Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review – L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume XXVII

Writers of the Future Volume XXVII
K. D. Wentworth (Editor)
Mass Market Paperback
560 pages
Publisher: Galaxy Press
Publication Date: June 20, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1592128709


The best of the best in new speculative fiction can usually be found in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future and the 27th Volume of this unique format does not disappoint. Past Judges of the contest include some of the best Science Fiction writers in the world: Greg Benford (Eon), Orson Scott Card (Ender), Eric Flint (1632), Frank Herbert (Dune) , Anne McCaffrey (Pern), Larry Niven (Ringworld), Andre Norton (Witchworld), Frederik Pohl (Heechee), and Robert Siverberg (Majipoor), to name just a few. Rather than give each of the short stories in this volume a separate score I’ve elected to rate the anthology as a whole. As a concept I love the idea of giving new author’s of short fiction a creative outlet that becomes available to the masses. And, to be chosen by the esteemed judges listed above, among others, we, as readers, are rewarded with some of the best new fiction being written today. Recommended for fans of short form Science Fiction and Fantasy and for those who are addicted to Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, or the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Volume 27 Table of Content (including links):

Ø Introduction by K. D. Wentworth

Ø The Unreachable Voices of Ghosts by Jeffrey Lyman • Illustrated by Nico Photos

Ø Maddy Dune's First and Only Spelling Bee by Patrick O'Sullivan • Illustrated by Meghan Muriel

Ø The Truth, From a Lie of Convenience by Brennan Harvey • Illustrated by Irvin Rodriguez

Ø How to View Art by L. Ron Hubbard

Ø In Apprehension, How Like a God by R. P. L. Johnson • Illustrated by Dustin D. Panzino

Ø An Acolyte of Black Spires by Ryan Harvey • Illustrated by Fred Jordan

Ø The Dualist by Van Aaron Hughes • Illustrated by Frederick Edwards

Ø Making It by Mike Resnick

Ø Bonehouse by Keffy R. M. Kehrli • Illustrated by Vivian Friedel

Ø This Peaceful State of War by Patty Jansen • Illustrated by Scott Frederick Hargrave

Ø Sailing the Sky Sea by Geir Lanesskog • Illustrated by Joey Jordan

Ø Creating Your Own Destiny by Robert Castillo

Ø Unfamiliar Territory by Ben Mann • Illustrated by Erik Jean Solem

Ø Medic! by Adam Perin • Illustrated by Gregory J. Gunther

Ø Vector Victoria by D. A. D'Amico • Illustrated by Ryan Downing

Ø The Sundial by John Arkwright • Illustrated by Irvin Rodriguez

Ø The Year In Contests

Anthology Content: 4 out of 5 stars
Writers of the Future Concept: 5 out of 5 stars

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

Writers of the Future Sites

Writers of the Future I – XXVII

Writers of the Future Contest History

Judges Author Sites

Greg Benford

Orson Scott Card

Eric Flint

Frank Herbert

Anne McCaffrey

Larry Niven

Andre Norton

Frederik Pohl

Robert Siverberg


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book Review - Sandman Slim 03 - Aloha From Hell by Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim 03 - Aloha From Hell
Richard Kadrey
Uncorrected Proof
438 pages
Trade Paperback
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: October 18, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0061714320
Genre: Urban Pandemonium Fantasy


James Starks (A.K.A. Sandman Slim) demon killer and nephilim* has been to Hell and back… literally. When his fame as a teenage warlock attracted the notice of demons years ago, they snatched him up and sent him off to the underworld, where he spent the next eleven years as a combatant in the Arena fighting demons as entertainment for Satan's spawn. Since escaping Hell (a long story revealed in the first two books) and returning to L.A. he’s been busy killing demons, staking vampires, and preventing a zombie invasion but things of late have been a bit slow and Stark’s is a little off his game.

So what exactly does a half-angel do on his day off? Apparently he attempts to locate and rescue the survivor of a failed exorcism. But the demon possessing this victim knows Sandman Slim intimately and now Starks must descend into Hell to rescue his dead soul mate. But in the land of Nod nothing is at it seems. He must travel through a barren desert then traverse Malchut of Atzilut, Gan Eden, Tartarus, Eleusis, and the suicidal streets of a burning Los Angeles before he can face down the minions of Hell. But first, he’s going to have to take an unexpected side trip back into the Arena as the epic battle between Heaven and Hell threatens to rage out of control.

