Reviews of free sci-fi with titles beginning with L
*** sex = 1, action = 8, prose = 9
A well done Sword and Sorcerer epic, pretty much in the standard format. Better than most but not completely true to the genre. In most Sword and Sorcerer there are certain rules of magic that are analogous to the laws of physics in this universe. They were laid down by Tolkien when he started the genre and followed pretty much intact by other greats in the field. The laws of magic in this are somewhat different, but this book (and presumably the whole series) at least lets you know ahead of time what they are instead of having them pop up in the middle of battle to save the day.
Some of the differences are that Elves have super powers and can 'ascend' to become dragons, very unlike the Elves of Kassidor who are simply a race of mankind like Asians, Africans or Native Americans. There is another race with super powers who are the enemies of the Elves and oppressors of the Humans (Nordics or Caucasians). Unlike Tolkien and mainstream Sword and Sorcerer, this does not seem like a legend handed down from a time in the distant past when there was higher technology that is indistinguishable from magic by the people of the time.
The plot concerns the secret training and hiding of a special Elf/Human hybrid who is prophesied to either save or destroy the Elves. This is just like the Quisach Haderact of Dune. Agents of the evil empire attempt to capture him and he must go on a pretty standard quest to retain his freedom. The gore runs deep but doesn't have quite the impact of some. As the genre goes, it's fairly mild. There is a bit of love interest and one character actually spends the night with someone but you are not present for it. The story appears to be pure entertainment with no particular message.
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**** sex = 7, action = 4, prose = 8
The author does not consider this part of the Earthbound series, but it is closely related. It is not part of the series in that it is not told from the point of view of Nykkyo Khyanna, but from the point of view of Lise, one of the people he meets in 'The Lost Colony'. This is also the most uplifting book I've read in a long while. There are only two things that kept this from being a five star, Hugo worthy piece of literature. The first is that some of the dialog is a wee bit juvenile (but still far more real than most in this market) and the second is that much of the suspense is resolved too easily and too lightly, a fault most of my own work suffers from.
Like 'The Lost Colony' this is about race and slavery and the lies we tell ourselves to justify it. We also see in this the opposite side of the issue, those who try to solve it too quickly and those who are blinded by the injustice to the point where they can't understand that some of the oppressed people can also harbor evil in their souls. We get a pretty good look at the frustration and hopelessness of people who are oppressed. Not quite enough to make me sure the author has lived that life, but at least as much understanding as someone who has shared their lives as much as I have.
At least in this part of the country we have acheived much of what the main characters in this story hoped to accomplish. People of all races now have the same legal rights. We still have work to do in granting all the same social rights, we still have too much mistrust, but we are making progress. Interracial marriage is now accepted, here, if not in all of America. All fields of employment are open, although there is some disagreement on the meaning of 'qualified'. We don't have as much understanding of the lives of others as we should, we still sometimes, usually unintentionally, say or do things that hurt, and we sometimes get frustrated, but most of us have at least some commitment to racial harmony and even the others are willing to abide by the old Yankee proverb of 'live and let live'. We are doing what this story asks of us, evolution, not revolution.
The top of the 'to do' list right now is the problem of fear on the part of the police. In many cases I don't feel it is justified, but is only an excuse for racism. There is some of it that is real and it gives the racists a screen to hide behind. That issue of fear is not dealt with in this story, but the cure for it is. That is simply knowledge. Get to know people of other races as people and you will lose that fear and see that there is absolutely no racial linkage to personality traits. That comes across loud and clear in here. There is another fear that we can repair via our legal system and that is fear on the part of jurors of retaliation by the police. Keep their identities secret from the police and there will be more convictions, giving the racists something to really fear.
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*** sex = 2, action = 6, prose = 9
Another mankind versus giant insects novel, a good one, with plenty of unexpected twists, good characters and generous dollops of action. The aliens don't show up til quite a ways into the story, until then the main action is a couple brothers working in a college physics lab learning more and more about their mentor/boss while the results of their illicit experiment devastates the Earth. There are brushes with NASA and the military and for a time it looks like the story might be heading toward military Sci-fi. Keep going, there are more changes coming.
There's quit a bit of gore and lots of death and destruction. In spite of that the atmosphere is rather light and cheerful. The characters do experience desire, but there is no actual sex. The science is just about believeable, and very central to the story, as much as the science in Tangle in the Dark, but it is not the whole story as in a Robert Forward novel.
This is the first of a trilogy, the others are not free. This one is more like a series than a trilogy in that the first book is a complete story (Unlike Lodestone Book I or The Second Expedition for instance). Thus you can read it without worrying that you will have to go into the paid market to finish. The book ends with a short intro leading to a cliffhanger that tells you how the second book will start, but it will be a separate but related adventure using the same characters and universe.
The universe is the multiverse, with parallel Earths. Most of the action takes place in the here and now, or at least the near future, and the aliens fit within a baggy suit, thus this could fit within the budget of a made-for-tv movie. It would be far better than most.
