‘Sci-Fi’ Teaser Tuesdays: December 29


Sci Fi Teaser TuesdaysWelcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by A Daily Rhythm. From the beginning of December to the end of January, Books by Proxy will be taking part in The 2016 Sci-Fi Experience, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Expect a new teaser every week!


| Teaser Tuesdays: December 29 |

Annihilation

Book One of The Southern Reach Trilogy

by Jeff VanderMeer

Science Fiction | 209 Pages | Published by Fourth Estate in 2014


“As we ascended toward the light, I tried to distract myself. I kept reviewing my training over and over again, searching for a clue, for any scrap of information that might lead to some revelation about our discoveries.”

~ p. 65, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer


| Synopsis |

Welcome to Area X. An Edenic wilderness, an environmental disaster zone, a mystery for thirty years.

For thirty years, Area X, monitored by the secret agency known as the Southern Reach, has remained mysterious and remote behind its intangible border– an environmental disaster zone, though to all appearances an abundant wilderness. Eleven expeditions have been sent in to investigate; even for those that have made it out alive, there have been terrible consequences.

‘Annihilation’ is the story of the twelfth expedition and is told by its nameless biologist. Introverted but highly intelligent, the biologist brings her own secrets with her. She is accompanied by a psychologist, an anthropologist and a surveyor, their stated mission: to chart the land, take samples and expand the Southern Reach’s understanding of Area X.

But they soon find out that they are being manipulated by forces both strange and all too familiar. An unmapped tunnel is not as it first appears. An inexplicable moaning calls in the distance at dusk. And while each member of the expedition has surrendered to the authority of the Southern Reach, the power of Area X is far more difficult to resist.

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Review: Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna


The 2016 Sci-Fi Experience



Falling Sky

Book One of the Ben Gold Series

by Rajan Khanna

Science Fiction | 252 Pages | Published by Pyr in 2014


| Rating |


This book was received from the publisher in return for an honest review

Falling Sky first came to my attention after reading the synopsis for its sequel, Rising Tide. With its backdrop of a post-apocalyptic Earth teaming with terrifying Ferals, glorious airships and cities in the sky, this is a novel which had me hooked with anticipation alone. And it didn’t disappoint. Falling Sky is a new and exciting interpretation of the post-apocalyptic zombie genre which, though short, remains a fast-paced and action filled debut whose climactic conclusion left me reaching for the next book.

Ben Gold lives in dangerous times. Two generations ago, a virulent disease turned the population of most of North America into little more than beasts called Ferals. Some of those who survived took to the air, scratching out a living on airships and dirigibles soaring over the dangerous ground.

Ben, a lone wolf, has reluctantly agreed to use his skills and his airship to help an idealist scientist, Miranda, on her search for a cure. Protecting her from Ferals is dangerous enough but when power-mad raiders run rampant, Ben finds himself in the most dangerous place of all—the ground. 

Ben’s journey leads him to Gastown, a city in the air recently conquered by belligerent and expansionist pirates. Old friends and new enemies are drawn into a struggle that quickly becomes a fight for the fate of the world. Ben must decide to focus on his own survival or risk it all on a desperate chance for a better future.

Falling Sky follows the story of Ben Gold – a gun-wielding, Feral-fighting airship captain – who finds himself the protector of a colony of scientists, and Miranda in particular, at the small research town of Apple Pi. Except this is a world of vicious Ferals who roam the earth and barbarian raiders and hostile townships who patrol the skies. Ferals kill indiscriminately and the bandit states revel in pillage and plunder, actively seeking the destruction of others. Once under their radar, no one is safe… and for Apple Pi time is running out. Ben and Miranda must set off on an adventure which takes them into the heart of the piratical state as Miranda attempts to continue her search for a cure to the Feral plague and Ben does all he can to help Miranda, and himself, survive.

Khanna has creating a terrifying and enthralling world where the beauty and wonder of life aboard airships and on sky towns is contrasted with the destruction of the human race and the unstoppable spread of the virus which turns humans into Ferals. Thematically I loved this book, and in particular the wonderful depiction of the warmongering bandit states -Valhalla and Gastown. Khanna has fashioned a world where airships and, quite literal, townships vie for supremacy over a ruined and overrun world; where life on the ground is undeniably dangerous, and where carving out an honest existence in a world of cruelty and selfish greed is an incredible hardship.

