My TOP TEN List of Science Fiction Novels

Books can have a huge impact on an individual’s life. These ten novels each, in their own way, had a huge impact on me as a young reader as well as giving me hours upon hours of entertainment as my imagination took each story and played it out in my own adapted version.

Number One: 1984 by George Orwell

Growing up in the Cold War in a family that understood all too well what the ramifications of the west losing Cold War meant, this was a scary novel for me. Orwell, a former Socialist himself, predicted so many things that have come to pass. This novel, despite its namesake year having coming and gone, is still incredibly relevant. Don’t think so? Name a place of business where there is not a television screen playing mindless repetitive news spewing the media’s mantra. Doublespeak? Try political correctness on college campuses and just about everywhere else. If this world is utopia, I think I’ll do without.

1984

Number Two: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner) by Philip K. Dick

This one has it all as far as I am concerned. Moral and philosophical issues, replicants, futuristic technology and a fantastic noir atmosphere set in the nightmarish Los Angeles of the future. Decker could have been written by Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler just as easily as Phillip K. Dick.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Bladerunner
Bladerunner

Number Three: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

The novel that spawned five movies, two television series and who knows how many comic books. I will never forget the scene where the hunt for the humans starts, in either the novel or the film. What a great twist for the ending as well!

Planet of the Apes

Number Four: The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I loved this story as a young boy and still enjoy reading it. Professor Challenger is a larger than life character and Professor Summerlee it turns out is a match for Challenger. What a grand adventure, going to a hidden land where dinosaurs still live!

The Lost World

Number Five: Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

Hard to believe, but this science fiction class, also made into a movie, is anti-war. The novel version though seemed to be pro-military. There is a difference. At any rate, the war with the Bugs makes for great action and some really creepy aliens.

Starship Troopers

Number Six: Dune by Frank Hebert

A masterful creation of a completely new universe to tell a story in. Hebert’s imagination and his ability to bring his vision to life via the printed word is magnificent.

Dune

Number Seven: Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper

A fun story that takes a look at what it means to be a sentient being. Little Fuzzy can’t help it if he’s cute. Piper’s tale also looks at the dark side of human nature as the need to declare the Fuzzies as non-sentient in order to protect profits shows the lengths mankind will go to because of the deadly sin of greed.

Little Fuzzy

Number Eight: Runaway Robot by Lester Del Ray

YA Science fiction and it was a great adventure! A boy and his robot, instead of a boy and his dog. One of the first science fiction books I ever read and I still get a kick out of it.

The Runaway Robot
The Runaway Robot
The Runaway Robot
The Runaway Robot

Number Nine: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Jules Verne may have been off with a lot of the science in his novels, but he had a way of predicting things that would come about such as man traveling to the moon and nuclear power. Given that he got those two big ones right, he gets a pass for thinking it was possible to descend into a volcano in Iceland and travel to the center of the planet.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Number Ten: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndam

Triffids sound horrible if you weren’t blind. I can’t begin to imagine the sheer horror of facing these strange plants with my eyesight being normal. An early story of global disaster without relying on the Cold War theme of a nuclear holocaust.

The Day of the TriffidsThe Day of the Triffids

Signup for The Inspector’s Report Newsletter! Keep up with Inspector Thomas Sullivan and his friends. Get updates on when the next book will be published. Enjoy the occasional short story and read author K.C. Sivils’ musings about science fiction, crime noir and what ever else is on his mind.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




Sign-up For The Inspector’s Report – The Inspector Thomas Sullivan Newsletter!

It has taken me awhile to get things set-up for my author’s newsletter, The Inspector’s Report. I’m not a particularly computer savvy individual so it’s to be expected I suppose.

The Inspector’s Report will be e-mailed periodically. I promise to NEVER share anyone’s e-mail who signs up.

You can unsubscribe at anytime AND you can not feel guilty about it!

The Inspector’s Report will give updates on the availability of the latest offering in the Universe of Inspector Thomas Sullivan and his friends (enemies too). Back history for characters and places on Beta Prime will be provided to answer those nagging questions readers have about this detail or that.

Short stories will be a part of the newsletter on a semi-regular basis and will often feature supporting characters such as Ralph, Alice or Joe.

If you are a fan of science fiction and/or crime noir/mysteries, I will include my thoughts on a regular basis in the form of lists or reviews of books I have read.

I would love it if readers of The Inspector’s Report would ask questions and contribute content as well.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




Roger Ebert’s Ten Characteristics of Noir Films (Novels for that matter)

The late film critic Roger Ebert liked film noir movies. Let’s be honest, some of Hollywoods best films from the Golden Era were noir. The film many critics say is the best American film ever made, Casablanca, is a noir.

