Reviews of free sci-fi with titles beginning with D
** 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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** Sex = 1, action = 7, prose = 8
Eight young people come from a dying planet to save the Earth from destruction by the human race. When they get here they develop super powers and start using them to right some wrongs. The story could have been fun, could have been meaningful and could have even contained the Christian message the author was aiming for, but it doesn't actually acheive any of that.
I believe the message he's trying to convey is that science is evil and will eventually destroy the Earth, as it destroyed the other planets in the story. That message is not bourn out in the story because the wrongs they right are mainly destroying drug dealers, muggers, dog fighters, etc. There are some 'missions' about destroying military targets but there is no look at what the military projects were and how they might affect the planet.
The notion that science is evil or anti Christian is spawned by the same religious evil that brought us the inquisition and ISIS. This notion is brought about by evil people using your well-intentioned beliefs to further their own power and status. We are in the midst of one of those tides of evil in our churches right now where well meaning but shallow thinking people are being brainwashed by the radical right into hate and division and dehumanization. Did Jesus say any of that? Would Jesus say people are non human if they believe in the right to health care? Did Jesus say skin color was the key to salvation? READ YOUR GOSPELS PEOPLE!
I also disagree, very strongly, with the notion that science destroys civilizations or planets. While it is true that if we never invented the oil well or the coal mine or the atomic bomb, or for that matter, the gun, we would be safer, it is the denial of science that will kill us. Without science the Earth can support maybe a billion humans if you don't call farming, plumbing and central heat the results of science. If you do, maybe one hundred million can be supported. It is greed and dominance that has already destroyed civilization after civilization on this planet, and is destroying this one today. We need science to edit that greed and dominance out of our psyche before we can be the people Jesus asked us to be.
So if the story is not fun, meaningful, or Christian, what is it? For the most part it is depressing, dying civilizations always are.
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** Sex = 3, action = 8, prose = 8
This book contains three short stories and the first part of a novel which is not free. They are set in a dystopian Atlanta in the 2200's. Genetic modifcation is common producing Dwarves, Pleasers (which are women modified for sexual pleasure) and various brands of people enhanced with weaponry and armor. It is universally dark, violent and brutal.
The short stories have no message or twists. They are all related, as is the novel. The novel starts out as the most brutal of all, newscasters gleeful over carnage, a former pleaser soaked with bloodlust. There may be a message in here about racism because the victims of the initial attack are Dwarves, but it is not effective because the society is so disgustingly brutal. We don't know if the whole world is that way, because all we see is the society of Atlanta gangs. Earth, even in the 2200's is big enough for much more than that. My own future history includes the collapse of the United States with parts of it being that dark but you see it from a distance of space and time, as related by Ava in Love in Exile or Kelvin in Tangle in the Dark.
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** Sex = 0, action = 8, prose = 8
A very short story of an assassin, one who has enhanced himself. It's very violent but the narration is at such a distance that it doesn't have much impact. He has been sent to recover a fragment of an artifact he has previously destroyed. This is supposed to be a prolog to Mindforger.
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*** Sex = 2, action = 5, prose = 9
This is a post apocalyptic story but better in that it is not all violence and savagery. The premise is a series of mutations after the geological event and plague that destroyed our current civilization. These mutations give people certain powers such as speed, weather forecasting and in some cases telepathy. People with these mutations have to keep themselves secret from normal people, but that is not the plot of the story.
Much of the story is day-to-day life of a family of children after their parents die. In the last half of the story there is some action as they try to protect themselves from those who want to swindle them.
The world this takes place in is very small, just a single county, and there seems to be no contact with the outside world. Other than the fact that there are no cannibalistic species involved, the world seems remarkably like that of the 'Deviations' series reviewed below. The characters are pretty lifelike except for the villains. There is no sex but the oldest child has a romantic interest and prostitution occurs in the periphery. The proofreading is excellent, the prose is professional.
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*** 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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**** 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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**** 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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*** 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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*** sex = 1, action = 9, prose = 8
This is actually fantasy, not sci-fi because no effort was made to stay within the laws of physics at any point. It's not sword and sorcerer but more along the lines of 'Coronite Chronicles,' a fantasy tale that looks like space opera. It is MUCH better than Coronite Chronicles in that there is a lot less invention of new fantastic powers any time someone gets into difficulty and it is not so ridiculously stupid.
The premise is a planet that has disintegrated with much of its surface now floating in the air, floating on a negative gravity substance a lot like the Lodestone of the series by the same name by Mark Whiteway. This is not as serious as the Lodestone series, but more complete in the first book. The characters are rather shallow except for the main character, who is not very likeable, being a criminal and all. He gets a little better toward the end. The 'cops' who chase him are not fleshed out at all, you never meet any of them, you don't learn anything about the society other than it is faintly medieval. His parents pursue him also but you don't see much of the backstory about that. The book is fairly short, so there isn't time to get into that.
The story is full of completely over-the-top violence but because it is such a fantasy it is not as disturbing as it should be. It is so over-the-top that it is actually funny, and humor is probably the strongest feature of the story, for me anyway. With that said it isn't as funny as parts of The Girl on the Crystal Tower and that is not really a comedy either. There is no sex at all in the story, though the main character almost has feelings for one of the ship captains. This is billed as steampunk and cyberpunk, but that is only because most of the characters have mechanical enhancements to their bodies. All in all it was amusing, go ahead and pick it up.
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