Daybreak over the Valley

First chapter from the novel

No Absolution

“The cat,” says a familiar voice.
What cat?
In the darkness, you are flying. You feel motion, yet you’re are sitting at a table, opposite a dirty, unshaven guy pointing a burning cigarette at you.
I know this person.
When an angry Bruce Harvey says, “Where’s my cat, fucker?” you conclude it’s a dream. The has-been movie star is interrogating you in a grimy, run-down room surrounded by four cracked, windowless walls, but the only question running through your head is…
Why this actor?
Harvey karate chops you across the back of your neck. It’s not the pain that wakes you, it’s the warm light bleeding in through your eyelids. The nightmare fades, fizzling away, back into your brain’s nether regions, dying alongside discarded aspirations and forgotten memories. Drool runs down the side of your mouth, but you are unable to move. Your face feels numb, due to your cheek pressed against the cold glass. The tinnitus in your ears stops, replaced by the hum of ute’s engine, the friction between tyre, road and air, enters your awareness. You open your eyes, just wide enough to squint, focusing on the golden countryside sweeping past outside.
For a moment, reality is a blur.
You attempt to shift your head and are relieved it moves with little pain. Your arm is cramped, and your neck feels broken, but you know this is temporary. The breaking dawn illuminates the narrow, unmarked road, winding around a chain of hills. A clump of trees obscures the misty valley beyond, sending intermittent shafts of copper light to warm your face. Once the trees go by, you marvel at the spectacle, at the amber clouds cruising along the horizon, at the auburn fields, smothered with whispers of mist, rolling up and down between chestnut coloured forests.

Continue reading “Daybreak over the Valley”

The Robocaust

I once bought a novel, Robopocalypse (2011) by Daniel H. Wilson, at an airport bookstore for a fast, time-killing read and while I wasn’t totally disappointed with it, it left me once again tackling the question about this robocalypse that everyone is fearful about.

As for the book itself…

It’s about robots taking over the world.

The narrative unfolds via the use of archives of electronic media recordings chronicling the fall of human civilization at the hands of this belligerent AI named, Archos R-14. Each chapter is or tries to be inventive in finding a unique point of view, ie surveillance cameras, blogs written by characters, making the book perfect for killing time on long flights, vacation interludes, stopovers. This format, linked short stories from different perspectives, allow the reader to pick up the novel at any time without losing too much of the flow. It’s a mindless activity facilitated by minimal creativeness or inspiration within the pages.

Related image

The chief nemesis was a major letdown. Archos felt bland, a cliche of all the other cliches before it. When one is familiar with other maligned A.I’s like Proteus (Demon Seed by ‎Dean Koontz) and Bomb #20 (Dark Star by John Carpenter) and the “the Zookeeper” from (Ghostwritten by ‎David Mitchell), yeah and of course HAL, and how can I forget the robots and AI’s that populated the (Fred Saberhagen’s Berzerker series), one can’t help but feel that a big opportunity was lost here. I found Archos predictable and boring and somewhat unthreatening. Which is sad, because the rest of the writing here was otherwise fun and enjoyable, and the premise even more so.

Image result for Bomb #20 (Dark Star
Bomb 20 – Dark Star (1974)

Same with all the robots. Sure they were all kinda spooky and frightening acting as representations of Archos but none had their own personality. Robots should have personality; even the dodgy B1 battle droids from The Phantom Menace possessed some personality. Another missed opportunity. As for the human character’s; the testimonies and transcripts felt a little unnatural.

Still, a good airport novel, and even though it was the only scifi book in the airport newsstand it was worth the buy.


Four Steps from Robogeddon

So an artificial intelligence wants to wipe out human civilisation. I believe this is highly unlikely that such an entity would go down this path, but let’s just say Archos did decide to do it. The book describes, in great detail, how it would instigate and execute such an eradication program. But before we even get to that stage, what technological environment would Archos R-14 require to be able to embark on such an operation

https://kandiliotis.com/2015/02/28/artificial-sentience/

For any robocaust to occur, the following parameters must be met before some ‘sentient’ artificial intelligence can instigate the rise of machines.

Self-Programming

An artificial intelligence must be able to modify or reprogram itself, and keep this ability and subsequent modifications secret or hidden from human engineers.

Proliferation & Dependence

The communication and operating system within the global infrastructure must be unified. Every chipset must run on the same platform that the artificial intelligence can access. Every single human network must depend on this universal platform.

