Love, Murder & Mayhem by Russ Colchamiro, ed.

Love, Murder & MayhemLove, Murder & Mayhem

by Russ Colchamiro, editor

eARC, 385 pg.
Crazy 8 Press, 2017

Read: June 20 – 21, 2017


This is the strongest collection of stories that I can remember reading in the last few years — 15 stories and only 1 that didn’t work for me (it was fine, I just didn’t think it took advantage of the SF setting). I really would like to post a few paragraphs about each story — but wow, that’s too much to write and/or read. Especially when you can just go buy the book and read them instead. Each of these stories, all some sort of Science Fiction — some space opera-ish, some hard SF, some goofy, some super-hero based — involve the three things mentioned in the title: love, murder and mayhem (all of which can be interestingly defined, but they’re there). Despite knowing this about them, I wasn’t expecting some of the stories to take the turns they did — especially the murder part, which frequently showed up when I wasn’t expecting it (or at the hands of someone I didn’t expect). Check out the Spotlight post I did earlier today for more details.

So let’s focus on a couple of the standouts.

  • A Goon’s Tale by Kelly Meding
    It was clear from the early pages of her MetaWars series that Meding knows how to write super-heroes. This story about the insurance agents that have to clean up after them, as well as Super Villains (and their goons). Nice twists and development of the characters.
  • The Responders by Michael Jan Friedman
    So, what happens when a super-hero team breaks up? What if there’s a Yoko figure who may be at the root of it? I don’t know how many Star Trek novels by Friedman I read back in the 90’s (apparently, it was 2 — he only has 2 listed on his website, I thought the number was higher), it was nice to see that he still has that touch.
  • The Note on the Blue Screen by Mary Fan
    I think it was this story that really clued me into the fact that this book was going to be good all the way through — a story about an android that solves mysteries, has a close connection to a human and pays tribute to A. Conan Doyle’s most famous creation worked better than I thought it would as I started it (or than it sounds as I describe it). I would absolutely read more stories about Sherlock.
  • As Time Goes By by Patrick Thomas This Mortal Coil by Peter David , Kathleen David , and Sean O’Shea
    Simply put, there’s nothing that Peter David can’t write, and his co-authors here do a good job honing that. The super-rich and super-responsible are able to get people to sleep and dream for them to maintains high levels of productivity. Great concept and then building on that by asking, what happens when the person you dream for dreams about a murder?
  • DuckBob: Killer Service by Aaron Rosenberg
    What happens when a souped-up version of Alexa gets absolute power. It’s funny, as well as fun and thought-provoking.
  • I left off my favorite from this list, because I don’t think I could keep things to just a couple of sentences. But all of these stories (well, 14 of 15) have a great hook, some great characterizations and an ending you wouldn’t be able to guess right away. Not a stinker in the batch — I expect that many readers wouldn’t agree with my disappointment with one of the stories, so I’ll go ahead and make that bold claim.

    I frequently lament the length of short stories — not any of these, they are full stories, with well=established characters and worlds — I don’t need any more of them. I wouldn’t mind revisiting some of these characters in similar stories or full novels, but I didn’t object once to the length or depth. Just a really strong anthology.

    Go read this.

    Disclaimer – I received a copy of this book as part of my participation in the Book Tour.

    —–

    3.5 Stars

    Love, Murder & Mayhem by Russ Colchamiro, ed. Book Tour

    Welcome to our Book Tour stop for Eating Robots. Along with this blurb about the book, my take on it will be along in an hour or so (the link’ll work when the post goes live).

    Book Details:

    Book Title:  Love, Murder & Mayhem
    Editor: Russ Colchamiro
    Category: Science Fiction, 385 pages
    Publisher: Crazy 8 Press
    Release date: June 18, 2017

    About the Book:

    Love science fiction stories that all include elements of Love, Murder & Mayhem?

    Then welcome to the latest anthology from Crazy 8 Press! This amazing collection from 15 all-star authors will delight you with superheros and supervillains. AIs, off-worlders, and space cruisers. We’ve also got private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travelers, aliens and monsters—and one DuckBob!

