Review: Sam Gunn Omnibus, Ben Bova (2007)

I read this book years ago, and then I read it again, and again, and just recently… you guessed it, again! Sam Gunn Unlimited is the culminated tales of a 21st Century scoundrel, pioneer, visionary, conman, lothario, hero and villain, the man who single handedly (with a lot of help from a lot of people.. umm…) dragged mankind kicking and screaming from Earth and out into the Solar System, and maybe beyond?

Sam Gunn is the focus oh the book, but he’s not the protagonist, the story really follows a news reporter born and raised on the moon as she learns about the mysterious loved and loathed figure of a man, a former astronaut, operator of the first space hotel, the man who took commercial passengers into orbit for the first time, a cruise liner captain sailing the outer belt for asteroids, this larger than life figure, who was really short, a man who chased and was chased by women in amazing adventures.

See, what I just did there is what most of the characters in the book do, allow Sam Gunn to overshadow everything. In fact, Jade is a fascinating character in her own route, an outsider in a nation of outsiders, the first space orphan, she can never go to Earth due to a genetic condition, but through force of will, she jumps careers from manual labour on the moon’s surface to that of a reporter, giving her the resources, (with some corporate wranglings), to really dig into Sam Gunn and get people to tell her their stories of the greatest reprobate in the Solar system.

Jade’s story sets up the framing device Sam Gunn’s story, she interviews people and then the story switches to those people’s narratives, as unreliable a narrator as you could possibly want, making each story seem personal, but sometimes inconsistent. Perspective is everything, and it’s fascinating.

I mentioned that Sam Gunn even in absence, tends to overshadow everyone, but as with Jade that doesn’t mean the characters, the story tellers, Jade’s supporters and antagonists, they’re nearly all rich, you learn their histories, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, and their shames.

Sam Gunn’s life itself, is a story of an entrepeneur trying to make it rich on the new frontier, every step of the way he’s trying to push that frontier a bit further out so that he can net the profits while everyone else plays it safe and follows in his work. As is a common theme in Ben Bova’s stories, the corporations are the main antagonist in the story, they’re constantly trying to trick, cheat, or outright threaten our eponymous hero, but don’t worry Sam isn’t really a hero, as he’s more than happy to try and trick, cheat, and threaten them.

I love the scope of this book, it covers the preternaturally long life of Sam Gunn from his early days in NASA, until it catches up to the stories’ being told about him by Jade. There’s some fascinating discussions on the legal, ethical, and logistics of future space travel and colonisation. It has a fantastic finish, which leaves you wanting more from the cast of characters that come together at the end.

Literally the only thing I would change about this magical collection of stories is to embed more into the Grand Tour series, however as history is in places significantly different, and I think (off the top of my head), only one characters crosses over into Sam Gunn’s universe, I can see why it’s an independent story.

And one last note to add, and I’ll preface by saying this isn’t paid advertising, my most recent go through with Sam Gunn I did via Audible, where they had a tremendous multi-cast recording, so as you broke off into each of the different narrators it was a different voice, which really embedded the feel of the novel in a way single-voice recordings ever could. Really made you consider the biases, and the untrustworthy elements of the narrator. So I’d highly recommend if you want to experience Sam Gunn yourself, and you don’t have the time to sit down and read the whole thing, check out the Audible version. (Also it’s the Omnibus version, I previously only had the Sam Gunn Unlimited, which didn’t have the last few stories.. so that was a pleasant surprise to find out there was more to the story).

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 53: The Second Chance

This is the 53rd in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Second Chance, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 23rd January 2012

Word count: 865

Theme: saviour, hero, sacrifice, ultimate ultimate sacrifice, religion, end of the world, saving grace, fate

The story:

“Okay, I’m sorry it has to be you,” the professor said, his voice echoing round the damp dark cave, illuminated by only a couple of battery powered lanterns. Eric thought the Professor looked gaunt, these past few weeks had been tough on the whole group, but the Professor had seen his hopes and dreams smashed too.

“I volunteered, I know what I’m doing. I knew this quest of yours would be dangerous, and I volunteered anyway. Just make sure the people outside, know it was my honour to have been with them on this, and make sure the world knows how close it came,” Eric said nobly. “Well if I pull this off anyway.”

