Reviews of Free Sci-fi - D

Reviews of free sci-fi with titles beginning with D

Dangerous Rainbows – James Ashman

** Sex = 1, action = 6, prose = 6

A novel set in the time of the Empire when there are at least two governments of humankind, the Ingrid Empire and the Coalition. The plot of the story is the main character's campaign to become emperor of the Ingrid Empire. His quest is started because one of the nobles decided to buy his girlfriend for his son. In that time and place the common people have no rights whatsoever and may be disposed of by the nobles in any way they desire with no consequenes what so ever, very much like the Centorin Empire in The Aldeb Wars.

There are some political machinations, but they aren't as intricate or described in as much detail as 'Binary' (reviewed above). There are a few space battles but they are not described in as much detail as many others stories. The science is not central to the story and that may be the reason that there is little detail in the battle scenes. There are thousands upon thousands of deaths but they are all remote and sterile, even when one of the main characters is killed. In that sense the story cannot be considered gory because they are all just statistics.

The love interest in the story is not between the main character and his stolen girlfriend but between the main character and an enemy captive. There are no love scenes at all. The narration moves along rapidly, sometimes too rapidly, so that the characters and setting sometimes seem a bit like cardboard cut-outs. The operation and history of the political and economic systems are not examined at all and since they seem to be the point of the story, I wished for a bit more detail.

The point of the story seems to be the consequences of the extreme disparity of wealth and power between the rich and poor. Just about every free sci-fi author but those trying to break into the paid market, including myself, has written at least one novel complaining of this problem. I'll mention once again that the warnings are falling on deaf ears. We should be thankful we just happened to live at least part of our lives in the 19th and 20th centuries when at least some of the common people had at least some rights. The normal condition of mankind, to which we are returning, is that the common people have no rights at all. That is the way the common people want it, at least in my country. They are tired of democracy, affluence, free will, etc., and desperately want to return to slavery and surfdom where they feel they belong. We in the free sci-fi community, the news community, the social sciences, etc., can all rail against it til we die of sore throats and it will continue to have no effect at all. The common people don't rise til their babies are dying.

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Delver Magic Book I - Sanctum's Breech – Jeff Inlo

*** Sex = 0, action = 7, prose = 8

A pretty good sword and sorcerer tale where all the world's magic has been gathered into a ball and locked away in an extinct volcano. The world had moved on without magic and without knowledge of Elves and Dwarves and Goblins and all other magical creatures. When the magic breaks free and starts getting lose in the world, the story begins. The object of the story is to destroy the sphere that holds all the world's magic before it can be used for evil.

The characters make some forays into distant regions, but none so distant that the whole story couldn't have taken place in one tiny section of the Korst. The story does not illuminate any particular time and place in Kassidor's history and two of the races have no counterparts in Kassidor's history.

If you can't get enough of sword and sorcerer, this will be an entertaining read. There is not enough in here to make it very intersting to one who is not a fan of the genre. There are parts of it that don't fit the sword and socerer mold exactly. The main villain is a bit of a lightweight and so stereotypical to be almost carny, but all in all the story is good and well done. There is no romantic interest at all, though there were some places where it would have added a lot to the story. The violence isn't as gory as in many of the lesser lights in this genre, but there is plenty of it. There are several other books in the series that I will not review, they should also be of interest to fans of the genre.

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Deviations: Appetite – Elissa Malcohn

**** sex = 3, action = 5, prose = 10

This may be the most different story I have ever read. It is set on a tiny world with only five towns and seemingly no escape. It is inhabited by two humanoid species with one of them addicted to the flesh of the other. If that isn't disturbing enough already, the species get along and can even interbreed.

This is actually the second book of a series. The first is about the interdependencies of the two species and the cultural rituals they have built up to enable them to live together in this state. The plot of this story revolves around the farming of the prey species, as we farm chickens or hogs, by the predator species. This seems to horrify them all to no end, even worse than what they are already. To me the fact that the prey species can socialize with the predator up until the day before the hunt is almost too horrifying to deal with. The fact that they can get along at all seems so unreal to me that it does detract somewhat from the believeability of the story.

There seems to be lots of meaning that can be taken from this, from the way the few use and oppress the many to the inhumane conditions our livestock live in. Their ability to socialize with each other could be taken to symbolize the way the middle class is so eager to give up their rights to the monied class. It could also be compared to race relations and slavery. Addiction, or dependency, is also an aspect of what is going on and though it is not the focus as in The Foeth Hunter it is done with more power and emotion. No doubt all of them have some part in the thought behind this story and the things it has to say are powerful thruout.

