Sphere - Michael Crichton

***** Sci-fi technothriller, with a psychological twist

In general, when I read a book on which a film was based, I like to make comparisons, to understand the choices made to make this type of transposition possible, and to give the characters the faces of the actors, during my reading experience.
In this case I couldn’t do it, because I couldn’t remember anything about the film. I thought that going on in reading my memory would be awakened, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t know if it is due to the fact that the film had not impressed me (yet it seems to me that I liked it) or the excessive differences between the two products. The fact is, I found myself reading this book without knowing anything about the story and I could therefore enjoy all the twists.
This novel is part of a pattern typical of many of Crichton’s successful works. The core of it is a scientific/technological topic, in this case the extreme conditions of a submarine base to which a sci-fi “discovery” is added (I won’t give any details to avoid spoilers), on which the author provides us with a lot of information throughout the book. Around it he creates a story with a protagonist, a psychologist called Norman, which is narrated from the point of view of the latter. Then he adds another whole series of characters, each with their own role and characteristics. In this context, the scientific/technological element appears perfectly under control, but in reality this is only what the characters are falsely convinced of. At some point, however, something goes wrong, yet another demonstration that making a not entirely considered use of science and technology, driven by curiosity and the desire for discovery, is always a big mistake. And from that moment on, the characters begin to die, except for a few, who are eventually saved.
To all this, in this novel, a strong psychological element is added. Yes, because the answers that the characters are looking for are not in the subject of their research, but inside themselves. And “Sphere” is nothing but Norman’s psychological journey, who as a normal man in an exceptional situation brings out the worst and the best of himself.
Everything takes place whilst keeping the reader turning the pages and forcing him to continue reading a book that has a structure that is anything but traditional (there are no numbered chapters, but a set of scenes without interruption, occasionally interspersed with a title), up to the ending, which, if we think about it, is the only one possible for such a story.

Sphere on Amazon.

Amnesia - Michael Ridpath

**** Story with a predictable outcome, saved by a smart expedient towards its end

I immediately want to say that the final expedient has nothing to do with the plot. This is an idea that mixes fiction and reality, which I always appreciate a lot in novels. In this case it was able to increase my rating by one star.
The novel, for my taste, is not worth more than three.
But let’s proceed in an orderly fashion.
The book develops in two timelines. The one set in the present sees the young protagonist Clémence, who finds herself having to look after the eighty-three-year-old Alastair after the latter has lost his memory due to a fall. The one in the past is the book that the two of them are reading together and that tells some events of the man’s life when he was young, culminating in the death of the love of his life.
The part in the past is undoubtedly the best part of the whole novel. Here the characters come to life, also thanks to the evident greater familiarity that the author has in showing them through the point of view of a man. The story unfolds between France, Capri and then Scotland, and each place emerges from the pages with all its colours, involving the reader and giving them the impression of being there.
In contrast, the part set in the present (which is actually 1999) seems to be written by a novice author. The character of Clémence is two-dimensional. Her being overly naive and gullible appears unrealistic. Her reasoning seems a bit of a stretch to say the least. No person would arrive at certain conclusions, on which their decisions are then based, evidently driven by the need to bring the plot in a certain direction and not by logic. Moreover, the setting and the small number of characters, instead of contributing to the increase of the suspense and the claustrophobic sense of the narrative, end up highlighting the weakness in the characterisation of the same characters, which appear far too banal.
As for the crime at the core of the story, as much as the author strives to send us astray, in such a shamelessly obvious way, this has very little mystery. Just think about it for a moment and you realise that only one person can be the murderer: the only one who would gain an advantage from the death of Sophie. I never had any doubts about their identity and I found the fact that the other characters, especially Alastair, didn’t even think about it for a moment simply impossible to accept.
Towards the end we find some details that were not deductible from the rest of the plot and only for this reason I must say that I read it almost greedily. The narration of how the events rush to the resolution, together with the above-mentioned final expedient, save the book, but only because, in fact, they are at the end.
Finally, I found it a bit strange that they were talking about a novel in the novel, when, taking into account the length of the chapters read by the characters (which they said were the whole book), you can at most end up with a novelette. Yes, I understand the limited space in the book, but then they would have rather specify that some parts had been skipped (read by the characters and not reported, because not important) or that it was simply a long story.
Overall, however, it was an interesting read, if only because this novel has a certain originality in the way it was structured. I also realise that it is probably a rather hasty work, which the author enjoyed writing to develop an idea that had come to him, without any fancy of giving rise to a product of high literary level in the scope of thrillers. But, all things considered, despite its faults, it plays very well its entertaining purpose.