“You have my word,” the Professor said sombrely. “Right do you want me to go through this again?” he asked gesturing to the three inch cables protruding from the wall.

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 50: The Bleeding Heart

This is the 50th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Bleeding Heart, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 20th January 2012

Word count: 999

Theme: hero, pariah, zombies, undead, soldiers, last stand, rescue

The story:

The doctor dragged the body inside the building, and the orderly slammed shut the door and barricaded it.

The doctor was on the floor checking for signs of life, and with none, he set about trying to return life to the body.

Thud!

Something hit the door.

Thud! Thud! Thud!

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 48: Mortal Choices

This is the 48th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

Mortal Choices by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 18th January 2012

Word count: 994

Theme: destiny, hero, champion, evil, madness, magic, fate, prophecy

The story:

Eighteen hours to save the world, the creature had told Oliver, just eighteen hours. He’d also said that Oliver was the chosen one, destined to fight the raging storm of evil, hell bent on enveloping the world.

If he hadn’t been a tiny mouse covered in lizard scales, Oliver would have thought the creature nuts. Instead he could only conclude that he was hallucinating, shook his head and walked away.

Two hours later in work, at the local supermarket, he was quite surprised by an hallucination coming to him as he was scanning a tiramisu .

“Oliver you are the only hope for all our kinds,” the alsation sized scaly creature said.

“No thanks Leia,” Oliver said dismissively, hoping no one saw him talking to himself.

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 47: The Fallen Hero

This is the 47th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Fallen Hero by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 17th January 2012

Word count: 1,000

Theme: heroes, fantasy, wrong choices, fate, prophecy, vengeance, guilt, remorse

The story:

“You have returned then,” the old man said hearing footsteps behind where he sat.

The footsteps stopped, but the creator said nothing.

“Come Caje, sit, this game is a little childish.”

The footsteps resumed, they walked around the desk, the chair moved, and then shuddered forward. The old man saw no one, but did not appear surprised. He sighed.

“Caje there is no need for the dagger, are we not friends?”

A figure shimmered into being, sat in the chair holding an ornate knife, which he then tucked inside his belt.

“You are right,” the scarred young man, dressed in soldiers garb said, “I am here, as I promised.”

“I sense not as promised, your journey has changed you,” the old man said.

“The journey you sent me on. The prophecy called for five, not six,” the young man said coldly. “What happened is on your head.”

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 46: Coward’s Courage

This is the 45th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

Coward’s Courage by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 15th January 2012

Word count: 645

Theme: risk, hero, self doubt, self depreciation, police, crime, robbery

The story:

Jackson never sought out to become a hero, even a minor one. Things just turned out that way. That day started off like any other, he got a call about a small problem, and went to deal with it.

“Breath deeply,” Jackson told himself, “Then cut the wire.”

Snip.

“Okay, first one down now the next, just stay steady,” he braced himself.

Snip.

He pulled himself out of the cupboard.

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 17: The Clarion Challenge

This is the 17th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing from 2nd December 2012 until the 1st December 2013. It’s intent is to keep me writing throughout the year, and not just in November. you can find out more about the challenge here.

Stitched Up, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 18th December 2012

Word count: 1,000

Theme: sport, the one, hero, rugby league, dreams

The story:

“You’re in the big leagues now son,” coach Gilbert was saying.

“Thank you, thank you, I won’t let you down!” replied the young man by the name of Lee Brignall gushed. He’d just been told he was going to be in the starting line up for this Saturday’s match against the Warriors. It was a dream come true for the young Leeds Rhino.

Prop forward in a Super League XXV game, against the defending champions. He knew this was his big break, so he trained solidly for two days, before Gregory Matthews, current Captain of the Rhinos pulled him to one side.

“You need to take it easy. You’ve got a great work ethic, but save some for the game. We don’t want you injured or exhausted do we?”

Lee Bruce took it to heart and reigned himself in, he followed his training schedule and socialised better with the team.

“Sure the kid’s going to be alright?” Matthews asked away from prying ears.

“He’s got talent, just needs discipline,” Gilbert said. “He’s got something the crowd will love, an eagerness. He’ll help us win back the crowds again, and we need them.”

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