Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Travelers Season 1

Canada is once more proving that they’ve got game when it comes to science fiction television shows. This joint Canadian/Netflix venture was an easy binge watch with an instantly hooky premise and a great cast.

So sometime in the future, things are bad. “Travelers” jump back to modern time by rewriting the brain of some poor schmuck who’s about to die anyway … in an accident or some other preventable way. The future depends upon the age of computers to accurately record the places, times, and mechanisms of these deaths. (The answer to the question: “Why don’t you kill Hitler?” which did come up.) Not all travelers land safely. The journey comes with risks, and there is a real chance of dying.

Of course, our five heroes have no problems … at least, no problems arriving. One ends up dealing with his host’s heroine addiction while another learns that her host had a serious mental disability which essentially means she’s going to die (host brain can’t handle it).

They’re on a mission to save the future, and they’re not the only ones here. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about this story: You get a sense of a much bigger pictures and of a carefully orchestrated scheme. We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

I have 1 complaint about this show. It’s something I didn’t fully know how to put into words until the very end of the season, although I sensed something a little off nearly from the start.

We know almost nothing about these characters’ lives before they jumped to the present (their past).

There’s a great deal of story and character development in the here and now, but the fact that we don’t have a solid backstory, or any backstory at all, makes it hard to understand the true stakes of the situation. I know they’re intentionally trying to keep the future murky, but this strategy backfires on someone like me who thrives on character motivation. Why did they risk everything to come back? What did they leave behind? Was any of it good? Who they are is more than who they have become; it began in their past (in the future).

I hope season 2 will address this gaping hole. I definitely plan to watch and find out!

I’d give this a solid 4/5 starts and recommend it to scifi fans.

Sense 8 Season 2

It’s been almost two years since I reviewed “My New Favorite Scifi Series: Sense8” I made no bones about it, I love, love loved this show! I rewatched it 3 times in the summer of 2015, checked daily for news of its renewal, and felt the greatest relief of my life when they announced it had gotten a second season.

Then I waited. And waited some more.

Then came the Christmas Special, which I didn’t love. As I wrote in that review, this isn’t like Doctor Who — it’s not episodic. The characters can’t just go on a stand-alone adventure and in fact, they didn’t. They honestly spun their wheels and made excuses for not taking action for an entire year, even while Wil and Rylie were on the run and in hiding.

It made me nervous. After all this time, was the show not as good as I had first thought? Had I set it on a pedestal too high for it to reach?

I waited some more.

Finally, a week and a half ago, Snese8 season 2 arrived and … I loved it!!!!!

First, don’t think for a second that taking 11 days to watch this show means anything except that I have kids, this show is extremely inappropriate for kids, they go to bed at 9 and I go to bed at 10. That’s one episode per evening, minus game night. Honestly, I watched this show as quickly as it was possible for me to watch!

Unlike the first season, which had a serious warming up period, season 2 got things rolling right away. The clan is in danger from Whispers and from BPO. They’re working together to learn more and to try to free Wil from his heroin-induced stupor (the only thing keeping Whispers out of his head).

Meanwhile, every character has his/her own things going on — Sun is still in prison and her brother is trying to kill her; Lito is suffering the fallout of coming out of the closet; Van Damn has been noticed by reporters and become a symbol of hope for his people; Kala is unhappy with her husband and the things she’s learning about his company; Wolfgang is in the middle of some Berlin crime wars.

The thing that struck me most about season 2 is that the characters had truly become a cluster. 

There are so many things that are awesome about this that it’s hard to separate!

  1. The science fiction of the show is more real this season, more apparent in every scene and in every action, making even the mundane seem more extraordinary.
  2. The pacing is faster because the interconnectivity of the characters is the most interesting part of the show.
  3. The pacing is faster because even when you’re spending time with characters or plots you’re less interested in, you get visits from characters (along with their baggage) you’re more interested in.

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about the way the show portrayed the worldwide cluster in this season. When a big event took place in any of the characters’ lives, the others were likely to be present, even if they were just watching or partying. Then they might take over at odd moments, bolstering one another and making each one more than they could be alone.

