Saturday, 1 October 2016

Five to Five Thousand Challenge - Dan Grubb

The second Five to Five Thousand challenge has been accepted by Dan Grubb, head honcho at Fantastic Books Publishing - you can see the books they have on offer here:

If you didn't catch the first post then this feature is all about predicting events, or trends in 5, 50, 500, and 5,000 years time. I did the first one, and it isn't an easy challenge!

And now handing over to Dan...


A very tricky exercise. So tricky in fact that I’ve decided to try a diarised version of a single, possible future in the hope that others might be tempted to do the same.

In the interests of transparency I realised when I’d finished that I have made a very 21st Century human error and completely forgotten about the threat of global warming which, as you will read, becomes less of a problem in five millennia than it is now…

In 5 years

The rise of VR technology to augment our lives, coupled with advancements in medical technology and AI use in areas such as driverless cars and public transport lead to a shift away from human government and the policy makers are slowly replaced by legal professionals who spend their time arguing the positives of an AI government. The GTEP (Global Threat Elimination Programme) is formed using the drone-based defences of the US, Germany and China. Its reach is global. The legal teams go into overdrive dealing with illegal assassination claims from Russia and the middle-east.

Scandinavia’s fledgling AI government system suggests the replacement of all legal professionals with their AI equivalent citing various examples of human error. The UK and China’s systems agree. Russian political system begins the changeover to full AI government.

Global economies start to flourish and the stock markets begin to show signs of growth across all sectors.

Governments globally begin the shift to full AI control.

In 50 years

Genetic modification has removed some of the most terrifying diseases from the human population and extended the average lifespan significantly. The first octogenarian mother gives birth. Plans for the first augmented Olympics are approved and work begins on genetically modifying athletes for the 2072 games. Interestingly, double leg amputees are banned from competing in the augmented games in the same way they are banned from the standard games as material technology used in their blades, twinned with the lower weight caused by their amputations, still ensures they can move much faster than even their genetically augmented counterparts over 100m.

SpaceX’s moon base, set up in 2029 to help maintain various lunar satellites and to perform low gravity experiments, opens its doors to tourists for the first time. The drone choreographed zorb trip from the landing spot to the base is instantly hailed as one of the most fun and exciting ways to cross a landscape, driving a tourism flood to the base. Elon Musk’s AI persona ‘EM’ (following his death in the Dragon 11 test flight of 2018) approves of opening the base to tourism saying ‘the only way to get to and colonise another world is to engineer a way to get normal, everyday folks there’.

The sub-Saharan forest programme gains ground as new hydroponic technology is introduced to the forest floor, leading to spontaneous, year round river systems flowing beneath the young canopy. Wars to claim this new, fertile land are kept under control by the GTEP (Global Threat Elimination Programme) using AI drones controlled by the global task force. The population vs viable fertile land ratio (now held as the yard stick for the push towards the elimination of poverty wolrdwide) takes an

encouraging step toward the positive. Cynics conclude this is entirely due to the millions of deaths caused to the local populations being wiped out by the GTEP.

The first probe arrives at Proxima B. The return signal, carrying both optical and other scientific data, is expected to reach Earth by 2075.

In 500 years

Mankind has colonised the solar system, following the unexpected plans full of technological advancements driven by the incoming signal from Proxima B. Plans for the new drive systems found in the signal far outstrip the performance of even the most advanced human built systems. Bases arrive on the Jovian moons of Titan, Europa and Io and Ceres is mined for both water and important metals which are then ferried to and refined on one of many Martian industrial complexes. Mars becomes the ‘second Earth’ outpost of humanity.

Signs of a very high frequency communications network are detected outside the orbit of Pluto. Probes are sent to investigate.

The vast majority of the human race spend their time in augmented reality pods having their every nutritional and physical need catered for.

Procreation is tightly controlled and entirely illegal outside of ‘life labs’.

Control of the human race’s future is 100% AI controlled.

GTEP now have millions of humanoid officers who patrol every facet of human activity both on and off the Earth.

In 5000 years

Following the magnetic deletion of the final human AI control system on Mars’ largest city, the Xanthorians claim the total destruction of the human race from their home system of what humans used to call Proxima Centauri. Emperor Yan tightens his control over the Galaxy and states that the asteroid impact that destroyed all life on Earth a millennia ago was a sign that the grand Imperial Vision was the correct one.

Yan vows to sterilize every system in the galaxy that does not immediately bow to Imperial control and pay tribute.

Voyager 1 is intercepted by the Mallorians, the true architects of the galaxy, who after researching the plucky satellites origins mourn the loss of the human race and begin planning to solve the long considered ‘Xanthorian problem’.