Amnesia on Amazon.

Night Without Stars - Peter F. Hamilton

 ***** A sumptuous conclusion (for now?) for the Commonwealth Universe

Every time I read a new space opera by Hamilton I think this author has reached the maximum of his expression and that the next book, especially considering that this universe contains seven of them, cannot possibly be better than this.
Every time I find out I was wrong.
“Night Without Stars” is a wonderfully complex novel. It is the second part of the duology titled “Chronicles of the Fallers”, yet, having read the first book (“The Abyss Beyond Dreams”) more than a year ago and remembering very little of it, I think you can almost read this last one as standalone (although I do not recommend that), as it mostly has a narrative arc of its own, within which the links to the previous volume of the series are quickly explained and what is needed in relation to the entire Commonwealth Universe is mentioned.
Before starting to read it, I wondered what Hamilton could have come up with, since the story took place again on the planet Bienvenido. I feared a revival of the themes already seen but, instead, I had really nothing to worry about.
The story, after some introductory (but no less exciting) chapters, moves forward for two and a half centuries, a period of time that determines significant changes on Bienvenido, now that it has been expelled from the Void and can finally make use of technology, including the aerospace one (so dear to me). And in this renewed setting new characters come to life, around which parallel narrative lines are created and in which it is natural to the reader to identify themselves, despite often those characters are one against the other. Each storyline is compelling even without having to look at the big picture and, in this regard, I find the idea of dividing the work into books very apt.
There are also some old characters, which I had to get acquainted with again because of the time passed after reading the previous book (and the Void Trilogy), and which allow the reader to accurately reconnect the threads of the general plot and be led towards its complex development.
And it was to this very complex story, which accompanied me for a few weeks of (deliberate) slow reading, that I returned with interest every evening, and then left it without regret for sleeping, certain that I would find it there waiting for me the next day.
The rhythm at the beginning is slow, to allow the reader to settle in (and what a wonderful setting!), then it becomes a crescendo that in the last quarter of the novel turns into a succession of twists tending towards an ending that is almost impossible to predict.
Meanwhile, Hamilton does not just make you live on Bienvenido, but also shows you other unimaginable worlds (apart by him, of course), other more or less peaceful alien species, introduces you to new aspects of the villains, the alien species called Fallers (who “eggsum” their prey and replace it), and even manages to make you like one of them (or at least he succeeded with me).
It is difficult to tell anything else about this novel without revealing too much about the plot. I can only say that, if you have come to consider the idea to read it, a sign that you certainly already know and appreciate Hamilton at least from the previous book, this time too you won’t be disappointed.



