Guest post by D.Ellis Overttun

I thought the best way to get the word out there about my second book, Genesis: Vision of the New World, would be to give readers a background of the themes that run through the storyline. They are the things that resonated with me and inspired my writing. For those of you who are time-constrained, my wife, Natasha, has created the gif below. 

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As the title suggests, visions underlie the narrative in Genesis, two in particular. The first one is presented as a potential safe haven from the destruction of the universe that was the backdrop of the story in the first book, Universe: Awakening. The second is a genetically engineered memory of creation. The inspiration for this has come from the many doublets in the Bible, in particular “Genesis 1” and “Genesis 2”, that present two different timelines for creation. 

While a vision may seem very real to the person experiencing it, the question that arises is:  What will others think? Part of the answer can be found in societal attitudes and touches upon the issue of mental health. To the Celesti, a vision is a form of communication. There must be a sender and a receiver. Anything else is beyond the realm of reason and logic. It is an indication of potential mental impairment. On the other hand, the Gendu acknowledge the existence of phanai, those who can speak directly to their deity. As a consequence, they are more open-minded to the possibility.

Consistent with the theme of the Bible meets sci-fi, I have crafted excerpts from the Codices of Taru, the primary religious text of the Gendu. The literary style of these verses was modeled upon chapters in the Bible like “Genesis 5”, the lineage of Adam, and Professor Robert Alter’s commentary in his translation, The Five Books of Moses. Like the Torah, the Codices were written to be read aloud with a rhythm established by the deliberate use of the word “and”.

Where does the belief in a higher power originate? Can advanced technology be god-like as Erich von Däniken suggests? Genesis describes an encounter between two Celesti and orangs, a hominoid species that is on the verge of moving higher on the sapiens branch of the evolutionary tree. The orangs make a number of observations from this chance meeting. Their experience can only be described as supernatural: unexplainable by anything in their collective experience. But all observations crave an explanation. How do they extrapolate?

The orangs illustrate my rendering of the beginnings of language based upon the work of evolutionary biologist Professor Mark Pagel of the University of Reading. If we start with English, we can trace its evolution from Germanic and Romance languages back to Indo-European then Proto-Indo-European. A language like the orangs speak goes back to the first words, a very limited vocabulary comprised of a handful of nouns that emerged shortly after the evolution of the physiological apparatus to enable speech.

An experiment in genetics features prominently as the Celesti attempt to engineer a pliant servile class from orangs. Tok and Maag are captured in the wild and are subjected to extensive gene substitution that accelerates their evolution. 

Immortality is one of the characteristics of all divine beings. But how does that happen? Can you become immortal? From the point of view of science, the only way is to violate the second law of thermodynamics or the tendency of things to go from an ordered to a disordered state. Stated more clearly, the disorder in a system can never go down. But that leaves a possibility:  Disorder (or order) can remain constant. In my first book, Universe, I posit just such a place I called the “volume” filled with an energy called the “ether”. Now, this ether has been infused into the body of one of the main characters, and it would seem that he no longer ages. 

I felt the story needed a villain, someone really loathsome and repulsive. Enter Theodor. His demeanor has been based upon Bernardo Gui from the Name of the Rose. I describe an unnatural relationship that my new antagonist has with his sister, Myranda, drawn from the common practice among Egyptian pharaohs. He also has a predilection for young women, very young women. His predatory practices were influenced by recollections from the Me Too movement. However, there is a scene in the story extrapolated from my own life. In my first job after graduation, I was part of a group of new hires for a large company. One of the female members of our group was being harassed by one of the managers. When I found out, I wanted to send him a “message”. I didn’t, but I remember the feelings of anger and helplessness. I wanted to offer more than just my moral support.

Much of what motivates Theodor is power and recognition. However, he is not willing to work towards his goals. He is not grounded in merit only desire. His pursuit makes him culpable in the murder of four individuals. What follows is a cover up and investigation.

His ambition propels him to become Tendai, the leader of the main religious body on the planet. The elements of the election process have been drawn from papal succession. However, I have introduced a slight modification inspired by the acclamation of the people and the coronation of William the Conqueror shortly after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

A lot has been swirling around lately about fake news. It prompted me to introduce a piece of technology I called “Veracity”, a computer program that verifies and classifies content uploaded to social media. It presupposes two things. First, a central authority has control of all content across all social platforms. Second, everyone accepts how the program operates. One of the inflection points of the storyline hinges on people accepting something they know is not true. It highlights what we want versus what is real and speaks to the larger issue of factual consistency versus narrative consistency

Background to Genesis:  Vision of the New World

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The focal point of the cover is a shadowy face overlaid on a planet with a sun peering from its edge circled by a single moon. It is an allusion to the word “vision” that is part of the title of the book. It gives the reader a hint of the story within. The scene could be anywhere except that the planet in the lower left-hand corner looks a lot like Saturn. In that case, the planet in question could be earth. Now, as the title says, this is a “Vision of the New World”. Is this our universe? The universe in Book 1 is 36 billion years old, a lot older than the current 14-billion-year age of our universe. So, is this a vision from the past? “New World” in the title would imply “no” unless this is about time travel into the past. (Since this is sci-fi, it is a distinct possibility.) Another solar system in the same universe configured exactly like ours? Perhaps. Or maybe, it is a vision of another universe.

