I try to read as often as I can, which is strangely more of a challenge when I’m not working than it is when I was, for various reasons – mostly due to the lack of personal autonomy. As a result, my ability to read outside of a select few authors whose work I keep coming back to is limited, at best. But I’ve found that those authors tend to produce consistently good output, so I keep coming back to them.
Among those authors are: Jason Anspach and Nick Cole, co-authors of the legendary Galaxy’s Edge series, which has created a vast new fandom universe of its own now, and is kicking the CRAP out of the STAR WARS Expanded Universe as a result; Jay Allan and his Blood on the Stars series; and a certain author who goes by the name of Gary L. M. Martin.
I came across his books when they hit my Amazon Kindle Unlimited recommended reading list, for some reason – the algorithm figured that I might be interested in them. I had some idle time at some point last year and looked over them, and quickly realised that this guy is not your standard one-genre niche writer.
If you look at his catalogue of books, you’ll see quickly that he writes across a very wide range of genres, styles, and ideas. His very first book – which I haven’t read – is a direct riff on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and, given the severe decline in quality in that saga after the third book, I have little doubt that Gary Martin’s efforts easily top those written by his inspiration.
His primary genre appears to be the realm of sci-fi, but he does a great job of taking standard sci-fi tropes and really seriously re-imagining and broadening them.
I started out with his book, Journey to the Year One Billion – the full uncensored version – and found it to be a very compelling and unusual take on the topic of time-travel. This is not your standard “five hundred years into the future” idea – this is more like your highly unusual five hundred MILLION years into the future, complete with fully sentient planets, and molecules, and eventually atoms.
Basically, what Mr. Martin did was take a bunch of great sci-fi ideas from grandmasters of the 1950s and 1960s, take them to their logical conclusions, and add on a bunch of his own personal ideas as well.
Journey to the Year One Billion is not a short read, not at all. But it is a very quick one, considering the fact that the book itself would be something of a doorstopper if printed out on paper. And that is a common trait of Mr. Martin’s books; they are often pretty long, but very fast to read.
They are also, pretty much universally, controversial in one way or another, and are absolutely not advisable for those of a prudish nature who dislike prurience. His books are written by an adult, for adults, and depict adults doing various adult things – not always in good ways and quite often for very bad reasons. That’s just the reality of his books, and his attitude is really simple: if you don’t like a lot of gratuitous and potentially rather offensive sex scenes, don’t read his books.
Unfortunately, his book reviews on Amazon are currently flooded with a lot of SJWs and liberal idiots (considerable overlap) who can’t stand the fact that he likes to line up sacred cows and shoot them and turn them into super-sized cheeseburgers. As a result, his work is bogged down by a lot of fake one-star reviews that really mess with his rankings and make it difficult for him to sell his e-books online.
He reached out to me himself a few weeks ago because he noticed that I had mentioned Journey to the Year One Billion as my favourite fiction book of 2019, which indeed it was. He asked me to head over to Amazon and leave a review of the books of his that I have read, and thereby provide a bit of help to his output.
Due to a problem with my main Amazon account, I’m unable to do that directly, but I am able to put up a blog post that advertises his books, which I suspect will actually be significantly more useful. Note that I’m not getting paid for writing any of this – I’m just trying to help out someone that I think deserves a bit of traffic and some sales for his products, because I’ve tried them out and I think he’s very good at what he does.
Mr. Martin’s output is prodigious – he brags about this openly in the Afterwords of his books. While most authors takes years (*cough Vox R. R. Day cough*) or even decades (George Rape Rape Martin, we’re looking at YOU) to write books that are perhaps 200-300 pages long, it takes Mr. Martin a bare 2 months or so to write 700-page novels packed full of action sequences, fascinating plot devices, lurid and graphic sex scenes, and very pointed and topical political commentary.
That latter point is in fact the reason why Mr. Martin’s work is weighed down by fake reviews. He quite happily kicks over a lot of tea-wagons by outright mocking the stupidity of feminists, ecomentalists, world-government fanatics, Islamists, techno-Luddites, progressives, and all manner of other characters. He has absolutely no mercy and does not discriminate at all in picking his targets.
If I had to pick on one problem with Mr. Martin’s writing, it is with his character development. Most – though not all – of the characters in his books are one-dimensional cartoons who never really develop in any serious way. This is true of most of the secondary characters, though there is certainly considerable change and growth in some of the main characters, particularly in the less-satirical and more sci-fi-based novels that I have read.
Furthermore, pretty much all of the male protagonists in the books that I have read are constantly mooning over an unrealistically beautiful girl from their pasts – Michael Taylor from Starship Gods, Journey to the Year One Billion, and now The Making of a Survey Service Captain comes to mind in particular. (I haven’t read that last one, by the way – it’s a newer release which I haven’t gotten around to.) In the particular case of Michael Taylor, he does mature and develop and change through the books, though, and in some pretty interesting ways to boot.