Ebert penned a list of what he believed to be the ten characteristics that made a story a noir. Not all film noir movies fit all ten and the same is true for novels. The list however is a great starting point to determine if a film or novel fits the noir genre.

Here’s Ebert’s list:

1. A French term meaning “black film,” or film of the night.
2. A movie which at no time misleads you into thinking there is going to be a happy ending.
3. Locations that reek of the night, of shadows, of alleys, of the back doors of fancy places, of apartment buildings with a high turnover rate, of taxi drivers and bartenders who have seen it all.
4. Cigarettes. Everybody in film noir is always smoking, as if to say, “On top of everything else, I’ve been assigned to get through three packs today.”
5. Women who would just as soon kill you as love you, and vice versa.
6. For women: low necklines, floppy hats, mascara, lipstick, dressing rooms, boudoirs… high heels, red dresses, elbow length gloves, mixing drinks […]
7. For men: fedoras, suits and ties, shabby residential hotels with a neon sign blinking through the window, buying yourself a drink out of the office bottle, cars with running boards, all-night diners […]
8. Movies either shot in black and white, or feeling like they were.
9. Relationships in which love is only the final flop card in the poker game of death.
10. The most American film genre, because no society could have created a world so filled with doom, fate, fear and betrayal, unless it were essentially naive and optimistic.

To read more visit this site, Roger Ebert.com

Signup for The Inspector’s Report Newsletter! Keep up with Inspector Thomas Sullivan and his friends. Get updates on when the next book will be published. Enjoy the occasional short story and read author K.C. Sivils’ musings about science fiction, crime noir and what ever else is on his mind.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




Top Ten List of Favorite Science Fiction Movies and TV Shows

I love science fiction. As a little boy I became fascinated with Science Fiction due to early, and by today’s standards lousy, special effects and a new adventure in each television episode. Sometimes today’s SciFi effects are so good it’s hard to tell its a special effect. When I discovered the joy of reading, I read a lot of science fiction to go with the other books I read.

Many of these shows and movies have influenced my ideas in the creation of the universe Inspector Thomas Sullivan lives in. Here are my top ten sci-fi movies and tv shows.

Number One: Star Trek – The Original

Every day when I got home from school I had just over an hour before one of my parents got home. I spent that hour with Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise.

Star Trek

Number Two: Lost in Space

How could a little boy not love this show! Cool aliens, an even cooler robot for a sidekick, Dr. Smith was hilarious (and the real star of the show) and I seem to recall a couple of cute girls too! Oh, the pain, the pain I felt when the weekly adventures were gone due to cancellation!

Lost in Space

Number Three: Firefly

This show is what pushed me over the edge to create the Inspector Thomas Sullivan series of thrillers. If a Space Western could work as a story telling mechanism, then a sci-fi crime noir thriller could work too! Like all Browncoats, I felt the cancellation was a crime against sci-fi fans. Serenity was great, but there are so many stories left to tell about Captain Tight Pants and his crew.

Firefly

Number Four: Bladerunner

Classic noir film with a sci-fi story line. No, Decker is not the inspiration for Sullivan, but the two could probably swap quite a few stories about their jobs. Capital City isn’t as rainy, but if you’re in the wrong parts of town, it is certainly as dreary and dangerous.

Bladerunner

Number Five: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

What a vehicle to explore the ills of society, theological issues, moral issues, you name it. The show was gone too soon and I blame it on the fact the writers and producers simply didn’t know who the real star was: Cameron. For a Terminator franchise to succeed, the Terminator MUST be the star. Lena Headey was great as Sarah Connor, but Summer Glau’s Cameron should have been the focal point of the show.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Number Six: Outland

Basically a remake of High Noon with Sean Connery playing the lone lawman who must face arrival of murderous criminals coming to his mining outpost to exact their revenge. Proof, in my mind at least, that lawmen can make for good protagonists in a sci-fi thriller.

Outland featuring Sean Connery
Outland

Number Seven: Terminator 2 – Judgment Day

Perhaps Arnold’s finest work! A thoughtful, philosophical film about the value of human life. Not to mention it’s a great chase story filled with explosions, cool one liners and a T-1000!

