“Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall” by Aaron Safronoff (Neoglyphic Entertainment, 2016)

In a galaxy far, far away is a unique blue world composed mostly of a single massive ocean, upon which island flotillas are the only forms of land. But upon these flotillas are rainforests of mighty trees reaching into the sky, housing a thriving ecosystem of the many species living in the trees on the world of Cerulean.

A young Listlespur named Barra has once again snuck into her father’s study. He has been gone for some time, so coming here is one of the few places she can feel at peace and remember him. She finds her father’s journals, ones that have never been seen before. Bursting with excitement, she begins reading.

The world of Cerulean, deep within the trees, is a somewhat dark place and this is how it has always been, it is thought. Within the journals, Barra learns of a secret blight, a mysterious plague. The trees thrive on water and light, and this creeping vine has been staunching and strangling this flow bit by bit, gaining more and more territory, and turning it into a dark and withered place. Barra has always suspected something, and here is the proof from her father, who told the Elders, and yet nothing has been done about it.

Along with the help of two close friends, a wiry Rugosic named Tory and a cute and cuddly Kalalabat named Plicks, Barra begins her investigation, traveling to unfamiliar locales. They also pass down into the dangerous—and forbidden—Middens. It is there that they see physical proof of the black vine plague taking over the trees. Suddenly, they are attacked and do their best to evade getting infected. Before they know it, they are plunging down beneath the Fall and into another part of their world that they have only ever heard legends about. There they will learn many wonders, face new enemies, as well as gaining new friends, and hopefully find a way to combat the plague. That is if they can ever make it back to their home.

When reading Sunborn Rising, one cannot help but think of Avatar, with this strange world of colorful creatures. But this story goes so much more further with its characters and plot than the movie ever did. The author does a great job of creating not just an ecosystem with the trees and flora, but showing in the ways of the character’s lives: in their food, how they talk, the language they use, the world they live in that is influenced and in many ways controlled by the arboreal world. It also shows in the vocabulary and words Aaron Safronoff uses that adds to the whole ambiance of the novel.

The book also features 40 full-color works of art and 80 unique illustrations that add more to the setting and feel of the book. Readers are shown what the colorful characters and environments actually look like, while the illustrations provide important details that help to get the thoughts solidly in the reader’s head. The way the book is written, it could be aimed and enjoyed by a middle reader, but also by adults as it does what every fantasy book should: present a unique world with interesting characters and a fascinating story that keeps the reader hooked from beginning to end.

Originally written on February 7, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the San Francisco Book Review.

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“The Last Bastion of Civilization: Japan 2041 A Scenario Analysis” by Andrew Blencowe

In 2041, the world looks quite different from what it does now. Nations have changed, alliances have formed and reformed and battles and wars have been waged and rage ever onward. But at the very top of the global food chain is Japan in its civilized resplendence, living out the idyllic life with automated robots making the industry, economy and country run smoothly, while its people enjoy many of the technological and sociological advances made by its proud nation of the past five decades.

This is the story of Japan’s rise to worldly power, as told through a series of essays from various academics, intellectuals and leading figures. Each essay covers a core component of what Japan has done, while the rest of the world has neglected, to make itself “the last bastion of civilization.” Widespread rioting, skyrocketing unemployment and the decline of faith and spirituality have taken a toll on the planet, plunging numerous countries into anarchy.

These essays provide sparks of solution and possible resolution, such as addressing social issues like illegitimacy, rising populations, violence, gangs and intellectual decline. Some essays reveal how countries have joined together to aid each other while others take on the important subject of robotics and its development and improvement over the years leading to the idealized servant robot that is used in so many ways in daily life whether it be in the home, the factory or the workplace. Of course, the development of weapons technology is also crucial in the rise of any superpower and is not lacking here. But it is more how Japan set these many events in motion many years in the past with the goal of becoming this last civilized haven.