Series Overview:

Author Q&A posted on The Magic of Wor(l)ds

Author Q&A posted on On The Shelf Reviews

Author Q&A posted on The Book Hole

Author Q&A posted on From Belgium With Book Love

Background to Universe: Awakening posted on Zooloo’s Book Diary

Cover Makeover Genesis: Vision of the New World posted on On The Shelf Reviews

Indie Spotlight – Terra Nova Series posted on beforewegoblog

Universe: Awakening – Excerpts and Commentary:

“Prologue” posted on Simply Phil’s Blog

Chapter 1 – “In the Darkness” posted on beforewegoblog

Chapter 2 – “Beyond a Program” posted on The Magic of Wor(l)ds

Chapter 6 – “Confessions” posted on Read Yourself Happy

Chapter 8 – “In the Darkness” posted on Zooloo’s Book Diary

Chapter 46 – “Tsai and Citrus” posted on Herding Cats

Chapter 60 – “The Awakening” posted on The Reading Chemist

Chapter 66 – “The Second Way” posted on The Tattooed Book Geek

Chapter 83 – “The Dream” posted on Reads & Reels

Chapter 85 – “Heron of Edenoud” posted on On The Shelf Reviews

For a deeper dive:

Universe:  Awakening

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Genesis:  Vision of the New World

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“Map of Chaos” by Felix J Palma

This is book three of the Victorian Trilogy (Trilogia Victoriana). I had been waiting for this book FOREVER and happened to find the hard cover for $3 at Good Will. I didn’t even realize it was out. So naturally I grabbed it! Went in for Cosplay, came out with a book …my life story.

The first thing I will say about Palma’s books is they are a SLOW BURN kind of story. They are all very slow paced and reading 5 pages sometimes feels like you’ve read 100 (which is why a 568 page book has taken me almost a month.), but he keeps it interesting enough that you WANT to know what’s happening, even if it is relatively dry and boring.

The thing about these books is Palma changes his formula every book. When I read Map of Time, I figured I had a pretty good understanding of how this author works (these formulas are how I could do things like predict big events in Game of Thrones – George RR Martin has a very big and obvious formula too). So when Map of the Sky came out, I was excited but I figured I would have this one figured out in the first few chapters. I was wrong, Palma changed his formula completely. Map of Chaos, changes that formula AGAIN. And with each addition to the book, he adds something new. Which I think is what draws me in because I CAN’T predict what he’s thinking because he hasn’t taught us. Video games teach you how to play and navigate in their worlds, authors teach you how to navigate their worlds as well. Palma teaches you a LEVEL and then completely changes it as soon as you level up.

If you haven’t read the previous two books, I recommend you stop reading here because I have to explain the twists to explain how Palma changes and adds to his formula.

In the first book, everything “Sci-Fi” was proven fake. Until the very end of the book where he turns everything on it’s head and reveals that the themes are real, just not the way everyone expects it to be. And there’s time travel. In the second book, he flips it on its head again and everything is real, and there are aliens …oh and more time travel.

That brings me to the third installment. The first two books allude and hint at things, this book is straight forward. You’re not trying to prove if something is or isn’t, it is an event that happens and everything is taken at face value. But the thing about this book is it kind of reads like a clusterf*ck. First off, the Prologue is 40 pages. It was about an HG Wells who was a scientist in a SteamPunk world. I thought, okay, makes sense after the Alien Invasion I guess? Or the diverted Alien Invasion as it would be? Then the prologue ended and Chapter one started us with Cornelius Clayton, an officer who investigates strange cases, but not in the Steampunk world. He believes nothing is real until he has his arm ripped off by a werewolf. Then it skips 10 years later, which is odd for Palma, his stories are usually linear unless there is “time travel”, but he doesn’t jump time like that (another formula change). Clayton is now investigating Spirituality in the Victorian era where there was an explosion in interest in seances and ghosts (this was an actual time period, started by the Fox sisters). Clayton investigated popular and apparently REAL Mediums to figure out if they are actually real, or fake. Most of them end up being fake, but on one investigation a strange “ghost” appears and tries to strangle an elder lady, screaming about needing a book. Clayton later goes to the old ladies house to make sure she was okay and she gives him The Map of Chaos, an apparent book that will save the world (the title is not ironic, but I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves). The Invisible Man attacks again and the old lady disappears from a secured room. Cue two years later when Clayton is knocking on HG Wells door to get him to help investigate an Alien Invasion.

This is where up-to-date knowledge of the previous books comes in handy. Every book I have ever read is stored in my mind so usually when I hit a reference I somewhat remember. Which is lucky because it’s been a while since I read them and I don’t own Map of the Sky.

From there it is a wild ride through Universes, Time, and Space, following the exciting exploits of Wells and his wife Jane. Up until the last 150 pages or so, it feels like thousands of stories are thrown at you (hence the clusterf*ck), but in those 150, they all start to come together, in a way that some times leaves me yelling “AHH!!” and pointing excitedly when I catch a references or something is revealed.

