Archive for November, 2016

IMG_5071.JPG

Set firmly between the films Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope, James Luceno’s Catalyst features as a prequel to the latest movie in the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One. While some of the finer details may have been lost on me, a casual Star Wars fan, those more invested in the universe will, no doubt, find much to explore.

And, this is what I enjoy so much about shared world, tie-in works of fiction; they can be enjoyed by nearly everyone. Catalyst (much like The Force Awakens) captures the essence of the original trilogy of films released in the late 1970’s. A healthy dose of political intrigue mixed with a massive, far reaching universe, all tied together with the fight between good and evil.

Catalyst focuses on the emergence of the Death Star and the machinations behind its inception, much of it revolving around Galen Erso. Though trying to remain neutral in the war between Separatists and Republic, his genius and its value makes him a pawn in the growing conflict as the Empire begins to emerge. Ostensibly rescued from imprisonment by Orson Krennic, a driven and determined member of the Empire, Erso, along with his wife Lyra and daughter Jyn, swap one prison for another.

Krennic is ruthless in his pursuit for success in the new order of things. Erso is a mere cog, albeit an important one, in realising a weapon so powerful that Emperor Palpatine won’t be able to deny Krennic’s significance. What follows is a compelling game of strategy as Krennic attempts to manoeuvre players to his whim, especially keeping the pacifist Erso working on his energy project while using the data to construct the Death Star’s massive laser system.

The novel really picks up the pace in the last quarter as Moff Tarkin discovers that he is also being played by Krennic and begins his own campaign. Similarly Lyra, with the help of Has Obitt, another pawn, go off script. It is here that so many threads begin to coalesce into the bigger Star Wars picture. Rebel alliances form, the faceless Empire, epitomised by the Death Star, takes shape whilst the battle lines between good and evil are drawn on both a personal and intergalactic level.

Though the idea of the Force and the Dark side are writ large throughout Star Wars, it’s also the individual decisions that are so important and James Luceno does a great job of putting such obstacles in the way of his characters. Erso must choose between his family and his research; Krennic between his desire for status and honesty; Has Obitt between smuggling and selfishness, and rebellion and selflessness.

Catalyst is an absorbing novel that manages to consider both the intergalactic universe of Star Wars as well as the individual, all rendered against the background of the imposing Death Star. Whatever type of Star Wars fan you may be, Catalyst is a great read.

Review copy
Published by Century

Author of the action packed Into The Guns William C Dietz, has kindly written a guest blog explaining how his latest novel came to be.

IMG_5143.JPG

William C. Dietz
October 24, 2016

Birth Of A New Series

Where do my stories come from? In my case a new series is usually inspired by something I observe in the world around me. And the America Rising series was no different. While reading an article I noticed that all of America’s strategic petroleum reserves were located in the south. That was sufficient to remind me of the American civil war, and the fact that the south not only continues to be a bastion of conservative thought, but home to many libertarians. And according to the Libertarian Party Platform, “…we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.”

The first part of that sentence sounds okay, to me at least, but the last five words are troubling. They could be interpreted to mean that individuals are in no way responsible for helping others if they don’t want to especially via the mechanism of government. To my mind that suggests a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” attitude toward society in which every man and woman’s first obligation is to take care of themselves, and to hell with the elderly, the sick and the poor.

What if something terrible happened? I wondered. What if a swarm of meteors devastated much of the Earth’s surface, and threw so much particulate matter up into the air, that the amount of sunlight reaching the planet’s surface was severely reduced? Crops would fail, people would starve, and a great deal of civil unrest would result.

Libertarians have never been able to compete effectively with the two major parties in the United States, but if society fell apart perhaps they could I decided, especially in the south. And that, as I mentioned earlier, is where all of the country’s petroleum reserves are located. Things came together in my mind, and boom! I was off and running. Into The Guns is the first novel in the America Rising trilogy.

Having created a dystopian scenario the next step was to populate it with characters both good and bad. Samuel T. Sloan is the Secretary of Energy when the meteors strike—and is on an official trip to Mexico. Due to the chaos it takes weeks for Sloan to make it back to the U.S. where forces working for the libertarian oligarchs intercept Sloan and lock him up.

Meanwhile army lieutenant Robin Macintyre is escorting a column of civilian refugees across a mountain pass, when a secondary disaster cuts her unit off from the military chain of command, and forces “Mac” to fend for herself.

Eventually both characters will play important roles in the fight to reestablish the America that was—and will meet during a desperate battle deep inside of enemy territory.
Into The Guns is available online and in bookstores now.

For more about me and my fiction please visit williamcdietz.com. You can find me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/williamcdietz and you can follow me on Twitter: William C. Dietz @wcdietz

IMG_5227.JPG

The Shield is Earth’s only defence. Rendering the planet invisible from space, it keeps humanity safe – and hidden. The exceptional minds of the Actives maintain the shield; without them, the Shield cannot function.

When an Active called Tobe finds himself caught in a probability loop, the Shield is compromised. Soon, Tobe’s malady spreads among the Active. Earth becomes vulnerable for the first time in a generation.

Tobe’s assistant, Metoo, is only interested in his wellbeing. Earth security’s paramount concern is the preservation of the Shield. As Metoo strives to prevent Tobe’s masters from undermining his fragile equilibrium, humanity is left dangerously exposed…

Savant is an extraordinary book, wonderfully written. It’s unique (and quite possibly one of the best novels I’ve read this year). It’s sci-fi at its most human whilst it’s concern is the human condition dealt with in such a sci-fi setting that it’s almost an enigma. It’s thoughtful and thought provoking.

