All posts by Larry Ketchersid

Author of two novels (Dusk Before the Dawn, Software by the Kilo) and one volume of non-fiction stories. CEO of a security software and services company; co-owner of JoSara MeDia, publisher of iPad apps, print and eBooks. Runner, traveler, Sharks fan, Rockets fan, Packers shareholder.

Fan-Made ‘John Carter’ Trailer Puts Official Trailers to Shame

A fan (way to go, Mike!) took re-cut the many officially released John Carter trailers and put one together that tells the story (adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs first novel A Princess of Mars) better than they did.

Really looking forward to the release!
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REVIEW: The Hungry by Harry Shannon and Steven W. Booth

REVIEW SUMMARY: The latest invasion of zombies generated by government scientist searching for super-soldiers meets up with a good-looking, foul-mouthed female Sheriff…and she’s packin’.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The same old tired zombie genre gets a swift kick in the pants courtesy of a female protagonist who is not only not afraid to lead, but wishes they would quit hitting on her.

PROS: Sheriff Penny Miller, a foul mouthed, zombie killing beauty in a wedding dress who is not afraid to lead a pack of wimpy guys; fast paced with lots of foul-mouthed banter (yes, that is a “pro”).
CONS: Common Zombie plot lines.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s about Sheriff Penny Miller, not the zombies!

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Who is John Carter? (A John Carter Primer)

With Disney’s trailers and announced March release of the movie John Carter, readers of the books that inspired the movie are at once hopeful and fearful: hopeful that the movie will actually capture the imagination as well as the initial reading of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series did; fearful that the movie will be an unfaithful adaptation, or, at worst a lemon in the tradition of pulp movie adaptations like the Doc Savage movie.

Though never a large Tarzan fan, I, like many readers my age, tore through the other worlds created by ERB. But Barsoom was always the cornerstone. Here, then, is a Primer on John Carter and the Barsoom series of novels.

SPOILER ALERTS – for those readers who have not read the books and would like to be surprised at the movie plot (which hopefully doesn’t stray to far from the book plot line), this primer is written with the potential spoiler pieces at the end. Feel free to read the Author section. The John Carter section contains a bit of preview, but stay away from the sections below that if you want to go into the movie fresh.

SEE ALSO: VIDEO: A John Carter Primer – Everything You Need to Know Before Seeing the Disney Film
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REVIEW: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fast-paced story in a bleak future, where escape into virtual worlds is driven by a contest based on 1980s trivia and culture and the winner gets billions.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Wade Watts hides from the nasty real world of the mid-21st century inside the virtual world/MMORPG called OASIS. Like many, he searches for the clues that will grant the solver the fortune left by the will of the founder of OASIS. When he is the first one to solve the first of three main puzzles, the real world and the virtual starts in hot pursuit.

PROS: Any book that ties in Rush, Zork, Monty Python and other relics from my past into a Second Life meets World of Warcraft virtual reality gets my vote.
CONS: A made-for-Disney-movie ending; if you don’t like 1980s trivia and culture, you may not dig this book (if it’s too loud, you’re too young)
BOTTOM LINE: With a high geek and 80s factor, this book won’t appeal to everyone. But Cline lays down a well paced-plot with some good twists, and doesn’t spend too much time buried in the minutia of 80s trivia, making this an enjoyable read.
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REVIEW: A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

REVIEW SUMMARY:An extremely well written, well paced book, with excellent characterizations where, like many “bridge books”, not much forward movement on the plot is achieved…well-worth the the read.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The fifth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series parallels the previous novel, following characters Tyrion Lannister (running into hiding after killing his father), Jon Snow (after the fight with the wildlings, determining how to stop the undead “Others”), Daenerys Targaryen, Arya Stark and others as they deal with dragons, the Others, multiple kings, politics and the lead up to the final show down between Ice and Fire (hopefully not too many thousand pages away).


PROS: Continued awesomeness in the characterizations; the blending of the magical/fantasy aspects has them not overpowering the characters or the story; dragons and Daenerys; a few surprises (though, five books in, I almost put this aspect in the CONS list).

CONS: Unlike the first three books in the series but like many “bridge” books in the middle of a series, not a lot of forward plot movement; no summary at the beginning, and I’d rather rely on an author’s summary than random Wiki entries to refresh my old memory; one or two characters who seemed superfluous (Quentyn Martell???).

BOTTOM LINE: Though I kept wondering when a momentous event such as those that were in every chapter in the first three novels, I was a hundred pages on, and enjoying the prose. It’s GRRM, just read it!