    With tales ranging from wild and wacky to dark and gritty to heartbreaking and fun, take the deadly leap with authors Meriah Crawford, Paige Daniels, Peter David, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman Paul Kupperberg, Karissa Laurel, Kelly Meding, Aaron Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Lois Spangler, Patrick Thomas, and editor Russ Colchamiro.

    You’ll never look at Love, Murder & Mayhem the same way again—and that’s just the way we like it.

    About the Editor:

    Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking comedy series, Stephen OramFinders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

    Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, and Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.

    As a matter of full disclosure, readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus, for sure, but much quicker.

    Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

    A Shift Toward Prey by Natalie Allison Book Tour

    A Shift Toward Prey by Natalie Allison Book Tour Banner

    A Shift Toward Prey by Natalie Allison Book Cover

    • Publication Date: May 15, 2017
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
    • ASIN: B06XKJMNND

    ABOUT THE BOOK:

    There’s a war brewing in the shadowed lands of the Fringe, a conflict that will match Shifter claws against Vampire fangs for the first time in two centuries. And it seems as if those with the power to stop it are only making things worse.

    For too long, a young, ambitious Jaguar-Shifter named Chiari Jhahn has been forced to watch her elder sister’s savage regime destroy the very heart of the Shifter Realm. And now it seems as if that regime is hell-bent on starting a war with their long-time enemies, the Vampires of the Everdark.

    After witnessing her sister let her pride stand in the way of a peace agreement that would have stopped the coming bloodshed, Chiari feels she has no choice but to start a revolution—it’s either that, or watch her people become nothing more than prey for a much-stronger predator. But her sister’s reach is long, and Chiari doesn’t know who she can trust.

    Forced to seek allies in the most unlikely places, Chiari must use every ounce of her intellect and cunning to build a rebellion that will topple her sister from power and hopefully mitigate the Vampire threat. But Vampires aren’t the only monsters hiding in the dark—and they’re not the only predators out for blood. Chiari’s friends may prove to be worse than her enemies. When political ambition is matched against predatory instinct, the phrase “coming back to bite you” takes on a whole new meaning.

    PURCHASE A SHIFT TOWARD PREY ON AMAZON.COM

     

    ABOUT THE AUTHORNatalie Allison Author Photo

    Natalie Allison grew up in a house full of books. Her world—and her imagination—became infused with the wonder and mystery of places like Middle Earth, Narnia, Valdemar, and Pern. An early love of reading led to an early love of writing, and she wrote her very first novel at the tender age of eight.

    Natalie has been building worlds with words ever since, and her stories have entertained readers from all over the globe. Now she lives with her adoring husband, a son who’s a genius, and a dog who’s determined to save the world from mushrooms, kittens, frogs, and other nefarious creatures.

    Readers can connect with Natalie via:

    Website
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    Eating Robots by Stephen Oram

    this is going to be short, because I found myself saying the same thing over and over

    Eating RobotsEating Robots and Other Stories

    by Stephen Oram

    eARC, 107 pg.
    SilverWood Books, 2017

    Read: April 27 – 29, 2017


    I flipped through my thesaurus to find some decent synonyms for imaginative, because I need a few to talk about this collection. Didn’t find any that I liked, alas — this collection needs me to say something more than imaginative, just to avoid being dull and repetitive.

    These stories are short — it’s not fair to call most of these stories, they’re more like scenes. Hints of a story, character studies, maybe hints of a scene — and on the one hand you can see most to of these happening in other parts of the same world — but they don’t have to, there could be a 30 different future realities represented here.

    These are almost entirely too short. Some of the character moments are great — but even they don’t satisfy. The longer stories (there are not that many of them) barely seemed long enough to be a decent story — and they were good. There is a strong Twilight Zone feel to almost every plot and circumstance in the book — updated, like Rod Serling for the 21st Century.

