss but most of the time they can't stop the battle because of it. There is almost no sexuality between the hero and his wife. The only sex in the story is one of the women in corporate hierarchy comes after the hero and gets snubbed, so she tries to get him killed by assigning him to the most dangerous front lines. All that does is get him more and more fame as a hero because he wins every time. The prose is good, the story is well written. It is the corruption that is the main element in the story, not the war with the aliens. There are hints that the aliens aren't even what they seem but possibly a set-up by the corporations to take over the government. Once again, the aliens can be played by actors in costume and their technology is not even 15 minutes more advanced than ours. It is the message that makes it worth reading, even though I don't completely agree with it.

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A Leap of Fate – G.L. Fontenot

* Sex = 1, Action = 9, Prose = 8

While these stories are relatively well written and well plotted, the horrendous suffering of the main characters was too much for me to endure. I got well into one of them, until I all but threw up, then started another and when it looked like it was going the same way, abandoned it. If you have a strong enough stomach for this, be my guest.

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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 Plain Jane – Odette C. Bell

**** Sex = 1, Action = 7, Prose = 8

Plain Jane is actually a very human looking alien, but in this story there are lot of aliens, most of them too human looking to be believeable. At least in her case, we know that she was deliberately modified to look human, her race always tries to modify themselves to look like those around them. She can also be taken over by an implant in her brain that can control her to perform amazing physical feats that she cannot perform under her own control. She has tried all her life to attract as little notice as possible. We know very little else about her history.

The plot begins with her being attacked by an assassin robot and the human race's greatest hero happens to be walking by at the time and saves her. He then develops an interest in her, though not an explicitly sexual one. He soon finds she is much more than she seems and they begin an adventure trying to get away from the assassin, then ever escalating threats in ever more distant realms. It's a decent adventure, not excessively violent and with enough twists and turns to be interesting. It involves the galaxy's formerly greatest race, which she seems to be a member of, and the viscious killer race that destroyed them.

The characters in this realize that they are sexual beings, but there is no sex at all. A sex rating of zero means the charcters don't seem to know they are sexual beings. The violence is not too bad and not too gory. The prose and proofreading are fine, not perfect but nothing that detracts from the story. This is not a science based story and some of the things, like the hero's 'armor' probably aren't going to come about but again, it is nothing that detracts from the story. The story doesn't end in this volume. The volume doesn't quite end in the middle of a sentence, but in a double cliffhanger in an effort to get you to spend $3.99 for the next volume. It well might be worth it, but I'm sticking to the plan and only reviewing and linking to free sci-fi.

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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 an' 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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Acquisition and Preservation – M. Findley

**** Sex = 6, action = 6, prose = 7

In a way it is unfortuate that I came across this before the first book in the series, maybe it would make more sense if I did. This is not to say it didn't make sense, starting in the middle it makes a lot more sense than anything by Andrew McEwan for instance. I believe I've overcome my prejudice against yet another post apocalyptic dystopia and given it the four stars it pretty much deserves.

This takes place in Missouri in 2215 after a plague a bit like the sterility plague of The Press at Honaseka except that this doesn't effect quite everyone. Some women remain fertile, but three quarters of the children they have are male. The population has collapsed enough that civilization cannot continue (not sure that follows) and the military has taken over the country and drafted all females, the fertile as breeding slaves and the remainder as sex slaves in state run brothels. Of course in the long term this can't work as it goes against human instinct. To make it last, human nature would have to be modified as explained in Zhlindu which explains the changes required to human nature to make the society of the hippies real. The author knows this and that brings about the plot of the story. Yes, there are some males who would rather stick with the females as sex slaves but the main characters in this want to return to the pair-bonding, family life world that agrees with human instinct. Thus they have rescued some women from a breeding lab (in the first book presumably) and attempt to rescue more in this one. They are being hunted by the military, but because there are many who oppose the sex slave way of life, there are many deserters. Unfortunately it is hard to tell who is on their side and who isn't, thus a lot of secrecy and tension. They world they live in and the place they live in is so similar to 'The Shadow of Armageddon' by Jim Lemay that I wonder if the writers worked together to build a nearly common world that seems more lived-in because of it. I kept expecting to run into one of the scavenger gangs from that story at any time. The main characters in this also make scavenger gangs in almost the same manner.

