Sunday, 31 August 2014

Visualizing your Science Fiction Future

What does the future world look like?  That is a darn good question.  I can't answer it, but I know that you have to build a consistent vision to make your story work.  Hopefully, it isn't anachronistic either, as we all bring baggage from the present to our future visions.

So where to start any visualization exercise?

I would say you would have to think about how things work in a number of spheres of influence.  Just off the top of my head as I really haven't planned this post out, I would use the following:
  1. Personal Sphere.
  2. Family / Home Sphere.
  3. Work Sphere / School Sphere (depends where you character spends work time - do they still even have work?).
  4. City Sphere.
  5. Country Sphere.

Personal Sphere
  • What is my appearance? Any current body stylings?
  • How do I do mundane tasks like check for appointments, call someone, read news, make coffee, buy a sandwich, etc?
  • What are the fashions I wear?
  • What is my daily routine?
  • What kinds of personal devices or augments do I use?
  • What is my health like and what are the expectations for health? My expected lifespan?
  • What type of relationships do I have with friends and how do I interact others?  Is anything in person?
  • What kind of personal technology is in use? 
  • What are my attitudes towards others (gender, race, robots, environment) and my personal preferences?
Family Sphere
  • What kind of family structures exist?  Nuclear family, extended family, clone bank?
  • Do I have siblings?
  • Do I relate to an AI? Who is my nanny or mom or pop?
  • Do we live together?
  • What are the expectations of family.  Is it loose or tight?  Equal between parents?  Are there parents?
  • How do I entertain myself?  Holodeck, old fashioned book, movie, personal crafts?
  • How do I interact with computer technologies?  Tablet, wristpad, cranial implants?
Work Sphere or School Sphere
  • Does the corporation rule all?  Very common trope these days - but not likely - as corporations don't look after people all that well - they lay them off - you don't lay off citizens.
  • What is my job?  What do I do?  What are my hours?  What kinds of crisis or important moments do I have?  Do jobs exist?
  • What is the corporate or school hierarchy?
  • How does school work?  Still have regular classrooms or is it more personal?  Are there still exams? Do grades mean anything?  How am I evaluated?  How does one judge my character or academic achievement so they would hire me for a job or give me any responsibility?
  • What are the divisions in the the company?
  • What kind of technology is in use at school or the workplace? 
City Sphere
  • What does the city look like?  Centralized, decentralized.  Arcopolises that stand a mile high?  Or does it look like the super green city with solar and green rooftops?
  • Public transit system is super cool or run down?  Do robot cars / taxis exist?
  • What are city services?
  • What type of government?
  • How do elections work?
  • Taxes.... 
  • What is the crime like?
  • Residential, industrial, entertainment, and business districts?
  • Hospitals and health care?
  • Infrastructure technologies?  How are houses built - apartments, single familty dwellings? How is power delivered?  
  • What are the communications lines, mass media, other media outlets?
  • Are people happy in the city?
Country Sphere
  • Do countries exist or is there some other type of government?
  • What type of government? Democracy with parties, democracy without parties, everyone votes on each issue, religious, oligarchy, partriarchy/martriarchy, communist, dictatorship, benevolent machine rule, etc?
  • What are the duties of a citizen?
  • What kinds of technology are regulated at this level?
  • What kinds of major infrastructure are in place?  Smart highways, maglev trains, space programs, airports, spaceports, port facilities, manufacturing (robots / nanotech), energy production (solar, fossil fuels, nuclear, fusion, zero point energy)
  • What are the military forces and tech?  Is there a military?  Soldiers or bots?
  • What regulatory agencies and monitoring tech exist?  Big brother?  Pollution control?
  • What government services are available and the delivery tech for them?
  • What Protective services and law enforcement tech?
  • What is the foreign policy?  Tensions between nations?  Intelligence gathering?
  • What is trade like between nations?  Corporate states?
  • What are key cultural imports / exports?
  • What is travel out of the country like?  Off planet?
  • Key taxes?
  • Key laws?  Birth control? Reproductive rights? Murder? What are serious crimes? Political restrictions?  Freedom of speech?
  • What does the future internet look like?
This is just a bunch of ideas jotted down so it isn't any more than a starting place!  I just think that answering some of these questions while writing would make for a more cohesive future setting for a story.

