Duatero
Shadowpaw Press / 7 October 2022

Duateroby Brad C. AndersonPublished by Shadowpaw Press RepriseReview by Toby A. Welch$23.95 ISBN 9781989398395 I must admit that sci-fi isn’t my go-to choice for fiction. Sure, I loved the X-Files TV show and thoroughly enjoyed reading Ender’s Game and Dune but that was about the extent of it. Duatero changed that – science fiction will now be a genre I regularly reach for.  The title of this book confused me at first – what the heck is a duatero? Is it a sea creature with two legs? Some kind of two-sided crystal? Wrong on both counts. The title of this book is the name of an abandoned Earth colony. The fantastical world that Anderson created in Duatero is a fascinating place to be during the hours it takes to read the book. The main character, Majstro Falchilo Kredo, works furiously to protect Duatero from Malamiko, an ecosystem that is causing the colony’s crops to fail. Malamiko is threatening their way of life in every way; the possibility of Duatero having a future is dire. This well-written ecological apocalyptic tale is spellbinding. It is obvious that Anderson put a tremendous amount of thought and research into Duatero. It is flush with…

Star Song
Shadowpaw Press / 9 November 2021

Star Songby Edward WillettPublished by Shadowpaw PressReview by Amanda Zimmerman$24.95 ISBN 978-1-989398-03-6 In the same vein as his Worldshapers series, Regina author Edward Willett weaves a standalone sci-fi fantasy tale for young adult readers that is sure to captivate from the very first chapter. Worldhugger Kriss Lemarc has never fit in on the planet he’s grown up on, his appearance setting him apart from the native born villagers. His precarious place in the community is further unsettled when his caretaker and only family is brutally attacked and her house burned. Kriss has only a strange kind of emotion-expressing instrument called a touchlyre to his name- a musical oddity gifted from his father that he promised never to reveal. What secrets from the past does it hold? Summoning his courage, Kriss walks the days-long journey to report Mella’s murder in the city. Upon his arrival and through a few misadventures, the teen begins to realize just how impossible his dream of leaving the planet for the stars really is. There are only two ways to travel and both are closed to him based on his funds, education, and connections. He’s desperate though, so he breaks his promise and uses the touchlyre…

Right to Know
Shadowpaw Press / 2 September 2021

Right to Knowby Edward WillettPublished by Shadowpaw PressReview by Allison Kydd$19.95 ISBN 9781989398227 If some associate prolific Saskatchewan author Edward Willett, also creator of The Worldshapers podcast, primarily with his award-winning young adult fantasy, Right to Know*proves that he also understands adult audiences. His characters have an appealing complexity, and readers can’t help but be drawn into the moral dilemma that faces the protagonist in this exciting tale. Thirty-two-year-old Art Stoddard is part of the aristocracy on the starship Mayflower II. Born and raised on board, he’s a media personality and an “approved reproduction partner.” Therefore, he has been spoiled by women as well as by the glory that comes from his father’s status as a Councillor and one of the Originals. They were the ones who escaped from Earth and established a new world in space, the only world Stoddard the younger has ever known. Art Stoddard, however, is floating through life as well as well as through space. He’s still living with his parents, working at a prestigious job that asks very little of him, drinking and carousing too much, but getting away with it. Yet things are about to change, and he may just discover powers he…

Xeno Manifesto – Redepmtion
Brysen Mann / 3 September 2019

The Xeno Manifesto: Redemptionby Brysen Mann Published by Time Matters Publishing Review by Toby A. Welch $17.99 ISBN 9781775363927 Picking up the third book in a trilogy is always tricky for me. I am invested in the story by the time the first book ends, and fully committed by the time the second book wraps up. My expectations are usually high as I want book three to be just as juicy as its predecessors. I shouldn’t have wasted one moment worrying about that in this case as The Xeno Manifesto: Redemption is just as thrilling as The Xeno Manifesto and The Xeno Manifesto:Reclamation.  Mann picks up book three with the return of past characters that he developed so thoroughly in the first two books. The Tsiatko and the Handlers are back. The Committee is gung-ho to achieve their goal. Frank, Zach, Willow, and the Orb continue their adventures. Everyone seems to be on their own quest to save the world using their own methods.   This book gave me warm fuzzies – a good thing! – when Frank’s extended family was brought into the storyline in a deeper way. They appear in an abstract context but it is a heartwarming reprieve…