The cinematography was awesome too, of course, just like in season 1. Seamless transitions from Bankok to Seoul to Berlin to San Fransisco to Amsterdam to … they were all over the world! The amount of work that must have gone into making this show is mind-boggling. And it’s beautiful. It’s stunning. It’s worth it! 🙂

Having said all that … 

I do have a few odd complaints about this season. The biggest weakness in season 1 was the beginning, but the biggest weakness in season 2 was the end. Maybe because season 2 started on such a high note, there wasn’t anywhere else to go? But the last episode was my least favorite of the season, which is a huge problem. (Please note: I liked the episode, it was just my least favorite.) I was left feeling, not curious or anxious or excited, but frankly confused and bewildered. The final sequence of events made very little sense to me.

In fact, confusion was something I felt a little too often through this season. 

I watch this with my husband, and I can’t count the number of times I stopped to ask him, “What did s/he just say?” or “Did you follow that?” The BPO mystery was often revealed through a series of back-and-forth conversations, usually involving Nomi and at least one of the others, and I just don’t get it. Even now I don’t get it. I’m going to rewatch soon (from the start of season 1, actually) and maybe I’ll get it then, but it’s frustrating ot me that I didn’t get it the first time.

All of which means that while I still love this show, I’m not sure that I can say I love love love it anymore. It’s gotten knocked down to a 5-star rating from an off-the charts rating. Okay, maybe 5.5 stars! It’s good. You should watch this. 

Finish the Story Grand Opening Special: FREE First Chapter Edit

This week is the Grand Opening of Finish the Story.

I’ll be working alongside Claire Ashgrove and Dennis Young, two fantastic fellow authors/editors, to offer a greater variety of services than I could on my own. We are a full-service editing company, which means we strive to help you prepare for publication no matter where you are in the process. We include services such as book fixing, for books that need a little doctoring before they’re ready for editing, and formatting, for authors who are ready to publish. Our package rates bundle services to keep the costs down, and give you access to more than one editor through the different phases of editing to ensure that your finished product is as error-free as possible.

All genres of fiction welcome! Non-fiction and memoirs welcome!

Give us a try! Now through the end of March, send us your first chapter (up to 5,000 words) and get a FREE, no-obligation developmental-style edit.

Learn more at Finish the Story

TV Series Review: Z Nation

 

Just finished watching seasons 1 & 2 (all that is currently available) on Netflix and …

I liked it!

I should probably preface this by saying that I’m not really into zombies. They make no sense. I mean, sure, a disease that turns humans into ravening monsters intent upon biting other humans could be interesting and frightening, but how those same humans stay alive for years without food or water? There are these things called the Laws of Thermodynamics. Just saying. Vampires and animal shape-shifters are much more logical. I’d say zombies are the least sensible fantasy/paranormal/scifi monster.

But if you can set that aside for a moment …

What the SyFy Network (still hate the name) presented us with here is a post-apocalyptic world and a group of survivors on a mission to save what’s left of humanity. I like apocalypses. (That didn’t sound right, did it?) I like heroes. This was an interesting group of characters.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, the action was great, the characters were believable, and survival was not guaranteed. I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say Z Nation took a leaf from George R. R. Martin – who appropriately made a guest appearance in season 2!

As with most series, some episodes were better than others. The pilot got things rolling, though, so if you want to tiptoe into this story, that’ll be a fair test of whether or not you’ll like the rest of the show.

I was worried that after pulling off a great first season, the second would go downhill, but it didn’t. There was a slightly different tone – they had a little more fun with the premise in season 2 and took themselves less seriously. That tone worked for me better at some times than others (as you would expect). What’s important is that the stakes continued to go up throughout season 2, we learned more about what was going on, and by the end I was thirsting for more.

Good news: Season 3 is scheduled for next fall.

Bad news: Season 3 isn’t until next fall!

My only real criticism of this show, aside from the fact that zombies aren’t my favorite trope, is that I think there are some internal inconsistencies. I say I think because there are still some lingering questions that the show’s makers could answer in a way that would make it all pull together. I’m just … well, again, I don’t want to write a review with spoilers. And this wasn’t such a big problem that it will keep me from watching; more a minor annoyance.

All in all, I do recommend this series, especially to those who love apocalypse stories. I’d give it a strong 4 out of 5 stars.

My New Favorite Scifi Series: Sense8

I have a new all-time favorite science fiction series.

Snese8, which I binge watched over the last week-and-a-half on Netflix, has ousted Babylon 5 from the coveted #1 spot that it held in my heart for over 15 years. J. Michael Straczynski had a hand in both, and there are some similarities in what I love about each, though they are entirely different concepts.

What is Sense8?

