Category Archives: Science Fiction

Movie Review: Ant Man and the Wasp

As things go, Ant Man and the Wasp was exactly the movie I needed to see.   If you’re a fan of the Marvel movies, or even if you aren’t, it’s fun, fast paced, and humorous.  The risks are dire and personal, this isn’t a movie where they’re fighting an alien of ridiculous power and strength.  These are people dealing with problems that make sense (even if some of those problems involve quantum mechanics).

It’s a movie that doesn’t hesitate to use humor to diffuse a tense situation and where the nonsensical is an acceptable route for problem-solving.  It rewards the audience for paying attention.  It also does a great job of showing that super-powers don’t necessarily solve problems and often times makes things more complicated.  It does all that without being preachy or boring, while still giving you enough time to process everything that’s happened.

And yeah, it ties into the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Captain America Civil War and Infinity War.  At this point, I’m having a difficult time thinking of a movie they haven’t done well enough to be entertaining.  Ant Man and the Wasp is fun, engaging, and there’s enough interesting emotional and “real” world problems that I really found myself on the edge of my seat.  So if you haven’t already seen it, go watch it already.

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Prisoner of the Mind Discounted This Weekend

Prisoner of the Mind will be available for $0.99 all weekend.  If you haven’t got your copy yet, here is your chance to get it for cheap.

https://amzn.to/2s02F1B

How do you know right from wrong if every memory, every thought in your head was put there by your enemies?

In a near-future, when humanity has begun to spread throughout the stars.  In the process, they’ve awakened abilities hidden within their own DNA.  Psychics have begun to appear at ever-increasing rates with abilities that range from mental manipulation to mass destruction and beyond.  Empowered by public hysteria and fear of psychics, Amalgamated Worlds has taken over.  Their powerful combination of military and security forces, control of media and communications, and manipulation of internal threats has created a police state that spans all of human space.

Shaden Kirroy is a product of that police state.  Designed to be a weapon for use against his fellow psychics as well as any civilians who step out of line, he is an artificially enhanced psychic.  He is a blank slate, his past erased and replaced with engineered loyalty to Amalgamated Worlds.
 
Yet Shaden realizes that something is terribly wrong.  As his world begins to unravel, as he realizes the horrors of what was done to him, Shaden must find a way to free himself, to unlock the prison of his own mind.
 

Valor’s Duty: Reviews Wanted

Valor’s Duty by Kal Spriggs

Thanks to everyone who purchased copies of Valor’s Duty!  It has been hanging out in the top ten of its category on Amazon and the initial feedback looks great.  I’m really grateful that everyone seems to enjoy the book, especially since I love writing this series.

If you’ve read the book, I would love to hear your feedback, either by email or through Amazon or Goodreads.  Reviews help to sell books, so please help other people find these books and leave reviews!

If you haven’t got your copy yet, you can find it here: https://amzn.to/2Lc19Bw

Thanks again for reading!

Now Available: Valor’s Duty!

Valor’s Duty is now live!  You can get your ebook copy exclusively from Amazon.

Link:  https://amzn.to/2Lc19Bw

Duty is heavier than a mountain; death is lighter than a feather. 

Jiden’s life at the Century Military Academy is forever changed when she is asked to volunteer for a special program.  They want to implant her and other cadets with a special, prototype neural computer.  It will make them smarter, more capable, and able to split their attention between dozens of activities.  Her friends jump at the opportunity… but Jiden isn’t so certain.

She sees it as her duty to volunteer. Despite all of her doubts, it’s a duty she owes to her world and to her friends.  But as things begin to go wrong, as her life is put in danger once again, Jiden quickly realizes that she may have shouldered a duty that she can’t bear.  The implants might be driving her fellow cadets violently insane… and Jiden may be next. 
She will need to muster every ounce of courage, every bit of intelligence, in order to save her friends.  Even then, her own survival might be too much to ask.  But Jiden doesn’t know how to back down, and she’ll do her duty no matter the cost

 

Valor’s Duty Snippet 3

Valor’s Duty goes live in just 2 days on May 18th.  In the meantime, here’s the third and final snippet.  If you missed the first two, you can find them here (Link) and here (Link)

***

Back in the private room, we all just sort of slumped.  I found myself sitting next to Sashi, who still hadn’t said anything.  I could see her thinking, but I wasn’t really sure what was running through her head.  I’d always had a problem reading her, even when she’d been my roommate.

