Tag Archives: #SciFi

Book Review: Mother Moon

I’m a bit particular when when it comes to SciFi. I strongly prefer what was once called “hard” SciFi, but is more often now considered “speculative fiction.” The key to the genre is in according proper respect to real science-i.e., staying within the realm of the possible, and not bounding over to complete fantasy or pseudo-science.

For a science fiction author, towing that line and still rendering a mind-bending, personal, and exciting tale remains more of a trick than readers may think. Bob Goddard does it well in Mother Moon, a story which weaves together the tale of a Moon colonists forced to fight for their survival after a comet hits Earth, and a rough hewn sailing family whose sea-life is threatened by religious oppression. I was first attracted to this book by its promising mash-up of these two stories.

Readers are given a quick early glimpse into each of these worlds, then the story focuses mainly upon the valiant struggles of an ensemble of lead characters working to save the moon base. Goddard shows us a team of smart, dedicated protagonists, who must use their talents and wits to overcome one quite credible crisis after another. During the lead-up to the comet’s impact, we learn their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears. And–as their personal stories unfold–it is easy to develop a strong empathy for them.

I found myself rooting for the main characters, Will, Lian, and Tamaya. But ultimately it is Nadia, the colony’s governor, whose strength, foresight, and professionalism is at the center of the story. Her insights, dedication, and (importantly) ability to inspire trust in the others, is what ultimately secures the future of the colony.

Goddard handles the science and mechanics of running a colony masterfully. He provides detail enough for readers to follow and understand, but never lets it slow down the story. The pacing is steady and engaging..

Periodically, Goddard takes us back to a the story of Yonoton, a ship’s master sailing with his sons on a square-rigged vessel, the Pelican, to trade with other lands. But his ship has been confiscated by a Cardinal to spread religion to foreign lands by force and brutality. It’s an unhappy situation for Yonoton, and he knows he too is at risk from being declared a heretic by the cardinal and his men.

I personally enjoyed when Goddard downshifted into Yonoton’s story. It is a very straight-forward tale, but I would have liked to see stronger insights on some elements (foreshadowing) it introduces. While both tales are about courage and bravery, Yonoton’s is also a morality tale, with an unusual finish.

Overall, Mother Moon has a satisfying and interesting ending that should delight many. I certainly enjoyed the entire ride, recommend it to anyone who enjoys SciFi, and particularly recommend it to those who prefer hard SciFi. It’s inspiring, and a good story.


Getting onboard

The above photo is both a vestige from my old job and a good argument why it was time for me to move on–the very last Jacob’s ladder I was ever required to climb.

Homey don’t do that no more (bad grammar deliberate)!

In fact, what I have admittedly become is a true Homey. I can do my principle work from the comfort of my desk at home. Phone calls and emails, which were once my life blood, are today more a distraction. And after I’ve worked all day (cough, cough), I don’t have to run down to a ship and work half the night. I am somewhat comfortably home-bound in my own personal gilded cage. And I write. And I publish.

Here’s the problem though. I do not market–so far, at least. And that’s embarrassing. There isn’t much point in publishing, unless you’re willing to put in the time and study required to market your work. If you believe in your work, and I do, you need to be a good parent, push it out of the nest, and teach it to fly. However, getting onboard with marketing your books can be be more daunting than that Jacob’s Ladder in the photo.

The trick is in limbering up. As an author, this means studying, learning new skills, making new contacts, and not being afraid to take the plunge (I know, poor choice of words, given the photo). That’s not something most can make happen overnight–especially if when you have obligations to a day job and family. And okay, maybe you’ll have to dip your toe in first, then wade in. Understandable.

But you need to at least wade in knee deep, or you’ll never get into the swim of things. Once you get a few basic things in place–for instance, a blog site–each new step will get a little easier.

As is evident, I’m no expert. Just barely up to my knees, myself. But study and effort will pay off. Have confidence. Believe in yourself. Climb that ladder.


Speculative Selection

Change Is Coming!

In my current Work-In-Progress, set in the near future, I portray Earth society as beginning a societal transformation as result of an external event–the knowledge an alien race intends to “acquire” Earth for all its assets (including its highly skilled workers). Earth has enough time and some unexpected resources to make preparations without worldwide panic. But the focus is on less on the alien threat, and more on overcoming the distrust between nations and molding public opinion. My protagonists must overcome those formidable obstacles and forge trustworthy alliances in order to prepare a viable defense for humanity. However, first they must discourage their government allies from spying, trying to steal dangerous alien weapons technology, and threatening each other.

I try avoiding the most common social issues of the day, except for casual acknowledgements they exist–because the focus in on a more fundamental change of perspective about humanity (which I hope at least would help inform such discussions). However it is that change of perspective drives the theme of the story. 

That said, I have found this novel far more difficult to write than my first, which set the stage. Now that my characters are back on Earth, there is so much more detail and technical research to cover, if I want the story to be realistic (which I do). 

Picking and choosing “near future” technologies I think realistically possible is both fun and a curse. At least one key technology I’ve used has already made a small splash into the news. Fortunately, with all the disasters in 2020, that story got buried fast. Good thing–because I want it to still sound cool and new when I publish.  Today, we are on the cusp of major developments in many fields. But this story is not so much about new discoveries, as it is about the practical, commercial application of those discoveries. Many new technologies that already exist just haven’t been introduced into popular applications yet.

