Zero Hour

“Zero Hour” from The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

It’s just a normal day for the Morris family. Mrs. Morris is taking care of the home and little Mink is playing with her friends. Except today Mink is grabbing all kinds of things and running around with her friends more excited than usual playing Invasion.

While they are playing, Mrs. Morris notices that the kids won’t let a 12 year old play with them as he is too old.

Hmm…

She hears how serious the kids are with Mink demanding and ordering about, organizing like a general. She runs out and about everywhere, as it is a “matter of life and death.”

Oh kids

They have to hurry as Drill needs them to finish the Invasion. Drill is from outer space and needs help to come to their dimension. Drill and his compatriots have been trying to invade Earth for years and couldn’t make it. Then they decided to use kids under nine and their imagination. They promise the kids they can get and do whatever they want when they arrive.

“Drill says I won’t have to take baths,’ said Mink.

‘Oh, he does, does he?’

‘He told all the kids that. No more baths. And we can stay up till ten o’clock and go to two televisor shows on Saturday ‘stead of one!’

‘Well, Mr. Drill better mind his p’s and q’s. I’ll call up his mother and —‘

Mink went to the door. ‘We’re having trouble with guys like Pete Britz and Dale Jerrick. They’re growing up. They make fun. They’re worse than parents. They just won’t believe in Drill. They’re so snooty, ‘cause they’re growing up. You’d think they’d know better. They were little only a coupla years ago. I hate them worst. We’ll kill them first.’

‘Your father and I last?’

‘Drill says you’re dangerous. Know why? ‘Cause you don’t believe in Martians! They’re going to let us run the world. Well, not just us, but the kids over in the next block, too. I might be queen.’ She opened the door.

Mrs. Morris calls her friend in New York and finds out that the kids there are playing the same thing. It seems that this game and “Drill” have spread all over the nation.

The day continues and Mink tells her mom it will be soon, Drill is stuck halfway but they are working on it. Five o’clock is zero hour. Mr. Morris returns home from work and Mrs. Morris is struck with how quiet the street is. What are the children up to?

Then an explosion happens and all Mrs. Morris’ fears explode with it. Sh grabs her husband and runs up to the attic hoping to hide out there and escape that night. Her husband thinks she is crazy, but Mrs. Morris doesn’t care.

Footsteps come into the house:

Heavy feet. Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty of them. Fifty persons crowding into the house. 295 The humming. The giggling of the children. ‘This way!’ cried Mink, below.

‘Who’s downstairs?’ roared Henry. ‘Who’s there!’

‘Hush. Oh, nononononono!’ said his wife weakly, holding him. ‘Please, be quiet. They might go away.’

‘Mom?’ called Mink. ‘Dad?’ A pause. ‘Where are you?’ Heavy footsteps, heavy, heavy, very heavy footsteps, came up the stairs. Mink leading them.

‘Mom?’ A hesitation. ‘Dad?’ A waiting, a silence.

Humming. Footsteps toward the attic. Mink’s first.

They trembled together in silence in the attic, Mr. and Mrs. Morris. For some reason the electric humming, the queer cold light suddenly visible under the door crack, the strange odor and the alien sound of eagerness in Mink’s voice finally got through to Henry Morris too. He stood, shivering, in the dark silence, his wife beside him.

‘Mom! Dad!’

Footsteps. A little humming sound. The attic-lock melted. The door opened. Mink peered inside, tall blue shadows behind her.

‘Peekaboo,’ said Mink.”

For more Ray Bradbury, go to Marionettes, Inc.

For more from The Illustrated Man, go to The Veldt

For more aliens, go to The Andromeda Strain

For more short stories, go to Stowaway

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Gates of Thread and Stone

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Gates of Thread and Stone (Gates of Thread and Stone #1) by Lori M. Lee

Kai has grown up in the Labyrinth, a poor section of town. She was found at age eight, unconscious on the docks, saved by eighteen-year-old Reeve who decided to adopt her and raise her as his sister.

Life is hard in this section of the city; low pay, bad food, not the greatest surroundings, kidnappings by a shadow figure “the Black Rider”, etc. But as long as they have their family, Kai is happy.