Before I Go To Sleep - S. J. Watson

***** Excellent suspense, even if it does not maintain its originality until the end

I definitely liked this thriller. It has everything you need to define a good book: a basic theme not yet overused, a good twist towards the end with a breaking out of events that leads to a resolution and a perfect open ending.
Memory loss during deep sleep, in fact, isn’t a easy theme to use in a novel, especially if the novel is all told from the point of view of the character who suffers from this particular type of amnesia. I believe the author has succeeded in identifying himself with Christine’s mind and transmitting this identification to the reader.
It is also clear that he did some research.
Some passages reminded me of a documentary I watched several years ago about a man suffering from a serious short-term memory disorder: it was reset every seven seconds, while he remembered well the times before the onset of the disease. And so he lived in a state of confusion, with the constant feeling of having just woken up from a coma, and it all happened every seven seconds. A real hell, witnessed by his useless attempts to keep a journal in which he kept writing, in a crescendo of frustration, that had just woken up and that what was written in the previous pages was not his work.
Something of the kind also appears in this novel in relation to Christine’s condition at the beginning of her infirmity (perhaps the author watched the same documentary?), then evolved into a form of more “manageable” amnesia, which allows the author to create a story around it from the point of view of the person affected.
Also in this case there is a journal, which actually is the majority of the text of the book.
I find the idea of using a journal quite inspired, although it forces you to suspend your disbelief from time to time to accept the fact that the protagonist finds the time to read it all every day, given its length (or even that by reading only some parts always catches those that will then come in handy on that day), but then fiction has accustomed me to quite other artifices.
Of course, the twist towards the end was obviously awaited, because it was clear that, in the sea of insecurity in which the author had made us surf for so many pages, some truth had to be hidden that had not been well developed (on purpose). Rather, the way in which a certain subject is avoided as much as possible immediately led me to suspect that the solution was there. In fact, compared to the main character, I knew I was reading a thriller and that therefore there had to be a villain. And in such a context it was obvious that the bad guy was a certain person, but the way this person was placed in the story could hardly be inferred from the elements made available to the reader. And that’s why for me it was a twist, in spite of everything.
But there is a criticism that I feel I have to rise. The character of the villain isn’t completely clear to me. The way in which it wasn’t properly developed, just to avoid bringing the reader’s doubts there, makes it yet another cliché. Perhaps this story would have been truly original if that character had not been the villain.
And this is the only element that jars in a decidedly enjoyable book, to whose pages I used to return every evening with curiosity.
Perhaps even the resolution of the story is a bit hasty, and a bit too lucky for the protagonist, but despite these flaws I decided nevertheless to give this novel five stars, especially thanks to the open ending, which is much more honest and, above all, realistic than any happy ending.

On this book the film of the same name was based, starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong.



Before I Go To Sleep on Amazon.

Park Lane - Frances Osborne

*** Great premises, but plot full of flaws highlighted by the ending

I loved this book until before the last chapter, then everything collapsed. I was captured by the London setting just before the First World War, during and after it. The historical reconstruction is so accurate that it brings that period back to life in the mind of the reader.
I found particularly interesting the way in which people’s mentality is represented, above all the way in which women tended to feel insecure, inferior, for the simple fact of being women, aggravated in the case of one of the two protagonists (Grace) by her social class.
Although Beatrice (the other main character) has become part of the suffragettes, she lacks the self-confidence expected in a “revolutionary”. She feels continually out of place, gripped by the fear that drives her to desire to escape so that she can return to the tranquillity of her tedious life as a rich young woman, but at the same time she does not escape, for fear of that tranquillity, which makes her feel useless. What moves her is not idealism, but the search for the emotion that lacks her everyday life. She is very far from the strong woman who is the typical heroine in the novels and this makes her somewhat realistic.
But what glued me to the pages of the book is the unexpected way in which the characters find themselves interacting in the story. The curiosity to find out what would happen next pushed me to read one chapter after another.
And during this reading there were more than a few things that bothered me, but that I put aside, looking forward to the discovery of the next event.
Among these is the character of Grace, so submissive that I had trouble imagining her as an adult. I always thought to see a timid, weak girl.
Another element of annoyance is due to the numerous coincidences. It’s fine that there’s a coincidence in a story. It’s fiction. But when they start to be two, they become less credible.
The same applies for the tragic events, linked to elements of pure bad luck, which seem a kind of stretch to bring the story to a certain direction. Which would also be fine if the result were satisfactory.
Another stretched element is added to this: the characters make important decisions that will have consequences on their lives in a moment, because of the whim of the moment or a misunderstanding that in reality would be easily clarified. This makes them completely unrealistic.
You could even overlook this, if the story ended in a way that gives meaning to everything and satisfies the reader.
But it isn’t like that.
The coincidences that emerge in the eyes of the reader slowly throughout the book are revealed to Beatrice in a moment, in the last scene. The very fact that she gets to understand everything from a few elements is in contrast with the total lack of insightfulness shown during the novel, the one that has made her a victim of huge misunderstandings. To be honest, I do not think even a person who was very perceptive could have come to the same conclusions on their own in a second without even asking a question.
That whole scene is unlikely to say the least and brought down that suspension of disbelief which I had clung to until then in order to give a positive judgment to the book, to whose reading I would return with trepidation every night.
Then the coup de grace was the fact that the book ended there, without showing anything of the consequences of that revelation, as if it were a cliffhanger, but which was not followed by another chapter or a sequel to the novel . It would’ve taken very little to transform it into an open ending, able to leave the reader at least the choice to imagine for themselves what would have happened later. And yet it wasn’t so.
In an instant, faced with that sudden and insipid ending, everything was shattered and the flaws of the book became clear to me. The worst of all is the lack of true inner growth of the characters, who remain crystallised in their flaws, without giving any real meaning to their existence within the story.
Yes, because in the end you find yourself wondering: what is this story about? What does it really want to tell?
The characters look like puppets used only to show a historical period, without playing their main role: being the reason why a story is told.