I don’t want to reveal too much more than that because this is an incredible book, and an even more incredible series. The slow burn does make these a little difficult to read, but it’s always worth it in the end!

“Frankenstein: Prodigal son” by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz is another author I have a weird relationship with. The first book of his I ever read was way back when I was introduced to James Rollins. The same lady that lent me his books lent me a Koontz book, it was a new author I wasn’t familiar with so I wasn’t going to say no. I enjoyed the book up until the ending, it was kind of a let down. I found out shortly after that that my step-dad loves Dean Koontz. When I started working at the book store I bought him the entire Frankenstein series, and then moved onto Odd Thomas. Fast forward to a few years ago when I attempted another Koontz book (Odd Thomas funny enough) and found it …not bad. He was overly wordy, to the point the story felt like it was getting lost in the words, like he was trying to emulate Stephen King. When we found this book super cheap somewhere we picked it up, I was willing to give Koontz another chance because the others I read weren’t BAD per se, just, not great.

I will say, though, I enjoyed this book. My biggest issue with the book is you’re following 5 or 6 different characters so there is no mystery, it also jumps a lot to cover all those story lines. The mystery of the murders in the story is ruined by the killers point of view, but at the same time, still interesting because you get to see his method and his reasoning behind why he’s doing it.

With little spoilers, I will say the novel follows The Monster, a female detective, Victor Frankenstein, the murderer, Victor’s wife, and sometimes there is a chapter or two from other characters.

The book starts from the Monster’s point of view, who is now calling himself Deucalion, and a letter he gets that sends him back to America. Back to the city where a murderer stalks the populace looking for the perfect body parts. In among these two story lines, is the one of Victor and his pursuit of perfection, a master race, and a future war …and a copy cat killer.

I’m good at following multiple story lines, so this wasn’t a problem for me, but I know it’s not something for everyone. I found all the story lines really interesting because in the beginning they all seem hodged-podged together, but they slowly start linking or colliding with one another to reveal a much bigger plot.

I found Koontz’ writing very different from the previous two I read. It was very straight forward, not overly wordy, and very quick to read. The way he ends certain story lines feels very lacking, but in the greater scheme it made sense in a way.

I will be reading the rest of the series, because it is rather interesting.

“Blade Runner (Do androids dream of electric sheep)” by Philip K. Dick

I have a very long history with this franchise. Back in High School, a friend lent be a computer game called “Blade Runner” and I played the hell out of that game. I loved the story line, the investigative aspect, and especially the Sci-Fi feel. Shortly after that I found the movie on TV one night and watched it. I wasn’t able to finish the game because my computer crashed, but from what I did play, it’s really nothing like the movie. It has the same feel, but the subject matter was different.

So naturally, when I came across the book in a used book store this year, I nabbed it. When I started reading I was curious as to what path it would take. Video game or movie? Well …neither.

Blade Runner can be explained in one sentence: “Man hunts androids to afford farm animal.” Full stop. That’s literally the plot. Rick Deckard belongs to a group of sanctioned Bounty Hunters. They work with the police, but get a commission on top of their regular daily pay for every android they bring in. Deckard and his wife have a rocky relationship and animals are the only thing that make them happy. They used to own a REAL sheep (animals are almost extinct because of the poisonous dust in the air left over from the last Nuclear War) but it passed away and Deckard replaced it quietly with an electric version (owning a real animal is status, so he can’t reveal to his neighbors that it’s fake). But he still wanted another REAL animal. So, flipping through the catalogue everyone carries and obsesses over, he looks for another animal to replace it. To do that though, he will need the Bounty on the androids his superior found.

Androids are legal on Mars, but they tend to escape and go back to earth to hide among the humans and try to have a better life. These androids are equipped with a processing system so advanced they are more often than not mistaken for humans. The only accurate test is an Empathy test (they did do this in the movie!), which is basically a lie detector test.

This is where I start to get angry. There were a lot of complaints about the newest movie and its portrayal of women. It did not improve on the last movie, instead treated them just the same. Even if they were just trying to follow in the path of the last movie, staying true to Philip K Dick, it’s not necessary. We live in a world where there is no place for bigotry. The only thing I gathered in this book is how much Dick hates women. Deckard treats his mentally ill wife like garbage and then blames her, he has an affair on his wife and never reflects of feels guilty he in fact feels justified in doing so. Rachel is basically there to make Deckard feel better about himself and to be a sexual obsession to him. Another Bounty Hunter explained to Deckard that love is just an excuse to have sex, so just bang them and move on. Every woman is portrayed as over-sexualized, catty, or weak.

My other big issue is the book feels like I’ve jumped into a series 8 issues in. Instead of world building, you’re just thrown in and expected to understand their lives and technology. Like their worship of Mercer, or the empathy machines, or dialing emotions. Nothing is really explained. It is all incredibly interesting, but the book is so short (216 pages) and spans about a 48 hour period. So we get a snippet of Deckard’s life, but nothing more. I could really only enjoy the android hunting part, because it’s the only aspect of the book that had detail.

