Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Interlude in Death" by J.D. Robb (a novella pub. 2006)

In early spring of 2059, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is called off planet to face a grueling ordeal - giving a seminar at the largest police conference of the year, to be held in a swanky resort. A resort which just happens to be owned by her husband, Roarke, of course. As usual Lt. Dallas is never a cop and during this seminar she has a huge case to break. Only this case once again deals with Roarke's dark past and may tarnish the reputation of a veteran cop that is a living legend and has an untarnished history.

The nice thing is that on this resort as part of the conference the crack NYPSD staff has been sent along with Eve. She is accompanied by her aide, Officer Peabody, Electronics Division Chief Feeney, & Police Psychologist Dr. Mira. Eve is confronted by the living legend and his bodyguards (bodyguards at a police conference?). The legend asks Eve to help him to finally bring down Roarke. This of course only angers Eve and as she gets up to leave one of the bodyguards grabs her, she then proceeds to break his nose and maybe his arm. That bodyguard is later found dead.

The legend, Commander Skinner, it seems has a past with Roarke, actually with Roarke's father. Roarke's father was a weasel that double crossed Skinner and the double-cross resulted in the death of police officers under his command. Now it seems as though Skinner wants Roarke to pay for his father's deeds.

But things are not always what they seem in these science-fiction cop thrillers by J.D. Robb, and it is up to Lt. Eve Dallas to solve the crime and to protect Roark (who really doesn't need protecting) and the reputation of Commander Skinner.

Once again J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) will keep you up all night solving this crime.

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:01 PM Comments: 0

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Vengeance in Death" by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts)(pub. 1997)

Just when Lt. Eve Dallas is done for the day, she and her aide, Officer Peabody, are preparing to go home to spend some well deserved down time. But crime doesn't rest and when Lt. Dallas gets a personal call on her comm-link a murderer has tagged her to be the primary on the murders he's about to perform. The murderer gives Eve a puzzle to solve but, by the time she solves it and arrives on the scene the victim is already dead.

Soon Eve gets another communication, another puzzle and another victim. In a series of murders that has Lt. Eve Dallas chasing after her number one suspect, Summerset, her husband Roarke's major domo and best friend. Also it would probably make Eve so very happy to arrest Summerset, after all they hate each other, but she knows he didn't do the crime and is being set up.

The crimes seem to start to dig in Roarke's dark criminal past. All are people Roarke once used or friends that helped him to find the murderer's of Summerset's daughter over a dozen years in the past in the year 2043. The chase is on and the clock is ticking. Not only does Eve have to catch the murderer before any more murders occur, she also needs to catch him before Roarke does, knowing what he is capable of when his friends or family are threatened.

This book takes us a bit deeper into the dark history and mystery that is Roarke. The reader of this series of books by J.D. Robb is rewarded in this installment by finding more about the relationship between Roarke and Summerset and their dark pasts. A fun aspect of the book is that in learning of Roarke's past, Roarke and Eve go to Ireland. On the Emerald Isle Eve finds the beauty in the land but also finds why a dark past is possible. Roarke visits the site where his father was killed and seems to get a little more closure.

Once again J.D. Robba (Nora Roberts) has created another fun sci-fi murder thriller. If you haven't read any of the books in this series give them a try, it really doesn't matter which book you start with, the great writing, characterization and great dialogue makes these books fun to read and easy to get lost in.

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:25 PM Comments: 0

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"The Atlantis Prophecy" by Thomas Greanias (pub. 2008)

With Indiana Jones hitting the theaters soon, and the prior success of both the "National Treasure" movies and "The DaVinci Code" book & movie, it seems as though treasure hunting, conspiracy fighting action stories are here to stay. Thomas Greanias has been in the this genre since the release of his 2004 novel "Raising Atlantis." His latest book "The Atlantis Prophecy," continues where "Raising Atlantis" left off and leads into exciting action, mysteries in the form of puzzles to solve and a great conspiracy covered up by the U.S. Government, the Freemasons, the Vatican and "The Alignment."

