Saturday, May 7, 2016

Review::Teardrops in the Night Sky by J.W. Murison

Teardrops In The Night Sky (Steven Gordon Series,#1)Teardrops In The Night Sky by J.W. Murison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Teardrops in the Night Sky by J.W. Murison

My ever increasing love to hate list just keeps expanding. I hesitate to review this novel for a number of reasons. The least of those being that I easily cower from those authors who take umbrage with my views. That much said when I read this I had bias in mind because I always read the 1 star and 2 star reviews and there are plenty of those to go around. I could easily agree with many of those, which is actually unusual, and when I reached the end of the story I had this bad taste while I wondered what I truthfully found wrong with the whole thing. The first thing that comes to mind is that the main character was a Marty Stu--you know that perfect child protegee genius who in this case overcame some really dramatic stumbling blocks to become once again the brilliant and much loved character whose charisma draws everyone eventually on his side while those who are evil are portrayed as the blackest of evil and will never be on his side...which is always the good side. Of course there are some structural problems in grammar and spelling and missing words and homophones, but I won't cover those because I also checked the authors response to those and since he has no personal interest in fixing them beyond sending you to his publisher and I have no interest in sending a list to his 'publisher'. Also the publisher in question is equivocal to self publishing so it's too confusing because the author is really the publisher.

I read this book twice, because I needed to know, before review, what was really wrong. And it's a good thing that I did this, because I learned a lot. I loved portions of this book and even the core idea or theme and I think, despite some of the harsh words, there is enough there to satisfy many readers of science fiction. The main problem for me is the omniscient point of view. That POV in and of itself is not bad, but it does need to be done well to capture the reader and this one didn't do that for me. A problem with omniscient POV is that it lends itself easily to head hopping, which again in and of itself, is not necessarily bad--just difficult to write. Along with that there is both omniscient objective and subjective and it works best for me when author chooses one or the other; and I have this feeling that this work is a blend of both that telescopes in and out of many character's heads. In part the reason for this is that there is a lot of story to tell and a seeming hurry to tell it and not enough time to settle on any particular character. This leads to a feeling that the characters have little if any depth because we keep skimming across the surface while occasionally cutting deep--but the depth is often just for back story for characters and not near enough of that when it happens, especially not near enough for the characters that we need to know and understand.

What this leads to is a whole bunch of misunderstandings; the first being that Stevie Gordon is a Marty Stu. Really: when we examine him he is quite flawed and from a readers standpoint not so lovable. And that begs the question of how these other characters could possible be drawn in toward him. The answers lie somewhere, but not necessarily in the story. What really is Stevie Gordon? Well on the second reading I realize he's very complex. He's that ultra-smart kid who seems to have no common sense; however he also is the one that has ultra smart parents who seem to be well to do, so he's that smart rich kid without common sense. So he does what any one of those types would do and defies authority and steals his friends motorbike and crashes it into a big rig truck and is smashed to the point that his bones and organs are jelly. He survives and miraculously recovers to be a slightly damaged person who functions beyond what anyone could ask under those circumstances. He is no longer the wiz kid he was, but by all rights he should be dead or in a vegetative state. And then more miracles happen and he's restored. Then he turns into an arrogant genius who seems to-for no good reason-despise american politicians and in general the american social political structure. I will grant that he might be bitter because he's been detained because he touched the alien ship and he's in quarantine longer than necessary and we are led to believe it is primarily because of the president of the United States. But when they let him out so he can approach the ship and he is eventually healed of all his injuries and more; he comes out with quite a bit of attitude.

In context this is after Mr. Sales has shot his mother and stranded the second ship with a group of his people and Mrs. Gordon somewhere near Saturn. Stevie is rightfully concerned about this but when confronted with the insistent representatives of the president asking for the alien ship to be returned, his response is thus::


 
‘You may believe America to be the be all and end all, of civilisation Colonel, but my parents certainly don’t.

Murison, J W (2014-01-24). Teardrops In The Night Sky (Steven Gordon Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 1706-1707). Grosvenor House. Kindle Edition.

He then goes on some tangent about his traffic accident-for which he was responsible and how the US health care system left his family's funds depleted because they don't have National Health such as exists in Scotland.

That would be a worthy argument if it wasn't for the proviso that the National Health has the authority, in traffic accidents, to recover funds from insurers(no idea what they do with uninsured), from which the circumstance of his injuries might invalidate his argument. But beyond that, this seems to be the basis for his reason to be bitter toward American authority and it just is not enough coming from the spoiled child that caused his own injury.

Then there is this bit right after when Howe tries to argue dominion over the alien ships.


 
Howe’s head came up, ‘you’re right, I saw what they did to them but these ships landed on American soil and now belong to the United States of America.’

‘Says who?’

‘The president.’

‘Yes of course, God incarnate himself.

Murison, J W (2014-01-24). Teardrops In The Night Sky (Steven Gordon Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 1721-1724). Grosvenor House. Kindle Edition.

I'll admit the military are getting heavy handed at this point; but Stevie's response begins to reach over the top for very little if any good reason. I will grant again that his concern is for his mother's safety because he has yet to locate the other ship and save her; but his approach is one of taking an end-run around authorities without even trying to negotiate some agreement to help save his mother before portioning out property. The impression the reader is suppose to get is that he has to do it all himself and yet it seems as though he has taken upon himself that only he can do this and in fact eventually his superior attitude leads to the realization that his statement was ironic in that Stevie begins to act like God incarnate.

It might be asked, "Why do I say that?" And that's a fair question. It comes from when Stevie says that the ship has mandated that all countries are allowed access to them and to their technology but then he turns around and when presented with Jim Grey a potential candidate for the crew (and after finding out the man claims he can make atomic bombs) Stevie gives Jim a deadline for making one for him before Jim can join. (As it turns out they will need one or more in the future-that's a spoiler-but at this moment Stevie doesn't know that and he is clearly taking advantage of his authority and frankly it's rather troubling in the very least in the context.

This atomic bomb thing is important for another point later.

Now it can be argued that Mr. Sales who alleges that he works for the president and even the president have demonstrated that they are evil. I won't argue against that. But what we see of Mr. Sales is that he seems to have some grudge against the Gordons and we don't know why because as close as the POV gets to him we don't get that answer. The president himself orders that Stevie be killed, but this is after Stevie makes his inflamatory remarks about the US authority and the president. And my point of contention is not that the president is made to look evil--I see a lot of that in fiction--the point is that there is never a clear motive for it. So we're left to believe that Mr. Sales and the President are both raving lunatics that have gone off the rails and the Gordons have just gotten in their way. And we're expected to understand that that is justification for Stevie's sour attitude about the US in general.

I'm going to skip over the troubling fact that there are a number of times when Stevie runs up against criticism from potential candidates who always too quickly roll over and suddenly see the wisdom of his choices. And somehow suspiciously everyone that is infused with the Nano technology from his ship are suddenly utterly loyal.

What I want to touch next is the character Lewis:: in the author's own words from his blog on goodreads.


 
Lewis is a specialist that served his in his countries armed forces, who has one of the highest IQ’s on the ship and can build a nuclear weapon from scratch; hardly stereotypical.

Where did he come from though? The idea for Lewis came from watching one of my favourite films the Green Mile. If you have ever seen Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey then an image of how I see Lewis should spring straight into your mind.

Sounds good right, well maybe the part about a literary character inspiring a character might be suspect, but the part about the mans intelligence sounds good. The trouble is that the only place in the book that supports that is where Babe (the ship) asserts that he's one of the most intelligent members of the crew. Asside from that, every word out of his mouth suggests otherwise. And this part about the making a nuclear weapon has me stumped, because in this book it was Jim Grey who did that and unless I missed something both times through, there is no place that even suggest that Lewis can do that. But asside from that I question the IQ of Jim Grey for letting himself be bullied into making that bomb in the first place.

