Cliff Ratza

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BY Cliff Ratza

A girl of abnormally high intelligence grows up in a future world plagued by a virus whose primary symptom is cognitive impairment in this debut sci-fi novel.

Electra “Kitt” Kittner is born into tragedy at the tail end of the 21st century. A lightning bolt crashes through a kitchen, killing her pregnant mom, Indira Ramanujan, and her paternal grandmother. Electra miraculously survives, and her dad, Jason, and her grandfather Justin “Doc” Kittner quickly learn that she’s exceptional—she starts speaking at a very early age. Indira had been part of the Worldstar Team, along with Jason and his friends Su-Lin Song Chou and Adom Ola, all with Ph.D.s in biotechnology. Working for the National Institute of Health, the Worldstars have been developing a vaccine for the Techno-Plague, which renders victims with “fuzzy thinking.” Effective vaccines, however, are countered by mutations of the virus. Electra has a natural immunity to the T-Plague so Jason, fearing what the government might do to her, convinces her to keep her abilities a secret. She spends her childhood subduing her superior brain, strength, and agility. But she’ll soon put all of those to good use in generating a vaccine; taking out a terrorist group, Isilabad, intent on weaponizing T-Plague or attacking Electra’s loved ones; and exposing potential moles at NIH. Ratza’s first installment of a series is incisive and profound. Ever-learning Electra, for example, mulls over various types of religious beliefs and philosophies. She even has her own philosophy, Neurosci-Extended Deconstructed Kantianism. Customs of the future, too, seem plausible, like co-friendship, conceived to incorporate couplings of any gender. Though the novel starts with alternating time periods (initial signs of the T-Plague, 2092; Electra’s birth year, 2097; and 2115), it isn’t long before the narrative is chronological. This leads to some repetition (projects involving vaccines that readers know are still ineffective by 2115) and lulls, with Electra suppressed. But action gradually increases, as the formidable teen—and later twentysomething—takes down terrorists or just depraved men in general.

This series opener boasts an exemplary protagonist and leaves plenty of story avenues to explore.

Pub Date:

Page count: 371pp

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018



BY Cliff Ratza

In this fourth installment of a series, a 22nd-century woman of superior intellect handles a multitude of tasks, from working on a cloning project to campaigning for political office.

Electra Kittner’s “lightning brain,” which she’s had since birth, has afforded her above-average intelligence and strength. She’s used her abilities to combat cyberterrorism and produce vaccines for the global, cognition-affecting T-Plague virus. During that time, she’s grown another personality in Alisha, who’s more “fun-loving” and emotional than Electra. By 2126, Electra is planning to run for Congress while Alisha has garnered popularity as the star of a Supergirl TV show. But there’s so much more on the Electra-Alisha plate. Electra, for one, successfully creates a clone, which, in order to avoid potential controversy, she keeps secret by claiming she has adopted a daughter, Ariadne. Sadly, troubles persist, as China, Russia, and Africa form a group to ensure total dominion of the world’s cyberspace. But dissension within the band only leads to more opportunities for cyberterrorist strikes. Meanwhile, the T-Plague virus mutates into an STD, and a previously unknown enemy targets Electra for abduction—or worse. Trying to prevent further cyberattacks is sure to heighten the danger in which she already finds herself.  Ratza’s (The Girl Who Electrified the World, 2018, etc.) latest sci-fi volume continues to develop the protagonist. In preceding entries, Electra has struggled with empathy, and this book’s mother-daughter bond adds an entirely new element. Electra, without Alisha taking over, grows close to Ariadne and loves her as a child, not a clone. At the same time, the story is rife with subplots, and while they greatly slow down the action, they’re also engrossing and thematically linked. Family, for example, plays an important role: Electra learns about and meets a blood relative, and there’s infidelity, spawning a fair amount of melodrama, among her married friends. The author’s lucid writing breezes readers through a seven-year narrative and a fast-paced ending that unquestionably sets up Book 5.

A worthy sci-fi tale with an evolving heroine and a bevy of engaging secondary storylines.

Pub Date:

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2019



BY Cliff Ratza

A heroine juggles her personal and professional lives while trying to pinpoint the hacker stealing and leaking her information in this fifth installment of a series.

After surviving a terrorist attack in Lebanon, Electra Kittner returns to Washington, D.C., with a 6-year-old fellow survivor, Qama, whom she quickly adopts. Around the same time, her Linguistic App software has “morphed” into an artificial intelligence that calls itself Indira, the name of Electra’s mother, who died by lightning bolt while giving birth to her. Electra is enjoying her expanded family, which includes Robin—the intimate “co-friend” she lives with—and the woman’s adopted twins. The perpetually busy Electra is an actor-turned-screenwriter; frequently advises presidential hopeful Sen. Angus McTear; and works in research and development (for example, the study of transhumanism or, more specifically, cyborgs). But she’s understandably shaken by anonymous “open letters” to the public, as they feature information someone has unquestionably reworded from documents Electra has written. Certain a hacker is perusing and leaking her confidential files, Electra asks Indira to help her locate the culprit, who eventually resorts to emailed taunts. She must also handle occasional threats that are more physical and immediate. Ratza’s story sometimes feels like a string of concurrent plots, from Electra’s political conversations with Angus to her Hollywood projects. But the intermingling of her worlds results in an overall cohesive and engaging narrative. Electra, for example, is initially unsure what the hackers are after, and menaces from one of her professions may be targeting her family. As the tale spotlights Electra’s superior intellect over her physical aptitude, there are lots of discussions and only intermittent action. Regardless, Electra’s hectic schedule ensures swift narrative momentum while the cliffhanger ending, even if it’s become a series staple, is gleefully mysterious.

Another satisfying volume in an SF saga that shows no signs of slowing down.

Pub Date:

Page count: 232pp

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2020



BY Cliff Ratza

Four orphaned siblings take on a mysterious but unmistakably perilous assignment in this first installment of Ratza’s new SF series.

By the mid-22nd century, Electra Kittner, whose “lightning brain” has afforded her exceptional intellect, has been missing for two decades. She had employed her skills for such things as battling the deadly T-Plague, and the “Keepers Group” has been meeting annually to keep her memory alive. Tragically, an accident kills every group member except Su-Lin Song Chou. Indira, Electra’s AI–powered app that became self-aware, comes to the aid of ailing, 97-year-old Su-Lin. Hoping to recruit new keepers, they contact twins Eve and Alonzo Cortez and twins Nari and Nila Bose, all teen orphans for whom Su-Lin has been a legal guardian. Indira, posing as Su-Lin’s flesh-and-blood, online-only administrative assistant, sends the American teens on a Cairo mission. They’re to contact someone named Rani and “bring back” whatever he gives them. Once they score summer internships in Cairo, they can decide the best time to meet. Unfortunately, Electra has made a few enemies, who apparently believe she’s been hiding for 20 years. These individuals threaten the teens even before they leave the U.S. and have eyes on them in Cairo, ultimately prompting an assault. Meanwhile, Indira, who’s withheld quite a bit from the teens, has surprises in store. They’re soon communicating with yet another enigmatic figure—a woman who, like Indira, may know where Electra has been and even where she is now.

This work launches the Keepers Series, a sequel to Ratza’s five-book Electra-centric series. Readers unfamiliar with the prior series will easily follow this opening installment. Much of this book’s narrative perspective is the teens’, and while they’re winsome characters, they’re less action-oriented than Electra. They, for one, are students focused on their intern responsibilities and, accordingly, take nearly two months before rendezvousing with Rani. As such, it’s a slow-moving story with dilemmas that include Alonzo’s hoping to wrap up things quickly so he can make it back to the U.S. for a sports training camp. Frequent conversations among characters further decelerate the narrative, but these are also indications of Ratza’s smart and historically rich writing. For example, the teens learn about the origins of the Coptic Church in Egypt, and Nari is upset over a test, certain she “screwed up big-time on Stieltjes and Lebesgue integrals” by assuming it “would cover only Riemann integration.” Regardless, the siblings face dangers, from shady types watching them to at least one person’s being involved in a crash. Moreover, the novel’s latter half picks up, as the mystery of Electra’s whereabouts comes to light. Indira is a superlative character even if she’s noncorporeal; she acts as the teens’ guide, but her unsurprising indifference often jars Eve, her most frequent contact, as Indira has a tendency to berate her. Although the plot is occasionally predictable, the delightful open ending suggests a host of ways for the series to continue.

An intelligently written and deliberately paced story.

Pub Date:

Page count: 191pp

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2020



BY Cliff Ratza

In this latest installment of an SF series, a 22nd-century woman of superior intellect tackles a pandemic, worsening climate change, and unknown assailants targeting her clone children.

Electra Kittner has spent her life hiding in the shadows. A lightning strike gave her special abilities, including an incredible intelligence, which she has kept mostly to herself. By the mid-22nd century, she goes by the name Irani Ramani and is a consultant living in Washington, D.C. She and her self-aware artificial intelligence, Indira, keep close eyes on world events as well as the four college-age youngsters cloned from Electra’s DNA. These siblings, whom another woman raised, aren’t aware that Irani is Electra. Although Electra cares for all four, she has a particular fondness for Eve Cortez and adopts her. While Eve helps with a United States congresswoman’s political campaigns, Electra and Indira look at global concerns. Climate change, for one, could trigger volcanic eruptions, including in Montana, the home of the Yellowstone Supervolcano. Electra also spearheads the development of a “recovery vaccine” to combat worldwide outbreak of the X-Virus, which inexplicably infects only men. But Electra has other abilities as well; she joins a mission to retrieve plutonium in Iran, sparking an explosive confrontation in which she more than holds her own. Unfortunately, she can’t prepare for every contingency. Unknown enemies attack Eve and later Electra, who has trouble identifying the assailants. They may be part of a diabolical group Electra senses is up to no good. She has amassed quite a few adversaries in her time, any of whom could be responsible for the assaults, which soon escalate into something potentially more deadly.

As in Ratza’s earlier series volumes, this novel offers a hodgepodge of subplots. There’s a rivalry between Eve and one of her sisters; the clone children and Electra reunite for holiday breaks; and the protagonist occasionally spins off into philosophical discourse. There’s nevertheless cohesion, as there are signs of an impending evil. While readers know of a nefarious covert organization of “Washington elites,” specifics about the group or the villains who have their sights set on Electra remain a mystery. This is the second installment of the author’s series initially centered on Eve and her three siblings. In this book, Electra, who already has her own five-volume series, seems to be taking the reins once again. Still, she’s as captivating as ever. Ratza writes Electra and Irani as two separate “personas.” Their distinction keeps the alternating names free of confusion, as Irani is clearly the brains and Electra the woman of action. At the same time, the siblings, who constitute two sets of twins, have different, sometimes clashing personalities. Action scenes are fleeting, but they often include chic tech. Some characters, for example, use universal multiparallel ports to connect bodies to chips and enhance physical and cognitive abilities while Electra’s exoskeleton body armor deflects bullets. Ratza’s intelligent prose is sometimes clinical, relaying characters’ discussions and presentations as charts, tables, and syllabuses. But this approach deftly meshes with Electra, who tends to repress emotions, even when thinking to herself: “Parental love has no expiration date…I’m watching over Eve now, but I better practice observing from afar.”

A smart, futuristic tale with strong, complicated characters.

Pub Date:

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021



BY Cliff Ratza • POSTED ON April 11, 2022

In this third installment of an SF series, a smart and capable political/ecological consultant balances her personal life with her efforts to thwart global threats.

Electra Kittner’s “lightning brain” affords her superior intelligence and physical prowess. By 2162, she’s developed several personas, most notably Irani Ramani, the name that most people call her. Irani is essentially the strategist, and though the personas regularly converse, Electra usually takes control if action is necessary. After resigning from their Health and Human Services secretary position in Washington, D.C., the “Irani-Electra duo” has more time for personal activities. The two, for starters, return to their “Big Sister” role for Tiana Diamond, a 14-year-old teenager who was hospitalized after a car crash that killed her dad. Irani takes tea to her home and cares for her, not unlike how Electra looks after her four cloned children—two sets of twins who don’t know they’re the woman’s clones. At the same time, Irani goes back to her job as director of multipartner projects at George Washington University. She works with professor Jonathan Segal, who’s both intrigued by the possibility of extraterrestrials and scouring the seabed to witness the captivating marine life, especially octopuses and squids. She also puts together an android project that she can complete with her always reliable, self-aware artificial intelligence, Indira. Eventually, another persona, Alisha, resurfaces; she’s a bit more relaxed than the other two, which makes her ideal for gatherings with friends and clone kids. Unfortunately, old enemies are still out there, like a band of political extremists. Members of this group are surely the ones chasing Irani/Electra on a jet ski and a dirt bike, forcing the tougher persona to take the reins.

Ratza’s latest volume, like the preceding ones, practically bursts with characters and subplots. There are, for example, copious diagrams and bulleted lists from presentations by Irani as well as the clone children Eve and Nari, who have become consultants. The clones have their own stories: Eve assists with presidential campaign videos, and Nari champions “Quantum Politics,” which employs the philosophy of meritocracy (“People get what they deserve”). Not all of these threads mesh, and readers may struggle to find a subplot that actually pushes the tale forward. Regardless, many of the smaller storylines are entertaining, including Irani’s slowly building relationship with Jonathan, who introduces an octopus family to her. In the book’s most memorable turn, Irani/Electra takes on a shark who threatens these octopuses, who later return the favor when a stranger goes after Irani. Irani and Jonathan’s trips to the seafloor in an autonomous underwater vehicle evoke vibrant prose, as they pass a marching “army of crabs” and “elongated strings of glowing jellyfish” in the pitch-black ocean. While Ratza gives most of the cast space to shine, one significant character’s disappearance in the latter half has surprisingly little impact, while two new players act as virtual replacements for the missing individual. But this entry has its share of explosive moments, like an unexpected death, and culminates in a shocking cliffhanger that suggests the series is far from over.

A gripping futuristic tale with a strong cast.

Pub Date: April 11, 2022

ISBN: 979-8886224085

Page count: 484pp

Publisher: PageTurner Press and Media LLC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2022


The Girl Who Commanded Lightning

The Girl Who Electrified the World

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