Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Mystery by Russ Colchamiro combines compelling characters with noir-mystery and sci-fi tropes and blasts them into exciting new territory.
What is the audience for this work of speculative fiction? This is from the book’s description on Bookshop.org:
“[Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Sci-Fi Mystery is] For fans of Doctor Who, Blade Runner and Philip Marlowe…”
And Crackle and Fire is just the first in The Angela Hardwicke Mysteries Book 1 series. Book 2 is coming in the not-too-distant future.
The following book review of Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Mystery contains **MILD SPOILERS for the book’s plot in the opening.
Russ Colchamiro’s tale combines many of my favorite plot elements and world building for an innovative, gritty, pull-no punches neo-noir-mystery in the Universe.
The Universe may span the outer reaches of space, myriad places of which earth is just a tiny blip on the radar, and that is all the more reason for the need of the PI, the private investigator Angela Hardwicke.
Her inner monologue is self-critical and always interesting, as this inner speech often betrays to the reader the nerves that flare up, or the terror that floods her vision, when on the outside, she appears as cool as they come.
Angela Hardwicke has seen a lot and her mannerisms – such as having the tears in her long trench coat sewn over and over again – show a vast amount of experience, stubbornness, and grit.
The woman is savvy and cautious, but also tired; she is as tired as any of Raymond Chandler’s most worn-out cops, PIs, or fugitives.
The writing echoes Hardwicke’s exhaustion, and right from the outset of the story her mental weariness proves very costly.
She slips up in taking on a case from a likeable guy that is so nervous he borders on squirrelly.
And what a fun character Gil Haberseau turns out to be!
The accountant is terrible at math.
But people like him, so he gets on pretty well.
That is, at least until Gil’s intern disappears with stolen files tied to the worst of the mob, the Anshanis.
When Hardwicke wants no part of the ruthless Anshanis (after a past run-in gone sour), Gil corrals her by mentioning her name was in the stolen files, which is why he has come to her.
But he has almost no information to give the PI that will help her track down the missing intern.
She can feel the lies, the inherent danger that is only showing the tip of the iceberg above the water’s surface.
And then, as clacking shots are made on pool tables around her, the obvious damning truth – the omitted truth – comes home to her, but not in a self-reliant epiphany; it is her friends that have to explain it to her.
Gil is no accountant.
And his ‘intern’ may come from other dimensions in the vast multiverse to their own universal realm, Eternity, meaning the stakes and the complications pertaining to them are infinitely more than Hardwicke could ever have imagined.
To start the case, really start the case this time, she ambushes her own client in his apartment and confronts him for his lies.
The intern, from a remote planet called earth, could be big trouble.
The story is riveting in both the personal aspects of its characters and the page-turning action, but it also has a grandiose scope far beyond the notion of the known universe.
Fractured Lives: An Angela Hardwicke Sci-Fi Mystery (The Angela Hardwicke Mysteries Book 2) By Russ Colchamiro will be released in September 2021!
“The Golden Man” by Philip K. Dick explores mutants hunted in a long short story, or short novella, from 1954, long before Stan Lee’s X-Men emerged!
It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where atomic radiation has produced mutated human beings.
A government task force has been created to hunt down these mutants.
SPOILER WARNING for “The Golden Man” an 11,600-word science fiction short story written by Philip K. Dick and published in the April 1954 issue of If magazine.
Mutants are either neutered or killed, depending on the strength of their abilities, so that they cannot harm humanity.
But the one mutant still at large is the elusive Golden Man who is always a step ahead because of his ability to see the future.
PKD explored a future where the next step in evolution may very well leave humans behind.
He explored the idea of the next superior being as neither a benevolent leader-type, nor a malicious genocidal dictator-type, but rather a Magneto-like being that would set a course of natural selection that would replace humanity in favor of a new mutant race.
Evolution itself, after all, is a natural process with no malicious intent behind it. Human beings simply would not be able to compete.
The comparison between the X-Men nemesis, Magneto and his mindset, cannot be ignored here, though PKD preceded Magneto’s invention by close to a decade.
This practical perspective is rather interesting and refreshing.
