Category Archives: science fiction

The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed

One November morning, after staying up late to finish Premee Mohamed’s riveting dystopian novella, The Annual Migration of Clouds, I woke up to news that seemed similar to the fictional world I’d just left.

First, I received an email from my brother in BC, reassuring me that he and his family were safe. (Safe? Safe from what? I blithely wondered from my kitchen table in Toronto, having somehow failed to notice the words ‘atmospheric river’ in my previous day’s doom scrolling). The second sign of Mohamed’s prescience was a CBC radio interview with a woman whose back yard in suburban Pickering, Ontario was being invaded by Eurasian wild boars, an invasive species that, if it interbred with the local pig population, could actually cause them to devolve. Then, it was back to the usual roller coaster of Covid-19 updates. Reality seemed to be edging eerily close to the Alberta-based scientist-poet-fiction writer’s vision of a future transformed by climate emergencies, invasive species, and novel infections.

It’s not easy to build a believable dystopian fictional world that looks back with both longing and contempt at the simple pleasures of the Before Times (store-bought food, medicine, electricity, etc.) through the eyes of relatable, fully developed characters. The Annual Migration of Clouds succeeds on all levels.

“The Annual Migration of Clouds is a unique work of fiction written in a voice that is by turns poetic and gutwrenching, humorous, and tragic.”

A tightly compressed coming-of-age story, the book’s central character is Reid, a teenager who lives with her mom on a derelict university campus in what is clearly Edmonton of the After Times. Reid has grown up in a world that has lost most of its technology and systems of communication. The oldest members of her community can remember the Before Times but Reid doesn’t know what it’s like to touch a switch and have lights flicker on or eat food that wasn’t grown or hunted down (enter the feral hogs). Malnutrition is an ongoing threat, as is a creepy disease called Cad, a possibly-sentient parasitic fungus that sometimes does its best to keep its host alive, but other times kills its host in a gruesome fashion. Reid is aware that her own Cad infection may be controlling her decisions and actions, as well as her mother’s –– a chilling device which is all too believable, given the tough little son of a bitch (to quote from the movie Alien) that our very own coronavirus has turned out to be. The description of the attempts to learn to live with Cad sounds awfully familiar: “For generations we have waited for it to become normal. And it has not. We are still horrified. And there is nothing we can do about it.”

However, the central conflict that drives this superb book is not the creepy parasite or the survival of our species in a post-civilization world, but Reid’s struggle to decide whether to face the unknown dangers of traveling to a distant university that her mother suspects may not even exist. Mohamed has grounded her story in the ambitions, intelligence, and emotions of a young woman with a strong moral compass and powerful sense of self. We’re cheering her on, but we’re also afraid for her – what dangers will she face once she heads off into the Unknown? What will the Cad make her do, or prevent her from doing?

Readers may see flickers of other great works of dystopian fiction in “The Annual Migration of Clouds”, from to the genetically engineered pigoons of Margaret Atwood’s Flood trilogy, to the dangerous backwaters (and glimmers of hope) of Emily St John Mandel’s “Station Eleven”, and even the aforementioned Alien movies. Ultimately, The Annual Migration of Clouds is a unique work of fiction written in a voice that is by turns poetic and gutwrenching, humorous, and tragic. Premee Mohamed has created a dystopic future that is terrifying and yet hopeful: for what is a young woman daring to leave home for wider horizons than an expression of hope?

Personally, I can’t wait to see what Reid and her creator Premee Mohamed do next.


Premee Mohamed is an Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton, Alberta. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of venues. Her debut novel, Beneath the Rising, is out now from Solaris Books, with the sequel A Broken Darkness due out in 2021.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ ECW Press (Sept. 28 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 168 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1770415939
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1770415935

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Terri Favro
Some Rights Reserved  

Shapers of Worlds Volume II Edited by Edward Willett

In Shapers of Worlds Volume II, Saskatchewan-based author and publisher Edward Willett packages up 24 speculative short stories penned by writers who have been featured on his podcast, The Worldshapers. Published under the auspices of Shadowpaw Press, Willett’s own imprint, Shapers of Worlds Volume II offers stories ranging from alternate history to science fiction and fantasy. Though six of the tales have been previously published, the majority have not. Included between the pages are elves, mages, detectives, retired henchmen, ancient heroes, commoners, and athletes. Though a variety of characters and settings are employed, one thing is consistent—the stories are both engaging, and engagingly told.

Readers familiar with the Canadian speculative fiction scene will recognize a number of the included authors, including Ira Nayman, Matthew Hughes, Susan Forest, and Candas Jane Dorsey. Forest’s story, “The Only Road,” was one of the standouts. Historical fiction with a fantasy twist, “The Only Road” whisks the reader to India at the time of British occupation. Forest provides a strong description to aid the reader in making the trek. The story opens with the lines:

A tin wind-up drummer marched jerkily in its red uniform along the broad, flat surface of the Thangdu Temple balustrade as Orville waved a handful of the mechanical soldiers and cried out to buyers in the crowd. Above the restless flow of the market, the high, white cliffs of Khangchengyao sparkled in the clear morning air.

“Featuring a wide range of authors and settings, Shapers of Worlds Volume II performs the function of a speculative fiction sampler, offering a taste of different styles and themes.”

Though “The Only Road” reads like historical fiction, there is a mystical twist with references to the mystical land of Shangri, “a land of magic, a land said to perch at the top of a hanging valley, accessible only by no more than a gossamer ladder, a land that touched the realms of the Gods.” “The Only Road” is a backstory to Forest’s Addicted to Heaven series from Laska Media. The first two books in the series won Canada’s Aurora Awards for Best Young Adult novel in 2020 and 2021.

