Punishing the perpetrators of heinous crimes is an ethical struggle that continues to be controversial, even in our advanced social age. In this thrilling page-turner, the reader witnesses a method that uses special recording devices to collect the memories of those injured at the scene of the crime, and these recordings are played back in the mind of the convicted criminal.
But how will this method affect an innocent man accused of the terrorist crime in which his own wife is critically injured?
Probing into the depths of pleasure, pain, and empathy, Playback Effect pulls the reader into the heads of the main characters with an easy flow, connecting each scene to form and complete the mystery.
The world is entering a new age, leaving our current phase of natural laws and lapsing into a new phase where the chemical reactions that keep our machines and technology running no longer exist. Replacing our combustion engines and our cell phones are abilities to heal and transform and communicate with plant and animals, abilities we consider to be magical. Factions battle for control of this new age, the White Order, the Black Order, and the Gray Order, each seeking to control the Chosen and the rest of humanity. The book crosses boundaries between Science Fiction and Fantasy.
Several different individuals start out apart and on separate paths, each dealing with the sudden change in Earth’s physical reality by seeking to retreat from dangerous cities and people, all traveling north. Eventually, all of these individual converge into a battle group, all heading for the promised land of New Atlantis. Through this mode, we learn of each character’s personality to a minute depth – the sheer number of participants does not give ample time or space to delving deeply into each one. (Perhaps future installments will give each character their due.)
The first several chapters kept me engaged, following just two of the main characters into a mystery known to one and not the other. As soon as the other major characters began to arrive, the momentum suffered. The main storyline of the imminent phase transition and power struggle after its occurrence became lost in a muddle of names and descriptions.
3 Stars – Great beginning, but lagged in the middle and slowed the enjoyment.
The Temple of Beauty contains five short stories – four of science fiction worthy of Asimov’s magazine and one of the fantasy genre. These stories are outstandingly rendered, concise and meaningful, containing themes of religious extremism, social outcry, and unlikely heroism, along the simple beauty of existence. The author’s expertise with vocabulary renders him an exceptional wordsmith. It isn’t often that I am so excited to read a book that I want to ignore everything else in my busy, creative life. I absolutely loved these stories. “Intraflection to Kill” and “The Commercial Agent,” in particular, gave me supreme gratification for the act of reading. There are no wasted words. The imagery let me stand on alien worlds and watch the scenes unfold in my imagination, true releases from reality.
5 Stars – Page-turning intrigue, humor, and action in perfectly sized doses.
Other Science Fiction and Fantasy short story collections
Twenty Twelve is a collection of short stories (some a bit longer than “short,” sneaking up on the size of a novella) written to study various forms of finality and transition. Some stories bring the end of the known world through something supernatural, such as demons, and other’s bring the end of one person’s world through a seemingly small yet drastic change in the ways of the world.
These stories examine human reactions to adverse events of varying proportions by giving us insight into the internal conflict between what may be the truth and what is socially acceptable to think and do. The author does a wonderful job of asking an off-the-wall “what if” and supplying a very plausible environment in which to study the results of the experiment.
5 Stars: For the lovers of “what if.”
Appropriately titled, this collection of short stories takes the reader to several corners and centuries of the world, from Vikings to Pirates to contemporary characters in modern settings. Tailored with obvious affection for the written word and with conscientious word choice, the stories capture the reader’s imagination with graphic details of physical battles and the delicate touch of describing inner moral conflicts.
To select a favorite in this collection, I found the last installment, “There are No White Knights” the most appealing. The ritual battle between two knights of the court becomes a morale battle between two men, one who enjoys slaughter for slaughter’s sake and the other who slaughters for righteous purpose.
4 Stars – An author with affection for the written word.
A wolf pack struggling to reorganize after the death of the Alpha male flees through the wintry woods, escaping the only predator capable of taking down their strongest member – an Amur tiger. The wolves must work together as partners to survive.
On a college campus, a graduate student name Don seeks a partnership of his own, a younger student name Tsula who organizes an activist effort to change the way human beings see wolves.
Shifting between the two seemingly disparate portraits of Earth’s creatures, wolves and humans, the reader is compelled to compare and contrast the relationships between male and female counterparts and the hierarchy that exists in every social system.
Chandler Brett uses the two worlds to speak out about the typical human views of nature: that anything wild is primitive and dangerous. Many of Earth’s creatures are demonized for their methods of survival. Tsula asks that human beings respect the ways of the wolf and other creatures, allowing them the space they need to survive. In order to win her affection, Don must examine his life goals and how best to use his skills in technology.
This well-written novel offers a depiction of life within a wolf pack with the wolves as the characters, giving homage to the narrative style of Rudyard Kipling. Each section of the novel draws you forward on a steady path through an intense chapter in the lives of both wolves and the humans who protect them.
4 Stars – A well-thought out message.