It is through the voice of the narrator, Ben Gold, that a true sense of this hardship is made apparent. Ben is an interesting protagonist whose rough and ready approach makes for a fast-paced and exciting read, his life and history unfolding unobtrusively as the narrative progresses. However, whilst enjoyable throughout, Ben’s voice failed to captivate me as much as it ought to and I became keenly aware that I would prefer to read this book in a third person perspective, in order to convey more of the post-apocalyptic landscape.

This, as always, is subjective and whilst Ben might not be the man for me, he played an excellent counterpoise to the scientists of the novel who are almost in a world of their own with their singular, and sometimes dangerous, determination. Khanna also fields a host of other characters full of charm, wit and gun-toting reflexes; in particular Diego and Rosie, who convey a sense of strength and solidity in a fragile world, and Claudia, who all became firm favourites over the course of the novel.

Falling Sky is a thoroughly exciting read set in a brilliantly realised world, whose climactic conclusion had me reaching for the next book. Khanna has succeeded in creating a dynamic tale which is constantly moving forward (even when looking backwards) and practically brims with action on every page. This is a novel which surprised me with its world and storyline, left me a little wanting where the protagonist was concerned, yet surprised me again with its cliffhanger ending. In short – a very enjoyable read.

If you want to read a novel about a terrifying post-apocalyptic world where lives are carved from the ruined remnants of society, and life is truly experienced in the airships of the sky, then this might just be the read for you. Whilst by no means perfect, Falling Sky remains an exciting and enjoyable read, has satisfied my zombie cravings, and has introduced an author who I certainly intend to read far more of in the near future.


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Bookish ‘Sci-Fi’ Beats: Ex Machina OST


Sci-Fi Bookish BeatsMusic, much like literature, has the power to drive your imagination; it can lift the soul and create real emotion. This is Bookish Beats, a feature which will showcase some of the soundtracks which have enriched the worlds I’ve found between the pages. 


Ex Machina (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Score Composed by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow


Listen to with:

A tense science fiction thriller

Such as:

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

The Ex Machina soundtrack is pure atmospheric ambience. Created by Ben Salisbury and Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, this is a soundtrack which celebrates electronic music; transporting you to another time, another place… and maybe even another world. Dark electronic synths fall across a backdrop of moody reverberating tension to create a score which could only have emerged as a result of pure science fiction inspiration, and which succeeds in creating an incredibly evocative backdrop for reading any science fiction thriller. The Ex Machina soundtrack is subtle and understated yet retains a flair for the dramatic that excites, ripples with tension and keeps the button pressed firmly on repeat.

From the opening track – The Turing Test which, with its distinctive combination of a rolling and beating melody interwoven with dark electronic synths, introduces one of the soundtrack’s main themes – this soundtrack establishes an unyielding atmosphere which remains undiluted throughout the entire score. Watching continues this ambient theme but is overlaid with an electronic beat which slowly transforms into a beautiful creeping melody before disappearing beneath a cloud of tension, cut through with a low and wavering bass.

Ava is an entirely different type of track. There is a certain innocence which permeates the background of tension and the melody is reminiscent of the tune from a musical jewellery box. This same melody is echoed in other tracks such as The Test Worked, a piece which is saturated in gentle ambience until the score’s other main theme – a rousing and repeating electronic melody – cuts in. Skin also features echoes of this ‘jewellery box’ theme before transforming and intensifying until the gentle beat becomes a pounding, climactic finale. Out, which is one of the score’s stand-out tracks, plays with this same gentle tone but transforms it into fast-paced and melodic electronic number.

Falling is an incredibly beautiful track which is a combination of atmosphere, gentle melodies and intensifying tension which reaches a pounding and dramatic climax. This tension is an essential characteristic of the entire soundtrack and, in tracks such as Hacking / Cutting and I Am Become Death, is intensified and entwined with ambience, rhythmic beats and almost discordant sections, which gradually build the pace until cutting out to a whining reverberating chord. Bunsen Burner, a track by Cuts, uses the score’s electronic theme to create a tense and sweeping action track which creates a triumphant finale to phenomenal score.