Terminator 2 - Judgment Day
Terminator 2 – Judgment Day

Number Eight: Star Trek – Next Generation

If it wasn’t for the fact the original Star Trek is what got me started on science fiction, I would rate this one as the highest rated Star Trek. As much as I love Kirk, Spock and the crew, Captain Picard was the best Captain, Data was cool as the android and how can you not love Worf and his need to go to Red Alert and launch photon torpedoes! A great mix of philosophical issues blended with a good mix of action.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Next Generation

Number Nine: Serenity

Summer Glau stole the show as the character River Tams was finally turned loose. Great Space Opera with plenty of villains, the Operative, the Alliance and those evil Reavers! River as played by Glau is the consummate assassin! How do you stand a chance against an assassin who knows what you’re thinking? The late Ron Glass was good as always as Sheppard Book and Nathan Fillion did a great job as the lost Captain Malcolm Reynolds.

Serenity featuring Summer Glau as River Tam
Serenity

Number Ten: Star Wars – Episode IV

Perhaps the greatest Space Opera ever filmed! Of course, had it not been for the 1930s movie serial Flash Gordon Saves the Universe many of the trademark ideas used in the film, such as the rolling story line at the start, Princess Leia’s hairdo, etc. would never have thrilled the millions of Star War fans.

Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon
Star Wars - Episode IV
Star Wars

As always, here’s some lagniappe!

Number Eleven: Logan’s Run

Great dystopian sci-fi film! Talk about taking the concept of over 30 being over the hill to an extreme! Take you pick, the film or the tv series, both center around the rouge law enforcement officer Logan who takes on the system that says humans aren’t smart enough, or valuable enough, to live out their life’s natural lifespan.

Logan's Run
Logan’s Run

Number Twelve: Rollerball

Okay, the list said ten, but this dystopian film based on the novella by William Harrison is just too good not to include. In a future where the world and its people are controlled by seven elitist corporations, the ultra-violent sport Rollerball has been created to teach the masses individual effort means nothing. Unfortunately, nobody told Rollerball MVP Jonathan E.

Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes

Signup for The Inspector’s Report Newsletter! Keep up with Inspector Thomas Sullivan and his friends. Get updates on when the next book will be published. Enjoy the occasional short story and read author K.C. Sivils’ musings about science fiction, crime noir and what ever else is on his mind.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




My TOP TEN List of Crime Noir and Hard Boiled Crime Novels

I enjoy reading crime fiction from past masters like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Rex Stout. I also enjoy contemporary writers like Renee Pawlish, who writes modern crime noir, in a humorous style, combining her love for classic noir in a modern, present day setting. In addition to her Reed Ferguson stories, Ms. Pawlish writes classic noir in her Dewey Webb series. If you like a does of snark and snide humor with your detective mystery, along with a cute half-elf and her human partner, you'll enjoy the Daggers and Steele series by Alex P. Berg.

This list is my choice for the ten best crime noir stories I have read. Feel free to disagree if you want. If you like crime fiction, particularly noir or hard boiled, you should at least check this list. These authors and their stories are part of my inspiration for my own Inspector Sullivan stories.

Number One: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Sam Spade is the best tough guy private detective to ever grace the pages of a novel and Bogie's portrayal is the best to ever hit the silver screen. Hammett's plot is filled with twists and turns, complete with hopeless love, greed and betrayal. If that isn't enough, the villains are almost as fascinating as Spade. Sydney Greenstreet's portrayal of the Fat Man, Kasper Gutman is both creepy and fascinating at the same time.

Number Two: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Included on Time Magazine's list of Top 100 novels, The Big Sleep​ is a novel about death and introduces Raymond Chandler's detective Philip Marlowe. Filled with intrigue, double crosses and social commentary, it is one of the best examples the genre has to offer.

Number Three: The Post Man Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

Banned in Boston in 1934, Cain's novel combines violence with eroticism as the solution to an inconvenient husband leads to one problem after another.​

Number Four: Web of Deceit by Renee Pawlish

For fans of hard boiled crime stories who can do without swearing a graphic sex, modern mystery writer Renee Pawlish has written a wonderful introduction to her second crime series, introducing Detective Dewey Webb to her readers.​

Number Five: Dark Passage by David Goodis

​Made famous by the movie version staring Bogie and Lauren Bacall, Dark Passage tells the story of a man unjustly convicted for the murder of his wife and the need to live with a false identify after escaping from prison. A wonderful commentary on urban life and loneliness.

Number Six: The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett

The Continental Op, the prototype for hundreds of tough guy detectives. This nameless, faceless detective was actually Hammett's primary character, not Sam Spade, appearing in two novels and over 70 short stories.​ Callous, brutal and indifferent at times to suffering of others, the Op always got the criminal, one way or another.

