Book Review: Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn by Isaac Asimov (writing as Paul French)

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has been claimed by invaders from the planet Sirius, the first of many extrasolar Earth colonies. Over several generations, the Sirians and their allies on many of the outer worlds turned against their planet of origin, citing social, scientific, and military superiority after generations of ethnic cleansing. Despite an intergalactic law stating that any planet in an inhabited solar system belongs to the people of that system, the Sirians have constructed a military base on Titan as their first step to attacking Earth. The Council of Science, an organization sworn to protect Earth and its neighboring planets with minimal violence, fears that the Sirians have become too powerful to defeat.

After a Sirian spy named Dorrance escapes Earth custody, Councilmen David “Lucky” Starr and and his tiny-but-mighty companion John Bigman Jones set off after him in their ship, the Shooting Starr along with several vessels from the Terrestial fleet. They pursue Dorrance into Saturn’s rings, where his vessel is destroyed. However, a Sirian vessel contacts the Shooting Starr and orders it away from Saturn, informing him that the Sirians now occupy Titan and any aggression from Earth will be considered an act of war. Starr retreats and orders the Terrestial fleet to do the same.

Later, Starr, Bigman, and fellow councilman Ben Wessilewsky return to Saturn in an unauthorized expedition aboard the Shooting Starr to find a information capsule that Dorrance had stolen from Earth. When Sirian ships again detect their ship and pursue, Starr “crashes” the Shooting Starr on Mimas, Saturn’s closest moon. There, he leaves Wessilewsky behind and takes off again with Bigman–only to be captured by Sirian forces. The leader of the Sirian base on Titan, an irascible tyrant named Devoure, attempts to coerce Starr into confessing to espionage and to testify against Earth at an upcoming peace conference on the asteroid Vesta. Devoure offers to spare Bigman’s life in exchange for Starr’s compliance.

Will Lucky Starr betray Earth at the conference and join the Sirians? What of Councilman Wessilewsky on Mimas? Will the other planets vote against Earth and allow the Sirians to occupy Titan as a prelude to war?

Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn is the final volume in a series of six. Much like its predecessor, Moons of Jupiter (reviewed here), Rings of Saturn takes on a noticeably darker tone than the first four books.

I was forced to wonder if perhaps Asimov started off with the intention of creating a light-hearted space adventure, but later allowed real world tensions of the time, such those between USA and the USSR, to inform his fiction. The tension and stakes in Rings of Saturn are higher than they’d been in the previous books, but it could also be construed that each story builds upon the last to culminate in this final confrontation between Earth and Sirius. Though it’s easy to see the potential for future adventures in this universe.



A Visit to the Toy Robot Museum

My wife and I had a fantastic time at the Toy Robot Museum in Adamstown, PA with friend and former colleague, Dan Torok and his daughter.

It’s always a blast to hang out with museum curator Joe Knedlhans and see the latest additions to the museum. What’s more, Joe gave me an awesome birthday gift: A rare 1978 Metropolis Souvenir Magazine from Japan with English translation by Forrest J. Ackerman. The entire thing unfolds to a black and white poster of Maria the robot from this classic silent film.

We also enjoyed several hours of antiquing along Route 272 at Renninger’s Antique Mall and the German Trading Post. There are, of course, about a dozen more antique shops there that I’ve been to before, but we ran out of time to visit them all today. Some of my favorite shops include The Mad Hatter, Mother Tuckers, 272 Antiques, and the Antique Co-Op. I’ll probably get out there again closer to the holidays.

 AlphaBot Wooden Robots Twiki and Company Robots on Display! R2-D2 Toy Chest Star Wars Display Rockem Sockem Robots Robots on Display! Robots on Display! Robots on Display! Robots on Display! Robots Galore Remote Control Robots Robot Movie Posters Maria from Metropolis Little Bots Japanese Robots Japanese Robots Gort and Company Robot Display Cases Daleks Robot Display Case ClimbTron Robots BotStock Robots

River Reads Returns!

River Reads will be returning to Prallsville Mills on October 15, 2017 from 10 to 4 PM. Join us for a day of books, local authors for all ages, Bonjour Creperie, Unionville Vineyards, and Lulu’s Rescue!

We will also be holding River Writes–4 Writing Seminars on Turning Real Life into Fiction, World Building, Self Publishing, Character Development. Each seminar will be $12 per person or $40 for all four. Each hour long session will be capped at 20 participants. Stay tuned for sign up information!

Check Facebook for more information on River Reads 2017!

River Reads 2017

Of Aftermaths, Depression, and the Will to Keep Pushing…

Aside from book reviews and event announcements, I haven’t posted anything of substance on the blog in nearly three weeks. I wish I could point to my typical prodigious writing output as the reason, but alas 2017 has been abysmal relative to previous years.

It’s August and the most fiction I’ve written since January has been four additional chapters in my SF novel and an outline for a new paranormal short story that I just started writing this week. In previous years, I would have been finished with the first draft of the novel long before before now as well as four or five short stories.

Granted, I spent winter and spring editing about 15 submissions for an upcoming anthology and then began working with the three artists who are providing brilliant interior illustrations. That phase of the project is currently well under way as is the cover art. This is the third volume in this anthology series and the last one I’m editing/project managing.

As mentioned in a previous post, this was followed by a six-week home renovation in June that, while successful, severely limited my writing time. Fortunately, the project ended on June 29, right on schedule. After clean-up and reorganizing our house, I had hoped to return to a normal routine and enjoy the remainder of my summer.

