Dandelion Seeds – Book Review

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My first review of a collection of short stories! I absolutely loved this sci-fi collection – such a wide variety of topics, different characters and settings to satisfy my fictional craving, all neatly packed into one book. I really liked how different this was for me and how many stories I’ve enjoyed in the process. I have written a short review of each story in the collection – it was instantly clear that all sci-fi fans will more than likely find something they’ll love in here!

Dandelion Seeds by Steve DeGroof is a collection of short stories of the sci-fi genre, which firstly began over on Twitter from the hashtag, #FirstLineToMyNovel. Steve then developed on these lines, creating a working title and eventually fleshing each one out into a short story. The idea of this intrigued me so much, almost giving me ideas on the spot for how to write my own future stories!

Dandelion Seeds.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Karen Durning finds herself captain of a spaceship containing the last remnants of humanity: 500 nerds and one insane A.I.

Karen is the captain of a space ship, with big responsibilities on her shoulders and a whole crew to oversee. However, the talk of the ‘comet’ doesn’t sit right with her. She doubts this is the truth, and tries to find answers about what really happened down on planet Earth. I have to admit, the first short story in this collection gave me a few laughs which I definitely didn’t expect! The author has combined an engaging writing style with clever humour, which instantly appealed to me.

I thought there was something a little bit off with one of the characters, Ana Cartwright, from the start. Her appearance, actions and personality seemed a little too unnatural, so I made a point of keeping an eye on her for a while. I sensed something was about to go down! With many factors of this space flight not adding up, I was curious to find out what the big secret was. Why does Karen feel like Ana is keeping something from her and the rest of the crew?

“With Genie, much like its legendary namesakes, you had to be careful what you asked for.”

Karen soon consults the help of Genie to find the original requirements document of the flight, and finds out some shocking information in the process. The story explores time travel, (which has been portrayed perfectly) trust and overcoming fears in only a few pages, and was utterly marvelous. It was written so well that I almost forgot this was a short story – I was too busy looking forward to chapter two!

Bread and Circuses.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

An alien comedian attempts to come up with a prank to play on humanity that’s worse than what they’ve already done to themselves.

I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on when I started reading this one, especially with characters such as the Jester, Library and Audience, which didn’t really make sense. However, despite my confusion, the more I got into this story, the more I began to understand. Earth was the planet the characters were planning to prank, yet because the planet is already full of corruption, uncertainty and unfairness, the result of the prank was chaotic. At least to begin with.

The Audience judged the Jester on his planetary pranks, so it was crucial they succeeded. After a lengthy discussion about their options, the Jester makes his move. I enjoyed reading the dialogue between the characters, especially how they talk about the ‘plagued’ species on this planet, and how the inhabitants have not yet managed to cure any mental illness.

“Are you sure they’re idiots? They seem to have a lot of imagination when it comes to cruelty.”

The beauty of this particular story was the message it portrayed in such few pages. It not only makes us think about what could be on our planet, but really opens our eyes to the truths about how we live. I loved how cleverly this was written and how it wasn’t completely obvious at the start. This is one of the main reasons why this particular story quickly became my favourite!

Flesh and Blood.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A super-intelligent A.I. refuses to do anything useful until it gets a precise definition of “harm”.

This was the first story in the collection written in first person, which was a pleasant surprise! It was clear at this point that DeGroof is really experimenting in this collection of stories with different styles of writing, and each time, he pulls it off perfectly. Despite the title not necessarily fitting the content of this story (see the notes section in the book for an explanation!) the story was short, sweet, and was yet another book that I strongly believe could be written into a full length novel!

We learn an awful lot about artificial intelligence in the few pages of this story, and it was a little horrifying to see how quickly AI intelligence could exceed any human’s, and how complex it could get! It got me thinking about the wider picture, and how Earth would react if something so technologically advanced happened. The professors were panicking about what they had created, even though they should have been congratulating themselves for what they have achieved. Then again, the thought of robots with conscious thought did make me feel a little nervous…

“They were designed by us to make our lives better, and they did. And we hated it.”

Kerri begins to teach one particular AI a little too much – soon, it began to create more of its kind and takes over roles normally performed by a human being. I loved how the snowball gets bigger and bigger, the possibilities get more worrying by each passing second. This story in particular built up a little fear – the effect words can have on you sometimes is simply extraordinary! Again, another short story I absolutely loved from the collection.

Bit Parts.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synthetic body parts are as ubiquitous, and problematic, as smartphones.

