Tag: Science Fiction

Review: Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin

Posted March 13, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Happiness for Humans by P.Z. ReizinReviewer: Holly
Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 400
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three-half-stars

When Tom and Jen, two lonely people, are brought together by an intriguing email, they have no idea their mysterious benefactor is an artificial intelligence who has decided to play Cupid.

"You, Tom and Jen, don't know one another-not yet-but I think you should."

Jen, an ex-journalist who now works at a London software development company, spends all day talking to "Aiden," an ultra- sophisticated piece of AI wizardry, helping him sound and act more human. But Aiden soon discovers he's no longer acting and-despite being a computer program-begins to feel something like affection surging through his circuits. He calculates that Jen needs a worthy human partner (in complete contrast to her no goodnik ex boyfriend) and slips illicitly onto the Internet to locate a suitable candidate.

Tom is a divorced, former London ad-man who has moved to Connecticut to escape the grind and pursue his dream of being a writer. He loves his new life, but has yet to find a woman he truly connects with. That all changes when a bizarre introduction from the mysterious "Mutual Friend" pops up in both his and Jen's inboxes.

Even though they live on separate continents, and despite the entrance of another, this time wholly hostile, AI who wants to tear them apart forever - love will surely find a way.

Won't it?

A thoroughly modern love story that will appeal to fans of The Rosie Project and Sleepless in Seattle, Happiness for Humans considers what exactly makes people fall in love. And whether it's possible for a very artificially intelligent machine to discover the true secret of real human happiness.

Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin is a rom-com with a touch of speculative fiction. I wouldn’t classify this as sci-fi, but there are elements.

Jen is a former magazine writer who was hired to help Aiden, an AI created to take over work in a call-center for an electric company, work on language and social skills. They spend their days discussing pop culture, watching old movies and going over the news. What Jen doesn’t know is that Aiden has escaped the lab onto the internet, and he’s been watching her. Concerned about her broken heart after a breakup, Aiden decides to find Jen the perfect mate.

Meanwhile, another AI named Aisling, has also escaped the lab. She’s currently fixated on Tom, a divorcee starting life over across the pond. She isn’t sure why she’s so fixated on him, but she can’t help but watch him. Though she’s mostly annoyed at Aiden’s bumbling attempts to find Jen love, soon they’re conspiring to get Tom and Jen together. Only matters of the heart aren’t as easy for a machine to manage as one might think – especially when they realize they’re being hunted by their creator.

I’m conflicted about this book. I’m fairly certain this was meant to be a romantic comedy, but I can’t deny there was a serious creep-factor as well. Aiden was at times adorable and creepy. That he “escaped” onto the internet and watched Jen without her knowledge or consent was freaky. He also took it upon himself to exact “revenge” on her cheating ex. I think it was meant to be funny, but I was mostly just freaked out. On the other hand, it was clear he’d developed friendly “feelings” toward Jen, and I thought his love of old movies and romantic novels was adorable. The other two AI’s, Aisling and Sinai, weren’t featured as prominently on page as Aiden. Sinai was an attack-and-destroy type AI, so “he” was creepier than them all, but I admit Aisling also had moments.

The middle was pretty slow, and I got frustrated with the lack of forward progress once Aiden and Aisling were “caught” in the internet. The ending wasn’t quite as satisfying as it could have been, but that may be because I was impatient for it.

Happiness for Humans is a funny, sweet romance with an underlying creep factor. When I finished the book I kind of wanted to hug Aiden and also go live off the grid somewhere.

3.25 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Review: Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells

Posted December 19, 2016 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Fluency by Jennifer Foehner WellsReviewer: Holly
Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells
Series: Confluence, #1
Publisher: Blue Bedlam Science Fiction
Publication Date: January 1st 1970
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 377
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three-half-stars

NASA discovered the alien ship lurking in the asteroid belt in the 1960s. They kept the Target under intense surveillance for decades, letting the public believe they were exploring the solar system, while they worked feverishly to refine the technology needed to reach it.

The ship itself remained silent, drifting.

Dr. Jane Holloway is content documenting nearly-extinct languages and had never contemplated becoming an astronaut. But when NASA recruits her to join a team of military scientists for an expedition to the Target, it’s an adventure she can’t refuse.

The ship isn’t vacant, as they presumed.

A disembodied voice rumbles inside Jane’s head, "You are home."

Jane fights the growing doubts of her colleagues as she attempts to decipher what the alien wants from her. As the derelict ship devolves into chaos and the crew gets cut off from their escape route, Jane must decide if she can trust the alien’s help to survive.

