Tag Archives: sci-fi

Book Review: Dune

Book Name: Dune
Author: Frank Herbert
First Published: 1965

Frank Herbert began researching and writing Dune in 1959. The idea for the novel originated from a magazine article he was writing on sand dunes in the Oregon Dunes near Florence, Oregon. He became involved in the ecological information about the dunes and how these sand structures influenced the animals and the town of people nearby and he ended up with far more raw material than was needed for an article. Instead of finishing and submitting the magazine article, the data and idea of the shifting sand ecologically became the seed for his novel Dune. It was the first ecological science fiction novel, embracing a plethora of sweeping, inter-related themes and multiple character viewpoints, a style of writing that ran through all Herbert’s novels

I will attempt to summarize the plot of Dune, but it is such a complex story that it is impossible to touch on all the concepts, the rich characters and the intrigue of this story.

Emperor Shaddam, head of House Corrino, has come to fear House Atreides due to the growing popularity of Duke Leto Atreides within the ruling Houses of the universe. Not wishing to do an overt attack since it would lead to a civil war, never the less, Shaddam decides to destroy House Atreides. He employs House Harkonnen and its Baron Vladimir who has been feuding with Atreides for centuries to trap and destroy his target. In order to remove Atreides from their home planet of Caladan where his royal navy protects him, Shaddam offers Leto Atreides control of the lucrative planet Arrakis, known as “Dune” for the vast desert it contains and for the “spice”, a prized drug that facilitates space travel, extended life and other benefits.

Leto Atreides accepts the Emperor’s offer and takes his concubine Jessica and son Paul with him to take charge of the planet. He is able to thwart the initial Harkonnen traps and complications while also building trust with the desert people of Arrakis known as the Fremen. However, when House Corrino’s troops ally in secret with House Harkonnen and are assisted by a traitor in the Atreides camp, the Atreides family is scattered and Duke Leto is killed.

Jessica and her son flee to the desert and are taken in by the Fremen. Jessica gives birth to a daughter named Alia, a full sister to Paul and becomes a Fremen Reverend Mother. As a Reverend Mother, she is able to protect her children as they live among the Fremen. Meanwhile, the spice in the air and water begins to effect Paul Atreides, evolving him into something that had been bred into his genes by Jessica’s Bene Gesserit religious order, but was not supposed to come to fruition in him, but instead to his progeny. Paul’s ability of prescience allows him to grow in influence among the Fremen. He and his mother teach the Fremen the fighting skills of the Bene Gesserit and the desert fighters grow to rival the warriors of both House Corrino and Harkonnen. He takes the name Muad’Dib (the mouse) among them and takes his place as their prophesied messiah.

Eventually, Paul Muad’Dib leads the Fremen to retake Arrakis and to force the Emperor’s hand. Using his power of prescience and his training of being a Duke’s son, he is able to avenge his father’s death, destroy House Harkonnen and wrest the title of Emperor for himself by holding the planet of Dune hostage. Paul Muad’Dib Ateides becomes the master of the known universe.

Honestly, I was afraid to read this book until I was in college. I had heard about it often and thought that I should read it, but it seemed wild and cruel to me, something that might shake my innocence. When I finally found the courage to crack open this Hugo and Nebula award winner, I was completely transported into a world of intrigue, sandworms, drugs, adventure, war, philosophy, and quotes that have become part of my vocabulary from that day forward. Perhaps fear is the little mind killer that we need to face after all? I know that I have not been the same since I read this novel.

Dune is a classic tale that draws from Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces for the first time in science fiction and on such a scale that it touches down into that basic core of mythos that we all spring from. Over the decades it has not dated itself, nor has the ideas and concepts at the core of the story. I believe that this is one of the science fiction classics that should be on everyone’s must read list, but it is not for children due to the violence and to the adult concepts it contains.

Iron Maiden’s song To Tame A Land:

He is destined to be a King
He rules over everything
In the land called planet Dune
Body water is your life
And without it you would die
In the desert the planet Dune

Without a stillsuit you would fry
On the sands so hot and dry
In a world called Arakis
It is a land that’s rich in spice
The sandriders and the ‘mice’
That they call the ‘Muad’Dib’


Dune Book CoverDune is not found by free download, but you can seek it out at your local public library or online at any book vendor of your choice. Chances are high that it will be there for sale in one form or another. Keep a copy in your digital or paper bound library. Dune is the first of a series of novels in the Dune Saga, not only by Frank Herbert, but continued by his son, Brian Herbert.

Book Review: The Warlock In Spite Of Himself

Book Name: The Warlock In Spite Of Himself
Author: Christopher Stasheff
First Published: 1969

Christopher Stasheff’s long love affair with television began at an early age. He started on staff at the University of Michigan as a paid student and moved up the ladder as his degree progressed into the Manager of the entire Student Staff. Once he obtained his M.A, he moved on to a position in the Broadcast Department of the University of Nebraska. At this point he switched his field of study and began to work on a Ph.D. In Theater Arts.