This is a rather character driven story. There is a lot of character's thoughts, lots of emotion, much of it conflicted. There are lots of denial of emotions, lots of places where people refuse to talk about things. I suspect it's not because the characters are supposed to be emotionally weak but meant to show how they are devestated by a form of PTSD brought on by the collapse of civilization. I think the collapse in this story was gradual enough that it wasn't really the cause, no one alive would remember civilization as it had been in 2015. In real life today America is collapsing much faster than such a plague would cause.

There's a fair amount of sex and affection in the story, it's not all blood and guts and it's not all a desperate struggle for survival. There's some violence but there is more guilt over having to commit violence. The proofreading is rather spotty with a lot of wrong suffixes, missing suffixes, some missing words and some wrong words, but since there are a lot of words in this story, the percentage that are wrong is quite low. The ending doesn't seem complete, but that may be intentional as in Vermin Rising since I found no evidence of more books in the series.

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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. 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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After the Cure – Deirdre Gould

**** sex = 4, action = 3, prose = 8

There has been a terrible plague that turns people into cannabalistic zombies. This story is the adventures of a phychiatrist after the plague is cured and the survivors have to confront what they've done. It's a post apocalyptic world in which most people have died. We are never told where they are located, just 'The last surviving city'. It's probably in the United States but doesn't really have to be. In the story the plague was only eight years ago but things like roads and buildings have undergone more like a hundred years of decay.

The plot starts out as the trial of the guy who started the plague, which was caused by an enginered bacteria. In the process they find that there was an even deadlier one produced and there are still vials of that around. Most of the plot is a detective story of trying to find those vials and make sure they are destroyed. In the process they go out passed the wall and into areas where the people have not been cured. That section is like so many post apocalyptic stories, battles with zombies, scavanging deserted homes and offices, etc.

It is inevitable that anyone reading this today will compare it to covid even though it was published in 2013. There are a lot of similarities. 'The world quickly emptied of sanity' was a comment one character made. 'After the plague, the world is just too broken to put back the way it was,' is another. These comments may well be true today, but it is not covid that is the cause. The cannibal zombies in this story can be compared to those who refuse to wear a mask today, both the zombies and the mask-averse are deliberately killing people, the zombies didn't know it at the time because they were so insane from the virus. The mask-averse don't know it at the time because they have also been driven insane, but by the pace of social change and not by the virus. The author tries to make the point that human conflicts arise because of competition for resourses or their allocation. That is the excuse that the powerful use, but without the presence of domineering men, scarce resourses cause as much cooperation as conflict. Almost all human conflict arises from one person trying to dominate others and force the ones he has already dominated into going forth to dominate others. We were broken long before covid, see the 2016 election in the USA or the 2017 election in Brazil. The driving force is not disease but the enormous loss of status by males, white males in particular. Up until 1950 or so a female just about needed a male to survive, but in today's world the average female is better off without the average male

There are a lot of philosophical musing thruout the story, most of them having to do with guilt and redemption. There is actually very little about things like the cause of human conflict or how to restore civilization once it's been destroyed, or how to keep it from dying in the first place (prevent the amassing of wealth by the few).

There is a type of love affair in the story and there is some sex, though there is nothing explicit and you only once follow them to the bedroom when it is happening. There is more than enough violence, most of it against the zombies caused by the plague. The proofreading is not perfect but not bad enough to impair the reading, but there are a few places where there should have been a blank line and there isn't.