Backdoor Mesh

The artificial intelligence must be able to create backdoor access into every human system, integrate it into its own communications mesh, and be able to conceal this from humanity.

Design and Production

The artificial intelligence must have overwhelming control over design and production. It must create generations of machines with hidden capacities and dupe humans into using them and the new systems they operate in.


It will be our laziness that will ultimately allow such a malevolent cyber-entity to get away with such an operation. Our desire to automate everything and future economic model will push us towards such a scenario.

We won’t only be handing over physical labour to these things, but also our creativity. Algorithms will be able to design and create independently. They will be designing new (but bland) architecture, products; they will also be able to write books :(.

In the begining, we will be specifying to these artificial creatives what we need and want.

But in the end, with algorithms already telling us what news, food, travel or content we want, constantly telling us ‘you might like this… ‘ and getting it right, then all human labour will vanish into history, forcing our political/economic paradigm to evolved to accommodate this new state of humanity.

Under these conditions, Archos R-14 can achieve its goals. Or at least cause a major extinction-level headache.

Yellowcop is Everywhere.

It can see and hear everything. It can track where you are in the physical world and what you do in the virtual one. This panoptic surveillance network is legal and built into in every electronic device, gadget or machine that comes off the factory floor, from robot trashcans to autonomous smartcars.

Anonymity is officially dead, that is until the advent of the DENDROS, a quasi-sentient computer algorithm that hacks into all machines spanning the Global Internet of Things.

Peer-to-peer, un-hackable, untraceable and totally cryptonymous, humanity can go back to indulging in its dark side — incognito and free.


Characters

Heidi Matthews is a Missing Persons Unit detective, re-assigned to the Sheepdog Unit, a team of law enforcers dedicated to bringing down the snuff industry. All she needs to do is put aside her animosity towards its unscrupulous leader and help the Sheepdogs put an end to the pandemic of violence.

Luke Pearson is a snuff aficionado who is always one step ahead of the law. Always a suspect but never an accused, his luck may be just about to run out.

Eddie, John and Francoise have broken out of the Psychomax. To stay free all they have to do is keep doing what they do best, and the underground snuff market pays more that anything in the world.

Mark Forrester’s day turns sour when he comes across a stolen pango, a personal area network device that runs all the technology crammed into everyday life. Within the pango, he uncovers evidence of a horrific, insidious crime perpetrated by a sinister snuff group known as the Blood Ring.

But Mark cannot go to the police, for he suspects that the Yellow Monster, which feeds daily on human villainy, may not be interested in justice at all.

Enter The Dendro

The Bad Samaritan

The Bad Samaritan now stalking Unbound

A while ago, after finishing my novel A Hostile Takeover, I took on adapting my screenplay ‘The Bad Samaritan’ into my next book project. It turned out to be an ordeal, with convoluted plots ending up driving me insane, but in the end I had myself a completed draft.

Continue reading “The Bad Samaritan now stalking Unbound”

PKD


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The Man in the High Castle book cover

The early eighties were remarkable, to me anyhow. Not only did my fascination with science fiction grind into high gear, but there was an explosion of new and modern genre films that hit the scene at around that time, many having been influenced by film makers from a bygone era, and more importantly, by novels penned by hardcore science fiction authors just decade earlier.

So, there I was, in the school library, looking for a book that was adapted into a movie I had just seen. Instead of finding the weirdly titled ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, I ended up with a paperback with an even less appealing name. ‘The Man in the High Castle’. The one with the Max Ernst’s ‘The Petrified Forest” cover.

I didn’t even know alternate reality books existed, yet the way the author dealt with the characters as they inhabited a post world war society where the axis powers reigned supreme, prove to me this was a writer worth investing in.

With his little background details, such as as American workers having poorer eye sight than their Germanic overlords, or the grand suggestion that our world could be as fake as the one presented on the novel, Dick basically striped away the veneer that masked my view of reality. That is his amazing talent. After setting off on a mission to read all his books and short stories, It didn’t surprise me, that decades later, this author’s work would become one of the biggest properties for film and TV adaptation.

The Good.

