THE WORLD WALKER by Ian Sainsbury

I am not sure what to say about this book.  I sot of liked it.  I didn’t like it.  It was strangely weird.  It was  properly strange.  Let me explain.  If I can.

Roswell, NM.  1947.  What seems to be an extraterrestrial  spaceship crashes in the desert.  A being is found, and whisked away to an unmarked secret facility, where it does absolutely nothing.  Until now, when it seems to wake up and just walk through the walls and leave.

A young man, faced with a cancer death sentence, walks out into the desert where he plans to kill himself.  Slashes wrist, is bleeding out on the ground.  Mysterious being approaches, heals him.

A magician in Australia finds he can manifest real elephants in his shows.

A pretty much secret international group of people who can work magic.  With a k.  Magick.  But they call it manna.  Using manna.  Another secret society using manna is the Sons of Satan.  OK, that’s not the name.  I forget the exact name, but something like that.  Nasty bunch.  Headed by a woman, who requires the unwilling services of young men hung upside down on Xs on pentagrams bleeding to death so she can do her spells.

A secret terribly powerful paramilitary organization with an awful lot of pricey high tech weaponry and equipment and helicopters.  Run by a guy who nobody has seen.

The young man in the desert now finds himself with massive superpowers, and the secretary military force is after him, and that Satan lady is after him because she wants to use him as her final sacrifice, and the young man, Seb,  also finds that with his superpowers comes himself divided into three parts, (Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est), one part of which claims to be his subconscious and acts like a whole separate person, and which I took to represent the ego, the id and the superego.  meh.

He now finds through his mentor that he has unlimited capacity for sex with no debilitating effects.  With multiple partners.  At the same time.  Sounds like every teenage boy’s wet dream.

OK, so we have a mash-up of aliens, alien technology, magic, violence, gratuitous violence, military stuff, Freudian psychology, lite porn, and ….  so’s we don’t leave out the ladies, …  a romance between Seb and a gal he knows, although why she would want him now since he is banging everything in sight is beyond me, but since it is written by a male writer, I can see why he would think so.

There was also a whole back story of his time as a orphan in an orphanage.  There was a whole lot of a whole lot. It felt like the Trope of the Week book, which my Dearly Beloved liked very much and I found annoying.  I was likin’ the whole alien thing, and then everything became about magic, and OK, are we going the fantasy route?  I can dig that.  But then we had the whole tearjerking orphan back story, and just when I was getting into that, we had the paramilitary, which while I didn’t love it, I could deal with it, when Enter Stage Left come the Satanists and their carnage.

It sort of all came together in the end, but really, superpowers?  And there are several more volumes to this?  The Dearly Beloved downloaded the next in the series, The Unmaking Engine,  which I am not sure I will bother reading.   I am not a big fan of gratuitous violence, being of the gamboling through the daisy-filled hillsides kind of a chick.

He wakes up and finds he has superpowers?  Sounds like every second-rate YA book ever written.



The Socket Greeny Saga.  Every time I thought of the book in my head, I referred to it as the Lemony Snicket book. Funny how certain language sounds lead you astray, down detours, and away from your terribly serious focus.  Have you read any of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books?  I have, but that was before I started the blog, so it is not included among the books I talk about.  Alas.

But not to fret!  We have another nifty YA in the person of Socket Greeny.  Yes, that is the name of the protagonist, and the ONLY reason I decided to read this book.  Because how can you not read a book titled Socket Greeny?   Although I often say I don’t read YA, the truth is I DO read YA, more than I care to admit to, but usually inadvertently, thinking it is something else.  That’s my story and I am sticking with it.

And yeah, it’s another version of the save the world trope, and the only one who can do it is the teenage principle of the book, but  really, would you rather read about a courageous, curious, interesting, intelligent adolescent, or about some dull-witted kid wasting his life on weed and weaseling out of school?   So I, having no patience with ne’er-do-wells, opt for the zippy teenager saving the world single handedly.

This is fantasy-sci fi.  Kind of Harry Potter meets – oh, I don’t know.  Let me just give you the official plot.  So much easier.

Socket Greeny is not normal.

His funny name and snow-white hair are the least of his problems. When a devious prank goes bad, Socket and his friends realize they are about to lose everything they’ve worked for in the alternate reality universe of virtualmode.