I'm giving this book three stars because it does have some great ideas and it's chock full of character's and story, though that's what gets in the way because there is this constant feeling of rush with no clear focus on any characters; despite the feel that Stevie should be the main character. But even what I have shown here is taken out of context and represents at best how I came to have this love hate relationship with the novel and I certainly would expect future readers to come to their own conclusions. The concept of the character Stevie is great but it's shortchanged and overshadowed by a lack of focus. It would be great to have been closer to Stevie's point of view to understand him better because he's a great Übermensch that has a capacity for both great good or evil and is complex enough that he is unable to recognize or admit to his own blindness to his flaw, which is that he's becoming that which he professes to hate the most. Soon he'll think that he's the only one who can police the universe and that everything he does is for the better of mankind.

I've already read the second book and I do recommend reading this one with a few proviso regarding grammar and structure. And of course I'm obviously a bit confused.


J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review::Sunset Over Abendau(The Inheritance Trilogy Book 2) by Jo Zebedee

Sunset Over Abendau (The Inheritance Trilogy, #2)Sunset Over Abendau by Jo Zebedee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sunset Over Abendau(The Inheritance Trilogy Book 2) by Jo Zebedee

For anyone who's read Jo's first book in this set, it may be easy to understand when I talk about how dark that book seemed to be. I almost struggled to decide when I'd subject myself to this: the next installment. So of course I started with the sample.

It starts with a prologue and I often don't care much for prologues. This one is done well and is quite appropriate to the story. It both sets the plot and brings the reader up to date to things after the end of the first book and gives the reader a look at Averrine whose power was blocked by Kare at the price of his own power being lost. Though she has lost her power, Averrine is neither cowed nor worried; instead she's plotting her revenge as she is locked up in a maximum security prison.

The story begins ten year after. It does not start with Kare, instead it starts with Baelan; the son that Kare doesn't know he has. Baelan is being raised in the desert by tribesmen and Phelps, one of Kare's most hated enemies. Baelan is being groomed to take Kare's place and also to help bring his grandmother, Averrine, back into power. We're five percent into the book and the plot is getting so thick that you're not going to want to stop by the end of the sample.

Finally we get to the victors of the last battle in the last book and if ever there were a story to paint a picture depicting the phrase 'to the victor belong the spoils' Jo nails it quite well. Her characters, who already are quite complex to begin with, have added new layers of complexity along with a false sense of complacency that is only compounded once again by the consequences of their actions. Except this time we include the consequences of the inaction.

The reader is reintroduced to the survivors of the first book and it doesn't take long to realize that the group is highly dysfunctional. Kare never wanted to take his mother's place and yet he seems entrenched in that spot while he's let his personal life get away from him. His wife Sonly and her brother Lichio both have their own issues lingering in the background and they all seem to have let the distance of ten years make them complacent about the enemies they have let live. But as the reader advances into the story it becomes evident that the ensuing events might be just what our heroes need to get them back on track. Even if it means there might be a journey into the darkness once more and with Jo at the helm that's almost a guarantee.

It's not often that a reader sees the second book in a series outshine the first in so many ways. I highly recommend the first book in the series and despite how dark it felt to me it is one amazing premier novel for an author. For those who haven't read Abendau's Heir, I suggest you get to it quickly so you can better enjoy the second book. And for those who have read the first book-you'll love this one more.

I have to mention that there were elements of the desert, the tribes and the political landscape of this novel that kept bringing Frank Herbert's Dune to mind, and I hope the author doesn't take offence in me making that comparison. When it comes to the characters, their complexity and their struggles it's all pure Jo Zebedee. So when all of you SFF fans finish this, if you haven't already, you should check out Jo's Inish Carraig. (Completely different world and characters, but an example of the range this author has to offer.)

J.L.Dobias



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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review::Code Breakers Complete Series 1-4 by Colin F. Barnes

Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4 by Colin F. Barnes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Code Breakers Complete Series 1-4 by Colin F. Barnes

I picked this one up on a special. It looked good and though I have to admit that it wasn't quite what I expected, there were a great number of other things that have caused me to put this on my love to hate list. I wasn't so much expecting a dystopic tale. Just having read John Shirley's A Song Called Youth which is touted as a cyberpunk story, but is more a thriller suspense with cyberpunk leanings. Code Breakers ABGD is more a dystopic tale wrapped around cyberpunk with elements ranging from those familiar to Mary Shelly's Frankenstein all the way to some of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian and Venusian series. There were certainly all the tropes for cyberpunk and those classic SFF adventures. A lot of good ideas wrapped in old tropes and unfortunate smatterings of grammatical challenges.

The author appears to be British English and I try to keep that in mind. I've read a wide number of British authors recently and have been training my ear to certain quirky colloquialisms and idioms and even have discussed a few with those authors. With that in mind there is a pet peeve that I still feel a need to mention because it doesn't appear to be universally accepted as good English throughout the realm. This would be the usage of was sat, were sat, was stood and were stood. In all cases I'm used to was sitting, were sitting, was standing, were standing and those others are like fingernails on a chalkboard when I say them out loud. But those are pet peeves and have little if nothing to do with the stars I portion out.

What I'm mostly concerned with is the omitting of words and the subsequent creation of incomplete sentences that leave the reader to fill in the blanks. Such as:

Gerry detected a hint of disappointment Jachz’s voice.

Barnes, Colin F. (2015-11-12). Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4 (Kindle Location 3205). Binary Books. Kindle Edition.


Sasha had learned from Enna that Cheska a transcendent.

Barnes, Colin F. (2015-11-12). Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4 (Kindle Location 6463). Binary Books. Kindle Edition.



If he could feel, he’d have felt exhilarated, such was the speed at which moved.

Barnes, Colin F. (2015-11-12). Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4 (Kindle Location 6788). Binary Books. Kindle Edition.

These are just a random sampling and there are more, but it doesn't stop there because there are words munged together missing spaces between them and places where the t is missing from stay.

or this next::

Despite their lack of proper military training and experience, they displayed admirable brave.

Barnes, Colin F. (2015-11-12). Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4 (Kindle Location 6484). Binary Books. Kindle Edition.


I can't help but think they displayed bravery rather than brave.

Still I am forgiving even for those; but there is one spot where my bubble burst when the author was in the middle of a scene and the name of a character who was not in the scene was used in the place of another character and nearly spoiled the up and coming reveal later in that or the next chapter. In case the author cares to fix this it is in location 4250 of my kindle.

Really, though, I enjoyed the series most of the way through and would have loved to give it 4 stars, and since I am giving it 3 stars that is the reason I'm being a bit hard on it. I think that any fan of cyberpunk and fantasy and perhaps those who have read John Shirley should enjoy this book and after stumbling over some of those errors and getting past most everything the first three stories make for a great set.

As to the last book; there is no doubt that it finishes off the series and completes specific threads and further answers some lingering question, so it has a purpose. There were some moments when I almost put it down but for the most part I'm glad I finished it just to wrap up the lives of the few characters who made it through those first three books. Oh...and of course, some of those don't make it through the last book.

There are lots of twists and turns in the plot to surprise the readers; though I have to admit sometimes the feeling of Deus ex Machina is there. It has all the tropes and earmarks found in most dystopic tales and I'll admit that dystopia's are not my favorite or strongest genre. For those who love those and enjoy the cyberpunk elements I think this would be a good addition to their library and looking at the number of 4 and 5 stars reviews there are a good number of people who must have more than enjoyed reading these novels.

The author goes on my to read list for some future enjoyment.

J.L. Dobias



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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review::The Ember War(The Ember War Saga book 1)by Richard Fox

The Ember War (The Ember War Saga, #1)The Ember War by Richard Fox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Ember War(The Ember War Saga book 1)by Richard Fox

This book was suggested by an acquaintance and the initial sample looked interesting so I downloaded the book and got right to it. As it is it's good, but it goes on my increasing love hate list. The story starts with a familiar beginning: to me. An alien AI probe arrives in the solar system on a fact finding mission, find the right level of intelligence and technology and begin the process of preparation for fending off an invasion or find something below that level and move on to the next target, since the solar system, if ill equipped, will be doomed to fall under the force soon to arrive. The good news is that there are sixty years to prepare, the bad news is we just barely make the grade and Mark Ibarra is our only hope.

Fast forward 60 years and we have some Marines arriving on a mining outpost owned by the Ibarra Corporation. Our main character Ken Hale is there investigating an outpost with which communication has ceased mysteriously. As it turns out something has gone wrong, terribly wrong, and most of the people at the facility are dead. As far as I recall there is no definitive explanation for the malfunction (only suspicion), but this is mostly the introduction of our MC to a mystery involving the Iberra Corporation, the supposed mining outpost and a bit of world building explaining the relationship the military has to Iberra. More importantly it introduces the ship Breitenfeld which is where most of our action takes place.

