Category Archives: Science Fiction

Nethereal [Book Review]

"Nethereal" by Brian Niemeier
“Nethereal” by Brian Niemeier

I recently finished Nethereal, the debut novel from Brian Niemeier.

I’m going to come right out and admit it: I bought this book because of its cover. First, that cover is all kinds of awesome. Second, it’s a cover that screams out, “I am a science fiction novel and I’m not afraid to announce that to the world.”

I’m not a fan of the recent trend in genre fiction towards bland, generic covers that try to hide the fact that the books are genre. I bought Game of Thrones back nearly twenty years ago when it was still printed with the original paperback cover shown below. I’m not afraid to admit that I bought that book for the cover, too.

In both cases, it was a good choice. Nethereal is a strong debut novel. The characters are interesting. The setting is interesting. The plot bogs down just a bit in the middle, but otherwise moves at a brisk pace. Most importantly, you’ll want to know what happens next to these characters. The most frustrating thing for me in reading this book was that I was so busy that I had to read it in short segments. I kept getting angry that I had to put it down to do other things.

The original cover of "A Game of Thrones."
The original cover of “A Game of Thrones.”

One other aspect of the book that I found very interesting was the way his world paralleled the nine circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno. I have a strong suspicion that the rest of the series will continue the parallels with The Divine Comedy, and I’m quite curious to watch it unfold.

Five stars for this debut effort. I’ll be watching Brian’s career with interest.

Make Death Proud to Take Us has been Finalized!

"Make Death Proud to Take Us"
“Make Death Proud to Take Us”

I just finished uploading the final files for Make Death Proud to Take Us. It will be available to readers on Sunday, June 21 (Father’s Day). And I have to say, I think this is the best product that Silver Empire has put out to date.

There are some really enjoyable stories in this one from myself, my wife Morgon, and my friends K Bethany Sawyer and Jennifer L Weir. Jennifer’s contribution, “Major Hunter” (from her Wayfarer Chronicles series) is her first publication with us. In my own personal opinion, I think each of the other authors has contributed stories that are their personal best so far. I won’t pretend to be unbiased, but that’s also my honest opinion.

My personal favorite of the series is the novella at the end, “Down the Dragon Hole,” by my wife Morgon. It’s got a fun, Pratchett-esque feel to it (although not as silly). But again, I feel that it’s the strongest of a strong collection.

You can preorder your copy from Amazon.com today. If you’re a science fiction or fantasy fan, I highly recommend it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

What’s Glowing On Ceres?

Contrary to the humor and crass self-marketing in this post, the "glowing" spots on Ceres are most likely just reflective ice.
Contrary to the humor and crass self-marketing in this post, the “glowing” spots on Ceres are most likely just reflective ice.

CNN asks, “What’s glowing on CerMakeDeathProud-01es?” According to their article, NASA claims that it’s, “due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface.”

That highly reflective material is the hulls of space ships. Space pirate ships, specifically! And you can read more about them in “The Fourth Fleet,” one of my stories in the new science fiction and fantasy anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us, now available for pre-order at Amazon.com.

Fear Is the Mind-Killer

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

–Frank Herbert, Dune

To fans of classic science fiction the above quote is nothing new. And yet fifty years after Frank Herbert’s masterpiece was first published we find ourselves in a society where these words would be utterly alien. Fear is everywhere and ever present.

But fear truly is the mind killer. Fear kills us in tiny ways each and every day. Whether it keeps us from talking to the pretty girl, prevents us from starting that side business, stops us from asking for that raise, or causes us to flip out over “trigger warnings” fear is everywhere. Fear of terrorism, fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of a poor economy. Worst of all, today, seems to be the ever growing fear of “badthink” that is overtaking modern politics – the fear that somebody, somewhere doesn’t agree with all of the “right thinking things” that some group or other has declared is now ironclad.

Our modern society is becoming more and more fear driven every year. Every aspect of our lives is ruled by it.

Fight this. Face the fear. Let it pass through you. Face your life as your life and move forward.

FREE E-Books!

We’re giving away some great prizes from Silver Empire!

  • Grand Prize: A lifetime subscription to all current and future Silver Empire e-books!
  • First Prize: A complete collection of all Silver Empire e-books published on or before June 30th, 2015!
  • Second Prize: An advance e-book copy of Make Death Proud to Take Us!

See the giveaway information below to enter:

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Babylon 5’s Final Season

"Babylon 5" - my favorite television show of all time.
“Babylon 5” – my favorite television show of all time.