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Robots and Drones and the Unchanging Face of SF

I've written here about technology and SF before, especially military SF.  Current military SF is pretty much resembles war in the 1990s to the 2010s, with a few twists.  It isn't very far thinking as it is about blood and guts still.  In the last month (August 2014) another major milestone happened when the US Navy successfully integrated drones with regular aircraft for carrier operations.  This means that the next generation of fighter pilots could have robotic wingmen, and the generation after that could be all robots.

Navy Makes History With Integrated Manned-Unmanned Carrier Ops

I'd like to see the remake of Top Gun in 2050 and see how it plays out, especially all the shenanigans they would have to pull off if they want to still stick to the original story in any close manner.  This is especially true if unmanned fighters are ruling the skies as they can pull maneuvers that could kill a pilot and be designed more efficiently without having to accomodate the pilot).  In my Exocrisis Blue universe, I basically removed manned fighters from the picture as they were just target practice for laser weaponry.  I do use attack drones though, and have pilots control a squadron of them from a small, well protected / stealthy, control aircraft if necessary.

The National Post talks about the obsolescence of fighter planes in just over one hundred years.

This is a pretty big change in story telling from a science fiction standpoint as humans are now being pushed further back out of harms way and further up the control loop.  I'd say most SF and military SF being written now is already obsolete and dated.  Reading these stories in 50 years is going to be like reading SF written in the 1950s that couldn't conceive of computers that fit on a fingernail.  SF characters (aka cannon fodder) are still on the front line as fighter pilots, crew for starships going into combat, and even powered armoured infantry assaulting enemy positions.   I think there is going to be some room for this type of action writing for specialized small ops only.  I still enjoy reading military SF that falls into the traps I talked about, but it is a real fantasy world for me now.

Things in military SF or SF in general that are starting to make me cringe include:
  1. Infantry without powered armour.
  2. Infantry that doesn't coordinate with an equal number or more of supporting combat robots.
  3. No use of smart weapons.  Traditional firefights are going to be rare.  Use of smart bullets, bombs and grenades make the use of cover much less effective without countermeasures.  These weapons will be cheap - not expensive. 
  4. Fighter aircraft that are not drones or are not working in conjunction with drones.  Human pilots cannot maneuver in person like a drone could - but a human pilot could neurally sync to pilot a robot fighter remotely in many cases.
  5. BIG mechs - smaller mechs yes, tank size mechs maybe (I write about tank sized mechs and I know they really shouldn't exist, but I explained them rationally as I like the genre).
  6. Starships with hundreds of crewmen that die in the deep dark vacuum of space.  It's all going to be mainly robots, even for the repair crews.  I'm actually starting to not like these kinds of stories as combat in space is so freaking deadly.  With the weapons we could build, unless there truly are energy shields, ships die so easy.
  7. Space wars need to be really well explained as you could so easily pummel an enemy planet into dust with long range bombardment of high speed or near light speed projectiles/rocks.  It is pretty hard to defend a planet without a planet sized deflector shield.  Wars will inflict horrible damage to the societies involved - much like having a global nuclear war - note we didn't go down that route so far.  Robots will be cheap and you will need less crewmen in any scenario.
  8. AIs will run the show operationally, and assist strategically.
Don't get me wrong, I still like military SF, but how the stories are going to be written will have to change in the long run.  Over at reddit, at one point I asked why SF infantry were always depicted as so terribly under-equipped too.  It is simply explained by sheer uninspired thinking for any writing more than fifty or a hundred years out.  Writers are going to have to tell their stories from a different perspective and the points of tension in the drama may have to shift.  This will create challenges as the hero will need to be placed into danger differently.  For example, how do you have a firefighting drama if the firemen in the burning building are robots that are either autonomous or remotely operated?