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Alien Bride – A.J. Daniels

** sex = 8, action = 2, prose = 6

An Alien invader is on the way in 3039. They kidnap a navy seal, a gun runner and a half alien female from 2017. Right off the bat I have three problems with the premise. 1. Why would anyone invade? Once you are in space already it is far easier to get materials without a habitable planet's corosive atmosphere and gravity well. The explaination that they don't do anything for themselves but enslave other species doesn't make much sense outside Hollywood. 2. How could a half-breed occur? That would take at least as much effort as creating the new life form from scratch unless you believe the 'In God's Image' applies all the way down to the number and layout of chromosomes. 3. How did she get to Earth if she was there over a thousand years before the alien's arrived?

There are other problems. The personalities and even the spelling of the names of the characters are inconsistent. There are many missing words, wrong words, missing suffixes etc. Most are not bad enough to be confusing, but some are. The first story might be complete, but most of the file is previews of other books in the series. There are several tables of contents but they all seem to be for versions of the first story. In a couple of the stories we come across humans who WANT to feed the vampires that are one of the species on the slave ship. One does it because she is so in love with the vampire. This is alpha male worship taken to a whole new level.

There are a couple very explicit sex scenes in the book complete with fairly detailed descriptions of the half-alien's female parts, more explicit than even the scene in Love in Exile in the chapter 'The Second Starman,' but without the feeling.

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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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Alien Species Intervention Books 1-3 – J. K. Accini

*** sex = 3, action = 3, prose = 7

This file contains three books but only one and a fraction stories. The first book of the three is a fairly independent story, the next two books are part of the same story, one that is very incomplete in this file.

The plot of the first book is of a poverty stricken girl who escapes a marriage to a horrible but wealthy piece of scum. She's on the run and almost dead when she finds an alien who preforms a few miracles for her so that her life becomes much better. She even finds a nice guy who stays with her and they are doing pretty well until the miserable bastard finds them and thus ensues the conflict of the story.

The plot of the next two plus books starts out rather similar but with a larger cast of characters and a greater benefit from the alien, making them extremely rich. It isn't until late that we learn that the alien's real mission is to exterminate the human race, and implying that humans are a failed 'uplift' as in the Brin series. They get involved in rescuing a bunch of animals and run into quite a few coincidences that aren't terribly credible.

There are political messages in here but they are somewhat confused. The first book talks about the corruption in small counties, especially in the past, when the county sherrif and judge (or Magistrate in this case) were the law, with maybe a few of the Good Old Boys as advisors. This is the country that existed over much of the south in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the same world that many of the rabid right want to return to, mainly because it lets them pursue their racist agendas. The second book starts out with a bogus dystopian look at 2044 taken from Fox News, blaming the world's problems on socialists and Muslims. People who live in reality know our problems are caused by income inequality, hate, automation, and our disbelief in truth, reason and science. Civilization after civilization have been brought down by the concentration of weath and power in the hands of the few and the consequent abandonment of that civilization by the people actually doing the work. It is the inequality that has caused the hate and our disbelief. Automation is really the only separate cause. The repetition of republican talking points becomes quite irritating thru a good portion of the story. Then later on there is a rant about pollution, climate change, the current human-indiced mass extinction and other ecological woes of the world. The very same problems the repulicans and the oil magnates are causing!

The only sex in the book is boyfriend/girlfriend, mainly between teens, and some brutal rapes committed by the bad guys. There isn't much action but there is quite a bit of brutality. The proofreading is pretty good but the prose is very pedestrian.

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All the Stars Within Our Grasp – Andrew Johnston

*** sex = 0, action = 6, prose = 7

This is a space opera quest for the stolen doomsday weapon story. That's probably all I need to say about the plot, it's one that been used before and will be used again. It's done pretty well, the characters have some personality and the story is entertaining enough to be worth the time. The universe is full of human 'Empires' and a few aliens. The aliens are all humanoid to some extent. One of the hostile species is pretty much Klingons from the Star Trek universe with a different name and a diet of live bugs instead of live worms. The humans all left Earth when its atmosphere burned up and no longer know where it is. Of course the stolen weapon has been taken there and the last section of the book happens there.