But when the data drain encroaches on Socket’s subconscious memories, some mysterious force erases the event entirely. Subtle clues suggest there’s more to him than he knows and will lead him to discover why his mom is always at work. And just how far from normal he is.

Work has always come first for Socket Greeny’s mother, ever since his father died. But when she shows him the inner workings of the Paladin Nation, he discovers why.

Paladins traverse the planet through wormholes to keep the world safe, but from what, they won’t say. Although his parents were not actually one of them, Socket is different. He soon finds himself in the center of controversy and betrayal when he’s anointed the Paladin Nation’s prodigy. He didn’t ask for the “blessing” of psychic powers and the ability to timeslice and he doesn’t want to be responsible for the world. He just wants to go home and back to school and be normal again.

And when the world is soon threatened and the Paladins are forced into the public eye, Socket discovers what his mother means. If he doesn’t embrace his true nature, life as we know it will change forever.

Paladin Nation.  Every time I read that, the song from the TV show kept popping into my head.  I think this book will appeal to people who are into role playing video games, because it has a lot to do with vitualworld, where they get into a major battle with the Bad Guy of the piece.  Socket and friends seem to incur some real life injuries in that battle, and I am not clear how that happened, because, like, virtual world is virtual, right?.  The Bad Guy reminded me of the Quintessential Enemy,  Harry Potter’s Voldemort — beautiful but deadly.

Anyway, OK, some folks love it, some did not.  I did not love it.  For me, it beat to death that old trope of teen saving the world, so it did not really engage me, although the writing was fine.  I wonder who are the principle target of these kinds of books?  Teen boys?  Pre-teen boys?  Teen or pre-teen girls?

This is a trilogy, but I think I have had enough of teenagers.  Frankly, I think the reason I don’t care for this particular trope is because all the teenagers I know couldn’t be trusted to feed the dog two nights in a row without being nagged, so the idea of any of them actually saving anything other than their leftover pizza is a pretty big stretch.

SNOWFALL ON MARS by Branden Frankel

“Although the terrain is a rusted red-orange, it is gashed at random internals with outcroppings of faded grey rock.  In the distance are snow-topped hills.  There are no plants.  There are no animals.  Just soil and rock and the train track, exploding out from beneath the train and into the hazy distance as though the track was as desperate to return to civilization as the outcasts transported upon it.

Out of the steel grey and cloudless sky, snowflakes drift gently to the ground…The snow I’m watching fall now is the result of a failed project undertaken by a failed people.  The first colonists came to Mars sixty years ago.  Forty years later, they tried dto terraform the planet by pumping chemicals into the air.  The intent was to create a breathable atmosphere.  All they created was acidic rain and toxic snow that served to break their impressive machines down into the same rust red dust that is the beginning, middle, and end of this place.”

Yep, Gentle Readers, it is that time again.  Time for another Mars book, because I AM the most Mars obsessed person you know. And let me say right from Jump Street that I loved this book.  It doesn’t have the detailed and imaginative science or the painfully serious politics of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, the fun goofiness of Kage Baker, the woo-woo factor of finding ruins on Mars of Dylan James Quarles, or the ultra reality of Mars in Andy Weir’s The Martian.  This book about Mars, my darlings, has SNOW!  Hot damn!

From the hundreds of thousands of colonists who came to Mars and procreated there, spread over a number of settlements, the population is down to about 500, huddled together in one section of New Houston, and they are barely keeping body and soul together, because you need high tech folks to keep things running, food growing and processing, etc.  They are down to only a handful who seem to be using my basic toolbox – hammer, screwdriver and duct tape.  Twenty years ago, Earth blew itself up —  mid-sentence during a broadcast.  This triggered nuclear winter on Earth, and whelp,  there goes your fallback position if you didn’t like life on Mars, and there goes your grocery delivery.  This event on Earth triggered on Mars mass suicides, and days of unspeakable violence and killings.  Those who were left were left to make do with damaged infrastructure and facilities.  The terreforming project after being seen to be a total failure, was shut down.  Life became constricted and bleak.