My wife and I recently finished watching the final season of Babylon 5. This is a minor miracle in our house for two reasons. First, although we watch quite a bit of television-on-DVD (or, more often these days, on streaming services such as Amazon Prime or NetFlix) it’s actually fairly rare for us to finish an entire show together. Eventually one or the other of us will become generally bored (her much more frequently) or decide that the show has jumped the shark and is no longer worth watching (probably a tie between us). Second, we started watching this show nearly a decade ago.

Now, to maintain my SF cred I must point out that I had watched the entire show end-to-end before – nearly twice. In fact, I began watching the show only two or three episodes in to the first seasons (thankfully, I got to watch those few episodes I missed very early on in reruns thanks to the show’s unconventional airing schedule). From that point on I never missed an episode – until season five when Babylon 5 jumped to TNT. We didn’t get cable at the time, so I had to wait to catch season 5. And wait. And wait.

For my college graduation, my aunt made me a collection of VHS tapes of the entire series that she’d recorded off the air. I had nearly a month between finishing classes and starting my job, so I sat down and binge watched the whole series again, finally getting to see season 5 (as I said, I had previously watched the series nearly twice). This, of course, was in the days before binge watching was really a thing.

Fast forward a few years and my wife and I began watching the show (which at that point she had not seen) together. We watched through season four… and then she had a burst of ADD and got interested in something else. A month or so ago I finally convinced her to pull out season five again and finish off the series.

Watching season five in isolation was an interesting experience. I should preface the discussion with the note that Babylon 5 is my favorite television series of all time. It was also unprecedented. Today, it is common for television shows to have a season long story arc. Each episode is watchable individually, but when you watch an entire season together a larger storyline unfolds. And most shows have this planned out about a season or so at a time. Back in the mid 90s when B5 aired, nobody did that. Most major television basically returned everything to status quo at the end of every episode.

But Babylon 5 did something even bigger than what we do today: the entire five year story arc was planned out in advance, from beginning to end. My wife knew this going in. Still, when watching the final few episodes this weekend, she commented on how striking it was to see a television show that actually resolved its story and actually ended – as opposed to just being canceled.

Also, every time I rewatch the series I’m stricken again by how good the show actually is. The best parts of the series, by a good margin, are seasons two and three and the first half of season four. But when Morgon and I first started the series together all those years ago, I was hit by how good the show even started. Straight out of the gate with season one it was a solid show – and only got better after the usual first few episodes of “finding their footing.” And although I recall season five as being the “weak” season (which I still believe), it, too, was really good.

The pre-planning of the storyline really shows through, and it really ups the quality level – even when you have to watch it fifteen years later with some seriously dated CGI and some clear signs of low-budget production and a couple of mediocre actors. The writing on the show is phenomenal, and together with some really standout actors who step above the pack it really carries the day.

You can’t say “they don’t make shows like that anymore” because they never really did make shows like Babylon 5. But it’s a shame, and they really should.

“Make Death Proud to Take Us” available for pre-order!

Make Death Proud to Take Us
Make Death Proud to Take Us

Make Death Proud to Take Us – the first anthology from Silver Empire is now available for pre-order on Kindle! Featuring stories from Morgon Newquist, Russell Newquist, K Bethany Sawyer and Jennifer L Weir. Order your Kindle copy today!

Courage comes in all shapes and sizes.

When his parents fail, little Johnny must protect his younger sister from the creatures that come in the night. Aided by unexpected allies, a village makes its final stand against the onslaught of winter. Major Hunter must fight for his very survival after his ship is shot down by hostile aliens on a savage world. The Holt family struggles for survival after a pirate attack leaves their craft stranded in orbit two billion miles from home. An unlikely duo bands together to face the mighty dragon that attacked their campus library.

A collection of science fiction and fantasy stories celebrating the courage of men, including the stories:

“Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” – a Tale of Peter Bishop.
“The Blacksmith and the Ice Elves” – a story of Thrúdheim
“Major Hunter” – from The Wayfarer Chronicles
“Grey”
“The Fourth Fleet”
“Down the Dragon Hole”
“Cookie Crumbs”

“Legends of Tomorrow”

In contrast to the new CBS show Supergirl, about which I expressed my reservations earlier, I am ALL IN on the CW’s new Legends of Tomorrow show. First, the preview:

What’s not to love?

First, there’s Arthur Darvill (aka Rory Williams, aka the man who punched The Doctor in the face and was thanked for it, aka the man who entered a haunted hotel with a room containing everyone’s greatest fear and it showed him the way out, aka the biggest badass in all of Dr. Whodom). Yeah, that’s a pretty good start right there.