Kai, while not sure who she is, also has something that sets her apart from others, she can control time (at least for a little bit). Not sure why or what that means, she tries not to use it and bring attention to herself, but instead live a normal life.

One day when Reeve goes missing, Kai sets off to find him and save him; not caring what obstacles and challenges she has to face.One day Reeve doesn’t return home from work, and Kai wonders what could have kept him. When he doesn’t come back the next day, she becomes worried.

She questions her friend Avan, a shopkeeper, but he hasn’t heard anything. When Reeve’s boss reveals he sold him to the Black Rider, Kai decides the only thing she can do is go after him and save him.

Avan joins her as they take a path never explored before, through the void, forbidden forest, and having to cross gargoyles.

When they manage to reach the other side, they discover that the Black Rider is an immortal, one of many, called Irra or Famine. He is not stealing people, but freeing them from being help captive by who Kai thought was a benevolent ruler of her country. Reeve is not here as Irra did not take him, but Kal Nihu or Conquest, Irra’s younger brother (and also an immortal).

Irra agrees to help them in return for Reeve’s information as an insider of the Nihu’s court. He trains Kai and Avan as the only way the two can get back in the city, would be to participate as cadets in the games, fighting to win a spot as a sentinel, one of Kahl Nihu’s elite team.

As Kai trains for battle, she discovers there is more to her than just having an ability. There is more to her than she had ever dreamed of and soon it will be revealed and she will have to make a choice.

Will Kai be able to save her brother and their family? Or has she taken on a problem much bigger than she can handle?

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Thoughts After Reading:

I loved this book. I thought it was amazingly well done and not only captured your interest, but kept you turning page after page to discover what the conclusion of the tale is.

This was fantastic, the character of Kai and the love she has for her family is so well-written and easy to connect to.

And they were amazing in this book!

The story has a little bit of everything: elements of classic fairy tales (the snow queen); overthrowing a dictator, great action/fighting scenes; magic and science fiction; a love triangle (hopefully Mason is chosen) and more-something for everyone. It was well paced and well developed. I strongly recommend it and can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

For more fantasy-mystery novels, go to Emilie and the Sky World

For more Science Fiction-mysteries, go to The Andromeda Strain

For more kidnapping, go to Capital Bride

The Andromeda Strain

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The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Thoughts Before Reading:

I love Michael Crichton novels and have read almost every single one of his books. This was one of the few I hadn’t had a chance to and when I finally was ready to read it, I was so excited to add another one of his books to my collection.

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Plot Synopsis:

The United States has been shooting things into the atmosphere and a group of scientists come together with a plan. What to do if something should come into Earth from outer space? How could they prepare for it?

The plan is made, people chosen, and a facility picked; and then all forgotten. Years pass and then in a little town in Arizona, something falls out of the sky wrecking havoc.

The Thing from Another World (1951)

The people are called up and shipped out. When they examine the town only two survivors remain, a baby boy and a cancerous, alcoholic, chain smoker, eighty year old man.

WHAT!

What is this alien virus? Why didn’t these two contract it. Can the team stop it from spreading?

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Thoughts After Reading:

I thought this was okay, but not the best Michael Crichton novel.

I didn’t really like the end in which they leave it so open. I like his later work better.

For more not in a series mysteries, go to The Mystery of Jessica Benson

For more science fiction, go to The Veldt

For more mystery reviews, go to Innocent in Las Vegas

The Veldt

“The Veldt” (originally published as “The World the Children Made”) from The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Thoughts Before Reading:

Usually I post short stories on a Sunday, but as it was originally published on September 23, 1950, I thought I would post the review on that day.

Happy anniversary!

I first read The Illustrated Man, over fifteen years ago and completely fell in love with it, devouring it from beginning to end. I thought it was phenomenal and utterly creepy.

Hold me!

This story is so well written, just reading the name sends shivers down my spine.

Now as you read the synopsis, the story may sound slightly familiar to you fellow ’90s kids, as this is what the DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) Smart House was based on.

Plot Synopsis:

The story is set in the future and the houses are full of all kinds of technology and gadgets that people don’t have to do anything for themselves.