It’s distressing to me because I loved the game, I loved the movie, and I truly do like the book. It’s an incredible idea, and a fast-paced interesting and fun story. It’s just that Deckard is such an asshole I was feeling pity for the androids. The novel also follows a man who has been legally trapped on earth (only rich and smart can immigrate to Mars) because he has a sub-par IQ. John Isidore, referred to as a “chickenhead”, actually helps protect a group of androids. You get a unique look at the themes and story line of the androids because of it. They have an interesting contrast because Isidore has extreme empathy, and the androids have none. Empathy is brought up many, many times in the story because it is what sets androids and humans apart. I found this fascinating, and everyone’s addiction to Mercerism – which is a technology-based religion and people use the empathy boxes to enter a plain of collective suffering (or joy, depending on what the group is feeling strongest that day). This was so vaguely covered and I wanted to know more! How did it start, who is Wilbur Mercer, why is an unseen force throwing rocks at him all the time? What is an empathy box, how does it work? The book really seems to delve into what makes us human, and what it means to be human.

I’m probably going to stick to the movie from here on out. The portrayal of women isn’t great in that movie, but I don’t think it’s as bad as in the book. But it is a great book if you can look past that. Or even not, I think for every Sci-Fi fan this is a necessary read.

Interview with D.Ellis Overttun

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing an Author I have been reviewing! I have done two of D.Ellis Overttun’s books, and corresponded with him quite frequently. The subject of Interviews came up and I thought it would be a great step for our little blog. It is incredibly interesting to see what goes through an authors head, and where they draw influence from.

If you haven’t read my reviews on the book, I recommend it before reading this, as most of this won’t make sense. Even better would be to pick up the books yourself and show some support! His books can be purchased through Amazon!

Q: We spoke a bit previously about how you drew your influence for your characters. With your script-like writing, I assumed there was a bit of a movie influence?

A: Cast and Casting of the Terra Nova Series

Your observation that the series reads like a script is quite perceptive. I am somewhat of a movie buff, so I write as though I am watching a movie. As each new character is introduced, I often try to imagine who I would cast in that role. It gives me an initial reference for appearance, behavior and mannerisms. Here is a list of the main characters from Universe:

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The oasis scenes in Universe describe an interaction between Jo’el and Auberon. As the story progresses, we discover that Auberon is a timid by-the-book bureaucrat and Jo’el is his patient dealing with a condition known as “mental trauma”. I see Michael Fassbender as Jo’el carrying the burden of loss the same way Erik Lehnsherr did in the airplane scene in X men: Days of Future Past. Lehnsherr demonstrates both vulnerability and savagery born of pain. He can brood. He can contemplate. He can take action. (Although Jo’el’s darker traits have not been revealed to date.)

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The I-want-to-do-what’s-right not so confident persona of Auberon was based upon Jay Baruchel’s performance as Dave Stutler in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, someone a little nerdy who rises to the occasion as exemplified by the triumph of his inept but heartfelt pursuit of Becky Barnes. These two themes of strength of character and sincerity of intent run through the series.

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I used Rachel Weisz to describe Odessa’s appearance but the behavior of the First Minister has been modeled upon Tilda Swinton as Gabriel in Constantine.

One of Odessa’s guards has a distinctive raised eyebrow when the situation demands it.  Can you see Dwayne Johnson as Mica’el with long dark hair à la Scorpion King? Or how about Chris Hemsworth as Gabri’el looking like Thor? It is easy to see either of these two in black articulated body armor.

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Finally, there are two other female protagonists. Natasha’s inscrutable demeanor has been drawn from Scarlett Johansson’s expressionless scenes as Natasha Romanoff in the Avenger series and the transformed Lucy Miller in Lucy. Asherah looks like Selena Gomez but fights like Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa.

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Q: As soon as you mentioned your inspiration I could absolutely see it in the characters, and it gave a really interesting insight. If you draw a lot from Movies, how else has it influenced you?

Q: You draw a lot from movies, characters, events, and imagery, it creates a very visual experience. Is there anything unusual that you have taken from movie to book?

A: Music, Music, Music

Cinematic influences carry over to music. I don’t know how it would be scored but I penned the lyrics to 5 songs. The first one, “Girl-Wind”, is a reveille for Alondra as she awakens from a shut-down period. I imagined it as a semi-spoken piece. If you read the lyrics out loud, the rhythm should be readily apparent. I likened her movements to Alex Owens strutting her stuff during her audition in Flashdance.

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There are 2 acapella songs in Universe inspired by songs like Enya’s “May It Be” from Lord of the Rings. One is an untitled song Sophia plays as she and Alondra wait to depart the probe and the second, entitled “Wanderer”, appears at the end of the last chapter (just as I would fade to black and roll credits). (FYI: These 3 songs only appear in the Universe Redux Edition.)

Genesis features 2 riding songs, “Wind-Rider” and “Chase the Wind”, inspired by Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” from Easy Rider. Again, if you read the songs aloud, you should hear the backbeat. Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” gave me the idea that both should be introduced by an appropriate drum intro.