Also as a followup to my other post about AI (here is a short video about general purpose robots taking out jobs).

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Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Giant Summer Fun in Edmonton Post

Summer is short in Canada, but what we get is very nice, and the heat can get into the metric 30s on many days.  Summer is for relaxing and enjoying fresh fruit from British Columbia, food festivals, patios, and farmers markets.

I've been working on the plot outline for the conclusion to the current Exocrisis Blue story arc, the sequel to Neo Ace, but I want it to be really good, so I'm taking my time.  It'll be a year before it gets released if I'm able to work on it lots, but longer if I'm not able to.  The promotions I ran in July gave away a few hundred ebooks, but only sold a dozen or so ebooks.  I did sell copies of Neo Ace, which I'm happy about, so thanks to my fans, and I hoped you enjoyed the read.  I probably will not do freebie promotions to give away Neo Ace as it just would probably just get pirated like my two other ebooks.  The pirate can at least buy one first.

So, onto some summer highlights from Edmonton, Canada.

Taste of Edmonton
This is a great food festival that runs at the same time as K-Days.  It features dozens of Edmontons restaurants and food trucks.  I also did a fun blog post about Edmonton Attractions here if you want to know more.  I managed to eat a pretty good lunch that day down at Churchill Square.  I'm just kicking myself that I didn't take more food pictures as I ate some of the curry dishes and such before I remembered to shoot photos.  Stomach triumphs over brain....

The layout of Taste of Edmonton and a restaurant listing.
Lots of propane tanks for cooking and grilling.
Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse.  One of the best values there.  Garlic rump steak and bacon wrapped chicken.  YUM.
Woodfired mini-pizza with proscuitto from Canicus.  Just awesome fresh from the oven.
Bacon wrapped scallops and corn salsa from the Mercer Tavern
Deep fried pickles.
Grilling quail at the Hoang Long. 
Another great value for your money.  Tasty and juicy quail that you can also get with pomegranate sausce.

On Another Hot Summer Day

You have to have an icy frappucino from Starbucks too to cool down, just don't have too many.
Gourmet burgers and summer menu at Red Robin
I tried the Colosus Burger with fresh greens and the big patty and it was pretty good.

Man Colours For Interior Decorating
I was at a Home Depot and found this in the paint section.
Its great the paint manufucturer is having fun and targeting a new consumer.  Being cool and in the navy.
For the apocalypse.  There were many more colors and themes.  Just need to find one for my bunker.

Fried Chicken at Coco Chicken
The fried chicken here is pretty good, but it the coating / marinade could be more flavourful (I think the hot / sweet sauce they have is really the main feature, not the plain chicken).  It is kind of like Japanese karaage, but with bigger pieces of chicken and a big crunch. 

Tim Hortons
They have some very nice summer doughnut and muffins going on right now featuring strawberry.  Have a Timmy's and a doughnut!

Farmers Market
Summer is the time to shop for farm fresh produce and fruit.  Edmonton has a number of markets running every weekend.  I'll have to go either berry or strawberry picking one of these days too!
All Canadian berry mixed berries.

BC Peaches
Get your greens.  Chard is great in soups.
And Taber corn is in season now.  Alberta's tastiest corn you can eat with just a little boiling.  No butter needed as it is nice a sweet.

Korean Supermarket Adventure
There's a few of these in south Edmonton and they have all kinds of food and goodies.  If you're interested in Japanese instant ramen and snacks, check out my Japanese Pop Culture page.
Interesting canned vegetables, including burdock root.  I was alway digging those things up in the swamp when I played that video game Lost in Blue on the DS.
Lots of different canned fish.
I'm not sure I'm too keen on trying this canned good.
The Ramen Rater indicated these were pretty good with the cheese powder.  I've heard of adding cheese to ramen, so I thought I'd give it a try...

Another anime convention in Edmonton has come and gone. Another year passes.