We switch next to a much older Marc, who is preparing for the worst since this is the projected year that the invasion forces will arrive. It takes a bit of time for the story to wind up but when it does it goes off and hardly lets up. There is a lengthy cast of characters and barely enough time to note them on the score cards before the action ramps up. The Chinese and the Iberra Corporation have a bit of a cold war going with acquisition of technology instead of land as the motivator. This is not a war Marc wants to fight just as he begins to gear up for a far more important engagement. This forces his hands and he makes decisions, that have consequences for people aboard ships he basically hijacks; and one of those people is his granddaughter.

This book has everything that the average lover of Military Science Fiction will soak up like a sponge. And once the action starts there are hardly moments for the characters to take a breath. It's written well and sparse, which accounts for my problems with it. I love character driven stories and this one has some potential but the necessity for putting aside that for the focus on the action, left me a bit in the lurch.Besides not having any real solid point of view character to focus on, there were not enough details for my tastes though again that's because of the point of view. I think it might be fair to call Ken the point of view and we do get a fair idea of what he's about. But another important character is Stacy, Marc's granddaughter, who we barely get to know; yet her role is vital.

There are some reveals about Marc and the plan and some of Stacy's life near the end and I'm assuming there will be a series and plenty of time to get to know Stacy, maybe. And even though the story doesn't really end; it does conclude enough to be satisfying.

This is great SFF Military and Suspense and I think, because there were several threads or plot aspects that mirrored stories I've already read, I expected more emphasis on the characters and their story to keep the story fresh and new and that didn't quite come up to my expectations. For those who haven't read some of the same stories I have, this might well read as a top notch SFF Thriller. I definitely recommend reading it.

J.L. Dobias



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Friday, January 8, 2016

Review::Uncommon Purpose (The Hope Island Chronicles Book 1) by P.J. Strebor

Uncommon Purpose (The Hope Island Chronicles Book 1)Uncommon Purpose by P J Strebor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Uncommon Purpose (The Hope Island Chronicles Book 1) by P.J. Strebor

Uncommon Purpose is a great science fiction that blends a sort of political and military setting readers are familiar with in such novels as David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. Development of characters recalled for this reader the feel of many of his favorite Heinlein characters. P.J. Strebor brings to the table his own blend of elements such as family honor, redemption and revenge along with his own twist on a few tropes.

It starts in a universe with an uneasy peace, after a great Franco Pruessen war that led to the Pruessen's unleashing a terrible bio-weapon that was designed to save them, only to have it backfire in a devastating way; leaving the League little choice but to quarantine one whole area of space; all leading to the formation of the Prussen Empire; and the present situation where Prussen headhunters make occasional raids across the quarantine borders to obtain slave labor from the League worlds.

The story seems to start slow, but that's because there are the equivalent of fifty pages that encompass world building and introduction of the main character: Nathan Telford. The first five chapters could easily read as a short story that introduces us to the universe of Nathan Telford and acts as a means of showing the tragic beginning of the main character of the story; while pacing of conflict and tension make this stand well alone. The Telford ship Bellinda is overtaken by Pruessen headhunters and despite the best laid plans, the self destruct meant to save them all from slavery is disrupted. We have the quick thinking of Jasper to thank. I say that because without his actions there'd be no story for us; but I'll leave it there for the next reader find. It's the story of how they endure and escape.

The real story begins in chapter 6 when the Navy Monitor boat Impudent detects a crashed ship on a plague ridden world that has been quarantined for several years due to the terminal nature of the Pruessen plague. Further examination proves that there is one life sign and that the ship is Belinda, which now has been missing for over six years. We meet the brave and possibly foolhardy Ensign Ellen Gabreski for a small time and I do hope we see more of her down the road, but this isn't her story. Nathan is only 14 years old at this time and will have to learn a lot before he might begin the path to revenge. The reader will eventually find out everything that happened to Nathan in those six years. Yet we learn only a small amount about Nathan beyond the scant amount already seen in the first fifty pages; and in part I think this is because Nathan harbors a deep and dreadful secret about his life after escape from the Pruessen's and the reader will have to wait for a majority of the book to learn what that is.

One important thing we do learn is that Nathan has an odd talent he calls Prep; which he seems to have acquired while on the plague world of Delos.

Before getting on with his life, Nathan will have to deal with a forced gag order to tell no one about what's happened to him. There are good reasons, but those take us too close to spoiler area.

When Nathan finally arrives on Kastoria to live with the Penkovskys the reader begins to find out more about him. Most of this is done quite well from other character's point of view, with less focus from Nathan’s point of view and I think that’s again because of his secret and getting too close to his thoughts might reveal too much too early.

The novel dips deep into a trope area at this point, but P.J. Strebor uses it well. We have the typical male, Nathan; and his female friend, Moe, who decides to turn him into her project. As can be expected; if there is ever anything more than friendship desired here, it is doomed to tragedy. More importantly there’s the thread about the agreements between parties to keep the past a secret that predictably leads to danger for everyone close to Nathan.

This quickly becomes a novel about Nathan balancing his training toward the proper way to wage war and his desire for immediate revenge for his family and the inevitable mess caused by his need to keep his past a secret.

I recommend this to all fans of the Military-Procedural-Political Science Fiction. It has a well rounded science base that lends well to the suspension of disbelief. For me: Uncommon Purpose stands as a superbly well done first novel from an author with a lot of promise.

J.L. Dobias



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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review:: The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope(9 February 1863 to 8 July 1933)

The Prisoner Of Zenda The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony Hope

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope(9 February 1863 to 8 July 1933)

I remember watching the old black and white movie from 1937 when I was young. We would stay up just a bit late to watch the weekend features and this was one of many. I have to confess to not recalling that much of the story and reading the book was a great way to refresh my memory. Back then it went along nicely with all the swashbuckler movies of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. I always remembered the title and it probably fueled my interest in some of the classics like The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

As the story unfolds we find that Rudolf Rassendyll is telling the tale. It seems that he is attempting to live up to a promise he made to his sister in-law who believes he wastes his life away. He seems to agree, but in a way that says he feels there is little wrong with that or the way he chooses to live his life. It also unfolds that as he tells the story it may be for his own purpose since what he has to tell is best kept as a secret.

Rudolf's sister in-law is trying to set him up with a job with an ambassador as an attache. He acquiesces to her pleas to some extent and since that is 6 mos away he decides to set out on a bit of a vacation that turns into quite an adventure.

In opposition to the movie version Rudolf seems well aware of the scandal involving the Countess Amelia of the Rassendyll's and Rudolf the King of Ruritania. And the story of how every so often a generation has a child whose features recall those of King Rudolf; striking red hair and long sharp straight noses. So on this adventure Rudolf Rassendyll decides to visit the region close to Ruritania; without telling any of his family. On the train there he sees the alluring Antoinette de Mauban (who later plays a major part in the story), but does not take the opportunity to meet her.

After reaching the Ruritanian frontier he decides to get off at Zenda. The first thing that occurs, that is a bit disconcerting, is that people give him a peculiar amount of deference after seeing his face. But when he meets Colonel Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim who both serve the king, there is no doubt that his countenance is familiar to both and in their amazement they dawdle enough for him to chance to meet the king (another Rudolf). It becomes clear that the two could almost be brothers and twins at that.

As the plot would have it: what transpires next is that the King is incapacitated to a degree (by drugged wine provided by his brother Michael) that he'd be unable to participate in his up coming coronation and that would leave things open for Prince Michael to grab both the thone and Princess Flavia as his own. It's clear that Michael is behind this and the two King's men hatch a plan to have Rudolf Rassendyll take the Kings place while the King--hopefully--sleeps off the effects of the drug. They leave the King (safe) in the hands of the servants and make off to the coronation.

Everything goes without a hitch though as can be expected Michael is a bit suspicious. Princess Flavia is aware of some change in her betroth and is pleased by the change; leaving the plot open for the pretender to fall in love. And that's when things get complicated.