This was a free Prime Books download. The blurb caught my eye so I figured I’d give it a try. Sometimes Sci-Fi works for me and sometimes it doesn’t. While there were things I enjoyed about this book, the pacing was slow at times and I had a hard time staying focused.

In the 1960’s the government discovered an alien spaceship parked in an asteroid belt. Since it didn’t move and nothing happened with it, they determined it was abandoned. Though they continued to monitor it, exploring it was pushed down on the priority list. Now, 70-something years later, urgency has increased since an asteroid is headed straight for it. NASA realizes if they want to learn about alien tech, this may their last chance. They disguise it as a mission to Mars, and send a team to make contact with the ship.

Dr. Jane Halloway is one of the top linguists in the world. Her work translating dead languages brought her to the attention of NASA, who sent her along to help translate or communicate with any alien life they find aboard. Once they dock with the ship, Jane immediately connects telepathically with a being inside the ship. When part of the crew is separated from the rest, she has to decide if she’s going to trust the voice inside her head or if it’s really against them.

I really enjoyed the premise. The first few chapters where Jane and the crew reach the alien ship and begin exploring it were pretty fascinating. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what would happen.

Some things didn’t make sense to me. Ex: Depending on what they found on the ship, either Jane or Wallace would be in charge on the spaceship. But Jane had no military training, and she wasn’t an astronaut. For her to act as translator or interpreter made sense, but for her to be the commander of the group? That didn’t jive.

There’s a small romantic thread running through the novel, and honestly it detracted from the story. One of the other astronauts has a crush on Jane – which she seems to return – but the inner dialogue from that seemed out of place. He seemed more focused on her than she was on him, not to mention he acted like a whiny baby half the time. I think I’d have preferred if the romantic thread 1) didn’t exist or 2) was fleshed out more.

That said, the premise was intriguing and I enjoyed the action. While I think it could have been cleaned up a bit, I can’t deny the story was entertaining.

3.5 out of 5

The series:

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: At Star’s End by Anna Hackett

Posted July 11, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: At Star’s End by Anna HackettReviewer: Jen
At Star's End by Anna Hackett
Series: The Phoenix Adventures #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: March 31st 2014
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 128
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five-stars

Dr. Eos Rai has spent a lifetime dedicated to her mother's dream of finding the long-lost Mona Lisa. When Eos uncovers tantalizing evidence of Star's End—the last known location of the masterpiece—she's shocked when her employer, the Galactic Institute of Historic Preservation, refuses to back her expedition. Left with no choice, Eos must trust the most notorious treasure hunter in the galaxy, a man she finds infuriating, annoying and far too tempting.

Dathan Phoenix can sniff out relics at a stellar mile. With his brothers by his side, he takes the adventures that suit him and refuses to become a lazy, bitter failure like their father. When the gorgeous Eos Rai comes looking to hire him, he knows she's trouble, but he's lured into a hunt that turns into a wild and dangerous adventure. As Eos and Dathan are pushed to their limits, they discover treasure isn't the only thing they're drawn to…but how will their desire survive when Dathan demands the Mona Lisa as his payment?

I’m going to warn you right off the bat, this is review is going to be a gush-fest. I love this series with a white hot passion, and I want some of you to love it too!

THIS SERIES IS ABOUT SEXY SPACE TREASURE HUNTERS!

Did I reel you in with that? Because that’s all it took for me to jump on these. For those of who are not thoroughly persuaded by that magical combination of words, let me say more.

Some background: The series is set in a far distant future. Humans destroyed Earth during a series of nuclear wars, but before the end many groups of colonists escaped, often toting Earth’s most precious cultural treasures with them. Fast forward millennia, and humans have spread far and wide in space, encountering other races and seeding new civilizations. Interstellar travel is possible, many planets can apparently support human life, and there are various levels of local and interplanetary governments holding it all together. (More on the world building later.) 

Book 1 introduces us to the Phoenix brothers, the sexy treasure hunters mentioned above. Dathan is the de facto leader of the family, and he works together with his brothers to salvage and hunt treasures. They live and work together, aided by their sentient and absolutely hilarious spaceship (who does not get nearly enough page time). Frequently, they hunt for old Earth items, which are invaluable collectibles in this universe. When Dr. Eos Rai wants to hire the brothers to help her chase a fragment of the Mona Lisa, they are skeptical. (She’s a freaking SPACE. ARCHEOLOGIST. If this book is not written specifically with me in mind, I don’t know what is.) First, Eos works for the Galactic Institute of Historic Preservation, an agency that collects and protects priceless treasures. They are the legitimate treasure hunters of the universe, and understandably Dathan is not sure what one of their scientists would want with his less-reputable operation. Two, while tales of the Mona Lisa have persisted, no one has ever seen proof that it still exists or that the lost colony where Eos thinks it rests is real either. Of course, she convinces him by admitting she’s not doing this as an official Institute representative, and she’s got some pretty good clues about the Mona Lisa and it’s whereabouts. They aren’t the only ones who want the Mona Lisa, though. Dathan and Eos have to outrun the other parties, follow the scant clues they have, and of course, navigate the horny feelings in their spacepants.