    I can not say it enough — Oram can write. He’s got a great imagination, and a mind for Science Fiction. But between the length and his approach, I just couldn’t get into any of the stories, I couldn’t care about anyone or anything in this book. I respect these stories, but I didn’t like any of them. I can easily see me being alone in that, though, if someone came along and told me that this was one of the best collections they read this year, I’d understand. I wouldn’t agree, but I could see where they were coming from. I hope Oram finds his audience (or that they find him), sadly, I’m not part of it.

    I received a copy of this book from b00k r3vi3w Tours in return for this post. Thanks!

    —–

    3 Stars

    Eating Robots by Stephen Oram Book Tour

    Welcome to our Book Tour stop for Eating Robots. Along with this blurb about the book, my take on it will be along in an hour or so (the link’ll work when the post goes live).

    Book Details:

    Book Title:  Eating Robots and Other Stories
    Author: Stephen Oram
    Category: Science Fiction, 107 pages
    Publisher: SilverWood Books
    Release date: May 31, 2017

    Book Description:

    The future is bright…or is it?

    Step into a high-tech vision of the future with the author of Quantum Confessions and Fluence, Stephen Oram.

    Featuring health-monitoring mirrors, tele-empathic romances and limb-repossessing bailiffs, Eating Robots explores the collision of utopian dreams and twisted realities in a world where humanity and technology are becoming ever more intertwined.

    Sometimes funny, often unsettling, and always with a word of warning, these thirty sci-fi shorts will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

     

    Buy the Book

    Goodreads  Amazon India  Amazon US

    Meet the Author:

    Stephen Oram writes thought provoking stories that mix science fiction with social comment, mainly in a recognisable near-future. He is the Author in Residence at Virtual Futures’, Stephen Oramonce described as the ‘Glastonbury of cyberculture’. He has collaborated with scientists and future-tech people to write short stories that create debate about potential futures, most recently with the Human Brain Project and Bristol Robotics Laboratory as part of the Bristol Literature Festival.

    As a teenager he was heavily influenced by the ethos of punk. In his early twenties he embraced the squatter scene and was part of a religious cult, briefly. He did some computer stuff in what became London’s silicon roundabout and is now a civil servant with a gentle attraction to anarchism.

    He has two published novels – Quantum Confessions and Fluence – and several shorter pieces.

    Website

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    Twitter

    Goodreads

    Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

    Welcome to Part II of the Book Tour for Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn — if you missed the first part, go check it out and enter the giveaway for a free copy.

    Martians AbroadMartians Abroad

    by Carrie Vaughn

    eARC, 288 pg.
    Tor Books, 2017

    Read: January 11 – 12, 2016


    There are so many things that I want to say about this book, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to them all — seriously, I have a checklist that’s daunting — but let’s give it a shot.

    I remember while growing up back in the 20th century that SF was fun. Maybe fun isn’t the right word, but stick with me — sure, the stories were serious, there were real stakes (usually), not every ending was happy, and so on — but there was an overall sense that the future would be okay, that space travel and aliens (at least the ones not trying to kill us/take over the world) were positives, and that there as something in humanity that made it all worthwhile. But more and more that went away, and the future became (when not downright dystopian) a grim place with people struggling to survive. By and large, who wants to live in the future depicted in SF now? Sure, there are exceptions, but most of those are in the Douglas Adams’ tradition (Scalzi and Clines would be good exceptions to this) — “light” or humorous SF. I’m not saying that I want an end to those stories, or that I don’t enjoy the darker SF. But I wouldn’t mind more SF that makes me feel okay about the future, rather than wanting to return to the carefree days of the end of the Hoover administration instead of getting to 2040 and beyond.

    Enter Carrie Vaughn and Martians Abroad — an update of Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars (not unlike Scalzi’s take on Little Fuzzy in Fuzzy Nation). Now, I’ve not read Podkayne, but I assume that it could use a little update and some tweaking. Not necessarily to improve it, but to make it “fit” the readers of today. Like a good cover song, such an update can revitalize an older work, showing different aspects of it, without having to replace it (see Parton and Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”). Since I didn’t read the original, I have no real idea how much of the plot of this book came from Heinlein and how much is straight from Vaughn herself — and I really don’t care outside of some vague curiosity. What I do know, is that Vaughn took some classic ideas and did something that only she could do with them. She gives us a vision of the future that’s not perfect, but seems like an okay place to be. This doesn’t make it better (or worse) than other SF works — just a refreshing change of pace.