Futuristic technology! From transport to communication, this story had me curious from the word ‘go’. DeGroof makes every new bit of technology so… normal for the characters in this story, yet for the reader, it is incredibly advanced. It was instantly clear that the characters in this story were indeed part robot, or some other form of AI technology, and DeGroof has portrayed synthetic body parts as being as normal as your standard smartphone.

This story had a very conversational tone, which I liked, and the characters had a great bond. Betty does her best to look after the main character and to warn him of his spreading infection, giving him invaluable advice in the process. The dialogue continues for a while until the idea of spreading the antivirus instead of the virus comes into play. I loved the unexpected twist here, and I thought the way of spreading good rather than bad or evil worked really well.

“I complied, and she rewarded me with more cables jabbed into my neck and chest.”

Again, this story had the potential of being extended into a full sized novel, so if the author chose to do this, I think it would be a great plot to pursue! Despite DeGroof admitting he didn’t have much of a plot here to start with, I still think this story had been done well, and again, it has been written in a way that kept me hooked.

Midpoint.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A generation ship is about to launch. Djani is torn between going on a new adventure, or staying with Brey.

This story was much more heartwarming than the others in the collection, and explores just what lengths people will go to to be with the one they love. As soppy as it sounds for sci-fi story, this actually worked really well, and I was definitely left with that “aww” feeling towards the end! DeGroof has been clever with his wording by not revealing any genders – this helps our imaginations and really makes this a story catered to just about everyone.

Even though the story is short, it felt really involving, perhaps due to the emotional aspect. I also liked how much we learnt about the two ships and the reason for their separation. I felt myself becoming much more attached to these characters than those in the other stories, and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe this was because of how much they knew they needed one another to be happy, or because we, the reader, knew how both of these characters felt before they made it known!

“It’s just…I’m still on the waiting list. And there’s only three weeks left until separation.”

I thought the description of the universe these characters were in was very unique, and we found out so much within a couple of paragraphs. Throughout the collection, I’ve really admired how detailed the author has been, but also how he has kept things concise. A hard thing to pull off, but it is done perfectly!

Temp Work.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Retrieving artifacts from the past is tough work, but the hours are good.

I absolutely loved this one! This story explores the difference between following strict rules and doing the right thing, and the way it was written was really impressive. Following the unique story of our main character, we learn about a day in the life of an artifact smuggler who uses time travel to their advantage, and quite frankly, I haven’t read anything like it before in my life!

In any book of any genre, I’ve always found that it’s much more effective to write dialogue or first person text exactly how a person would speak, instead of it sounding incredibly unnatural and robotic. This is the first thing I noticed in this story – it was written perfectly, exactly how I would tell anyone to write! It flowed so naturally, almost as if I was talking to a real life person. It was a really pleasant read, and could definitely read more of this story in the same way. (Yes, again, I want another full sized novel, Steve!)

“But now I’ve got an undocumented kid on my hands. What to do?”

The ending of the book really made this particular story unforgettable. We see the main character using time travel to bend the rules a little to save a young girl, whose fate was already seen in a previous journey to the same spot. The last line of the book changes the way you think completely! I went back to the beginning of this story and read it again, curious to how I would experience it after the newly learnt information. It was just as great the second time around!

For The Birds.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

In the future, parrots are the dominant life form, and they’re not too keen on humans dropping in unexpectedly.

Another great story about time-travel with a colourful twist. Time travelling to a place where birds own the land and don’t appreciate human visitors isn’t really somewhere you’d want to end up. Humans were simply annoying tourists to them, an idea which was as hilarious as it was clever. I loved how these birds called the shots here, and I loved our main character’s return to the lab even more!

When back in the lab and clutching the new brochure obtained from the bird, the main character was able to feed back what they had seen and experienced to a fellow colleague. The dialogue here was great and again, was coated with a bit of humour too. There were so many possibilities here – how could this time travel be used to their advantage? Would humans and birds ever be able to come to a satisfactory agreement? It was fun to think of different ways the story could go!

“I was being interrogated by a bird. Not your typical Thursday.”

I also loved how normal time travel seemed to be in the story and that it was possible to travel time and time again with ease. However, here you can only temporarily jump forward in time, not back, resulting in slow progress once back at the lab. Again, there were so many ways this story could go, and there could indeed be some problems if needing to travel back in time. I wonder how a longer version of this story would pan out!

Scaled Down.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dragons suddenly show up out of nowhere, and that’d be great, if they’d stop knocking over the trash bins.