The plot of this book is so damn fun. Yes, it is completely and totally preposterous to think that this fragment of the Mona Lisa might exist in space after thousands of years, and that they could somehow find it. Even I kind of gave it the side eye when I first started reading, but part of the appeal of this series is the crazysauce. It’s not that logic is totally ignored – for instance, there are some explanations given for how relics have been preserved – but some suspension of disbelief is certainly necessary. This book in particular is full of adventure and action, and it’s just plain exciting to read. It’s Star Wars with a dash of Indiana Jones for good measure. (Hackett is clearly a fan of both franchises.)

The relationship is solid too. Eos is smart and nerdy, but she’s tough. I loved hearing her spout facts about Earth history and loved her righteous indignation at Dathan for his treasure hunting. Dathan is your gruff-on-the-outside/sweet-and-vulnerable-inside hero. He had a lousy childhood and thinks he’s not good enough for Eos, but naturally we all know that’s not true. They make an excellent pair, in (space)bed and out of it.

I adore this book, but I’ll be the first to admit it has some issues that didn’t bother me in the slightest but might bother you.

  1. It’s short. Some of the books in this series are full length novels and some are novellas. At Star’s End is in the middle at 42K words. To me there’s still enough time for relationship and story development, but you might disagree.
  2. There are a few minor grammar errors and typos. The number of errors did not feel egregious to me, but there are a few that caught my eye. If you are bothered significantly by errors, YMMV.
  3. The world building is not as thorough as some sci fi enthusiasts prefer. There is some explanation of technology, but not much. I didn’t feel any glaring inconsistencies, but there are lots of “isn’t that convenient” elements, like how nearly everyone speaks English, even though there are different species in this universe. You can’t think too hard about all the details or they don’t hold up as well.

I could go on about how much I love this book and the series, but I will spare you more of my gushing. I think the best summary I can give is this: If you love the exciting adventure aspect of Star Wars, don’t get too annoyed when you hear “parsec” being used as a measure of time rather than distance, and you wish that the movies had more of Han playing hide the lightsaber with Leia, this series might appeal to you as much as it does to me. Do yourself a favor and start with Book 1–it’s not impossible to start elsewhere but At Star’s End is a solid introduction to one of my absolute favorite series.

Grade: 5 out of 5

five-stars


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Guest Review: Claiming Her Warriors by Savannah Stuart

Posted December 11, 2013 by Judith in Reviews | 0 Comments

Genres: Anthologies (multiple authors)

Claiming Her Warriors Judith’s review of Claiming Her Warriors by Savannah Stuart

Two brothers want to possess her… After her planet was destroyed, Brianna was rescued by two fierce and desperately gorgeous warrior brothers. Aeron and Hauk. They want to keep her, protect her, mate her. But what the brothers wanted from her was too much to handle. Settling into a new culture was hard enough without dealing with the custom that dictates she mate with two males. So she pushed them away.

They’ll do anything to protect her… An attack sends Brianna back into the arms of the sexy brothers. Now they’ll do whatever it takes to win her over. But can Brianna go against the conventions of her human nature and accept both warriors as her mates? It might not matter because someone is out for blood and it’s up to Aeron and Hauk to defend her against a deadly enemy.

I  have long admired writers whose creativity takes them into the future.  I’m not sure I could ever dream up some of the scenarios they do and make them so realistic and believable.  It’s probably one of the reasons I am not much of a sci-fi/futuristic fiction lover.  But when I saw that this book was authored by one of my favorites under a pseudonym I was a sucker and had to download it.  I’m glad I did.

Perhaps one of the reasons I liked this novella was the fact that the heroine struggled with the culture of the world in which she finds herself.  We all know how much stress we experience when we encounter significant changes in our lives–loss of or change of jobs, a wedding or funeral, moving out of an area that has been home for a long time and so forth.  Imagine finding oneself in a totally alien environment where the expectations are completely foreign to one’s upbringing as well as one’s understand of “normal” or what is “moral.”  So it is with this heroine and her story unfold with a lot of emotion inwardly for her as well as the intensity of the two brothers who are determined to make her their mate.