In “The Cat and the Merrythought,” decorated writer Matthew Hughes, author of the novels What the Wind Brings and A God in Chains, spins a tale of an ancient artifact that has more to it than meets the eye. The story, which features two good friends named Baldemar and Oldo, is packed with humour and makes for easy reading. In “I Remember Paris,” James Alan Gardner provides a re-imagining of the events that occurred after Eris, the Goddess of Discord, threw the ill-fated golden apple into the midst of a certain gathering. Entertaining and imaginative, the story is lent greater resonance by Gardner’s ending. In “Message Found in a Variable Temporality Appliance,” Ira Nayman shows the clever humour that is on display in his other works, including the Multiverse: Transdimensional Authority series. “Shapeshifter Finals” by Jeffrey A. Carver offers something of appeal for sports fans, describing a futuristic wrestling match between a human and a shapeshifter. At the same time, the story illustrates how the collaborative comradery of sport might transcend species boundaries. “Going to Ground” by Candas Jane Dorsey is also noteworthy.

One of the stories I found most enjoyable was S.M. Stirling’s “A Murder in Eddsford,” a detective tale set against a backdrop of an alternate-history Earth. In Stirling’s story, events occurring just prior to the year 2000 resulted in the total failure of all machinery: “under the laws of nature as they’d applied since . . . March 17 of 1998, you couldn’t get mechanical work out of heat, not in any really useful amount. Not in an engine, not in a firearm.” Set at a time just over 50 years after The Change, as it is referred to, “A Murder in Eddsford” portrays a world in which wind pumps, thatched roofs, and horse-drawn coaches are ubiquitous. Besides the intrinsic appeal of a well-rendered and familiar, yet different, world, Stirling provides an intriguing mystery as Detective Inspector Ingmar Rutherston attempts to unravel the circumstances behind the death of a much-disliked man named Jon Wooton.

Featuring a wide range of authors and settings, Shapers of Worlds Volume II performs the function of a speculative fiction sampler, offering a taste of different styles and themes. Besides being entertaining in itself, the collection might inspire further exploration of the works of authors the reader finds appealing.

About the Editor

EDWARD WILLETT is the award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for readers of all ages, including the Worldshapers series and the Masks of Agyrima trilogy (as E.C. Blake) for DAW Books, the YA fantasy series The Shards of Excalibur, and most recently, the YA SF novel Star Song. Ed won Canada’s Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English in 2009 for Marseguro (DAW) and for Best Fan Related Work in 2019 for The Worldshapers podcast. His humorous space opera The Tangled Stars comes out from DAW in 2022. He lives in Regina, Saskatchewan. Find him at or on Twitter @ewillett.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Shadowpaw Press (Oct. 28 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 544 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989398286
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989398289

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Disease By Sarah Tolmie

Sarah Tolmie’s Disease is a collection of 20 speculative fiction pieces depicting imaginary ailments such as addiction to butterscotch pudding, allergy to comedy, and the compulsion to innovate even the simplest of actions. Written in a matter-of-fact way, albeit with a dose of humour, the “articles” could almost fool the reader into thinking they are written about real situations. The inclusion of “case studies” adds to the sense of authenticity.

Some of the pieces expand on existing phenomena or situations, either by twisting them or by taking them to ridiculous extremes. For example, many of us know people who seem to be “pet magnets.” They’re the folks who can walk into a room and within two minutes have even the most aloof cat or dog begging for their attention. Tolmie takes that notion several steps further in “The ‘Pied Piper’ of Abandoned Pets,” to both humorous and horrific effect.

“It’s Tolmie’s imagination, combined with her sly and sometimes satirical sense of humour, that makes the pieces work so well.”

“Carborundum” explores the dilemmas faced by someone who discovers he is made of glass. This piece was one of my favourites—funny all the way through yet also possessing a philosophical flair.

The article “Tourist Sensitivity,” which depicts a Dublin-born woman who spontaneously breaks into an Irish jig whenever the number of tourists exceeds the number of locals in a certain area, was also memorable, and “Fat Reading,” in which a woman gains weight simply by reading recipes, made me laugh.

It’s Tolmie’s imagination, combined with her sly and sometimes satirical sense of humour, that makes the pieces work so well. In “Killing Joke,” which is about a young man who is allergic to comedy, Tolmie notes: “He could not go to school, jokes being common among the students and also a pedagogical technique; his parents longed for the bygone days of unfunny education.” When the subject grows to manhood, he finds a suitable partner who is an excellent match for him because as a career scientist she is “able to keep a straight face for long periods of time under ridiculous conditions.”

Most of the pieces have a satisfying twist at the end. Though they are fanciful, they also contain astute observations about human nature. The piece “Divination,” for example, begins with the comment, “People rarely tell the truth. At least, they rarely say what is uppermost in their minds in a given moment.”

Disease isn’t a traditional sort of book. The collection was nonetheless enjoyable for its imaginative scope and the generous injection of humour. Disease is Volume 76 in Aqueduct Press’s “Conversation Pieces” series, which includes collections of short fiction, novellas, essays, and poems.

Author Sarah Tolmie is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo. She has had two novels and two non-fiction collections published by Aqueduct Press, as well as other works put out by McGill-Queen’s University Press and Baseline Press.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Aqueduct Press (Aug. 14 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 120 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1619761939
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1619761933

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This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Lisa Timpf
Some Rights Reserved  

The Nominal Echo Chronicles by Manuel Panchana Moya

“If there was a chance to re-invent the world’s social constructs, what would they be like?” That’s the question Quentin Rossenbaum, a sociology professor at Ryerson University, finds himself trying to answer in the prologue of The Nominal Echo Chronicles.

The question may sound theoretical, but there’s a practical motivation behind it. The reason representatives from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have invited Rossenbaum to weigh in on the issue is simple: they anticipate the possibility that we may discover a planet habitable by humans, and they want to be prepared to get a future colony off to a good start. The philosophical nature of the prologue provides a taste of what to expect in the remainder of the book. Though there is action, there’s also plenty of introspection and debate as characters hash out various technical, social, and ethical issues related to the dream of colonizing other habitable planets.