There are some battles and a big, gory one on Earth at the climax. It could have been more gruesome, but because the story is rather comic-book, it doesn't have enough impact to really turn my stomach. I look upon that as a good thing. Many of the obstacles on their path are rather contrived, sort of like the stompers on Galaxy Quest, so they didn't have the impact they could have either. The proofreading is a little lax at the beginning, but seemed to get better as it went on, or I just got used to it. There is just about no sex in the story, though one of the main characters is female. There is no science in the story, no notion of how the economy and society works, no notion of where the food comes from, etc. It ends like the beginning of a new story but I don't know of a sequel out there. He has a collection of short stories, some based on this book, but this story is much better than any of them.

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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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Alterworld: Play to Live Book 1 – D. Rus

*** sex = 4, action = 7, prose = 8

This story's premise is that if you stay in a fully immersive VR video game long enough your soul will migrate into the game and your biological body will become uninhabitied. I doubt that holds up to scientific scrutiny, but it's no more difficult than a premise where the social changes of the 1960's were caused by aliens from another planet. This takes place in Russia sometime in the 2030's. It seems like after Putin, which seems unlikely also, but then it might not be so bad if you have no interest in politics, are white, are not gay, and don't happen to run afoul of anyone powerful.

The main character uses that premise to escape a diagnosis of an incureable cancer that gives him only a month to live. Once in the game his adventure starts. For most of the book he does very well, amassing all kinds of points and acquiring lots of loot. He makes a few allies, wins a girlfriend and generally has a good old time until he tries to manufacture cigarettes in the game universe. Apparently tobacco is much more popular in Russia than on these shores because it becomes a sensation and attracts a lot of unwanted attention. In the last part of the game he doesn't do so well at all. The ending does conclude the story in some respects, but leaves a lot of things open, about like the ending of Yoonbarla but not as pleasant.

He does have sex with his girlfriend and claims it's great but you are not there. In that part of the story there is a bit of worry about jealousy, but it is not as big an issue as it is for any unmodified humans visiting Kassidor. There is lots of fighting but it's more-or-less all video game fighting. The worst that can happen (most of the time) is you 'die' and get re-incarnated at your bind spot. It seems this VR is realistic enough that players can actually feel pain, sort of like in 'The Aurora City' by E.R. Mason. Those who have become permanent in the game can also feel it, so preventing people from dying but torturing them is actually worse than death. The story is just FULL of game jargon. There is a glossary at the end and I recommend consulting it first if you are not familiar with it. I'm not a gamer so it would have helped me a lot.

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Ambassador 1: Seeing Red – Patty Jansen

**** sex = 4, action = 7, prose = 9

The author calls this space opera but I have seen much worse science in stories that other authors consider 'hard' science fiction. Where it is like space opera, there is no concentration on gee-whiz gadgetry, not that there is none in here, but that is not the focus of the story. This takes place in a universe where a near future Earth has been contacted by extra-terrestrials and is in the early stages of being integrated into an interstellar organization. All of the civilizations in this organization can trace their origins to humans taken from Earth 50,000 years ago. I applaud this, it gives us a reason why the aliens are enough like us to be interesting to a human reader without stretching credulity to the breaking point. This extra-terrestrial society is complex, ancient and full of different cultures, all of which are enough like ours to be human without being western. But even with their Earth origin, the people and cultures are more different than in most sci-fi. Realistically different, as different as the cultures of Asia or Africa. This starts a series, the others of which are not free.

The plot is about a new ambassador from Earth to the interstellar organization. He is meeting with the preident of Earth when he is assassinated using alien technology, starting an interplanetary crisis that he becomes embroiled in. There is a lot of detective work involved in finding who did it, the threat of interplanetary war, a few dead ends and a grand conspiracy that nearly kills them all. There are a few unexpected twists but no major reversals along the way.

There is enough sexuality and affection to make the characters seem normal and not the completely neutered mechanical beings of so much free sci-fi today. Most of the affection is between the main character and an alien girl who reminded me of a combination of Millie Willard and Cali of the 'Skank' series found on this site. There's nothing explicit. There is quite a bit of action but little gore and the body count is not excessive for this type of story, about what you'd expect from a well written spy thriller, which this resembles closely. The prose is good, only one or two proofreading errors glaring enough to notice. The biggest thing I thought was unrealistic is that the absolute dictator of the largest planet in the group decided to come with them on a mission. That's as if Xi Jinping decided to personally lead a mission into the U.S. to pick up a top secret data stick from an American research lab while a desperate team of Al-Quaida elite warriors was hot after the same device and tracking their every move. Would never happen but made for a great story.