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** sex = 1, action = 7, prose = 7
This has artificial recreations of historical characters, a sexy lady assassin, a runaway train and dinosaurs, how could it go wrong? What went wrong is it is all set up to be a rip-roaring comedy, but it isn't very funny. The story is medium length but has the setting and character development of a short story. It takes place in a mildly dystopian world where Little America (the northeast) is under control of a mob-run corporation and Big America (Everything south and west of D.C.) is in a time warp worshiping the past. There's a fair amount of violence that should have been slapstick, but doesn't quite make it. I would choose 'Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede' as a much better example of this sub-genre.
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**** sex = 1, action = 5, prose = 10
An excellent novel by an established pro. This has distinctive, lifelike characters, great world building and an interesting story with enough action but no rivers of gore. The plot is a rebellion against a terrible tyrant in a theocratic regime, formed as a quest with a limited number of main characters. There is nothing new about the plot or premise, but this is done better than most similar stories. The characters are deeper than most and two of them go on spiritual journeys as important as the quest itself.
The world is interesting, a small planet orbiting a brown dwarf that orbits a spectroscopic binary of yellow and white suns. Even though the planet is small enough that the gravity is light, it is far 'bigger' than most sci-fi worlds in that there are differences in culture and climate between regions. For me it fun because the language has the sound of Kassidorian if not the same meaning ('Keltar' is 'City of Truth' in Kassidorian). I'm sure Mark Whiteway has never heard of Kassidor and derived the language from a common root (Tolkien) independently. The life is not the same old Earth biosphere (meaning we'll never see the movie). The science behind this world might not stand up to rigorous analysis by an astrophysicist in some areas, but it is interesting and different none the less.
The natives of the planet are humans with tails and white blood. They have the same hair and eye colors as we do and I'd like to think that they were genetically engineered from humans at some point in the distant past, because parallel evolution this close is hard to believe. There are hints of that in the story. Their personalities and motivations are much more like those of today's (normal) humans than Kassidor's modified humans. They never make any use of their tails and for most of the story you forget they have them. Even if they do not turn out to be engineered from humans, they must be human-like so that they are interesting to the human reader. There is another intelligent species on the planet with six legs that is different enough to be believable. Their intelligence is about that of an ape or a Kassidorian keda. Their personalities and motivations are not human-like, so that if the story were told from their perspective it would be uninteresting to human readers.
The unique property of this planet is that is is rich in 'lodestone,' the substance the series is named for, a substance with negative gravity. I would have thought this was obvious fantasy until recently when some scientists began taking the possibility seriously. They think it may take antimatter to make it happen, but if they are right getting from there to the substance in the story is just engineering details. Much use is made of the substance in the book, as a means of flight and as an energy source. There are hints that it will have even more uses later in the series.
The biggest drawback; you can't complete the tale in the free market. As the title says, it is the first of a series and is not complete in the first book, in fact the first book seems to just get you to the site where the real action will begin. There are four more in the series at 3.99 each. From reading the first, I'd say they're probably worth it but I haven't read them (yet) and won't be reviewing them here because they are not free.
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** sex = 1, action = 5, prose = 7
Humans discover wormholes to a different dimension and colonize a planet that looks more like a flower than a planet. There are slightly different laws of physics in the other dimension, primarily gravity pulls you to the nearest surface and not the center of mass and the weather follows no rules that we know. There are aliens on the planet, and there are several wars with them.
The story tries to be very philosophical. It seems to be saying to stop struggling and let nature and/or God take care of things, but its point wasn't entirely clear to me. There is little dialog and not really that much plot either. There are wars but you are seldom present for the battles. You're there for a couple missions but most of the wars are narrated. You are in fact, not present for much. The book reads more like an historical synopsis struggling to be brief.
The book was probably translated from a different language. There are quite a few missing words, an occasional extra word, many wrong words and many cases where the tense, gender and other grammatical values are wrong, sometimes enough that the meaning isn't clear. Now and then a new paragraph starts in the middle of a sentence. On the nook that I use the ends of chapters sometimes wouldn't resize, requiring a magnifying glass to see what it said. There were several times I did not have one available.
It was good that they were in a different dimension where the laws of physics could be different because there is only a tenuous connection to physics as we know it. There are male and female characters and one wonders a couple times if she's feeling an attraction, other than that they are all neutered. You don't get close enough to anything to feel the violence that must be happening in the numerous wars. This might have worked much better in his native tongue.
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*** sex = 2, action = 8, prose = 8
This had quite a bit to overcome to wind up with three stars. The science is pretty shaky, the space battles are worldwar era aerial dogfights, the solar system is very small and Earth has been obliterated by a stream of meteors reminiscent of Tangle in the Dark but with no explanation or purpose other than getting Earth out of the way so colonies on the Moon and a partially terraformed Mars can be on their own.