It was at this time that he read about a competition for unpublished writers of science fiction and fantasy and he decided to enter the contest. While he did not finish his manuscript in time for the contest, he ended up sending The Warlock In Spite Of Himself to Ace Publishers. They bought it and it was the start of a long career in writing novels. He has 44 titles to his name to date.

Stasheff continued to teach broadcasting at various universities for another fifteen years before he gave it up to become a full-time author. He is married with four children and with grandchildren on the way.

The Warlock In Spite of Himself, a title that plays on the old british novel The Doctor In Spite of Himself, begins when SCENT spy Rodney Gallowglass lands on the backwater planet of Gramarye in a spaceship that is disguised as an asteroid. Rod and his epileptic robot/steed/sidekick Fess discover a feudal world right out of a modern day renfaire. Sprinkled through the population are fantasy creatures such as witches, ghosts, werewolves, dwarves and elves that came about due to the psychic abilities of the people that settled on the planet. SCENT, a planetary democratic federation wishes for this world to be guided toward democracy and represented rule. Rod decides that the best way to promote this is to set up a constitutional monarchy that will foil off-world anarchists, a coven of home-brewed witches, and a man that wishes to become the dictator of Gramarye. Due to Rod’s use of technology that the natives do not understand, he is branded a warlock and uses this misconception to further his aims.

Sometimes you discover an author who has that perfect blend of interests and writing that simply comes together for you. I am a science fiction and fantasy buff with a radio/television/film degree. How perfect is it to find an author who was one of the first to combine a fantasy with science fiction elements, something that is commonplace now, but certainly not when this novel came out, but also an author who creates a fictional catholic saint of television producers and IT computer geeks? I adore the entire concept of St. Vidicon, an order of monks who wear a small screwdriver in a pocket of their robes. While there are customs and concepts about women and the way that Gallowglass behaves that seem right out of the 1950’s and might prove jarring to younger readers unaccustomed to old-fashioned ideals, still the story is charming and humorous. This is Stasheff’s first novel and the first of a long series of books about the Gallowglass clan. It is well worth checking out to see if you are ready for this unique adventure in reading. Prepare to be enchanted.

The Warlock Inspite of Himself Book CoverYou can find The Warlock In Spite of Himself at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at your local used book store.

Book Review: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Book Name: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Author: Jules Verne
First Published: 1870

Jules Verne was born the son of an French attorney in Nantes, France. As a boy, Verne developed a great love for travel and exploration, which was reflected in his science fiction writings. His interest in storytelling often cost him progress in other school subjects. It is rumored that the child Verne was so enthralled with adventure that he stowed away on a vessel going to the West Indies, but his voyage of discovery was cut short when he found his father waiting for him at the next port of call.

As Verne grew to adulthood, he began to write libretti for operettas even as he was studying in law school. When his father discovered that he was not attending to his law studies, his educational funds were cut off. Jules Verne turned to being a stockbroker to make his living, a profession that he hated. Around this time, he met and married Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow with two daughters. Honorine encouraged her husband to do what he loved, to write.

Verne’s writing career improved when he met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, an important French publisher, after being rejected by many other publishers. Verne and Hetzel formed a successful writer-publisher team until Hetzel’s death. Verne was prone to be overly scientific and melancholy in his writing, Hetzel forced the author to be more upbeat and to add in more adventure and less science. The combination proved to be gold. Verne began publishing his novels two years after the birth of his son and generally published two books a year after that point. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of his more famous works and one of the earlier novels that he published.

The novel begins in 1866 when a mysterious sea monster is sighted by ships of several countries. In New York City, an expedition to track down and kill the menace is formed by the US government. Professor Pierre Aronnax, a renoun french marine biologist, is invited to join the expedition at the last minute. Aronnax, his assistant Conseil and harpoon master Ned Land set sail from Brooklyn aboard the naval ship Abraham Lincoln and travel around Cape Horn and entering the Pacific Ocean.

The monster is discovered and the ship enters into battle. During the fight, the three men are thrown overboard and find themselves stranded on the “hide” of the monster. Much to their surprise, they find that the animal is a metal ship. The men are captured and brought on board the strange vessel where they meet its creator and commander, Captain Nemo. The vessel is an electrically powered submarine known as the Nautilus which roams the oceans to carry out marine biology research and to serve as an instrument of revenge for her captain. Nemo and Aronnax form a friendship as Aronnax is enthralled by the undersea views, despite the fact that Nemo has forbidden the three passengers to leave the vessel. Only Ned Land continues to plan their escape.