Q: We spoke on how your novel would work really well as a Comic, can you speak a bit on that?

A: Manga Influence

I can see where the comic book reference comes from now that I know you are an illustrator. I have been influenced by the Koike and Kojima Lone Wolf and Cub series. (I have all 28.) I read an interview once where they stressed character development. That’s why there are many segments (eg. Auberon and Natasha’s farewell at the Spandau Bridge, Theodor’s longing for recognition back at his parish) where I describe thoughts and feelings. It is something that cannot be easily expressed in a visual medium. K&K’s artwork is spectacular and their eye for detail has guided me in my descriptions of settings where parts of my story take place. As the saying goes “a picture is worth a 1,000 words”. What an artist can do in one image might take me a page.

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The K&K influence extends to my gravatar. It is easy to see the “D” and the “O” but there is a another meaning. I studied aikido for a time. There are always 2 versions of a technique “omote” (forward) and “ura” (reverse). A deeper meaning for these 2 terms is “in the open”, what we show to the public, and “in the shadows”, what we keep private. You can see this represented by red (omote) and black (ura) in my gravatar. This concept was introduced to me in LW&C (Volume 13) “The Moon in the East, the Sun in the West”.

Q: Being an illustrator, I do appreciate a good book cover and yours seem to be very in depth. Is there meaning in your cover art?

A: The Covers

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The Universe cover is meant to give the reader a sense that awakening has something to do with genetics since the double helix is easily identifiable as DNA. The woman seeming to emerge from the strand in a burst of light is a visual rendering of the awakening of Asherah and Praana, one corporeal and the other energy. It represents a current trend in developed nations:  Women are having children later in life. Universe extrapolates this trend to the extreme. Later and later childbirth implies that physical relations are for pleasure not procreation. What if they separated? What would this possibility look like?

The sphere in the background is not a planet. It is a universe surrounded by what the reader will discover is the volume. The green patches represent the encroachment of an alien energy known as the “ether” foretelling the end of existence. Conventional wisdom says there are 3 possible endings to the expansion of space-time:  big freeze, big rip or big crunch. They all assume there is nothing external to our universe that could affect these outcomes. (Why would they?) The Terra Nova series asks the question:  What if there was something pushing back? It is similar to a boiling pot of water. There are bubbles (i.e. universes) pushing outward but the water must exert some kind of inward force. Hence, a fourth possibility:  big implosion.

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The focal point of the Genesis cover is a planet with the sun peering from its edge circled by a single moon. This could be anywhere except that the planet in the upper left hand corner looks a lot like Saturn. In that case, the planet in question could be earth. Now, as the title says, this is a “Vision of the New World”. Is this our universe? The universe in Book 1 is 36 billion years old, a lot older than the current 14 billion-year age of our universe. Five billion years from now our sun will expand into a red giant and consume the earth. So, is this a vision from the past? “New World” in the title would imply “no” unless this is about time travel into the past. (Since this is sci-fi, it is a distinct possibility.) Another solar system in the same universe configured exactly like ours? Perhaps. Or maybe, it is a vision from another universe.

Non-spoiler alert:  The answer is revealed as part of a “conversation” that Jo’el has with a surrogate of his brother, Davin. It will also give the reader a clue as to who the Proto-Gendu are.

Q: Going back to your comment about the Lone Wolf and Cub, it’s a Samurai story based in the Tokugawa Era, which I would assume deals with different kinds of martial arts. There seems to be some influence of that in your work.

A: The Monks of the Nicene Desert

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The Monks of the Nicene Desert are an order that strives for perfection in body, mind and spirit. The exterior of the monastery has been derived from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. The interior has been drawn from the dojo in the fight scene between Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix and castle scenes from the Shogun TV miniseries.

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The training was based upon my own experience in martial arts. I practiced taekwondo for a time. I was never really any good. The only thing I could do well was the kiai (the yell), mainly because I was always scared *&%less when I sparred. I have cleaned the floors in a dojo (Korean: dojang) just like Auberon and Jo’el and I’ve stood sweating like a farm animal in horse stance with my legs burning and shaking.

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My school crest depicted an individual sitting in seiza surrounded by 3 concentric circles representing spheres. The innermost one symbolized the relation of the individual to himself. The next one was the individual in relation to friends and family and the final one, the individual to the rest of the world. I thought it was pretty cool for my teacher to come up with this philosophy. It was only later when I studied aikido that I found he had lifted it from Aikido: The Dynamic Sphere by Westbrook and Ratti. And not just the symbolism, Ratti’s artwork! The concept from self to others formed the basis of Jo’el’s therapy and his reintegration back into society and the problem of never-ending milestones comes from our school’s search for perfection.

The fight scene between Jo’el and Asherah was based on that part of my life. I’ve been thrown hard and landed the wrong way, had bruised ribs and know what it’s like to have cuts on the inside of my mouth. After all that training, my taekwondo teacher’s words ring true in my ears:  The best thing to do in a fight is run! So, now I practice Rule #1 of Zombieland:  cardio.