Michael takes the king as prisoner at Zenda and plots to remove the pretender. He keeps the king alive only because of the pretender and uses him as a means of drawing the three conspirators into a trap.

The story is not only the usual swashbuckling adventure but also a bit of tragedy and fits quite well along the shelf with my Dumas novels.

Of further note::

I found the following line interesting when compared to the famous line I've placed below it here for comparison. (A bit shorter, but still strikingly similar.)

The night was dark and very stormy; gusts of wind and spits of rain caught us as we breasted the incline, and the great trees moaned and sighed.

Hope, Anthony (2012-05-17). The Prisoner of Zenda (p. 89). . Kindle Edition.

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Edward (2012-05-16). Paul Clifford - Complete (p. 9). . Kindle Edition.

J.L. Dobias



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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Free Book:: Free E-book @ Smashwords Use The Code::

For free copies of the Cripple-Mode Ebooks use the following codes at Smashwords.

Cripple-Mode: Electric Touche Book Two Code:: VH48C

Cripple-Mode: Hot Electric Book One Code:: RW100

If you have time; a review or comment would be appreciated.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Review::Hylozoic by Rudy Rukker

HylozoicHylozoic by Rudy Rucker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Hylozoic by Rudy Rukker

I recently added about twelve books to my library. They were all bargain books, but were also authors whose work I've not yet read. Hylozoic is book two to a series, but there are enough breadcrumbs in the book to fill in any blank details necessary to bring a reader up to speed. This is a good thing because of many of the made-up words and colloquialisms. This is a book about a singularity phenomenon that takes the world by storm and makes everyone aware that all living things have awareness and allow them to Teep (telepathically) each other and inanimate objects. And it's a novel that's hard to follow; not because it's book two and not because the science is most the time hand-wavium enough to suggest that this was someone’s thought experiment that tried to manifest on paper. It's more a matter of having characters that are so disconnected despite the fact that the whole concept is supposing that they are connected with everything.

We start the story with newlyweds Jayjay and Thuy trying to put together their new home in what almost sounds like a secluded area where they can literally commune with nature. The biggest conflict seems to be with the nearby stream named Gloob who is not excited about new neighbors moving rocks and other features away from his pleasant flow. There’s a good thirty five pages of setting things up, which for a new reader is good because it helps realize what you're getting into.

For the most part the science sounds like magic and it acts a lot like it also. But there are rules and Jayjay has a potential for getting too into things when dealing with Gaia so he has to avoid it like an addict, which is probably the first noticeable conflict. But this is a slow moving story and even after he slips off the wagon on his honeymoon night leaving Thuy to go to bed alone, it takes even longer before the reader begins to realize that Jayjay's habit has led to the first step in an alien invasion.

As to the magic world, I was almost ready to draw comparisons to Diane Duane’s Wizard series; but this story contains too many elements that sound more like Bill and Ted’s Awesome adventures. Mix that with Charles Stross Singularity and banal mentions of body functions and slowly add in some disturbing underage sex elements it becomes apparent that though it reads like Young Adult it quickly becomes something I wouldn't suggest to my grandchildren.

There’s a story in here somewhere and I made it all the way to the end. It is about alien invasion. Two races; the birdlike Pengo and the stingray like Hrull are enabled access to Earth through the process that brought the singularity. While the Pengo are after our world with the thought of driving us to extinction, the Hrull want people who can Teep to help push them through the universe. And the Earth is left with the most unlikely group of people to save it; although they have already saved the Earth once. But it's difficult to sort out what the real conflict is in the story and at one point this reader almost thought it might be a matter of who the father of the baby was, but I don't want to spoil the story so I'll leave it at that.

If you're looking for something that is strictly fantasy in a world of Telepathic, Teleporting Magic that is explained through technology derived of the singularity (which makes it mostly inscrutable to us mortals) this is the book for you. I want to call it SFF, but it’s really mostly meant for Fantasy readers; though there might be some put off about having too much fascinating but strange science in their fantasy.

J.L. Dobias



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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review::Consider Phlebas (A Culture Novel Book 1)by Iain M. Banks

Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Consider Phlebas (A Culture Novel Book 1)by Iain M. Banks

I have a stack of books, that are getting old, that I finally dipped into: one was Perdido Street Station by China Mieville and another was Consider Phlebas, which I had forgotten I had. So after finishing Mieville I started on Banks. This was an interesting read that almost put me off at the very onset with a whole bunch of grossness (was it really necessary?). Unfortunately as far as gross scenes, it doesn't get better. Somewhere along the way someone must have recommended that the first thing you want to do is gross (shock) the reader.

I liked the idea of the changer and that he worked for the warrior like beings Idirans (three legged three meter tall alien). Banks had me there and he could have just forgotten all the grossness; but, no, that wasn't going to happen. I don't mind being taken out of my comfort zone, but I expect it to be accompanied by good writing and a solid plot. Unfortunately the plot wandered all over the place and left me wondering why some of the grosser parts had to be in there at all.

Horza the changer is saved from an ignominious death and is to be sent to an old post on Schar's world; a Planet of the Dead; protected by the Dra' Azon Quiet Barrier; a place that Horza once worked, to find the Culture mind that hid itself there. Horza is the Idiran's one hope in retrieving the most advanced technology the Culture has produced; and that's the only reason he is still alive.

But before going there we need to divert him and what better way than to have the Culture attack the ship that saved him, thus leaving Horza floating in space. A man size being in a suit floating in space, trying not to be picked up by the Culture yet is somehow found by a bunch of pirates who have faulty equipment and the combined IQ of a group of thugs. They only stop to salvage the suit; saving Horza is mostly a mistake.

Lucky for Horza he wakes up in time to be forced into a duel to the death, to take another crew members place. From there Horza begins to plot how he will impersonate the captain, Kraiklyn, and divert this pirate ship to Schar's world. This is done through the long route. The Captain of the Clear Air Turbulence is a man with many plans, but soon we discover that his intelligence and resources are limited and his plans go amiss and awry while delaying Horza's journey. The captain's greatest skill seems to be in losing his crew to his plans; all of which are what he considers easy-in and easy-out. As to how these serve the story, it might be mostly so that the crew will get whittled down by the time Horza takes over.

The second disastrous plan takes them to the vast Orbital ring at Vavatch where Horza gets separated from Kraiklyn and what little will be left of the crew, in order to entertain us with more grotesque that seem to serve only the purpose of getting Horza a shuttle to use to find Kraiklyn and crew (though for quite some time it's uncertain who might have survived the disastrous mission).

Once he links up with the CAT and crew, Horza is ready to transform and take Kraiklyn's place, but we have to endure the game of Damage (that is taking place here in the Orbital because of the impending doom of the Orbital). Damage is a high risk game with some really strange rules and high payoff that only serve those who make it out of the disaster zone in time. It has nothing to do with the plot other than something Horza seems doomed to endure to eventually kill off Kraiklyn, so he can take over the ship.

It's about halfway through the book; the crew is down to the bare bones and further since it seems low enough that Kraiklyn was convinced he needed one more body. That body turns out to be Perosteck Balveda, a Culture agent that Horza has had the bad luck to run into earlier and who he now has to neutralize before getting started. Horza decides to keep her alive which, within the story and characters, makes perfect sense; but for a majority of the second half this also seems to neutralize her as a major character even though she seems integral to the story. After a protracted yet exciting escape scene the real adventure begins at around three fifths of the way through the novel.

This novel has a lot of action and a gross amount of blood, gore and violence and has a steady pace of all of those with little rest in-between. Once again if it all moved the story forward and had some purpose it would be easier to swallow. But the side trips seemed mostly meant as a means of introducing these elements for shock effect until we get to the Damage game, which is more shock effect if not a bit of cultural shock in trying to understand how the people on the Orbital Ring seemed to justify their life, which at best is a half life. But if we were to characterize the first half as moving forward then it might be the mood setter for the second half to help the reader see that when things start to look bleak for our characters it's because they are bleak and will continue to be so.

Don't expect a sunny ending.

The major plot concludes, not too satisfactorily for this reader and though there is a bit of a twist to the end of the Horza plot there is more to read in an Appendices that would like to go on to explain the Culture and the Idirans and their war. This is followed by a Dramatis Personae.