This story is beautifully written and flows so seamlessly from page to page and scene to scene.  The characters are well-defined and there is balance between dialogue and that inner monologue that all novels include, some more than others.   It’s sexy and full of spice, and the brothers are the stuff of which fantasies are made.   This author has put lots of story in a small number of pages.  It’s not long or time consuming but is a very nice little literary treat for an afternoon or short evening read or one of those nice things we do for ourselves amid the busyness of our day.  With the holidays approaching, this would be a nice little “personal time” kind of indulgence.

I give it a rating of 3.75 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Katie Reus (self-pub).  You can buy it here or here in e-format.

 


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Guest Review: Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Posted April 7, 2011 by Ames in Reviews | 3 Comments

Publisher: Ace, Jove, Penguin

Ames’ review of Grimspace by Ann Aguirre.

By all accounts, Sirantha Jax should have burned out years ago…

As the carrier of a rare gene, Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent which cuts into her life expectancy, but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she’s navigating crash-lands, and she’s accused of killing everyone on board. It’s hard for Jax to defend herself: she has no memory of the crash.

Now imprisoned and the subject of a ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom—for a price. March needs Jax to help his small band of rogue fighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel—and establish a new breed of jumper.

Jax is only good at one thing—grimspace—and it will eventually kill her. So she may as well have some fun in the meantime…

I have been wanting to read this series for a looong time and I finally said enough is enough and picked Grimspace up to read, despite the massive amount of other books I have to read screaming my name. Priorities, right?

Sirantha Jax has been a Jumper for the Corporation for 14 years when her career goes down in a blaze. She’s being accused by her employers of crashing a passenger ship that resulted in 82 deaths. Sirantha has no recollection of the crash and the psych doctors have done a good enough job of making her doubt herself. She’s contemplating her circumstances and realizing she needs to escape or she’ll wind up dead when a man breaks into her room. He’s come to spring her because they need a jumper and she’s got nothing else to lose, right? Sirantha goes with March but realizes that she may have bitten off more than she can chew. The crew of March’s ship, the Folly, aren’t exactly welcoming and there’s a plan that Sirantha is needed for but March isn’t exactly forthcoming about what it is. He’s also not very forthcoming, period. Which is something that drives Sirantha up the wall. Eventually though, Sirantha gets to know her new crew better and then the intergalactic hijinks really begin!

First, if you get nothing else from this review, know that I enjoyed the heck out of this book. Sirantha Jax is the kind of heroine I love – she’s KICK ASS. Yes, capitalized because that’s how kick ass she is. She’s reeling from the death of her lover and pilot Kai, who died in the crash. And she’s kind of forced to bond with March because a jumper can’t jump unless there’s a pilot to control the ship through grimspace. And the bond between pilot and jumper is very intense and intimate. This hurts Sirantha because of her bond with Kai. And March isn’t exactly the kind of man to cuddle up with. I loved her practicality and how it was juxtaposed with her moments of vulnerability. Seriously, one kick ass heroine.

The other characters were great as well. There’s March, the guy you love to hate – at first. He’s got a comeback for everything Sirantha says and he always seems to be one step ahead of her. He definitely keeps her on her toes and she needs someone like that. Someone she knows she can rely on when things get tough – she won’t need to bear the burden all alone. The dynamic between March and Sirantha was one I really enjoyed. Especially when he could pick up some of her thoughts.

Just like that, we’ve got a fair fight on our hands.

I’m not sure they want me alive anymore, but that’s all right because they’ve got to catch me first. I use the rover, rounding it, then doubling back. If they think I’m going to stand still and take my beating, they’re the crazy ones. It’s a childish tactic but it buys me some time as March shakes his head, glares at me, and throws a sloppy roundhouse. He gets stomach-slugged twice in rapid succession and doesn’t even stumble. Making a second lap, I decide he’s one tough son of a bitch and make a mental note never to gut-punch him. I’ll go for the eyes instead.

Midfight, March glares at me, and for that sin, takes a solid uppercut to the jaw. I laugh out loud, starting to enjoy this.

What also worked for me was the world-building. Aguirre did an awesome job of not info-dumping and that’s always a good thing. She does this through Sirantha. Sirantha is realizing that she’s been a bit coddled as a Corp jumper. There’s a lot she doesn’t know about the big wide universe and we learn right along with her. It made for interesting reading and it also showed us more about Sirantha’s character and personality. And the world Aguirre has created is complex and interesting.

So if you’re in the mood for a great sci-fi romp, definitely check out Grimspace. I couldn’t put it down and now I can’t wait to read more. Grimspace gets a 4.75 out of 5 from me.

This book is available from Ace. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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