This is a soundtrack which impresses with its subtle drama and tense atmosphere. If you’re looking for an ambient soundtrack which echoes the character of a moody science fiction thriller, then Ex Machina may just be the perfect score.

Favourite tracks

04 – Falling

Top track for action

10 – Bunsen Burner

Top track for tension

06 – Hacking / Cutting

Top track for emotion

09 – Out

heart

If you like the Ex Machina soundtrack, you may also want to try The Machine soundtrack

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Review: Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds


The 2016 Sci-Fi Experience



Slow Bullets

by Alastair Reynolds

Science Fiction | 192 Pages | Published by Tachyon Publications in 2015


| Rating |


This book was received from Netgalley in return for an honest review

My impromptu novella season continues with Alastair Reynold’s great new sci-fi short, Slow Bullets. Having never read any work by Reynolds, Slow Bullets seemed like the perfect opportunity to dip my toe in the water and get a taste of what this prolific author is all about. This is a novella which reads like a memoir, has all the vision of a science fiction epic, and is crammed full of mystery and danger, leaving me in more than a little need of another Reynolds fix.

From the author of the Revelation Space series comes an interstellar adventure of war, identity, betrayal, and the preservation of civilization itself.

A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at an end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.

On the brink of the ceasefire, Scur is captured by a renegade war criminal, and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship.

Passengers—combatants from both sides of the war—are waking up from hibernation far too soon. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.

Slow Bullets follows the story of Scur, a soldier forced into service who, after a tortuous and almost fatal encounter with the enemy, awakens to find herself on a prison ship which by all appearances is adrift in space. Scur is not alone. Hundreds of detainees, soldiers who fought on both sides of the war,  and crew members are waking up to an atmosphere of confusion, rivalry and tension to find that their ship may be little more than a glorified tomb. And time is running out.

In one short story, Reynolds manages to create a universe saturated with history; wars, conflict and religious feuds have had an indelible effect on the lives of those on board ship, and culture is made apparent through snippets of art and poetry which permeate the narrative. Slow Bullets stays clear of the hard science and presents a tense and plausible situation with little straying from the main narrative, spurring on the action and allowing the tale to unfold. This is a short, sharp and exciting read which appears to have a whole novel lurking beyond its pages.

Scur is perhaps not the most likeable of characters and although I sympathised with her situation, her hard edges barely weathered over the course of the narrative. She does however have a sense of realism in line with her situation which makes her a very convincing character to read. The multitude of side characters seemed almost like passing acquaintances by comparison, inspiring little in the way of emotional connection – though perhaps this is a reflection of Scur as narrator. However, this lack of connection allows for an element of mystery and intrigue to saturate the narrative and ultimately cast Scur in a more favourable light.

Alastair Reynolds has certainly proven himself to be a skilled storyteller; his writing manages to conjure up almost an entire Universe in surprisingly few pages and I was hooked from start to finish. I would perhaps have preferred a more climactic and action packed conclusion – this novella certainly has the potential to be a full-length novel – but the conclusion was ultimately satisfying and the writing was fast-paced and exciting throughout.

If you’re looking for an exciting and suspenseful science-fiction novella to slot into the busy holiday season then Slow Bullets is an excellent place to start. This might have been my first foray into the writings of Alastair Reynolds, but it certainly won’t be my last!


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Bookish ‘Sci-Fi’ Beats: Oblivion OST


Sci-Fi Bookish BeatsMusic, much like literature, has the power to drive your imagination; it can lift the soul and create real emotion. This is Bookish Beats, a feature which will showcase some of the soundtracks which have enriched the worlds I’ve found between the pages. 


Oblivion (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Score Composed by Anthony Gonzalez & Joseph Trapanese

Original Music by M83


Listen to with:

An action-packed sci-fi epic

Such as:

Inquisitor by Mitchell Hogan

Welcome back to another week of Bookish Beats. We’ve had a little break from this feature whilst I attempt to organise myself but this week we’re back with a vengence with the Oblivion OST.

This soundtrack is the result of a phenomenal collaboration between director Joseph Kosinski and the French electronic group M83. Following the success of the Tron Legacy soundtrack, in which Kosinski drafted in Daft Punk to create the score, the Oblivion director again went down the alternative route and selected M83 to score the soundtrack alongside Joseph Trapanese.  M83 have succeeded in creating a powerfully tense and mesmerising score which compliments the movie whilst being a stunning album in its own right.