Events in The Nominal Echo Chronicles span three-quarters of a century, starting with the prologue, set in 2001, and ending with the Epilogue, which takes place in 2075. Throughout the novel, we are given snippets of action spaced out in time. One of the earliest of these depicts the discovery of a prospective suitable planet, subsequently named Fides, in the Alpha Centauri system. NASA forms the Nominal Echo Project to plan and prepare for the colonization of Fides.

“Though there is action, there’s also plenty of introspection and debate as characters hash out various technical, social, and ethical issues related to the dream of colonizing other habitable planets.”

The proposed project consists of three phases. The first is to send probes to Fides to collect data. If the data verifies that the planet is suitable for human habitation, the next step would be to design and build space ships suitable for traversing the necessary distance. Finally, candidates would need to be selected, trained, and sent on their way to establish a colony.

At the proposal stage, the project leaders estimate it will take around 75 years to enact the entire plan. It’s a mind-boggling time span for such an undertaking. As one of the project leaders notes, “ ‘some of the people that will do key work for these projects have not even been born’.”

Through the novel’s events, we get a sense of the kind of challenges involved in executing a project of this nature. For example, as part of the first phase, probes must be dispatched. But to get the probes to travel the necessary distance in a reasonable amount of time, new technology is required. The probes will need to travel at 1/5 the speed of light, and even at that, will take 20 years to get to Fides. The data they collect will take four years to get back to Earth.

In addition to the sheer scope and difficulty of the mission, we get an insight into the staggering cost. Initially, the project is kept secret, with expenditures for various initiatives hidden under the guise of preparation for Mars missions so the project can, as one individual puts it, “ ‘hide in plain sight’.”

There’s a good reason for secrecy. Project leaders fear that widespread knowledge about the efforts might lead to protests. They’re right about that. When Nominal Echo becomes more widely known, there’s a split in public opinion. Some people support the venture and feel it’s a necessary part of humanity’s growth. Others are opposed to what they see as a waste of money that would be better spent solving problems here on our own planet. Protests and acts of terrorism ensue, and even these, we are given a front seat to, as the author makes us privy to the thoughts of someone opposed to the mission, as well as a project member who gets caught in the crossfire.

The Nominal Echo Chronicles doesn’t read like a traditional novel. Rather, it’s a chronology of events, told through the third-person viewpoint of a number of characters along the way. Though the events are interesting enough, The Nominal Echo Chronicles is also a bit of a thought piece, prompting the reader to ponder the implications of humanity’s quest for other habitable worlds. That being said, the author also does a good job of conveying the human impacts of an endeavour of this nature at the individual level.

I saw my first episode of Star Trek (The Original Series) at age eight or so, and read the novels of writers like Andre Norton and Robert A. Heinlein as a teenager. My affection for science fiction has continued throughout my life, and I have always found the notion of space travel intriguing. The Nominal Echo Chronicles provides a thought-provoking look at the complex issues around turning those fantasies into reality. It’s an interesting read for anyone who enjoys contemplating the possibility that we will one day reach the stars.

Manuel Panchana Moya is a Chilean-born Canadian author. Though he has been interested in writing since his youth in Montreal, The Nominal Echo Chronicles is his debut novel.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (Feb. 28 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 315 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8714550355

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: Thanks! 

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Aetherbound by E. K. Johnston

E.K. Johnston’s latest young adult novel Aetherbound is a gripping science fiction tale that transports readers to an eerie cosmic future.

Pendt Harland has lived on board her family’s space cruiser for a lonely eighteen years, rejected by her aunt, the captain of the ship, because her genes don’t serve the ship in a desirable way. Her mother, siblings, and cousins all follow the captain’s lead, treating Pendt as nothing more than a waste of space.

“Whenever I had to step away from Aetherbound, I found myself itching to get back to it.”

Wanting to explore her suppressed magical abilities and escape her family’s torment, Pendt risks everything and escapes during a routine pit stop. She meets Ned and Fisher, brothers and heirs to the family that runs the space station, and together they hatch a complicated life-threatening scheme to take control of their destinies.

Whenever I had to step away from Aetherbound, I found myself itching to get back to it. Johnston’s writing is clear and engaging, and the characters she has created are torn between conflicting desires to do right by those around them and to control their own futures. I was rooting for Ned, Fisher, and Pendt in different ways—yet their stories are linked so closely.

The original magical system in the novel is the highlight for me. It focuses on genetic mutations that allow people to connect to the powerful aether in different ways. Need work done on your space ship’s engine? You’ll have to find an electrical mage. Need to steer the ship in a certain direction? Find someone with star-sense. Pendt, our heroine, is a gene-mage and can alter genetic makeup at will, but requires a significant amount of energy to do so.

The history of the Stavenger Empire, also known as the Hegemony, is interspersed throughout the novel in short excerpts, adding layers to Pendt’s story and shaping her past and future. The Stavenger Empire is like a silent villain throughout the story, looming over our beloved characters’ shoulders. It’s a threatening presence, one that governs every decision they make.

Where the novel falls short is with its pacing. It was slow in some moments, providing unnecessarily lengthy passage of backstory, and oddly rushed in others. I wanted to savour Pendt’s story, so when Johnston jumped ahead by days or even months, I was disheartened. Pendt’s story is not the fast-paced space adventure I expected, but I still wanted to relish the action taken and the decisions made. The gaps in the story also left me with some questions, but the ending indicates there may be a sequel planned, in which case those questions may be answered in a future book. I hope that is the case.

Fans of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James and, of course, E.K. Johnston’s many novels will enjoy this galactic story.

E. K. Johnston is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of several YA novels, including the L.A. Time Book Prize finalist The Story of Owen and Star Wars: Ahsoka. Her novel A Thousand Nights was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. The New York Times called The Story of Owen “a clever first step in the career of a novelist who, like her troubadour heroine, has many more songs to sing” and in its review of Exit, Pursued by a Bear, The Globe & Mail called Johnston “the Meryl Streep of YA,” with “limitless range.” E. K. Johnston lives in Stratford, Ontario.