    From Lowood Institution to Trinity High School to Welton Academy to Hogwarts (and many others), there’s something about boarding school stories that just works. You get a little bit of a fish out of water story, usually an oppressive administration, some unofficial traditions shaping actions (frequently at least brushing up on bullying), and a heckuva story ensues. Sure, as a kid (and even now) I always wondered why anyone would attend/send their kids to one, but apparently it’s a thing. Add the Galileo Academy to the list — it’s a school for the children of Earth’s elites, as well as those of a few select space stations and colonies. Charles and Polly Newton are the first students from Mars to matriculate there — by “from Mars” I mean that they’re from the human colony on Mars, not some sort of fully alien life.

    But really, in so many ways, they might as well be wholly alien — ditto for the students form various space stations or the Moon, etc. Due to differences in gravity, having to breathe pumped-in air, etc., their muscle structure bone density — and even digestive systems — have adapted to their environments to the extent that it’s easy to tell an offworlder by sight. How serious are these changes? Let’s put it this way — the non-Earth born kids can’t eat bacon. I know, I said this wasn’t a grim or dystopian view of the future, but that one fact makes me rethink that whole idea.

    Now, the last thing Polly wants to do is come to Earth — she has a plan for her future, and this isn’t anywhere near it. It fits right in with her mother’s plans (Polly just doesn’t know how), Charles convinces his sister to go along with his mother’s plan without much fuss — it’s not like they could stop things, anyway. The trip from Mars to Earth isn’t as bad as she expects and she begins to have a little bit of hope – only to have that crushed as soon as she starts to meet students and administrators from the Academy. Basically offworlders are seen as lower-class/working-class, not as sophisticated or healthy as those born and raised on Earth. Polly, Charles and the other offworlders find themselves grouping together, and the target of harassment of varying degrees of seriousness and intensity from the rest. It’s tough to tell how much of this is in their minds and how much this is real — at times it feels like Polly’s exaggerating how bad things are, but typically, her perceptions are substantiated.

    Before long, some accidents or other dangerous situations start occurring that put Polly and her classmates in jeopardy –and it’s not long before the students begin to wonder if there’s something other than chance at work here. While Polly seeks to integrate herself better into her new community — and she makes some pretty good strides at it (and some stumbles) — she, Charles and her friends try to figure out just who is targeting their class and why.

    Polly is a great character — strong-willed, fallible, smart, impulsive, brave, socially awkward — very real. Incidentally, you may have noticed that we share a last name — I’m claiming Polly Newton as my great-great-ellipses-great-granddaughter right now, and welcome her to the family. The rest of her classmates are just as well-drawn. I could’ve used a little more on the adult front — the teachers and administrators are largely absent, and are vaguely drawn. I do think that’s a function of Vaughn’s focus being on the students, not necessarily a flaw with the book — I just would’ve liked a bit more of adult presence.

    There is some real honest humor here — some of it comes from the situations, some of it is from Polly’s snark. But better than her attitude is the sheer awe she feels at Earth — the colors, the life, the non-greenhouse plants, the sky, the air. Her initial impressions of Earth were great — and they only got better from there — each time she left the confines of school, she discovered something new about this planet and the way it was described was better than the last. Polly’s a human, but from her perspective she’s an alien to this planet, she’s seeing it with fresh eyes.

    There are some villains (of a sort), some real opponents to be faced, but really, there’s no one evil. There’s some misguided people, some . . . unthinking/wrong-thinking characters. But there’s no Voldemort figure, no true evil. Just conflicting agendas, different priorities, unrepentant snobbery — it feels real. Again, a refreshing change of pace.

