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Book Review: Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion

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Shotgun-toting hero Ranger Martin returns for more zombie-killing mayhem in this second installment in the Ranger Martin series by Jack Flacco. This novel begins with even more suspense as we find Ranger Martin far outnumbered, his trusty truck destroyed, and his former sidekick and quasi-adopted daughter Mattie, cutting off all ties with him. Oh, and did I mention Ranger is on the run from the army since Randy, the other teen he’s taken under his wing is wanted by the government.

Warning: this review contains some spoilers!

It’s a good thing Ranger does not give up easily. Fortunately, his teenage sidekick Randy is destined to save the human race from the zombies. And of course, we know Matty can’t stay mad at Ranger for long.

There are many perks to living in the Apocalypse. Since the world is mostly taken over by zombies and all businesses have been abandoned, Ranger Martin and friends can waltz into any store and pick out any food they want. Of course, most of the perishable food has rotted away, so they’re down to canned meat and candy bars… Okay, maybe the food is not such a good perk, but they can also drive away in any vehicle they choose, free of charge, and they often do as their last vehicle is usually splattered with zombie brains.

And of course, when the world is invaded by aliens and zombies, you can always count on the government to cut off all lines of communication and round up the citizens like cattle to be zombified by creepy flying saucers.

The second book in Jack Flacco’s action-packed series provides more answers regarding this dubious alliance between the army and the strange alien race that sucks humans’ minerals right out of their bodies, turning them into zombies in the process. We also discover why Randy is so special – and why he is wanted by the government. Some sort of chemical in his blood makes him immune to zombification. However, his pre-apocalypse life still remains a mystery, hopefully to be resolved in future installments.

I liked the way Jack Flacco left the readers guessing as to the characters’ past, and I enjoyed meeting some more characters outside of Ranger’s usual group. There are other people fighting the invasion, a Resistance group hidden away behind a mine field, and a small but determined trio within the prison itself. But these resistance groups are cagey and secretive. Can Ranger Martin get them on his side? If they work together, they may have a small chance to defeat the corrupt US army general and his forces.

This second installment in the Ranger Martin series was even more suspenseful than the first (check out my review of the first book in the series), with many close calls, chases, and battles. My favorite thing about this series is that even in their most dangerous moments Ranger and his team still crack jokes and have fun. These are characters you can really root for!

To find out more about Jack Flacco’s books, check out his site, http://jackflacco.com/.

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Cyborgs R Us: Jackson and the Professor

the-borgSome scientists are claiming that by 2050 people will be able to download their minds into a computer, just like Professor X129 in my novel Dryad. Personally, I think it’s a ridiculous idea, which is why I satirize it in the novel. But even if we look at today’s use of technology, we are already all too close to becoming cyborgs… or maybe we already are.

I’m not even talking about those few select individuals who have microchips implanted in their bodies. I’m talking about people like you and I. Our culture is becoming known as “cyborg culture” because of our intimate attachment to our devices such as computers, phones, and Google glasses. There are many people out there who admit that they literally could not function without their phones.

It sounds like an unhealthy relationship… And yet, optimistic bloggers proudly declare that we control technology and it does not control us? This is a huge generalization, but it is easy to see that the vast majority of people are controlled by technology on a daily basis. Those who refuse to use commonly accepted technology (the latest smartphone, the newest version of Microsoft Office) find themselves at a disadvantage, therefore everyone must jump on the technology bandwagon or be left behind.

Maybe this is why the predictions I make in my novel are in line with a pretty bleak view of the future…

Future Management

Roger_Taylor_Fun_In_SpaceRoger Taylor is well known as the drummer of legendary rock band Queen, but back in the 80’s he also released a solo album which reflected his own preoccupations with science fiction and the state of modern society. Even as early as the 1980s he was clued in to the dangers of technological “progress”:

Future Management

You won’t need nobody else but me…
You’ll find
I’m gonna invite you to try my machines
Program an offer you just can’t refuse
I’m gonna invite you to share all my dreams
You’ve got nothing to lose.