  • Publisher : Dutton Books for Young Readers (May 25 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0735231850
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0735231856

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This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Spectrum by Julie E. Czerneda

With Spectrum, the latest entry in the Web Shifter universe, Canadian science fiction and fantasy author Julie E. Czerneda continues the saga of a popular character, Esen-alit-Quar. Spectrum, released by DAW April 20, 2021, is Book Three in the Web Shifter’s Library series.

Esen is a web-being, a rare and semi-immortal entity who is able to shift her molecular structure to take on the guise of any species that her kind has accumulated sufficient data about. For the bulk of Spectrum, Esen assumes the form of a Lanivarian, an endearing canine-based entity which is my favourite out of the various forms she has assumed over the series.  

The initial action takes place on the planet Botharis, which is the home of the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture, a pet project of Esen and her friend Paul Ragem. As Spectrum begins, the key characters are trying to get to bottom of a strange phenomenon. Elsewhere in the galaxy, space ships are going astray, becoming “derelicts, adrift and empty.” Entire crews have been lost. Paul’s mother, Veya Ragem, appears to be one of the casualties.

The problem escalates when it appears that whatever is making space-faring vessels go astray is also capable of destroying entire planets. Worse still, the phenomenon appears to be headed toward Botharis. Rather than waiting for that to happen, Esen and her allies decide to see if they can head it off.

Assisting Esen in her quest are her friend Paul, a former First Contact specialist, Polit Evan Gooseberry, a young Commonwealth diplomat who can be charmingly inept and insecure one moment and impressively competent the next, and Esen’s sister Skalet, a formidable character whose favorite form to assume is that of the conflict-loving Kraal.

“In Spectrum, as in her other novels, Czerneda uses her biology background to good effect in creating interesting and compelling aliens, each with their own quirks.”

The plot builds as the novel progresses, with plenty of intrigue and mystery. There are a number of forces at play, not all of them friendly toward Esen and her friends. Czerneda maintains suspense in terms of who is working for who.

The book is generously sprinkled with humour in the form of witty dialogue and amusing situations and encounters. Irrepressible and at times irreverent, Esen is an easy character to root for, and Evan Gooseberry, in this book particularly, is also worth the price of admission.

In Spectrum, as in her other novels, Czerneda uses her biology background to good effect in creating interesting and compelling aliens, each with their own quirks. Carasian Lambo Reomattatii, a giant and highly intelligent beetle-like being who has appeared in some of the other Esen books, is among the more interesting of these.

While the experience of reading Spectrum would be richer for those who have read some of its prequels, it’s still accessible enough for the uninitiated. Czerneda provides sufficient back-story to allow readers to pick up the flow, even if they aren’t familiar with the characters. It’s as good a place as any to take a bite of the series and see if you like it.

My first exposure to the Web Shifter books was with Mirage, the second book in the Web Shifter’s Library series. I enjoyed the writing and the characters so much that I then went back and read several of the earlier books.

Beholder’s Eye, Changing Vision, and Hidden in Sight make up the Web Shifter’s series. The Web Shifter’s Library books include the e-novella The Only Thing to Fear, and the full-length books Search Image, Mirage, and Spectrum.

Julie E. Czerneda is a biologist and writer whose science fiction has received international acclaim, awards, and bestselling status. She is the author of the Clan Chronicles, the Species Imperative trilogy, the Stratification novels, and the Web Shifter series, among other works. She is a multiple Aurora Award winner, and has been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.

  • Publisher : DAW (April 20 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 416 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0756415632
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0756415631

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It Wasn’t Enough by Peg Tittle

“My tag line is ‘Philosophy with attitude. Because the unexamined life is dangerous.’”

Those are author Peg Tittle’s own words, describing her writing style in a recent TMR interview. One of her latest books is It Wasn’t Enough and it certainly bears out her statement above. The premise of the book is (from a philosophical/social science standpoint) what would happen if all women suddenly disappeared from the planet? This includes females of all ages. Gone. In what ways would the lives of men be impacted? What about in the business world? Child care? The sex trade? Would they even care? Ms. Tittle covers a wide range of possible scenarios, in a no-holds-barred way.

The first man we meet is Andrew, who wakes up one morning to the sound of his young boys crying for their Mommy. Andrew has overslept because his wife typically wakes him and takes care of the boys while Andrew takes care of himself. Now, he is running late, has to feed and dress both boys (ages 2 and 4), then get them to daycare. When he arrives at daycare, it is chaos because there are no daycare workers, who are typically women. So he has to take his kids to work. Andrew works as a Project Manager, but since there is no receptionist, Andrew’s boss makes him answer the phones (which Andrew has no clue as to how to do) and because he is no longer fulfilling the requirements of his position, gets his wage knocked down to the receptionist’s lowly one.

The organization that made so many men’s productive lives possible had been due, one way or another, to women. Take a look at any man without a fleet of women behind him. He flounders and bullshits his way until some woman, still deluded by everything takes pity on him. Or some other woman gets annoyed enough, by him, by everything, to just do it herself. As in the home, so too in the office.

Other men, after losing their jobs, turn to (or are forced into) the sex trade. When men start to see how society has been running on the backs of women and how they must do all the menial tasks themselves, things turn ugly as all that pent-up testosterone needs to be released. She also looks at the loss of women on a global scale, for who make up the majority of the workers in Asian factories (sweatshops) where most of our goods are made? Yes, women and young girls.

And of course, it wasn’t just knapsacks that were made in sweatshops. Electronics were also made in sweatshops, By women. So when James asked Andrew to buy him that laptop in lieu of the following week’s wages, it was too late. The store he’d visited, and most others like it, had closed. Their shelves were empty. There would be no more laptops, or tablets, or phones, or mp3 players
Or NFL jerseys. They were also made in sweatshops. By women. And any jerseys already made were just sitting in a warehouse somewhere. Because the clerical force that had arranged golf meetings and hotel accommodations had also arranged international communications, trade shipments, money transfers…
Bottom line, none of the teams would get new jerseys that year. And that’s when the situation really made the news.