While The Last Bastion of Civilization is a somewhat interesting look into how a nation could conceivably become a paradisaical superpower, the steps that have been taken at times have overtones of those in some works of dystopian fiction such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Some essays are outright misogynistic and racist to those who live in a world that is more aware and respectful of those who are not part of the status quo that has been in effect for so long. Sacrifices that lead to immense suffering for those less fortunate and different are not worth the price. The essays all appear to be written by men, which provides a narrow vision for this future. The key to remember is that this is a work of fiction and while these may be horrifically plausible, are ones that haven’t happened yet and for some of them, hopefully never will.

Originally written on December 20, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the San Francisco Book Review.

To purchase a copy of The Last Bastion of Civilization from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Siege of Praetar: Tales of a Dying Star Volume 1” by David Kristoph (CreateSpace, 2014)

This is the story about a star coming to the end of its life and what the civilization surrounding it does to survive. The Siege of Praetar gives a brief overview with how the Melisao is evacuating and preparing to save those it can, and then focuses on three specific characters and how they are coping with these end times.

In the first part, “The Sentinel,” there is a ship of the same name hovering near orbit on guard. It’s duty is to watch freighters leaving Praetar that have to be a specific weight and transporting necessary goods as part of the evacuation. Any ships that are under the required weight are to be destroyed without question, as they are presumed to be carrying weapons. But sometimes these ships are also carrying refugees. Nevertheless, it’s up to whoever is at the controls of the Sentinel to carry out their orders and destroy on sight if necessary.  But what happens when one of the two-person team decides that one of these ships carrying refugees needs to escape?

“The Mother” shows the moving story of a single-mother doing her best to support her two daughters. She works long hours at the factory for a small number of discs to help her get food rations for her and her children. It’s a harsh world and to make matters worse one of her daughters is sick due to the toxic air everyone is now breathing. But medicine costs a lot. And then there is the journey she must make to and from work with rough people on the street doing worse than her looking to take what money she has and more. So when her supervisor gives her some extra credits as a gift to pay for medicine for her daughter, she graciously accepts as she eyes the drawer full of credits and begins to wonder if she might be able to steal some of that great bounty.

The third and final part, “The Snake,” is about an unlikeable character who is succeeding and profiting off those less fortunate in these end of the world times, but then you need to do what you can to survive. The Snake is just looking out for number one, because that’s what he’s always done. The reader briefly met him in Part Two, but gets to know more about his character and his world in the third part. He is a slumlord known as the “Lord of the Station” and is also a corrupt member involved in launching those important freighters into space. He happens to know which ones have refugees hidden aboard, as well as what will happen to the freighter once it reaches orbit and is intercepted by the Sentinel.

The Siege of Praetar is a story of suffering and pain and doing what needs to be done to survive, whether you are one in power or not. Do you just follow the rules and do as your told? Or do you break them to try to make it through these end times? These are moving stories that feature plenty of conflict and drama, though the key to remember is that this is the first volume; do not expect denouement and satisfying conclusions here, for this is a tough world and there is more story to tell. The Siege of Praetar gives a moving story into various aspects of this world, told by an author who doesn’t hold back on the gritty details, along with complex and interesting characters that the reader soon cares emotionally for. By the end, said reader will be wondering what will happen next.

Originally written on October 3, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the San Francisco Book Review.

To purchase a copy of Siege of Praetar from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Paris Protection” by Bryan Devore (Bryan Devore, 2015)

Paris Protection

The Secret Service is in some ways like the NSA, CIA or some other government lesser known acronym group: just about everyone knows who they are, but they don’t really know exactly how they operate or what they do. The Secret Service’s job is to protect the President of the United States 24/7, no matter what it takes. Their lives are always on the line for this one person. But what does this truly unique job entail?

The premise for The Paris Protection seems somewhat mundane and ordinary: a terrorist group has infiltrated the hotel where the United States President is staying and plans to assassinate her. They are fully confident in their success, while the Secret Service knows the job they have to do.

