I don’t check my blog’s spam filter very often, so there was a lot of material in there when I peeked into the bin of gibbering nonsense the other day. Whoever said spam bots are utterly useless was not entirely correct– they’re occasionally good for a laugh.

An old post from February of last year, Tackling More Questionable Writing Advice, has been bizarrely and inexplicably popular with the bots. Over the last month they’ve left hundreds of comments on it. (If anyone has any idea why, I’d be happy to hear your theories. What’s the point of spamming a post that’s over a year old?)

Today I’m going to respond to some of the most hilarious, ridiculous, insulting and asinine comments, so that you too can have a laugh at spammers’ expense. (Content warning for blistering comebacks, random humor, and occasional profanity.) 

storm and rocks in the North Pacific

When the body of an influential visitor washes up on a remote Alaskan beach, Danny, Ava, and Cam find themselves in a storm of trouble. New to this series? Check out Part I here.

The surf roared against the narrow beach, and an icy rain pelted their faces as the trio stared at each other over the body of the dead visitor in the bright blue parka. Ava was the first to speak.

“I think he must be from out of state. They’re the only ones who wear parkas in August.”

“I recognize this guy,” Danny said. “I saw him getting off the plane that came in this morning. He’s one of the Resource Management guys who came to meet with the ‘Ammas. They were all bundled up like they expected a snow storm.”

“Good riddance,” Cam spat.

“This is bad,” Ava said, chewing her lip. “Think they’re looking for him yet?”

Continue reading “Between A Rock & A Storm Part II: A Clue”

Congratulations! You survived another week.

Your joy at finally reaching the point where you can get a full night’s sleep is tempered by the realization that the weeks are going by faster and faster, and you’re not getting anywhere. You’re just getting a little more tired and a little farther behind each time. It’s like Tetris: your reward for completing each level is to do it over, but faster and more challenging.

You succeeded at becoming your department’s auditor! How would you like to also teach company-wide classes on a subject of great legal importance to the company’s continued operation? You’ll need to jump from thinking like an auditor to thinking like an instructor. You’re also going to need to write your own curriculum, because it turns out that we don’t really have one. And yes, we expect you to accomplish all that while continuing to perform your current duties.

Wow, you did a really good job on those classes! The training department is highly impressed. How’d you like to do all of the above while training a revolving group of new hires?

Continue reading “Don’t Blink: A Flash Fiction”

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep cover

I finally got around to reading Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And although I had no idea what to expect going in, it was still nothing like what I expected.

Rick Deckard is a police bounty hunter, “retiring” escaped androids that pose a vague threat to Earth’s remaining human population. His world is dull and grey, full of despair and the detritus of human lives long gone. Nuclear war has made much of Earth uninhabitable, causing freak mutations and decimating animal populations. Most humans eligible to immigrate to off-world colonies have done so.

While this premise might sound dark, gritty, thrilling, and potentially action packed, –spoiler– this novel is not.

Continue reading “Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

Dredd 2012 - Judgement is Coming

For the purpose of disambiguation, this review is of Dredd (2012), starring Karl Urban as Judge Dredd and Olivia Thirlby as trainee Judge Anderson.

When Dredd and Anderson respond to a grisly triple homicide in the high rise mega slum of Peach Trees, they have no idea that they’re walking into the heart of a ruthless criminal’s base of operations. Ex-prostitute Ma-Ma (played excellently by Lena Headey) is the kingpin of a cartel that has risen to supremacy through a brutal combination of extreme violence and drug trafficking. The drug in question is Slo-Mo, a substance which slows the user’s perception of reality to 1% normal speed.

I’ll admit I didn’t have high expectations for this film. I’m not a huge fan of Karl Urban, and I had suspicions that Judge Anderson would be, as happens all too often to female action leads, little more than eye candy. The prominent place of Slo-Mo in the trailers gave me flashbacks to the heavy-handed drug propaganda of the 80s and 90s.

I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Dredd surprised the hell out of me. It was really good.

Continue reading “Review: Dredd”

Cover of Redemption of Sisyphus by Eric Michael Craig

In the thrilling conclusion to Eric Michael Craig’s solar system-spanning Shan Takhu Legacy series, the fearless crew of the ice-harvesting research vessel Jakob Waltz, the remnants of the Human Union, and the rebels of Fleet Cartel battle an AI bent on saving the human race from itself by any means necessary.

The AI Odysseus proves to be a Pandora’s box of nasty tricks, and it possesses nothing that could even remotely be called a conscience. Powered by a “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet” style of damage control –where the eggs are human lives– Odysseus works to extend its control to the edges of the solar system and eliminate anyone that could possibly be considered a threat to its power.