The important part is an Epilogue at the very end where there is a bit of a twist that can only be fully appreciated and understood from reading the Dramatis Personae.

It would be ridiculous to try to second guess the author or for that matter the editors and publishers for the reason for this type of ending; but if the reader slogs through the whole mess to the end as did this reader then you should do yourself the favor of slogging through these three parts to acquire the full effect of the story.

I recommend this to anyone who likes a lot of blood, gore and violence in a consistent relentless pace along with a rather thin plot and some interesting Science Fiction elements along the way. Maybe we could call this a Dark Horror and Dystopic SFF.

J.L. Dobias




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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review::Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon Book 1) by China Mieville

Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1)Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon Book 1) by China Mieville

Some like to characterize this novel as steam-punk. I would be hard pressed to prove that as a valid genre though it's not for want of China Meiville filling it with spattering of elements that might easily take people there. There are some gaslight elements and perhaps that same type of despair rooted in much of the landscape of Dicken's novels that were contemporary to the time of Victorian Age. China Mieville has included many elements that make this closer to a Science Fiction Fantasy with heavy emphasis on the fantasy. Magic and industry that might mirror near to steam and gear and modified humans mixed with several alien races of Birdmen, Bug-men, Cacti-men, and fish-men like something out of Flash Gordon. But they've all landed in the city of despair named New Crobuzon. This is a sprawling and ambitious novel that might often offer more than many readers can chew and often leaves distaste and dissatisfaction.

The novel begins with a first person account from someone heading into the great city. It is this description we want to look at.::

The river twists and turns to face the city. It looms suddenly, massive, stamped upon the landscape. Its light wells up around the surrounds, the rock hills, like bruise-blood. Its dirty towers glow. I am debased. I am compelled to worship this extraordinary presence that has silted into existence at the conjunction of two rivers. It is a vast pollutant, a stench, a klaxon sounding. Fat chimneys retch dirt into the sky even now in the deep night.


The reader should take note of this, because this sets the mood for the remainder of the novel. It's as though when it drops into third person narrative that it is still Yagharek telling the story from his lofty yet fallen position of someone force marched to a place of death when his spirit is in the sky. Yagharek is of the garuda, an intelligent species of manlike bird, and has, through what he'd have the reader believe is a perversion of justice, had his wings savagely cut from him. He searches out Isaac as someone he believes might be able to restore to him the power of flight.

Isaac is a failed academic who now is a researcher who specializes in both the scientific and magic though he eschews those who modify humans, because most modifieds are from the cities perverted justice system: performing modifications that fit the crime of the convicted criminals.

Isaac's one bright spot in life is Lin.

Lin is an artist; and an insectoid of the khepri. Khepri are similar to humans; except China uses Lin to describe this for the reader to give it a bit from the other direction.

Humans have khepri bodies, legs, hands; and the heads of shaved gibbons, she had once told him.


The novel is a grim dark fantasy that frames a second story that is a horror of unstoppable monster moths with a destructive purpose that might compare to the creatures in the movie Aliens. Isaac and Lin could be considered the main protagonists, but there are many more and the way that the narrator describes the city it makes New Crobuzon as much a character as it is a setting and that might be what gets in the way when the horror starts.

To compound the image of the city as a character we have Isaac early on compare himself to the city when talking to Yagharek.

"I think of myself as the main station for all the schools of thought. Like Perdido Street Station. You know of it?" Yagharek nodded. "Unavoidable, ain't it: ****ing massive great thing." Isaac patted his belly, maintaining the analogy.


Isaac goes on to tell Yagharek that he thinks that's what he needs; which Yagharek earlier echoed as his reason for coming to the city. Later Yagharek speaks of the city as his unwanted companion when he tries to hide from it on the roof of Isaac's building.

So it chastises me when I lie there, suddenly threatening to pull me from my perch into the wide stinking river, clutching my feathers, fat petulant air warning me not to leave it; but I grip the roof with my claws and let the healing vibrations pass from Grimnebulin's mind through the crumbling slate into my poor flesh.


It's Isaac's obsession with the science, the knowledge behind trying to help Yagharek that leads to the ultimate error that helps cause the later horror; just as it is Lin's obsession with her art that puts her in danger with the gangster Mr. Motley. And ultimately both become the recipe for tragedy.

Because the city takes on a life of its own, it dominates every chapter and protracts the action by lengthening the narrative throughout. Even during the tensest moments with the Moths sucking the life out of the city there are long moments of continual description often adding more of the same gritty touches that pervade the entire novel, as though the narrator fears we might forget where we are while under the thrill of the hunt.

There are three agencies working against each other throughout the framed story of the terror: Isaac's group; the government forces; and the underworld. This doesn't include such fascinating characters as the Weaver and the Artificial Intelligent Construct Council. The Weaver would almost be a deus ex machina if it weren’t for the fact that it seemed quite erratic about its purpose and allegiance; and it seemed more interested in observing Isaac and his Chaos engine at work, than in helping. Weaver also for some inexplicable reason collected ears from most of Isaac's team.

Now to get to some rough parts.

The city as a character begins early on to get in the way, because it often is redundant in showing the filth of the city and it always interferes with the action because the readers have to take the long way around to get somewhere. What I mean is the shortest distance between two points in New Crobuzon is always somewhere new that desires a long gruesome description before they can walk through.

There are no redeemable characters in this story and ironically the one that seemed to garner this reader’s sympathy was the one that disappears for a majority of the horror part of the story. Lin was an outsider by choice since she left the khepri community in the city when she felt she couldn't live the way they do and it interfered with her creativity. So her weaknesses and vices and vulnerabilities seemed to make her more human than most of the human characters in the story. Her weakness leads to her involvement with Mr. Motley and subsequently her removal from a good portion of the story.

Where often as a reader I look for changes in the character, either to the better or the worse, to take place during the book on some internal level; these people seemed only to be changed by external influences and are pushed along by events and seem to act more the victims of fate. Their moral compasses are all over the place with true north being only what pertains to their selves; while freely condemning others whose sins seem no greater than their own.

Perdido Street Station joins those books I love to hate and I'd recommend it with some few caveats to people who enjoy dystopic tales of grim dark and those who enjoy horror: keeping in mind that sometimes the tension gets stretched thin by the journey there.

J.L. Dobias




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Monday, November 2, 2015

Review::Time's Edge (The Chronos Files book2)by Rysa Walker

Time's Edge (The Chronos Files, #2)Time's Edge by Rysa Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Time's Edge (The Chronos Files book2)by Rysa Walker

This is book two to a really engrossing story of time travel. With a protagonist who is two timing her boyfriends because of a paradox in time lines. In truth she is trying to be faithful to Trey (from her timeline), but to do that she has to put off a lover from another timeline, Kiernan. Kate remembers Trey, but Trey has to be reacquainted with her; and while Kiernan remembers Kate, all too well, she recalls him but not in the way he wishes.

The first book began these paradoxes and it also was the beginning of the end, of the futures time travel program. Now there are agents from the future scattered across time who can't return home and Kate must rush to find each of them and try to retrieve their time keys before Saul and his followers, in the Cyrists, get their hands on them.

Once again we're taken on a clever journey through time. Rysa Walker has done a lot of research to get her history right, where it needs to be, so she can bend it to her will when the time comes. Remember we're already dealing with a paradox and there are more to come. Kate is on a fast track course to become a key figure in time travel; but choices she makes about the people she saves along the way may start to alter things too much.

When trying to preserve history in a time travel novel there is a lot of juggling around to make sure the right people might be in the right place at the right time to make it all work and that is where Rysa's strength is.

This is a clever romance mixed with time travel and an alternate history that have all mixed together to form a fine tuned piece of thought provoking entertainment.

Good for fans of SFF and Historical Fiction and Alternate Universes. There is never a dull moment with Kate and her family.

J.L. Dobias.



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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Review::Time's Child by Rebecca Ore

Time's ChildTime's Child by Rebecca Ore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Time's Child by Rebecca Ore

Time's Child is from yet another stack of books I picked up a while ago. Rebecca Ore is an author whose books I've read before. She has a refreshing new voice in the stream of voices that run through my library. So This small time travel novel caught my interest. This is a time travel story that has the travelers all moving forward in time. Though the machine allows the future to observe the past they are limited to only drawing specific people from the past and it is usually someone who has no recorded history in the past.