Superheroes, essentially mutants, have dominated popular culture for quite some time. Heroes, like the Justice League of DC comics, have helped lead humanity where villains, like Magneto of X-Men, are more interested in leaving humanity behind.
“The Golden Man” alludes to a more plausible Darwinian approach that seems to encroach on Magneto’s thoughts and arguments, at times, but stands alone in its insightful approach to the mutants in the story.
This novella was the inspiration for the movie Next with Nicolas Cage.
Ironically, similar to that of iRobot, the studio borrowed just one small concept from the entire story in its adaptation.
Surprisingly, the only similar parallel these two works share is the elusiveness of both characters when avoiding arrest.
Hollywood certainly had a fun time showing off this skill with Cage during the casino chase.
Although Nicholas Cage has the similar ability to see into the future, he certainly does not have the Golden Man’s secondary traits and his philosophy that make him so extraordinary. If you are a fan of film adaptations (as I am) you may find this interesting.
I, ROBOT by Isaac Asimov: book review of science fiction classic highlights the prose, storytelling, and stark differences in views regarding this premiere work about robots and AI, aka artificial intelligence.
In Asimov’s I, Robot, Dr. Susan Calvin (robo-pyschologist for U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Inc.) describes the development of robots, through nine short stories, to a reporter in the 21st century.
The Following book review of I, Robot by Isaac Asimov is a Spoiler-ful WARNING Level YELLOW: it contains mild spoilers for the novel, but not detailed plot.
When read from beginning to end I, Robot can be seen as an evolution of Asimov’s Robots. Each story shares an interaction between humans and robots and often hints upon the unease of a growing artificial intelligence.
Here is the story synopsis, and the review continues below it.
Paperback Released April 29, 2008 | ISBN 9780553382563
About I, Robot
This classic science fiction masterwork by Isaac Asimov weaves stories about robots, humanity, and the deep questions of existence into a novel of shocking intelligence and heart.
“A must-read for science-fiction buffs and literature enjoyers alike.”—The Guardian
I, Robot, the first and most widely read book in Asimov’s Robot series, forever changed the world’s perception of artificial intelligence. Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-reading robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world—all told with the dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction that has become Asimov’s trademark.
The Three Laws of Robotics:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
With these three, simple directives, Isaac Asimov formulated the laws governing robots’ behavior. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future—a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete.
“Tremendously exciting and entertaining . . . Asimov dramatizes an interesting question: How can we live with machines that, generation by generation, grow more intelligent than their creators and not eventually clash with our own invention?”—The Chicago Tribune
Each story in the book shares an interaction between humans and robots and often hints upon the unease of a growing artificial intelligence.
Asimov’s future (actually our past as his first short story is set in 2015) includes mining stations on asteroids and Mercury, spaceships with hyperdrive, and super computers along with robots taking over simple jobs like farming, while also running for office and even secretly running the world.
Although nine stories follow Asimov Three Laws of Robotics, many stories describe robots having difficulty with these laws (either by manufacturing defect or meta-cognitive awareness) leading to their eventual interpretation of them – even a so called religion. His infamous laws governing robotic behavior have changed our perception of robots forever.
The three laws of Robotics: 1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Despite the name Hollywood gave the film, I, Robot, starring Will Smith, the book is far from the film in terms of actual story elements, though the film is fun and captures some of the spirit, as well as a couple specific uses of the book.
Spoiler Alert: If you were a fan of the 2004 science fiction action film I, Robot directed by Alex Proyas do not expect many similarities with Isaac Asimov’s 1940-1950 short story collection of the same name. The 2004 film is much more closely based on Jeff Vintar’s original screenplay Hardwired. That film adopts Asimov’s creation of “the three laws of robotics,” shares two similar characters, and borrows one scene from his works.
Overall I, Robot is a thought provoking read, blended well with science-fact and science fiction.
If you have not read the novel, expect a vastly different story than the film with the exception of the chapter titled “Little Lost Rabbit.”
Isaac Asimov was a Russian-born, American author, a professor of biochemistry, and a highly successful writer, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.
Professor Asimov is generally considered one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. He has works published in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (lacking only an entry in the 100s category of Philosophy).
Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the “Big Three” science-fiction writers during his lifetime.
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