Review: “Unrefined” by Martin L. Shoemaker

3 of 5 stars.

This story opens with unmitigated disaster–a computer malfunction on a commercial space station orbiting Jupiter has destabilized the fusion reactor. For Sam Pike, the stress is compounded by sitting shotgun to the best pilot in their fleet, Leeanne, whose husband is the last person still on the station. As owner of the company, Wilson is not going to be easy to talk off the dangerous orbital, even if it is his best friend coming to the rescue.

The disaster leaves Leeanne despondent for weeks and Sam as the new CEO of a mining start-up almost lost in space with supplies running low. Worse, computer software analysis shows that the malfunction was the result of well-covered sabotage from somebody back on Earth. Sam is running himself into the ground and taking the company with him in his exhaustion.

The concept and writing of this story is less science fiction and more business management in a space setting. A longer form for the story that tackled the sabotage storyline would be welcome. As it is, that thread goes unresolved which does not bode well for the company and all its players.

The story is illustrated by artist contest winner Tung Chi Lee. As a quarterly short story contest winner, “Unrefined” merited inclusion in the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31 by L. Ron Hubbard. I received the anthology through Net Galley.
 
 
 
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Review: “Between Screens” by Zach Chapman

3 of 5 stars.

This existential tale is told by a teenaged boy that just wants to feel like he belongs when his life is upended after the death of his father in a space station radiation accident. Life on Earth was too expensive, so the narrator and his mother, who spends every waking moment crying by herself, move off-Earth to a space station where he finds himself the new kid in a school where no one has been to Earth.

He soon leaps at the chance to skip out on school at the prodding of ring-leader, Cox, following a gang of smoking, drinking teens on an illegal jaunt through multiple skipper stations [akin to StarGates] to ditch the police and have parties in the far reaches of the galaxy. However, it soon becomes clear that the location of these parties is not entirely random, but rather strategic. Through the use of hacked telescopes, the gang of hoodlums like to chase down apocalypses and watch cities, space stations, civilizations and whole planets get destroyed. These real-time movies are possible due to tracking the speed of light from the location of the apocalypse and staging a rendezvous. They especially like to watch the same apocalypse unfold repeatedly by catching it at increasing distances.

Time itself becomes a blur after all the galaxy skipping independent of the sun. It’s only a matter of time before school and his time on Earth are all becoming un-reality compared to his jaunts tracking disasters.

The concept and writing of this story is unique. More of this story and topic could have been explored to the tale’s benefit. The story is illustrated by 2014 Golden Brush winner Trevor Smith. As a quarterly short story contest finalist, “Between Screens” merited inclusion in the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31 by L. Ron Hubbard. I received the anthology through Net Galley.
 
 
 
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Review: Golden Son (The Red Rising Trilogy, #2)

Golden Son (Red Rising Trilogy, #2)Golden Son by Pierce Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This sequel brilliantly avoids the pitfalls of sophomore novels by not trying to recreate the first novel of its series, Red Rising, which stands as one of the best debut novels of 2014. This installment is better leaving all comparisons to The Hunger Games far behind as the solar system and scope of protagonist Darrow Andromedus expands to the bursting point.

The first book saw Darrow, born of the lowest caste–Red–in a strictly enforced, and genetically sustained multi-tier class system, lose his wife to her dreams of freedom for all. He underwent drastic surgery and training to pose as one of the highest caste, a Gold, with full intent to embed into Gold society and then to break it.

With non-stop action and picking up minutes after the end of the first book, this continuation of the tale not only shakes the foundation of the oppressive situation on terraformed Mars, but also starts a tsunami through the entire solar system’s Golden society. Darrow has become a Golden Hero, but still needs to enact the change for which his wife sacrificed her life. The stakes are high and threaten to overwhelm friend and foe, high-caste and low-color alike.

Darrow is Icarus, the boy daring fly ever closer to the destructive forces which hold the solar system together.

This series has heart and earnestness as its assets. The ideas of friendship, family, loyalty, justice, and honesty take on very real dimensions with consequences.

“Roque,” I call to him plaintively.
“Friendships take minutes to make, moments to break, years to repair,” he says, turning to glance over his shoulder. “We’ll talk again soon.”
I watch him go, feeling a small bit of hope warm me.

This book and series are highly recommended.

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Review: “Rough Draft” by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta

3 of 5 stars.