The primary protagonist is Bernedette whose life intersects with Leonardo Da Vinci.

Bernedette is brought from the past at the moment she is meant to die and the future people save her life and then interview her for information about the past. But the future people first play a game of being gods and their institutes being heaven, hell, or purgatory; all somewhat dependent on the individual they are dealing with. Bernedette sees through this quickly and just as quickly begins to have a number of questions about the sincerity of what these people are doing. She is told that they can't let her out into the world because of all the mutated viruses and the fact that others they have brought forward have died from culture shock even after being fully inoculated.

The story slowly reveals that the time machine might not be these people's creation and in fact they are still struggling with understanding it. It seems that some future has sent it to them, but it's unclear what that future wants them to do with it.

Bernedetta and several others escape or are released finally and they help to expose this project to the public while at the same time they plot to steal the time machine. At some point it appears the people in the future of this society (who might have sent back the plans for the time travel machine) are interested in the people brought from the past gaining control of the device.

This is one of those save the future through the past but not so much changing the past as it is bringing the past forward to repopulate a world that has become a self defeating dystopia. It's quite interesting to see the people of the past coming to terms with the future and future society; and possibly being able to recognize the problem and the threat to civilization that the future people don't know exists.

This is a good book for SFF fans though its not particularly outstanding as a time travel novel it does have some new twists on the time travel tale. Picture a time traveler from the past jumping into Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

J.L. Dobias



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Monday, October 5, 2015

Review::The Last Immortal(Seeds of a Fallen Empire Book1)by Anne Spackman

The Last Immortal (Seeds of a Fallen Empire)The Last Immortal by Anne Spackman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Last Immortal(Seeds of a Fallen Empire Book1)by Anne Spackman

I tried reading this a while back and ended up putting it off to the side. When I picked it up again I had to examine it closely to better understand why I put it aside. This is one more novel to place on my love to hate list and that's not always a bad thing, so read on. Which is what I did this time and I'm glad I did read on. This is a book that deserves a five but for me there were some style choices that drop a star just in that the writing style made it difficult to read. It's a long enough novel at over 400 pages; but to have to stumble along while reading it, makes it cumbersome.

I often read the reviews before purchasing and I can see where some people might put this book down easily while trying to get into it; I know I did. My suggestion is to persevere, because the writing is good and the plot is good and the characters are well developed. There is the caveat that the reader has to work extra hard sometimes to understand all of this. Still there are a larger number of people who loved reading this and it does prove itself to be well worth reading. I'll try to explain.

I loved the concept in this novel and once I understood the style of writing and slowed myself down I was able to see the complexity of the characters. In fact; this is an epic story that might have been better split somehow into two separate stories. Yet again that's a style choice and much of the story becomes framed stories that tell the back-story that feeds the basic series plot. The story from which they are framed is the novel story and that fact adds to the confusion and again the need to slow down and absorb the two plots as they both converge and then diverge to reach the end of book one. The science in the novel could be somewhat flawed; but honestly I'm not sure exactly where; still if it was all solid, why then we'd be using it to get all over the universe wouldn't we. It is solid and well established within the story and I think the author holds it to be consistent within the story and it's so fantastically neat that it adds to the story.

So then what did I find so difficult about this novel. The prologue starts us out well because there is only one character in that portion; but as soon as we jump into chapter one the problem starts and persists for a period. This is told in a somewhat Omniscient point of view that likes to get subjective quite a bit; and that would work if it weren't for the immediate head hopping that comes out of the mix. Sometimes it became difficult for this reader to keep track of which head I was in. But more so it doesn't help that we dig inside the head then come out and get a full description of the character from some omniscient point above them. This is where the style choices work against the reader. It becomes difficult to feel the characters and see their depth when we keep spinning outside their heads to an un-anchored point that gives us a detailed description that this reader often filed away and forgot quickly. Still I can see one reason it was done this way; and that boils down to the fact that the author is trying to give the reader two epic stories in less space than it might take to do that.

The best parts of the novel are when we drop into the frame story that is first person from Alessia's point of view. But it takes a lot of back-story and world building to get the reader up to this point to connect a number of dots to make this makes sense. And even when it drops into the frame story there is another round of world building simply from the point that Alessia is not of the same world as Eiron; although the whole of cosmic history between races strives to bring everyone under the same universal origin. To that end Alessia's back-story is two fold which can again become confusing. Alessia has a past with Eiron's people; but she has a more urgent past with another civilization that could some day intersect with Eiron's people and she has a mission that she's, by all appearances, abandoned.

This is a story about immortals of two varieties. The machine's with downloaded intelligence and the biologicals with extended life; and the oppressive government that comes from having the long lived intelligent machines guiding humanity for so long. Through a horrible accident Alessia is the last of the biological immortals and she is tasked with finishing the task of thwarting the mechanicals; but she sidetracks her mission to a remote colony to look in on some of their normal people who were long ago sent to colonize a planet. While there she lets her emotions cloud her judgment and she creates a monster within a political environment that is already volatile.

On the other hand it's the story of two worlds on the brink of war while approaching a moment of impending doom that could take them both. It's also a love story and that's another piece I had some difficulty with. There are two love interests for Alessia and the first she rebukes for reasons I couldn't clearly define, though as the story works out it becomes apparent that he would be a bad choice. The second love interest felt as though it occurs too quickly and since the union is integral to the continuation of the series plot it almost seems a bit contrived. The whole dynamic created between the two men is made more interesting in the long run; though the realization of consequences of Alessia's actions plays a greater part in rounding out the story.

This is good SFF for those who love the epic fiction and have the patience to carefully sort through the multilayered plot presented through the back-story framing. There are some elements within the story that reminded this reader of the long story behind Battlestar Galactica.

J.L. Dobias



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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review::Marsbound by Joe Haldeman

MarsboundMarsbound by Joe Haldeman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Marsbound by Joe Haldeman

I bought this as a light read and since I've only read a few older books by Joe Haldeman ,Mindscape, and all my sins remembered, I would have to say I didn't come into it with great expectations. The pace of the novel is rather sedate, which is good for a light read; it's not a novel that starts the reader by hitting the ground running and ramping up the pace every few pages. My impression of the character was that she was written from the point of a 17 year old and possibly because of the sex scenes the age was changed to 19. But that feeling might be wherein lies the beginning of problems with this novel. Still overall I enjoyed the novel and I think that if someone is looking for a light read in science fiction that this one should fit the bill.

Carmen Dula is our heroin of this story and as mentioned she's 19 years old. Her family is headed to Mars, because they are one of several families who were lucky with the lottery for this trip. Carmen is resistant to the idea of going but seems to feel she's being dragged along and I would think at age 19 she'd do something more than grouse about it. Instead she acts like a 17 year old who grudgingly has to go along; so she'll try to make the best of it. But then later after she's met Paul the man who will pilot the craft from Earth Space to Mars there will be an intimate scene and perhaps the story then calls for an advanced age to make this one fly past some of our inner censors. But then if this were true Young adult fiction then the young girl who acts 17 would be 17 and the sex scene would be deemed less necessary or maybe toned down. But the choice here was to leave that in and that ends up making Carmen Dula look like an immature young woman and confuses just what audience this might be written for.

For this reader having Carmen show up as immature still causes the sex scene to be jarring and doesn't help efforts to give the character more depth. The relationship seems to be a device to put the character at odds with other characters and set the scene for the portion where the real story starts. And that's where another problem crops up.

The first hundred or so pages are at a rather slow tedious pace and would have worked quite well for me if the character development had been accomplished more efficiently. Some character development is there and there is a whole bunch of world building and setting the stage and giving the reader a feel that this whole trip into space is real. It's almost too real; though we don't really get much of the science behind the space elevator, we get a protracted picture of what it's like to travel on one. There is a lot of time spent on developing the passengers, the Dula family and the other families that are going along. This is all good except that there will be a point when few of these characters play much of a part in the rest of the story; while at the same time we don't get enough understanding of the character of Carmen Dula; unless the whole first part of the book was supposed to demonstrate how immature she is. This imbalance hurt the story for this reader.