Unfortunately, the partial roof collapse at my workplace on July 1 (my birthday) and the subsequent week of round-the-clock effort to restore our IT systems, burned me out and triggered a severe bout of depression. Now, I’ve been battling this demon since I was six years old and have suffered through more severe bouts than I care to remember, but this was one of the worst and it scared the hell out of me.

I’m sure my manager and team mates were even more exhausted than I. Each weekend in July following the calamity was filled with yet more activity to stabilize and restore our environment. We’re still dealing with the aftermath even now. At the risk of sounding selfish, I hope comp time is on the horizon in the near future.

To make matters worse, our rabbit took ill at the end of July with a bladder problem, which caused him to stop eating. This resulted in multiple vet visits and two weeks of force feeding him Critical Care (a food paste) via syringe. We’re still in the midst of dealing with this and praying that the problem does not become life threatening. He has begun eating again, but nowhere near as voraciously as he’s accustomed to.

I’m also nearly finished building a new website for one of my publishers. That’s actually one of the highlights of my summer along with learning that my paranormal novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters was accepted by Firebringer Press and will be published in a format that has me excited. I hope to see that released in 2018. Stay tuned for more info!

On a disappointing note, my submission to the 2017 Rehoboth Beach short story contest was rejected. From Second Place last year to Nothing this year. Such are the highs and lows of the writing life. On the flip side, I look forward to the online publication of another short story later this fall. It’s a paranormal tale set in New Mexico. I’ll post the link here when it’s published.

All told, I’m probably doing better than I think I am, and I know I should not beat myself up over what I perceive as failing in my normal quantity of writing. Life sometimes delivers setbacks and we do the best we can to work through them. I’m excited about the new paranormal short story I just started writing this week. It should be finished in a few days.

My spirit are also lifted by the fact that I have at least two new releases coming next year and of course, the problems that ruined my summer will eventually pass one way or another and allow me to reclaim my writing time.


Book Review: Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter by Isaac Asimov (writing as Paul French)

On Jupiter’s most remote moon Adrastea, or Jupiter Nine, a revolutionary anti-gravity project, known as Agrav, is under investigation—again. This time, the Council of Science has sent their most resourceful troubleshooter, David “Lucky” Starr, and his diminutive sidekick, John Bigman Jones. Though what Bigman lacks in stature, he compensates for in bravery and bravado—a combustible mix that often ignites trouble for the pair.

Upon arrival on Jupiter Nine, Starr and Jones are immediately met with hostility from workers who have been repeatedly questioned and interrogated by government authorities in search of a possible spy from Sirius, an Earth colony settled generations ago that had turned against its planet of origin.

In an attempt to gain an advantage in their search for a possible Sirian infiltrator, Starr brings with him a V-Frog, a small amphibious creature from Venus that possesses remarkable empathic ability. Through this creature, Starr and Bigman hope to determine if the spy is human or automaton.

Unfortunately, an intruder kills the V-Frog in their quarters shortly after their arrival, leaving Starr bereft of his main tool for detection. However, the event raises suspicion that the perpetrator was most likely a robot, for any human that approaches a V-Frog is instantly affected by the animal’s empathic projections of affection and benevolence.

Meanwhile, the Agrav vessel Jovian Moon is ready for test flight to Io, Jupiter’s innermost moon. Against the wishes of Mission Commander Donahue, Starr and Bigman join the expedition, as Starr is confident that the Sirian robot will also be on board—and quite possibly a human saboteur as well!

The question is, will the Jovian Moon successfully complete its round-trip voyage or will all hands meet their doom when the vessel plunges into the heart of Jupiter?

Lucky Starr and Moons of Jupiter conveyed a more sinister tone than its four predecessors. This was the first time in the series that David Starr did not always have the upper hand in every predicament and was, in fact, foiled on multiple occasions both by his own incorrect assumptions—or inexperience—and by the ingenuity of the Sirians. Of course, Bigman’s typical immature and rash antics did little to help the situation, except for a tense anti-gravity brawl at the beginning of the book.

At the time of publication in 1954, the Jovian moon now known as Ananke was called Adrastea (aka Jupiter Nine). In 1975, some of the minor satellites of Jupiter were renamed and Adrastea was assigned to Jupiter XV.

Onto the final volume, Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn

Testing the Prisoner on sale at Amazon: $3.99

Since Amazon adjusts prices at their whim, I just discovered today that the paperback edition of my first novel, Testing the Prisoner, is on sale for $3.99. That’s $1 less than the Kindle version! I have no idea how long this sale will last, so if you’re interested in an emotional and deeply human story wrapped in a paranormal mystery, you will not be disappointed.

Daniel Masenda thought he had made peace with his dark past when he left his home for a better life fourteen years ago. As the mayor of a small, tranquil town along Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Daniel has everything he ever wanted – until a series of haunting visions, coupled with the death of his estranged mother, pits him against two ghostly entities at war with one another. Each has its own agenda as they force Daniel to relive moments from his violent youth and push him to the edge of insanity. As his idyllic life begins to unravel, will he be able to decipher the message behind the hauntings before they destroy, not only him, but the soul of someone he left behind?

Testing the Prisoner by Phil Giunta


Check out the reviews for Testing the Prisoner on Amazon and Goodreads and pick up a copy today. Thank you for supporting small press authors!