The Man in the High Castle  Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 60min | TV Series (2015–2019) 8.1
Writer: Frank SpotnitzStars: Alexa Davalos, Luke Kleintank, Rufus SewellSummary: What would it be like if the Allied Powers had lost WWII, and Japan and Germany ruled the United States? Written by Amazon Studios

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Apart from a few superficial changed, such as the book swapped for a film, this television series, Season 1 anyway, is spot on. Highly recommend.


Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Action, Drama, Mystery | 164min | 6 October 2017 (Bulgaria) 8.0
Director: Denis VilleneuveWriter: Hampton Fancher, Michael GreenStars: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de ArmasSummary: Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. Written by Warner Bros. Pictures

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Both films are as important to watch for any true sci-fi aficionado. Rare that a sequel does justice to the original.

Blade Runner (1982) Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 117min | 25 June 1982 (USA) 8.1
Director: Ridley ScottWriter: Hampton Fancher, David Webb PeoplesStars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean YoungSummary: In the 21st century, a corporation develops human clones to be used as slaves in colonies outside the Earth, identified as replicants. In 2019, a former police officer is hired to hunt down a fugitive group of clones living undercover in Los Angeles. Written by MadMovieManiac

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Minority Report (2002) Action, Crime, Mystery | 145min | 21 June 2002 (USA) 7.6
Director: Steven SpielbergWriter: Philip K. Dick, Scott FrankStars: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha MortonSummary: In the year 2054 A.D. crime is virtually eliminated from Washington D.C. thanks to an elite law enforcing squad "Precrime". They use three gifted humans (called "Pre-Cogs") with special powers to see into the future and predict crimes beforehand. John Anderton heads Precrime and believes the system's flawlessness steadfastly. However one day the Pre-Cogs predict that Anderton will commit a murder himself in the next 36 hours. Worse, Anderton doesn't even know the victim. He decides to get to the mystery's core by finding out the 'minority report' which means the prediction of the female Pre-Cog Agatha that "might" tell a different story and prove Anderton innocent. Written by Soumitra

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Again, with a talented director such as Spielberg, this a true PKD experience.


A Scanner Darkly (2006) Animation, Crime, Drama | 100min | 28 July 2006 (USA) 7.1
Director: Richard LinklaterWriter: Philip K. Dick, Richard LinklaterStars: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr.Summary: In a totalitarian society in a near future, the undercover detective Bob Arctor is working with a small time group of drug users trying to reach the big distributors of a brain-damaging drug called Substance D. His assignment is promoted by the recovery center New Path Corporation, and when Bob begins to lose his own identity and have schizophrenic behavior, he is submitted to tests to check his mental conditions. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Great visuals, great cast, and a commitment to the story that’s ingenious and refreshing.


Total Recall (1990) Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 113min | 1 June 1990 (USA) 7.5
Director: Paul VerhoevenWriter: Philip K. Dick, Ronald ShusettStars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael IronsideSummary: Douglas Quaid is haunted by a recurring dream about a journey to Mars. He hopes to find out more about this dream and buys a holiday at Rekall Inc. where they sell implanted memories. But something goes wrong with the memory implantation and he remembers being a secret agent fighting against the evil Mars administrator Cohaagen. Now the story really begins and it's a rollercoaster ride until the massive end of the movie. Written by Harald Mayr <marvin@bike.augusta.de>

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Standard eighties fare, can’t go wrong.


The Not So Bad.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011) Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 106min | 4 March 2011 (Bulgaria) 7.0
Director: George NolfiWriter: George Nolfi, Philip K. DickStars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Lisa ThoresonSummary: Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? A man glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York the only woman he's ever loved. On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), a woman like none he's ever known. But just as he realizes he's falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself, the men of The Adjustment Bureau, who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path... or risk everything to defy Fate and be with her. Written by Universal Pictures

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The film looks exactly as I visualised it when I first read the short story. For fans, it’s worth sitting through this romantic caper.


Paycheck (2003) Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi | 119min | 25 December 2003 (USA) 6.3
Director: John WooWriter: Philip K. Dick, Dean GeorgarisStars: Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma ThurmanSummary: Michael Jennings is a reverse engineer and what he does is technical jobs for certain companies and as soon as he is done, his memory of the work he has done is wiped out. Now the longest he has been contracted is 2 months. But now billionaire, James Rethrick offers him a job that would last 2 years, maybe 3, and he promises that he will probably earn 8 figures. Michael agrees. Before beginning he turns in all of his personal effects. And when the job is done, his memory is erased and he learns he made over 90 million dollars over the three years. When he goes to claim it and his personal effects, he discovers that prior to the erasure of his memory he waived his rights to the money he earned and that the items that were given to him were not the ones he gave when he began. Later he is arrested by the FBI who say that he committed some act of treason and murder. It's while he is in custody that he escapes using some the items that he was given. He later meets with a friend who gives ... Written by rcs0411@yahoo.com

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It captures enough of the PKD mindset to pass, but the direction is very very pedestrian. At least it’s got Uma Thurman in it.