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Friday, 8 August 2014

Half-life Flashback For Ice Base (When I Did Level Design)

Years ago I read a novel by Matthew Reilly called Ice Station.  It was a pretty good action novel with plenty of bad guys, a mystery, and the allure of ice.  I've always liked novels set in the Arctic or Antarctic and plenty of novelists have obliged by writing them.  These novels have isolation, characters forced to operate on their own, man versus the elements, and often some alien or human threat.
Anyhow, Ice Station had a scene where the central shaft in the base played an important role.  His marines had magnetic grapples and cable guns for ascending and descending.  It enabled some very fun storytelling.  A few years later, I played the video game Half-life, enjoyed it immensely and began doing some 3D level design for it in my spare time.  My first few levels were not very good, but you get better as you keep building map after map.  There was a great community for more than a few years of hobbyists all doing this and I contributed to a few single player level sets.  Half-life doesn't have magnetic grapples built into the game, but there are built-in entities to support commandos roping down from Ospreys.

Icebase core shaft with research facilities on each level
 This is pretty cool, I just found a walkthrough for Intolerable Threat.  I did the maps from halfway through video 2 (when he goes into the underground bunker) to video 4 (office complex). Video three shows old abandoned research facilities with a showdown with a Gargantia alien monster around a reactor core.

With the inspiration from Ice Station, I build a custom level set to simulate an enemy assault on an American research station that had found alien artifacts.   The highlight of the level set was the central research station with research facilities and quarters built around a large open shaft that was five levels deep.  The shaft had a moon pond at the bottom where mini-submarines deployed to the outside ocean. In the game, you would have to fight your way down in a downward spiral through the various levels to rescue some scientists at the bottom.

The final level set required Half-life and the Opposing Force mod to play, but it worked great.  The station was protected by marines from the Opposing Force mod for Half-life.  This added to the teamwork model in the game with medics and friendly soldiers that would assist you and follow you if you ordered it.

Antarctic Warehouse
Osprey and Wind Turbines

Open Courtyourd

In the level set you had to do quite a bit over many interconnected maps:
  1. Defend the base from a mechanized infantry assault backed by APCs. You have to kill the enemy APC with multiple RPG hits.
  2. Retreat through a storage facility filled with black ops assassins.
  3. Fight through a command center to restore power to the main research station doors.
  4. Dash through a courtyard with circling gunships to a generator building to restart it.
  5. Enter the main research complex which was already under attack.  Scripted sequences had marines already fighting more commando rappelling down through the central shaft.  
  6. Finally, you reach the bottom to rescue scientists and escape out through the mine tunnels that lead to an alien outpost with aliens!
  7. A submarine surfaces in the middle of the outpost to finally rescue you.
Icebase core shaft on level 3.
Icebase core shaft on level 5

Looking down at the moon pool with mini-submarine and a walkway.  You had to deploy the walkway to cross as laser barriers prevented you from moving through the halls.
The research station corridors.  There were offices, sleeping quarters, game rooms, research labs, a mess hall, more storage facilities, and medical center.

Mess Hall
Mine tunnel through the ice.
In the mines.
Alien structures

I still really like Half-life to this day, even though the graphics are dated.  The game had more interactive objects (vending machines that worked) and better NPC cooperation than many more modern games.  It is also one of the few games where rescuing trapped scientists was actually quite fun.  There is a HD remake using the Source engine now, but I don't think I'll be remaking Fallback, Fire, and Ice again (there also isn't an Opposing Force mod for it).

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Thursday, 3 July 2014

Neo Ace New Release and Kickoff Sale

Hello!  A quick introduction is probably in order.  I'm Peter Lok, a science fiction writer based out of Canada.  I have been working on my Exocrisis Blue universe while I also maintain an author's blog and a Japanese pop culture blog.  Exocrisis Blue is an alternate future where the Earth has been invaded by the Blue Newts who were fleeing a dying homeworld.  During the Alien War, humanity finally turned the direction of the war against the Newts by developing the giant HARM robots based off of captured alien tech.  The war changed the geopolitical order on Earth, ending in an uneasy peace where the Newts consolidated their tropical and subtropical holdings.  For more information on the world of Exocrisis Blue and the HARMs, please check this link to my author's blog.

