Originally an engineering graduate from the UK keen to become an astronaut, somehow I ended up working in community development overseas for some years.
Did I take a wrong turn? I don't think so. I have very few regrets. In between, I've worked in a soup factory, driven a taxi in London, served refreshments in Regents Park and a few other odd jobs.
Last year I settled with my Canadian wife and our two sons in Ontario, where we enjoy the great outdoors, Finnish pancakes and blueberries, preferably all three at once.
I confess to a lifelong fascination with science and science fiction, ever since watching Dr. Who and Blake's Seven on the BBC as a boy. I'm even old enough to have fuzzy memories of watching the Apollo 11 landing on TV. Whew! That's hard to believe.
At the time of writing I'm working on a series of science fiction novels for pre-teens (8 to 12 year olds) called Beyond The Elder Stars. The first one is named 'The Calling'; it's published on Amazon Kindle and in print with CreateSpace. See my blogs for links to the book and for extra free content.
I welcome correspondence. To contact me, spell out the following (the address isn't given complete to evade the dreaded spam spiders...)
rj + peace (snail shell thing) 123mail (dot) org
Where to find John Peace online
Where to buy in print
Samir And The High King
Long, long ago in a land at the edge of a desert that howls against the walls of the village, a poor young boy named Samir is sent to work for a strange old man who stays up all night listening to the stars.
This imaginative reconstruction of the tale of the Magi will appeal to children aged six and over, and draws on real astronomical research into the real Christmas Star.
Three Kinds of Fire
Sorrow - ignorance - longing - daring: these three short stories scoop up some of each, like a secret recipe of spices, and fling them into vivid locations. Paddling a canoe over silky lake waters, or driving up into the mountains of a distant island in the ocean, or sharing a meal with a stranger: join in the search for three varieties of the human fire that burns in every breast.
In the age of the brain-wired supernet and pocket universes, Ghamdan, a 22nd-Century P.I., must track down the only surviving witness to an ugly kidnap and murder. The terrified witness seems to have fled into a top-security prison housed in a pocket universe. He's fleeing the powerful malware that the alleged murderer can inject into a victim's mind. So Ghamdan must follow. But who can he trust?
I'm Rashad Stevens. I wasn't looking for trouble. I was in Cairo to work my way out of poverty and save my mother from the fungus disease that the aliens brought when they trashed Europe. But I and Hany Girgis found a chance to travel the stars in the employ of our space-gecko-scum overlords. So what's wrong with that? Apart from being illegal, probably exploitative and possibly lethal, I mean?
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- The Loneliness of Stars
on July 09, 2012
Wherever a writer learns to write, the following advice pops up frequently and forcefully: Write a strong opening! Hook your readers! Well, Zack Wilmot certainly has crafted a flavourful opening, many of them in fact. Each chapter kicks off with a quotation, and they do paint some depth to his story of a stowaway. So we can almost smell the slums of Raheera where Jak grew up and from which he manages to escape on the good ship Ambassador.
The story is all told from Jak's light-hearted, first-person perspective and so the chapter quotes do help in sketching out a little of the background. Later on, some of them take the form of flash-forward quotations from a speech Jak makes on his arrival home on Earth. I like that in one way, except that it defuses the 'will-he-survive' tension.
The voice of Jak, chatting away about his adventures, is a welcome change from the terribly serious hard science fiction I sometimes read, complete with its short lessons in particle physics and n-dimensional mathematics. This is not that kind of story. It has much more the character of a pirate story: we get to meet the Ambassador's motley crew, and begin to suspect that there is intrigue afoot. There is plenty of gritty dialogue and action, although there are places where it could be sharpened up a little.
The surprise for me was when Jak and his new friend Ezekiel began kissing. This, too, taps an old vein of cabin boy tales, back in the days of sail when men would be at sea for many months and would miss the affections of the womenfolk. The wide world of good writing must have a place for the expression of all sides of human life, however much some people would prefer it to stay hidden. For myself, being happily straight, I value the honesty of Wilmot's portrayal of a boy's gay encounter and the chance it gives me to step into someone else's shoes for a moment.
As the plot and several intrigues develop, it's plain that Wilmot's vision is much greater than a sailing-ships-in-space tale. The uncovering of a terrorist plot and the way Jak becomes caught up in the action is carefully done. Plenty of twists and turns here. The story is quite ambitious, tries to cover a lot of ground. The use of genetically engineered lifeforms (enough said) is an echo of an idea found in a certain story by Alan Dean Foster, but Loneliness of Stars is none the worse for that.
The technology described in the story is not centre-stage, not painstakingly described, so the humans get the attention they deserve. A little more originality or inventiveness may have improved the story, though.
Quite a large part of the story's fabric explores the much-visited terrain of torture, sadism and revenge. The plot involves several murders, and when Jak finally overcomes the culprit, he says: Something inside of me had changed. I did not want to cry, nor was I filled with despair. I had just done with what needed to be done. I was expecting a little more, after so many of his friends were done away with. So there's that, and the revelation that the sadistic murdered was treated abominably by his parents, and brought up never knowing compassion. That's realistic enough, unfortunately. The author tries hard to portray the way Jak has to cope with the gradual disintegration of the crew and its mission.
As the story closes and we glimpse a vast alien civilisation, we've come a long way with the sly stowaway, and yes, Jak has changed. He's learned some tough lessons and has grown up a good deal. I rate at two stars, tough perhaps, but on the plus side: sensitive, mostly people-centred, ambitious scope, mostly great style; on the not-so-plus: often rambling plot, fuzzy technology, the use of stock-sci-fi ideas, not exploring all the implications of the horrific and momentous events described. But an author to watch, all the same. Science fiction can use a few more authors willing to try new things.