Number Seven: In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

​American noir at its finest, examining the mind of a serial killer in post WW II Los Angeles. This dark story is told from the point of view of the killer who enters a game of cat and mouse with his old army buddy who is now a detective. Adapted for film, starring who else, Bogie, the story was changed to focus on domestic violence.

Number Eight: L.A. Confidential by James Elroy

Centered around three detectives, each with a different view of the world and the job, LA Confidential is filled with plot twists, violence and fast paced noir style writing. Partially biographical, the​ detectives must deal with death and violence as it impacts their lives.

Number Nine: Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

​Los Angeles, 1948. Devil in a Blue Dress will draw you in with its noir atmosphere as the story introduces Easy Rawlins. The story will set its hooks, so be sure to have time to read it in one sitting.

Number Ten: The High Window by Raymond Chandler

​Murder, rape, blackmail and human exploitation, what more could you want in a classic noir novel from the master Raymond Chandler. A mean spirited widow and a missing daughter-in-law plus facts that don't add up for Chandler's detective, Philip Marlow, make this a fascinating mystery.

Number Eleven: Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout

Being from Louisiana originally where we always throw in something extra, a cultural practice known as Lagniappe, this list as an eleventh book included, Rex Stout's introduction to the brilliant detective Nero Wolfe and his legman Archie Goodwin. Presented with a gift of one of the most deadly snakes known to man, the fer-de-lance, Wolfe must solve the mystery of the murder of an immigrant and a college president.

Why Is The World of Beta Prime Not As Futuristic As Most SciFi Worlds?

If the movie or TV rights to The Predator and The Prey were purchased, would Capital City look like some fantastic, futuristic vision of urban life?

Probably not.

Parts of the Capital City would certainly appear as if they came from the wildest dreams of architectural fantasy. Certainly the Northwest Quadrant, where the wealthy and politicians make their homes, would appear to be futuristic. The Northeast Quadrant, with its industry, upper middle class and the SpacePort terminal would look futuristic.

But what about the Southern Quadrants? Where the poor and working class live?

Picture the tenements of North American industrial cities, where instead of brick and mortar, the buildings are converted containers left over from colonization with plastisteel facades. Buildings would have the same design and construction as the poured concrete buildings built in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Ugly, cheap to build and made for those considered beneath the ruling elite.

Hovercars require some type of fixed path to travel on requiring roads to be constructed. Perhaps the only advantage of a hovercraft over a wheeled vehicle is the roads will last longer.

There is very little that is truly new. Ideas are recycled all the time. Joe’s Restaurant, with its cliche neon lights, Classic Rock decor and North American comfort food, plus whatever the locals consider solid fare, is an example of retro styling and architecture some 500 years in the future.

Besides, Joe’s is home away from home. It’s an interesting place like Rick’s Cafe American of Casablanca fame is. The locals gather at Joe’s as do all sorts of interesting denizens of Capital City.

Old technology that works fine will be used on many Alliance worlds. As they say, if isn’t broken, there is no need to fix it. Railroads as we know them today, steel wheels on steel rails, are still used on many worlds where issues of climate and expense of construction and maintenance prevent the successful use of more “modern” technologies like Maglev Trains.

On a world like Beta Prime, a visitor would find a curious mix of the old, albeit updated, technology with the new. Soldiers and police would carry modern energy weapons with a variety of capabilities. Some soldiers and police prefer old school projectile weapons. As Inspector Sullivan constantly tells the pup Josephson, “a big exit wound is one way to make sure the perp stops shooting back.”

Fashion is one area where futuristic designs do make sense on a world like Beta Prime. But then again, what has come before often makes its way back through the fashion world. A tourist could expect to see the miners and industrial workers to be dressed in typical coveralls, designed both to protect the worker and keep the worker warm in the freezing environment of Beta Prime.

White collar workers, particularly the so-called elite and politicians would be those more inclined to wear the more daring fashion designs. Middle and working class fashions on Beta Prime tend to resemble those found in the 1940s and 50s with updates in materials. Life is dreary for many on the planet and the dark browns, blacks and blues of clothing reflect this aspect of life.

Classic styles, such as pin stripe suits, tailored to fit perfectly, never go out of style, regardless of the century, planet or city.

Other worlds, with different climate or life support needs, will have different levels of technology. Life on a moon, such as the two moons of Beta Prime, Serenity and Persephone, with no atmosphere, requires a more futuristic vision of the structures. The same is true of a colony on an asteroid of the space station serving as the terminal for large starliners and space freighters.