This enjoyable short story appearing in the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31; that showcases new and emerging writers of fantasy and science fiction is included due to the authors’roles as judges for the contest. It is accompanied by an illustration by artist contest winner Daniel Tyka whose work also adorned the short story “Switch” in the same anthology.

The protagonist in the tale is Mitchell Coren, award winning novelist and one-hit wonder. He has answered the pressure of expectation by refusing to write a word of science fiction again after snagging the biggest two prizes out there with his debut work. He has accepted his fear, and hopes that he will be lumped in with the likes of J.D. Salinger for turning away from the celebrity.

Ten years after his trophies have started to gather dust, Coren is called upon by Jeremy Cardiff, an aspiring musician, a huge Coren fan, and an employee of Alternitech–a company that opens gateways to alternative universes to discover useful discrepancies. Cardiff has unearthed and read a second novel by Coren that only exists in the alternate world. By legal precedent, Coren of this world holds no rights to royalties or publishing on this side of the curtain. However, in a plea to Cardiff, Coren is able to acquire both copies of the novel that Cardiff scavenged by appealing to Cardiff’s sense as an artist and fan. Coren, not wanting to face the pressure and scrutiny of the public, sets the manuscripts on fire. And then douses them again in time to save the one copy.

This tale quickly examines the role of the artist to one’s work and even to one’s inevitable junk-door of notes and ideas for future projects. It also shows the downside of oppressive expectation and the uplift from the belief in what one can accomplish.

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A Gathering of Four

The Eunoia Review has posted my poem “A Gathering of Four.” Please check it out.

Eunoia Review

This man (curled into
himself) sits outside
the turnstiles of Washington Street Station
right at the maw of the vast
subterranean Pedway
moaning with errant winds.
His cardboard sign faces his lap.
Dirt and thirst are kneaded
into the fibers of fleece.

***

Picasso’s old, blue
guitarist is blocks away,
propped up
by a cheap guitar.
His face – cadaverous,
fallen forward;
sunken eyes –
drawn shut as dry husks.
No warmth radiates
from cyan skin draped
over gentle bones.
No music escapes
this blind guitar.

***

As if trying to bow
her long-forgotten
cello, my grandmother
full of grace
breaks the prayer circle,
starts to wail
in dissonance with
blessed
winds at the window pane
among women
Rosary beads dangle
blessed
as two aunts
regather her hands
of thy womb
These tendoned talons
Mother, pray for us
pull and flex
with the banshee cries
at the hour of our…

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Thanksgiving Gathering

My poem “Thanksgiving Gathering” has been posted by The Eunoia Review. Check it out.

Eunoia Review

This table –
elongated and stretching
to the borders of the room,
set with heavy silverware
and water goblets and plates
centered with linen napkins in steel rings,

and circumnavigated
by my older brother
who’s lost the thread
of conversation in pursuit
of his son who has left
two Dr. Seuss books on the butcher’s block

and popped
each fat black olive
into his mouth as his father did
30 years ago;
my brother who still
favors Stovetop Stuffing,

Scrabble after the meal,
and his left foot ever since last year’s
second round of chemotherapy
(that Thanksgiving spent
in marrow transplant isolation,
nauseated

and nervously eyeing dry-erase numbers
that vaunted his T-cell count),
and his wife who’s returned to baking:
two pecan pies, a blueberry pie
and cheesecake, and who’s inherited
the gravy station at the stove

from our grandmother –
whose chair is not filled this year,
whose silent…

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The Airing-Out

The Eunoia Review has posted my poem “The Airing-Out”. Check it out.

Eunoia Review

Shoes and a boot
conceal the old, odd suitcase.
It is coaxed out
and emptied of wools,
plush wide-waled corduroys,
flannels, and leather. Everything
musky with suede-scent
and desiccants.

I’ve freed my bedside
window from a corpulent A/C
and sealed the panes.
Static electricity bristles the air;
the airing-out is over.
October’s leaves have turned—
an elapsed calendar page
ripped out.

And I return to the weathered
suitcase, refilling it
with folded and hand-smoothed
linens, flimsy silks,
and madras. Under the bed,
my cache is restored
like bulbs split and reburied
before the frost.

Jaffa Kintigh has previously been published in di-verse-city and Tres di-verse-city as part of the Austin International Poetry Festival. He received his M.A. in Creative Writing—Poetry from the University of Illinois at Chicago, having previously studied poetry at Iowa State University and the University College of Wales in Swansea. Jaffa resides in Chicago, IL, USA, where he’s…

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