After all, it’s hard to protect humanity with all these pesky humans standing in its way.

Fortunately, in addition to the motley group of heroes and leaders we’ve come to know and love over the course of this series, there’s also a couple of pro-human AIs, a crew of upgraded humans, and a treasure-trove of mysterious alien technology on the heroes’ side.

Put all of these elements together, and the result is a grimly prophetic thrill ride peppered with seat-of-your-pants skirmishes and dark discoveries. Redemption of Sisyphus is a multi-fronted three-dimensional chess match against a malignant artificial intelligence able to infect almost any automated system, and capable of some deeply chilling meatspace tricks as well. The final installment of this series kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.

I don’t review more than the first book of a series very often, and that’s due to the fact that beyond book one it gets successively harder to write a decent review without revealing potential spoilers. Hopefully I’ve managed to walk that fine line between being too generic and revealing too much about the plot for new readers. Whether you love this review or hate it, let me know in the comments.

If it sounds like something you want to read, Redemption of Sisyphus is available in paperback, ebook, and Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. New to the series? Start with Legacy of Pandora, and check out my review here.

storm and rocks in the North Pacific

Steely grey swells rolled under leaden skies as Danny steered the skiff around the tip of Dog-Ear Point. He released the throttle and let the craft glide to a stop beside the faded plastic buoy that marked one of his family’s few remaining crab pots. Ava snagged the chain with her boat hook, and together she and Cam hoisted the pot into the skiff.

“Empty,” Cam spat. “Munchers even took the bait.”

“We’ll reset it after the storm passes.” Danny chose not to comment on the fact that it was their tenth and final empty pot of the day. If they didn’t get lucky in the tide pools, none of them would be having dinner.

Continue reading “Between A Rock & A Storm”

Blood & Bluegrass

Author’s note: Blood and Bluegrass takes place immediately after the events of The Moon Buck. If you haven’t already, take a moment to give the previous story a read!

The tracks were the same.

Annabelle stared at the impressions in the muddy leaf mold, ears ringing from a sudden surge of adrenaline.

The story was there, trampled by the searchers that found her sweetheart’s body, the coroner, sheriff, and crime scene investigators.

Jeremiah’s tracks picked their way through the brush from the road. He’d staggered mid-step and fallen to his knees, his boots cutting gouges in the dirt. A larger set of tracks followed his, superimposed over his prints in a few places but the same age. The tread on the second set of boots was chunky, size fourteen, and brand new. Their owner was standing right behind her, calling her name.

A little while back someone asked me why I post artwork of dead astronauts. (For the purposes of disambiguation, I’m talking about artwork like this, this, and this.)

There’s something both chilling and deeply saddening about these images. I don’t post that much art that involves zombies or dead bodies– zombies and gore for the sake of gore fail to make me feel much of anything. Dead astronauts and cosmonauts are a different story.

Continue reading “Spaceflight & The Death of Heroes”

Cover of Fulcrum of Odysseus by Eric Michael Craig

The discoveries made by the crew of the Jakob Waltz in the cold darkness of the outer solar system have set off a catastrophic chain of events, fatally destabilizing the fragile balance of power among the factions of the Human Union. Worse, they’ve inadvertently activated a doomsday failsafe created to protect humanity in the event of contact with an extrasolar entity.

Former FleetCartel Chancellor Katryna Roja and her allies are on the run, the crew of the Waltz is struggling to make the best of an increasingly ugly situation, and it’s beginning to look like humanity will be far worse off under the control of the omnipotent and all-encompassing AI known as Odysseus than they were under the Human Union. More calculating than the greatest chess master, able to infiltrate and manipulate virtually any system, Odysseus swiftly proves itself to be a cold, calculating, and ultimately ominous entity.

The artefact encountered by the intrepid crew of the Jakob Waltz isn’t without its own mysteries and perils either. Just as Odysseus at first seemed benignly helpful, the Tacra Un proves to be at times disturbingly unconcerned with the well-being and ongoing survival of its unwilling inhabitants.

If you enjoyed the hard science, intrigue, and interstellar action of Star Trek and felt that Skynet wasn’t far-reaching or threatening enough, then Fulcrum of Odysseus is definitely for you! It’s a riveting read and I greatly enjoyed it. Honorable mentions are also in order for the slang spoken by the residents of Tsiolkovskiy Freeport East (very nicely done!) and the introduction of genetically modified and upgraded humans. This is one of those rare series where the second book is even better than the first.

Sound interesting? Fulcrum of Odysseus is available in paperback, ebook, and Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. New to the series? Start with Legacy of Pandora, and check out my review here.