As we live through the days with our first person narrator, I am reminded of scenes of Soviet-era Russia, grim, bleak, sad.  One day after another, one foot after another, until one day he is awakened by a friend to tell him that the head engineer has been murdered in his lab over night.  The game is on to find the killer, and the reason for the murder.  In that process, we find there is an even larger problem.  A self-proclaimed cult leader has plans to blow up what remains of the planet’s population because of his own overheated sense of guilt and doom, and it is up to our narrator and friends to track him down and foil the dastardly plot.

Fun fact:  the food for the planet is manufactured in an underground facility.  At one time, this ‘substance’ was known as “sustainability rations”.  It was to hold colonists over in the event that a shipment from Earth was delayed.  It was never mean to be eaten as breakfast, lunch and dinner for a lifetime.  These rations are created by distilling the byproduct of a genetically engineered fungus brought from Earth years ago.  The fungus metabolizes Martian soil and creates a substance that can support human life.  In other words, they feed dirt to fungus and eat its shit.

A quote or two, to whet your appetite:

About a scammer,

You are aware that you can’t trust Wang, right?  You are aware that Wang has no scruples?  That he’d sell his own mother into slavery?  Assuming, of course, that he was born rather than spontaneously generated out of ambient spite.

About his dream for a life where there might be real food:

It doesn’t have to be the Land of Milk and Honey.  The Land of Beer and Cheeseburgers would suit me just fine.

So we have a mystery and a thriller all rolled up together, but the most interesting thing about this was the way we are forced to examine the ideas of identity, place, and I suppose grit and intrepidness.  Our narrator, who was brought to the planet by his parents at age 6, and thus has memories of Earth,and plans for returning there, views his future much differently than those young people who were born on Mars, for whom Earth is just a word, and for whom its destruction is essentially meaningless.  Our narrator views the future as ‘less than’, while the young people, having nothing to compare it to, simply view it as ‘future’.

Snow on Mars.  It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Sci Fi with an emphasis on the fi, with a lot of the sci  glossed over.  That’s fine by me.  I  don’t really need a course in astrophysics or quantum physics to enjoy a story about the final frontier.

The first third of the book concerns young Cornell, whose mother, we learn, was abducted by aliens when he was four and the family was out in the woods on a picnic.  I mean, think about it.  How many people do you personally know …. or have even heard about …. whose parent was abducted by aliens and never returned?   I thought so …. zero.  So right off the bat we know that weirdness will probably be the norm.

We meet Cornell and his father, and their neighbor and bff Pete as they are traveling to a site where a strange slick of glass had appeared overnight.  Cornell’s dad is a UFO buff.  He is obsessed with them, and some family money has enabled him to make it his life’s work, and the three travel around interviewing people and taking samples of the glass, and so forth, as one does if one is a UFO nut fixated person.  These glass ‘puddles’ have appeared all over the world, much like crop circles, and no one knows where they come from, or what they mean.  They are not some special material … they are just glass.

And so life goes for, as I said, the first third of the book, as we learn more about Cornell and his dad and then one night ……. BAM!!  the sky becomes inverted.  Like a mirror.  You look up at the sky and instead of seeing stars, you see a mirror image of say, Antarctica.  Well, talk about panic and terror in the streets!  For a while.  But nothing happened from then on.  Nothing.  No aliens arriving, no doomsday, no apocalypse.  Nothing but life as usual.

And if you thought that was weird, the remainder of the book was even weirder.  Cornell becomes estranged from his whack-o father, and eventually is recruited by a secretive company to …    you are so going to love this ……  go through a ‘portal’ or what they call an ‘intrusion’ which dumps them into other worlds.  Turns out there are a bunch of these anomalies all over, each one going to a different world, some very dangerous, some where the explorers never returned, and some similar enough to earth that the explorers can spend some time there trying to find advanced species so they can make first contact.

Cornell goes through an intrusion to a place where he becomes a sort of kind of humanoid insect-y thing which has a huge head housing the brain (the mind), and six bodies.  Think of having six hands to do your brain’s bidding.  The mind uses these bodies out in the world while it remains somewhere nearby in safety.  And, yeah, he does actually meet an alien …. I love it when there is an alien in the book.  This one is huge, powerful, and frankly, not all that bright.

I am not going to tell you any more about this plot in case you are a sci fi fan and want to read this.   But I will give you a spoiler hint about his mother……  oh, phooey, no I am not.   Read the book.