This would in fact be a major problem, were it not for Mr. Martin’s considerable strengths in writing in other areas. His greatest of these is his ability to take existing tropes and ideas, and really expand upon them and make them more interesting than anything that the original creators could possibly have conceived.
A great example can be found in Starship Gods, where he takes the idea of advanced humans landing among a more primitive tribe, as is commonly found in the temporal anomaly episodes of practically every Star Trek series, ever, and riffs on it to turn the crew of a spaceship into gods, who then proceed to use, or abuse, their newfound godlike stature depending on their own personal proclivities. This really has to be read to be understood, as is the case with most of his books.
Another great example can be found with the ideas contained in Sleeping with Hitler’s Wife, in which he takes the concept of time travel and starts with a very juvenile notion of people using that to go back in time to live out their fantasies, and then expands greatly upon it to throw all sorts of deep and very difficult moral questions at the reader. For instance: is it justified to go back in time to stop the advent of slavery in the USA, given the likely results for blacks and whites as a result of changing past time? Mr. Martin poses answers to that question in ways that both entertain and challenge the reader.
Since I don’t recommend things, products, or ideas to my readers that I myself have not tried out, here is the list of Mr. Martin’s books that I have, in fact, read or at least started reading, and found enjoyable – or, if I stopped reading one of them, I’ll explain why.
We’ll start off with the latest one that I’ve read:
Sleeping with Hitler’s Wife is a highly imaginative time-travel adventure that starts off with the premise that Mankind has discovered how to go both backwards and forwards in time, and affect the ways in which events play out. The book starts in a theme park in which people can go back to specifically created isolated “pockets” of time to cuckold Hitler by having sex with Eva Braun – and then asks far more serious questions about whether it is right to go back in time to stop certain events from happening. A number of modern politicians are lampooned here, including a certain Lefty billionaire who ran a completely failed campaign of President on a completely loony ecomentalist platform.
I read this one last year and thought that it was easily one of the best and most imaginative works of speculative fiction that I have read in a very long time. Highly recommended – check out my best books of 2019 post for a longer review.
As mentioned earlier, Starship Gods is all about what happens when a the crew of an advanced starship lands on a planet populated by primitive humans who follow an extremely violent blood-soaked religion centred around a book written by a leading prophet. The members of the crew disperse across the planet’s surface and come to terms with their newfound “godhood”. Some of them try to exercise their power responsibly, some much less so, but eventually all of them end up proving the ineradicable truth of Lord Acton’s old saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Among the MANY targets of Mr. Martin’s satirical scorn are: feminists, Islamists, really oblivious Bible-thumpers, and many others. It’s a fascinating read and well worth the time and effort involved.
Now this one is a bit out of left-field. This is an extremely irreverent and witty comedy that takes aim directly at the Big Tech companies, and uses paper-thin parodies of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Yahoo!, and the personalities that created these internet giants. The setting is in the relatively near future, where technology that allows the indexing and searching of memories comes to life and allows a new wave of Big Tech firms to dominate the search industry. Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, and Elon Musk are all absolutely pilloried in this book, which is both richly imaginative and merrily irreverent. Also highly recommended.
I tried giving this one a go, I really did. Basically it comes down to aliens who come to Earth with an offer of giving humans access to high-speed interstellar travel – but in exchange, they want a remake of STAR WARS. Various factions and nations then begin to argue among themselves as to who can create the most interesting and compelling remake of perhaps the greatest sci-fi movie of all time. I gave up on this one simply because I thought that the attempts to mimic natural accents were preposterous and made the book unreadable for me. That being said, it’s still an entertaining and compelling idea, and perhaps some of you will be able to take it farther than I could.
Earth Girls Under Mind Control from Planet D was originally published under a different title, and has evidently undergone several cover revisions since its publication. This book is all about alien parasites infecting human hosts and spreading through sex, but poses some rather challenging moral and philosophical questions along the way. I couldn’t get past the one-dimensional characters and the near-constant emphasis on sex to spread the parasites, but that’s just me; I like a bit of plot to go along with all of the boinking, and in the early chapters, at least, there wasn’t a whole lot of that. Your mileage may well vary, as the saying goes.
Well, that’s about it from me on the subject. If you fancy a look at Gary L. M. Martin’s work, take a trip over to his Amazon author page and read through it. His work is a reminder of what great sci-fi could be, back in the days of legends like Robert A. Heinlein, when writers were not afraid to experiment and use their writings to explore very challenging moral questions, instead of posing tedious lectures about what it’s like to be a quad-sexual gender-swapping AI pondering the meaning of existence without personal pronouns.