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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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Amp (Vol 1) Messenger – Stephen Arsenault

*** sex = 1, action = 7, prose = 8

This is a space opera with lots of aliens, space pirates and corrupt politicians in a universe where humans are reduced to one large space station and associated ships and stations. The main character is the pilot and owner of a messenger/light cargo ship who becomes embroiled in a developing war between humans and a large empire. The plot is about that and about building ever more powerful ships to attack the enemy with. It all goes pretty well and they have a lot of fun, most of the time, cutting up their rivals and building one more powerful gizmo after another.

There are females in this universe but no one seems to know why. The aliens are nothing a Hollywood makeup artist couldn't deal with and they have the exact same personalities as humans. The science is non-existant but this story isn't about science. The prose and proofreading are more than adequate. There are lots of space battles, about as realistic as in the Star Wars series. There are, of course, plenty of deaths in them but you are far enough away from them that there is no gore. There is a touch of remose when some people on our side die, but not what there would be in real life. Also like Star Wars, the enemy builds a battle station so much like the Death Star that they could re-use the props and sets.

All in all it's a fun story, not too gory, but it doesn't end in this book.

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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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Anti life Part I – Allen Kuzara

** sex = 1, action = 5, prose = 8

This takes a long time to get going. The first few chapters just introduce the cast and the world. They seem to start off on a large group of space stations in the outer solar system. The main character is married and has a kid, but his job gets in the way of family life. That is almost the only nod toward sexuality in the story. Once everyone is introduced, the plot is about sending people after a probe which has been sent to another star and ran into problems. There is an alien probe there and it seems to be contaminated with some kind of thing that takes control of people, makes them stronger and makes them able to infest the computer systems also. Just when you get to that part, book 1 ends.

The author seems to think the moon landing was faked. He's very in favor of corporations taking over and eliminating nation states as we know them. The result of this is to push an ever larger proportion of the population out of civilization. He also thinks that on line learning can reduce the cost of elementary education to 0. As we have seen in this pandemic, on line learning has reduced the value of elementary education to 0. Yes, on line learning can teach kids which buttons to push but it cannot mold them into a society.

Smashwords does advise people to make the first novel in a series free as a means of promoting the series, but sometimes, and this is an example, the first novel is not a novel but a sample of a larger story. This is not even as much of a separate story as Yoonbarla and the others in that trilogy are also free.

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Apocalypse Origins – R.A. Neely

*** sex = 2, action = 6, prose = 6

A story of the Zombie apocalypse, VERY much like 'After the Cure' by Deirdre Gould in that a plague turns people into murderous zombies. In this case it is engineered from the rabies virus under the control of a billionaire who wanted to become emperor of America. The plot is a group of survivors who try to escape and run into various adventures on the way. There's a lot of violence with little remorse. Most of it against the zombies but quite often against other survivors. Some of the people wonder why they have so little remorse, but most of them don't seem to think about it, as if they are characters in a video game. They recruit many followers and defeat ever more capable enemies until, at the end, the leader of the band is declared king.

The message here is pretty much worship of the alpha male. It's done well, it's not too strident, but it's definitely there. All others are portrayed as helpless, with some willing to contribute to society but only if they are lead to it, and some as detrimental to society, and therefore killed off now that there is no law. The 'good' people are those who are eager to join up as followers of the alpha while the 'bad' people are those who resist. There are a couple characters who seem to be independent but they soon see the 'error' of there ways and come running to the group and swear loyalty to the leader. Bikers are portrayed as evil and listening to heavy metal. Pretty amazing when the power is out everywhere, but the point was made. I've known many bikers in my day and few of them are evil and most listen to southern rock and blues.