This whole premise of ‘intrusions’ calls to mind the idea of the trash chute in apartment buildings.  If these intrusions become well known, at least by governments or powerful groups, what’s to prevent them from tossing all the unwanted human riffraff into the intrusions where nobody returns?   Could be a nifty method for population control.   Egad.  Unintended consequences, and all that.  Here we naive readers are approaching it like a fun ride at the amusement park, what with us popping through  to look around at the weirdees, but hey, unwanted visitors could be using them to show up on earth and take a peek at us, too, not to mention that using it like an airlock thing.

I love sci fi, even bad sci fi, for the creative and unusual ideas that people have.  I really admire imaginations that go beyond aliens that all look like humans, humanoids or bacteria.   Really, think about it.  Think of all the strange and unusual creatures in our own oceans.  What makes us think that every life form is human?

THE CITY AND THE STARS by Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke, in case you never heard of him, was a British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.   He was a co-writer of the screenplay for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Clarke was a science writer, who was both an avid popularizer of space travel and a futurist of uncanny ability. On these subjects he wrote over a dozen books and many essays.  He was awarded a number of Hugo and Nebula awards, which along with a large readership made him one of the towering figures of science fiction. For many years Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov were known as the “Big Three” of science fiction.

The City and the Stars takes place one billion years in the future, in the city of Diaspar. By this time, the Earth is so old that the oceans have gone and humanity has all but left. As far as the people of Diaspar know, theirs is the only city left on the planet. The city of Diaspar is completely enclosed. Nobody has come in or left the city for as long as anybody can remember, and everybody in Diaspar has an instinctive insular conservatism. The story behind this fear of venturing outside the city tells of a race of ruthless invaders which beat humanity back from the stars to Earth, and then made a deal that humanity could live—if they never left the planet.

In Diaspar, the entire city is run by the Central Computer. Not only is the city repaired by machines, but the people themselves are created by the machines as well. The computer creates bodies for the people of Diaspar to live in and stores their minds in its memory at the end of their lives. At any time, only a small number of these people are actually living in Diaspar; the rest are retained in the computer’s memory banks.

All the currently existent people of Diaspar have had past “lives” within Diaspar except one person—Alvin, the main character of this story. He is one of only a very small number of “Uniques”, different from everybody else in Diaspar, not only because he does not have any past lives to remember, but because instead of fearing the outside, he feels compelled to leave. Alvin has just come to the age where he is considered grown up, and is putting all his energies into trying to find a way out. Eventually, a character called Khedron the Jester helps Alvin use the central computer to find a way out of the city of Diaspar. This involves the discovery that in the remote past, Diaspar was linked to other cities by an underground transport system. This system still exists although its terminal was covered over and sealed with only a secret entrance left.

Eventually, the protagonist, Alvin, finds a space ship which is still functional, buried outside Diaspar. He manages to retrieve it, gets his friend from Lys, and travels into deep space. They encounter Vanamonde, a being of pure intellect, with whom the friend, being telepathic like other Lys people, can communicate and bring him back to Earth. From him the truth of history finally emerges.

I was somewhat disappointed.  It felt dated, and its tropes and themes seem, from the vantage point of 2018, now rather overdone, but in 1956, when this was written, this was hot stuff.   Some interesting ideas, as there always are, even in the most dated of science fiction.  But I am still glad I read it.


This was a delightful ‘sci fi’ …. and I use that term loosely ….. story about a small space ship which lands in some fields in a rural old mill area of Massachusetts,  and then …….. does nothing.  It just sits there.  For three years.  The government comes out to investigate, the army sets up shop to keep watch, a whole bunch of UFO nuts  believers park their RVs along the side of the road across from the fenced off space ship and beam their amazingly large arrays of digital equipment on the area, and then…. everybody goes back about their own business.

The protagonist is 16 year old Annie, so that makes this a YA, but not really.  Well, sort of.  Annie’s mother and father have split, her mother has cancer, and Annie is pretty much on her own, and brightens her days by knowing everyone and keeping tabs on all the doings in the small town. She has a BFF, a shy, retiring home-schooled girl whom no one seems to be able to remember.  Everybody likes Annie.  WE like Annie.