The next part of the novel is the interesting part but then the reader has to wade through the issues caused by that early relationship before anyone else begins to believe Carmen witnessed the things she does witness. Still Carmen looks immature because it took a tantrum to put her in danger where she would make a great discovery. The other characters treating her like a spoiled immature girl forces her to continue to break the rules when her own life and the lives of all the children are placed in danger.

This is really a story of first contact and then one that leads to a more sinister contact that might be a danger for all of Earth. And by the third part Carmen finally has matured at least to her age level possibly because she has to face the consequences of her actions though I was never clear about that. It's not the easiest thing to see, but mostly it's not the easiest of things to be certain that Carmen even fully appreciates how much difficulty her actions have caused. And that gets thrown away a bit with the realization that this was all an eventuality with or without Carmen.

Over all Marsbound becomes a complete novel within itself with a somewhat complex moral message and sets the stage for the possibility of more stories. It also becomes another addition to the Mars books that started proliferating when there were rumors of eventual missions to Mars in our future.

Good Simon Pure Science Fiction that plays more on characters working within accepted technologies and delves only on the surface as regards how things are made and work, which makes for a perfect matching with character driven stories; though these characters could have used more development or at least maybe a bit more exposure before the plot thickened and drown them out.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Review::The Diary of Pelly D by L.J. Adlington

The Diary of Pelly DThe Diary of Pelly D by L.J. Adlington

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Diary of Pelly D by L.J. Adlington

I was doing my semi annual purchase of paper books from Amazon, so usually I have a full list of possibilities in my wish list. This time I was a bit scarce to making my numbers and knowing that at least three of the novels I was ordering were going to be epic fiction I thought I'd check a few that looked a bit light and that's how The Diary of Pelly D managed to get on my list. That and the excellent bargain Amazon let me have it for. I was a bit concerned that this was listed for ages 7-10 and that one of the main characters was 14 years of age. But I'm not one of those that subscribe to the notion that books for young adults should be avoided at all cost: by adults. Still this is more middle age and published under a children's label and at some point in my selections I was pushed over my limit and could’ve let it slide off my list. I'm certainly glad I left it there and I have to say that light reading is not what this is. This book is for all ages and is quite thought provoking and would definitely be a double treat for the target age level.

Being written in diary form the author L.J. Adlington takes some advantage in style by having the writer use strange abbreviations such as Shd Cd Wd for Should Would and Could. Fortunately for the reader it's mostly limited to those or I for one would have been a bit troubled. Another strange convention is the naming of characters like Tony V and Pelly D. There's reason for this that shows up later in the narrative. This is a tale that takes place in a fictional future world that has been founded with the notion that the planet would avoid the pitfalls of their home world (presumably our Earth) and the people lead an idyllic life in a virtual paradise.

But the story itself starts with Tony V a fourteen year old enlisted in the work group to rebuild a city after a great war (obviously a war that should never have occurred). Tony's job is to break away the rubble for clean-up and, though there are some who look for treasures in the rubble, treasure hunting is not his function. So when he finds a simple water container that should be tossed out, but weighs more than it should; his job is to either put it in the trash or turn it over to his supervisor. He instead opens it to find a diary, which he perceives as trash and should go in the dumpster; yet he instead takes it to his bunk and begins reading it.

The story that unfolds is two-fold in that at the beginning there is the impression that Pelly D is some over-privileged youth trying to skirt through life and just narrowly make the grade while having a good time. This is probably the one weakness that this narrative has especially for the age group; because nothing happens for a long time and even when it begins to happen it's all so subtle that it might be a difficult read for those raised in a culture of instant gratification with the rolling thunder of action packed story telling. This is a story of a different pace that, in the long run, though ponderous, is also thought provoking and eye opening in enough ways that I'd suggest the reader to give it time to grab their interest; because it is well worth reading.

This is a story about prejudice and racism; but it is mostly a story about how simple things that seem to be harmless, though questionable, can easily be used to turn people against each other. It also highlights the realization that even in the best planned environment there may always be undercurrents of old hazards and baggage that have made the long trip with the new pilgrims into their paradise. It's also a story of the growth of Pelly D from a self absorbed youth into someone who has had their eyes opened to full understanding that her perfect world was not so perfect and will never be the same.

The setting and some other characteristics of the characters make this science fiction though it's less of the technical science fiction and adventure and more the thought provoking type similar to H.G. Wells 1984 and Audous Huxley's Brave New World while touching close to terrors from out ot World War II.

Social Science Fiction for all ages; don't let the listing fool you. I recommend this to all ages; just don't expect it to be a light read.

J.L. Dobias




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Friday, September 25, 2015

Review::The Outskirter's Secret (Steerswoman Series book 2)by Rosemary Kirstein

The Outskirter's Secret (The Steerswoman, #2)The Outskirter's Secret by Rosemary Kirstein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Outskirter's Secret (Steerswoman Series book 2)by Rosemary Kirstein

This is the second of the epic Steerswoman series. Though the novel is large it's not as large as some epic fantasy, but the scope of the world building is quite epic. A dystopic world of magic and technology twined together by forgotten knowledge and a strange new world that seems to have emerged after a disaster that took away the moon. This, the second in the series of Steerswoman takes the reader into the Outskirts where strange and deadly creature dwell; in search of answers to the secret of the gems that might have come from a fallen Guidestar.

Somewhere in the dangerous land lies the answer to a question that has put Rowan and her friend Bel in danger. Now Rowan will travel with Bel to Bel's part of the world in hopes of answers and a chance to add to her knowledge base. As a steerswoman she seeks knowledge and truth and must also impart this to anyone asking of her as long as they agree to answer her questions. Where she's dwelled before, steerswomen are well known and revered for this; but in the outskirts she may have to prove her worth. Every day she has new knowledge and new misgivings about the Outskirters; the people of her friend Bel.

This novel answers a few questions from the first novel and adds yet more so that the reader is compelled to continue the series.

One interesting and well crafted part of this story involves a character that Rosemary Kirstein manages to withhold information about; in such a crafty manner that it doesn't matter that the reader is a slight bit misled, because she uses it to show how different the culture is on this world and how much two cultures of the world differ from one another. The outcome is predictable and yet startling all at the same time while leaving at least one character stunned.

Once again this is a superbly well written novel that is well paced while it weaves a strange and dangerous world around such well crafted complex characters.

Lovers of SFF and paranormal should love this; although the magic most often looks like technology that's been forgotten, there are many creatures of paranormal nature that show up throughout.

I'm looking forward to the third book though a bit leery that there might be two more after that.

J.L. Dobias




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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Review::A Study in Darkness (The Baskerville Affair Book 2)by Emma Jane Holloway

A Study in Darkness (The Baskerville Affair, #2)A Study in Darkness by Emma Jane Holloway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A Study in Darkness (The Baskerville Affair Book 2)by Emma Jane Holloway

Following up from the first book is the long awaited (I was waiting for the paper copy to show up in the mail) sequel. This one is no disappointment. But be prepared this is for lovers of epic tales who have the time for an epic book that makes the reader turn each page with anticipation.

We return to the world of Evelina Cooper, niece to Sherlock Holmes. Her lover from the circus, Nick, has stolen Athena, the air spirit, and has made an airship to give Athena the skies while he becomes a pirate. While her lover from society, Tobias, has forged an alliance with the Gold King, and is soon to marry the Gold Kings daughter to further cement that relationship. Imogen, Tobias's sister and Evelina's best friend, is further troubled by nightmares and soon to be ever more troubled that they might not just be nightmares. Evelina, betrayed on both sides, has removed herself from London, and now is returning to resume her life and hopefully avoid the trouble of marriage in hopes of gaining further education. She returns to find that her uncle is under attack from several of the various ‘kings’ of England.

These are only a few of the threads that weave through this novel and I can assure you that you will need a stack of 3 by 5 cards to keep track of everything and everyone in this story. Evelina will have the usual struggles and challenges that would hamper any independent minded young woman in 1888 England, but she will also be faced with some tough choices involving her friends.

Following the same tradition of Steampunk aka GasLamp and paranormal fiction Emma Jane Holloway has crafted a strange new world of magic and mechanics that thrust the reader forward in unstoppable motion.