“You okay?” I asked quietly.

“What do you think?” Sashi shot me a look.  I didn’t really have a response for that.  I’d been at odds with my parents once before, but not with my whole family.  Even then, it hadn’t been like what Sashi was going through.  With me, they’d shipped me off to my mom’s mother, the Admiral, who had enrolled me in the Academy Prep School.  “They think I’m going to fail out,” Sashi said in a miserable voice.

“Well, sorry, but I think your brothers are jerks,” I replied.

She snorted, “Yeah, they’re my brothers, it kind of goes with the territory.”  She wiped at her eyes.  “It’s just so frustrating, you know?  They think they know what’s best for me and for the family.  They’re angry because I’m not doing what they tell me.”  Her brow furrowed, “I am worried that they are right.”

“You’ll be fine,” I assured her.

She shot me a look, one part grateful and one part angry.  “You don’t know what it was like,” she hissed.  “Last year, I had no help.  I had no support.  I was tolerated by Ogre Company, but that was it.  I’m coming back to Sand Dragon.  Do you think it will be a warm welcome?  Who will want to room with me?  Who will want to study with me?”

I hadn’t really thought about that.  I’d talked with Sara Salter, this year’s Company Commander for Sand Dragon, and she’d approved Sashi’s transfer back.  But that didn’t mean there would necessarily be a place for her.  Sashi and I had roomed together during Academy Prep School.  She’d gone over to Ogre for our plebe year.  I’d probably been the closest thing she had to a friend in Sand Dragon… and she’d very publicly betrayed me during the final exercise.

“You can be my roommate,” I said on impulse.

I saw Ashiri look over at me as I said it.  From the way her expression shifted, I knew that she wanted to say something, but she didn’t.  I thought about what I’d overheard between her and her mother.  Maybe if I’m not her roommate any more, it’ll take some pressure off of her, too.

“Are you sure about that?” Sashi asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  I’d had her stay at my parent’s house with me for two weeks.  How much worse could it be?

“Well, thanks,” Sashi said.  She seemed taken aback.  “I really hope this all works out.”

“Don’t worry,” I said, clapping her on the shoulder impulsively, “I’ve got a good feeling about this year.”  I should have kept my stupid mouth shut.

***

 

We arrived at the Academy without any further trouble and after the initial formation, I knocked out my in-processing checklist and found myself in the large amphitheater where it seemed like so many of my life’s major events had occurred.  This was where they held the first in-briefing from the Admiral.  This was where they had held my Academy Prep School Final Exercise. It had been here that Sashi had betrayed me.  It was here that the psychotic Commander Scarpitti had tried to kill me.

Despite the dim lights and the quiet, I found my heart starting to race in anticipation.

“Attention on Deck!” Someone bellowed.

As one, the entire Regiment of Cadets rose to their feet.  Again, the central platform lit up, and the Admiral, my grandmother, stepped forward, her khaki uniform crisp, her expression stern.  “Cadets, welcome back to the Academy.  Today begins the one-hundred and seventy first year of this institution.  I welcome our new Plebe Class, Class Two Ninety One.  I also welcome our First Class, Class Two Eighty Eight.  You Cadets First Class will graduate this year and go on to your follow-on assignments in our Planetary Militia.”

Her already stern voice hardened.  “Last year we suffered a number of unfortunate incidents.  As a result, we will all of us, Cadets and Instructors, be under additional monitoring.  All of you will be under constant supervision.  We will not tolerate violations of the school’s Honor Code, nor will we tolerate ethical or legal violations.  You are one day to be Officers within Century’s Planetary Militia, and you are expected to set the example.  Any of you who cannot do so will be removed.”

“That said, honest mistakes are a part of your learning experience.  We do not expect you all to be perfect.  Leadership and command are skills that must be learned.  Take the opportunities you are given to excel.  Accept risks.  Show your instructors that you are able to recover from failure, and you will do well.”

