Reviews of Free Sci-fi - N

Reviews of free sci-fi with titles beginning with N

Nanowhere – Chris Howard

**** Sex = 1, action = 6, Prose = 9

This is a story of nanotechnology aimed at teens. While it is aimed at teens it is more mature than many here which are not. Like others, it relies heavily on the unspeakable cruelty of middle-schoolers, even though this is set in high school where most have outgrown the stupid acts of bullying and destruction that distract from an otherwise good story.

This takes place in America after the restoration, when the rightful govrnment has been restored after being taken over by a brutal dictator. This was written long before Trump announced his candidacy, but if it wasn't him, it would have been some other demagogue because the rabid right has taken the brains of so many voters. I like the fact that the author thinks the rightful government can be restored after, but to me that makes it a little unrealistic because so many Americans are so desperate to turn the country over to a tyrant. But other than that, there are little changes from today.

The characters are well done and interesting, though the female lead is a little over-the-top and unrealistic. Code takes time to write no matter how good you are. The male lead figures out he's in love by the end, but that's all the sexuality there is in the story. The prose and proofreading are excellent, not quite up to a 10, but solidly a 9. The science is a little better then in 'Johnny Winger and the Serengeti Factor,' but that may be because there is a lot less of it. In this the story is about the adventure and not the wonders of nanotechnology.

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Neptune Crossing – Jeffery Carver

**** Sex = 3, action = 5, Prose = 9

An excellent Science Fiction adventure from an established professional. This opens the 'Chaos Chronicles' series, but is enough of an independent story to enjoy for itself, though the ending of this volume of the chronicles is bittersweet. The remainder of the series is not free at this time, but I've managed to find a copy of the fourth, 'Sunborn' on the free market and should be able to get to that sometime next year.

The setting is in 2166, before the beginning of interstellar flight. The action takes place in a mining colony on Neptune's moon Triton, run by a moderately evil corporation with the usual pea-brained management. The world is believable, especially considering it was written in 1994. With the way automation is going, it now looks unlikely that humans will be doing any of the manual labor in mining Triton, or anywhere else by that time, but that wasn't so obvious at the time. It also makes a more interesting story if humans still have something to do. In my own tales of this time period (The Second Expedition, Tangle in the Dark) only simulated humans are even out there.

The main character, John Bandicut, is very well done. He is a complex person with a past that influences his character. He's just a bit autistic, plagued by withdrawal from his computer implants that were destroyed by an incompetent company doctor. He's ripe for invasion by an alien mind, one who quickly takes the place of an imaginary friend. The alien in his mind and his own isolation make it difficult for him to pursue the love interest in the story, but he succeeds anyway. If only pretty girls were that forgiving of social ineptness in real life (sigh).

It may be that all authors have to be at least a little bit autistic, after all, we do spend a lot of time in our own minds. I, for one, find it an exercise of brute intellect to imagine a character who is not somewhat awkward in social situations, but Jeffery has captured the feeling of being tongue-tied in the presence of a pretty girl better than anyone. It is not the most extreme, but believable without being a farce.

The adventure in the story is engaging without being gory. If you're looking for simple body count, you won't find it here. What you will find is plenty of atmosphere, a good look into some alien minds, and gripping suspense with the fate of Earth in the balance.

The author also has a good site for aspiring Sci-fi writers, with a lot of tips and examples on how to write agood sci-fi story. His work tells us that he knows what he's talking about.

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Never the Twain – Simon Stanton

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

Two mega computers run everything in the city and every effort must be made too keep them from communicating with each other or they could very well take over the city and leave humans out. A new recruit operator finds that he is being manipulated by his computer to let them communicate with each other. This story is as short as the average article in Sports Illustrated but has everything a short story should have.

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Nexus – Robert Boyczuk

**** Sex = 1, action = 7, Prose = 9

For the first couple hundred pages you may wonder why I gave this a 7 for action when you haven't seen any. This book does start rather slow with a very limited cast of unlikable people. As it says, only misfits would become long haul spacers so he would be contradicting that claim if the characters were any different. We hear a lot of their thoughts and philosophy, maybe too much.

The plot is a long haul space crew who returns to their home planet after a thirty year voyage to find everyone exterminated by a plague. For most of the story, surviving the plague seems to be the main action of the story. The four characters are not able to get along with each other, leading to a really depressing period in the story that I almost couldn't get thru. During this time they find they are all infected with the plague.

The story livens up quite a bit when another long haul ship comes in and two of the most disturbing characters announce that they have a plan to procure an antidote for the plague. The crew all agrees that the plague was created by 'Nexus' (which is the name for the 'Empire' or human space government in this story) because their home planet was advancing technologically faster than the government allows. Most of the second half of the story is the effort to reach the Nexus and coerce them into providing the antidote.

In this later part, and especially the ending, we see that the story is really about the extreme depravity 'people' (I use the term loosely) will stoop to to gain or regain power. He re-enforces the notion that speach was only developed to allow lies and shows that politicians (no matter what cover they use) will only say what you want to hear and never the truth.

The book is so well done I had to give it four stars, but so depressing that a part of me wishes I had never come across it.

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