Reviews of Free Sci-fi - P


Reviews of free sci-fi with titles beginning with P



Peregrin – A. Sparrow


*** Sex = 2, action = 9, Prose = 8

The sequel to Xenolith happens almost entirely on a parallel Earth in a medievil level of technology. People from Earth reach here via 'magic' stones that form a link between the worlds at various times. In this the doctor finds his long lost wife who is living among the natives with a few other people from Earth called 'peregrins'.

Most of the plot is actually about the war taking place between two different nations on the parallel planet. The planet is never given a name, only a few of the nations are named. The war is similar enough to the early part of the Fmak invasion of the Kshoned basin that I can now say a chonicler has given it life. The landforms and society are like the Kshoned in the early Troubled Times although the vegetation is Earth native and the people look more like those of the Ydontrostl Basin. The people of the Kshoned at the time had lighter skin and curlier hair.

The story earns high marks for the well rendered society and especially the well done characters. It could have been a four star if not for the excessive and brutal violence. That violence is true to the Fmak invasion of Kshoned, but it is heart rending when it happens to characters you've come to care about. It is not quite as bad as Xenolith only because few of the major characters die.

When I picked up this book it was listed on 'free-online-novels' but between then and now it has been removed, and is now only available on Amazon. Xenolith for kindle is still free, Peregrin is not. The free version had a fair amount of typos, I don't know if they are in the Amazon version. If you don't mind the violence, I think it is worth the price.

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Phantasia – M.U. Riyadad


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

This fantasy epic is amazing for being the first work of a young man barely older than I was when I started The Second Expedition. This is as ambitious a project and has the same structure of moving into ever deeper waters as the story goes on. The truely amazing thing about this is he was able to complete it in a single year and not the forty it took me. Of course most of the forty years was spent in other endeavors like building a house, raising a family and designing the machine that read your tax forms, as well as waiting for computer technology to get to the point where I could make the revisions necessary to get a coherent and somewhat readable story. Still, what he's done is a tremendous acheivement.

The story itself is pretty good. I'm not a great fan of fantasy but I can recognize that this one is done well. It does not introduce new rules of magic every time the characters get in a tight spot, it has an unexpected twist at the end and most of the characters are pretty well done. Instead of the usual trio, there are five who set out on the quest, and they pick up a sixth (a former enemy) in the last quarter of the tale. The author has an 'explanation,' or 'confession' at the end of the book where he lists his influences, but the world he's built seems more like Gene Wolfe's world in 'Book of the New Sun' or Zelazny's 'Amber' series than anything by Lovecraft or Faulkner. It admits that some of it is simulated, but the biggest magic exists outside simulation. It is NOTHING like Kassidor. Kassidor draws on the language of fantasy but is as scientifically accurate as I could make it at the time. This draws on relatively little of the language of fantasy, 'Elf' and 'Dragon' being the main words borrowed, but has almost no science or technology, physical or social.

He uses the word 'elf' but the beings so named are nothing like traditional Elves or the Elves of Kassidor. The elves in here use generally less technology, are often more violent and some varieties are of lesser intelligence then mainstream humans. The dragons in this are not just large and dangerous flying animals but supernatural beings of superior intelligence. There are many other kinds of creatures in the worlds where this takes place, many of which have supernatural powers and many of which have as much intelligence as a human.

He claims more books in the series are planned, I don't think any are complete yet. No doubt such things as career, home and family will slow down that progress also. There is quite a bit of violence in the story but it is not as gory or as sickening as some. Most of it is against 'critters' or supernatural beings/forces. There is no sex and only a slight hint of attraction between some of the characters. The proofreading is pretty good, a few repeated words, minor typos here and there. If you're looking for some fairly unique fantasy, I can recommend this.

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Phantom Universe – Laura Kreitzer


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

This starts out as a look at human trafficing and slavery in modern times. The main character of the book is captured by slavers and sold into slavery on a modern day pirate ship. During that part of the book there is nothing at all 'science fiction' about the story. It details the girl's horrific treatment. The treatment is horrifying, but a real slave in modern times would consider herself lucky if she made it to twelve without being raped, much less sixteen. I was ready to have a good read about the subject, even if it wasn't sci-fi.

Alas it was not to be. A secret society finds her on the cargo ship and in trying to take her, she winds up going two hundred years into to future. The adventure and romance of the story begins there, as well as a few things that don't add up. The biggest problem is that two hundred million people are blinked into the future at the same time. They are found within days, but there are already camps set up for them and popular sentiment is against them, as if they had been there for at least a year.

The time is another look at life after the demise of the USA, this time after a conquest by Canada. Now I admit I've never spent a lot of time in Canada and have only met a dozen or so people from there, but to me a militaristic and bigoted Canada seems a little far fetched. The action is also a little unbelievable, especially an eighteen year old boy having the authority shown by the male lead.

The romance is probably the most believable part of the story, at least from her side. It is necessary for the story that the male fall for her, but in real life he would feel a lot more pity than lust. The story is quite chaste with nothing more than kisses exchanged and no erogenous zones named.

All in all the story is entertaining. I may be shortchanging it a little because I was really expecting an expose on human trafficing and slavery and disappointed that it wasn't followed up on.

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Pink Butterfly – Geoff Lynch


** Sex = 4, action = 6, Prose = 7

This is billed as an erotic novel, and some of the characters actually do have sex and a couple of them are actually attractive, but there is a lot more sleaze than sex and a lot more violence than either, brutal, impulsive, unthinking alligator-style violence.