Astro-Archaeologist, Conrad Yeats is attending his father's funeral. (His father, General Yeats, former head of DARPA, was killed it Atlantis, or rather, Antarctica.) At the end of the funeral the headstone General Yeats had commissioned is revealed to Conrad. The headstone is an obelisk similar to the Washington Monument, but with mysterious markings and numbers carved strategically on the stone. The new head of DARPA, a former genetic engineer, wants to know what Conrad thinks the strange markings mean. The Government knows that they are a clue to finding something, but what?

Conrad at first doesn't know, what they could mean but soon discovers a conspiracy that has been covered over the years. A conspiracy that could mean the end of the United States of America and the world. The story starts with George Washington signing a mysterious treaty for America, and a secret he took to his deathbed. The clues are found in a famous painting of George Washington and his family and the original L'Enfant map of what would be the nation's capitol.

The Vatican sends Sister Serena Serghetti to help Conrad find the major missing piece, a celestial globe which was used to align the major monuments of Washington D.C. with constellations. But Sister Serghetti is not supposed to allow Conrad to open the globe, the secrets inside are to be brought back to the Vatican. With the history betweend the sister and Conrad this becomes hard for her to pick a side.

The book is a great romp through some of America's history and some great treasure hunting, with clues that can be found by the reader and viewed in actuality. I was constantly looking at the items mentioned in the book on the internet and felt as though I were hunting for clues with Yeats. Especially the painting of George Washington and Family by the artist Edward Savage, some great fun clues there.

Not only was this a great action thrillride but the book ended with a huge clue that points to what will be the 3rd book in what seems to be a trilogy, "The Atlantis Revelation."

You can check out the trailer for the book in the video below:

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posted by Gil T. @ 7:50 PM Comments: 0

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Cold Fire" by Dean Koontz (published 1991)

Jim Ironheart gets mysterious messages, telepathically, to go and save someone from sure death, usually children. Jim doesn't know where this power to know the future comes from and just assumes it is God working through him saving people that could die. Jim just gets the message "lifeline," and is off all he needs to know comes to him as needed and usually at the last minute.

When Jim saves a boy from being run over by a drunk drive outside a school in portland, reporter, Holly Thorn, wonders how Jim knew which kid to save. Holly sees a story in this. She soon discovers that Jim has saved several people all over the nation from impending doom. After approaching Jim on one such mission in which he is to save a mother and her daughter, Holly asks why not save all the passengers. Jim only receives enough information to save these two. Holly presses for Jim to take MORE action and he ends up saving most of the passengers by telling the flight crew what will happen and how to reduce the death toll in the crash. On the ground in the rubble of the plane, Holly then rescues a 5 year old boy and something changes in her. She no longer sees the world in the view of a reporter. She now wants to help Jim to save the world.

In order to join forces with Jim Ironheart there are some issues which need to be addressed. Such as Jim's dark past and the mysterious source of his life-saving messages. Holly and Jim find themselves exploring Jim's past in the town he grew up living with his grandparents. His parents died tragically when Jim was only 9. The source of the power seems to come from the bottom of a pond beside an old windmill on Jims boyhood farm. Or is this really the source.

It what turns out to be a great exploration of the supernatural to discover Jim's powers, Holly may have inadvertently put both their lives in jeopardy. The excitement, chills and thrills are just beginning when the "alien" in the pond begins to reveal itself.

As typical with Koontz' work this book has great characters discovering themselves. At the same time another great Koontz skill is his beautiful use of language. This book is even furthered with several quotes from Edgar Allen Poe and Koontz weaving those into the story.

Yes, this is another classic Dean Koontz novel that deserves to be re-discovered.

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:41 PM Comments: 0

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Isaac Asimov's Robot City Book 3 "Cyborg" by William F. Wu

In science fiction, the Three Laws of Robotics are a set of three rules written by Isaac Asimov, which almost all positronic robots (designated by their Asimov created positronic brains) appearing in his fiction must obey. Introduced in his 1942 short story "Runaround", although foreshadowed in a few earlier stories, the Laws state the following:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Isaac Asimov created these laws as more or less a challenge to himself for writing his novels. Later, Asimov added the Zeroth Law: "A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm;" the rest of the laws are modified sequentially to acknowledge this. He created murder mysteries in space using the 3 laws and the Detective Elijah Bailey. Bailey would receive help from R. Daneel Olivaw, a human appearing robot. Many science fiction writers have used the ideas of Asimov's robots, but no other author could directly state 3 three laws. Many sci-fi writers used the ideas of the laws but never stated them as Asimov did. Even the positronic brain was copied in the series "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Commander Data had a positronic brain. Asimov was honored to have many sci-fi writers copy the ideas but the laws were his and he did not allow this. Not until the Robot City series of books. This series of 6 books was a challenge to 4 different Sci-Fi writers to write stories based solely on the laws and Asimov's universe.