For the last year I have been writing and revising my novel Neo Ace.  It was just published as an Amazon ebook in the UK, USA, and Canada in June 2014.  This novel is about the story of Jake and Mayumi, two cadets at the Neo Ace Academy, who are going to be involved in events that will shape the future for both human and Newt.  This story is military SF, but with a good touch of anime inspired mecha tropes (since mechs are Japanese inspired anyhow).  While the protagonists are teens, a rich cast of adult characters drives the story along, the way things should happen in real life.  This story should appeal to all types of science fiction readers and anime viewers.  Neo Ace is a self-contained story arc, but the full Neo Ace story concludes in Neo Destiny.  Neo Destiny promises more world building, political machinations, character development, and epic battles involving mechs and conventional forces in high tech battlefields across the Earth.

Promotional Period
Neo Ace is available for approximately $2 US, half of the regular price (Amazon does some kind of adjustment), until the beginning of August.  Please consider buying a copy and providing some positive reviews, even if brief, on Amazon, as word of mouth is the only way an independent author can get ahead.

I have previously written a short story, HARM, and a novella, Raid on Kahamba, that are independent prequels set in the same universe.  Both HARM and Raid will be free for a limited time to promote Neo Ace.  Give them a read to see if you would like Neo Ace!

Limited Time Free Story Giveaway
  • HARM is available for free from July 4 to 8, 2014.
  • Raid is available for free from July 11 to 13, 2014.
Please click through to my publications page for the direct links to the various Amazon bookstores.
Check the price to see if it is still free before clicking the buy button!

Link to My Science Fiction Publications Page.

Thanks for your time in advance.

Neo Ace Action Excerpt
The platoon’s six HARM units were rapidly advancing in a skirmish line a quarter of a kilometre wide through a pine forested valley floor.  Trees and branches were effortlessly brushed aside or smashed by the rapid walking pace of the robots.  Every so often a laser shot from the spider-mechs would flash by, but it was mostly the HARM units sniping at the retreating enemy.

Jake was the acting platoon leader, positioned in mid-line in HARM #3.  In his cockpit, he studied the tactical display on the console in front of him.  They had engaged the advancing spider-mechs from concealment in the hilly woodland terrain, their HARM unit active camouflage systems blending them with the surrounding woods.  Their first volleys of fire had brought down four of the nine mechs.  They had then started pursuing the retreating alien Newts.  His shot meant that five were now down.  Return fire from the enemy had been ragged, but HARM #5, piloted by his friend Bing, had taken some torso damage and wasn't aiming as well.

"We have orders to hold this position, not pursue," Mayumi reminded Jake from  HARM #1.  "We have already stopped the breakthrough."

"I think Mayumi's right," Toshi added from HARM #6.  "My father says Newt units don't break very easily – they are not cowards.  This could be a trap to draw us out. "

"I know your dad is a mecha pilot in the Japanese Defence Forces,” Jake responded.  “I really think we have them on the run.  They’ll never break through to Central City if we take these guys out.  We have the initiative and should take it."

Jake looked at the tactical display again.  He projected the map for everyone to see and used his finger to point out a position.  "We won't move that far out of position if we can take them out before they exit the valley between these two hills. Geraldo, Mayumi, take the left flanking hill.  Bing and Toshi, take the right hill.  Mary and I will pursue and keep the pressure on.  You guys run for those hills and take them out from above."

"Jake’s plan sounds good to me," Geraldo spoke out in Hispanic accented English.  "We should take advantage of the situation."

"I'm in," Mary added.  She preferred a standup fight over waiting any day.  "Eliminated Newts won't be back."

After a bit of hesitation, Bing, assented too.

Mayumi agreed when it was obvious that everyone was in.  "Okay," she quietly added.