You ask for something, the house makes it and it appears. You have devices that paint for you, read to you, etc.

 The walls can change to mimic anything you wish, and what the children, Peter and Wendy Hadley, in this home keep asking for is the African Veldt.

And it is starting to scare the parents, Linda and George. They don’t know why, but something is…wrong. When they see the far off lions eating something, with the vultures waiting their turn it frightens them, but why?

Lately, the parents and children have been having some issues.The parents have decided that the children have become too spoiled and need to do things for themselves instead of having the house do it all for them, things like tying their shoes themselves, brush their own teeth, take their own bath, etc.

They call in their friend, a psychologist. David McClean, who quickly diagnosis the problem.

“You’ve let this room and this house replace you and your wife in your children’s affections. This room is their mother and father, far more important in their lives than their parents. And now you come along and want to shut it off. No wonder there’s hatred here. You can feel it coming out of the sky. Feel that sun. George, you’ll have to change your life. Like too many others, you’ve built it around creature comforts. Why, you’d starve tomorrow if something went wrong with your kitchen. You wouldn’t know how to tap an egg. Nevertheless, turn everything off. Start new. It’ll take time. But we’ll make good children out of bad in a year, wait and see.”

The kids don’t like it:

But the adults are all convinced they will get over it. Will this prove to be a great solution? Or will the parents be unable to stop the Veldt?

Thoughts After Reading:

I loved it!!!!

It was chilling, thrilling, and had a great and terrifying end.

I suggest you read it right away.

Read it today!

For more by Ray Bradbury, go to The Utterly Perfect Murder

For more short stories, go to The Red Headed League

For more science fiction, go to Emilie and the Sky World

Emilie and the Sky World

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Emilie & the Sky World (Emilie Adventures #2) by Martha Wells

So Emilie is back in another adventure.

Her previous journeys brought her into the center of their world and introduced her to things she never imagined would have existed.

Emilie has finally been able to reach her cousin and gives her all the news, just as their interviews and adventures are published in newspapers all over. But before they can enjoy it, Professor Abindon, an old colleague of Professor and Lady Marlendes, warns them he she has come across something strange and deadly in the sky. There is a disruption in the air aether current.

But as they look into it, they realize it is another ship!

Could it be the one that was lost up there years ago? But impossible, there is no way they could still be alive.

Emilie is going to join the crew again and as they all prepare for the expedition they discover a surprise. Emilie’s uncle has come to take her away. As he screams ugly accusations; Emilie is defended by all.

They leave, but when they’ve started their journey they discover that they have a stow away. It is Emilie’s younger brother Efrain. It must run in the family.

Ugh

When they arrive on the ship it is absent of all people. Strange like the bermuda triangle.

They then find a flower-like creature and the whole group is transported to another world or dimension.

Now Emilie, her brother, and this plant like creature have to find the rest of the crew, return somehow to their ship, and battle a creature who is trying to posses a host and take over the galaxy.

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Thoughts After Reading:

I loved it. I thought it was compelling, interesting, and well put together.

The only thing that bothered me was that Emilie goes on and on about her older brother Erin, but he doesn’t appear in the book. It would have been perfect of he was a part of the stranded air crew and that was why he never come back.

So far there isn’t another book, but I would love to see a third installment.

For more Emilie Adventures, go to Emilie & the Hollow World

For more books centering on disappearances, go to The Missing Housewife

For more steam punk, go to Ticker

For more science-fiction books, go to The Falling Machine

The Falling Machine

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The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam #1) by Andrew P. Mayer

Thoughts Before Reading:

So I was recommended this book by a friend. She loved it as it was steam punk, historical fiction, and involved superheroes.

What?

Yes, superheroes. It seemed like a sure winner…yet I…oops! Getting ahead of myself.

Plot Summary:

The time is 1880. The place, New York City. The girl? Nineteen-year-old socialite, Sarah Stanton.

Sarah is the only child of Alexander Stanton, a leading industrialist (and his superhero name) and founding member of Paragon, the steam punk version of the Avengers or the Justice League.

Also in the Paragon is Sir Dennis Darby, the leader of the Paragons and inventor who builds and improves the costumes of each. He is Sarah’s favorite person and mentor.