Foreword by Robert Llewellyn.

A collection of 27 short science fiction stories from around the globe.

Featuring professional contributions from Drew Wagar, Stuart Aken and Boris Glikman.

The collection gives a charitable donation to the Freedom from Torture charity (

Buy it now here:

Friday, 30 September 2016

Book Review - Cabal by Clive Barker

I'm a huge Clive Barker fan, so much so that he's one of my favourite contemporary horror authors. That's down to two factors: imagination and writing style. In all of his books there is a flash of imagination, of bringing a new angle to an established genre. His style of writing is fantastic, and does often make me despair that I'll never be able to match his talent for prose.

Cabal is almost a more traditional horror story compared to his other novels, it lacks the grand scale of Weaveworld for example. Naturally there are some new angles to it, but they're not as impactful as some of his other creations. The concept of 'monster' is the heart of the book, whether that be human, or otherwise. And that tone is carried well, you see brutality in many different guises here. This works mainly through the existence of strong and well written characters.

My main complaint is that while the characters are well realised, and the setting appropriate, it only touches on the surface of this strange world. I would have loved to learn more about the nightbreed, and to be honest that of the mask as well. There were histories there that needed to be realised to bring it into the light.

As always though, no matter if the story has its flaws, his writing carries it superbly. It's not often I read a book just for the joy of the words, and while this isn't the strongest of his form (I'd probably pick the Hellbound Heart for that), it is evident as you read it. There's a real eloquence to be admired here. A decent horror read, but not his best.

For more than two decades, Clive Barker has twisted the worlds of horrific and surrealistic fiction into a terrifying, transcendent genre all his own. With skillful prose, he enthralls even as he horrifies; with uncanny insight, he disturbs as profoundly as he reveals. Evoking revulsion and admiration, anticipation and dread, Barker's works explore the darkest contradictions of the human condition: our fear of life and our dreams of death.

Click here to buy Cabal from Amazon

Currently Reading - Proxima by Stephen Baxter

The very far future: The galaxy is a drifting wreck of black holes, neutron stars, and chill white dwarfs. The age of star formation is long past. Yet there is life here, feeding off the energies of the stellar remnants, and there is mind, a tremendous galaxy-spanning intelligence each of whose thoughts lasts a hundred thousand years. And this mind cradles memories of a long-gone age when a more compact universe was full of light... The 27th century: Proxima Centauri, an undistinguished red dwarf star, is the nearest star to our sun. How would it be to live on such a world?

Click here to buy Proxima from Amazon

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Book Review - Horus Rising by Dan Abnett

I used to be very into my Warhammer 40K with my Space Marine army, and back then the Horus Heresy was a footnote in history. I've always been a fan of the setting, and while I don't play the games anymore, I do still enjoy reading stories. This is the first book in the long running 'Horus Heresy' series, and details the events of 10,000 years before the game.

While the book is set far in history from the games' point of view, as these are the precursors to the famous space marines it didn't take long to familiarise myself with the setting. If you're new to the universe then this probably isn't the best book to start with, as there's little introduction to the mythos.

The book's setting before the more formal marine chapters known later allow a greater flexibility with the marine characters as they conduct their great crusade to stamp the Imperium's seal across the galaxy. They're still superhuman killing machines, but there are nuances to their cha=racters which help offset the bleakness of the world they inhabit. Of particular interest if Horus, his fate is known to those familiar with the mythos, and its interesting to see the seeds of his future, and see him before his fall.

That grim future is one of the aspects that attracts me to the 40K universe. It's very over the top, with enemies on all sides, and within if you're not careful. The basic premise is that humanity had once spread across the stars, but contact had been lost, and Earth was now reclaiming the lost colonies. Naturally many resisted, and that's were the book starts with the subjugation of one such world.

As is often the case with these books the action soon involves aliens, and while they're not the most imaginative foes, they are sufficient to provide for some good action. The writer's style works well for the story, it has a sombre formality which matches the nature of the Imperium, but also well paced action for the fighting.

My only real complaint was that the ending feels a bit rushed. I would also have liked to have learned more about the second set of aliens. Overall though, I enjoyed reading it. It portrays the world in a detailed fashion, yet at a steady pace. It also has a few philosophical moments with so solid insights. A good read.

After thousands of years of expansion and conquest, the imperium of man is at its height. His dream for humanity nearly accomplished, the emperor hands over the reins of power to his warmaster, Horus, and heads back to Terra. But is Horus strong enough to control his fellow commanders and continue the emperor's grand design?

Click here to buy Horus Rising from Amazon

Currently Reading - The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

Click here to buy The Windup Girl from Amazon

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