Park Lane on Amazon.

Mars and self-publishing in Varese

I returned to Varese after two years and this time I stayed there for eight days, in which I immersed myself in university life and in this beautiful Lombard city a few steps away from Switzerland. I must say that the weather has favoured me. Living in Cagliari (Sardinia), I was worried about having to fight bad weather and cold. Instead, I enjoyed mostly beautiful sunny days, which served as the setting for the conference titled “Mars: when will we go there and what will we find? ” on 5 December 2018  in the main hall of the University of Insubria and the “Self-publishing workshop in multimedia systems” between 6-11 December and addressed to the students of the same university enrolled in the courses in Communication Sciences and Communication Sciences and Techniques.

The conference on Mars was a very special event for me. I found myself sharing the table with two scientists like Roberto Orosei and Enrico Flamini of whom I had only heard so far in the news spread by ASI, INAF and the media on the web. Although it was the first time that we met in person and we had only had the opportunity to exchange information on our individual parts of the speech by e-mail, we managed to put together a smooth speech in which the individual topics treated by each of us were perfectly interlocked with each other, with different precise references that almost made think of a particular preparation, which in reality there was not!
It is really exciting to be talking to a large and interested audience about a subject that you care about with people who have the same interest and with whom you share the same scientific and science fiction references.
In my part of the conference, in addition to introducing some general notions about Mars, I have highlighted how who works in space exploration and who writes hard science fiction on the same themes are all part of the same virtuous circle. The work of scientists like Orosei and Flamini inspires authors like me to write stories that describe a plausible science and technology. In turn, stories like mine intrigue readers towards the work of those same scientists. And the interest of the public is the first engine that allows those who make science to have the necessary funding to carry out their research.

As a former scientist (I worked in university research in the past) I cannot but be happy to provide, in my small way, a contribution with my stories towards a greater public awareness of the importance of space exploration, especially in a country like Italy, which is a true world power in this area, yet this excellence is not known to most of the local population.
By putting together my fascination for the Red Planet, and in general for space, my skills in the biological field, as well as my teaching soul, I found myself writing a kind of science fiction in which I describe a realistic science, even though with some licences, by making sure that my books offer both entertainment and dissemination of science knowledge.
In particular, my intent is to show stories through the characters, through their thoughts and their senses, so that the reader can identify with them and experience on their skin what it means to live on Mars and explore it. Through Anna Persson and the other protagonists of “Red Desert” and the Aurora Saga, the reader meets the signs of the ancient passage of water, dust storms and devils, marsquakes, impact glass in a crater, blue aurora, huge barchan dunes and even the underground water of Mars, the same water whose existence was proved for the first time by the team of scientists headed by Roberto Orosei and including Enrico Flamini.

Finally, after sharing with the public my sources of inspiration (Robert Zubrin’s books “First Landing” and “The Case for Mars”) and some information on other contemporary hard science fiction authors who dealt with Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson with his Mars Trilogy and Andy Weir with “The Martian”), I left the floor to the above-mentioned speakers.
Enrico Flamini offered an overview on the past and current exploration of Mars, while Roberto Orosei reported the details of the discovery made in July 2018 with the MARSIS instrument which is on board ESA’s Mars Express orbiter: a subglacial lake of liquid water near the South Martian pole.

It seems that what I and many other science fiction writers believed to be a plausible assumption, namely that there was water trapped under the surface of Mars, is now confirmed.

In the last part of the conference a possible timeline of the future exploration was traced, up to imagine the arrival of the first humans on the Red Planet. In this regard, I found it amusing that Roberto Orosei showed precisely the imaginative timeline described in the film “The Martian”, the one based on the book that I spoke about in my own speech.
I swear we did not even discuss this detail!