"I don't think we should be doing this," Toshi finally agreed, "but let us try it."

"Thanks, Toshi.  All units, move out," Jake ordered.  They were going to win this one in a big way.

Mayumi and Geraldo in HARMs #1 and #2 swept forward to the left and began running for the top of their hill.  On the right, Bing and Toshi in HARMs #5 and #6 began running for the other hill.  In the center, Jake and Mary in HARMs #3 and #4 widened the distance between them and increased their pace to a jog to begin closing in on the retreating mechs. 

Over the next several minutes the pursuing HARMs began to gradually overtake the retreating enemy, reducing the distance between them less than a kilometre.  Exchanged shots were few between the two sides as visual contact was poor between them.  Even though they were eight metres high at the top of their main weapon blister, the spider-mechs were almost impossible to see in the trees as they were short enough to disappear into them.   The taller 12 metre height of the Fenrir HARM units put them at tree top height much of the time,  but it did not make much of a difference in the fight.

There was a small explosion in the air near the spider-mechs.  "Damn, that was my last RPV," Mary commented.  "At least they know we're still here."  Recon drones were invaluable, but did not last long on the modern battlefield against point defence laser systems.  She just wished they had full equipment load outs for their units.  This fight would have been over long ago if they had Helldart missiles and a couple of Typhoon missile pack equipped HARMs.

The distance between the two pursuing HARM units and the four retreating enemy mechs had closed to 800 metres, and the enemy mechs had moved between the two hills.  Jake's HARM had moved closer to the base of the left hill while Mary had closed in on the right hill.  During the chase they had split themselves to snipe at the enemy from two different angles.

"You guys in position?"  Jake inquired.  From his tactical display he could see the locations of all of the HARM units, but not their status.  It looked like both sets of flankers had crested their hills.

"Almost there," Toshi responded, "I'm looking for a firing position."

"Same here," Geraldo added in.

"Shit!"  Bing suddenly yelled out.  Blue enemy markers appeared on the tactical display along the far downslope of each of the flanking hills.  "Enemy  contacts just crested the hill.  I'm engaging."

"It's a trap!"  Mayumi called out.  "Enemy Hunter class mechs!  Engaging!  Coilgun to full power."

Events had suddenly turned on them.  Jake couldn't believe his tactical display.  Each of his flanking pairs was suddenly outmatched by a squad of three Newt Hunters.  Unlike the spider  mechs, the Hunter mechs were advanced anthropomorphic mechs with a Newt body form, the enemy equivalent of their Fenrir mechs.   Each Hunter had three pairs of  limbs, with the rear two pairs for movement and the front pair for manipulation.  They resembled giant armoured lizards carrying laser cannon with their two front limbs.

"Fall back!"  Jake called out.  They were in a bad situation.

"Popping smoke,"  Bing responded, "but they're too close.  I don't think  we can disengage."

Jake didn't hesitate in his response.  "We're coming to back you up"

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Readings in Mecha Science Fiction

Awhile back I asked in a mecha forum if members could name original mecha scifi novels, not anime, or established video games.  There were not many responses.  Written mecha SF isn't a big genre to begin with as it is a subset of military SF in most cases, but it could just be an SF adventure story.  Instead of tanks, you have big robots, as the master of the battlefield.  This genre doesn't have a great deal of exposure as I suspect that many readers think it is for kids.  Gritty, hard hitting military SF with mechs does exist though.

In this article, I'm going to list some fairly recently written mecha SF that you could try. Some of it is available in printed form, some of it in an ebook only.  I also write in this genre, so a few of my stories are also listed.  There doesn't seem to be a place you can go to find original novels that involve mechas otherwise.

Armageddon 2089 Series
I actually reviewed Standing Alone some time ago, but last year, a sequel was released.  I haven't picked it up yet as I have a pretty big backlog of miltary SF and other reading.  I enjoyed the first book and will have high hopes for the second.