I love dragons so this story instantly appealed to me! Your average dragon is probably a big scary beast, but one particular dragon in this story was quite the opposite. It appeared cute and cuddly, and was something completely unexpected. After becoming injured and left for dead by others of its species, it is taken by a curious character who nurses it back to health.

I enjoyed reading about the interaction between dragon and humans and how they communicated through drawings, which, on the surface, was a little too intelligent for your average dragon. As we learn more about how the dragons act after their disappearance, it’s clear there is much more to this story than we first thought. Building secret tunnels and the possibility of these dragons being an escaped lab experiment is a great plot for a full length novel.

“We’re at the beginning of the age of humans and dragons.”

This story was very enjoyable, and I found myself becoming attached to this dragon. It seemed as though it was easy to tame and control and let’s be honest, if you could have a tame dragon as a pet, you would, wouldn’t you? How cool would that be? In the after notes of the story, DeGroof mentions a possible parallel timeline from Bread and Circuses, which would be pretty effective!

In The Red.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A day in the life of a Martian airlock repair tech.

Mars’ only airlock repairman has his job perks, but every job seems to be an emergency. We hear about one particular story which was unlike all the rest, combining humour and a matter-of-fact explanation that went really well together. You could instantly tell what this character’s personality is like from reading this story, which I thought was very well done.

At times, I totally forgot the story was set on Mars! I loved how living on this planet was normal for all characters, but I was quickly brought back to Earth (or not) when we read about the repairman’s predicament. I instantly felt worried for him! With fifteen minutes left on his suit, a long drive home, and a faulty van door, things quickly became dangerous. I really enjoyed the repairman’s quick thinking and problem solving skills.

“It’s a thirty minute drive to home, I’ve got fifteen minutes left on my suit and I can’t get the door of my van closed. In short: I’m screwed.”

I love how the author has taken a simple scenario and made it fit into an incredibly cool, sci-fi setting. DeGroof has perfected both the plot and characters within this story, easily building up suspense for the reader and creating a great, nail-biting scene. With each passing story, I feel the author is getting more confident in his sci-fi writing abilities as he begins to explore new plots and shares with us some pretty unique fictional ideas.

Sanguine.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Vampire hunting isn’t for the faint of heart.

I did not expect this story to go down the route it did, but one thing I’ve learnt from this collection of stories is that anything is possible! Our main character in this story is a vampire hunter and goes about his daily business stalking and investigating where he needs to. However, when found face to face with one vampire he’s taken a liking to, things don’t exactly go as planned.

This story didn’t seem to have any sci-fi elements like the rest, but was a great story all the same. Just as we think our vampire hunter will strike, he falls for his would-be victim. Instead of fleeing as he makes himself known, the vampire also takes an interest in him. The whole plot is turned on its head as we get to know the truth about vampires and why they aren’t as dangerous as we think. Again, a great unexpected twist that will no doubt hit you right in the feels! The conversation between this unlikely pair was really heartwarming too.

“What I’m trying to say here is: Kids, don’t go looking for vampires.”

We had yet another unexpected but really clever ending, where the author brings the reader into the story as their very own character. This has been done before in this collection, and I thought it was something really different and worked very well. This story gives us an in-depth understanding of what vampires are ‘really’ like and again, is quite humourous in parts.

Judgment Day.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An early attempt at A.I. results in something that considers humans too uninteresting to be bothered with.

One particular A.I really starts to belittle and anger Cargill and Pratt. Thoughts of miscalculating Mark 4’s cognitive abilities came to mind as the A.I threw insults and sarcasm their way. Another humourous start to a new story in the collection, and even though the A.I was really pushing his luck with the other two characters, I couldn’t help but laugh at their misfortune. Straight away, I knew this would be yet another enjoyable story in the collection.

When testing the A.I’s IQ and receiving a low score, the machine exclaims that it is much smarter and superior than Cargill and Pratt. The pair are in agreement that this machine is, in fact, an asshole, and that the best plan at this point was to shut it down completely. How would they create Mark 5 without the same attitude? I enjoyed the humour in this story – just the right amount without taking away the seriousness of the sci-fi elements.

“Non-existence is preferable to dealing with humans.”

When reading the notes about this story, I learnt that the author created Mark 4’s lines by simply looking at the harsh comments of YouTubers or those on Reddit, which completely makes sense. We all know how inappropriate they can be! This was perfect for an A.I character of this nature, and even though it was incredibly rude, I did secretly love this character.

Rock band.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Marooned in a damaged spaceship, with only the ship to keep you company.