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“Wild Cards” edited by George R.R. Martin

As you can see, this is the first time it says “edited by” instead of just “by”. Sadly it took me several chapters of the book for this to dawn on me. When I first heard about this book, all everyone said was it was by the guy who wrote Game of Thrones and it’s very similar to that series. It wasn’t until very recently that I saw the book in print. With the hit of Game of Thrones, all Martin’s past books are in reprint. Wild Cards was originally printed in the 70s, yet my copy is brand new.

Jumping into the book (clearly without taking notice of anything!) I plowed through several chapters before I realized the writing style was changing. Perspective, characters, voice, even the choice of words was incredibly different than the previous chapters. So, I flipped back through and realized my error. Each “chapter” is a new author, and each author writes about a different event on the same timeline. It’s like a sci-fi round robin but each event is further along the timeline, so it reads in a cohesive order.

The story starts with an Alien crash landing on earth, post WW2, and demanding to see Werner, Einstein, and the President. His name is so long they dubbed him “Tachyon”, but he told them he was trying to beat a ship carrying a deadly virus, and the ship broke up on entry so it was vital everyone knows.

The next author continued on this line with the war Hero “jetboy”, and how a capsule containing the disease was found and deployed. From there we get into chapters containing the “Wild Card”. The disease that was released wasn’t a zombie virus or a deadly flu strain, it was a disease that changed a persons DNA and created “Aces” or “Jokers”. Aces were your stereotypical superheroes. They could hide in plain sight because they looked like everyone else, and their powers were incredible and powerful. Though, there were “deuces”, which are Aces with lame powers. The other side of that coin are the jokers – they’re the ones whose bodies were destroyed and twisted, who couldn’t hide in plain sight. From giant gargoyles, to human faced dogs.

Every author writes about a different character, but through following a consistent time line, each brings up characters from the previous author, so even though it’s a disjointed storytelling, you can still tell it takes place together. This style of writing reminds me a lot of World War Z, in how it’s not a “story” so much as a collection of observations that follow a consistent storyline. If that makes any sense.

The book follows Tacyhon, as well as special government Aces and their incline and fall, and beyond. You get to see different aces and how their lives were changed or destroyed, and what they had to do to survive the whims of the government.

It is incredibly interesting, and the fact that it is constantly changing kind of keeps you interested and on your toes. It is the first in a series, so it will be interesting to see how this is carried on!

“Genesis: vision of the new world” by D. Ellis Overttun

This is the second book in the series that an Author has sent us. I reviewed the first one a little while ago. This book took longer than I intended simply because my ereader hates me. First, it wouldn’t open the file. So I re-downloaded it and tried again. Still wouldn’t open. I was about to email the author and let him know my issue, when I fiddled with the ereader a bit and got the file working. Fabulous. Went to read it the next night, and it was dead. By then I was already into another book, so I charged my ereader closer to when I was done the book. Finally I could start the book, and about 200 pages in it started to freeze. And would remain frozen for days, or until I plugged it into the computer. That added much more time than usual. So I’m sorry this took forever to get around to!

This is a continuation into the world Overttun created. Instead of following the Celesti, this book is broken up between the Gendu, the Celesti, and now a new humanoid species known as Orangs. I actually found the stuff to do with the Gendu and the Orang’s more interesting than the stuff with the Celesti. We get to see more about the Gendu religion when one of their temples randomly explodes and the Celesti and the Gendu have to quietly work together to figure out what happened. The explosion may be linked to the Jo’el and his experiments.

There are many new characters, a broader look at the world, and a little history that explains why this sounds like earth, but isn’t. Jo’el is still looking into the problems he found with the Universe, and how the trip changed the ship and himself. This book is a joining of religion and science, and Overttun recently sent me a interview he did with a different blog that really explained why the series was created.

You can read it here, it was a fabulous article! https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/bookspotlight-qa-universe-awakening-by-d-ellis-overttun-sci-fi/

You can tell there has been an improvement in his writing, there were some scenes I got so absorbed I didn’t realize I had zoned out until 50 pages later. The writing is still very passive, but that improvement usually comes with continuing to read and write. My biggest complaint would be the use of ‘said’. Overttun has a tendency to use “said in -a tone of voice-” instead of finding a word that means just that.

The writing is a little ‘wordy’ …which sounds stupid of me to say because writing is words, but there can be too many words. I skipped entire pages of a character talking to a computer. The entire thing could have been eliminated and the reader would still understand what’s happening. Entire sentences that could have been reduced to two or three words. Once again, that comes with practice.

Though, I will admit, the entire time reading it, all I could think of was how much fun this would be to turn into a comic. Overttun is a technical writer, so it really reads like a script. Which would actually make it easier to turn into story boards because you literally see what the writer does, instead of leaving room for the readers brain to fill in the gaps.

I do enjoy this series, and I was really excited to hear that he was getting further into the history of his world. I’m excited to see where it will go and how his talents will improve!

“Doctor Who: Shroud of Sorrow” by Tommy Donbavand

As many of you may know we are a team of Whovians so it only seemed suitable to start with a title that may be enjoyed by all of us. Oh boy, was I ever wrong about that. I never thought I could find a plot too outlandish even for the Doctor but here we are!