Finally the round of questions arrived and perhaps the most interesting of all was the last one proposed by Paolo Musso, organiser and moderator of the event, who asked each of us if we were optimistic about the human landing on Mars in a very close future. And even here, without any particular agreement, we went from a certain pessimism of Orosei to a moderate optimism of Flamini to my full optimism, supported by the fact that the awareness and enthusiasm of the public towards space exploration is increasing more and more, thanks to the ease with which nowadays each of us has complete access to all information. I believe that the more we commit ourselves to make the common man understand the importance of this field of science and the more they will be involved in its development, even more the will in aiming on it will develop, also from an economic point of view. If this happens, and we are on our way, we will get to Mars very soon.


Starting on December 6, instead, I taught my self-publishing class for the second time. The characteristics of the course have not changed (I mentioned about it in 2016), but I think this time, compared to the previous one, there was even greater interest from the students, who proved to be very active during the lectures and asked me many questions, sometimes even anticipating topics that I would have dealt with a bit later.
It was nice to be able to teach these students what being a self-publisher really means, i.e. becoming part in a professional way of the publishing market as a real publisher who differs from the traditional ones only because the former is also the author of the books they publish.

Then there was the day of the presentation of the projects by the students, and it was really fun. It ranged from a strategy book for “Risk” to a fantasy novel, from an essay on the machines of Agostino Ramelli to a paranormal romance trilogy and so on, without interruption. The students got to the bottom of their fantasy, accompanying the presentations with images, editorial and promotional plans and in one case even a sort of soundtrack.
In the end we all wondered: but when will the book be published?
What a shame that it was only a simulation, but luckily some of those projects are real and maybe in the near future we will hear about their authors.

I’d like to conclude this brief report, which just manages to scratch the surface of everything that was done and said during those eight days, by thanking once again all the people who made possible both the conference and the course, but also in general my pleasant stay in Varese, in particular Paolo Musso and Alberto Vianelli, Roberto Orosei and Enrico Flamini, and obviously all the students of the self-publishing course and those of Professor Musso’s course with whom I had the pleasure to talk.

The Midwich Cuckoos - John Wyndham

***** Dangerous children

John Wyndham is one of those authors who in their career have explored a genre, in this case science fiction, in every possible direction and each time have created unique and unpredictable stories, through which they took the opportunity to develop interesting food for thought.
This time, Wyndham deals with the theme of alien invasion, without ever mentioning aliens, but only talking about something that like the cuckoos put their “eggs” in the “nests” of humans and from them children were born, or rather Children, with extraordinary and worrying qualities. This is accompanied by a reflection on the interaction between two species that are competing for the same territory and of which only one is destined to dominate.
A veil of uneasiness covers every page of the novel, without ever reaching excessive drama. Between long conversations characterised by British calmness and the attempt to give the whole situation a logical explanation, in the faint hope that this leads to a resolution, and watered by an excellent tea, the protagonists welcome us to Midwich, where, following a day in which the inhabitants have lost their senses (the so-called Dayout), all the women have become pregnant. Over time the Children will reveal to be something else, despite their human appearance, until they become a threat, in a crescendo of tension.
The expected resolution, given that the book was ending, but at the same time both unexpected, because of the sudden way in which it occurs, and almost obvious, takes you aback and satisfy you.
An interesting element, which I noticed in other works of his, is the role of chance. The narrating voice is found by chance outside the village with his wife on the day of the Dayout and therefore he is spared a direct involvement. Nevertheless, he closely follows the story and finds himself back in Midwich just when it is resolved. In all this we deliberately see the hand of the author who, in my opinion, with great fun, builds a perfect plot, in which every detail has a specific purpose, which, while generating disquiet, also gives a sense of security that suggests that somehow everything will be fine. And it is precisely the curiosity to know how you can ever resolve a seemingly impossible situation that drives the reader to turn one page after another and complete the reading of the book in a short time.

The Midwich Cuckoos on Amazon.

A space weekend in Turin

In October 2018 I had the opportunity to participate in the second edition of the event titled “Signs and Voices of Other Worlds” organised in the headquarters of ALTEC in Turin. It was a fantastic experience during which I was busy for two days in what is defined The Italian Gateway to the International Space Station, as stated in the huge inscription at the entrance, and allowed me to meet many interesting people, as well as talk about my work.