The setting is slowly sketched out in small ways – there’s no major info dump, no big exposition. We are just there, watching and learning about this future Earth and it’s strange new culture. Academies cater to great minds and, in turn, each ‘master’ is served by companions, assistants and students. Some of these intellectuals are so brilliant that their very being helps to power a shield which protects the planet. However, none of the greater questions are ever really answered.

What we have is a very personal drama, played out on scale that, on one hand, affects the global community whilst, on the other, concerns only Tobe and Metoo. The ‘action’ for what it is, is based within an incident room type setting and suffers no less for it. CCTV-esque operators monitor minds and are themselves observed within a system called ‘Service’. Tobe’s digression into the maths of probability sets off a series of chain reactions within Service, forcing beaurocratic decisions and machinations to react in ever greater yet decreasing ways.

It’s thrilling and intriguing to read. These individuals caught in a system, and a system caught up in its own methodology all trying to deal with a problem that is really like a ghost in the machine. It’s a curious and charming world Nik Abnett has created, and the story of the relationship between Metoo and Tobe is delicately woven. The interaction between the global network of Service and the individual produces a brilliant dichotomy on which to base their narrative.

Savant is a hard book to pin down (and put down). It’s like some of the great sci-fi movies of the 1970’s with their weirdly retro-futuristic settings and their considered approach to the genre. At its heart is a simple story but, in itself, it’s a complex journey into the human mind.

Review copy
Published by Solaris Books

IMG_5143.JPG

I’ve just noticed that the last few books I’ve reviewed have all been in the post-apocalypse genre. Each and every one has been vastly different explorations of how humanity deals with disaster and Into The Guns is another, distinct take on the theme. The beginning stanza in a new series, titled America Rising, William C Dietz has produced an action packed, barnburner of a novel.

Into The Guns doesn’t dally. A mass meteor strike sets off a series a catastrophes, from tsunamis and earthquakes to missle attacks from China. America is in disarray and within weeks armed gangs and drug lords are creating fiefdoms. The government is shattered and its armed forces left without a chain of command. Everyone is fighting for themselves.

Including each of the characters in this ensemble cast. Sam T Sloan, Secretary of Energy, was in Mexico when the meteors struck and in the middle of escaping a kidnap attempt. Alone and far from home soil, Sloan quickly proves how resourceful and resilient he is, appropriating a canoe before undertaking a 300 mile journey. Yet just as he reaches the USA, he is captured though by different people with a totally different purpose.

Meanwhile, First Lieutenant Robin ‘Mac’ Macintyre is tasked with leading a group of refugees out of the disaster zone. However, though she and her squad survive a landslide, her caravan of citizens are buried under a mass of rock. Cut off from her base and with no commanding officer, Mac sets about making sure her team survive.

In the intervening weeks, post- catalyst America becomes divided. Mac and her team become mercenaries whilst Sloan makes good on a daring escape. Civil war looms large as a group of enterprising entrepreneurs in the South form a new government based on pure capitalism.

As this is the set up in a trilogy, a number of pieces are put in place; namely Sloan’s promotion to President and the plot line conflict between Mac and her sister (an Army Major) and father (a General). Both have sided with the South in this new Civil War against Slone and the North. This is a blockbuster, big budget novel and the action is relentless – a President fighting on the front lines, a country torn apart and divided and a family at war, echoing the greater battle.

into The Guns is hard military sci-fi in a post-catalyst American wasteland at its explosive best. Here’s looking forward to the next in the series.

Review copy
Published by Titan Books

IMG_5125.JPG

They took everything — killed his wife, enslaved his daughter, destroyed his life. Now he’s a man with nothing left to lose … and that’s what makes him so dangerous.

This is a tale of revenge and attrition; of just how far a man will go to avenge the loss of his loved ones when all he has left is grief fuelled anger. Yet, it is also a thoughtful consideration of what happens when that violence becomes too much; when, amongst all the blood and death, the initial reasonings become lost and only insanity is left; and, whether one’s humanity can ever be regained.

Set in a post-apocalyptic landscape twelve years removed from the event, Wolves is a brutal journey full of gunsmoke, survival and retribution. A hugely atmospheric read, DJ Molles has blended the feeling of the Wild West with post-disaster mentality. It’s a cruel, gritty world where a man can be slaughtered for a drink of water. Technology has reverted to farming, horses and homesteading communities. But, there’s a dark side – the slavers plying their trade mercilessly.

Huxley, our protagonist, is all but dead when he meets Jay in the desert of the wastelands. And, so begins, an uneasy partnership based on vengeance, one that sees them taking the horror and pain inside them to the very people who caused it, supported it or endorsed it. Along the way, the two form a rag-tag band of freed slaves and other survivors, cutting a murderous path into the burgeoning society built on the back of the slave trade.

However, the purpose of their revenge is soon cast adrift as the murdering and havoc takes on its own meaning. Huxley realises that he has become unrecognisable to the memory of those very people he seeks retribution for.

In fits and starts, the contrast between Huxley and Jay becomes more obvious. Huxley can’t give up his memories of his wife and daughter, slowly understanding that to lose the idea of them would be to give up the very grounding of his being; it is a fate worse than death.

One the one hand, Wolves is a fantastic post-apocalyptic tale of unbridled revenge; of adrenaline fuelled shoot-outs and vicious fury in the best wild-western-esque setting. On the other, it is a quiet consideration of how memory, especially of family, makes us human, giving us compassion and empathy for our fellows. When everyone has lost something, all becomes unhinged. Yet, sometimes there is a way back as Wolves poetically and unobtrusively shows.

Review copy
Blackstone Publishing