“Now then,” the Admiral said, “We’ve had some turn-over of personnel.  Commander Weisfeldt joins us as one of our new Engineering instructors.”  The short, stocky, and dark-haired officer stepped forward, his expression stern.  “Commander Weisfeldt has just completed a tour at Century Station, where he managed the station’s military prototyping department.”

“Additionally, joining our staff is Commander Stirling,” the Admiral went on.  A heavy-set officer stepped forward.  He had a pleasant smile and gave a slight wave.  “Commander Stirling has just finished a tour with the Guard Fleet as an officer observer at their shipyards at Harlequin Station.”

I perked up a bit at that.  Getting a slot like that would be impressive, the Guard rarely allowed non-signatory nations any access to their shipyards.  He would have had a chance to watch ship construction across a huge range of ship classes and sizes.

“Also joining the Academy Staff at this time is Lieutenant General Corgan, of Century’s Enforcer Service,” the Admiral said.  “Lieutenant Commander Corgan will not be teaching any classes, but she will be observing how we conduct our training and our overall operations.”

The way that the Admiral said that and the polite yet cool tone in her voice gave me a shiver.  That wasn’t the way I would have expected her to welcome someone.  It felt more like a warning, to all of us.  What was a senior member of Century’s national police service doing at the school?  As far as I knew, they had no connection to the Planetary Militia.  They operated entirely planet-side and they answered to the Security Director and Charter Council.

“Now, then, I’ll remind you all that companies, sections, and individual cadets are ranked on a points system.  As always, your grades, your performance in training, your punishments and successes, are all counted towards your totals.  Last year, Sand Dragon Company managed to win again, for a second year, by a slim margin.  The Honor Graduates, Mackenzie, Ingvald, and Attabera, were ahead by a few percentage points.  Those who graduate in the top ranks are often given the choice positions upon graduation.”

She gave a wintry smile, “Failure early on can be overcome.  Becoming overconfident early on can lead to a drop in your ranking.  Ambition and hard work are rewarded, complacency is your enemy, far more than anything else.  Good luck, Cadets, let’s have a good year.”

***

Valor’s Duty Snippet 2

Here is the second snippet from Valor’s Duty, coming 18 May, 2018.  You can find the first snippet here: (Link)

Chapter 2: Sometimes I Get Myself In Trouble

 Imagine a train hurdling along at over three hundred kilometers an hour.  Now put it over fifty meters below sand and rock, in a pitch-dark tunnel.  That was the military train that I got to ride back to the Academy.  It was part of the defense infrastructure train lines that connected most of Century’s cities and all of it’s military bases.  One of my engineering projects over break had been to write a research paper about it.  There were over thirty thousand kilometers of tunnel, much of it between fifty and a hundred meters deep.  It had taken twenty years to complete the main lines, and the main sections were designed to survive near-misses from orbital ships.  It was a pretty amazing feat of engineering… the cost estimates rivaled that of starships.

Of course, what that all meant to me was that I had just over a six hour train ride.  I’d coordinated to link up with my friends, but most of that had gone out the window when the onrush of cadets had flooded the train.

When we arrived at the Academy, the masses would assemble into something resembling order, but right now, the train was chaos, with civilian-dressed and uniformed cadets running back and forth, people struggling with bags and what seemed like far too much noise after two weeks at home.

I glanced at my datapad and checked the text from Ashiri a third time.  She said she’d managed to get a spot in one of the private cars, which would be something of a refuge from all this chaos.  Ashiri’s family lived in New Albion, which meant that Ashiri had boarded the train several hours earlier, well before I’d arrived at Duncan City.  I pushed through the mess, hoping that I’d catch up to Kyle or Sashi on the way.

I finally reached the right train car, this section of the train was notably quieter and I paused outside the suite to pull out my datapad.  Since I had no idea where Sashi or Kyle had been swept off to, it was probably best if I messaged them, rather than trying to find them on the train.

I faintly overheard a voice on speaker from inside the suite.  After a moment, I thought I recognized Ashiri’s mother’s voice and I heard Ashiri respond to something, her voice oddly muted.

“You listen to me, daughter,” Ashiri’s mother grew louder, her voice angry, “those so-called friends of yours are no good to you.  Do you think it is coincidence that two years in a row you have been third place to them?  They are using you, and keeping you down!”

