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Sunday, January 22, 2012

REVIEW: Three for One - Extraction Point and The Case of the Displaced Detective (The Arrival and At Speed)

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The very first blog on this site was a book review, but I really haven't done any since.  Since so much of what is write is about the Science in Science Fiction - or Scientists Writing Fiction,  I just had to write about this trio of books by scientist-authors. 

Travis S. Taylor, Ph.D. is a rock-star of science, with multiple degrees in the physics, optics, aeronautical engineering, etc.  When John Ringo created the character of William Weaver in his novel "Through the Looking Glass," he was criticized for the unbelievability of a scientist/mountain biker/martial artist/musician/reluctant soldier.  John's counter was that the only difference between the fictional character and real-life role-model "Doc Travis" was that Taylor was more familiar with firearms than his fictional counterpart."Doc" is all that, and more, a scientist, writer, and lead guitarist/singer for a rock band - a literal "rock-star" of the SF world.

Stephanie Osborn is also "all that" - a former NASA payload flight controller, copy, teacher, ordained minister, college instructor, and writer.  Again, with multiple degrees in astronomy, physics etc., Steph would be the sort of character that would raise an eyebrow if you didn't actually know this bright, accomplished woman. Taylor and Osborn have teamed up to bring us a wild-ride novel in Extraction Point, a mystery-adventure with a strong science background. 

Dr. Reagan "Ray" Brady works for a clandestine agency that investigates mysterious occurrences.  Dr. Brady, and team - including his wife Samantha (incidentally, the leader of the investigation team), are investigating a series of crimes in which the perpetrator manages to get into and out of locked, secure places with no trace of forced entry or exit.  Further evidence has linked the same person with events that affect the advancement of science over a 300-year period.  The team begins to wonder if they are tracking a "Santa Claus" - a alien - or an "Easter Bunny" - a time-traveler; and come to the reluctant conclusion that their mysterious opponent is a "Santa Bunny" - an alien from a different time. 

Along the way, the reader is treated to some real multidimensional physics, and string / membrane / quantum theory intermixed with plenty of action and a fantastic adventure.   The writing is seamless and well-matched.  In fact, I spoke with Stephanie Osborn about the book and tried to guess which sections she wrote, vs. those written by Taylor.  I got it wrong - it is truly difficult to tell which of the authors wrote which section!  For those who may accuse the authors of writing "Mary Sue / Marty Stu" adventures (writing thinly veiled chacterizations of themselves in heroic context) I would point back to the bios of the authors above.  Is it still a "Mary Sue" when the descriptions are real? I for one welcome the depiction of scientists as heroes. 

This is a book with both science - real, accurate science! - and adventure.  I finished the book in two sittings and gave up a fair bit of sleep in the process.   Extraction Point is available in paperback print-on-demand and eBook media from Twilight Times Books.  Here's a link to the listing at Amazon's Kindle store, the eBook is a great bargain.

To continue with this trio of Science fiction fun, we turn to Stephanie Osborn's solo offerings: The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival, and its close-on-the-heels sequel The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed. In these introductory books to a series (my understanding is that Steph is on Book 5 already) Dr. Skye Chadwick has found a way to view other realities through Project Tesseract, forming a hyperspace "windows" to worlds not too unlike our own - but with a few key differences.  Long a fan of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Dr. Chadwick has discovered a world in which Holmes was a real, historical character, and not a product of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's imagination.  While never explicitly stated, Project Tesseract is able to view across time, as well as hyperspace, thus Dr. Chadwick and team have chosen for their first full test to view the tragic battle of Homes and his enemy Prof. Moriarity  at Reichenbach Falls, Sweden.  However, Chadwick, a former reserve police officer cannot passively observe, but attempts to intervene, saving Holmes' life and inadvertently bringing him through the Tesseract into Chadwick's home dimension and time.

Book One - The Arrival - is a great exploration of "what-if" with Sherlock Holmes introduced to the Twenty-first Century.  Mixed in with the high-energy physics and hyperspace theory is a mystery worthy of Holmes, finding a spy ring on a secured military installation, detecting and preventing sabotage and updating the Victorian detective's skills.  Book Two continues the mystery, builds the relationship between Holmes and Chadwick, and explores the personality that yielded the greatest detective of (fictional) history. 

Again, these are great reads, and I finished the first volume, screaming for more.  Fortunately for me, Book Two was readily available.  I think it took me 5 days to finish, but only because my schedule was interrupted!  Two particular scenes come to memory - in the first, Osborn's history with NASA comes through as the Project Tesseract team answers a Go-NoGo checklist in a Mission Control moment familiar to fans of "Apollo 13" and "From the Earth to the Moon." In the second scene I started laughing because I saw so much of the author's background in the story - then had to explain myself to the person sitting next to me on an airplane. 

These are enjoyable books and I am eagerly awaiting the forthcoming volumes.  Osborn is very respectful of the Holmes canon, and has created a believable characterization for Holmes in the modern world.  This link is to the Amazon Kindle listing for Book One.  I highly recommend it!

Stay tuned for more of The Lab Rats' Guide to the Brain, science news and SF book reviews!

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