I noticed that at Amazon, It Wasn’t Enough is listed under Science Fiction but it is more speculative social science than physical science. Ms. Tittle doesn’t take it upon herself to explain how all women disappeared without a trace, nor why or if they would ever be coming back. Interestingly, there is a university professor that undertakes an examination of the implications of a world with no women, and that serves as a platform to delve a little deeper into the ethical and philosophical aspects of the situation. Ms. Title’s critical thinking expertise is well-demonstrated too, particularly in discussing the violence toward women exhibited in pornography. (She includes links to all her references at the end of the book.)

Women’s subordination had been so systemic, it had been unremarkable. Now that the women had disappeared, and men had to take their places, fill their roles, the subordination was noteworthy. Newsworthy.
He sighed again. He’d concluded, soon after the women had disappeared, that there were two ways it could go. Either they, the men, would finally see the double standards, the sexism, and make corrections. Or they would just create a new subordinate class… it was no surprise that things would play out first and foremost through sex.

Examining a life without women as laid out in It Wasn’t Enough is eye-opening, if not downright horrifying. As I have said in my other reviews of Ms. Tittle’s books, you may not always agree with her viewpoint, but you cannot disagree with her methods of making her point. Recommended as a thought-provoking read.

*If you would like a free, no-obligation electronic copy of It Wasn’t Enough, you may contact Ms. Tittle directly at ptittle7 AT gmail DOT com.

About the author: Peg Tittle ( has written five novels to date: Exile, What Happened to Tom (on Goodreads’ list of Fiction Books That Opened Your Eyes To A Social Or Political Issue), It Wasn’t Enough, Impact, and Gender Fraud: a fiction. She has also written several non-fiction books including Sexist Shit that Pisses Me Off and What If? Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy. She was a columnist for the Ethics and Emerging Technologies website for a year, The Philosopher Magazine’s online philosophy café for eight years, and Philosophy Now for two years. She has degrees in Philosophy and Literature, and she has received over twenty Ontario Arts Council grants.

  • Publisher : Magenta (March 16 2020)
  • Paperback : 200 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1926891716
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1926891712

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: Thanks!

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Deficiency by SC Eston

When my son was a teenager, he introduced me to fantasy and sci-fi novels. I enjoyed the stories he shared with me. Both of us ventured into different genres as he got older. When I met SC Eston through mutual friends, I was re-introduced to fantasy by reading Steve’s first two novels. I was hooked. Eston is a unique and talented storyteller and he continues with his newest venture into science fiction – Deficiency.

Without giving too much away, Eston takes us into a whole new world.

Artenz first awoke in the bio-sphere. As he surfaced from the depths of sleep, words appeared in the bottom right corner of his vision: …

The words disappeared and blended into the background as the profile room built itself. This early in the morning, it loaded quickly.

Everything is perfect in Prominence, a utopian world where Eston’s main characters, Artenz and Keidi are happy in their controlled life, not questioning the authorities until one of their dear friends and relative disappears, literally overnight. No explanations. No warning. She is the only person that shares their secret.

Artenz and Keidi ignore the warnings from those governing Prominence when it comes to a natural act, although it is highly illegal. Not the government but the corporations. Greed and corruption drive the major players where the only things that matters is profit. Their troubles begin when Artenz and Keidi start asking questions. Below Prominence is the Underworld. Abandoned by the Corporations and off-limits, it’s a world of darkness and mystery.  Artenz and Keidi find help from the unlikeliest of protectors. Do the Low Lands exist? Is it their only chance for survival?

Eston writes in tight, descriptive prose. No wasted words. Deficiency is a fast-paced novel full of futuristic ideas and protagonists, colourful characters, a great plot and a satisfying ending. Eston has gone a step further for our enjoyment by adding a list of characters, a map of Prominence and a glossary of terms and technologies. If you are into sci-fi or just a fine story, this novel is for you. It didn’t let me down.

Deficiency is a Miramichi Reader “Pick” for an exceptional self-published novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

About the author: STEVE C. ESTON grew up in the province of New Brunswick in Canada. He is a manager in technology services for the federal government and lives in Fredericton with his wife Leigh, and their two children. For information, excerpts, and free short stories, you can visit him at

  • Publisher : S.C. Eston Author (Dec 2 2020)
  • Paperback : 444 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1777178932
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1777178932

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The Rage Room by Lisa de Nikolits

Toronto author Lisa de Nikotis writes some very good and very imaginative novels. Her latest, The Rage Room is a dystopian novel set in 2055 in a world that is controlled by a woman named Minnie. Capitalism reigns. Consumerism is rampant, for everything including the weather is controlled, so people have little to do but work and shop. The natural world has been all but eradicated and replaced by imitation pants and trees. There are apps to make your physical appearance more pleasing. Almost everything is fake. Minnie has endorsed the use of “Rage Rooms” where people can blow off steam in a safe, controlled environment. Our protagonist, Sharps Barkley is a true Mr. Angry and a regular in the rooms.

Mother looked at me and shook her head. “….you’re the perfect anger machine. I don’t know why, Sharps, but your fundamental, instinctive, feral rage is a rare thing. There are some things that even science can’t explain.”
The pinprick of her words deflated me. Yes. That was me: Mr. Angry. From the cradle to the grave.

Other than his unaccounted for rage, Sharps has everything going for him: a high-paying and secure position at Integratron, married to the boss’ daughter Celeste (who, among other things, is a recovering alcoholic, and spends more time off the wagon than on), Baxter, his young son, and his work partner Jazza Frings who comes up with great marketing ideas for the team. Yet, Sharps is not happy. Coming off paternal leave and having to go back to the working world has him depressed and anxious. The day before he returns, he meets with Jazza and learns some disturbing news that makes Sharps all the more distressed about work.