The Pink Butterfly is a strip club where most of the story takes place. It is also the embassy of an obsure, poverty stricken country that doesn't show on any map. That and the fact that the story is filled with ghosts and passages back and forth across the barrier of death, and one of the characters has a potato for a heart and the ability to open his chest and bite off people's heads with it is what makes it sci-fi. The quality of this novel that makes it most like erotica is that the plot is pretty nonsensical, and there is nothing in here to take seriously.

The author may be trying to say something about the sleazy, low-life world of strippers and strip clubs. What little I've seen of it, even in Texas, where the story takes place, was nowhere near as bad as this. Nor is the clientelle. A better and more realistic, though still sleazy look into this world is found in 'Denial' by Kieth Ablow, although that is not sci-fi and last I knew was not in the free market.

The author may also be trying to increase the chastity of our culture by making sex look ugly, diseased and violent. As a child of the 60's I have seen the other side, that even casual sex can be affectionate and fun, even if a little overwhelming, as in Yoonbarla. A similar amount of sex can even appear in a crime drama without being so hind-brain violent as in almost any Harlequin mystery or Antidote.

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Planet Bound – DM Arnold


**** Sex = 4, action = 2, Prose = 8

This is the third in the 'Earthbound' series, see reviews of 'Earthbound' and 'The Lexal affair on their respective pages. This one starts out a little slower than the others and the proofreading let a few more things thru so that I was worried that this might be merely 'good' and get only three stars. But things get better as you get farther into it so I feel this deserves to be rated 'excellent' or four stars.

There is very little action in this one. It is mainly about pregnancy, birth and post-partum depression. The plot involves the male lead's wife trying to get him back from Earth and his adventures trying to get back to Earth and stay away from the operatives his home planet sends to get him. Emotions are more important than action in this one, like much of classic literature. Like classic literature, this could have taken place without the sci-fi aspects and indeed the sci-fi is minimal in this story, the parts that take place on Floran could just as well have taken place in Russia, China or even North Korea, though the ending would not have been as happy and it would not have fit the series.

If you like sci-fi that is emotional and character based, I recommend this also. If you're looking for body count, you won't find much here.

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Postsingular – Rudy Rucker


*** Sex = 3, action = 7, Prose = 8

The 'singularity' or point where technical progress becomes infinite has been the setting for quite a few free sci-fi novels and this is one of the better ones. I enjoyed it more than Accelerando, which is probably the most widely known, although this is a little more juvenile in some ways. The characters are more engaging and the science is no worse, though it is still pretty faulty in my opinion. In this one nanotechnology also figures heavily in the plot, and in this one the nanomachines in the story require computation in the bits to the atom density regime. There is mention of quantum computing, enganglement and the multiverse, but I don't think there was as much research done here as in Tangle in the Dark.

I am not a fan of the 'singularity'. I believe that once our devices become as 'smart' as we are, we will no longer be able to direct their evolution, and they will only be able to evolve by natural selection. I know for a fact that we are close to the limit of the 'atoms to the bit' density regime and we have no theory at the present time that allows us to get past it. I also believe that we are rapidly finding that further reliance on computational devices will be bad for human life.

Other than the shaky science, it's a pretty good story. It reads like free sci-fi, not mainstream fiction, but the characters have some personality, a clumsy love interest and the need to make a living in a world without any real jobs. I gave the sex meter three clicks only because the technology allows one to see thru clothing and there is some sleeping around, but nothing explicit. The proofreading is excellent but the prose itself is a little lackluster. There is a sequel but it is not free. Fans of the singularity will probably find it worth buying, because fans of the singularity might well give this four stars. This is the first place I can remember seeing the word 'nant' which is a nanotechnological machine.


Prey World - CounterRevolution – Alexander Merow


** Sex = 1, action = 7, Prose = 6

In 2036 the world is ruled by a group of oligarchs called the 'Lodge Brothers.' They had been ruling for some time but only came out of secrecy in 2018. Only Japan, Belarus and one other small country are independent of that cabal. Belarus takes the baltic states and the club starts a new psuedo communism to oppose them. The world has the feel of the early cold war. The ruling cabal thinks they have poisoned the nations of western Europe and America because they are non-white. I'm not sure if the author feels they are villains for thinking that way, or villains because they have caused it.

The plot is all about spreading propaganda and conquering territory. A lot of it is told as a history text, not a lot is action and dialog. There is absolutely no feeling for loss of life. The troops are just numbers as they die by the tens of thousands. The narration of battles and riots is often shallow and juvenile.

The translation from German is not perfect. There are a few words used incorrectly, especially 'since' but the meaning is almost always easy to follow in that regard. What makes it hard to follow in places is that it can change point of view and time enough that it wouldn't hurt to be a new chapter, but might not even have a blank line.

There is a minute love interest, and one other character has a girlfriend.

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Project Tickle – Dimitris Christou


** Sex = 1, action = 6, Prose = 8

This is set in a world where most people have retained their bodies but live connected to the net in virtual reality. It's a short novel decribing this world, with a premise that should have been done with a little more humor, which I won't go into. It's a virtual world more along the lines of Tad Williams 'Otherworld' than 'Tangle in the Dark' in that any form of magic may pop up at any time. The magic is accessed in the from of various files, viruses and apps but the software engineering is not a major part of the story.

The action just doesn't have the impact when you know there is a body still safe in a sensory deprivation tank somewhere. The characters seem to forget that, but this reader didn't. There is a lot to like about this story and I could have given it three or even four stars if the humor came across a little better.

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