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From Afar: Disasters and science-fiction

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Submitted Cover Art Veronica Scott's newest book "Colony on Fire" was just released.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Veronica Scott

Special to the Daily

Record

I’ve always enjoyed a good disaster yarn, in any setting. And April is the 109th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, which is probably one of the most famous real life disasters, so I’m in the mood to talk about some science-fiction disaster tales. These are “hard” sci-fi for the most part, so there may not be any romance or just romantic elements and there’s no happy ending guaranteed, but when I’m in the right mood, I don’t mind skipping the romance and concentrating on the action.

In no certain order, here are a few sci-fi disaster novels from my Kindle. If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know I love classic dystopian and apocalyptic sci-fi — I’ve tried to steer myself away from those books this time, to other sorts of disasters.

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I just finished “Drop By Drop: Step by Step” by Morgan Llywelyn, which is the first of three books and I’m definitely going to keep reading. The premise of this first book is that plastic dissolves everywhere and in everything. I found it a novel concept and I enjoyed the setting in a small town named Sycamore River. I’m going to keep reading the series partly because the author got me keenly enmeshed in the daily lives of the citizens of the town and how the end of plastic affects everyone.

“Space Station Down” by Ben Bova and Doug Beason reminded me a little bit of the movie “Gravity,” where Sandra Bullock is the only surviving astronaut stranded in space. It had the same feeling. Here’s the blurb for this book: “When an ultra-rich space tourist visits the orbiting International Space Station, NASA expects a $100 million win-win: His visit will bring in much needed funding and publicity. But the tourist venture turns into a scheme of terror. Together with an extremist cosmonaut, the tourist slaughters all the astronauts on board the million-pound ISS — and prepares to crash it into New York City at 17,500 miles an hour, causing more devastation than a hundred atomic bombs. In doing so, they hope to annihilate the world’s financial system. All that stands between them and their deadly goal is the lone survivor aboard the ISS, Kimberly Hasid-Robinson, a newly divorced astronaut who has barricaded herself in a secure area.”

My only quibble with this one was that the narrative got a bit too technical at times. I felt the story bogged down in the details but overall I enjoyed the book.

For a complete change of pace, there was “Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” by Max Brooks — author of “World War Z.” This one took a hard turn from what I expected and it carried me along inexorably. A very small group of people is cut off in a remote area after Mt. Rainier erupts and then the sasquatches make their appearance. Just typing that makes me smile but trust me, this book is not about happy, friendly creatures like the Bigfoot in the movie “Harry and the Hendersons.” Be prepared to do a lot of gasping. And don’t get too attached to anyone.

Major hurricanes are always a disaster, no matter how well prepared people are, and Hawaii makes for an unusual setting for a sci-fi disaster story. “Pacific Storm” by Linda Nagata delivered the thrills on all counts with a plot encompassing an approaching storm, a glitching Artificial Intelligence, terror threats and a police officer with a lot of emotional baggage. I love a strong female protagonist, which we have here and the book was a thrill ride.

I’m slowly working my way through the backlist of author Chuck Wendig. I loved his book “Invasive” and will never look at ants the same way again — although I always kind of gave them the side-eye anyway after seeing a 1950s movie about army ants when I was a kid. “Wanderers: A Novel” is a big, first volume in a new series and the premise is quite unique, as described in the blurb: “Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. …”

Normally, I’m more of a basic zombies and preppers type of dystopian reader, so I’ll admit to being a bit frustrated by this book precisely because it was so different but I certainly read every page. Wendig includes a lot of deep thought and subtle commentary on current daily life, which isn’t necessarily what I look for in a sci-fi disaster novel but the book was eminently readable.

Going back into outer space, “Contagion” by Erin Bowman has definite “Alien” overtones as a small crew is diverted from their normal work to go investigate why a mining colony has gone silent. This was a fast moving, really excellent thriller and there was a lot of “who can I trust” going on once the action starts. I loved it.

“The Colony” by Laurel Richards has a similar vibe, although it is a sci-fi romance. A small military team goes to find out what happened to a colony, where there’s one survivor. Here’s the blurb: “Responding to a distress call, Officer Alexander Valerian and the rest of his security team arrive at the human colony on the planet of Jangala to find blood and gore all over the walls. All the colonists are dead or missing except for Dr. Elisa Everett, a pretty paleontologist he finds injured and nearly suffocated in a ventilation shaft. Now Alex has to figure out how 69 colonists were wiped out in a single night, but Elisa’s account of killer monsters just raises more questions. Has the colony really been attacked by bloodthirsty beasts, or did everyone succumb to a powerful hallucinogen that made them turn on one another? He had better find out fast, because Elisa’s life is in his hands.”

Need I add that it’s one of my favorites?

Next up for me will be “The Last Watch” (The Divide Series Book 1) by J. S. Dewes, which is out in late April and which I’m keenly anticipating. Here’s the story: “The Divide. It’s the edge of the universe.

Now it’s collapsing — and taking everyone and everything with it. The only ones who can stop it are the Sentinels — the recruits, exiles and court-martialed dregs of the military. At the Divide, Adequin Rake commands the Argus. She has no resources, no comms — nothing, except for the soldiers that no one wanted. Her ace in the hole could be Cavalon Mercer … an exiled prince who nuked his grandfather’s genetic facility for ‘reasons.’ She knows they’re humanity’s last chance.”

Sounds like a classic disaster and right up my alley!

And as for me, my latest sci-fi romance novel is “Colony On Fire,” where the planet’s only doctor is dealing with an out of control wildfire situation. I’ve had my own brushfire experiences, living here in Southern California for decades, which informed my writing for sure. Nothing as drastic as what this heroine has to face, however!

Happy reading … .

USA Today bestselling author Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library at its heart. Her father loved science-fiction, her mother loved ancient history and Scott thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories. Seven-time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Scott is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances. One of her favorite achievements is that she read the part of “Star Trek Crew Member” in the official audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s, “The City On the Edge of Forever.” For more information, visit her blog at veronicascott.wordpress.com or find her on social media such as Twitter, @vscottheauthor, or Facebook, @VeronicaScottAuthor.