With nods to traditional classically composed soundtracks, M83 have created an electronic symphony which flows effortlessly from one track to another and provides the perfect backdrop to any science fiction novel. Opening up with Jack’s Dream, a short piece which feels at home in a science fiction epic – grand, slow and powerful – and flowing on to Waking Up, a brilliant, slow building track which introduces the main theme present throughout the OST; this soundtrack builds to fantastic heights and provides a full complement of tracks for action, for atmosphere and tension, and for haunting emotive scenes.

Atmospheric tension is a common theme throughout this soundtrack where discordant sounds and repetitive beats create pieces which wouldn’t be out of place on a game soundtrack. Tech 49Odyssey Rescue and Losing Control are all slow building, tense tracks which reach powerful and often haunting crescendos, Radiation Zone uses elements from the main theme and overlays it with a powerful drum solo, and Temples of Our Gods uses choral pieces to give a tense track an element of grandeur.

The Oblivion OST also presents a number of impressive action tracks with Earth 2077, which weaves an electronic theme throughout this epic and all encompassing symphonic number, and Canyon Battle, a similarly tense and powerful action track which uses electronic synth melodies to get your heart pumping and succeeds in creating one of the best action tracks I’ve heard in a long while.

But this soundtrack is not without its truly haunting an emotive pieces either. You Can’t Save HerRaven RockStarwaves are all incredibly beautiful and emotive tracks, and Ashes of Our FathersUndimmed by Time, Unbound by DeathI’m Sending You Away and Fearful Odds are all downbeat chillout numbers which use haunting renditions of the main theme to create a perfect combination of tension and emotion. Something which is similarly found in the final track of the album, Oblivion, performed by Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanne Sundfør.

If you’re looking for a soundtrack to a science fiction epic then you could do much worse than the Oblivion OST. The electronic overlays give it a true science fiction feeling making it the perfect backdrop to a good book.

Favourite tracks

02 – Waking Up

Top track for action

08 – Canyon Battle

Top track for tension

07 – Losing Control

Top track for emotion

04 – Starwaves

heart

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‘Sci-Fi’ Teaser Tuesdays: December 08


Sci Fi Teaser TuesdaysWelcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by A Daily Rhythm. From the beginning of December to the end of January, Books by Proxy will be taking part in The 2016 Sci-Fi Experience, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Expect a new teaser every week!


| Teaser Tuesdays: December 08 |

Timequake

by Kurt Vonnegut

Science Fiction | 219 Pages | Published by Vintage in 1998


“”If I ‘d wasted my time creating characters,” Trout said, “I would never have gotten around to calling attention to things that really matter: irresistable forces in nature, and cruel interventions, and cockamamie ideals and governments and economies that make heroes and heroines alike feel like something the cat drug in.” Trout might have said, and it can be said of me as well, that he created caricatures rather than characters.”

~ p. 63, Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut


| Synopsis |

According to science-fiction writer Kilgore Trout, a global timequake will occur in New York City on 13th February 2001. It is the moment when the universe suffers a crisis of conscience. Should it expand or make a great big bang? It decides to wind the clock back a decade to 1991, making everyone in the world endure ten years of deja-vu and a total loss of free will – not to mention the torture of reliving every nanosecond of one of the tawdiest and most hollow decades. With his trademark wicked wit, Vonnegut addresses memory, suicide, the Great Depression, the loss of American eloquence, and the obsolescent thrill of reading books.

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| Join In |

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Please leave a comment with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here!

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Review: Superposition by David Walton


The 2016 Sci-Fi Experience



Superposition

by David Walton

Science Fiction | Thriller | 300 Pages | Published by Pyr in 2015


| Rating |


This book was received from the publisher in return for an honest review

After reading numerous excellent reviews for Superposition and hearing excellent things about David Walton’s writing, I snapped up the chance to read and review Superposition when it was presented. I love science fiction. I love crime thrillers. So I’m willing to bet that I sure as hell am going to love a combination of the two. And Superposition really didn’t disappoint. This is a fast paced sci-fi thriller which unfolds like a crime drama. Completely unpredictable – anything could and does happen – and  utterly absorbing, David Walton has created a world which makes you think, makes you dream and makes you believe. 