First and foremost, Sense8 is a character story. And you all know by now that I am a character girl. In fact, for much of the series the speculative element (the scifi or otherworldly component for those who are not familiar with the lingo) took a backseat to the development of characters and connections.

The premise is not simple, but let me do my best: Eight unique individuals from around the world are suddenly reborn into a cluster. They can share one another’s thoughts, feelings, and memories. They can “visit” with one another (mentally). They can even share one another’s bodies and in so doing share skills.

So there are 8 main characters?

Yes, and dozens of important secondary characters! When I first read about the concept for this show I didn’t know how they could pull it off. How would I keep the characters straight? And how would television portray a largely mental connection?

With these doubts in my mind, I watched the first episode. And do you know what? By the end of the first episode, I didn’t know all their names, but I knew all 8 characters and a little something about them. There aren’t any two who are remotely alike. The creators used a bit of a cheat at first — something I’m familiar with from writing fiction. When you want to introduce a large number of characters at first, you find one important, distinctive characteristic to start from and build upon that. You can even start with something stereotypical, although to avoid cliches you need to build on that. And they did!

Netflix

It is now important to give some credit to Netflix, the one place a show like this could have possibly happened. The show is accused (somewhat accurately) of having a slow pace. Well, there are 8 different primary viewpoints!

But let’s face it, if this show had needed to string viewers along from week to week, it never would have worked. This show is the epitome of what binge watching is for. In fact, if you don’t have time to finish it within the next 2-3 weeks, don’t start watching! Ideally, you could watch it in a weekend, but some of us have jobs and kids and things. 🙂

This isn’t a show you can judge on any single episode. This season was chapter 1 — forming connections. By the end of the first season I know all 8 characters extremely well and I care deeply about their problems. And finally, by the end of season 1, the sense8 are working together, giving us a sense for what it means to be a sense8 cluster.

I told you — it’s not a simple concept. It wasn’t simple for these characters to suddenly belong to a cluster either. It took them time to be fully reborn and understand what they are (although there are still some questions there).

Twelve episodes. One long chapter. But they’re all right there, waiting for you.

Content Warning

Much like HBO, there are no rules regarding content on Netflix. So be prepared to see things you never imagined you’d see on TV. Aside from cursing and violence (which are sadly mainstream), there is sex, nudity (as in full frontal female AND male — kudos for being fair!), and other intimate details you might not have expected.

To be fair to the show, they are presenting the concept that a group of 8 people have somehow just become like one, sharing even the most intimate and private moments. Believe me, this came across!

Watch this show!

What are you waiting for? If you have kids, make sure they’re asleep, if you don’t, just go watch it!

Book Review: Forgotten Sins

Forgotten Sins (Sin Brothers, #1)
I loved this book! I read it all in one go. I could not put it down. It was fun, adventurous, suspenseful, and the romance was steamy! And okay, so an enhanced soldier waking up with amnesia isn’t the most original idea in the world, but I honestly didn’t care. This story was fast-paced and well-written. I immediately connected to the characters and can’t wait for more. I highly recommend!

TV Series: The 100

Listen up post-apocalyptic scifi fans, because this may be a great new show for you! I just finished watching the entire first season in one go (available on Netflix Instant Viewing) and after a rocky start, I am a fan.

The premise is this: Almost a hundred years ago there was a nuclear war. A few humans in orbiting space stations survived by coming together to create an arc. There they plan to stay until the radiation levels on Earth are safe once again — in another one hundred years. But something has gone wrong. Life support won’t keep them all alive much longer, and they’ve got to figure out what to do. So they send 100 juvenile delinquents to the ground to see if they live or die.

I have to admit, I was very iffy after watching the first episode. I had to turn off a lot of credibility censors to enjoy it. And the next few episodes were only marginally better as I got to know the characters.

But something kept me watching, and I’m glad I did, because at the end of season 1 I felt like it was a strong show overall. A lot of elements are gradually introduced that keep tension levels high and keep you guessing — internal conflict, external conflict, people who survived on the ground (they thought everyone had died), and the people in the space station struggling for their own survival. Put together, it made for a captivating show. Season 2 has begun on the CW on Wednesdays. I definitely plan to watch!

The characters are all kinds of shades of gray, which is nice. These are people who have made bad decisions — sometimes because they had to and sometimes when they should have known better. Still, there are a lot of 3D players in here. And I have a feeling that season 2 has more surprises in store.

If you like scifi, especially dystopian, then check this out. Give it a few episodes; you won’t regret it!

