Reviews of Free Sci-fi - F

Reviews of free sci-fi with titles beginning with F

Faster Than Light: The Fallen Goddess – Malcolm Pierce

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

A short story about a galactic empire that finds their faster than light drive is destroying the universe so they outlaw it. The main character steals the last starship and tries to get interstellar commerce going again. In the process he finds the woman who invented the drive who was suposed to be dead for two thousand years but it still alive due to relativistic time dilation.

Harmless fun, not too gory, no message, nothing of any depth just a quick read with some entertainment value.

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Fatal Boarding – E. R. Mason

*** Sex = 2, action = 7, prose = 9

This is good old Space Opera and I mean that in a good way. A derelict alien spacecraft, quirky, hard-boiled space veterans, plenty of atmosphere, and plenty of action. The writing and proofreading are professional quality. The plot and action are engaging and believable. There is a good deal of mystery and suspense.

There is one sexual encounter but no real romance, a fair amount of human versus alien violence but no rivers of gore. No scenes are as disturbing as Bahkmar's interrogation in Aluminum Quest

This is set in a human-space universe that should be familiar to most sci-fi readers, and like the 'good old days' of space opera, travel is by spacecraft and not thru wormholes or teleportation. This makes it easy to read as pure entertainment and it is pure entertainment with no cultural message, but done well.

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Forbidden Outpost – Tony Rubolotta

*** Sex = 3, action = 6, prose = 9

This is a long-delayed sequel to the story and movie 'Forbidden Planet.' Because of that one might expect it to be geared toward a 50's audience with no cell phones, no place for female characters but cooking the food and minding the children and such things. In reality the only nod this makes toward the fifties is that a couple of the characters smoke cigarettes. The technology is far more up to date than the movie was and the science is more realistic. That is just because science has come a long way since the fifties. The only caveat, if it was a choice of changing something that was in the movie or changing science, I think he stayed true to what was in the movie. Since I last saw the movie over thirty years ago, I don't remember it well.

The story begins right where the movie left off, with the destruction of Altair IV. All the characters from the movie are there but they don't mouth lines as corny as in the movie. They also have more modern attitudes. Alta now has a meaningful role, intelligence and a personality. They find her aunt and she has a meaningful role also, showing that this was not written in the '50's. While there is no explict sex in the story, there is affection and two marriages happen during it. To me it is the love interest rather than sex that is appealing.

The plot is about finding an outpost of the Krell. It is not manned by their people but by robots. The other main part of the plot is corruption within the United Planets division of science. Our crew has to overcome them both. Once again, in the 50's we couldn't have had corruption in the government of the 'good guys' but that turns out to be more of a problem than the Krell robots. There is some body count in this, but not much more than Antidote, or about what you find in a murder mystery or spy thriller. A dozen or so, not hundreds of thousands. The prose is very good. There are some proofreading errors, occasional missing words but only once did I have to backtrack to figure out what the sentence meant. To be honest, many of the stories I've read lately have been so confusing that I was wondering if I might just be getting so senile I can't follow them any more. This one proved that is not the case.

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Forge of Stone – Vasileios Kalampakas

*** sex = 1, action = 4, prose = 9

For the first half of this book you will think it is classic epic fantasy, but little by little it's true nature will become apparent until you see that it is relatively mainstream sci-fi. The language is somewhat flowery and poetic like epic fantasy, but the proofreading errors and the fact that is sometimes a bit overdone kept me from awarding the prose a 10.

This story has some of the atmosphere of Gene Wolf's 'Book of the New Sun' series and some echos of 'Map of the Known World' in the runaway theocracy that rules the world where this takes place. By the middle of the book you are pretty sure it is going to follow the path of 'Book of the New Sun' but it does not. I won't give the ending away by revealing the plot twist that makes this story unique, other than to say it has one and is definitely not a knock-off of that classic, but just set in a similar universe and time.

I debated whether this was a three or a four star, I gave it three for the following reasons: Sometimes it takes awhile before you know who the narrator is for a chapter. The characters deliver a lot of soliloquies and some of them are a bit too long and looping. There is a lot of action and dialog that seems to go on too long. The book could have dropped fifty pages without detracting from the story.

The science seems almost like fantasy, but it is so far in the future that nearly anything COULD be possible by then, even things that seem to break the laws of physics as we know them today. When one proposes technology as advanced as in this book it is really impossible to determine just how realistic it is. It is realistic enough that it did not detract from the story for me. The only mention of anything sexual is that one of the characters is pregnant.