The characters are alien in the way they live, and very well done. In spite of all this they are not as alien as the characters from Kassidor because underlying their actions is still the quest for social position, something that is almost entirely lacking in the modified humans of Kassidor. The prose in this ranges from professional quality to down right poetic, and is especially strong in describing the emotional torment the people of both races go thru. This book has some of the most powerful and moving emotional descriptions I've encountered in any book, paid or free, Sci-fi or otherwise.

There is no physical science in this book and probably isn't meant to be. A world this tiny could not have atmosphere (naturally anyway). The life is all Earth normal except for the sentients who differ from humans only in having fur. There are no gee-whiz devices, no worldbuilding, no exploration of new frontiers outside the mind and society.

The story is a little difficult to follow at first, probably because I haven't read the first volume. The plot of the story is not complete in this volume. The whole series is available on the author's website. It doesn't really matter, this book is not about the plot.

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Dominion – J. L. Bryan

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

To most of us, this book portrays the most extreme dystopia I've ever seen, making Oceana of 1984 seem like paradise. For the rabid right, this is about utopia, an America where there is complete elimination of free will, enforced by the Department of Terror which is aptly named as it strikes terror into every citizen. Everyone is monitored by every device they own, television, phone, car, wallet, hidden cameras and microphones. Children are stolen from families, foreigners are executed in public by death squads, anyone deviating from the party line is hanged in public as the halftime show at football games. Much of the brainwashing and surveillance is carried out by the Dominion Church, a state religion gone insane, which everyone must join and everyone must participate in daily. Everyone must always pretend to be totally enthusiastic about everything 'patriotic' or one will be accused of being 'unamerican,' a label that will cause one to disappear. The main character's wife is a caricature of a head-in-the-sand believe-the-propaganda-at-all-costs self-enforced idiot so desperate to believe that she will twist what her own eyes see any way at all.

All of it is over-the-top parody that could never work in real life because no such organization could ever trust enough people to do all the monitoring. Other than the surveillance devices, the technology used to control the people is typical of Stalinist regimes. There are a few rather obvious allusions to the Cheney administration, in his civilian contacts and in the way the Patriot Act was all typed up and ready to vote on by the time the dust of the World Trade Center had settled. In real life this level of control, the complete elimination of free will, will have to wait until we have direct mind links to implanted computers and/or genetic modification to the human soul that will turn us into ants.

Nearly the whole first half of the book is devoted to laying out this horrifying world. It is very grim and not that easy to get thru. The second half is a rather well-done adventure tale of going off-grid and trying to fight the Department of Terror and the shadowy organization behind it. The ending is a bit 'deus ex machina' but it gives the story a happier ending than it could have any other way, and that's saying something because the mechanism used to give it a happier ending would be the absolute worse case scenario in any other story. It is this adventure that earned it four stars. The prose would have earned a 9 if the proofreading were a little better.

The evil villains explain themselves at the end, claiming that all a nation has is its wars. The main character has no answer for that. Maybe the United States has no reason for being and no national identity but its wars, but there are plenty of other countries on this planet that do not, Brazil is a case that comes to mind. All in all is is a very dark and scary story, but a little too overstated to be as scary as it could be.

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Dorian A – Jon Jacks

*** sex = 2, action = 5, prose = 9

This 'Young Adult' novel is more mature than a large fraction of the free Sci-fi out there. The main character is a teen, but the story is not the endless waste of ammunition that so many in that segment are. The plot is actually a take off on 'A Picture of Dorian Grey' except that instead of a picture that absorbs Dorian's punishment, it is his clone, a clone raised to provide spare body parts. The main characters are among the super rich in the world portrayed in 'Soylent Green,' with the male lead deep into a debauchery of domination based on his clones and animal hybrids.

The story is about the treatment of the poor by the rich and the attitudes of the rich toward the poor. It's accurate, I've seen it, you probably have too. Dorian may seem over the top, but I've known two people personally who are as ignorant of the lives of the poor and as callous about it as Dorian. It is his sixteen year old fiance who questions the attitude of the rich toward the poor, and the rebellion she tries to assist is the plot of the story.

You are not present at any sex scenes. The action is violent but not unnecessarily gory. The ending is rather abrupt and not as believeable as it could be. If not for that, this would have earned four stars. The proofreading is excellent, the prose is professional quality. I commend Jon for the message he's trying to deliver.

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