Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Nascent Decay by Charles Hash ****

Like much classic science fiction Nascent Decay by Charles Hash is a mixture of philosophy and conflict, first exploring the psychology and stress of solitary confinement with the SciFi twist that Rhylie is imprisoned in a Chamber which is capable of reading Rhylie thoughts and augmenting them with complex and realistic hallucinations. Even with physical pain, psychological torment, and the destruction of her loved ones, Rhylie survives to be rescued.

For the rest of the book, Rhylie's human body is replaced with a cyberbionic skeleton and an atomorphic body. Ultimately comes the prophesy:
She is the one that is going to change things, and help us bring about peace and equality in the galaxy.
In summary, like much classic science fiction Nascent Decay is a mix of philosophy and conflict. The book opens with our protagonist Rhylie trapped in solitary confinement where the distinction between reality and imagination is blurred ... an experience reminiscent of Samuel Beckett. Eventually Rhylie escapes and the cosmic intergalactic battle ensues matching the scope and complexity of classic tales of say E E Smith or Harry Harrison. A must read for hard core SF readers.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Screen Conspiracy by by Maxwell Black ****

Inside the Beltway conspiracy and Internet porn combine in this political thriller.

Jack Halprin is a corporate executive at Worldcomb. He is one of those adequate bureaucrat made famous by the landmark management book: Peter Principle by Lawrence J Peter over 40 years ago (http://amzn.to/1NNYtbx) . Jack has been promoted his "level of incompetence." Regardless, his seniority, compensation, and experience prevent anyone, Jack included, from addressing the problem.

The Screen Conspiracy by Maxwell Black tracks Jack Halprin's personal crisis and redemption.

When Jack is receives yet another lateral transfer, he finds himself lost in a high-tech Internet division. Everyone, including Jack, his tech-savvy son, his disappointed wife, his arrogant father-in-law, and all the people at the new division, recognize that he is in over his head. Everyone plays Jack for a dupe and patsy.

For example, he is sent to testify before Congress about Internet porn. He has no idea what he is talking about and lies to Congress. This farce is quickly uncovered and he is publicly embarrassed. Eventually he realizes he is a pawn in a vast conspiracy.

His only friends are the guys at the local gun club. Against all odds, as kind of an "over-the-hill gang," Jack teams with Lieutenant John Tibbs, his partner Detective Jean Masters, and a rag-tag amateur militia to take on the CIA, corrupt Worldcomb corporate management, and even more corrupt senators.

In a climax of mid-life crisis wish fulfillment, the book ends with a satisfying culmination of the many plot twists and turns with justice and vengeance meted out to all appropriate parties and with everyone else realizing that they underestimated the redeemed Jack.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Armoires and Arsenic by Cassie Page ****

Darling Valley is a fictional enclave (on the Marin Peninsula across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and Silicon Valley) popular with venture capital billionaires. Readers from the area might think of Sausalito.

Olivia Granville is a transplanted architect and antiques dealer from Los Angeles who, as might be expected from someone from LA, was attracted by the money, specifically the potential for ultra-rich clients. While Olivia crosses paths with a client interested in building a garage cum museum for their 100+ automobile collection, most of the people she meets are shopkeepers and millionaires. True to the SF Bay Area, millionaires are ordinary in every way, interested in their quotidian lives, and their petty jealousies and conflicts.

Armoires and Arsenic by Cassie Page  is a murder mystery which opens with Olivia taking delivery of a restored armoire, only to find it contains the restorer inside and very dead.

Since Olivia is on the brink of bankruptcy and the number-one suspect, she is forced to solve the murder herself before she is out of business. In between the long list of potential suspects, possible romances, and rumors of a newcomer's curse, this is a food and fashion mystery with ample mentions Christian Louboutins, Jimmy Choos, House of Graff baubles, and little Chloe numbers, along with delicious descriptions of pastry shops, food stores, and restaurants.

In the end, there are enough plots twists and turns (leading to a surprising climax and resolution) to satisfy any cozy mystery reader.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin *****

Set during WWII, With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin is about Lieutenant Philomela Blake (Millie) - an Army nurse - and Lieutenant Tom MacGilliver - an Army engineer - and their  anonymous pen-pal correspondence which results in identity confusions worthy of a Shakespearean comedy. This is an historical romance about the introduction of women nurses into the combat theater for aerial evacuations and the role of engineers in the north African and Sicily campaigns.

Millie was raised by her father, a research botanist, so she was comfortable in primitive surroundings and around men. Tom was raised by his mother, so he uncomfortable around men, especially violent ones. So neither was well suited socially for Army life, even though they both had the specialized skills required for their jobs. This is the modern geek/nerd dilemma: "I'd be fine if I can work by myself," but set in World War II.

The challenges of being the first women into combat operations included uniforms. Millie, who had no problem speaking up, interrupted the General with, "We want to wear trousers. The initial uniforms of skirts and heels, were shortly replaced by trousers and oxfords.

 Like a good 21st century romance, the two POV characters, Millie and Tom, have mirrored feelings and challenges, with just the minimal gender stereotyping as required by the historical context. If you like historical romance, this is your book. Not a pot boiler: not so much as kiss between them until the end.