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REVIEW: The Astounding, The Amazing and The Unknown by Paul Malmont

REVIEW SUMMARY: Continuing from the guilty pleasure of the voyueristic look at the pulp author heros of my childhood in The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, Malmont follows Heinlein, Asimov and other science fiction giants as fact meets fiction again in a race to create super-weapons and super defences against the Axis in World War II.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: John Campbell assembles a team of science fiction writers to work with the Government during World War II. Led by Robert Heinlein and joined by Isaac Asimov and others, the team works to make science fiction a reality to help the war effort. Lost manuscripts and testing notes from Nikola Tesla lead the team on a merry chase for a super-weapon that could end the war.


PROS: As with The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, hard to tell where fact ends and fiction begins; great tie-ins with the previous novel; believable characterizations of our heroes, Heinlein and Asimov.

CONS: My mama always told me that voyeurism was bad, but in this case I’ll make an exception. (Sorry, Mom!)

BOTTOM LINE: Picks up where the first book left off; with strong characterizations of Heinlein and Asimov, and return appearances by Gibson, Dent and Hubbard, an enjoyable blend of historical fact with adventure fiction.

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REVIEW: Doc Savage: The Desert Demons by Lester Dent and Will Murray (writing as Kenneth Robeson)

REVIEW SUMMARY: The first new Doc Savage novel in eighteen years, written by Will Murray based on notes from Lester Dent, is true to the originals and a great read.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Doc Savage and his team descend upon California, to investigate mysterious red dust demons from the sky that are killing Hollywood types; Pat Savage, Doc’s cousin, is missing and may be one of the victims.


PROS: Shows the “science investigator” Doc and the “human enough to get mad” Doc; the inclusion of Pat Savage is always a plus; dirigibles, baby!; excellent Afterwords by Will Murray and cover art by Joe DeVito; promises of more new Docs to come.

CONS: The eighteen year wait nearly killed me; even after all these years, I still dislike the inclusion of the pig and the monkey.

BOTTOM LINE: Not only a great story for starving Doc fanboys (guilty!), also contains elements of steampunk (Doc was punk before it was cool), westerns and adventure. Not my favorite Doc of all time, but an excellent start to a new set of stories.

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REVIEW: The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont

REVIEW SUMMARY:Bringing to life pulp authors Lester Dent (Doc Savage) and Walter Gibson (The Shadow), Malmont strings together a pulp yarn involving the death of H.P. Lovecraft and revolution in China, pulling in other pulp authors as he goes.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The authors of Doc Savage and The Shadow become adventurers as they try to find the ending to a pulp-like mystery in Chinatown and track down H.P. Lovecraft’s murderer.


PROS: Strong characterizations of Lester and Norma Dent, Walter Gibson, L. Ron Hubbard and the pulp business in general; draws a fine line between where reality ends and where pulp begins; well interwoven with a story of China just before World War II.

CONS: Would like to have seen more Lovecraft…but that’s a quibble.

BOTTOM LINE:Fantastic re-imagining if you are into the pulps, and a great adventure story even if you are not.

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REVIEW: The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry

REVIEW SUMMARY: Employing frighteningly realistic conspiracy theory scenarios and some creative misdirection, Maberry has Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences team battling secret organizations and old enemies, protecting the world again.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Reeling from the tragedy at the end of Ledger #2 (small spoilers below), Joe is pulled back into the DMS after the Royal London Hospital is destroyed in a terrorist attack. The group The Seven Kings is responsible, and they hit with more attacks, paralleling the seven plagues of Egypt, and go after Ledger and the DMS.


PROS: Great conspiracy thinking with LARGE events; misdirection; interesting, complex criminals who don’t like each other; a great dog and destruction of one of Maberry’s favorite writing places!

CONS: One plot line that was beyond me to connect, perhaps a lead-in for Joe #4?

BOTTOM LINE: As good and maybe better than Patient Zero, the first Joe Ledger novel, The King of Plagues brings a more than possible terrorist conspiracy to scary life.

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AUDIO REVIEW: The Adventures of Doc Savage

REVIEW SUMMARY: Radio theater meets the Man of Bronze in this remastered edition of NPR’s 1985 broadcast of two classic Doc Savage Stories.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Variety Arts Radio Theater perform Fear Cay and The Thousand Headed Man, two Doc Savage stories by Lester Dent, adapted for radio by Will Murray and Roger Rittner.


PROS:Two great stories; dead-on voices (that matched the voices in my head) for Monk, Renny and Johnny; enjoyable behind-the-scenes CD.

CONS: slight variations from the books; Doc’s trilling sounded like a tea kettle!

BOTTOM LINE: My first pick would always be to read a Doc Savage story, but this enthusiastic radio theater production (which sounds excellent in this remastered 8 CD edition from Radio Archives) is a great alternative. It might just hold us until Mr. Murray is able to get the new Docs published!

