Book Review: I, Zombie

Amazon Cover - I Zombie

Book Cover from Amazon

* Someone is Murdering the Dead. *

I, Zombie by Doris Piserchia under the pen name of Curtis Shelby

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When the girl from the asylum drowned in the lake that night, she thought it was the end of her life, but she was wrong.

With robots at fifty thousand dollars a unit, it was far more economical to use corpse labour – all it took was a two-thousand dollar animating pack in the brain, and a zombie worker, under the direction of a helmeted controller, could do just about anything except think.

Or so everyone said. But in the zombie dorms at night, with only the walking dead for roommates, things were not as they should have been. The girl from the asylum seemed to have more mental ability, not less, and someone was trying to kill her. Kill a dead girl?

Maybe there was more to heaven than an afterlife of manual labour in the company of a bunch of stiffs!

 

MY REVIEW

One of my favorite books of all time, I don’t know how many times I have read it. Picked it up back when it was first released in 1982 at an airport to keep from getting bored on a plane. (now available on kindle – yeah! … because my original paperback is Beat Up(tm).)

Interesting psychological study. Pretty cool worldbuilding with the Frogs and the Zombies (deceased humans with brain packs to work them). Actually excellent worldbuilding, the layers to the Zombies and the world trying to translate that over to the mentally disturbed. Layers upon layers with the brain pack technology and the Frog culture.

Then the action adventure with fights in front of a furnace and problem-solving mysteries with someone murdering the dead and the ice world melting, keeps everything moving at a fast pace.

This book is one of my happy places.

NOTE: Curt Selby is the pen name of Doris Piserchia, so “Curt Shelby” appears on the cover but you will now find the book under Doris Pierchia’s real name for the kindle.

Geeking Science: Baen Book Teacher Guides

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the cool things about living in North Carolina is Baen Books headquarters is here, not New York. Yes, that Baen Books with David Weber, Margaret Ball, Eric Flint, Sharon Lee, etc. So a writing convention in these parts will have at least one Baen representative, maybe even the big lady herself, Toni Weisskopf. At one of the conventions I attended Ms. Weisskopf told us about a thing. Baen Books offers teachers’ guides FOR FREE to some of its young adult (YA) oriented materials – guides good for the classroom or homeschooling.

I know last month’s geeking science was on “The Sell”, and make no mistake Baen Books is not doing this exclusively out of their hearts. The teachers’ guides are free, the books themselves – sometimes – are not. On the other hand this particular sell dovetails well into their core business while also having beneficial results. The teachers’ guides not only support reading (and every publisher supports reading), but also encourages students to use the science fiction as a jumping point to learn history and science. Where someone might go “who care how prize money was awarded by England during the wars?”, reading about the prize money collected by the Manticore Navy in Basilisk Station by David Weber raises an interest – then the rabbit hole shows a student what money meant (economics), how money was divided (math), which wars had the most money given (history) and a dozen other interests. By the way, Basilisk Station is a free book just like the teachers’ guide.

Is this “The Sell” or a publishing company giving back to their customers? The creation of the teachers’ guides did cost money – proofing, adding to the website, etc. Having met Ms. Weisskopf and Mr. Weber and the other authors participating in this program, I know its a bunch of people geeking out about how to get people involved in education by using the carrot instead of the stick. These are people who pour over research to get the covers right – did that uniform in 1637 have four or five pockets? Information and words are their life!

And they want to pass on that passion.

The Young Adult list at Baen Books ( http://www.baen.com/bookdata/ya ) contains a vetted list by Ms. Weisskopf. The ones with little books beside them contain teachers’ guides. Over twenty are available.

Teaching through science fiction – man, I wish this was around when I was a kid.

WRITING EXERCISE: Create a small guide for a reading group based on your work in-progress (WIP). Put together at least six questions.

READING EXERCISE: Pick one of the teachers’ guides and work your way through it. Which book did you pick and what did you learn from the guide?

Book Review: The Human Division

Book Cover from Amazon

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Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race.

The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU’s secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance―an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they’ve invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn’t obvious or easy.

Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won’t be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant “B Team,” centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you’re struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.

Being published online from January to April 2013 as a three-month digital serial, The Human Division will appear as a full-length novel of the Old Man’s War universe, plus―for the first time in print―the first tale of Lieutenant Harry Wilson, and a coda that wasn’t part of the digital serialization.

Old Man’s War Series
#1 Old Man’s War
#2 The Ghost Brigades
#3 The Last Colony
#4 Zoe’s Tale
#5 The Human Division
#6 The End of All Things
Short fiction: “After the Coup”

 

 

MY REVIEW

Mr. Scalzi attempted a new format of releasing 13 episodes as mini-ebooks; similar to the old method of serializing a story in newspapers or magazines (everything that is old is new again). A format option popular with self-published authors. After the episodes were all released, his publisher put together the whole thing in book format, adding two extras.

I did not read this during the episodic releases, and discovered the hard-copy book did not work very well as a straight read-thru. The characters’ lives had ebbs and swells that needed a break every three or four episodes. After getting about half-way through the book, I needed to set it aside for a week. Since my work was asking for 60 to 80-hour weeks during the time I was reading this book, it actually functioned well. Every Saturday I would set aside time to read three more episodes.