The Submersible, a German officer who was disgraced and came to America. He is named for his aquatic equipment.

Sleuth; a tall, Brit and highly intelligent in solving mysteries.

Iron-Clad, once able to destroy things with his iron fists and armor, but now stuck in a wheelchair.

And the newest member being Nathaniel as Turbine, a Rocketeer type guy, and Sarah’s old childhood friend.

There is one other member, a robot built by Sir Darby; Automaton or Tom for short. The other members don’t particularly like him, but put up with him for Darby.

Sarah, unfortunateky, will never be able to join Paragon because of her sex. She has wanted to be like her father, but their relationship has gone incredibly downhill since the death of her mother.

When Sarah was a child she was snooping in places she shouldn’t have been and revealed her father’s secret identity to the wrong person. She and her mother were kidnapped, her father only being able to save her. Since the death of her mother her father has been more closed and concentrated on stopping evil, not open to any new ideas like Sarah joining their ranks.

This day Sarah was out with Sir Darby, Tom, and Nathaniel to check out the new Brooklyn Bridge. They are at the top, when the foreman reveals that he is no such thing. He is Bomb Lance.

Haha, Bomb Lance. That makes me think of Bomb Voyage from The Incredibles.

Anyways, he turns out to be a member of the Brotherhood…whoops I mean the Children of Eschaton. He was hired to kill Sir Darby, of which he accomplishes; along with wounding Nathaniel.

Before he can finish him and Tom off, he is stopped by Tom and the warning shot he had fired. Bomb Lance steals a key from Sir Darby that he was after and takes off in a getaway hot air balloon.

The Paragons and Sarah find themselves at a loss and uproar over Sir Darby’s death. Sarah and Sleuth are both heartbroken at the loss of their friend and eager to find out who tried to kill him and why.

Meanwhile, the others are saddened by his death but also at odds over what he left behind. In his will he left the leadership of Paragon to Tom!

All argue over it: Sleuth wants to honor Sir Darby’s wishes while Nathaniel, Alexander, and the rest agree that having a machine be in charge is not the best idea. Yes he will be logical, but he isn’t human and doesn’t have the same heart. Alexander gets voted in instead.

Meanwhile, the Paragons don’t want Tom repairing himself after the Bridge incident as they want him to not gain any power or fall under the wrong control, as Darby is no longer leading him. They have all meet horrible machines who tried to destroy innocent people.

However, the Sleuth needs his help to investigate, especially as the Sleuth believes that someone in Paragon is either the leader of the Children of Eschaton or working with them. He confides in Sarah, who then takes it upon herself to aid in the investigation; believing it might be her father.

Seriously?

The Sleuth goes undercover to try and discover more about the Children of Eschaton but ends up having his cover blown by the inside man. He is almost killed, but is aided by a member of the CoE, Anubis, and he manages to get away.

Hmm…

Who killed Sir Darby? Who is the leader of the Children of Eschaton? Who is this mysterious Anubis? With every page the Sleuth and Sarah encounter more and more questions as they hunt for the truth.

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Thoughts After Reading:

Usually the books my friend recommends I love but I actually couldn’t stand this one.

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It had a lot of plot holes, its characters weren’t all that endearing, and I thought it was just bad.

My first problem was Sarah Stanton. Our main character that we are supposed to love because she wants to be a superhero and do more than marry and pick out clothes; she should be relatable but is just annoying.

Seriously!

For the first two thirds of the book she goes on and on about how horrible her father is. He won’t support her dreams. He never spends time with her. He hardly talks to her or looks at her, etc. We start thinking that her father is a horrible guy until she reveals what happened with her mother. All I can think is well Duh! Sarah. Your mistake cost your mother’s life! He probably can’t stand being with your because you look like your mother and it hurts him to se you knowing he didn’t protect her. Or maybe he blames himself for the whole situation as he just had to be a superhero. or maybe he blames Sarah. He’s not an ogre, he’s just grieving; after all he lost the love if his life.

And that explains why he never wants you involved. Part of it is the society views of where women should be but also he already lost one important woman in his life, I’m sure he doesn’t want to lose a second.