Holiday Parade: Special Shuttle Explosion Edition

In honor of the recent shuttle explosion (thankfully unmanned), Stephanie Osborn is selling her own shuttle-disaster scifi book at a discounted rate. For a limited time, the ebook is FREE if you buy the print book. After November 7, that deal ends, but the ebook will be 99 cents.

From Stephanie …

How do you react when you discover that the next Shuttle disaster has happened…

…right on schedule?

 

Burnout is a science fiction mystery about a Space Shuttle disaster that turns out to be no accident. As the true scope of the disaster is gradually uncovered by the principal investigators, “Crash” Murphy and Dr. Mike Anders, they find themselves running for their lives, as lovers, friends and coworkers involved in the investigation perish around them. What happened to the Shuttle? Who is responsible and why? Why is the government calling it an accident? Why is someone willing to kill to keep it a secret? And how big is the conspiracy?

 

They say, “Write what you know,” and I did. I finished the first draft and gave it to my writing mentor, Travis S. Taylor…and then Columbia went down. And I found that I pretty much nailed it in my fictional disaster scenario: orbital inclination, incoming trajectory, overflown states, intended approach to the Cape, region of breakup, debris field, I nailed it all. The only difference was a slight extension of the debris field into the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast, and this was due to the fact that my fictional scenario was no accident.

 

And right now, Burnout is on sale in all ebook formats! More, if you buy the print book at Amazon, for a limited time you can get the ebook too, for only $0.99! 

 

Why is this happening, you may ask? Simple. The December issue of Analog magazine, on store shelves right now, carries an article I co-authored with my partners, detailing our SPEARED concept and materials research — a concept that was inspired by the Columbia disaster, killing a friend of mine aboard her, and my having just completed the Burnout rough draft when the disaster occurred. 

 

So in honor of my friend Kalpana Chawla, and SPEARED, which I hope will prevent anyone else from dying like she did, Burnout is on sale until the end of November.

 

Here. Have a “taste.”

 

~~~

 

 

 

…Overhead, the sky was a deep, rich, star-spangled Prussian blue; along the western horizon could be seen the faintest hint of deep teal. “Lessee…” he glanced at the TV, to the ground track Mission Control was displaying on the big front screen, then looked at the night sky, trying to correlate the two. “She oughta show up… somewhere over in there.” He waved a hand heavenward, in a vaguely northwestern direction.

 

Conversation in the back yard of the ranch house ceased as everyone clustered together in the darkness, searching the west-northwestern sky. The only artificial illumination came from the TV screen, and the NASA Public Affairs Office Commentator could be heard in the background as he delivered general remarks about the landing.

 

“…and this is a somewhat unusual re-entry pattern over North America, due to the successful efforts to retrieve the multi-million-dollar Next Generation Tethered Satellite, dubbed NexGen or NTS, which was co-manifested on STS-281 with the Mission to Planet Earth payload, Gaia-1. This nighttime landing will make for spectacular observations by residents of California, Nevada, southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Coastal residents of the Gulf States may also be able to observe…”

 

“Hey, big brother,” Jimmy remarked curiously, “isn’t the commander of this flight an old friend of yours?”

 

“Yup,” Crash replied, still scanning the star-strewn, blue-black sky. “Lawrence Jackson. Jet. He and I flew in the same squadron in ‘Nam. Been buddies ever since. There’s almost nothing we wouldn’t do for each other—except give up a slot in the astronaut corps.” Crash pulled a wry face.

 

“Yeah, that’s right,” Ham Carter remembered. “He beat you out for the slot, didn’t he?”

 

“Uh-huh, he did—only because Jackson comes before Murphy in the alphabet.”

 

“Look! There it is!” Sally exclaimed, pointing into the western sky, and all but jumping up and down. “Crash! Isn’t that it?” she urged her brother-in-law.

 

“Yeah, Sally, I—” Crash did a double take and surveyed the blazing spark as it shot through the black velvet sky, then gave a swift glance at Hamilton Carter. “Ham, have they got a re-entry DTO on this flight?”

 

“No, Crash—I see it, too,” Ham acknowledged, forehead creasing with worry. “Listen… can I use—”

 

“Cell phone right here,” Crash scooped the instrument off the corner of the picnic table and shoved it into Carter’s hands as he looked back up. “Damn, Jet, get it in gear, old buddy!” he exclaimed with increasing concern.

 

“What’s wrong, Crash? What’s happening?” Jimmy asked his suddenly worried brother, as the flaming speck, growing larger and larger, flew almost straight overhead. Smaller sparks could now be seen peeling off the main object.

 

“Dammit! Jet, flare out, man! Shit! Break it out! NOW!!” Crash began shouting into the sky. Tracy, the “fourth team” relief FAO, was frozen, staring upward in shock, and Ham stood stiffly, head tilted back, listening to the cell phone he held to his ear. They all watched dumbly as the white-hot streak shot by overhead and disappeared behind the house, trailing flaming sparks in its wake.

 

Crash ran around the house to the front, trying to keep the airborne conflagration in view, and the others followed. “Damn, Jimmy, she’s comin’ in hot,” he belatedly answered his little brother. “Jet’s not bleeding off velocity in the roll reversals like he’s supposed to…” Crash paused, horrified. “Not that it looks like it would do much good, anyway…”

 

The gathered celebrants watched in stunned disbelief as the fireball plunged toward the southeastern horizon, flickered, and burned out.

 

