Reviews of free sci-fi with titles beginning with M
**** Sex = 1, action = 7, Prose = 9
A story of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, space pirates, interplanetary war and political intrigue. Very well written, a bit slow in spots but generally fast paced. The pirates are some of the main characters, a group of hackers are a large part of the action and an over-the-top evil villain and his henchmen make up the rest, except for the A.I. It takes a fair amount of time for the A.I. to make her appearance, until then you aren't sure what the point of the story is.
The setting is fairly realistic. It's the early 2200's, there are settlements on Mars, a large space station orbiting Venus and other outposts in the solar system. He talks about 'the galaxy,' but really means the solar system. There's a form of warp drive but it is used to get around inside the solar system and not to other stars. There is no mention of a any person or thing reaching another star. In this the corporations control the governments, the common people have little if any rights and people seem to be either slaves or outlaws.
The biggest thing wrong with this is that it extends into the past and the future but there is no book about the original A.I. war, and no sequel that tells us how this came out. The book ends but the story doesn't, like if I had published Yoonbarla without Lhar or Zhlindu.
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*** Sex = 3, action = 7, Prose = 9
A good space opera of early galactic civilization with FTL drives, space fleets and aliens more like us than chimpanzees. The main character is a young woman entering the space service with a great record in training and a martial arts background. She soon proves herself in action and becomes the 'pet' of the ranking officers.
The story consists of several action episodes. The common theme is her heroics, selfless devotion to duty and crewmates. In some regards she is a bit like Kessil of Antidote, Acolyte and Abomination but not as fallible, fun-loving or sexual. I usually don't enjoy such superhuman heroics, but this is well done and her remorse at the violence relieves some of the brutality.
She experiments briefly with heterosexuality but remains primarily lesbian thruout. There are no graphic scenes, none of her lesbian desires are actually consumated. There is quite a bit of violence, but it is not ridiculously violent. The prose is good and the proofreadnig is okay. The main error is an occasional missing word.
The series continues but the others are not free. In them the main character eventually becomes the military leader of human space. While I enjoyed this book, I am not tempted to follow the series further for the following reason: bipedal, six foot tall aliens communicating with sound waves, 15 minutes more advanced than humans of the time is ABSOLUTE FANTASY. Using them is a cheap and shallow way to attract human readers. It doesn't work for me without showing me how they got from Olduvai Gorge to their planet of origin. When God said, 'In his image,' he did not mean it so literally.
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** Sex = 1, action = 2, Prose = 5
A relatively short novel about vampires and another species of alien living secretly on Earth. It's fast paced narration told in the first person. There is little dialog and it reads like a high school writing assignment, though the proofreading is actually pretty good (better than mine). There are some really gross scenes, but not much action or outright violence. There is no sex, but two different alien birth scenes. There is no science at all, though there are a couple spaceships so it's not traditional fantasy either.
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** Sex = 1, action = 6, Prose = 7
This is an ambitious project trying to take on the nature of reality, the nature of the mind and the nature of the soul. Part of his argument seems to be that reality isn't real, but is a construction of the mind, or a series of vibrations that can be controlled by the mind. He asserts that the mind is a connection to a higher dimension, a common theme in stories of this type. He also seems to be reaching for the concept of the soul as an independent entity, sort of like the fifth order condensate I used in Tangle in the Dark. I personally believe the universe is real and that the mental control he seems to think we can have over it is only available in simulation (where we are God and determine the 'laws of physics' in our simulated universe). He tries to use string theory as a basis for what he's postulating, but I don't think the math really works out. There's no math in the book and I'm not enough of a mathematician to be able to seriously critique it anyway, but my guess is the theory doesn't support the events in this story.