“Mother!” Ashiri protested, “It’s not like that at all!   I have done well!  Third in rank is nothing to be ashamed of!”

“Listen to me with respect and never interrupt!” Ashiri’s mother’s voice was sharp.  “Third is nothing.  Did your so-called friends not vie for first and second?  Do you think it coincidence that your roommate’s grandmother runs the Academy and her granddaughter finishes first almost every year?  When I was your age, I was first in everything.  What kind of example do you set for your siblings by failing to be first in all that you do?”

“Mother,” Ashiri protested, “I’m doing very good.  Better than hundreds of others–”

“You will do better,” Ashiri’s mother snapped.  “You need to do whatever necessary.  Those so-called friends of yours, you need to cut them loose.  You are better than them, you do not need them!”

“Mother…” I heard Ashiri start to protest.

“If you are not first this year, daughter, then you are nothing.  I will expect you to succeed.   Your family expects you to succeed, do not fail me.”

“Yes, mother,” Ashiri’s voice was resigned, barely audible.  There was silence on the other side of the door for a long moment.  I felt suddenly guilty and a bit ashamed as I realized I’d been listening in on the private and potentially embarrassing conversation.  I hadn’t meant to, but I’d still overheard things that were none of my business… though they were things that shocked me.

Granted, I wasn’t terribly surprised that Ashiri’s mother didn’t think highly of me.  The one time I’d really met her, I’d managed to put my foot in my mouth.  But that she thought that Alexander Karmazin and I were using her daughter to improve our own scores… that made me angry.  Worse, she’d all but accused the Admiral of rigging things so I came in first.  That idea was so absurd as to be ridiculous.  I couldn’t think of someone less likely to do that, and if anything, I felt like the Admiral was extra hard on me because I was family.

It wasn’t like I could defend myself, though.  I’d have to admit to listening in on a private conversation and that wouldn’t exactly make me look good.  At least it sounded like the conversation was over.  I reached for the door handle, but before I could touch it, the door opened.

“Oh,” Ashiri froze, staring at me.

“Hey,” I said in as cheerful a fashion as I could manage.  “I guess I found the right place.”

Something flashed across my best friend’s face.  Some emotions that came and went too fast for me to understand, maybe too complex for me to really comprehend.  Something like shame or embarrassment, something like anger.  I wasn’t sure and I was half-convinced that I imagined it all, it was there and gone so fast.  One thing I was sure, though, was for a moment, Ashiri wanted to ask how long I’d been standing outside the door.

“Yeah, this is the right place,” Ashiri replied finally, her voice almost detached.  “Where are the others?”

“I lost Sashi and Kyle in the crowd, but I was just about to message them,” I gestured with the datapad in my left hand.  Ashiri made a face, though I wasn’t sure whether that was about Sashi Drien or my excuse for why I was standing just outside the door.  “Have you seen Karmazin, yet?”

“Alex?” Ashiri shrugged, “No, I assumed he’d be with the rest of you.  Last I heard, he was going to catch the train in Duncan City like the rest of you.”  The Enclave didn’t connect into the defense train system, for a bunch of complicated reasons, not least of which was that it wasn’t technically a part of Century’s planetary government, it was a weird sort of autonomous sub-state.

“Huh, I hadn’t seen him either,” I said.

“Well, come on in,” Ashiri stepped out of the doorway.  She settled to her seat and gestured at her datapad, “I was just finishing up edits on my Military History paper for Commander Bonnadonna.”

“Ugh, that was a brutal one, right?” I stepped in and took a seat, messaging Alexander Karmazin, Kyle Regan, and Sashi Drien with our location.

“Yeah,” Ashiri showed genuine emotion for what seemed like the first time.  “I enjoy his classes, but he sure does load us down with assignments.”

Last year we’d had a ten page paper due every week for Commander Bonnadonna’s classes.  The worst part was, we didn’t get the papers returned, he just seemed to be able to magically read every paper and comment and address things we brought up in our papers during class.  I couldn’t imagine him managing to read that much every week, but somehow he did it… and he managed to make subjects that I found dry and abstract into things that mattered.

Someone knocked on the door, “Come in,” Ashiri and I said at the same time.

Kyle opened the door and stuck his head in, “Hey, Jiden, I think Sashi needs your help.”  There was a nervous edge to his voice that had me up on my feet and out in the corridor almost before he finished speaking.

