Guest Post: “If We Met Aliens Tomorrow, Would We Notice?” by D. Nolan Clark

ClarkDN-1-ForsakenSkiesEver since we realized there were other stars out there — and other planets — we’ve been obsessed with the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Stories of meeting beings from other worlds fill up the box office and the bestseller lists, and pretty much everyone on Earth agrees, there must be life out there somewhere. As years go by with no contact, however, some are starting to wonder why it’s taking so long.

The answer may simply be that like anything involving the huge distances and faint signals of space, meeting aliens is hard. In fact, it’s quite possible we’ve already been contacted — and we didn’t notice. Here are four scenarios that could lead to us missing out on the greatest moment in human history. Continue reading

Review: SLEEPING GIANTS by Sylvain Neuvel (Del Rey/ Michael Joseph)

NeuvelS-SleepingGiantsUSAn interesting start to a new series

Deadwood, USA. A girl sneaks out just before dark to ride her new bike. Suddenly, the ground disappears beneath her. Waking up at the bottom of a deep pit, she sees an emergency rescue team above her. The people looking down see something far stranger…

“We always look forward. We never look back.”

That girl grows up to be Dr. Rose Franklyn, a brilliant scientist and the leading world expert on what she discovered. An enormous, ornate hand made of an exceptionally rare metal, which predates all human civilisation on the continent. 

“But this thing … it’s different. It challenges us. It rewrites history.”

An object whose origins and purpose are perhaps the greatest mystery humanity has ever faced. Solving the secret of where it came from — and how many more parts may be out there — could change life as we know it.

“It dares us to question what we know about ourselves.”

But what if we were meant to find it? And what happens when this vast, global puzzle is complete…?

“About everything.”

I had very high hopes for Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants. It sounded really interesting and, as an epistolary novel, I was certainly intrigued to see how the author built the story. For the main, it is very well-written and interesting. That being said, the story flagged a bit towards the end, despite being the start of a new series. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Planet Jacked!” by Weston Ochse

OchseW-AuthorPicI’d never really encountered the idea about terraforming until I read David Gerrold’s A Matter for Men, and boy did that scare me more than any horror novel I’d ever read. It’s one thing to have space duels with enemy ships or visitations from aliens seeking to see what we’re up to, but it’s another thing altogether when you begin showing aliens who’ve decided that they want your planet and have begun changing the entire ecosystem right out from under you. I mean, what do you do? What technology do we have to stop them?

In Hollywood, there’d be some last second solution overlooked by mainstream scientists, but discovered by the conspiracy theorist picking his nose in the corner. But that’s never going to happen.

In Hollywood, the aliens would find a way to communicate with the President of the United States, because that’s what all aliens do, to give us some sort of ultimatum.

I drop the bullshit flag on that one. Continue reading

Review: ARMADA by Ernest Cline (Century)

ClineE-ArmadaUKThe highly-anticipated second novel from the author of Ready Player One

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada — in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills — as well as those of millions of gamers across the world — are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little… familiar?

Ready Player One, as I’ve said many times on here, completely blew me away. I was sent an ARC, and started it pretty much immediately. I devoured it in two gleeful, gloriously entertaining sittings, breaking only to get a few hours sleep. I’ve been waiting for Armada ever since. It was a very pleasant surprise, therefore, when an ARC arrived in the mail a few weeks back. With high expectations, and confidence that it would be another tale filled with geek references, nostalgia and gripping storytelling, I dove right in. What I found, however, thoroughly disappointed. Continue reading

Review: THE WAKE (Vertigo)

TheWake-Complete

Writer: Scott Snyder | Artist: Sean Murphy | Colors: Matt Hollingsworth

When Marine Biologist Lee Archer is approached by the Department of Homeland Security for help with a new threat, she declines, but quickly realizes they won’t take no for an answer. Soon she is plunging to the depths of the Arctic Circle to a secret, underwater oilrig filled with roughnecks and scientists on the brink of an incredible discovery. But when things go horribly wrong, this scientific safe haven will turn into a house of horrors at the bottom of the ocean!

Collects: The Wake #1-10

This is a tricky one to review. This is the whole ten-issue run of the series, which means a lot happens. The multiple timelines, the expansive scope of the story… There’s a lot crammed into this book. It’s the most ambitious of Snyder’s stories that I’ve read, and while I found it excellent on a number of levels, the second half really let the book down. Continue reading

Short Review: “The Humans” by Matt Haig (Canongate)

Haig-TheHumansAn excellent examination of what it means to be human

It’s hardest to belong when you’re closest to home… One wet Friday evening, Professor Andrew Martin of Cambridge University solves the world’s greatest mathematical riddle. Then he disappears. When he is found walking naked along the motorway, Professor Martin seems different. Besides the lack of clothes, he now finds normal life pointless. His loving wife and teenage son seem repulsive to him. In fact, he hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton. And he’s a dog. Can a bit of Debussy and Emily Dickinson keep him from murder? Can the species which invented cheap white wine and peanut butter sandwiches be all that bad? And what is the warm feeling he gets when he looks into his wife’s eyes?

The standfirst says it all, really: The Humans is an excellent examination of what it means to be human – everything from the horror and ugliness, to the beauty and wonder of life on Earth. It is a novel that is filled with insight, depth, affection, and humour. From the beginning, we are introduced to an imposter on earth – an alien who has taken the place of one of Cambridge University’s most respected mathematicians, who has just solved one of the great mysteries of mathematics. The race from which this being hails believes the solution will bring great upheaval to the universe: it could, after all, allow humans to leave Earth, and venture out into the universe. This would, of course, bring all their baggage with them. After all, from the outside, human can come across as miserable, money-obsessed, violent assholes.

As the new Andrew Martin navigates his new life, quashing all knowledge of the real Martin’s discovery, he finds himself confronted with everything that is good about life as a human. His obliviousness to what the real Andrew did before he was replaced, gives him a childlike innocence and fresh slate – something that has a real impact on his family life, in both positive and negative ways. He starts to go native, despite the frequent warnings of his superiors – the Hosts.

It doesn’t take long to read The Humans – the novel is very focused, the pacing is brisk, and Haig’s prose is pretty sparse. It is also superb – elegant in its focus, nuanced, affectionate yet not uncritical, and often very funny. His characters are well-rounded and expertly brought to life on the page. The book will also make you want to read more Emily Dickinson…

Haig is fast becoming one of my favourite writers, and I’ve only read two of his novels. The Humans is a must read. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and can’t recommend it enough.

Review: LAGOON by Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder)

OkoraforN-LagoonA gripping, beautifully-written science fiction novel set in and around Lagos.

A star falls from the sky. A woman rises from the sea.

The world will never be the same.

Three strangers, each isolated by his or her own problems: Adaora, the marine biologist. Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa. Agu, the troubled soldier. Wandering Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria’s legendary mega-city, they’re more alone than they’ve ever been before.

But when something like a meteorite plunges into the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three people will find themselves bound together in ways they could never imagine. Together with Ayodele, a visitor from beyond the stars, they must race through Lagos and against time itself in order to save the city, the world… and themselves.

“There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.”

This is the first novel I’ve read by Nnedi Okorafor, and it won’t be my last. I started reading it on the first day it arrived in the mail – I was putting it on my TBR shelf, and flipped it open at the first page. Thirty minutes later, I was still reading and had sidelined my then-current read. Lagoon is beautifully and intelligently written, addictive, well-paced and a must read. Continue reading