    Yes, this book is about teenagers, but it’s not a YA book. It is, like the SF I talked about at the beginning, YA-friendly, though. A book that I can recommend to friends as well as my kids and their friends — and, of course, you, whoever you are. The book was exciting, entertaining, filled with real situations in an appealing future. Vaughn’s to be thanked for such a pleasant change of pace, a breath of fresh air — and I hope we get to revisit this world (but if we don’t, that’s okay, this is a complete story as is).

    Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Tor Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this. Also, thanks to Tor for the opportunity to take part in the Book Tour.

    —–

    4 1/2 Stars

    Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn Book Tour

    I’ve been a fan of Carrie Vaughn for over a decade now — if she’s published a novel, I’ve read it (which doesn’t mean I’ve loved them all. Naturally, I jumped at the invitation to be a part of this Book Tour. My take on the book will be posted in a few, but for now, read a little bit about this book, and then keep scrolling so you can learn how to score yourself a free copy. Or go buy a copy and let someone else get it for free. 🙂

    MARTIANS ABROAD
    Carrie Vaughn

    “It is Polly’s teen snarkiness and strong sense of self that will have readers rooting for her to get to the bottom of the mystery. … this easygoing adventure has an affable appeal.”
    —Kirkus Reviews

    “This is a classic ‘fish-out-of-water’ boarding-school story, focused on an adventurous, good-hearted heroine, with retro SF twists that nod to Heinlein’s oeuvre.”
    —Booklist

    Inverse’s 11 Science Fiction Books That Will Define 2017 List


    From the author of the New York Times bestselling Kitty Norville series and the highly praised After the Golden Age and Discord’s Apple, MARTIANS ABROAD (A Tor Hardcover; $24.99; On-Sale: January 17, 2017) is a modern feminist update of the classic juvenile science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein, Podkayne of Mars. Classic science fiction authors such as Vernor Vinge, Gregory Benford, and Jack McDevitt have already lauded this new take from Carrie Vaughn, which will appeal to both YA and adult audiences looking for an optimistic view of the future.

    Teenage Polly Newton has one single-minded dream: to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. But her mother, the director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly’s plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth—-the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever.

    Homesick and cut off from her desired future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly maneuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. But when strange, unexplained, and dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.

    A versatile author, Vaughn has earned acclaim in multiple genres even as she continues to hit the bestseller lists. Fans know that she can entertain even while telling challenging and empowering stories about women finding their place in the world. RT VIP Salon describes “the excitement of reading a new story by Vaughn that’s set in a world that is so fascinating.” MARTIANS ABROAD will find fans in adult science fiction readers, young adult fans, and anyone looking for a new take on a classic science fiction adventure.

    “Her breezy, convincing teenage heroine brings this familiar material to life: an
    excellent retro-SF story retold for a new generation of aspiring starship pilots.”
    —Gwyneth Jones (Ann Halam), author of Life

    “This fun adventure echoes classic space cadet themes with a
    bright finish. It’s in conversation with much of Heinlein’s
    legacy with twists to keep it interesting-—a brisk read.”
    —Gregory Benford, author of Timescape

    About the Author

    Carrie VaughnCARRIE VAUGHN, the New York Times bestselling author of the Kitty Norville books, is also the author of the stand-alone novels After the Golden Age and Discord’s Apple, and the young adult books Voice of Dragons and Steel. She holds a Masters in English Literature and collects hobbies—-fencing and sewing are currently high on the list. You can visit her online at www.carrievaughn.com.

    Giveaway!

    The good people over at Tor Books want to give one of my readers a Hardcover Copy of this book — and who am I to argue? We’re going to keep this simple: if you want the book, between now and 11:59PM MST on 1/30/17, leave a comment on this post. Make it amusing, if you please — it won’t help you get the book, but it’ll make things nicer for me.

    Sometime next Tuesday, I’ll use some sort of random number generator to pick a winner, and notify the winner to get your address. Sound easy enough?

    Not to take anything away from my upcoming review-ish post, but trust me on this folks, you want this one.