Impostor (2001) Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi | 95min | 4 January 2002 (USA) 6.2
Director: Gary FlederWriter: Philip K. Dick, Scott RosenbergStars: Shane Brolly, Vincent D'Onofrio, Gary SiniseSummary: Originally a 30 minute portion for an anthology film, Impostor was retooled into a full length feature film. Based on the Philip K. Dick short story of the same name, it follows the lead character Spencer Olham's quest to regain his identity after being suspected as an alien android, in an future Earth at war with aliens that use the androids as bombs to destroy their enemies homeworlds. Written by Hyperpup

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This movie fails to hit the mark because it seems incomplete and under developed. It was a short film that got stretched out into a feature so maybe that’s the problem. Still, it captures the essence of the story it’s based on.

Screamers (1995) Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 108min | 26 January 1996 (USA) 6.4
Director: Christian DuguayWriter: Philip K. Dick, Dan O'BannonStars: Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, Jennifer RubinSummary: (SIRIUS 6B, Year 2078) On a distant mining planet ravaged by a decade of war, scientists have created the perfect weapon: a blade-wielding, self-replicating race of killing devices known as Screamers designed for one purpose only -- to hunt down and destroy all enemy life forms But man's greatest weapon has continued to evolve without any human guidance, and now it has devised a new mission: to obliterate all life. Col. Hendricksson (Peter Weller) is commander of a handful of Alliance soldiers still alive on Sirius 6B. Betrayed by his own political leaders and disgusted by the atrocities of this never-ending war, Hendricksson decides he must negotiate a separate peace with the New Economic Bloc's decimated forces. But to do so, he will have to cross a treacherous wasteland where the deadliest threat comes from the very weapons he helped to create. Written by Nicolas LeBlanc <ei952859@uqac.uquebec.ca>

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This movie comes very close to the original short story, Second Variety. Despite the nonthreatening screamers and the cheap effects, there are still some good moments from the source material.


The Just Plain Ugly.

Next (2007) Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 96min | 27 April 2007 (USA) 6.2
Director: Lee TamahoriWriter: Gary Goldman, Jonathan HensleighStars: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica BielSummary: Possessing the extraordinary ability to see precisely two minutes into the future, the low-profile Las Vegas stage magician, Cris Johnson, has managed to keep his unusual skill under the radar. However, Johnson's rare talent has caught the attention of the tough counter-terrorism FBI agent, Callie Ferris, who intends to use the illusionist's unfailing charisma to thwart the murderous plans of a ruthless group of Russian terrorists. Now, a stolen nuclear device threatens to level California, as Cris' beautiful girlfriend, Liz, is being used by the criminals to gain added leverage. Can Cris save both the hostage and the city of Los Angeles with his peculiar gift? Written by Nick Riganas

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This is a ‘loose’ adaptation. If they stuck to the original story, they could have had a hit.


Radio Free Albemuth (2010) Drama, Sci-Fi | 111min | 27 June 2014 (USA) 5.7
Director: John Alan SimonWriter: John Alan Simon, Philip K. DickStars: Shea Whigham, Jonathan Scarfe, Michael RothhaarSummary: Berkeley record store clerk Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) begins to experience strange visions from an entity he calls VALIS that cause him to uproot his family and move to Los Angeles where he becomes a successful music company executive. With the help of best friend, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick himself (Shea Whigam) and a mysterious woman named Silvia (Alanis Morissette), Nick finds himself drawn into a dangerous political-mystical conspiracy of cosmic proportions. The story is set in an alternate reality America circa 1985 under the authoritarian control of President Fremont, a Nixon-like clone (Scott Wilson). Written by Radio Free LLC

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It’s funny, as soon as some corporation buys the entire estate, the quality just drops. TV minus standard fare.