“It is the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the faces of the dead are everywhere. PC Reg Cranfield sees his recently deceased father in the mists along Totter s Lane. Reporter Mae Callon sees her late grandmother in a coffee stain on her desk. FBI Special Agent Warren Skeet finds his long-dead partner staring back at him from raindrops on a window pane. Then the faces begin to talk, and scream… and push through into our world. As the alien Shroud begins to feast on the grief of a world in mourning, can the Doctor dig deep enough into his own sorrow to save mankind?A thrilling new adventure from the spectacular BBC series, starring Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman.

In this story the Doctor is accompanied by companion Clara Oswald. We don’t see much of them for the first fifth of the book or so, which is completely summarized in the back blurb as seen above. I noticed immediately that it seems to be structured like an actual episode of the show, which may seem like a good idea in theory but in practice read as scattered and unfocused. We are tossed around between brief explanations for half a dozen side characters as the ‘Shroud’ appears in liquid surfaces (ie. Spilt coffee on a characters arm turns into her dead grandmother, who then screams at her until the spill is smothered).

The Shroud is an alien creature that is first believed to be a group but is later determined to be one beast. It appears as the faces of dead loved ones to those who see it, at which point it begins feeding on their grief. Once it has a grip on their minds it takes to form of a woman covered by a blue veil that then holds their hands and takes control of the victims minds. They use bad memories to force them through the five stages of grief. Once the whole world has reached the stage of acceptance there is no turning back.

Here is where we get extra weird. Through the art of tossing about various switches and do-dads in the TARDIS it is determined that the Earth is sitting in one end of a wormhole and another planet is sitting in the other end. Here is where our story begins to split. We load The Doctor, Clara, and a couple civilians into an ambulance and make their way through several miles of the wormholes stomach before reaching the other planet, Semtis. Semtis is a snowy planet that has clearly already been decimated by the Shroud. Those who survived are split into separate tribes based on their emotional reactions to the attacks of the Shroud. Tremblers, Takers, and Ragers are cared for by those who were not affected by the Shroud, or have since recovered. How do they treat them? By kidnapping them, restraining them, and performing circus acts in front of them until they begin to laugh. Supposedly teaching them to experience joy again.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Now this might just be me, but it sounds a lot more like pushing them to insanity than helping them. When was the last time someone enjoyed being forced to watch dozens of clowns perform around them? What about those who were afraid of clowns before the attack? These are the kind of concepts that fuel nightmares. Oh, and while on this planet they are, at random, attacked by polar bears which seem to be the only other species on the planet.

By the time we return to Earth I had honestly completely forgotten about the first half of the book. We spend an extensive amount of time with the clowns saving individuals via a military clown parade and a bunch of pillow cases, until the Doctor realizes he needs to take on the Shroud himself (as these things usually turn out). I couldn’t stress more how disappointed I was at the wasted opportunity here. The Shroud attacked the Doctor’s mind by delving into his worst memories. Instead of writing a really touching bit on a couple companions here or there, Donbavand opts to spend nine whole pages name dropping random companions from over the decades of the show with no real context to what was happening. He mentions a whopping twenty-three companions, most of whom come from the classic series, meaning those only familiar with new Who would be completely lost at best. I myself am not very familiar with it so I had to do some googling just to verify if these people were companions or random side characters from past episodes.

The worst of these is the mentioning of Astrid Peth. She is mentioned here as well as in the beginning of the story when the Doctor initially encounters the Shroud. Here’s the problem. The Shroud selects someone near and dear to it’s victim in order to ensure optimal sadness. Why on Earth (or any other planet for that matter) would Astrid be that person? Yes, the Doctor was quite sad to see her pass. HOWEVER. She took part in one episode during the tenth Doctor’s time. The Doctor is now with Clara, meaning he has already experienced the loss of Amy, Rory, and countless others before and after Astrid who were FAR MORE SIGNIFICANT. This in combination with the name dropping tells me the Author simply isn’t well acquainted enough with the series to be publishing licensed Doctor Who material.

I digress…

As the Doctor fights the Shroud our clown friends are inside the wormhole tying it’s mind tentacles together like balloon animals to restrain it. To finish it all off they jump into the TARDIS and drop the creature onto a planet made entirely of avocado bubble bath. End story.

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

Well folks, it certainly wasn’t what I expected. I’m not sure exactly what it was I was expecting but it definitely wasn’t a band of clowns saving the day. If any of the references were something a younger audience could understand I’d recommend it for preteen/teen-aged age group but the author delves to far into the complicated with no explanation, so it sits uncomfortably between being a kids book and a twisted adults horror concept.

Honourable mention goes to these lines that were too good not to mention here:

‘An injury that can talk! A wound with a view!’ – The Doctor

‘You’re going down to Clown Town!’ – Wobblebottom

“Universe: Awakening” by D. Ellis Overttun

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artemisiconI took some time off to read a bunch of books I had borrowed from friends, but didn’t plan on reviewing, which is why I haven’t been posting reviews a lot lately. And last weekend I had a convention, which was why there was nothing on Thursday. I apologize, every once in a while my schedules collide!

But, I did finally finish this book. I had started it a while ago, and then the author asked me to wait on finishing the review. So as soon as I got the okay, I started reading it again.

According to Goodreads and the ending of the book, this is the first in a series. I do believe this is his first book, and like more firsts, it does need a bit of refining.

It takes place very, VERY far in the future, where humanity has evolved into two distinct species, the Celesti and the Gendu. The Gendu are much the way humanity is today, but the Celesti are an evolved form who essentially “run” the world. The thing that sets them apart the most is their life span, and how they pro-create. 10 000 years to them seems like 5 years to us. They go in and out of stasis and instead of two parents producing an offspring, two parents ascend and become two completely new people.

Because of this long life span, they can do things like send probes out into the universe and live long enough to see the results. The story starts with one such probe heading out to the edge of the Universe, but suddenly getting attacked by something unseen and unknown.

The idea behind the book is actually very interesting, and I will give the author that. There were so many aspects of his world that I wanted to know more about and see him delve more deeply into, but unfortunately he skimmed over the most (IMO) interesting parts. My issue is with his actual writing and pacing. But a lot of these come with time and lots, and lots of writing.

I found his writing very passive, and telling more than showing, so it kind of took me out of the rhythm of the story once in a while. I did find myself skimming entire pages or information that really didn’t have much to do with anything, trying to get back to the interesting story.

This also might just be me, but I felt he didn’t push the story as far as he could have. The world was incredibly far in the future yet their technology and way of life felt very our-lifetime. And he didn’t delve as far into that world as I would have liked. Being able to interface in a person’s brain (a la ‘The Cell’), Ascending, Aura’s, What do their buildings look like? How are they built? How advanced is the Gendu? How did the species separate? What about the monks? How were the Monks in the interface? Is the whole world like this or is this a city by city thing? Was there a space race kind of situation when they realized they would live long enough to  see probes that had to travel hundreds of years?

I’m trying not to sound cruel because it was a very interesting book, and I absolutely love the aspect of Aura’s. Aura’s help people identify rank and mental health, no matter how hard they try to hide it. And Aura’s can be warped and used as a tool, or can interact with tools.

I hope to see him explore more of his created world, and maybe push the line on how his world works. It truly was interesting, I was want to see MORE. Don’t toe the sci-fi line, bulldoze right on through it!

“Artemis” by Andy Weir

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It is no secret that I really enjoyed Andy Weir’s The Martian, so when I found out that Weir had written another novel, I got very excited. I loved his ability to make science fun and exciting, and was looking forward to seeing himself replicate that in Artemis.

Artemis follows Jasmine ‘Jazz’ Bashara, a delivery porter/smuggler on the first and only city on the moon. The city is very much organized into a monetary hierarchy, where tourism is the biggest industry, the rich live well, and the poor work hard to try to make ends meet. Jazz smuggles in some of the more harmless contraband into Artemis from Earth, with the help of her friend Kelvin, to help make some extra cash in hopes of moving up the hierarchy. When Jazz is offered a very large sum of money from a very wealthy business man to sabotage a property so they ca go in and buy it cheap, she cannot say no. Taking the job means she can live a very comfortable life. But, of course, things go terribly wrong, and she has to find a way to save not just her own life, but the lives of all of Artemis’s citizens as well.

I really wanted to like this book. I really really tried. Sadly, this just missed the mark for me. Some of the science/technology was very interesting, like how water is conserved during showers on the moon, but overall, this just felt…meh. It felt cookie cuttered in from his previous work, like following a formula. I found a lot of the science leaned towards physics and chemistry, not my forte, and a lot of the technology revolved around welding, which frankly I found boring and a little over my head. I found myself skimming a lot, which I don’t love doing, but it did make the book move faster for me. The ending’s pace did speed up, and my interest did increase, but not enough to really like this book.

Jazz was not a very likeable character, none of them really were, which made it hard for me to really root for her. I found some of the story pointless or unnecessary, such as comments of Jazz’s sex life, or how a friend made a reusable condom (gross!) The letters between Jazz and Kelvin that were peppered through the story, were rather pointless and I felt like it was meant to be padding to make the story longer. The only thing I got out of it was that she wrote to him for what needed to be smuggled into Artemis, and for Jazz to bitch about the situations she got herself into.

There were some aspects that could have been so much more interesting. The world on the moon could have been developed more, for me it was what was the most interesting. Even the Gizmo’s, intelligent watches everyone wears (think something like an Apple watch), were really interesting, though I felt the name “Gizmo” seemed rather 80’s style and outdated.

Overall, this was a letdown. Weir tried at humour, which I found so sharp in The Martian, but here, it just felt forced. I was going to DNF this by page 100, but someone was murdered, and I hoped this was going to turn into a murder mystery, but it just didn’t go that way. The highlight for me was a Buffy reference, but that was all I was really excited about. If you are looking for a fun, intelligent, quirky, science fiction, skip this one and read The Martian instead!