The Sarah-Tom relationship was weird too. Tom was just his plain old robotic self, but Sarah had the hots for him. She kept going on about describing his body’s six-pack or naked form. She tried to protect him and believed in him more than her “real human” friends. I don’t know if the author will continue that but a human and a cyborg getting together is just weird.

The Nathaniel relationship was weird too. Nathaniel goes on and on about how Sarah’s views of women’s roles is wrong, making them constantly at odds. But then the author is trying to plan a romance between them?

And then they suddenly reveal that they are step siblings!

Yeah, when did that happen? They talk of Sarah’s mother as being only Sarah’s mother. And Alexander never mentions being married before and says that after her death he could never remarry. Sarah and Nathaniel are close in age and said they grew up together. How could he have been a stepbrother? It doesn’t fit at all and was just weird.

I hated how Sarah thought everyone was crazy because they were unsure about Tom. Tom would never hurt anyone, Tom is our friend, blah, blah, blah…uh Sarah Tom is a machine. And a machine does what it is programmed to. It has no heart or soul. I agreed whole0heartedly with Nathaniel, the opposite of the author’s intention I’m sure.

I also thought the storyline was BORING. Sarah kept talking about when her dad was younger and the first superhero, and all the villains they fought at the beginning of Paragon and I thought that would be a much more interesting story. I would love to read that more than the sequel to this book. Please make a prequel!

And the thing I hated the most about this book? They leave you hanging at the end.

WHAT!

Yes, the Sleuth figures out who the leader is but is killed. At the very end Sarah finds his book of notes, running away, leaving you to have to read the next book to figure out the ending. I hate when authors do that. I think it is a cheap ploy to ensure that you will sell more copies as people are willing to plunk down their money to answer question. Bad move.

I actually don’t care about finding out who the leader is as I didn’t even care for this book that much. But as I started, I promise to finish the series, the same way I am doing it for everything else. It’s a hard job, but I will try.

For more steam punk books, go to Ticker

For more books recommended by friend, go to Emilie & the Hollow World

For more historical fiction, go to Whistling in the Dark

For more book reviews, go to The Madwoman Upstairs

Ticker

Ticker

Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

So this book is a science-fiction/mystery/historical fiction/steam punk story. Penny Farthing had a heart problem and nearly dies. Calvin Warwick, a brilliant surgeon and her sister’s boyfriend, creates a clockwork heart to keep her alive, a Ticker.

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This Tin Man-esque type creation has turned Penny into the first of the “Augmented”, altered humans. Ultimately, a cyborg.

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However, things have changed. Warwick has been killing people in order to create the perfect heart, one that will be even more perfect and able to continue Penny’s life. Since then Warwick has been imprisoned and today will be sentenced for the crimes he committed.

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Penny, her brother Nic, and her parents are preparing to go down the courthouse; but Penny is running late to meet them at their family’s factory. Penny is even further derailed when her friend, baker, and brother’s girlfriend; Violet messages her that she is baking her favorite sweets. Penny heads over there before she goes back on track.

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Penny hurries over, almost being hit by some other means of transportation. When she arrives at the factory she in for one heck of a surprise. A bomb.

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In the aftermath, Penny discovers that Nic was not in the building, and her parents went on ahead. Penny immediately uses her RiPA messaging system to let them know the two are okay, but hears nothing from them.

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Nic’s old friend Sebastian Stirling; rich, playboy, and businessman arrives to help out They head over to their house where they discover it has been ransacked and a ransom note left behind. They must give up all the Augmentation research or the parents will be killed.

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It is now up to them to find the parents before Warwick kills them.

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Thoughts After Reading:

It was pretty good although there was quite a bit not covered in this. Such as the history of the area, the time it takes place in, how this society works.

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I didn’t like Marcus, the soldier that helps them, and didn’t want him as Penny’s romantic lead.

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Instead I liked Sebastian Stirling I don’t know why they made him evil.

Really Mike?

Whatever.

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For more historical fiction mysteries, go to The Alchemy of Murder

For more not in a series mysteries, go The Book of Madness and Cures

For more reviews, go to Sew Deadly