Why is the world I created for Inspector Sullivan and his companions to inhabit a mix of such commonly found items from today and the hoped and dreamed for technology of tomorrow? Because it is the way man does things.

We still make furniture from wood don’t we?

Still, if you look around, there is plenty to find that is not what one would expect to see in a city today.

Take Sarah. When was the last time you saw a human clone?

To sign up for The Inspector’s Report, my newsletter about Inspector Thomas Sullivan and his universe, please click here.

Understanding Sarah

In the process of preparing The Predator and The Prey for publication, the manuscript has been read by beta readers, book reviewers and others. So far, the response has been highly favorable, which as an author is encouraging. Of particular interest to those who have read the manuscript are three of the characters: Inspector Sullivan, Father Nathan and Sarah.

Of the three, I'm most reluctant to expound too much on the character Sarah. One simple reason is sharing too much about her character and its development would provide spoilers for the second novel in the Inspector Thomas Sullivan franchise, Last Train to Nowhere, which will feature heavily clones as part of the story line.

Having said that, there are a few things I am willing to share about the character Sarah. Her physical description is based on the actress Summer Glau as she appeared when playing the role of Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It is revealed her genetic code has been modified to provide her with enhanced capabilities, just a few of which include the ability to age, or look younger, without the use of cosmetics. Sarah has the ability to appear as young as her early twenties or as mature as her mid-thirties.

Sarah informs Sullivan she is a military grade clone. She can withstand extremes in temperature, survive on less food and water and heals extraordinarily fast if the wound is nothing more than a bad laceration.

In addition, her senses are heightened. Sarah's sight, hearing, sense of smell, touch and taste are superior to the average human. For some reason, which Sarah cannot explain, she even has a sixth sense of sorts that allows her to spot things or be aware of things others cannot notice. She can spot another clone without having to examine the individual.

The most common question asked about Sarah is how old is she? The answer is five, going on almost six. The reader's response is how can that be? She's always described as being in her early 20s or mid-thirties. The answer is simple. Sarah was "born" fully grown, or as she would put it, "I hatched as a woman. I can have kids and all that stuff."

This fact makes for a lot of fun writing her character. Sarah can act like an immature child because, well, she's five years old. She can act like the young woman she is because physically, she is a young woman.

As the series continues, I will reveal more about Sarah as she grows and develops as a person. For those who want to learn about Sarah's backstory in order to answer questions such as how did Sarah get to Beta Prime or what was her relationship with her other two sisters, take heart.

All three of the main characters, Sullivan, Father Nathan and Sarah will be the subject of prequels!

The third installment in the series has a working title of Murder on Persephone. It will be followed by the backstory, in novella form, of Inspector Sullivan. My plan for the series afterward the release of the as yet unnamed back history of Inspector Sullivan is to release the next installment in the Thomas Sullivan series followed by a another prequel. For fun, both for myself and the hoped for many followers of the series, I plan to write short stories and make them available on this site.





The Predator and The Prey Receives 5-Star Review!

​I was both ecstatic and surprised my novel The Predator and The Prey received a 5-Star review from The Reader's Favorite. Sending your novel off for its first editorial review is a bit like sending your child off to school for the very first time. Here's the review:

The Predator and The Prey by Kevin Sivils is a gripping story featuring police inspector Thomas Sullivan and a cast of very compelling characters. Sullivan has had a very dirty past, a past that may catch up with him any time. Now, he’s sent to a new planet to redeem his past, but things become more complicated when a mysterious young woman from that past resurfaces. Sullivan has to solve a series of crimes and his new turf is sprinkled with danger and potholes. Can he trust anyone and can he navigate the complicated setting without giving himself away?

Kevin Sivils’ writing got me hooked from the very first page. I enjoyed the intelligent dialogues, well crafted to build character and plot. The conflict is introduced from the very beginning of the story and the reader understands the dilemmas which investigators are caught up with, but as one reads on, it becomes more complex, and the author explores deeper levels of conflict, especially the psychological conflict communicated through a stream of consciousness that is as absorbing as it is entertaining. The Predator and The Prey features very compelling characters, including an ex-con who works as a cabbie, a priest who seems more corrupt than a con man, and many others.

The writing is excellent, punctuated with powerful descriptions. There is a pervading sense of suspense that makes the reader ache to know what happens next. For instance, I couldn’t help longing to find out more about the mysterious young woman and to see what would happen between her and the main protagonist. The action is intense, making it impossible to put the story aside. This is a great read for anyone looking for something entertaining and fun in the area of police investigation, crime, and redemption.

Readers Favorite 5-Star Award