[For newbies: A Doc Savage Primer]

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Who is Doc Savage? (A Doc Savage Primer)

When SF Signal asked if I was interested in reviewing the recently released re-mastered audio version of two Doc Savage radio adventures, I quickly agreed. Since reading the Bantam books during my youth and going on a re-reading rampage lately, I’ve always been a big Doc fan.

As I was listening to the re-mastered CD versions with my college-age son, I quite enjoyed it when he mimicked Johnny (one of Doc’s five aides) shouting “I’ll be super amalgamated!” But he was always asking me who Doc Savage was, wondering what drove me to collect the 130+ Bantam paperbacks (still taking donations of any mint condition Omnibuses!).

So before we print the review of the CD Version of The Adventures of Doc Savage, here’s a bit of background on one of the longest running “pulp” heroes and largest influences on fiction and comics.

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REVIEW: Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

REVIEW SUMMARY: Revenge is a dish best served rare and bloody, with side dishes of complex characters that might be good, or bad, or actually flawed like real people.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: General Monza Mercatto, leader of the mercenary Thousand Swords, is mutilated and left for dead by the Duke she was working for, her beloved brother slain. She survives, and plots revenge on Duke Orso (who wants to be King of Styria) and the six others who participated in her brother’s murder. She assembles a crew of fighters, poisoners and criminals to help her along the way.


PROS:Bloody well choreographed fight scenes; great flawed characters.

CONS: Sometimes too bloody many fight scenes; didn’t understand some of the references to The First Law series (perhaps because I haven’t read book three!).

BOTTOM LINE: A great revenge novel, with characters that are not only interesting but evolve through the enacting of the revenge. This is a bloody book (keep your kids away) but it is a bloody good book too.

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REVIEW: The Kensei by Jon F. Merz

REVIEW SUMMARY: The world needs balance, grasshopper, and when I need balance from the onslaught of the vampires of Twilight I will enjoy the martial arts, sword wielding vampire that is Lawson.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Lawson heads to Japan to unwind after some nasty work as the Vampire Council’s Fixer. But the intersection of the Yakuza, organ stealing, a rouge vampire out to create hybrids and his old human girlfriend (ex-KGB, of course) give no rest for weary sword wielding vampires.


PROS: Very well done martial arts sequences, both in the streets and in the dojo; excellently paced (first book I’ve read in one sitting in a long time); different take on the Vampire reality; vivid descriptions of Japan.

CONS: Little SF (hey, this is SF Signal after all); some backstory from earlier books in the series provided, but some points unclear for those of us experiencing our first read in the series; Lawson’s wisecracking gets old by the end of the story.

BOTTOM LINE: Any read that pulls you into its clutches for a one-sitting read is like this one: well paced, well thought out, lots of action…the swords, martial arts and vampires creating hybrid vampire-humans don’t hurt either.

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REVIEW: Blade Dancer by S.L. Viehl

REVIEW SUMMARY: Ender’s Game meets Payback in this standalone novel of the Stardoc universe.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The death of her mother exposes Jory as a half-human/half-alien. She is expelled from Earth, charged by her mother to find six similar creatures who were conceived through violence. Gathering the six, Jory goes to assassin school to become a “Blade Dancer” to seek revenge on the one responsible.


PROS: Fast-paced action; believable depictions of racial prejudice; and a military school reminiscent of the Orson Scott Card classic Ender’s Game.

CONS: Minor difficulties jumping into a world without the background of the Stardoc novels and their universe.

BOTTOM LINE: An action packed story in a socially complex universe that has me adding the Stardoc novels to my reading list.

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Donating Books for a Library in Kabul

This post is not about science fiction. Or is it? How out of this world is a 47 country NATO force in Afghanistan, situated at Northern Kabul Airport, working to bring about not only security, but assisting with education, governance and overall development?

Throw in a couple of nanotech induced zombies, and it could be a scene right out of Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry.

But it is real. And I’m here to pimp for books. For my friend and San Antonio homeboy, Vincent Yznaga, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army, Infantry (the mah-ve-lous looking young man in the plane on the way to Kabul). Veteran of tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and my Halloween parties, before he got smart and joined the Army. I am asking for your help to send books to Vince and his NATO force at the address included after the jump. I’ve included a note Vince sent me that describes the work they are doing with the Afghanistani people and government.

We already have books being shipped from a diverse group of friends and colleagues, including authors (Paul Levinson is sending books, as is Robert Flynn , who wanted to make sure the Army knew it was coming from a Marine), the Texas State Historical Association (who we are working with converting some of their excellent history books to eBooks), the Yang Martial Arts Association (YMAA)(excellent martial arts instructional books and fiction) and friends. Read more below, and even you biblioholics like me (I’ve sent copies of my books and many others) and John D. will be sending a book or two to Kabul.