The title of 20,000 leagues under the sea does not refer to the depth that the electrical submarine dives, but rather the distance that the vessel travels in the ocean during the story. The passengers of the Nautilus see the coral reefs of the Red Sea, the shipwrecks of the battle of Vigo Bay, the Antarctic ice shelves and the fictional sunken nation of Atlantis. The crew does battle with sharks and other marine life and the ship itself is attacked by a giant octopus.

In the end, Nemo’s vessel is attacked by a ship from Nemo’s home nation. The battle pushes Nemo into an emotional depression and in his grief, he allows the Nautilus to enter a whirlpool off the coast of Norway. During this distraction, Aronnax, Conseil and Land manage to escape the submarine and return to land. However, the fate of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus remains a mystery.

I can’t remember a time when I did not know of and love the stories of Jules Verne. So many of his stories have been adapted into movies, his characters have been adopted into other novels, and there was once a ride in Disneyland based on the book. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was the first of his novels that I read, prompted by seeing the Disney movie by the same name starring Kirk Douglas (who sings!) produced in 1954. This movie is likely the most famous of numerous films based upon this book. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is considered one of his “Voyages Extraordinaires” novels which also include Around the World in 80 Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mysterious Island, and From the Earth to the Moon. Many of the inventions that Verne wrote about are now real technology that we see everyday. Verne paid attention to the state of the art scientific information of his time and embellished upon it with his vivid imagination to create his fantastic worlds of the future. If you have not read Jules Verne, I urge you to look into his novels. You’ll see long ago dreams that now have become the shape of life as we know it.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is considered in the public domain and is available for free download at Project Gutenberg or at your local public library.

Author Interview: Brad Blake

Brad Blake and I met at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles during a science fiction get together for fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He is an author with several books under his belt and is a fellow “late starter” like myself when it comes to writing novels. I’m grateful that he consented to be interviewed here at No Wasted Ink.

Please introduce yourself to our readers, Brad.

I’m a native Northern Californian, married with two grown children and a career spent in technology sales. My mom was a teacher and librarian and my dad was a lover of history. I enjoy sports, travel, food, movies, music, the arts, and of course have a lifelong love affair with books. I’ll give in eventually, but do not yet own an eBook reader of any kind.

When and why did you begin writing?

My first memory is writing a nonsensical story about transforming into a bug which I tried to read in front of my 6th grade class, but started laughing so hard I couldn’t stop. I recall reading Mysterious Island by Jules Verne about this time, which forever hooked me into grand adventure and science fiction. My first serious attempt at fiction writing was after college, and mostly short stories submitted to science fiction magazines. Looking at these stories now offers a lesson in how not to write. I put writing aside for the next 20 years while raising a family and working.

Back in 2000 I took a screenwriting class. Over the next few years I wrote a handful of movie scripts, two of which are quite good and have done well in competitions. However, as I attended awards ceremonies at film events such as the Charleston International Film Festival, it became obvious that even the greatest screenplay has almost zero chance of being made into anything. However, the fact that I’d completed full movie scripts gave me the confidence that I needed to start writing. Plus the positive recognition gave me the confidence that I could write a good novel. Unlike screenplays, there was the potential to publish.

In early 2009 I was looking for a new job, and while searching, my wife suggested I start writing my first book. Now in 2012 I have three novels published, the fourth written and the fifth fully plotted and almost half done. These comprise one story arc spread over five books. On a side note I’m also an artist, mostly pen and ink, and have included my original drawings in each book.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Since this is a five book “Blue Third” series, I’ll start with the first:

Blue Third – Citlalli and the Destroyer – The title is meant to be a throwback to the grand adventure books I’ve always loved, from Verne to H.G. Wells to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series. I tried with Citlalli to create and write this kind of exciting tale, updated into our 21st century world, with young adults as its main heroes.

Citlalli and the Destroyer is a space adventure with a unique, fast-paced story. The novel takes seven teenagers from different cultures, one from 5,000 years ago, and throws them into unbelievable adventures on which the fate of Earth and the galaxy rests. The story begins by introducing Citlalli in her native Mexico of 5,000 years ago. After inadvertently becoming a stowaway on a cocoa trader’s interstellar vessel, she ends up being teamed with six teenagers of today. They come from different cultures and families, and along with Citlalli and a bunch of intelligent alien allies are thrust into journeys that will determine the fate of everyone’s civilizations in battling a monstrously evil entity known as The Destroyer. The adventurers include five girls, two boys, and a Basset hound named Lucy. Their journey forces them to learn about friendship, courage, strength, sacrifice and more. I believe the novel offers unique ideas, a very original story, and a genuinely exciting and fun reading experience. I remain very proud of it.

What inspired you to write this book?