Isaac Asimov's Robot City is a series of novels written by various authors and loosely connected to Isaac Asimov's Robot Series. It takes place between The Robots of Dawn and Robots and Empire. The novels were written in response to a writing challenge issued by Asimov to write a series involving the Three Laws of Robotics, which brought about a collaboration of several talented authors.

The books in this series are:

  1. Odyssey by Michael P. Kube-McDowell (1987)

  2. Suspicion by Mike McQuay (1987)

  3. Cyborg by William F. Wu (1987)

  4. Prodigy by Arthur Byron Cover (1988)

  5. Refuge by Rob Chilson (1988)

  6. Perihelion by William F. Wu (1988)

So the experiment continues, I have just completed reading book 3 in the series "Cyborg" by William F. Wu, and while it was a good continuation of the series, at times it seemed very juvenile. It's as though the writer were writing for teenagers rather than for a middle age guy like me. The dialog at times did seem stunted and not very in depth. At times in the book I looked as though it did help move the story along but also at times it seemed awkward.

The reason that it may have helped move the story is that in this entry into the "Robot City" series we are introduced to a new character: Jeff Leong, an 18 year old off to college. Jeff's ship crashes on the planet "Robot City" and in order to save his life (1st law) the robots transplant his brain into a robot body while putting his body into cryostasis (frozen) until they can repair it. This creates the reason for the book's title "Cyborg," a cybernetic organism, human and robot. At the beginning of the book is a very interesting essay on the concept of cyborgs by Isaac Asimov, which prepares you for the ideals sought in this story.

In this episod Derec and Katherine have stopped the planet's "self-destruction" by solving a murder (see book 2) and are trying to find a way off the planet. Their only known way off is to get their hands on the Key to Perihelion, which is what brought them to this strange planet in the first place. They have discovered that the Key has been destroyed but the robots destroyed it to manufacture duplicate copies But why? On top of trying to capture the runaway cyborg, Jeff, they have this mystery to solve. Using only the 3 laws Derec & Katherine capture Jeff.

Also during this book we find that Katherine's real name is Ariel, she's got some terminal illness and is a runaway from the planet Aurora. So now Derec, who still doesn't have his memory back, has to help Arial.

The two are reunited with Alpha and Wolruf. Alpha a robot Derec built to help him escape some unfriendly aliens and Wolruf an alien dog like being that also helped Derec escape.

Almost soap opera like, and in spite of the "juvenile" writing in this one, i'm off to read book 4 "Prodigy"

Post Script:

The author of this book, William F. Wu wrote to me and cleared up the "juvenile" aspect:

Hi, Mr. Wilson,

I just happened across your observations about the Robot City series, including the first one I wrote, No. 3. You noted, correctly, that it seemed to be written for young people.

I realize you posted those comments more than a year ago, but anyway, I thought I'd give you some more information.

Contractually, the book was a juvenile, or "Young Adult," in current publishing parlance. All of the writers in the series were initially told that it would a Young Adult series, and labeled so. Later, the publisher decided not to label the series Young Adult, but just as Science Fiction. By this time, all the books had been written and edited. A related problem was that we all -- all of the writers in the series knew each other, at least a little bit -- had a different idea of what Young Adult meant. In any case, our contracts had a long list of forbidden subjects and terminology. The targeted marketing group in the contract was twelve-year-old boys.

In reading them myself, I saw that we definitely responded to the Young Adult concept in different ways, and I think most of us came to feel the uneven nature of the series was not a good thing. I think the first, by Michael P. Kube-McDowell, probably had the least amount of Young Adult feel, but that's just my opinion.

In any case, I thought I'd offer this information to you. Feel free to post or ignore any of this, as you wish.

Wishing you the best,


(William F. Wu)

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:10 PM Comments: 0