Recycle your thoughts

I’ll rewire your mind
I’ll punch in some new points of view
To make sure you find
You’ve got nothing to lose

You don’t need nobody else but me…

Someone from the 21st century might listen to this song and think, yes, this is a pretty accurate picture of today’s “management”. It could be the relentless technological upgrades you experience in the workplace or even as you go about your daily life, surrounded by machines, having to conform to the machines’ points of view, their “logic”. It sounds to me as if the speaker in this song are the machines themselves, trying to convince us that we don’t need other humans when machines are so much better and more perfect than people could ever be.

against the machine hidden luddite traditionJust think of the last time you tried to call your mobile phone provider and were led down telephone labyrinths in a vain attempt to talk to a human being.

It’s enough to infuriate the calmest person, yet most people don’t rebel against the machines. We have become used to them, and we accept things the way they are.

Nicols Fox, the author of Against the Machine puts it very well: “We are everything the machine is not: creatures of emotion and sensation with minds that are creative and imaginative… Generally people try bravely, even enthusiastically, to accommodate themselves [to machines]. They are not sure why they are consequently unhappy. They do not blame the machines, for we have convinced ourselves – or been convinced by advertising and promotion – of their marvelous natures and of our great need for them.”

However, in every society, there are those who rebel…

Jackson and the Professor

A 17th century pirate would not be very accepting of a machine-centered society. This is exactly what happens in my novel Dryad, when Jackson, a former slave and a French privateer suddenly finds himself in the distant future, where people no longer have physical bodies. There are only minds, housed in the hard drives of computers.

Suffice it to say, Jackson does not like this at all. He sees it for what it is, a form of slavery. Despite their differences, Jackson and the professor eventually do become friends… Maybe there’s hope that humans and machines can coexist in a healthy relationship?

Here is an excerpt from their conversation:

“Slavery has been abolished all over the world,” the professor replied, “But in a way, you could say every sentient living being, every computerized being, all are servants of the Great Sissy.”

“The Great Sissy? I like not the sound of that.”

“She is a benevolent ruler.”

“How did it come to pass that all the known world is subjugated by a woman?”

“It happened a long time ago. In the twenty-first century, Teddy Goldman was one of the most prominent leaders of the world. His values were physical fitness, improvement of the spirit, individual endeavour. But later in that century his cult began to lose followers, for war and pollution became too much a part of everyday life and people could barely sustain their physical bodies, much less keep physically fit and healthy. The Great Sissy offered them eternal life and freedom from their bodies.”

“And that is how you gained your present form?” Jackson asked.

“Yes.”

“How is this possible? How are you released from your body, yet alive?”

“My mind and everything it contained has been transferred to this machine. Of course, parts may malfunction and wear out, but theoretically, I could live forever.”

Jackson shook his head as if he had too many questions at once.

“Whither did your soul go?” he finally asked.

“Soul?”

“This is only your mind in the machine, so where is your soul?”

“I doubt very much that there is such a thing as a soul. It did not separate from my body and fly up to heaven when the download occurred, if that’s what you mean.”

“Maybe not,” Jackson insisted, “Maybe it is still inside this machine. Otherwise, how is it you are able to speak, think, and feel?”

“I do not feel,” the professor objected, “That is, I have sensors that detect light and sound and so on, but I do not feel emotions as humans do.”

Jackson accepted a tray with Jell-O and milk from a mechanical attendant who had just rolled into the room. Then he focused a penetrating gaze on the professor and said, “I don’t believe you.”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt from Dryad. I leave you with this low budget video of Roger Taylor’s Future Management, complete with dummy imagery (I already talked about dummies in a previous post so I don’t know why they’re coming up again.) Do you suppose these mannequins represent those who blindly follow the lure of technology?