Abigail Clarke has done a lot of work – as a state prosecutor, US Senator, and governor of Virginia – and sacrificed much to become one of the most powerful and important people on the planet; many say the most important. President Clarke does not take her job lightly and has very little free time. She is now in Paris for a summit meeting as she hopes to bring the prickly subject of organized crime to the international stage and address it as a terrorist attack. For now, the day’s work is done and she is at her hotel carrying out various conference calls with important people back on US soil and around the world.

Maximillian Wolff, who once served on the Israeli Security Protection team when Yitzak Rabin was assassinated, has suffered much during his life and holds the United States accountable for its world domination, and with a huge and highly trained team of mercenaries, his plan is to remove the head of power and bring the US to its knees. His right hand man, Kazim Aslan, has spent his time as an insurgent soldier in Iraq who has lost loved ones because of the United States’ policies and wants their assassination plan to be just as successful. Maximillian also has a hero: Hannibal Barca who once brought Rome to its knees.

The Paris Protection is three-hundred-and-fifty-odd pages that is anything but ordinary and mundane. Devore skillfully takes the reader step by step through the attack, giving POVs from both sides and plenty of detail of tactics, weaponry, and skill. It is a gripping thriller at its best. Here and there, he provides some back story to his characters–again on both sides–that help the reader understand what is fueling their desire and drive. Maximillian goes into numerous contemplations of how Hannibal handled certain situations to help them in their current one, which is juxtaposed with Secret Service Agents contemplating their skill and training and what past agents have done in similar situations.

It is the ideal blend of action and story with plenty of well-researched details that keep the reader glued to the page. The story passes throughout the hotel with some impressive “battles,” eventually leading down deep into the haunting Paris catacombs that serves as a terrifying arena for a chase scene. The Paris Protection is one of those books where you don’t know who will make it out alive and how it’s really going to end; a perfect example of the thriller genre.

First published in Manhattan Book Review.

Originally written on October 27, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Paris Protection from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Author or The Character’s Short Living Story” by Facundo Raganato (Kindle, 2015)

The Author

They say that authors love controlling their characters and they love nothing more than to torture them and kill them off if necessary. But readers might not know that there is a cardinal rule with writing that all authors must adhere to: writers must remain true to their characters. For characters to be real people, they can only do certain things certain ways and some things they simply cannot do, for it is “not part of their character.”

Facundo Raganato’s The Author or The Characters’ Short Living Story is a fun literary adventure which has a lot of fun with the notion of what happens when an author creates six characters in his own setting and tries to control and guide them, but ultimately lets them act as the characters they are. The Author also shows up routinely in the story, interacting with the characters, perhaps guiding, perhaps changing their direction, no one really knows. However, all the characters and the Author know there is a Reader out there following the story along and giving the characters life.

The story begins with the Author setting the scene, like sculpting a piece of art, and on a meta level talking about writing and characterization. Then the reader is introduced to the six main characters, who have generic names like Kimberly and Leo and seem unimpressive at first. They are all together in a strange place but have no memory of who they really are – other than their names – and what lives they have come from. As the story progresses, they constantly discuss if they are actually real or just fictitious creations.

As they get to know what little they know about themselves, as well as getting a little info from the Author, they must begin their quest of sorts, working together and facing nonstop conflict and obstacles like a surrounding wall of mirrors or a sewer grate locked tight which they must somehow get open. But their ultimate challenge is when they must each go their separate ways, passing through doors bearing their names, not knowing where they will be taken and if they will ever see each other again.

The Author works on many levels, stimulating the mind about writing and characters working together, but also what it means to be uncertain where the next step will lead, especially when there is a trickster Author involved, and how sometimes working together may be the only way to survive. The few typos in the book do throw the reader out of the story as the writing has a unique style to it that is enjoyable to follow. Reading what little description there is about the book, would-be readers may have some preconceived notions about what to expect from the book, but they will be well surprised as it is a unique work that they have likely not come across before.

Originally written on October 12, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Author from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.