Screamers: The Hunting (2009) Action, Horror, Sci-Fi | 95min | Video January 2009 4.7
Director: Sheldon WilsonWriter: Philip K. Dick, Tom BerryStars: Gina Holden, Jana Pallaske, Lance HenriksenSummary: A group of humans arrive on Sirius 6-B to investigate an SOS signal sent out from the planet, which has been supposedly deserted since the destruction of the man-made weapons known as "screamers." Once the squad arrives, they find a group of human survivors eking out an existence in an old military outpost, but more important, they discover that the threat of the screamers has become even more insidious, now that they're able to morph into human form. Written by Anonymous

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B standard video fare, giving the brand a bad name.


Honorable mentions

Total Recall (2012) Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi | 118min | 10 August 2012 (Bulgaria) 6.3
Director: Len WisemanWriter: Kurt Wimmer, Mark BombackStars: Colin Farrell, Bokeem Woodbine, Bryan CranstonSummary: Originally adapted by director Paul Verhoeven in 1990, author Philip K. Dick's classic Sci-Fi short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale returns to the big screen in this remake starring Colin Farrell, Bryan Cranston, and Kate Beckinsale, and directed by Underworld's Len Wiseman. The planet has been decimated by nuclear war in the late 21st century, leaving only two nations -- the United Federation of Britain and the Colony. Douglas Quaid (Farrell) is a factory worker with a stable job and a loving wife (Beckinsale), but upon learning that a company named Rekall could grant him the memory of the ultimate espionage adventure, he decides that a virtual vacation is better than no vacation at all. But in the midst of having the new memories implanted, something goes haywire. Still strapped to the chair as the system breaks down, he's branded a spy as the authorities close in, and quickly flees for his life. Later, Quaid discovers that he has a secret identity, and he joins forces ...

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Even though PKD wasn’t credited, it still has its roots in the original story.

Total Recall 2070  Action, Sci-Fi | 2640min | TV Series (1999) 7.0
Writer: Art MonterastelliStars: Michael Easton, Karl Pruner, Cynthia PrestonSummary: In a dark, multi-cultural mega-city on Earth in 2070, David Hume, a smart dedicated human and Ian Farve, an advanced android of mysterious origins, are two detectives of Citizens Protection Bureau (CPB) who investigate crimes related to rogue or self-aware androids, advanced cyber technologies espionage and illegal genetic experiments conducted by a few powerful companies who literally rule the world.

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Minority Report  Action, Crime, Drama | 2520min | TV Series (2015) 5.9
Writer: Max BorensteinStars: Meagan Good, Stark Sands, Nick ZanoSummary: 10 years after the end of Precrime in Washington DC one of the three PreCogs attempts to lead on a normal life while still suffering from visions of the future. Will they be able to hold it together or mentally breakdown and give up?

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If you still can’t get enough, there are numerous shorts to track down.

Confessions d'un Barjo (1992) Comedy, Drama, Romance | 85min | 13 May 1992 (France) 5.8
Director: Jérôme BoivinWriter: Jacques AudiardStars: Richard Bohringer, Anne Brochet, Hippolyte GirardotSummary: The narrator, "Barjo" (nutcase, crap artist), is an obsessive simpleton, given to filling his notebook with verbatim dialog, observed trivia, and oddball speculation on human behavior and the end of the world. When his house burns, he moves in with his twin sister, Fanfan -- an impulsive, quixotic egoist -- and her husband, Charles, the Aluminum King. Charles becomes the focus of the film, as his wife and brother-in-law bewilder him. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Proini peripolos (1987) Drama, Sci-Fi | 108min | 8 October 1987 (Greece) 7.0
Director: Nikos NikolaidisWriter: Raymond Chandler, Philip K. DickStars: Michele Valley, Takis Spyridakis, Liana HatziSummary: A woman is walking alone through an abandoned city. She approaches the forbidden zone and tries to pass through. Everywhere the Morning Patrol and deceptive traps are watching. The city itself is alive but uncontrolled. Computer voices warn non-existing inhabitants to leave the city. The communication system works... cinemas show films... classic faces of a past era flash across TV screens. She is confronted by one of the few survivors guarding the city. They will come close to each other ; they will try to recall the past. Together they unravel their tangled memory - threads of this catastrophe and decide to penetrate the zone together ; They are linked by the bonds of violence and death since no other behaviour is possible in this kind of world. Is there an end? Is there hope and any future since no person that was allowed through ever returned to tell us whether the freedom of the sea exists. The fugitives encounter increasing dangers... A story of love in this unbearable world... ... Written by <nniko@ath.forthnet.gr>

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Private Haldeman

CONCEPT ART FOR THE NOW-ABANDONED RIDLEY SCOTT FOREVER WAR FILM.