As reported previously all the books in this series are very quick reads (for those who like their death, destruction, mayhem, and demon-killing cranked up to level 11!) This series is a good starting point for anyone interested in blood and guts urban fantasy.

Disclaimer: Review copy provided free as part of the Amazon.com Vine Program.

4 stars out of 5

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

My favorite quote: “After you’ve been shot, stabbed, slashed, burned, and almost zombified and survived it all, death gets kind of abstract.”

Sandman Slim Series by Richard Kadrey
1. Sandman Slim (2009)
2. Kill the Dead (2010)
3. Aloha from Hell (2011)


Additional Reading:

Richard Kadrey Sandman Slim Website

Richard Kadrey Official Website

Richard Kadrey Wiki Page

Richard Kadrey Interview

Richard Kadrey 7 Question Interview

Rue Morgue Interview

My Past Reviews of the Sandman Slim series:

Sandman Slim 01 – Sandman Slim (4 stars)

Sandman Slim 02 – Kill The Dead (4 stars)

* Nephilim – fallen angels.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Giveaway – Escape From Furnace 01 –Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith

book cover of 


 (Furnace, book 1)


Alexander Gordon Smith

To celebrate the release of Alexander Gordon Smith’s Science-Fiction series Escape From Furnace Macmillan Publishing is offering a copy of the first book Lockdown. We’re happy to announce that the publisher has given The Alternative permission to offer one (1) free copy to the readers of this blog. Please privately e-mail me (dharmapoet@wi.rr.com) your name and mailing address for entry into the giveaway. The subject of the e-mail must read “Lockdown Giveaway”

This offer is currently only available to U.S. and Canadian delivery addresses and expires August 31st @ 12:01 AM CST. The winner will be selected at random and notified by e-mail.

The book ships directly from the publisher after September 5th, 2011.

More about the 'Escape from Furnace' series:

Beneath Heaven is Hell....Beneath Hell is Furnace! Furnace Penitentiary: the world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to life without parole, “new fish” Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world.

Escape from Furnace Series by Alexander Gordon Smith
Includes: Lockdown, Solitary, Death Sentence, Fugitives (Available in 2012), and Execution (Available in 2012).

Trailer URL

Author Website

Become a Facebook Fan

Macmillan Page for Alexander Gordon Smith and Lockdown

Please note that I will be reviewing this book later in the month. So, stay tuned.

Thanks again for your support!

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Sunday, August 14, 2011

NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

On August 11th, NPR published their list of the top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy books/series of all times, which I’ve included here. I’ve read about 75% of the list. How many have you read?

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Surprising additions? Omissions? I was happy to see Iain M. Banks and Jasper Fforde included but Brandon Sanderson – twice? Hmmm… Octavia Butler and Frederik Pohl missing?

NPR Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Book Review - The Unit by Terry DeHart

The Unit
Terry DeHart
Apocalyptic Fiction / Science Fiction
Trade Paperback
307 pages
Publisher: Orbit – Hachette Book Group
Publication Date: July 14, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0316077408


Told through the eyes of five main characters in short, alternating but impactful chapters Terry DeHart’s debut novel, The Unit, is post-apocalyptic fiction at its finest. Where Cormac McCarthy’s The Road centers around two dark, lonely, and desperate characters trudging through the scarred and desolate countryside searching for a home DeHart’s narrative concentrates on the perspectives of a family of four caught in the after-effects of a recent nuclear holocaust. Every chapter is written in a distinctive, sometimes complimentary but often conflicting, voice and is told from the point of view of each member of the Sharpe family (Jerry, Susan, Melanie, and Scott.) DeHart occasionally interrupts the family’s journey by inserting chapters narrated by a gang of barbaric juvenile delinquents who have forgotten what it means to be civilized. When the two groups accidentally meet we see just how savage, loving, brutal, caring, indifferent, and angry humans can be towards each other.

The Unit is much more than a post-apocalyptic romp through the barren hills of charred central California, however. What makes this book special are the profound and complicated yet controversial themes explored through the experiences of each of the five central characters. The conflict of trust during war is common and each character gets caught up at least once with the issue of who is trustworthy and who should be shot on sight. While The Unit certainly covers the subject of survival in difficult times it also manages to explore the deeper realms of faith, morality, family, loyalty, and the psychological impact of survival after a catastrophic breakdown of civilization. The concept of instinctual human survival and the idea of maintaining civilized behavior in the face of horrendous brutality and cruelty is thrown into the face of the audience and we are forced to examine our own principles. What might we do in the same situation? How far would we go to protect our families? Would we throw decency out the window in favor of survival?

