Tag Archive | Resource Scarcity

Why You Were Taken by JT Lawrence

Why You Were TakenSource: Copy from author.
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Johannesburg 2021: Kirsten is a roaming, restless synaesthete: a photographer with bad habits and a fertility problem. A strange, muttering woman with dog hair on her jersey approaches Kirsten with a warning, and is found dead shortly afterwards. The warning leads her to the Doomsday Vault and a hit list of seven people – and Kirsten’s barcode is on it.

How to review this book has given me much pause for thought. I’ll be honest up front: there were things I liked very much about it, but there were equally some things that hampered my enjoyment of the story.

What I liked: This is a BIG story. And I mean it. Fascinating ideas, an intriguing premise, and some very relevant topics are discussed. Topics that are relevant to both the world as a whole and to South Africans (where this book is based) in particular. Racism, world (over-)population, scarcity of resources, amongst others. Survivors of abuse might need to brace themselves a bit, though, especially towards the end of the book.

This book doesn’t deal with ordinary people. One of the things one has to get a handle on is the fact that Kirsten is a synaesthete. This means that she sees flavours, numbers and other sensory items as colours. The frequent (not THAT frequent) references to (apparently) random colour names, both recognisable and exotic, can throw one out of the flow of this book. Once I realised what a synaesthete actually was, then the references made sense and became part of the sensory input for the book.

I did struggle to get into the book. This is partly due to the book being set on Earth. I seem to have issues getting into high-tech futuristic books: I found I had the same issue with Neuromancer. One has to get a handle on the new terminology and technologies that are in use. As these are relatively frequently referred to, one soon catches on, but it does take a bit of time to figure out – one’s constantly trying to find similarities to known tech. That said, the society is coherent and well thought-out, so while we as readers need to get used to it all as novices, there aren’t many questions in the characters’ minds as to what they’re referring to and doing.

What I struggled with: The ending fell a bit flat for me. I’m not entirely sure why, but the middle section of the book drew me in the most. I began to care for the two primary characters (Kirsten and Seth) and root for them to survive. But around the time Kirsten and Seth were brought in, I got thrown out of the story again and never really got back in. It became too easy to skim paragraphs and just keep a handle on the sense of what was happening.

Probably my biggest issue was with the mish-mash use of tenses throughout the story. I honestly didn’t know if I was reading past, present or future. This certainly gave a sense of disorientation – which may or may not have been deliberate on the part of the author, given that Kirsten isn’t exactly a “whole” person for the majority of the text.

Conclusion: Overall, while I am aware I’ve brought up quite a few issues I had while reading the book, I honestly thoroughly enjoyed the story itself and the situations the characters found themselves in. The ending was bittersweet for me, and in some ways I wish some things had ended differently. But I guess one cannot have everything the way one wants it, right? That’s life, after all.

This is a larger-than-life book that could go far in the scifi world, but I do think a thorough edit to remove the niggles would be required to make it stand out as the diamond it should be. It is because of my being thrown out at the end of the story that it gets four stars from me.

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ORBS II: Stranded by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Source: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Dr. Sophie Winston and her team of survivors fend off the alien invasion in Orbs II: Stranded, the second book in Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s bestselling Orbs series.

At the end of the world, who can you trust?

The aliens have invaded, wiping out almost all life on earth. Their goal: water. Huge spaceships are draining the oceans, and the few remaining humans have been herded into farms, where their bodies are harvested to support the growing alien army.

Humanity’s last chance lies in the biospheres that have been planted secretly across the globe. But all is not peaceful in the biosphere led by Dr. Sophie Winston. With resources dwindling and tensions high, her small group of survivors is divided. Some want to fight, some want to stay hidden, and Sophie just wants to keep everyone alive.

When one of their own, eleven-year-old Jeff, is kidnapped by the Organics, Sophie is forced to pick sides. With the help of a promising new magnetic weapon, the biosphere team just might have a fighting chance to save Jeff and the world—if they live long enough to use it.

This sequel to ORBS opens with Alex Wagner, a new character in the series. He is a survivor from one of the other Biospheres, near Edwards Air Force Base, California, and he is searching for water while trying to hide from the Organics.  It is later revealed that the Cheyenne Mountain Biosphere team, led by Sophie, are aware of his existence, as he contacted them previously.

Things at the Cheyenne Mountain Biosphere are not going well, however. Through a probe they sent out, they discover the existence of human farms – survivors of the apocalypse (the arrival of the Organics) are being herded to (specifically) a lake bed and strung up on poles in a manner similar to the formation of the blue orbs, but different. This discovery creates tensions in the team; Overton, a marine, wants to go and search the lake bed to find out if any of his men survived, while Sophie would rather keep everyone inside the Biosphere, safe. Angry, Overton leaves the Biosphere for a smoke, and Jeff follows him out and is captured by a drone as they move to go back inside.