The writing is typical, brilliant Scalizi – a combination of humor and observations that are just too much fun. He continues to create a new character voice for each book. I love that his characters are unique – Zoe’s Tale had a teenage girl voice; The Human Division had a combination – each episode had a different POV (point of view) of diplomatic approaches. As such the diplomatic-POV did not have the pure snark factor of his first book of the universe (Old Man’s War). 

I should note the uniqueness of the universe is beginning to wane simply because of familiarity of the World – now in book five – but the universe hasn’t reached comfortable glove status. So, in places, this book felt … awkward… like a teenager – no longer a cute, shiny baby to ooh&aah over, but not fully mature like a George R. Dickson Dorsai! universe story.

This story is essential to the ongoing Old Man’s War Universe. It clearly sets up the conspiracy for the next story.

Worth the read, just do it in chunks for maximum enjoyment – the way it was originally published on the Internet.

Book Review: Athena’s Daughters

Book Cover for Athena's Daughters Anthology

Book Cover from Amazon

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Athena’s Daughters is an anthology published by the small press, Silence in the Library.

Athena’s Daughters is a collection of short fiction by women about women from some of the best writers in science fiction and fantasy today.

 

MY REVIEW

Athena’s Daughters is a powerful anthology written by women, edited by women, illustrated by women, about women. And a very good read in the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genre. Stories range from steampunk (Looking Back by Danielle Ackley-McPhail)) to superhero (Commando Bats by Sherwood Smith), Gothic ghost (The World to Come by Cleolinda Jones) to time travel (First Flight by Mary Robinette Kowal), modern urban fantasy (Retribution by Gail Z Martin) to military sci-fi (Not Broken, Just Bent by Tera Fullbright).

I don’t think I have seen a book with such a wide range of ages for the main characters before. Some of the females are in their twenties, some forties, and some sixties (and then there are the vampires). Nice to see older women make an impact on the world. In addition to being stories about women and having a wide range of ages, the stories also have other character traits of “diversity” (see below for some details).

Stories that grabbed me:
Commando Bats – Hera, in her contrary wisdom, has stolen the powers of male gods who were being stupid and granted them to little old ladies around the world to show them how people can use the power for good. Being the goddess of the hearth and women, of course she chose to grant the powers to females. The main point-of-view character is also disabled. I would love to see more superhero-themed stories about these characters.

Millie (by Janine K. Spendlove) – Another wonderful US Marine military short story from Ms. Spendlove (I have seen her in other anthologies) with a time travel twist you see coming if you know your aviation history but still enjoy the entire time. I really like how the main point-of-view character is Hispanic without pushing it on the audience – the character just happens to be Hispanic like most characters in American writing historically just happen to be white.

Are all the stories great? No, as with most anthologies unevenness in skill exists.

Overall a great read. And being an anthology, easy to set down and pick up again while doing chores. And with 22 stories (400+ printed pages if you buy the softback) a really good buy.

Flash: Reelier than Life

Picture of City

From the Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Collection.
I found it at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pingnews/481790691/
(Please refer to link above for full copyright – Copyright is a Creative Commons variation)

The low reverberation outside my apartment draws me away from my I-Box for the first time since the ships were spotted coming towards Earth yesterday. On my balcony, I can see five ships positioning themselves in a grid above San Antonio. The hum echoes in my chest deeper than my woofer and surround sound ever could recreate.

The big black squares, each about a quarter mile square, have silver lines on one corner, similar to letters. I stare at them puzzling their meaning. My human mind tries to find something to place the logos in perspective. The ships are mostly flat with just a few tubes and depressions adding texture.

I feel sorry for the kids tonight; Halloween just got canceled.

Suddenly lights dance out of the ships like spotlights. I see what looks like spacesuits slide down the beams into the residential neighborhoods. Each ship appears to be concentrating on only one block. I look over my shoulder at my entertainment unit to see if the Internet station I was watching has a close-up.

No news people are nearby, the reporters have captured a video stream from somewhere and are trying to create a close-up effect despite the low resolution. Sparkles and digital squares do not mask the invaders weapon barrels.

Maybe they are sampling tools? I try to delude myself.

I glance back outside in time to see the lights start from the neighborhoods and return to the ships, this time with humans, or at least human bodies, inside the beams. The I-Box behind me focuses on the faces. The people are still alive.

No one is close enough to capture the sound.

They do not need to.

I watched the ships rotate 180 degrees and start lifting away from the surface. The one hundred cities the ships visited report similar behavior. Strangely the snatchers only focus on North American metropolitan areas.

At 7:15 central time, the ships well on their way back to the asteroid belt, the AOC cinema production company announces the remaking of “War of the Worlds”. Today being the 100th anniversary of Orson Wells radio reading of the H.G. Wells classic. They claim credit for the invasion as a publicity stunt.

Exhausted through I was, I could not pull myself away from the Internet. Seems the director wanted to take science fiction to the next level and spent three years developing the tools to do so. Interviews with actors and crew follow. The story how the special effect team cobbled together a limited gravity field to keep dinner down makes me laugh.

The producer makes himself sound like a modern-day George Lucas, the movie genus who invented the steady-cam and graduated science fiction from the straight-to-video genre to 24-hour-pay-viewing. The guy traded the aging 3-D technology for new laser holograms. Overall cost of the movie, with its new technological advancements, and its related advertising stunt still was under the average blockbuster budget. No big name stars were included.

I think with the publicity, the company will see a profit. The damn crazies have hooked me!

(words 511 – first published 4/17/2013; republished new blog format 12/4/2016)