All those wonderful authors and their fantastic stories I’ve read my entire life. I would add that I’d been kicking around the idea of Cocoa being the catalyst for Earth’s entry into the interstellar community for 25 years, and finally brought this idea to fruition as the foundation for the first book.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Blue Third is the series title, like Harry Potter, and each book has its own subtitle: Citlalli and the Destroyer, The Cocoa War, Chasing Time, Citlalli and the Dark, and lastly Seven of the Blue Third. Blue Third signifies Planet Earth. In the first book Earth becomes the long lost legendary home of Cocoa, with the whispered name Blue Third, and thus the series title. As for the subtitles, I am a big fan of classic science fiction books and movies from the ‘40s and ‘50s, and each title (including its font and slant on the cover) tries to reflect the spirit of those great titles of yesteryear.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I didn’t start with a message, but since they’re written for all ages there is a consistent focus on teamwork, respecting others who are different than you, never giving up and overcoming great odds to succeed. Honestly, my main goal is for readers to have fun and get sucked into the story of these brave kids.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor?

There are too many to name with many influences in these books. Harlan Ellison inspired my screenwriting and is definitely one of my primary influences. Others off the top of my head include Vonnegut, Tolkien, Bradbury, Pohl, Lovecraft, Wodehouse, Joe R. Lansdale, and way too many others. Having been told my writing is like James Patterson, I’ve read his Maximum Ride novels, which I enjoyed.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

All the covers and titles were my ideas, with mockups I’d create for both front and back, and interpreted by the in-house artists at CreateSpace (my publisher) and approved by me. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to redo these with original artwork by a wonderful illustrator, but I’m very happy with them as is.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I’m a classic late starter and wish I hadn’t taken twenty years off, so my advice is simple: Write. Get the bug and just do it as often as you can. And it’s never too late to start. I was 53 in 2009 as I started my first book, and three years later I’m completing book five. And the feeling is awesome.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

First of all, thank you to anyone who’s read my books. My daughter just started reading the first book to her class of second graders, admittedly a bit young, but apparently enthralled and enjoying the story very much, and are especially impressed that her Dad wrote it. For me that’s what I started writing for in the first place. Whether young or old, I hope anyone reading my books has a wonderful time and enjoys them just as I did when discovering reading so long ago.

Brad Blake
I’m a writer of young adult to adult adventure/science fiction as well as dark comedic screenplays.

The Blue Third series is published by CreateSpace and each is available on Amazon under “Blue Third”, both as hard copies and also on Kindle.

You can find the first three of the novels in this series via Smashwords where epub, mobi and other ebook reader formats are available.

Book Review: Little Fuzzy

Book Name: Little Fuzzy
Author: H. Beam Piper
First Published: 1962
Won the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Novel

H. Beam Piper was a self-educated man, with a great deal of interest in history and science, the two subjects which would figure prominently in his later writings. Being expelled from high school, Piper went to work at the age of 18 as a common laborer at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Altoona Yards in Pennsylvania and later became a night watchman for the third shift at the same railroad yard. He was married to Betty Hirst for several years, but their marriage was unhappy and eventually they divorced without children.

Piper’s writing career began in 1953 with the novel Murder in the Gunroom, a story that would be linked to his death due to the similarity of the plot and his own demise. Soon after his novel Little Fuzzy won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963, H. Beam Piper committed suicide by pistol in early November of the following year. He was a member of the National Rifle Association and owned a large collection of guns, swords and knives with over 100 antique and modern weapons and accessories. It is said that Piper felt burdened by financial hardships in the wake of his divorce and the mistaken belief that his career was going under. He died without gaining critical attention for his work or knowing of the large sales his books were starting to gain for him. After his apparent suicide, his stories began to gain a cult-like following that continues to this day.

Little Fuzzy is the story of Jack Holloway, a crusty prospector on the planet Zarathustra. While humans have been on the planet for decades, he is the first to encounter these tiny humanoid life forms. He befriends a small group of them, taking them in as curious pets. As the days go on, he begins to realize that the Fuzzies, as he calls them, show signs of being more than simple animals, but as thinking beings. If they are sapient, this could ruin the commercial charter of Zarathustra Company and disrupt their taking of the natural resources of the world and in particular, the rare sunstone jewel that is found no where else in the galaxy. It is up to Jack and his friends to protect the Fuzzies and to help them win their day in court.

When I first encountered Little Fuzzy on the book shelf, I mistook it for a children’s book. Who would not with a little furry alien on the cover and a story about cute child-like animals that are “adopted”? Yet, there is an undercurrent to Little Fuzzy in it’s courtroom drama that questions who gains the rights of citizenship and who is considered a second class citizen a reservation that strikes home even today. The notions of corporate interests stifling scientific discoveries that might hurt their bottom line and of environmentalism are all woven into this tale of delightful aliens and the crusty libertarian prospector. The story is memorable and has inspired many sequels. I highly recommend checking out this classic science fiction tale that has inspired many authors down through the years.

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam PiperLittle Fuzzy is in the public domain and can be found for free download at Project Gutenberg.