On top of that, they’re bringing in several characters I’ve been quite fond of from the Arrowverse: Brandon Routh’s Atom (this season’s best addition to Arrow, and whom I’m very glad to see continuing to get good work instead of seeing his career tank after turning in a really terrific performance as the man of steel in a really terrible movie that many people unfairly blamed him for) and Caity Lotz’s Black White Canary (who was quite fun when she wasn’t constantly pouting. I’m in for that.

They’re fully embracing the weirder side of the DC Universe: time travel, shrinking machines, Hawkgirl… and the show promises to be jumping throughout history every week. And perhaps most of all, the trailer promises us a show with a great sense of fun.

Legends of Tomorrow: I’m all in.

Supergirl Coming to CBS

After knocking it out of the park twice in a row with Arrow and The Flash, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg are at it again with a third superhero show from the DC universe. This time they’re bringing Supergirl to life. A pretty substantial introduction/trailer has been released, and I’ve embedded it below so you can watch for yourself to get a preview.

Of course, the question remains: will the show actually be any good? The trailer, of course, doesn’t definitively answer the question. They never do.

The good: Berlanti and Kreisberg seem to have the DC universe down in a way that Zach Snyder simply doesn’t. Arrow and The Flash are two of the best shows currently on television in any genre, and pretty much the only TV that I try to watch the same day as it airs (I still DVR it, so I can watch without commercials).

I also like that they seem to be going with the “adorkable” approach with Kara/Supergirl. It works well for the character and certainly beats the uber-bitchy model that so often seems to be the only way that Hollywood knows how to write a “strong” female character.

The best: Over three seasons of Arrow, Berlanti and Kreisberg have been saying in interviews that DC has told them that the “big three” (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) are a no-no. Yet even in just the trailer for Supergirl, those were some pretty strong references to Superman. Clearly DC has come to their senses – at least somewhat – and realized that these are the guys to let have this. Could there be more TV references to the big three coming? Dare we hope that we might even someday get a Batman show that actually, you know, has Batman in it? Yes, Gotham, I’m talking to you.

The not so good: It’s only a trailer, so we’ll see how the actual show goes… but this trailer has a lot more CW-style teenage girl soap-operatic drama going on than either Arrow or The Flash have ever shown. Ironic, given that those shows are actually on the CW and this one is coming to CBS. Not good if that’s the way the show plays out. Hopefully that’s not the direction they’re going with Supergirl.

Update: The esteemed John C. Wright has a more optimistic take than I do. He makes some great points, but I still worry a bit about it coming off as a CW-style teen soap opera.

Transhuman and Subhuman

The second title from Larry Correia’s book bomb that I’ll be reviewing today is “Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth” by Mr. John C. Wright. Yes, I just reviewed another of Mr. Wright’s works. And yes, Mr. Correia just book bombed that one as well.

They’re both worthy of it.

But first, a story: A friend of mine joined the Roman Catholic Church last Easter. My wife and I are also converts to the church, and even though we weren’t able to sponsor him or follow him through RCIA due to other commitments on the nights that it meets, we were happy to see him join and wanted to welcome him. So we bought him a book. No, it wasn’t this one. We bought him G. K. Chesterton’s Christian Writings – a solid choice for anyone interested in Catholic thought.

A few weeks later we were having lunch with our friend and somehow it came up that we had both read another of Mr. Wright’s works, Awake in the Night Land. Conversation progressed a bit until eventually it emerged that my friend had not read any Chesterton before we bought him his gift. After that revelation, conversation went something like this:

Me: Yeah, I really feel like John C. Wright is Chesterton come again for our modern age.

My friend: It’s funny you say that, because I was just about to say that Chesterton reminded me of John C. Wright.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in this work, a collection of philosophical ruminations on modern culture. From his thorough and complete explanation of why the recent Hobbit movies are so completely terrible to an Aristotelian explanation of why Snow White has animal helpers to ruminations on the value of science fiction itself… these essays are truly amazing in every way. He even managed to explain why I didn’t really like The Golden Compass, which was a book that never satisfied but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why – until now.

I have exactly one complaint about this collection, and Mr. Wright will probably hate me for saying this as it might impact his sales: almost all of these essays are also available for FREE (albeit in less polished form) on his blog. If you feel like wading through all the other stuff (and you should actually go read all of that, too), you can save yourself a whopping $4.99. Or you could just pay a little bit, give the man what he’s due for such amazing writing, and get the nicely collected, well-edited version. Yeah, do that one.