This novel is an excellent follow-up to the first in the series, ORBS. Smith clearly depicts the tensions among the survivors, as well as their inner struggles to stay focussed. The introduction of Alex Wagner into the story opens up a new avenue of information to the reader, widening the vision of events considerably. I think one of my biggest questions relating to this is “what about that encrypted radio link”? An excellent tension-builder.

In this book we also find out a lot more about the Organics and, in particular, that Dr. Hoffman – the founder and architect of all NTC’s operations – knows much more about them than is initially understood.

Smith’s writing is once again an excellent vehicle for the images he conveys, enabling the reader to easily slip into the scenes, experiencing events along with the characters. He has definitely found his stride in story telling, and it shows. A definite page-turner for me.

I should note that this story does have horror elements, so is not always an easy read.

 

ORBS by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

ORBSSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

They have come for our most important resource…

The year is 2061, and the planet is dying. Cataclysmic solar storms have forced leaders from around the world to finally put aside their differences and agree on one thing—to jump ship. The human race is headed to Mars.

Dr. Sophie Winston is hired by New Tech Corporation to test a biosphere deep within the heart of Cheyenne Mountain; a mission she believes will help prepare NTC for the three-year flight to the red planet. But, just days into the assignment, things start to go wrong. When the blast doors hiss open, Winton’s team finds a changed world outside. Humans are gone, vanished without a trace, and they aren’t the only thing missing. The planet’s water is gone, too.

As the team explores their surroundings, they find thousands of luminous blue orbs lining the streets. It isn’t until they uncover what’s inside that they realize the nightmare that lies ahead.

Doctors Sophie Winston and Emanuel Rodriguez have been assigned to a small team (five people) testing out a Biodome for the NTC. The draw card: if they survive the full six months, then they will be on the first ship out to Mars, since the world leaders have decided to evacuate planet Earth before humanity completely destroys it. Their task is to live within the dome for six months, preferably with no contact between them and the outside world.

Within two days of the task commencing, however, the playing field changes and the team find themselves fighting for their lives. They spend much of the rest of the book trying to understand what has happened and why. From water-sucking alien insects to corporations developing survival technologies, Nick leads us on a thrill- and horror-ride like few others I’ve come across.

A few months ago I reviewed The Biomass Revolution. While that story was good, it had quite a few loose ends – mostly due to the omniscient view utilised in telling the story – and at times was a difficult story to follow. ORBS is a complete contrast. It is a privilege to watch Nick develop as a writer. And somewhere between TBR and ORBS, he has honed his writing skill considerably. There are very few rough edges in ORBS. There are some loose ends here, but they are perfectly acceptable provided there’s a sequel – else I’ll be quizzing Nick for the answers!

Nick’s world-building is very good. I have absolutely no problems envisioning the scenes and environs of the characters. Nick doesn’t describe the characters in very much detail, which suits me perfectly; the reader needs some leeway to create their own image of the people they are getting to know. The plot of the story is also excellent, as are each of the subplots. A very well-woven tapestry… with a couple of loose threads to entice us with.

Sophie as the main character is well rounded and multifaceted. Initially her career drive felt a little off-key, as though she was a cardboard figure with no other goals, but this perspective begins to change when things fall apart around her. She is an instinctive leader, and her initiative in taking action is a major factor through the book.

In some stories I come across, there is a character I’d like to slap. In this book, Timothy fits those shoes. A computer nerd and member of Sophie’s team , he totally freaks out when the nasties arrive. Um. He was already freaking out well before that. That said, he has a clever streak in him that comes in useful from time to time.

I was going to say that one doesn’t really see the characters develop through the book. But that would be completely inaccurate. Though there are no major changes, each of the characters does develop subtly. Considering the circumstances, I’m actually surprised that a few more of them didn’t freak out. A very unique group of individuals indeed. Perhaps that’s why they were assigned the task they received…

The only real criticism I have of Nick’s work is that he has yet to pull me, as the reader, into the story. Don’t get me wrong. Everything is there, the tension, the horror, the thrill-ride… but as yet I have not felt any visceral reaction to what the characters are experiencing; I still feel like more an observer than a participant in the events taking place.

This book’s a page turner. I was gripped, managing to read it within a couple of days which is impressive considering its length (I don’t get much time for reading). It is not an ‘enjoyable’ read, but it is an excellent story and one I can highly recommend to people who love scifi and are not squeemish.

Be warned: this book does not end in a happy place. That said, there are aspects to the ending that are more positive and hopeful than other sections of the book would lead one to believe is possible.