Xeno Manifesto and Xeno Manifesto: Reclamation
Brysen Mann / 26 April 2019

Xeno Manifesto and Xeno Manifesto: Reclamationby Brysen MannPublished by Brysen MannReview by Toby A. Welch$16.99 / $17.99 ISBN 9781773703237 / 9781775363903 The Xeno Manifesto and The Xeno Manifesto: Reclamation (the second book in the trilogy) deliver everything that is magnificent about the science fiction genre. We have the Tsiatko, a group of creatures related to the Bigfoot myth. We have funky Earthly spectacles like lava tubes. We encounter Handlers, a group who re-establish planets but it’s to save them, not take them over. We have weather modifying technologies, Roswell references, DNA anomalies, and Alien Neanderthal Cloning, all of which makes for entertaining reading.    Regina-based writer Brysen Mann does a phenomenal job of crafting characters that readers care about. Take Frank Smirnov, the main character in the books. Mann spends chapters covering Smirnov’s childhood and some of his adult years up to the present day (Smirnov is almost sixty.) So much backstory is usually irksome but in this case, we need it to fully understand Smirnov. Kudos to Mann for pulling off the perfect balance with the history lesson. The Orb, a sphere-shaped device that contains all the data regarding a takeover of the Earth, features heavily in The Xeno…

Corvus
Thistledown Press / 19 April 2016

Corvus by Harold Johnson Published by Thistledown Press Review by Allison Kydd $19.95; ISBN 978-1-77187-051-1 Corvus is a novel that repays the reader’s persistence. Its setting is eighty years in the future, during a time of uneasy peace after a period of war, caused in turn by ecological disasters that have moved populations north, which causes overcrowding. The wars, therefore, are primarily to protect territory and the technological bubble enjoyed by the wealthy. This futuristic setting may initially discourage some, but ultimate rewards make it worth reading on. The fact the novel is set in La Ronge, Saskatchewan, and involves a First Nations community might also give one pause. Fortunately, it is not overly derivative nor an obvious political agenda thinly disguised as fiction. The theme does remind one of Thomas King’s The Back of a Turtle, which also features the tragic destruction of First Nations communities by corporate greed. As a rule, such corporations are represented by whites/“Europeans” or (in the case of King’s protagonist) by First Nations descendants who have lost touch with their origins. At first, Corvus seems to justify reservations. First the raven appears, a familiar totem for the First Nations psyche, suggesting the book will…

Red Smoke Rising
Basket Case Publishing / 12 January 2011

Red Smoke Rising by Rick Anthony Published by Basket Case Publishing Review by Rudolf Sandmeier $10.99 ISBN: 978-0-9866661-0-0 When I first heard of Rick Anthony’s Red Smoke Rising it was described to me as “a good rip of a read” and it did not disappoint. Each chapter is a rapid sequence of action-packed episodes and builds to a climax that takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride, zipping through its course. There is always the risk in books that move at this pace that the reader could be simply overwhelmed by the plot. However, Anthony handles this element admirably and is able to keep everything rolling together quite smoothly. Somewhat conversely, another reason why the novel is successful is the economy of language Anthony employs – while he has a lot going on he doesn’t use an excess of words to describe the action. These two characteristics combine to benefit the novel as a whole – Red Smoke Rising clocks in at over 300 pages but it simply doesn’t feel that long when reading it. In the end, Anthony’s efforts have produced a well-balanced and efficient work. We’re plunked down in the middle of the action as the novel begins…

Einstein Dog
Thistledown Press / 5 November 2010

Einstein Dog by Craig Spence Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.95 ISBN 978-1-897235-65-2 “It’s a dog’s world,” or so it’s been said, but imagine if that statement turned literal? What if dogs were technologically-enhanced and became smarter than humans? And what if a fascist organization trained and bred these SMART dogs to achieve global domination? These seemingly outrageous ideas are investigated in Einstein Dog, the new juvenile novel written by Langley, BC author Craig Spence, and recently published by Thistledown Press. In 258 action-filled pages, Spence unleashes confident writing, distinguishable characters, and interesting subplots, but what really sparkles are his explorations of what could be; his flair for adventure; and the care he takes in portraying the singular loyalty between humans and their four-legged best friends. The story opens with young Bertrand and his friend Ariel – each of whom live with their single parents in the Forestview Townhouses – hoping to have the research dog, Libra (aka SMART 73), released from being “cooped up” in the lab where Bertrand’s father, Professor Smith, is conducting Sequenced Mentally Accelerated Research Trials. The Dean of the Biology Department has other ideas, however, especially after a medical supply firm…