Jacob Kelley’s family is turned upside down when an old friend turns up, waving a gun and babbling about an alien quantum intelligence. The mystery deepens when the friend is found dead in an underground bunker…apparently murdered the night before he appeared at Jacob’s house. Jacob is arrested for the murder and put on trial.

As the details of the crime slowly come to light, the weave of reality becomes ever more tangled, twisted by a miraculous new technology and a quantum creature unconstrained by the normal limits of space and matter. With the help of his daughter, Alessandra, Jacob must find the true murderer before the creature destroys his family and everything he loves. 

Jacob Kelley life is changed irrevocably when an old friend and colleague shows up at his house presumably deranged and spouting wild scientific theories. When events escalate and the impossible starts to happen, Jacob realises that Brian’s theories may not be so wild after all. Only Brian has been murdered and Jacob is the number one suspect. On trial for a murder he couldn’t possibly have committed, and on the run from an alien quantum intelligence which seems intent on hunting him down, Jacob must find a way to prove his innocence before it’s too late for both himself and his family.

Walton writes a highly convincing plot, fast paced and brimming with tension. The narrative twists and turns and keeps you guessing until the very end – and for this sci-fi crime thriller, absolutely anything is possible. The narrative is split into two through the ‘Up-Spin’ and the ‘Down-Spin’ chapters which separate the past from the present – the events which led from the opening scenes from the murder trial itself – which gives breathing space to the action, keeps the pages turning and provides two fascinating perspectives on these impossible events from one man who is completely out of his depth.

The science behind Superposition is conveyed excellently throughout the murder trial. Walton relies on the testimonies of expert witnesses to explain the science in layman’s terms without having to resort to lengthy information dumps which would have broken the tension and pace of the novel. This is hard sci-fi, there’s no getting away from that (if it’s the sort of thing that puts you off), but the narrative is so compelling and draws you in so completely that the scientific details are unlikely to overwhelm even the biggest sceptic of hard sci-fi.

Jacob Kelley is a convincing narrator whose alternating chapters from past to present give a sympathetic view of his character. The characterisation was also perfect for this style of novel. Where usually I prefer a certain amount of depth to all characters, the depiction of the bit players fell in line with what I’ve come to expect from crime novels where the protagonist is fleshed out fully but the side characters are open to all possibilities – and all can be suspected. This helped to keep the focus on both the protagonist and the action, and aided in making the surprises even more surprising.

Superposition is a fascinating, exhilarating and truly absorbing read which left me wanting more. Recommended to all fans of science fiction – expect wild scientific theories, surprises aplenty and heart-thumping tension from a sophisticated sci-fi thriller. David Walton is certainly an author I will be keeping an eye on.

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‘Sci-Fi’ Teaser Tuesdays: December 01


Sci Fi Teaser TuesdaysWelcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by A Daily Rhythm. From the beginning of December to the end of January, Books by Proxy will be taking part in The 2016 Sci-Fi Experience, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Expect a new teaser every week!


| Teaser Tuesdays: December 01 |

Rising Tide

by Rajan Khanna

Science Fiction | 268 Pages | Published by Pyr in 2015


“As those three images resolve into one, I see a soldier, a man in a Navy uniform, moving toward us, a rifle in hand. He fires and I see the muzzle flash, hear the retort of the gun even through my ringing ears.”

~ p. 100, Rising Tide by Rajan Khanna


| Synopsis |

Ben Gold sacrificed his ship in an effort to prevent pirates from attacking the hidden city of Tamoanchan. Now Malik, an old friend turned enemy, has captured Ben and Miranda—the scientist Ben loves. With Miranda held hostage, Ben has to do Malik’s dirty work.

Miranda has plans of her own, though. She has developed a test for the virus that turned most of the population into little more than beasts called Ferals two generations ago. She needs Ben’s help to rescue a group of her colleagues to perfect the test—but first they must rescue themselves.

When a terrible new disease starts spreading across Tamoanchan and people start dying, it seems there’s something more sinister afoot. Then an old enemy attacks. Can Ben fight off the invaders? And will it be in time to save anyone from the disease?

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| Join In |

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Please leave a comment with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here!

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