The plot is about a man who's family was killed by a dictator or demigod who then promised he could bring them back if the main character would complete a mission. His best friend goes with him and is another important character in the story. They soon turn the mission into a quest for the demigod himself. The plot wasn't front and center enough, often getting lost in solioquy's about the meaning of the universe, mind and soul to the point where I forgot where we were, who was present and what we were about. Maybe if I had read it with more purpose and kept notes I would have kept up with it, but leave it at this, you must expend some effort to follow it, you won't be swept along. There is a twist in his quest near the end. The novel is fairly well structured, building to a climax and getting deeper as it goes.
There is a lot of violence, whole planets are destroyed, but you never know if it's real life, a flashback, a dream sequence or an alternate reality. There are some scenes where the action is almost grabbing, but for the most part it is distant and out of focus. To one who abhors violence, that can be a good thing. There are some hints at attraction and some of the characters love, desire and/or need one another, but nothing comes of it. This is just about completely devoid of science, but is an example of what could be called psy-fantasy or something like that. A pretty common sub-genre between fantasy and paranormal but with a grander scope.
The big problem is the proofreading and grammer. Spell check was run but that was about all. There are lots of missing words and they are often critical ones. There are also plenty of wrong words and sometimes they are also critical ones. I had to back up over sentences that didn't make any sense dozens if not hundreds of times, trying to figure out what it was supposed to say. I don't think there is an occurance of the word 'off' in the book, he always uses 'of'.
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**** Sex = 1, action = 8, Prose = 8
Only a couple small flaws kept this from being a five star winner. The basic premise of the science in use is pretty questionable, and the proofreading is not quite professional grade. Other than the invention that the whole story is based on, the science is very good. This story has managed to include space battles that are at once realistic and exciting, something that rarely occurs in sci-fi. In this the authors knows there are no aerodynamics in space and lays out the scenes and tactics accordingly.
There is a lot of old time sci-fi 'gee-whiz' engineering, a lot of relatively unrealistic ahead-of-schedule and under-budget craftsmanship and a bit of Heinleinesque machismo. This was undoubtedly fun to write in that it includes a technical breakthrough that takes us thousands of years into the future in one leap and lets the author and his main character re-make civilization in a dozen years. Other than that, this can be considered 'hard' science fiction.
The era this takes place is in the rather near future, around 2040. The world of the time is realistic, the U.S. is much diminished, the Middle East and the 'Stans are the world's trouble spots, China is an important power. The problems of the rabid right, the corporate takeover and income distribution are pretty much ignored.
Characters are pretty good, not the strongest part of the novel, but not a detraction. Minor characters are a bit stereotypical but the major players have personalities, though none are terribly unique. The book is big, nearly the length of Zhlindu but in a single time-line. There is a tiny dab of romance in the story. Pre-marital sex is hinted at among some characters but never actually observed. Sexual assault is threatened but never occurs. It's chaste enough for tweens. There are quite a few words and commas missing but the prose is good enough to read easily. The author has other books, but none of the others are free. This seemed the most interesting to me anyway.
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*** Sex = 1, action = 6, Prose = 9
This is from the 'Firefly' television series from a few years ago. I don't think it is an episode that actually made it onto the air, if so it was not one that I have seen. It is very much an episode in the series with the same characters, a similar world, the same atmosphere and mannerisms. It could very well be that Steven Brust was a writer for the series. The series was pretty good fun in spite of making every planet in the universe look like the desert just outside L.A. That was for bugetary reasons of course. (Imagine what it would cost to make a movie of Zhlindu for instance.)
The story reads like a novel, not a screenplay and is well written. The prose and proofreading are excellent. The characters are pretty true to what they were in the series and are at least as well developed as the actors were able to interpret them in the show. This story is a bit more meaningful than the average episode in the series, and has a little less violence. There are no silly fist fights, which I thought were the main drawback to that series and of course Star Trek. It must have been hell for the writers to try and figure a way to work multiple fist fights into every episode. This story uses the same comic-book science and engineering as the series, but it is not central to the plot and doesn't get in the way of enjoying the story.
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