More urgently, for my purposes, I need to second-guess whether already announced space projects concerning the Moon and Mars will actually stay within their projected time-table. I’d hate to leave ‘future facts’ out of my equation. And, of course, any one that I show as not happening on schedule could raise the ire and criticism of those with stakes in their timely success.

The last thing I want is to bet against progress, but I’ve little choice but to make my best bet based upon the odds. Elon – Mea culpa. I’d love to believe in your schedule, but I think it relies more on faith than logic.

The other major problem, I find, is getting a firm handle on government protocols and procedures. First off, there’s a bit of a skewed logic that rules most government affairs. There are logical reasons for some things, but these are mostly built around dealing with illogical situations. Much of government is based upon how to deal with the absurdly stupid, which is why government structures and laws can be so maddening. They’re not designed around sane activities.

In any case, I’m working hard to create a believable balance and a story that will take readers headlong into the strangeness of a humanity in rapid transition.


Cover artless

So here I am, thinking about what I should do next. And I remember–Cover Art! I plan releasing my new book in the fall, but I should already have a cover selected that I can splash across the internet in advance. After all, that’s one key to attract interested readers. Right?

Here’s the problem though… I have no idea what I should put on the cover. Producing effective cover art is, well, an art. It takes thought, research or the artwork on comparable titles, should provide hint of what you’ve included between the covers, and–most of all–reach out, grab readers by their collars and say “BUY ME!”

I suck at that. I dread guessing at what elements I should include in my cover, so I’ll just throw this out there. Make a suggestion! I know there are many talented writers out there who’ve worked through this dilemma before. Below I’ll list a mini-synopsis of the plot, along with a description of the most notable elements and characters in the book.

Tell me what cover images you feel would best reflect the story. I know there are some rules as to what works. I just don’t know the rules.

The Tides of Earth

After escaping their K’laadian captors and commandeering a ship full of alien technology, Maggie and her crew have finally returned to Earth, intent on using their newfound resources to defend humanity. The only trick is that some of the weapons they have onboard are too dangerous to trust to any governments and more dangerous to share with all governments.

So they devise The Terran Council, a body that will remain forever in exile and never interfere in terrestrial matters, but which will assume responsibility for protecting humanity from all alien threat. However, they need each nation to cooperate and work together as their allies in building that defense.

There is Maggie’s biggest obstacle. While immediate public support is strong, the Council faces an extremely divided world… not about to join hands and sing Kumbaya. Their government allies still want to steal their weapon technology. Nations are uneasy about keeping truce with other countries. Politicians just want to get re-elected. Terrorist groups don’t care about aliens–they still want to inflict harm on anyone in the way of their cause, including the Council. And businessmen still want to make a profit.

It’s a big bag of worms, but Maggie has to bring it all together, build new industries, come up with a viable line of defense, and win the worldwide support for a vote–where humanity decides whether to fight or flee. The clock is ticking, and they have six years at best before the K’laadian ships arrive.

Key character: Dr. Maggie Kestler, Physicist – early to mid-fifties, dark hair with gray highlights, competent and determined woman, capable of seeing through insincerity. Dedicated entirely to saving humanity both from itself and the K’laadians.

Story elements: The K’Leestra47, a interstellar spaceship using both a gravity and Alcubierre drive. “Looks like a fat football” from underneath, but otherwise saucer shaped with articulated edges which rotate to form the Alcubierre drive. It has ten very large fan shaped holds/hatch covers–five on top, five on the bottom. Holds can be used for cargo or as hangers for other cargo and military spacecraft. Overall length is about 1500 meters. Overall height is about 300 meters. K’laadian troop/cargo transports, similar in design to the K’leestra47, but squarer in design and able to fit inside its holds. K’laadian shuttles– about the size of six school buses, similar looking to the transports. Kitty Hawk–decommissioned US aircraft carrier, refitted as training ship and based temporarily in the Australian outback, then re-assigned to the moon. K’laadian cannisters–described as schoolbus-sized drums with hollowed out, open ends. Referred to as a K’laadian ‘Swiss Army knives,’ because of their versatility. These can accurately and automatically target items as small as a dime from high Earth orbit, using highly focussed lasers (or any band of spectrum), gravity waves, or electromagnetic waves. It serves as both a formidable weapon and a tool. They is self-charging, using advanced technology, and can also beam energy to any available receiving stations.

Notable visual events–1. Total destruction (equipment only) of several military bases. 2. Lifting a 350 meter Drybulk (ore) ship twenty meters into the air, turning it around, and slicing it in half… all in about 10 minutes. 3. Launching a railroad engine into orbit then setting it on the the lawn of the UN Building. 4. Using a cannister to move a number of “stasis pods” safely into the hold of an old Drybulk ship that has been partly buried on the moon, with a dozen astronaut & and cosmonaut ‘wranglers’ assisting with any strays drifting out of position. 5. A bridge in St. Simons Island, Georgia being blown up by terrorists. 6. Heavy equipment being delivered by K’laadian launch to a mining colony on Mars. There are others, but these seem more notable.