The event itself, the one open to the public, lasted only one day, 14 October, but we (my partner and I), as exhibitors, also went to the headquarters of ALTEC the day before to prepare our booth. It was the first time I attended an event like this. It was nice to arrange all my science-fiction books (eight titles in several copies) on a table, along with other promotional stuff, but also to view in advance the scale model exhibition, which included really extraordinary works of art.

In addition to this, we had the pleasure of making a short private visit to the factory together with Paolo Navone, who led us to see, among other things, the control room, the replica of a module that is part of the ISS and the pool used for astronaut training, and who guided us, explaining the role of ALTEC in the construction of the space station and other international space missions. Among these is that of the ESA IVX mini shuttle, to which Paolo himself participated.

The day ended in a beautiful dinner together with some people who had organised the event (belonging to CRAL ALTEC and Centro Modellistico Torinese ) and others who would participate. In addition to enjoying the company of Marco Ambrosio (who, together with Paolo, invited me to participate in the event) and his wife, we met some of the modellers, among whom I cannot avoid to mention Sandro Degiani, who led the conversation among the people seated next to him (myself included), and Professor Giancarlo Genta, here in the role of author of science fiction novels. The legendary Giovanni Mongini, called Vanni, Italian author and great expert in science fiction, joined the group, who I had met a few hours earlier at the factory and whom I would find myself in the booth across mine the next day.

And then came the day of the event. The first two hours were the easiest part. I had the opportunity to present my “Red Desert” series in the auditorium as part of the speech called “Female Mars”, moderated by Maurizio Maschio. Along with me there was Giulia Bassani, who presented her novel “Ad Martem 12” (and was also my neighbour at the exhibition).




Both were asked how we came into contact with science fiction and what prompted us to start writing it. I said how I grew up among ET, Back to the Future, Star Wars (hence my nickname Anakina), the Visitors and many other films and TV series that have brought me closer to the genre and how it stimulated my imagination. I had many stories in my mind and at a certain point I realised that the only way to make them real was to write them down.

Immediately after the presentation, I returned to my booth, where I welcomed some of the people who had listened to me in the auditorium and wanted to buy one of my books.

As I said earlier, however, the difficult part would come later. Starting from 11.30 a.m. new visitors entered (they were divided into groups of up to 200 people for two hours each, to avoid overcrowding) who did not know who I was. It was up to me to draw their attention.
I think the phrase I used most often was: “Would you like to take a postcard?
I had with me a lot of promotional postcards of “Red Desert” to offer visitors and I used them to induce people to stop at my booth, so that I could explain them something about my books. Keep in mind that I gave away 54 postcards and for most of them I stopped a person so that I could tell them the beginning of the story of Anna Persson and the structure of the Aurora Saga. I repeated it so many times that my other neighbour, Roberto Azzara, learned it by heart!
I must say that my effort was repaid and I managed to sell more than half the books I had with me. And so I also avoided having to send them back to Sardinia by post.

Throughout the day (the event lasted from 9.30 a.m. to 8 p.m.) I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people and among these I found myself in front of an unsuspecting reader, who, only after seeing the covers, recognised my books and realised he had in front of him the author of the e-books on his mobile phone. It’s the first time that I happen to come across one of my readers by chance and it was really nice to meet him.
That’s not all. A colleague of mine from Turin also came to meet me: Luca Rossi, independent author of science fiction and fantasy, who is my friend on Facebook since 2012 and who I finally managed to meet in person. I was also delighted to meet Dario Tonani (also a science fiction writer and long time friend on Facebook) and his wife Giusy again, whom I had already met at Sassari Comics & Games 2015.

In all that chitchat and after taking some photos with my booth’s neighbours (Giulia, Roberto and Vanni, which I mentioned before, and Luigi Petruzzelli of Edizioni della Vigna) the hours flew, interspersed with some short breaks to admire and photograph the scale models exposed, and go to observe the Sun and then the Moon at the telescope, thanks to the observation posts set up by Celestia Taurinorum.