I saw what he meant right away.  Just down the corridor, right at the junction from this car to the next, I saw Sashi Drien with two young men boxing her in.  I recognized both of them almost instantly, it would be hard not to, after all, since their short stature, dark hair and tan skin looked so similar to that of Sashi.  They were her older brothers, and their faces were harsh with anger as they faced her.

I studied them as I advanced.  Nahka Drien wore the collar insignia of a Cadet Commander, his tan, handsome face drawn back in a harsh sneer.  His younger brother, Toro, wore a Cadet Second Class rank.  Both of them were tense, their expressions angry and their postures showing that they were on the edge of physical violence.  I wasn’t sure how I knew that, maybe it was something I picked up from my kerala classes with Commander Panja.

Nahka looked over as I came up, his eyes darting between his sister and myself, even as he snarled at Sashi, “…bad enough that you refused our grandfather’s offer, that you resign and come home and limit any further disgrace to our family.  But this?  To take refuge with our family’s enemies?  How could you embarrass yourself so?”

“Leave her alone!” I snapped.

“This doesn’t concern you,” Nahka hissed at me.  “Go back to your real friends, hongro.”

I frowned at him, “Sashi is my friend.  Leave her alone.”

Nahka turned and stepped towards me, “You’re using her.  You’re setting her up for failure, to make my family look bad.  She isn’t suited for this life.  She almost failed out last year.  You leave my sister alone, hongro.”

I flinched at his harsh tone, but I didn’t step back.  I realized that, in his own twisted way, Nahka did care for his sister, he didn’t want to see her fail.  But at the same time, he was doing her more harm than good, he was bullying her, trying to get her to quit.

He didn’t see how capable and strong Sashi could be, because he was too busy trying to protect her.  “No,” I snapped.  “You leave my friend alone.”

I stepped past him and stood next to her.  “If not for Sashi, I would have failed out during Indoctrination.  She’s smart, she’s strong, and she’s going to do just fine… as long as you two get out of her face!”

“You shouldn’t take that tone with upper-classmen, Cadet Third Class,” Nahka Drien snapped.

“We aren’t at the Academy, yet,” I replied.  “And this kind of thing wouldn’t fly there, and both of you know it.”

They both shifted uncomfortably at that.  They monitored our every move at the Academy.  While a lot of that was hands off, this was something that was likely to get them in trouble.

“You’re right,” Nahka said, his voice low and threatening.  “We aren’t at the Academy.  Maybe someone could suffer an accident, fall down and get hurt.  Especially if she was alone and sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong.”

“She’s not alone,” Kyle said from just down the corridor.  Behind him, I saw Ashiri and Karmazin.  Nahka and Toro both looked sour.  Clearly their plan, whatever it was, had just fallen apart.

Nahka stepped forward and stopped only a few centimeters away from me.  “We’ll remember this, Armstrong.  Whatever happens to our sister, it’s on you now.”  He stepped past me and then he and his brother stepped through the doors and into the next train car.

“Well,” I said, as calmly as I could manage, “that went well.”

***

Kal’s May 2018 Forecast

Here’s an update on what I’ve got going on for the rest of May.

First off, Valor’s Duty, the third Children of Valor book, will be out on the 18th!  I love writing these books and the feedback from my readers tells me you like them, too.

I’m working on a submission for a publisher, one of the first I’ve actually pitched a concept and gone forward with instead of writing and submitting.  It brings an interesting set of challenges and I may write a blog post about that, if there’s interest.

I’ve yet to see Avengers: Infinity War.  Mostly because I was in Germany for work and I didn’t want to see it without my wife.  I’ll have a review post up soon(ish), once I get a chance to see it.  I’ve also got a stack of books I want to read and review.

If you’re a writer and you want to see how a slush submission works for real, I’ve volunteered one of my manuscripts for the Baen Live Slush reading, happening on 16 May, it should feature at either their 10 AM or 2 PM session and  I’ll post a link after it’s completed.  Here is a link to their channel:  (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjV7Nn4-bkB48wDjtobIuPQ)

Next month I plan to release another book.   Stay tuned for snippets and other updates, and thanks everyone for reading!