The zombies are a little inconsistant. Their origin is explained, but not their organization or why their actions make sense only as cinema. They don't act rabid, they act like a band of 100 local extras that are brought on when the music turns dark. At least in Abomination I explain why the zombies act like movie extras.

There are married couples and boyfriend-girlfriend relationships in the story but you are never present at anything sexual. I give it a 2 because at least people know there are two sexes and why. The proofreading is so-so, a few places there's the wrong word, sometimes missing words but nothing that really stops you. A lot of the prose is a bit simplistic but it's easy enough to follow. In spite of these problems, it is a good story, with good pace and not too much explicit gore. Many will not consider worship of the alpha male to be a problem and might have rated this higher. Another good thing about this is that even though it is billed as the first of a series, the story in this volume is actually complete, though there's plenty of set-up for the sequel. It's probably a good thing that it's complete because there are no others released at this time (Dec 2020).

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Archaea – Dain White

*** sex = 0, action = 6, prose = 8

Archaea is the name of a heavily modified ship with an enormous gun and a souped up engine. One of the crew is trying to build a self-aware AI. He succeeds and it takes over the ship. This AI becomes pretty much the main character in the story and gives them all kinds of advantages, more speed, more firepower, better fuel economy, etc., even becoming supernatural and predicting the future.

Nearly everyone they encounter becomes hostile and usually for no stated reason. When they initially launch the ship from Luna station the harbormaster attempts to impound the ship for no clear reason. The same thing happens with everyone they meet, sort of like a video game, if it moves, it's hostile, so kill it. In most cases the 'enemies' are claimed to be pirates but the logic is more like a video game than a story. The main incident is when they destroy a major 'pirate' vessel and rescue one of the crewmen from the wreckage before they destroy it completely.

There is a female character with a speaking part but there is no sexuality at all, not even long time crewmen on shore leave think about it. There is certainly enough action however and it doesn't take long to start. There is some remorse for the violence and killing but it is not the point of the story. There is no real science but there is enough technobabble to make it sound good. The prose and proofreading are fine. The characters are a typical starship crew with the usual number and type of idiosyncrasies. It's a pretty good story and could have been a four star with some emotion and some explanation of why every ship is automatically hostile. The initial story is actually complete in this volume but there is a twist at the end that sets up a sequel named for that AI.

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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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Arms. War for Eden – Stephen Arseneault

*** sex = 1, action = 6, prose = 8

The main characters in this are bioengineered soldiers who are out of a job because the war has ended. They have difficulty blending into a peace time society and get caught up in running arms to the outer planets of the region, one of which is named Eden. Eden is really a hell-house, sort of a Mars in the place of Venus but it is rumored to be rich in Titanium. One of the former warring planets tries to settle it and claim it. Our heroes get involved because they know their arms trading, which made them rich, is involved in the trouble on Eden.

That's the plot. The characters are a little bit interesting in some ways to some people. The most realistic science in the story is regarding what people bioengineereed for war might be like, sort of like an Orc. Attractiveness wasn't a plus. They are sterile in body and soul. They are unrealistically good at what they do. Other than that the science is at the comic book level, some technobabble that does what's needed by the plot with no regard to what's possible in physics as we know it today. There is a mechanical dog that humps one of the soldier's legs. That is the extent of sexuality in the story. The prose and proofreading are fine.

This story is fine, but it is the straw that broke the camel's back. I am hereby giving up on reviewing free sci-fi that is about war, deaths by the thousands, senseless wastes of ammo, destruction, depression, misery, deathly injuries, unreasoning hostility and stories that are nothing but first person shooter video games. I am done with dystopias, the end of civilization, horrible plagues and such. I am done with outrageously cruel dictatorships. I am a child of the 60's, 'Make Love Not War,' and that's what I want to read about. I wanted to explore new worlds, new cultures, new ways of living. I wanted to explore how people and society react to new situations. I guess I found out the last one anyway. People and society react to new situations by killing everything that moves. I should have known that, the rabid right is leading the way.

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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 wiped 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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