~~~

 

Interested? Have a go at it on Amazon, then! (Here’s Barnes-Noble and Books-A-Million too, if you’d rather.) Remember, I spent over two decades working in the civilian (NASA) and military (DoD) space programs, and put my knowledge to good use in this book. 

Book Review: The River of no Return

The River of No ReturnWell-constructed, well-told, well-characterized… these are phrases I so rarely associate with time travel that I had no choice but to give this book five stars! What a great read. I could not put this down. My only reservation about this book is that the ending called for a sequel, yet an Internet search shows no evidence of the existence of one. I know this doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but I would feel so much better about this book if the author would just have “work in progress…” or “coming soon…” on her web page!

Nick is a 19th century Marquis who finds himself in the 21st century. He jumped forward in time an instant before he would have died on a battlefield in Spain — apparently, not an uncommon occurrence. The Guild collected him, educated him on life in the early 21st century, and told him there was no going back. Except, they lied. And when they need him to go back to 1815 to take care of a problem, they start telling him small pieces of the truth that make him more suspicious than ever.

Come to find out, there is more than one group of people trying to control time travelers and the river of time. Nick has to decide which side he’s on, a decision that becomes more complicated when he learns that the future itself is in danger.

I found Nick to be a credible man-out-of time, and I liked that it was hard for him to slip back into life in the early 1800’s after life in the early 21st century. There was a bit of romance in here that was okay, although it didn’t drive the story. Julia has problems of her own, and secrets she’s been warned to keep.

I highly recommend this book to fantasy/scifi readers who like time travel.

Rating: 5/5

Title: The River of No Return

Author: Bee Ridgway

Published April 2013

Rereading Shadow of the Giant

Shadow of the Giant (Ender's Shadow, #4) And finally… except not so finally… I have reread Shadow of the Giant. I say “not so finally” because I recently learned that there IS another book in this series! It came out last year while I was looking the other way. With that in mind, much of my former reservations about this book are put to rest. The first time I read this book, I didn’t believe there were any plans for a sequel and I remember feeling cheated out of a real ending. Now that this feeling can be set aside, I can review the book as a mid-series novel. Although a mid-series novel with some degree of finality.

This book is a bittersweet farewell. Bean ends up setting off into space, travelling at relativistic speeds so that he won’t age while the rest of the world passes him by. Meanwhile, everyone else’s story pretty much comes to an end here. I won’t tell you what happens to them all except to say, perhaps, the only thing that could have happened.

Some of this story is devoted to Bean and Petra’s continued search for their missing embryos (now babies), but a lot of it is about united the world under the Free People of Earth and about dealing with the mess caused by ambitious battle-school graduates fighting one another for world domination.

Though this parallel series began with Bean, and continues to follow Bean, it is really more Peter Wiggin who is the focus of this volume. By the end, I have a fair idea what his brother, Ender, might have written in both The Hive Queen and The Hegemon, two works referenced at the end of the original Ender’s Games novel. I think I came away feeling about Peter precisely what I was supposed to — that I did not love him, but I respected him.

Meanwhile, I am eager to discover what will become of Bean, who manages not to be dead yet, though to those he left behind on Earth he may as well be. Bittersweet, like I said.

I liked this book better than Shadow Puppets. I’d say I liked it almost as much as Shadow of the Hegemon (book 2 in this series). Nothing’s going to beat Ender’s Shadow, though. That was a tough act to follow. 🙂