In the end, tired but happy, we left. The next day, waiting to take the flight that would take us back to Cagliari, at the Caselle Airport we came across the actual ESA mini shuttle XVI, exposed in the check-in area. A souvenir photo with the spacecraft was the worthy closure of this beautiful weekend.

I take this opportunity to thank once again Marco Ambrosio and Paolo Navone, who invited me to participate in this event. Thank you so much!

Photos (from above): during my speech together with Maurizio Maschio, my booth, entrance of ALTEC, view from inside the replica of a module of the ISS, with Luca Rossi, on Mars (more or less) with Giulia Bassani.
You can see more photos, including those of many scale models on display, on my Facebook page at this link.

New year, new resolutions: 2019

Hey, is 2018 already finished? This time the year passed quickly, perhaps because I was much more busy with projects that have engaged me for several months. And maybe also because I had more fun, especially in the second half.
And so, given that the year is coming to an end, the time has come for my traditional report of the past twelve months.

Let’s start as usual with listing which resolutions of the past year I managed to complete:
- I managed to write and publish (30 November) the Italian book “Sirius. In caduta libera” (Sirius. Free Falling), the fourth part in the Aurora Saga, which is also my thirteenth published book. The work on this novel took me more time than the previous ones, mainly because I had only a few notes put aside and I had to plot it almost completely just before starting the first draft (in mid-February). It was my hardest book to write so far, but it’s also one of those I’m most satisfied with. I managed to unite all the threads of the previous parts of the saga and add the missing link in its story. It is a hard science fiction novel that also represents my tribute to astronautics, a topic that has always fascinated me, as it narrates a story that takes place largely in the Earth orbit, although in a not very near future (in about a century);
- I finished my own English translation of “The Mentor” within the first months of the year, just like I had decided. This new translation, which is already revised, will stay in my computer for the moment. I wanted to start at least the translation of the second book in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy, but there was no time to do it. Anyway, I am happy with this result;
- I read longer books and above all I read almost exclusively books that I liked a lot. I have no idea how many, but the number does not matter. The important thing is to have read every day something that amused me, maybe taught me something, and in particular that made me feel good. Because the purpose of reading for me is just this: make me feel good. Therefore it makes no sense to make challenges about pages or books read. They are all nonsense.

A resolution is missing from this list. In fact, those listed at the end of last year were four. I have not finished writing the book on self-publishing that I started in 2017. I didn’t actually resumed writing it, because my time and commitment were redirected to more urgent matters.

What else did I do in 2018?
I translated into Italian another book by Richard J. Galloway, “Saranythia Part 2 - The Varton”, which will soon be released in Italy (I gave him the final translation a few days ago). This is the sequel to “Saranythia Part 1 - The Gates of Setergard”, released in autumn 2017 and in which the protagonists of his previous novel “Amantarra” (released in Italian in 2013) return. The Italian translations of these two books were also made by me.

In October I participated in the event “Segni e voci altri mondi” (Signs and voices of other worlds), which was held at the headquarters of ALTEC in Turin (where half of the ISS was built). I’ll soon publish a report of my participation on this blog (stay tuned).

At the beginning of December, moreover, I also conducted a lecture about Mars (together with two of the Italian scientists who recently discovered a liquid water underground lake on the Red Planet) and I taught my self-publishing class at the University of Insubria in Varese . I’ll also post a report of this experience very soon.
Without considering the duration of my stay away from home, this commitment has taken away much time in the previous months so that I could prepare for it.

I also attended eight MOOCs (mass online open courses), among which the most interesting ones were The Science of Nuclear Energy and The Science Behind Forensic Science. The latter is very well done, as it shows with videos the work of the forensic scientist from their point of view both in the field and laboratory.

Finally, from May on, I started to take more care of the advertising of my books on Facebook, in particular those of the Aurora Saga in Italian. With a view to the release of the fourth book in the series, I decided to concentrate my efforts so as to obtain the best possible result.
And I must say that I succeeded.
I learned to make better use of the paid tools provided by Facebook and at the same time I increased the effectiveness of the free ones in getting a better organic results for my posts. This resulted in a noticeable increase in engagement on my Facebook page and in an evident positive effect on my books’ sales.