What is great about the story is the plot, the detective work, the suspense and the action scenes late in the book. The characters are pretty good, they have emotions and thoughts. The male lead has an intense mental hangup about Mars, which turns out to be correct because there is an evil plot at work. The book is full length and it takes two thirds of it for the truth to come to light. Once it does, the detective work is over and the action begins.
Getting the Earth out of the way in a common theme in Sci-fi. It is difficult to realistically extrapolate to what conditions will be like here in two or three hundred years. It is easier to imagine a new setting where conditions can be as you like them. In this case the Moon and Mars are tiny, a few settlements, a few million people, no history, only one culture. Settlements in other parts of the solar system are mentioned, but never actually enter into the action. But this story is about detective work, corruption, the lust for power and action, not about world building or social policy. Even though social policy is the drving force behind the conspiracy, it is not front and center.
There are more books in the series but they are not quite free, 99 cents. I hope they will explain the source of the meteors that destroyed Earth, the purpose of the element with supernatural powers that is in them, and what happens to the daughter of the chief conspirator who remains behind on Mars. There are unanswered questions, but the story is complete in itself, not just a teaser.
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** sex = 1, action = 3, prose = 8
L.U.P.A. 2020 is the Licensed Use of Psychedelics Act, a law that was passed in 2020ad. that allowed supervised use of psychedelic drugs. The plot starts with people trying to use them to simulate suicide and the conflicts within one of the companies providing the drugs and conseling. The psychedelics are being used in what is supposed to be a therapeutic setting, not recreational.
I found this confusing, and maybe it is because the story is short and attempts to move along quickly. These days stories do need to be short to fit into the average person's busy life, but maybe a little more detail might have made the points a little more clear. As the story is now it's not clear to me if it was written as entertainment or to make a point, and if it was to make a point, I'm not sure what the point was.
There are a few parts that are narrated in exhaustive detail, such as starting an I.V. and changing a tire. There's only a slight change from today, and I didn't quite see the point, especially when so much of it is brief. There are lots of references to the sound track, lots of classical pieces and a few Credence Clearwater Revival songs. Everything has a speaker at the time and they are usually on. There are some descriptions of being under the influence of psychedelics. True they aren't supposed to be the same drugs, but neither is loon in 'The Foeth Hunter'.
The good thing about the story is it is low on violence, the body count is in the single digits. The characters are good enough, probably as well developed as they can be in a novel this short. The setting is a little vague. This was supposed to happen in the United States but it is unrealistic to think such a law could be passed in the United States by 2020, especially since there was a national law making marijuana legal before that. He also says cancer will be cured by then but a society where the purpose of medical research is to make profits for investors is intrinsically unable to cure cancer, or anything else for that matter.
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** sex = 2, action = 4, prose = 2
I'm giving this two stars only because of the subject matter. The book is about the corporate takeover, a subject that is dear to my heart. In this the corporate take-over is linked to a war in heaven with the evil corporation linked to Satan and demons and the little people linked to God and Jesus. So far so good. Half of the action takes place in the real world, half takes place in a supernatural world based on the imagery of Revelation. The characters enter the supernatural thru dreams, most of the time, occasionally the worlds overlap during occult seances using a seven pointed star and a copper fire bowl.
There is quite a bit of the philosophy of both sides. The arguments from the right are spot on. The average person can't make a move without an alpha male to direct them, many of the average people ARE handing over their reins freely, (they call themselves ditto-heads after all) and they are desperately calling for leadership. It is true that people can't keep up with the rate of change, can't sort thru the plethora of choices they have to make in their lives and wish for someone they could just obey who will make everything right.
The arguments from the left are as much fantasy as the action in the supernatural realm. He thinks we should stop everything and let nature provide. That boils down to retreating to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle because that is all nature provides by herself. The Earth might support a hundred million people in that lifestyle. What are we to do with the other seven billion?
To some people the powers of the elite must seem supernatural but they are not. They have more control of their non-verbal communication and enhanced perception of non-verbal communication. Thus they can deceive us and we can't decieve them. It is this ability that gives them power and not seances where they call up demons. The Nazi's were occultists but did not have supernatual powers. All the evil they did is within the human soul, the desire to rule over others.
If not for the intriguing ideas, the book is unreadable. It MUST have been translated from another language. Almost all punctuation is in error. 'There,' 'their' and 'they're' are almost never right, changing them all to 'there' would have been right more often. Quoation marks are in the wrong place and are often missing but there are plenty of extras to make up for them. Character names are often wrong, the sentence structure is often wrong and inconsistent. There are no chapter divisions and occasionally the narrator and point of view changes without even a blank line to indicate it. It often takes a lot of going back and puzzling to try and determine what the passage is trying to say. This is not a good way to get a point across.
He uses the word 'Dominion' often, that is the name of a much better book on the topic by J.L. Bryant. Another is Freedom Incorporated by Peter Tylee. For an analysis of a society based on cooperation instead of coercion there is even The Aluminum Quest.
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