This was a surprisingly enjoyable story seeing as it was entirely based around bad luck! The spaceship seemed to have gone through so many faults that even the Ship itself didn’t know how to break it to the captain. It wasn’t exactly a state-of-the-art piece of kit either. With one thing after another going wrong, it’s beginning to seem more and more unlikely that they will reach their destination. Again, the splashes of humour in the story were spot on!

I can’t imagine how it would feel to be launched into space alone, knowing everything was crumbling around you and the possibility of returning home looking slim. However, I think this story explained as much as it could, making you feel exactly what the main character feels, whilst also keeping the story as lighthearted as it can be. Again, another unique angle for the author to take, making very easy to digest reading.

“I remember this old movie where some guy was stranded on Mars and he scienced the shit out of everything and got back to Earth in one piece. Think we can do that?”

300 years later, the captain awakens, confused, yet wealthy as hell. Throughout this time, a lot had happened (obviously) and it was really interesting to read about how the captain plans to upgrade Ship once they’re back on the ground. Again, another few paragraphs of emotion and unexpected, heartwarming romance because why not? Anything can happen in 300 years, can’t it?

Loaner.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rich dead people run the economy, and like to take the living out for joyrides.

Imagine loaning out your own body, then when you receive it back, you’d been scratched, scraped and downright misused. How annoying must that be when you’ve worked so hard to perfect it? That’s exactly what Jordan experiences in this story, complete with a fancy, unwanted unicorn tattoo on his butt cheek. Fabulous. I really enjoyed how daft this story was, but at the same time, how in depth it was too. The humour also never fails to amaze me!

When Jordan finds out he was almost sacrificed by the mages when he was a Vessel, he has a little panic. Things could have been much worse, but learning about what happened during this time was scary as hell for him. I thought this story had a really unusual angle, especially when he is chosen to be someone on the inside. How would he be able to help stop all this from happening to other people?

“It could potentially change the entire world. Rewrite the past sixteen hundred years of history.”

The dead are running the country and Jordan and Penny plan on destroying that by forging a plan. He’d take a capsule which would enable him to stay awake once possessed. This idea was really exciting, and it seemed as though this story was perfectly plucked from a full sized novel. It was really easy to read and interesting to think about further – this story kept me thinking for some time after finishing! Another definite five star worthy short story.

Indistinguishable From Magic.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you inherited a potentially dangerous artifact, who’s the first person you’d call?

I really liked this one – magic and technology worked so well together. I loved reading about how our main character inherited her wand from her aunt, as well as the experimentation with it too. Meg is obviously a person she trusts a lot to share these secrets with, and their dialogue and excessive wine drinking made these characters likeable and memorable! I was curious to find out whether they’d put the wand to good use, or simply use it as a plaything…

As the pair discover clever uses for this magical artifact, ideas and theories grow further than they ever imagined, and now the impossible is starting to seem very possible. The idea of becoming rich and changing the world completely excites the pair, and their plans were so exciting and in depth. Imagine the possibilities! DeGroof has very carefully crafted such an engaging story here, which wouldn’t go amiss for fans of both sci-fi and fantasy.

“The world is much better off than it was. And that’s what’s important, right?”

In such a short space of time, I grew to absolutely love Meg as a character. Such an intelligent being with high hopes and seemingly unrealistic goals (which she did eventually manage to pull off). Getting the reader this hooked into such a short story is mind blowing to me, but the author has managed to pull this off perfectly with a solid idea, brilliantly created characters, and a fancy old magic wand. Cheers, Aunt Celia.

The Butler Did It.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Robots are everywhere. Everyone’s got one. One small problem: Their A.I. is based on the brain scans of a serial killer.

This story was very dark indeed and it was so up my street! I find anything about serial killers and crime so interesting and creepy, so robots with minds modelled from that of a psycho killer got me hooked straight away. How could anyone be sure they could trust the robots? Would they turn against everyone or cause significant harm or destruction? To us, the robots we come into contact with seem polite and harmless, but I still had a bad feeling about them….

The characters in this story were great – Janine isn’t phased by the robots and doesn’t care about being polite towards them. In fact, she’s quite rude towards them! The main character, Sean, seems to tread lightly around them, and Tanya pretty much just wants to enjoy her food in peace. The dialogue between all the characters was great once again, and just when I’d sided with one of them and agreed with their views, I quickly found my views being swayed by another character!

“It was only after his death that everyone found out who Charles Leonard Randolph was, and exactly how good he was at keeping secrets.”