Not only does DeHart tell a good story but he also manages to speak with profound wisdom regarding the specific flaws and strengths of our society. Do we retain our sense of morality during societal collapse? Or do we become brute savages? Or, are we something entirely between the two? Are we, under pressure, who we hope we are inside? Good or bad he explores the deepest of human emotions and chronicles the reactions and feelings of very different individuals in one of the most stressful environments ever imagined. And he gets it totally right! Conflicts of trust, thoughts of spirituality and death, human cruelty and violence, love of family, abject hunger, protective instincts, absence of amenities, wariness of strangers, pain and suffering, and post-traumatic stress all fall into this vision of life after the collapse of civilization.

Terry DeHart demonstrates the rare ability to keep the action flowing without it interfering with the plot and he’s not afraid to explore the dark side of survival and the atrocities of conflict and disaster following the breakdown of law and order. In fact, he does an admirable job of describing the heart-rending and complicated range of emotions that might be felt in horrible, even macabre, situations by letting us see them through the diverse perspectives of a handful of characters. There are many disturbing scenes here, and I won’t give away too much for fear of spoiling the story, but the sad reality is that during a society-wide catastrophe some people will revert to barbarism, others will struggle against all odds to survive, and some will surrender to the eventuality of despair. That DeHart gives us concise and emotion-filled depictions of all three is a credit to his skill.

Recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic nuclear war, dystopia, guerilla warfare, fast-paced action, and survival. Read The Unit if you liked The Road; Oryx and Crake; Alas, Babylon ; Burn Down the Sky; Soft Apocalypse; Falling Skies; The Walking Dead; Desolation Road; or Feed .

4 ½ out of 5 stars

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

The Unit Series by Terry DeHart
1. The Unit (2010)
2. The Sharpe’s Story (TBD)

Additional Reading:

Official Author Website

Author Website

Grasping for the Wind Review

The Unit – Chapter One


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Book Review – The War That Came Early 03 – The Big Switch by Harry Turtledove

The War That Came Early 03 – The Big Switch
Harry Turtledove
Genre: Alternative History
Publisher: Del Rey
Trade Paperback
418 Pages
Publication Date: July 19th, 2011
ARC Trade Paperback Uncorrected Proof
ISBN-13: 978-0345491862


How does he do it? Harry Turtledove, the foremost alternate history writer in the world, maintains an instinctive ability to write grand, sweeping novels incorporating larger-than-life historic events such as World War II (albeit alternate and unconventional views of the same) while still managing to compress it into the emotions, daily events, and actions of the least, common man. Master storyteller Harry Turtledove begins this series with an interesting “what if” premise and follows it through to its logical conclusion. “What if U. K. Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, instead of placating Hitler, had defied him by not signing the Munich Agreement in 1938?”

No other author working in the field of speculative fiction today has such an accomplished grasp of narrating the all-encompassing alternate big picture while still retaining the ability to drill down to and explain all the fears, the uncommon bravery, and the irrational behavior of the common soldier, no matter what his nationality or which country he fights for. Mr. Turtledove entwines the alternate world-view with the human condition and continues to hold our attention throughout. And few, if any, can include so many characters in such an extensive, world-wide saga and still manage to draw them all back together. In fact, there are so many characters here that I found it hard to connect with some of them. While all were intriguing some of their stories were less interesting (and satisfying to me) than others, which may be the worst thing I can say about the book.

So, here’s the thing, why I think The War That Came Early is an exceptional work of alternate fiction. If you are not extremely familiar with World War II history you’ll be convinced that things happened exactly as Mr. Turtledove chronicles in The Big Switch. That’s because the stories are stimulating, fascinating, and entirely credible works of alternate history which tend to show how minor changes in the action or inaction by prominent players (and sometimes totally improbable characters) can cause huge changes in historic events. Mr. Turtledove accomplishes this better than anyone else in the genre and tells a great story in the process.

Recommended for history buffs, military strategists, alternate historians, and fans of sprawling, blood-and-guts war fiction.

Review copy provided free as part of the LibraryThing.com Early Reader program.

4 stars out of 5

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

The War That Came Early by Harry Turtledove
1. Hitler's War (2009) 4 stars out of 5
2. West and East (2010) 4 stars out of 5
3. The Big Switch (2011) 4 stars out of 5


Additional Reading:

Harry Turtledove Wiki

Random House Page

Harry Turtledove Website

Harry Turtledove Baen Webscription Page

Tor.com Turtledove Page