The story seems to be more for entertainment than to make a point. He does mention that the people are being bred to follow like sheep, sort of like the sheeple of America who are blindly giving up their free will to parrot a certain radio personality. The twist at the end shows how absolutely meaningless and worthless small lives (yours and mine) are to the dominant ones in society. These points are tenous at best, read it for entertainment.

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Fort Falling – Darryl Branning

*** sex = 4, action = 3, prose = 9

In the front matter the author almost apologizes for the format of this story, but I found it interesting. It is written as a series of blog posts. They tell the story of a space station orbiting Saturn that is given up by the company that owns it once it's orbit starts to decay. The posts give insight into the life of someone living in a space station. In the process we hear the story of the people remaining on the station and their efforts to boost their orbit and their encounter with an intelligent alien virus.

The story is full of intelligent chimps and cats, new and unique sports that can only be played on a rotating space station and a few inventions that are there more for the fun than the science. This is not hard science fiction, but the science is better than comic book. The characters are good but you only get to know the main character well, you never know the thoughts of the others. It is very free of violence and while there is a love interest, nothing is too explict for all ages.

The main theme of the book is human enhancement although it uses a different method than Evoguia or any of my own novels. There isn't a real deep examination of the implications of human enhancement, in this story it is used mainly for fun. The story is more fun than thilling or enlightening, but I thought it was worth the time.

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Free-Wrench – Joseph R. Lallo

*** sex = 2, action = 7, prose = 8

A 'Free-Wrench' is a jack-of-all-trades in the geothermal steam plants on a chain of isolated islands on the planet where this takes place. I can't really call this space opera because no one thinks about space. I can't really call it science fiction becasue science is completely ignored. I can call it entertaining however because it is a breathless adventure almost from the get-go. I can even call it slightly meaningful because in here we see protests about how corporations make products that are impossible to service and protests at the way big pharma refuses to do research on antibiotics because they actually cure a disease instead of just treating it in a way that makes you dependent on the drug for life. I once knew a guy who worked at a Pfizer research lab. He said if anyone there was to ever discover a cure for cancer, their lab would be levelled and their body would have been found floating in the Thames the next day.

The plot is about a girl who was a free-wrench, a girl who's mother was dying of a disease for which there was no cure on the island. She meets some smugglers who tell her there may be a cure for that disease on the mainland so she makes a hasty decision to go off with them on their blimp in search of it. Their society is quite lawless and that decision leads to quite a series of adventures. The mainland's industry and science is under control of a mutated race of people who live under a toxic fog that has covered most of the continent. the people of the 'fug' as that toxic fog is called, don't allow anyone else to do any technical work and that makes her run afoul of them. In the steam age, turning a wrench is considered technical work.

The only sex in the story is one crewman's liking for 'girlie' pictures. The main character comes off as quite the prude about it. The violence is high but not gory and the action is almost cartoon-like in it's unreality. Everything happens at the very last split second, people fall off one blimp to land on another, that kind of thing. It's fun, but not very realistic.

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Freedom Incorporated – Peter Tylee

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

There are a lot of dystopia novels out there and many are about the evils of the corporate take over. This is better than the majority in most ways. The proofreading and other literary attributes might not be quite up to the level of ‘The Windup Girl’ but the story and the characters are more likable and the message is more direct. The characters are not as asexual as in most free sci-fi, but there is no actual sex. There is a fair amount of violence, but this is not a shoot-em-up and is not graphic.

The physical science is not quite believable for someone who follows physics in the popular press, but is far above most Hollywood Sci-fi and there is nothing that detracts from the story. The social science is believable, mainly because the author has not fallen into the trap of many others, and that is the idea that the corporations are taking over from the nation-states by force of arms or money. They are not, they are taking over because the vast majority of the population, at least the American population, want them to. This author understands that the era of nation-states is drawing to a close and that we are entering the era of corporate feudalism. All we can do is hope that his dream for giving it a conscious can come true.

My personal opinion is that the very structure of a corporation, where this quarter's bottom line is the only thing of importance in the universe, makes that impossible. The fact that corporations are run by software today, where no human values can enter into the equation, even subconsciously, also makes this impossible. The fact that financed-based capitalism cannot function in a steady-state (sustainable) universe doesn't enter into this story because it is too near-term. No doubt Peter Tylee knows all that also, but wanted to give the story a happy ending.

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