Whenever Joe Haldeman author puts out something, I read it. So, when each of these following novels came my way, I didn’t hesitate. His books feature plausible and ingenious technological and scientific ideas, so you can’t go wrong entering his worlds.

The Forever War

No one keen on hard science fiction should skip this novel. There is a reason it has garnered all those awards and accolades since it was published.

The reason: It tells a ripping story.

The Forever War

William Mandella is a school teacher who’s drafted to fight in an interstellar war against the alien Taurans. He survives battle after battle, but due to time dilation and space travel, hundreds of years go by between each mission. During this time, he experiences humanity morph into something he and his fellow veterans don’t recognise. All he hopes for is to survive the war and be reunited with his wife. But each battle is an evolution of warfare, becoming more deadlier than before.

This novel has it all. You care for Mandella. The battles are as gripping whether they take place on some outpost planet or in deep space. The finale is as satisfactory as one would want it, considering our journey through space and time.

This will turn you into a fan.


Camouflage

The premise revolves around two alien beings, both shape-shifters but of a different variety, who have been on Earth for aeons and whose futures are interlocked. The protagonist alien’s character develops with each page turn. The pace in which the story unfolds is gripping, so too is the action, and there is mounting excitement and tension as the decades pass and the two diametrically opposed mimic’s paths intersect. (Highlander) tropes abound as both have embedded themselves into human history, making do with their special shape-shifting abilities.

All this was very cool.

Now, if it weren’t for the central human character and his middle-age crisis story arc, and the ‘tired and contrived’ (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) ending, this could have been an outstanding work of SF. The evil alien antagonist wasn’t helping either. Where there was scope to explore some genuine villainy, instead the character delved into the cliche world of Nazi bad guy strudel.

I enjoyed this read immensely but it remains for me a major ‘if only’ science fiction novel. 

Was it worth the read? Yes, with a smidgen of disappointment.

Haldeman fans will forgive, others may not.


There Is No Darkness

This novel was my first introduction to the Haldemans. Coauthored by brothers Joe and Jack, it is still one of my favourite works of science fiction.

Carl Bok is a student of Starschool. Because he’s from Springworld, a heavy gravity planet with harsh weather and wildlife, he bigger than your average pupil and a lot poorer. All he has is his pride and something to prove.

On the Earth leg of the excursion, he gets involved in prise fighting, unintentionally roping in his roommates. They fight tournament after tournament, but even though he loses in the end, Carl learns a lesson in fealty.

Next, they visit a planet called Hell. This is where sovereign governments go to fight their conventional, regulated wars. Carl and his colleagues, who are now his friends, are kidnapped and forced to serve in a mercenary army.

Then they travel to The Construct, an ancient alien artefact that has become a hub for hundreds of alien species who’ve set up shop to trade information.

The best aspect of this book is Carl’s growing friendship with the other students. They are each funny and charming in their own way, as they band together to face a brave new universe.

This will resonate with fans as much as any other of his work.

Origin: The Blood Ring

The Bad Samaritan

After I published “A Hostile Takeover” I was exploring ideas for a second book. At some point, I entertained the thought of adapting one of my screenplays that had been sitting on the shelf, collecting dust for over a decade. How easy. The basic story and material were there. All I had to do was tweak this, rewrite that, so I committed to writing it, setting a target to keep it short and simple.

The Bad Samaritan Movie

The screenplay was called ‘The Bad Samaritan’ and it was turned into a guerilla film back in 1999 by me and a few associates. Its one and only release was at the 2001 Melbourne Film Festival, and it’s been buried ever since. I felt it was a natural step for a novel to come out of it.

In hindsight, I was naive about how easy it would be. In my writing experience, nothing goes down as planned. With me stories evolve, ideas get bigger, themes dig deeper. And when I decided to turn what was originally a serial killer horror thriller into a serial killer science fiction horror thriller, I entered a world of hurt.


The original story idea still resonated with me, enough for me to decide to revisited it again. The challenge being; how do I take this to another level?

Hence, The Blood Ring was born.