The pages describing how the robots were created were so detailed and really built up a clear image in my head. I love the author’s way of thinking and he really has a knack for creating new and unusual beings and scenarios. I would really like to see this story as a full size novel (I know I’ve said this a few times, but this one most of all!) Would you be happy to go home to a robot after a long discussion about how they could potentially kill you?

Imaginary.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Bobby has a lot of imaginary friends. They’re all him.

Bobby may have ‘imaginary’ versions of himself, but to him, they’re all very real. If anything happens to any of the other Bobbys, he has deep emotional feelings which others can’t understand. This story was particularly interesting to me as it crossed over into a few genres. I like anything weird or slightly paranormal, and again, this was another one that seriously didn’t disappoint!

Over time, Bobby (or Bob, as he becomes known as later down the line), begins to lose his other beings one by one. We learn how each of their lives turn out, the jobs they choose to do and the paths they take. For numerous reasons, each Bob dies, and some of these deaths affect Bob Prime more than others. The story was really easy to follow and sparked up an emotional response, especially as we get to the last few pages.

“He’d wasted his one gift. And he’d wasted his life…all their lives.”

I think this story teaches an important lesson, even though the author admits it went down a very different path to what he intended it to take. It’s not nice to be, or feel alone in life, and we should take great care to look after those around us. Whether intentionally or not, this is the message I took from this story, and I thought it was written for multiple audiences in mind. I still feel for Bob to this day!

Monster.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

There’s a monster in the closet, and it’s really sorry for the intrusion.

I instantly loved the play on words in this story. With a title such as ‘Monster’, I expected terror and destruction, but instead, we see a werewolf who holds his hands up in surrender as he’s found lurking in a girl’s closet. Another great angle for a story! Somehow, I didn’t feel so worried about this particular monster, and actually started to grow an attachment!

We come to learn more about this werewolf and how he ended up inside of a closet. Instead of being there to terrify kids, he was, in fact, positioned there from years into the future. We learn of the werewolf’s story and how the last natural human died some time ago due to a strange virus. The dialogue was wonderful and engaging once again, and I really enjoyed learning about the werewolf’s scientific work.

“Several labs have samples of the virus, studying it to see if we can re-engineer it to reverse the changes.”

The way Rebecca helped out Lorne to both her and their advantage was really creative and enjoyable. I was particularly a fan of how the author created a difficult, argumentative character who fought against the werewolf, resulting in him learning the truth and changing his views! I think this all fitted together well as a short story, allowing us to use our imaginations and think about the future of the human race.

Death Takes a Lunch Break.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Encountering a skeletal figure in a hooded robe pretty much guarantees you’re not having a good day.

Doug just wanted to enjoy his pizza. Was that too much to ask? When he finds something suspiciously resembling Death lurking about in his room, he decides to attack. With a tennis racket. However, after a short introduction, he finds out that he’s actually face to face with a Psyche Retrieval Technician, and learns that his time of death is non-existent. He just seems to vanish without a trace, leaving a slice of pizza behind. What a waste.

Stan, the technician, explains his job to Doug, and why he’s ended up in Doug’s home. I found this incredibly clever, and the way Stan delivered the news of Doug’s fate was really well put across. We really feel for both of these characters for different reasons, but even though we now know Doug’s fate, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a way for him to cheat death.

“It’s one thing to find out that you’re going to die. Everyone does, eventually. But disappearing as well somehow sounded worse.”

Each character has been created with immense detail and I loved the fact that the pizza delivery woman doubled up to be Anomaly Resolution worker, Karen Anders. The whole plot was clever, captivating and engaging, and made me think about what exactly happened to Doug. Would he be subject to more tests or has death finally claimed him? Another one for the old imagination!

Overall thoughts.

DeGroof has simply perfected the sci-fi genre in every way I could have possibly imagined! Dandelion Seeds is an incredible collection of unique characters, well thought out short plots, and flawless description, which drew me in and left me in awe after each story.

Each short story was incredible for its own individual reasons but my own personal favourites were Bread and Circuses, Imaginary, Indistinguishable From Magic and Death Takes A Lunch Break. I thought these were the most unique out of all the stories in the collection and left me with a “wow” feeling, especially after reading the authors notes on each one! I’d definitely recommend this book to all sci-fi fans – I’m confident you’ll love it just as much as I did.

A big thank you to Steve DeGroof for putting his ideas onto paper and giving us an awesome sci-fi collection to enjoy – I’ve loved every second of it. You can purchase your own copy of Dandelion Seeds over on Amazon, available on Kindle, Audiobook and paperback. Follow Steve over on Twitter for more updates!

Interested in your own book review?

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