His whole world is about to go pear-shaped.

At this point in the novel, Sharps is introduced to an underground matriarchal movement wanting to overthrow Minnie and bring nature back. And it involves time travel, which they have been experimenting with. This presents Sharps with the possibility of travelling back in time to right a lot of wrongs he has just committed in real-time. Instead of setting things right, though, he commits more blunders and he gets a glimpse of a world with all control removed. It’s not pretty.

The Rage Room contains passing references to the destruction of the environment, colonialism, class distinction, consumer capitalism and other ills of society that we face today. It also contains Ms. de Nikolits’ trademark humour with lines such as:

  • Dragging myself out of bed was harder than dragging a horse’s head across a row of parked cars, the nightmare from which I had awakened.
  • “The inside of your brain looked like a snow globe on acid and speed.”
  • Consumerism was still our god. all we did was shop, eat, and sleep – the new Holy Trinity.
  • “I feel like we’re all so confused here. Like a bunch of deja vu moments are cross-pollinating and making crazy patterns in my mind.”

I believe that The Rage Room is Lisa de Nikolits’ best novel yet. She has managed to maintain a stable locus of control over the entire story and the result is a very satisfying read. I would like to state that the editing is extremely solid, which serves to make The Rage Room the type of book that is tough to put down. Personally, I find any book (or movie) with a time travel theme boggles my mind and Sharps interferes with so many timelines that it’s difficult to keep following the consequences of his actions (or inaction, in one case). Nevertheless, The Rage Room has much to say about the present world, the near future and the de-evolution of humankind.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

About the author: Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits is an award-winning author whose work has appeared on recommended reading lists for both Open Book Toronto and the 49th Shelf, as well as being chosen as a Chatelaine Editor’s Pick and a Canadian Living Magazine Must Read. She has published nine novels that most recently include: No Fury Like That (published in Italian under the title Una furia dell’altro mondo); Rotten Peaches and The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution. Lisa lives and writes in Toronto.

  • Publisher : Inanna Poetry & Fiction Series (Oct. 30 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Paperback : 312 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 177133777X
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771337779

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Journey to the Hopewell Star by Hannah D. State

“Twelve-year-old Girl from New Brunswick Saves Earth”

So the headline would read if newspapers still exist in some format in the near-to-middle future where Journey to the Hopewell Star takes place. Interplanetary space travel exists, as well as the realization that there are other inhabitants of the universe, such as the Krygians, who have been monitoring Earth for some time but are becoming increasingly concerned about environmental injustices that continue to eradicate species at an alarming rate.

Sam Sanderson is the twelve-year-old in question. She is currently living with her Grandfather while her parents, both respected scientists, are away on some kind of important space mission. The Earth part of the story takes place in New Brunswick and begins on her Grandfather’s farm on a stormy winter night when Sam meets up with Boj (pronounced Bosh) a Krygian messenger whose ship was knocked out by the storm and he ends up in the barn, injured. He wasn’t supposed to make himself known, just drop off a parcel from Sam’s parents and return home. At this encounter, Sam learns of the Krygians, and how their planet is in trouble, as their star is quickly losing energy. She is also given a ‘klug’ a small baseball-sized object that allows for travelling through wormholes. She and Boj use it to get him back to Kryg, and from there, Sam learns that she is the possible fulfillment of a Krygian legend, and she is crowned Queen. This all happens in the first few chapters, so you know you are in for a great read when a fantastic story like this unfolds.

For a debut novel, Journey to the Hopewell Star is an ambitious one, and I hope it leads to sequels. As a Young Adult (YA) novel, it held my interest throughout and the plot had enough threads to untangle to keep me turning pages. The story never felt contrived and as it deals with very real issues such as personal identity, interconnectedness and the despoiling of Earth and it’s resources, it’s a relevant read. To its credit, the book is not centred on technology, war or violence. It is about friendships, standing up to bullying and believing in yourself. In the following excerpt, Onnisa, a Krygian Elder,  reveals to Sam:

“We are not always attuned to our inner voices. Sometimes we only listen to the voice that questions things and casts self-doubt. But you listened to your true voice, the one you needed to hear the most to help you at the time. Your voice is powerful, and you have much to offer. Be patient with yourself, trust your inner voice, and you’ll find that your voice, your intentions, your ideas, and your dreams may travel far, and will spark a light in others while serving as a guiding light for yourself at the darkest of times. After all, if you do not trust in your own voice, who will?”

Exceptional advice for a young person. If you have a young reader at home, Journey to the Hopewell Star will surely appeal to them. Five stars for a fine debut novel!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

About the author: You can read an interview with Hannah D. State here.

  • Publisher : Glowing Light Press (July 31 2020)
  • Paperback : 212 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1777254209
  • ISBN-10 : 1777254205
  • Publisher : Glowing Light Press (July 31 2020)

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: Thanks! 

This article has been Digiproved © 2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Pedestal by Gareth Mitton

My introduction to sci-fi was The Muppet Show, Pigs in Space launching me into the genre. What followed were Star Wars and Buck Rogers – anything, really, with a John Williams or Queen soundtrack. I realize that doesn’t much whittle it down. Later in life, I became a Trekker, and still refuse to choose between Kirk and Picard.

More to the point, here’s what I like about Pedestal, Gareth Mitton’s first novel – futuristic, dystopian science fiction. Its courage. Courage in the story, the characters, and the courage it takes for a successful ad-man like Mitton to pursue his passion as a writer.

“Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke may have laid the foundation, but we’ll always need visionaries and creators – essential for the future. Gareth Mitton is both of these things.”

It’s said everyone has a novel in them. Few write them. And too many do write them if you ask me. But that’s not the case here. Pedestal is action-driven, occasionally dreamy, and distinctly readable. At times it feels like freshman work – not first-year university but a writer developing strengths – a bodybuilder with good tone but needing, perhaps, greater definition. Yet with this freshness comes enthusiasm, evident in the story’s solid composition, dialogue, scenes and flow. 