I could not do anything else (not that all this is not enough), because the writing from scratch, the revision and publication of “Sirius. In caduta libera” absorbed me practically starting from mid-February (I finished the first draft including 114 thousand words at the end of June) until the release date of the book, leaving little time and especially little energy to use in other projects, also because at the same time I found myself translating a book and preparing a course and a lecture.
On the other hand, I had decided not to cause more stress to myself than what was necessary and I am happy I did less, but did it better.

But now 2019 is coming and it’s time to set some new objectives:
1) complete the first draft of “Self-publishing lab: il mestiere dell’autoeditore”, but this time for real! Most likely I will teach the class in Varese again next autumn and by then I would like to have the book available, although not necessarily in the final version. It will also provide me with the opportunity to partly update the course and offer some more tools to my students;
2) translate “Syndrome” into English and maybe even start the translation of “Beyond the Limit”. I have promised to myself that by 2020, one way or another, I will publish (or start publishing) the Detective Shaw Trilogy in English. Actually, once the Aurora Saga has finished (which will happen in 2020), I want to commit myself to translating and publishing in English all my books not yet available in this language, and in general to make the most of everything I’ve written so far to make it reach a larger audience;
3) start working on “Nave stellare Aurora” (Starship Aurora), the final book in the Aurora Saga. It is a long novel whose purpose is to worthily conclude the story of Anna, Hassan, Melissa, Alicia and Susy, and to do that, I need to work on it in a wider period, in order to make the most of its potential;
4) and then, as always, read many beautiful books. This is always the simplest resolution to accomplish!

Me at ALTEC (Turin).
I have only four resolutions again, but this time I want to complete them all. Will I manage to do it?

There are also other things I’d like to do.
At the moment I did not impose myself to publish any book in 2019. I need not to set this particularly demanding deadline for at least a while. I’ll decide on the way.

Of course I want to continue working on advertising and promotion to improve the economic return of my job and make it less dependent on external events on which I have no control.
Also I would like to experiment other ways to use what I have already written and my writing skills to develop new projects of which I still prefer not to say anything (at least until I really start working on it, if I ever do it).
What I feel with certainty is that my seventh year as a self-publisher will be crucial, since it represents the approach to the conclusion of the Aurora Saga, which, with the four books of “Red Desert” and the next four, is undoubtedly my most important series, the one with which my adventure in self-publishing began and which is the main motivation that pushed me to continue it, between highs and lows.
What will happen next is still a mystery, but one of those that don’t scare me, but stimulate me. A mystery which I’m facing with curiosity.

In closing, as always, I thank all those who follow and support me, all my loved ones, friends, collaborators and readers, both old and new.
Thank you for being there.

If you like, let me know your new year’s resolutions with a comment on this post or on the social networks where I share it.
I wish you all a happy 2019!

Ad Martem 12 - Giulia Carla Bassani

***** Young Martians

Written by an aerospace engineering student who dreams of becoming an astronaut, “Ad Martem 12” is a little jewel of hard science fiction aimed at a young audience, but that can be appreciated by all ages. Although with some licence and simplification (it is still a book of fiction, not an essay), in a background of plausible technology and science, the author tells the story of the first three children born on the Red Planet, who, reached the age of sixteen, begin to wonder about their origins and Earth, from which all the other people living in the Aresland station come from. The story is told from the point of view of one of them, Jordan, and this is done in such a way as to facilitate the identification of the reader in the character.
Although I have not been a teenager for quite some time, in finding myself aware of his thoughts, fears and sensations, I managed to recover a portion of that part of me from the past and therefore to understand his motivations and actions.
The protagonists, in fact, are not just the usual talented young people who are going to face an adventure like an adult that you can find in most of the young adult stories. In them you can see all the characteristics of the age in which you are no longer a child, but at the same time you are not yet an adult. They are prepared, intelligent and smart, but also naive, distracted and reckless, like any teenager. The problem is that they live on a desert and lethal planet, and the slightest mistake could cause their death.
Between desire to know, dangerous accidents and unexpected feelings, Jordan, Anna and Yan begin a journey to discover the truth about their past and especially about the future awaiting them. With an engaging style, in its refined simplicity, which at times manages to be evocative of landscapes from another world, Bassani allows us to accompany them and be ain trepidation with and for them, until the comforting ending that succeeds in being profound without falling into banality.


Ad Martem 12 on Amazon.