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REVIEW: The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

REVIEW SUMMARY: Joe Ledger is back, he’s mad, and ready to take on genetically enhanced humans, animals and anything in between.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In this follow up to the Bram Stoker nominated Patient Zero, Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences team fight two sets of related genetic mad scientists, one group out for profit and another aiming for race extinction. The crooks try to outwit each other while Joe Ledger and the DMS teams try to track them down. The clock is ticking on “the Extinction Wave”!


PROS: Maberry is one of the best at writing action sequences; Ledger is a believable flawed hero; the scenarios are frighteningly realistic.

CONS: A bit too much genetic science-speak in places; some cliché bad guys and conspiracies (former Nazis are always the genetic mad scientists).

BOTTOM LINE: Global in scope, scary in its realism, this fast paced novel is only slowed by occasional overdoses of science-speak.

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REVIEW: World’s End (Age of Misrule #1) by Mark Chadbourn

REVIEW SUMMARY: Celtic gods and creatures, Arthurian legends emerge as the technology of the current world fails. A well paced, character and setting rich “old world dies, new world begins” fantasy novel (first of a trilogy)


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Our current age of technology is ending, as creatures of myth awaken. Five seemingly ordinary people in England are thrust into fighting for humanity against the gods of old. They must figure out who they are, find objects of power, and complete impossible quests…all while the world they know stops working, dodging dragons and ghouls.


PROS: Transition from modern normalcy to chaos smooth and believable (even for a fantasy novel); Celtic myths and Arthurian legends interwoven with English landscape; awesome Picacio cover; bad ass fire bombing dragons!

CONS: Took me away from my own writing; I will get Chadbourn for that (or have him buy me a pint).

BOTTOM LINE: A excellent rendition on “the end of this world” with the starting of a different one, well written, great characters…a first book that makes you go out and hunt down the next two in the series.

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Technology: Looking Forward, Looking Back

SF Signal welcomes back Larry Ketchersid, whose new novel, Software by the Kilo, is now available. Purchasers of the book are also eligible to win cool freebies for a limited time. Details here.

Like many, I am obsessed with both science fiction and history books. Obviously, history shows us what has already occurred, and science fiction’s promise is to show us futures that might be.

And sometimes those two trajectories, the past and the future, cross, and even run parallel.

During my research for my new novel, Software by the Kilo, I found yet again that the environment and surroundings of the past often parallel those in some projected futures.

Though the “genre police” have created sub-genres under sub-genres for the purposes of slotting books, one simple and straightforward method of classifying science fiction is by the amount of new technology knowledge and usage available in future world lines; a lot more, about the same, or less than we have today:

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INTERVIEW: Michael Hanlon, Author of Eternity, Our Next Billion Years

Michael Hanlon is the science editor at the Daily Mail in the UK. His recent book, Eternity, Our Next Billion Years, bucks the recent doomsday wave of apocalyptic writing, and postulates that, yes, we humans will be hanging around for a very long time. The books is divided into three time frames (the next few centuries, millennium from now, a billion years from now) and is told in part with scientific speculation with added speculative fiction vignettes. Michael is also the author of The Science of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and 10 Questions Science Can’t Answer (Yet).

SF Signal Irregular Larry Ketchersid interviewed Mr. Hanlon about his book, ranging through a wide variety of topics including where to spend the world’s money in the future (quite enjoyable when someone else is footing the bill), the space program and the calamities that could derail humanity.

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Interview with Jonathan Maberry, author of Patient Zero

Jonathan Maberry is a Bram Stoker Award winning author and a martial artist. His latest novel, Patient Zero, combines the threat of bio-terrorism with an anti-hero named Joe Ledger, a high octane quick-reacting fighter with some very human issues. Joe is recruited by the Department of Military Science (DMS) to battle a terrorism threat, a biological weapon that seemingly turns people into zombies; but Patient Zero is not a zombie novel; the science, action and fighting make it had to classify, but quick paced and enjoyable to read.

SF Signal Irregular Larry Ketchersid interviewed Mr. Maberry about Patient Zero, and a wide ranging set of topics including the science of bioterrorism, martial arts, genres and the future of the Joe Ledger series.

LARRY: Your novel Patient Zero revolves around a bioterrorism agent/disease that appears to turn people into a zombie like state (should be dead, but aren’t, and are aggressive). Unlike other novels where the authors merely state “Oh! Look, a zombie”, you have quite a bit of science on how the disease works, delving into prions (which are important in studying human and animal nuerological disorders like mad cow disease, as I understand it) and TSEs. Where did you learn about prions, and what motivated you to include them in an action story?

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