She gazed back, lips shaping into something hinting at a smile. Hair short, razored, encasing that perfect face like a halo.

Dani walked down the street. Which street, she couldn’t have told you. Where she was going, she didn’t really know.

A flicker and then dark, now pitch. The expanding pupil straining to see. And once again, silence.

Mitton’s imagined world is one of Alternative Immersive Environments or ALTs, where gaming is the new dependency, pushers and player-junkies, implanted bugs part of this future – grim but close to our own. I can’t help but think Blade Runner, although this is by no means derivative. Pedestal‘s story is unique, multifaceted with well developed plot.

Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke may have laid the foundation, but we’ll always need visionaries and creators – essential for the future. Gareth Mitton is both of these things. Whether that future is akin to the one in Pedestal, I couldn’t say. This is an admirable first novel, an innovative leap from the genre’s first-gen. My benchmark maybe Captain Link Hogthrob and Doctor Julius Strangepork, but with authors like Gareth Mitton, I’m eager to see what the future has in store.

About the Author: Born in Rochdale, England, Gareth Mitton is a lifelong writer and creator, now based in Moncton, New Brunswick. He is a published essayist, blogger and author, whose short story Watcher, a 2017 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story semi-finalist, was featured in the 2019 anthology, Dystopia from the Rock. Pedestal is his first novel.

About the Reviewer: Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Dromomania, and Allan’s Wishes. Bill’s work is published in North America, Europe and Asia. When not in a coffee house, library, studio, or on stage, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, making friends and having a laugh.

Title: Pedestal
Author: Gareth Mitton
Distributor: Engen Books
ISBN: 9781989473481
Pgs: 278 pp
Paperback Price: $19.99 Kindle Price: $2.99

This article has been Digiproved © 2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Fid’s Crusade by David H. Reiss

I rarely review science fiction, and it’s not because I don’t admire the genre, it’s mainly due to the fact that sci-fi requires a certain mindset from the reader, and I don’t always have the patience (for lack of a better word) to deal with fantastical settings, other worlds, etc. So, when I was asked* to review Fid’s Crusade: Book One of the Chronicles of Fid, I was hesitant, yet at the time, the book’s synopsis appealed to me:

“Rage, grief and guilt have fueled Doctor Fid’s endless quest to punish the unworthy and he has left a long trail of blood and misery in his wake. For more than two decades, the sight of the villain’s powered armor has struck fear into the hearts of hero and civilian alike! But when a personal tragedy motivates Doctor Fid to investigate a crime, he uncovers a plot so heinous that even he is taken aback.”

So, on one level, we have sci-fi with superheroes vs. villains, but we also have a criminal investigation headed by this infamous Doctor Fid, to find the killer behind a man named Starnyx, who was his only real friend, albeit for a very short period of time.

I’ll say at the outset that I was very impressed by Fid’s Crusade, particularly with the writing. This book is more literature than science fiction, more philosophical than action-filled. Narrated by Doctor Fid himself, the story is about a man, Terrance Markham, who becomes the villain Doctor Fid after witnessing the inaction of a hero to save Bobby, Terrance’s younger brother from dying. In becoming Doctor Fid, he seeks to reveal heroes for what they really are.

“Even then, I recognized that so-called superheroes performed a public service that is both difficult and dangerous; they were marketed, however as something far greater. They accepted the accolades, pretended to be righteous warriors and icons of justice and all that is good, and yet still quietly accepted a system that protected the undeserving. A thin spandex line that stood in opposition to villains like the very-deceased Locust or the monster who had been Fid but also shielded their peers from accountability.
They accepted worship from children.”

Terrance Markham is the wealthy CEO of AH Biotech and his other identity is known to no one. That is until he meets up with a child-like android named Whisper, the creation of Apotheosis, a supervillain who has disappeared and is presumed dead. Terrance wants to legally adopt her, but the judicial system is still unsure if androids can be considered sentient beings. In the meantime, Whisper lives with Terrance and knows he is Doctor Fid. Whisper becomes like a little sister to Terrance, filling the hole in his life that Bobby left when he died. They develop a working and living relationship that serves to “soften” Doctor Fid and sets him to use his vast knowledge and amazing inventions to do good for society. However, his label as a villain is almost insurmountable, and certain heroes have a difficult time believing that Fid now wants to turn to do good by finding the killer(s) of heroes Starnyx and Beazd. There is a subplot of a pending alien takeover of Earth by a group called Legion that use telepathy to control others. A spaceship of intergalactic refugees escaping the Legion has crash-landed on Earth and Doctor Fid discovers that Legion agents have infiltrated Earth and might be influencing some of the heroes.

The climax of the novel is a confrontation of the heroes with Legion subjects (and their mind-controlled cloned minions) in New York City. Can Doctor Fid (and Whisper) save Earth? “Doctor Fid might be a supervillain, but perhaps he could save the world right out from under the fraudulent superheroes’ noses,” he tells the reader.

I truly enjoyed reading Fid’s Crusade. Mr. Reiss writes in a very mature, literate manner that is refreshing, and surprising too for a novel about the “cape and cowl” set. There is no foul language, no sexual content, and really little actual violence. I would consider this as “safe” reading for mature teens and those of us who are young at heart. There are more installments in the Chronicles of Fid, and I am eager to see how Mr. Reiss develops the intriguing character of Doctor Fid.

