Science-Fiction Books


Review: Sleeper, Awake

Review: The Digging Crew

Review: The View From Zero



 Sleeper, Awake by Dr. Bob Rich


Flora Fielding is a famous actress. Struck by breast cancer when at the top of her career, she invests all riches in cancer research and goes to sleep, hibernated until a cure discovery.
When she re-open her eyes, not 10 nor 20 years have passed, but almost 1500.
And the world is very different: the population is limited to one million people; resources (under the control of Artif, omnipresent artificial intelligence) are abundant for all; everyone can visit everyone else thanks to a "brain implant"; women have the right to choose the father for every newborn; men must show their worth overcoming risky and sometimes deadly challenges…
Flora discovers herself being a pawn in a power game. And yet, many people will offer friendship and affection, struggling to help her conquer her illness.
And Flora will discover that her past life has gifted her with useful experiences, and that a new life may spring in unpredictable ways.

"Sleeper, Awake" is a beautiful story, winner of EPPIE 2001 Award for Science Fiction. The characters are depicted with effective psychological strokes. Even those who in the beginning aren't too likeable, little by little show their true self and become more real and also more acceptable.
The chapters are divided in parts told by the viewpoint of a different person. This viewpoint may be multiple, too, because each person can send several self-images and become engaged in activities and conversations at the same time in different places.
The settings are interesting and charming. The "reconstructed" evolution of Earth’s surface, of submerged cities and newly appearing grounds, of sea currents and volcanoes… shows a very impressive amount of research. Also interesting and instructive are the examples of psychological counseling: through the words and eyes of Flora or Mirabelle seems almost to look at… Dr. Rich in action!
The future society resembles an utopian vision - an otherwhere, or better, an otherwhen - a glimpse of how the world could be if we decide to follow new rules.
Dr. Rich's world is an idyllic place. There still exist negative emotions, but the interpersonal relations are at least correct. It seems a second creation, a new Eden where Tony Califeri plays the role of saving divinity, and Artif is an omnipresent, reassuring and providential guardian angel.
Until you reach the very last lines of the story, when suddenly over all of the previous tale… But no. Enough words. Read this beautiful book and discover the end by yourself!


(Reviewed by: Gianfranco Cazzaro)



"Sleeper, Awake" (104,250 words; ISBN  1-55404-153-8) is published by Double Dragon E-books.



The Digging Crew, reviewed by Gianfranco Cazzaro The Digging Crew by Nathalie Mallet


I like stories that put together the technology of the future and that of the past ― steel and stone, laser beams and oil lamps, rocket fuel and steam engines… So, when I have got the occasion to read “The Digging Crew”, I had some expectations about quality and setting of the story. Well, I am pleased to say that my expectations have been fulfilled. But, let we proceed in an ordered manner.
“The Digging Crew” tells the story of Sammy, 15 years old girl, sentenced to ten years of hard labor for theft. The situation isn’t wonderful at all, but it may worsen. And it does. In fact, after a cave-in, Sammy doesn’t resist the temptation to destroy one of the surveillance robots. Discovered, she’s sentenced to lifelong work in the tunnels several miles underground.
She’s picked up by one of the digging crews, Crew 56, because she’s small and can slip through the rock fissures to place explosive charges. Very soon, Sammy realizes that some members of her crew are planning to escape. But the members of a rival group, Crew 79, are alert and, when the plan is put into action, they escape too.
So begins the escape of the groups. Between acts of kindness and moments of murderous rage, the escaped women roam along the tunnels, across canyons infested by predators, searching freedom and a way to leave the planet.

With its underground tunnels and infesting creatures, “The Digging Crew” carries back to the mind Verne’s novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth”. But here the characters aren’t scientists aiming a geologic discovery. They are criminals tied by unstable relations, dangerously guided by hate and violence. The narration - that sinks a little only during the tunnels escape - is quick and fast paced. The characters are well distinguished and many rest in memory: Sammy the protagonist, with her teen-ager’s naiveties and her discovery of new resources for surviving; Muscle, Crew 56’s leader, alert and controlled; Blast, the explosive expert, who did become a sort of new mother for Sammy; Alexis, the Crew 79’s mysterious thinking mind, cold and calculating; Black Eagle, Sammy’s sworn enemy; Francine, a new “little” friend...
The undergound tunnels and the open spaces are described with nice touches. The new technologies are well-thought and create a convincing future setting. But are mainly the escaping women actions and reactions, that catch the reader attention and hold it until the final resolution.
If you like a good story and a fast-paced narration, “The Digging Crew”, Nathalie Mallet’s first novel, is the book for you.


(Reviewed by: Gianfranco Cazzaro)



"The Digging Crew" (200 pages; ISBN  1-55316-143-2) is published by LTDBooks in many electronic formats.



The View From Zero, reviewed by Gianfranco Cazzaro The View From Zero by Thomas Hunter


Year 2097. Humanity is spreading through the solar system, living in giant cylindrical colonies, carrying with them the age-old struggles of political intrigue, greed, industrial espionage and criminality.
Enter the antagonist, Kohima Mirashi, a genetically mutated 14 year-old genius of immense proportions. A mastermind of logic and evil. She is the goddess of the Khinzai, a race of criminals who fund themselves through arms, and drugs while plotting to take possession of "Archangel", an incredible and dangerous scientific discovery.

Opposing Kohima is Alan Spraag, a dysfunctional ex-spy, now engaged in a mission for the Japanese government. At the outset of his mission Spraag has ingested a toxin that drags him towards his death; nonetheless, he refuses to reveal valuable information to Kohima in exchange for the antidote. Forced to struggle against her criminal mind, unlimited resources and no morality, Spraag will must unveil the full truth about "Archangel", while trying to save his own life and that of his family, and defeat Kohima armed only with weapons of deduction and psychology.

"The View From Zero" is a book many writers would be definitely proud of. It is visually portrayed and worthy to be transferred to film.

But the reader must take into account a couple of things: While many chapters flow smoothly into each other, some may challenge the reader’s patience, forcing one to read on before being permitted to refocus on the when and where of the tale. Second, the story is told in first person, and from time to time the protagonist talks to the reader. This tends to pull the reader away from the action, in which he/she must afterwards re-dive. That

said, "The View From Zero" is an excellent story, told with a quiet style. Many sentences are short as a series of flashes; a reminder of classic John LeCarré. The protagonist seems always controlled and almost detached, even when his life is dramatically challenged.
The subtle use of clues is worthy of a mystery story, using micro-elements and mysterious benign details, that later become meaningful and give new bursts to the adventure.
Even so, "The View From Zero" reveals intense research: the giant orbiting colonies of the future are described in abundant detail, based on real research of a 1975 NASA Investigative Team; there is also his use of mental intuitions and manipulations of "neurolinguistic programming"; and while the entire plot unfolds in space, there is a diversity of settings, environments and cultures as well as the subtle subliminal control of people by means of seemingly unrelated details; the protagonists has the ability to describe his own physiological transformation during situations of stress, fear, oxygen deprivation, shock, etc.
"The View From Zero" is a truly worthy story. It’s ample – 486 pages allow the reader to  prolong the pleasure of reading this beautiful first book of Thomas Hunter.


(Reviewed by: Gianfranco Cazzaro)



"The View From Zero" - 486 pages; ISBN 0-9733824-4-9 (pdb version),
0-9733824-0-6 (pdf version) - is published by Kengai Press in electronic and print format.



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