Standing Alone (Armageddon 2089: Shotgun Mike) by Martin Dougherty
Standing Together (Armageddon 2089: Shotgun Mike) by Martin Dougherty

Exocrisis Blue Series
This is my universe that I have been working on in my spare time.  My new novel Neo Ace will be published in the next month or so.  Give it a try if you want hard hitting military SF with big robots written realistically.

HARM (Exocrisis Blue) by Peter Lok
Raid on Kahamba (Exocrisis Blue) by Peter Lok
Neo Ace (Exocrisis Blue) by Peter Lok

Universal War: ARM X Series
ARM X means "Armed Reserve Mecha of the Xeno Organization."  I had a few discussions with the author of this series over at Wattpad.  He's a real serious writer wanting to tell a big political and military tale that involves mechs.  There's currently two books available, with Shadow just being published this year in February.

The Road to Betrayal (Universal War: ARM X) by Peter W. Smorynski
A Shadow of Chaos (Universal War: ARM X) by Peter W. Smorynski

Armor Wars
This is a pretty interesting future universe.  The mechs are a mix of organics and regular tech and are amazingly capable with the new models.  I reviewed Mecha Corps earlier, and have Mecha Rogue on my backlog of reading.  This is the only one of the series here published by a big name publisher.

Mecha Corps: A Novel of the Armor Wars by Brett Patton
Mecha Rogue: A Novel of the Armor Wars by Brett Patton

ATLAS Series
I think Isaac Hooke is based out of Edmonton, just like me, but we've never met.  He's written a number of previous SF novels in the last decade and seems to be pretty prolific and successful.  Out of all the series I've listed here, his books are selling the best, as I suspect he has a good fan base behind him based on his previous good work.  I've picked up a copy of ATLAS, and it is in my backlog.

Caterpillar Without A Callsign by Isaac Hooke
ATLAS (ATLAS Series) by Isaac Hooke

I don't just read military SF, so I have a good backlog building.  I still need to get out a mini-review for the Kris Longknife series of books too - I read the last two in the hospital awhile back.  At least I got the reviews of Armor and Armoured out!   I also recently read A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and it was an awesome literary read.  I blog about Japanese pop culture over at my Tokyo Excess blog and this book combined quantum physics, Buddhism, Japanese contemporary and pop culture in a fascinating read.  So have a read of that too if you get a chance.

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Friday, 6 June 2014

Review of Armored (A powered armor anthology)

Mini-review #15

This is a series of short reviews for military SF and mecha SF.  You will not see a review of something I don't like as it isn't worth writing about in that case, but I will tell you what works for me and what doesn't about the stories I did like.

This is a review of Armored, an anthology of stories about powered armour, which is not to be confused with the older military SF book Armor.  I happen to have both the Kindle version of it and the paperback.  Baen Books has their own sales site which sells ebooks without DRM, which is nice.  John Joseph Adams has assembled a nice assortment of 23 short stories that range anywhere from steam punk to gritty miltary SF.  There's even a zombie type story in here too, but pretty much skimmed that as I don't like zombie / undead type stories of any kind other than the original Dracula.  Some of the stories I really liked were Hell's Half Acre, Jungle Walkers, Power Armor: A Love Story, Field Test, and Trauma Pod.  It was a nice mix of stories from direct engagements, a bit of horror, to a spy/romance plot.

Worth a read for the fan of powered armour or military SF.

Does it have a cast of characters listing?

Nope.  But there are tons of characters as there are 23 different stories.  The suits themselves are characters in a few of them!

What is the scope / scale of the story?

Varies, but mainly it is small unit, or commando raid type missions.  Nothing too epic, but these are short stories.

Does it have likeable characters?

There are quite a few memorable characters that range from Frost a Drone operator to a tough Gunnery Sergeant named Schaeffer.

Does it have an entertaining storyline?

Many interesting storylines.  Stories range from historical steampunk to far future in a variety of settings.  If you like powered armour, you will be entertained.

How is the internal consistency / plausibility?

The stories hold together pretty good.  No complaints.