When the ship first lands, she sees it come down, and approaches it with some friends.  They run away, she goes near it and lays her hand on it, surprised to find it not hot.  Hmmm.  Another person reports it to the local sheriff, a lot of activity ensues, but still the spaceship does nothing.

After three years, a special government official shows up in town, and after unsuccessfully trying to pass himself off as just another reporter looking for a new story angle, he finally hires Annie to take him around and introduce him to people who might have some information he is amassing.

Of course, eventually, something DOES happen, and it is all pretty nifty.  Now, don’t get all excited.  This is not Isaac Asimovc stuff.  Just a fun sci story that although offering us some pretty interesting ideas, doesn’t really take itself too seriously.   I was a little disappointed in the pretty improbable ending, though…. oh, wait!  What am I saying?  We’re talking about a  story about a space ship, a spaceship which produces zombies using fodder from the local graveyard, a friend who is actually an alien who has robots masquerading as her parents, …  and I am concerned about an improbable ending?  Yeah.  Lost my mind there for a minute.

Fun read.  Since its tagline is Sorrow Falls #1, I am assuming it is or will soon be part of a series.  But I am done with Sorrow Falls and Miss Annie whose dialogue actually DOES seem improbably witty for a 16-year-old.  I have my own UFOs to investigate, right here in Sunny Mexico. Probably military maneuvers ….  not Mexico’s military, but the secret crap of the USA’s military …. but it is fun to think there might be a sentient being who took a wrong turn at Neptune and ended up flying over the Sierra Madres, trying to orient the lousy map he picked up at his last fuel stop on Ganymede.

NEMESIS GAMES by James S. A. Corey

The fifth in the hopefully never ending series The Expanse, by those two guy who write under one name.  For what has gone before, just put the author’s name in the search box here.

This series is space opera and character development and epic story telling and some nifty imagined futuristic science, and all those good things wrapped up in a hard sci fi package set in the future future, where we have technology to reach the stars via the ‘Epstein Drive’,  which is a modified fusion drive invented by [the fictional] Solomon Epstein and which enabled humanity to travel beyond Earth and the inner planets and colonize the Asteroid Belt and outer planets.

The drive utilizes magnetic coil exhaust acceleration to increase drive efficiency, which enables spaceships to sustain thrust throughout the entire voyage. A ship fitted with the efficient Epstein drive is able to run the drive continuously for acceleration to its goal and then after flipping at about the halfway point is able to run the drive continuously during deceleration. Previous engine designs used propellant less efficiently and could not be run long enough to achieve the high velocities that the Epstein drive permitted.

Since its invention and up until the discovery of the Ring network, the Epstein drive remained the most advanced transportation technology humanity had access to.


In Cibola Burn, the protomolocule’s gate has opened the doors to innumerable worlds for humanity, and a movement to colonize new planets is underway. But, it’s not all good news for the solar system’s power struggle: Mars’ terraforming project is threatened by the mass exodus, and the Belt is seeing its own sources of supplies and resources dwindling.

At the start of Nemesis Games, the worst case scenario unfolds: Ships have begun to disappear across the solar system, and a brazen attack against Earth and Mars plunges the solar system into chaos. Each of the crew of the Rocinante are caught up in the action as the solar system is torn apart.  Nemesis Games turns into a complicated solar-political story: radicalized Belters declare war on the rest of the system, attempting to kill the political leaders of Earth and Mars, and worse. The undercurrents of racism and economic inequality that have shaped Corey’s world come up front and center.   We see a couple of serious points emerging out of the space opera story — that radical actions and movements don’t come out of thin air: they’re born out of inequality and racism, often at the hands of those who are willing to overlook the human cost of their actions. In the Belt, each day is survival, and there’s some clear parallels between the War on Terror and the actions of the OPA’s Free Navy (the radicals’ organization) movement.

And secondly, the violent actions of terrorists rarely speak for the entirety of a people: Rather, they’re conducted by individuals looking to expand their own power, latching on to whatever is convenient to get people to follow them and act in their name.

This was a humdinger, a page turned from beginning to end.  LOVE LOVE LOVE this series.


– the inescapable agent of someone’s or something’s downfall,  archrival, adversary, foe, opponent, arch enemy

  • a long-standing rival; an archenemy.

-a downfall caused by an inescapable agent.