Fid’s Crusade (Book One in the Chronicles of Fid) by David H. Reiss

*This post is the final stop in the week-long book blog tour of Fid’s Crusade. Here’s the full itinerary, which also includes YouTube reviews and a book giveaway:

Giveaway link:

Fid’s Crusade Book Tour Schedule

Sunday July 14th

Shaye from A Reading Brit (blog)
Amanda from Amanda readsss (youtube)

Monday July 15th
Ross from Storgy (blog)
Hilary from Melted Books (youtube)

Tuesday July 16th
Arden from the Phantom Paper (blog)
Arts, Books and Other things (youtube)

Wednesday July 17th
Jenny from Tecsielity (blog)
Savy (youtube)

Thursday July 18th
Sarah from Murder by Tomes (blog)
Kathy (youtube)

Friday July 19th
Yes More Blogs (blog)
Toya – Reading Chemist (blog)
Scott from Book Invasion (youtube)

Saturday July 20th
James from the Miramichi Reader (blog)
Cheyenne from Novel Insights (youtube)

This article has been Digiproved © 2019 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Insatiable Machine by Zoë Robertson

One of the new Spring 2018 releases from Roseway Publishing (an imprint of Fernwood Publishing) is the “speculative” fiction/sci-fi thriller Insatiable Machine. Roseway kindly sent me an ARC to review in advance of its upcoming release. Speculative fiction relies less on the science part than on what the world may look like a number of years from now, not the next century and beyond. While no actual date is given in Insatiable Machine, it would appear that it is set in the not-too-distant future where a conglomeration (or alliance) of big business (the Big Six) controls almost everything, including the president of the United States. There are surveillance cameras everywhere, police drones, autonomous vehicles, and smart pens instead of smartphones. Does the concept of the smartpen sound familiar? How many of us have our digital lives on our phone? We do banking with them, pay for items with them, keep our credit card information stored on them, etc. This is the essence of speculative fiction; how far (right or wrong) could present technology take us?

Insatiable Machine is a fore-gleam of the future that is frightening in itself.

From the first page of the Prologue, we can discern that something is definitely amiss in this future world (it is set in Washington D.C.). Curt Hutchison, a journalist, is being hunted by the police for he has learned a terrible secret that the Big Six and the U.S. government is trying to keep from its citizens: the mystery of the “contribution score” and how it is tabulated for each person. Later in the book, Curt (or Hudge, as he is commonly known as) explains to a group of people:

“What it is, in its most basic sense, is a number indicating the balance between what you contribute to the economy and what you take back from it. Over the last ten years, it has become increasingly less convenient to use cash as a method of payment, more and more of our transactions are carried out and recorded in cyberspace.” He reached into his pocket and produced his smart pen, waving it aloft. “This little device is now your transit card, credit card, medical history, resume, tax records, search history….and the list goes on. As more and more of this personal data gets stored in one place, more of it is superimposed upon your financial activity….they are assigning value to you as a human being. Value in the form of a single, two-digit number you are not allowed to know. What you are also not allowed to know is how this number is calculated.”

It is at this point the police conveniently arrive to shut down the meeting (they claim there’s a bomb in the building) before Hudge can speak out any more on the subject.

In the world of Insatiable Machine, almost everything is manufactured by 3D printing, another technology that has promising applications. However, this has led to automation and the loss of jobs for millions of workers. There is no middle class here. The poor live in the “Borders” an area outside Washington, D.C. where they are pretty much left to their own devices, sleeping in abandoned and derelict buildings, finding what work they can, usually illegal. Infrastructure is crumbling and network transmissions inside the border are throttled back. They are looked down upon by the “City” people, and it’s not safe for a City person to be in the Borders, especially at night.

Well, I’ve said enough about the book, which I found fascinating to read. However, as I was reading it and getting down to the last few pages, I was wondering just how Ms. Robertson would end it. It seemed there was a surfeit of character backstories to tell, (and some unnecessarily long as it turns out), that more could have been written about the U.S. post-revolt. Some may find the ending different than what they imagined or lacking in what might be called a tidy ending. The truth is, it is difficult to end a story like this, for it is more than the struggle of a few people to expose the Big Six and government for what it is. The world goes on, changed, but has it been radically changed? There is much work to do once the revolt is over. Such speculations are left up to the readers of Insatiable Machine to envision for themselves.

At any rate, Insatiable Machine was a good sci-fi read, and the social issues it addresses could well be prophetic if they were not already a present reality, albeit not as encompassing (yet) as they are in the book. Add in the increasing influence of and the dependency on technology each day and you have a fore-gleam of the future that is frightening in itself.

Insatiable Machine by Zoë Robertson
Fernwood Publishing

(Note: this review is based on an Advance Reading Copy supplied by Fernwood Publishing. Insatiable Machine will be released in April 2018. It can be pre-ordered from here.)

This article has been Digiproved © 2018 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Zoe Robertson, Roseway Publishing

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2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush

I was quite excited to find a book of short stories inspired by the music of one of my favourite rock bands, Rush. They have been around for forty-plus years, so this 18-story anthology covers songs from their vast catalogue of intelligent songs. The collection also includes the stories that inspired such Neal Peart-penned Rush classics as “Red Barchetta” and “Roll the Bones”. Included as well is Kevin J. Anderson’s novella sequel to Rush’s seminal prog-rock album 2112. Kevin J. Anderson had previously collaborated with Neal Peart on Clockwork Angels (2012 ECW Press) the book based on the band’s album of the same name.

While most of the stories are science fiction, some could be considered fantasies, even thrillers. 2113 contains stories by New York Times bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Z. Williamson, David Mack, David Farland, Dayton Ward, and Mercedes Lackey; award winners Fritz Leiber, Steven Savile, Brad R. Torgersen, Ron Collins, David Niall Wilson, and Brian Hodge, as well as many other authors.

Some of the stories bear little resemblance to the songs they are based on, others will have some hidden or thinly veiled Rush references. For example, this bit of dialogue from the story “Random Access Memory” inspired by the Rush song “Lakeside Park” from the 1975 album “Caress of Steel”:

“So,” Beecham said, “though it’s just a memory, some memories last forever.”

“That sounds familiar.”

Beecham laughed and said, “It’s from a song. A good one, you probably know it.”

I enjoyed reading the variety of stories in 2113, but even if you are not a serious Rush fan, and if you like science fiction that is not too ‘out there’, then this collection will not disappoint.

2113 was published in April 2016 by ECW Press and is 400 pages.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved