Dark Eden

Dark Eden

By: Chris Beckett

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Suppose for a minute that 5 humans from Earth travel through a wormhole, then have a mechanical failure on their ship?  What if the only planet that’s hospitable is one with no star for light?  And what if the only female and one of the males remain on the planet while sending the other three to attempt to make it back to Earth in the damaged ship?  Jump forward a few generations (six I believe), and you’ve got the setting for Dark Eden.

The planet, Dark Eden, has no star, and thus only has what light and heat as it produces itself.  There’s hints of some sort of heat source at the core of the planet, and many of the trees and plant life glow in some way.  After six generations, the people are suffering from genetic disorders from all being descended from the two left on the planet, and only a few small traces of Earth culture and language remain.

The book switches perspectives often, giving it short chapters, and a sort of omnipotent viewpoint as things escalate through the plot lines.  There’s a rich world and culture that’s been built, and is overshadowed by the deeply human story that evolves through the book.  Which is amazing because it really is a great job of world building and culture building.

Dark Eden is a great book that centers around a story of human growth and human nature that happens to take place on a wonderfully built planet.  If you’re a fan of science fiction world building, you’ll enjoy the world that Beckett has built in Dark Eden, and the story is one of new beginnings.

The Detainee

The Detainee

By: Peter Liney

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

I really like dystopian novels.  So when this book came across my desk, I couldn’t wait to dig into it.  It promised a distopian story set on an island off the coast of a future city.  Unlike most dystopian novels, the story doesn’t take place in a world overrun with zombies, or a world that’s been ruined by a nuclear holocaust.  Instead, it’s a world where the world economy collapses, and governments find themselves without the funds to continue many of the social programs that they had before the collapse.  As a result, the people who become a drain on society are cast off onto “the island”.  Who are the castoffs?  The elderly and infirm, criminals, and children that parents can’t afford to feed and clothe.

There aren’t many science fiction elements in the traditional sense.  In fact, the only ones are the law enforcing satellites that will strike anyone committing a crime with a lightning bolt are the only real science fiction element.

I found the novel a little slow at the beginning as the author led me through the world building, and character introductions, but it quickly led me into a story that I found extremely hard to put down.  It ended up being a crazy fast read that ended with me disappointed that it was over.  The plot was quick and ended well, and, I hope, left a little bit of a window for a sequel of some sort.  A sequel, I might add, that I’d be more than willing to read.

If you’re looking for a good, quick read set in a future dystopian society, The Detainee should make it’s way onto your list.  It’s a great read that you’ll find yourself immersed into quickly.

The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh

The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh

By: Steven S. Drachman

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t really sure what to think of this book when it showed up on my doorstep.  It is a novel about a time travelling cowboy after all.  I’ve read my fair share of westerns, and probably more than my fair share of science fiction.  But, I don’t think I’ve ever read a western science fiction.  It’s been pretty popular to include elements of the first in the latter recently (see Firefly) and I suppose you could call steampunk something that could be called a mix of the two.

Ghosts is the first in a trilogy of books that follow the main character, Watt O’Hugh, an street urchin turned civil war veteran turned cowboy who manages to find himself twisted up in a grand story of time travelling and western expansion with a little bit of love and gunplay thrown in for good measure.

The book is short.  At just over 200 pages, it almost feels wrong to actually call it a novel.  Especially when, like me, you’re more used to tomes that reach well over three times as many pages.  (see: The Name of the Wind)  It reads much quicker than it’s pages, though, and really reminds me of the old pulp westerns.  Lots of action, not a lot of exposition, but a good solid story that feels fun and entertaining.

If I have to find a flaw with the book, it’s that it really is too short.  I imagine, in the grander scope of the trilogy, that it will redeem itself and fit nicely in the overall story arch.  On it’s own, it just seemed like it was too short and I was left wondering where the rest of the story was.  (presumably in the next two books)

I don’t think you likely need to be a fan of westerns to end up enjoying this book, although it’s much more western than it is science fiction. The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh is a fun, quick read.

Irenicon

Irenicon

By: Aidan Harte

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Set in some sort of alternative history Europe, Irenicon is a fantastical mash up of traditional fantasy and elements of steampunk and military histories.  The story sucks you in immediately, and then hauls you along for the ride while Harte weaves a tale that’s engrossing and fulfilling.  Even during the slower seeming spots, there’s a message or bit of history that is needed for a later plot point.  It’s an intricate plot that is, as far as I can tell, bulletproof.

The world that Harte has created here is full and rich with amazing detail of martial styles and the emergence of the worlds engineers.  You can almost feel the world teetering on the precipice between the older hand-to-hand combat styles and the new combat styles devised by the engineers.

Much like many other fantasy epics (this is a 500 page first of a trilogy), Irenicon gets a bit wordy at times.  If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, that probably won’t bother you at all.  All of the language in the book is well written, and I never felt that there were any awkward spots that you had to stumble through to get to the next section.

Unlike a few trilogies I’ve begun before it, Irenicon has a good ending to several plot lines.  Some first novels in trilogies like to leave you with no closure at all.  Not that they have to.  I just like when a single book can stand alone on it’s own without the necessity of reading the rest of the series.  Irenicon does that.  It’s the world you’ll read the rest of the series for, not some hanging plot line.

The Martian

The Martian

By Andy Weir

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

At it’s very core, The Martian is about an astronaut that gets accidentally left behind on the surface of Mars.  He’s injured in an accident as he and the rest of the astronauts are evacuating the planet due to an extreme wind storm.  The injury causes the rest of his team to believe he is dead, and they are unable to find his body due to the wind and dust, and continue with the evacuation before they are unable to.

He wakes up, with a dead biomonitor, part of a communications antenna sticking through a hole in his suit, and no way to get off of the planet.  The rest of the book is about how he battles his new situation, and finds ways to extend his life expectancy.

When I started the book, I was expecting that to be the story.  And it was.  However, there was much more to it than that.  Almost the entire book is written in a form of narrative first person through Mark Watney’s (he’s the astronaut) log files.  He’s creating the log files as a way to log the things he’s done so that if anyone from NASA ever recovers his body and the equipment, they’ll know that he was alive, and the things that he did.

Through Watney’s personal log, and the personality that he shows through his words, the story becomes so much more than just an account of an astronaut trapped on Mars.  The character of Watney is written so well, that the reader finds themselves sucked into the very human story, and the situation that he finds himself in.  Watney shares, in his logs, the struggles that he has, the victories, and even the frustrations he has with his fellow astronauts selection of music and television shows.

It’s a bit difficult to critique the actual writing of the book, as it’s meant to be read as log entries, so the flow can be somewhat erratic.  However, Weir delivers in a big way with the style of the book.  I was immediately sucked into the story, and ended up finishing the book in a marathon reading session that left me with way too little sleep the next day.  The last half of the book is quickly paced, and very hard to put down.

The Martian is an excellent book, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re any kind of sci-fi reader at all.

Shovel Ready


Shovel Ready

By: Adam Sternbergh

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

I don’t even know how best to start with this review.  The book is excellent.  I could just leave it at that and let you read it to find out.  But, that doesn’t leave much for you to decide whether you really want to read it or not.  It’s a sci-fi novel with a heavy dystopian bent.  It tickles all the little post-apocalypse tinglers in my brain.  It’s somehow a mix of the dark world of Blade Runner, with a heavy dose of The Matrix-like artificial reality and cross it all up with your favorite crime thriller.

It’s a mix of all that, and it’s terribly good.  I read it in under a week, which probably is a bit slow for some of you, but with my reading habits, that’s about twice as fast as normal.  There were several nights where I picked up my reader and lost total track of what time it was.  Which made for some long mornings, but, as any reader will attest to, getting lost in a book like that is the ultimate joy.

I really don’t know what else I can really tell you about the book without giving away parts of the plot.  Suffice to say, it’s a really good book.  About a garbage man turned hit man.  And a whole lot more.  The future New York City is gritty and dark and sufficiently rooted in the current world to still have some realistic weight.

Give Shovel Ready a try.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 

Ex-Purgatory


Ex-Purgatory

By: Peter Clines

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Ex-Purgatory is the fourth novel in the Ex series by Peter Clines.  The first three are Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, and Ex-Communication.

Clines does an interesting thing with this entry into the series.  He takes the characters we’re familiar with from the first three novels and throws them into a world completely different.  A world where the plague never took place, where they’re all just regular old folks without any super powers.  Or, at least, that’s what they believe.  The truth, it seems, is a bit different.

The whole story line is very clever, and Clines pulls it off very well.  I found it fun to read along and find the heroes we know from the series as their “normal” counterparts.  I was even a bit disappointed when I missed a few. :(  There’s plenty of references to pop culture too.

As I mentioned in my reviews of the first two novels in the series, the writing isn’t going to win any awards for literary excellence.  It’s not meant to though.  It’s meant to be fun, light, and easy to cruise through.  And it is.  I tore through the pages, as I was dragged into the story, and the characters again.  I love the world that Clines has created, with it’s mix of Zombies and Superheroes.

It was also fun to see the superheroes struggle with what they perceived as the real world as it was invaded by memories and visions of the world they belonged in.  It didn’t get taken too far, and the resolution was believable.  The only part of the book I was even slightly disappointed with was the ending.  Mostly, that was because it felt like the overall resolution was a bit quick.  But, I also got the feeling that there’s another book in the works and so maybe some of that will carry over into the next.

If you’re a fan of Zombies, or Superheroes, I don’t think you can go wrong by reading this series.  Obviously, start with Ex-Heroes, but if you’re already into the series, certainly continue on with Ex-Purgatory.

Self Publishing: Still No Room for Crap

Many years ago, self-publishing got it’s bad rap because the quality wasn’t there.  Self-published books were usually inferior in design and inferior in materials.  Picking up a book, you could easily tell it had been self-published.  If the xerox’d pages didn’t give it away, it was the terrible bindings (or three-ring binder encasing it).  In quite a few of the cases, it was also the inferior quality of the contents too.  But, even then, there were many that did it right.  They paid the extra money for a quality design.  They paid the extra money for the quality materials.  And, they put in the time and effort to publish quality content.

Now, with the greater availability (and reduced costs) of self-publishing, more and more books are being self published.  More and more big names are self pubbing their stuff.  Self publishers have access to the same design and materials that many of the big name publishers have access to.  Amazon has started it’s own imprints using the same services that many self publishing authors will use.  But, even with all that increased access, there still seems to be a stigma to self publishing.  In many ways, it’s an earned stigma.  Many people still expect something that’s been self published to be crap.

Chuck Wendig wrote a terribly good post on his site terribleminds (see what I did there? terribly good … terribleminds… ) about self publishing not being the minor leagues.  It starts off a little bit like a defense of self publishing, but it turns into something much better.  It’s a call to authors to be the artists that they can be.  It’s a call to not settle for the crap, but to refine it, polish it, and publish the diamond that was hidden in the refuse.

If we’re going to admit that self-publishing is an equal choice, then it’s time to step up and act like it. It’s time to stop acting like the little brother trailing behind big sister. Time to be practical. And professional.

Defeat naysayers with quality and effort and awesomeness so blinding they cannot see past you.

There’s a whole lot more to the post, but that’s what really stuck out to me.  Self publishing isn’t that much different from traditional publishing.  You still need to put out your best work.  You can’t settle for good enough, or “mom liked it” and expect to have any better results.  Say what you want about readers, but they aren’t stupid.  They aren’t going to suddenly buy your self published crap just because self publishing is more widely accepted.  But, they will buy your self published masterpieces.  But, they have to be masterpieces.  They will buy your art if you present them art “with quality and effort and awesomeness so blinding they cannot see past you.”

What are you polishing today?

Swords of Good Men


Swords of Good Men

By: Snorri Kristjansson

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

The back of my ARC of this novel calls it “AN EPIC VIKING SAGA ABOUT THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE OLD GODS AND THE NEW”.  I really wish they wouldn’t have done that.  Maybe they were talking about the entire series?  Even so.  It’s hardly within the realm of the jacket copy folks to decide whether a story is “EPIC” or not.  It unfairly sets the book up for failure if you ask me.  The reader goes into the story expecting some broad story of epic proportions.  I don’t think they got that in this first novel.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not, in my eyes, an epic novel either.

The language is good throughout which is sometimes hit or miss with a translation.  The translation team here did a pretty good job. (ooops.  It’s not really a translation. I made the assumption, and I was wrong.) It’s quite obvious that Kristjansson knows a great deal about the viking life and took great care in crafting the viking world that he sets the story in.  The characters are good, but could have done with a bit more development.  Some of them were very quickly glanced over in the beginning and middle of the book, only to become somewhat important cogs to the story towards the end.  I don’t think they needed to be main characters, but they went from being what I would call “filler” characters to being integral characters.

The plot and story is very good.  It draws you into the world, and the lives of the characters easily.  As the series continues, I expect that the “conflict between the old gods and the new” will become more pitched and more evident.  Even here, as we set up for it, there’s plenty of action, and a good job is done of contrasting the old norse gods and the new “white Christ”.

I especially enjoyed the level of detail that Kristjansson put into the world and the main characters.  It never felt forced, and wasn’t filled with long prose filled paragraphs of explanation.

I’m not sure what genre this book really is going to land in.  I suppose you could call it a historical fiction, but I also want to call it a fantasy.   It’s certainly more rooted in the historical fiction category though.  Swords of Good Men will be a book to watch if that’s your genre of choice, as will the series.  The series might live up to the “epic” tag.

Dark Talisman

Dark Talisman

By: Steven M. Booth

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Dark Talisman tells the story of Altira, a Dark Elf, who is thrown out of her home after it’s discovered that she robbed the Sultan.  It wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to be doing, since the Sultan is an ally, but all she did was steal a few gems.  Hardly worth banishment.  Quickly, Altira finds herself deep into a plot that has many folds and reveals.  Not all of them are completely hidden, and I did see a few of them coming, but nothing that ruined the story, or even made it unreadable.

This is, technically, classified as a YA fantasy novel, which is fine.  It actually reads a bit higher than that, and was a good read.  The plot moves along quickly, pushing the reader to keep turning the pages and digging deeper into the story.  The world that Booth has built here is well done.  I think it’s hard to build a world with enough detail to properly give the reader the feel of it, while limiting the detail so that it doesn’t become pages of description and explanation.  Booth does both really well here.

The protaganist, Altira, is younger (usual for a YA), and as such, has a few naive flaws, that were sometimes a bit annoying.  I think it went a bit too far, and didn’t give the character enough credit to be resourceful on her own.  She kept having to be distrustful, and then be proved wrong when the people she couldn’t trust come back to save her.  Maybe the combination of her age and being a Dark Elf made it seem like she needed to be that way?  I just think it could have been dialed back a bit.

That’s a pretty minor quibble, if you ask me.  Dark Talisman is a good book, with a heroine, which is good in a YA fantasy novel, I think.  If you’re a fan of fantasy novels, and want something with a lighter (e.g. not 600+ pages) feel, Dark Talisman is worth checking out.