I love the writing, the tone and even the moderate bit of romantic intrigue that help drive the characters past fortune and folly through a slightly altered yet familiar landscape.

Definite must for lovers of Paranormal Gaslite Romances and even a few of the Sherlock Holmes aficionados should love this bit of diversion in the Canon.

J.L. Dobias




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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Review::A Motive for Murder (A Misty Sales Paranormal Cozy Mystery, book 1)by Morgana Best

A Motive for Murder (A Misty Sales Paranormal Cozy Mystery, Book 1)A Motive for Murder by Morgana Best

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A Motive for Murder (A Misty Sales Paranormal Cozy Mystery, book 1)by Morgana Best

Just coming out of the epic Baskerville Affair Series by Emma Jane Holloway and Heading into the Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein I was looking for something a bit lighter to help keep my head from exploding with an overload of epic fantasy. This Cozy Mystery turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

Misty Sales is a writer for a paranormal magazine based in Australia. It's not her first choice in jobs in that profession, but her private life intersected too closely with her professional and left her momentarily adrift from her dream job. When her Aunt Beth in England, who is growing old and frail, sends her a somewhat strange letter asking her to come to England to see her and collect some keepsakes, her initial reaction is to set it aside. But curiously such a trip coincides with a piece she is currently working on and she would just have to convince her boss to make this a business trip so she might be able to afford it.

Misty arrives too late and finds her Aunt has passed away; possibly the day before she arrived and Misty is just in time to be knocked down by a gentleman who seems to be fleeing from her Aunt’s house. As things unfold Misty begins to have suspicions about her Aunt’s death; but that suspicion comes after her initial reaction to call for help leads to a doctor who comes to quickly sign this off as natural causes and who promptly sends the funeral directors out to whisk the corpse away and leave Misty with an empty house with two rooms that might be ransacked, an elderly neighbor claiming to be a good friend of her aunt, a cat that likes to claw at her and the mysterious lingering smell of garlic that was hanging in the air around her deceased aunt.

A prior experience of my own clued me to a possible cause of death and I'll leave that for the next reader to figure out.

As it is: it seems that Misty's aunt had intentions of passing her more than just keepsakes and memorabilia; but before that comes to light Misty has to solve a number of mysteries. And as with many mysteries the reader meets all the suspects, with various clues, yet not quite enough information to fill in most of the blanks. And much the same as my old favorite Alfred Hitchcock-Cary Grant movie 'North by Northwest'; by the time the reader reaches the more dramatic parts Misty doesn't know who to trust anymore.

Excellently written cozy mystery; but don't take my word for it, because I'm new to this genre and had to look it up. There were a few sentences that might have drifted into colloquialisms that had me stopping to read them several times over to makes sure I had a grasp of what they might be trying to tell me; but otherwise it's a well written story and was the right diversion I needed to clear my mind. There were a number of jarring current pop references; but that might be something I'm over sensitive about.

J.L. Dobias



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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review::The Steerswoman (Steerswoman series book1)by Rosemary Kirstein

The Steerswoman (The Steerswoman Series)The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Steerswoman (Steerswoman series book1)by Rosemary Kirstein

This novel really surprised me. I don't gravitate to those epic novels that require a map to assist the reader. I have an old set of the Lord of The Rings hard bound 1965 (I was likely still in high school) that came with a foldout map in the back cover. I've looked at that map only once and that was recently and when I read the books long ago I avoided the map like a plague. Since then and possibly partly because I struggled reading TLOTR, I shy away from epic books with maps. I'm glad I made an exception for this one.

Maps are essential to this book in that the main character, a Steerswoman, helps make maps and explores territories to update and expand maps. This is in a world where the moon has somehow met with a catastrophe that might have led to mankind taking a few steps back in development and knowledge. All people living at this time only know the moon like a myth, a tale passed down, none have ever seen it. Now the world is dominated by wizards whose magic help keep some perceived dangers at bay. Those include beings referred to as Gnomes, Dragons, and demons to name a few. There are inner land people and outskirt people. Inland people were merchants and educated people where the outskirters were considered barbarians and there are some beyond the outskirts who are considered less than that. In the skies are the two Guidestars that the Steerswoman use to help navigate although they also use the old system of navigation by stars. They seem aware that the Guidestars were placed there and they believe the wizards are responsible.

Rowan, the Steerswoman, as with every steerswoman collects information and remembers everything so that she can use the information to exchange for information. A steersman or woman is obligated to answer questions asked of them and to be truthful within the scope of their knowledge. In return they are allowed to ask questions of others and they live under a rule to always answer questions; unless someone denies to give them information when they ask them questions. When someone deliberately withholds information they and everyone else affiliated with them are placed on ban and the steerswoman no longer is obligated to answer their questions. This sets both a major key in the world and the major key that stands as an asset and a struggle that Rowan will have to go through in the novel.

When the novel opens we catch Rowan while she's actively pursuing her hobby. She has a gemstone that has been mysteriously polished and flattened and encased in a ring of metal, which she has now found is not a unique piece; though has still defied her efforts to find it's origin. She's investigating a chunk of wood that contains more of the same gems. They all seem to have been worked with fine tools and metal work that defies current technology. While vying for a chance to borrow the piece she encounters an Outskirter who has a belt made from the same gems. This and information obtained conversing with the Outskirter lead her to form an alliance with Bel, the Outskirter, and the two begin to travel together. In their travel Rowan finds Bel to be better educated than she would have believed.

When they are set upon by one of the red wizards men, Rowan becomes suspicious and when later dragons that should have been under another wizards control attack them, she begins to believe that it might involve her hobby. But she's unsure if her friends and mentors at the archive will sanction her further pursuit of that hobby. But when it becomes apparent that she's in danger and there are wizards watching the archive, the free spirit of the organization of steerswomen almost demands that Rowan continue to find answers. And so begins the unlikely journey of the Steerswoman and the Outskirter; soon to be joined by the boy who would be a wizard.

If you’re a reader who likes to get all the answers at the end of the novel, this one might not be for you. But if you are like me and don't look at the novel as having a swift start point and a solid end point; but rather view it as a matter of the journey to get from one to the other; then there is plenty to whet the appetite.

This is the story of a steerswoman trying to be something she isn't in order to survive and discovering that it makes her somewhat less and she can't tolerate that. And Rowan discovers that the differences she perceived in other people are not quite as disparate as thought in some ways and yet are still widely different in ways she would never expect.

The world that Rosemary Kirstein has built is a marvelous tapestry that is only overshadowed by the rich depth of her characters.

In a world that reminds one of Clark's third law:: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Only it's been twisted in that it’s possibly older technology that few if any fully understand; but that has yet to be resolved in some future novel in this series.

Excellent Science Fiction Fantasy in a gritty and sometimes unforgiving world with characters that come to life.

J.L. Dobias




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Friday, September 11, 2015

Review::A Study in Silks(The Baskerville Affair Book1) by Emma Jane Holloway

A Study in Silks (The Baskerville Affair, #1)A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A Study in Silks(The Baskerville Affair Book1) by Emma Jane Holloway

I seem to be growing fond of Steampunk. I still prefer calling them Gas-lamp or Gas-lite. There is steam in this novel, but not much is evident and the most crucial steam item in the story is impractical: the steam driven pocket watch. Think possibly asbestos pockets for personal protection. Still--Emma Jane Holloway has crafted something that is bringing me closer to being a great fan of Gas-lamp.

One thing I'm not all that fond of is the proliferation of caricatures of Sherlock Holmes and his brother Mycroft in many of this genre. In too man cases it’s more like name dropping to bring in the readers with little attention to them remaining in character. I was even a slight bit disappointed on his first appearance in this novel and I had to tell myself to cut some slack, both for the fact that this is an alternate universe and that the scene is short enough and early enough that there might be some reason his demeanor seems a slight out of character. Plus I tend to be picky about how Sherlock should be portrayed.

The story itself is supposed to be about Evelina, his niece, so it's not entirely fair to dwell on first appearances of a lesser character. This novel is chock full of characters and you will eventually need some score cards. We start up with Evelina who is in temporary residence with her friend Imogen Roth and the girl’s family, and her father Lord Bancroft. This exposes Evelina to Tobias Roth who might well be a heartbreaker. But this visit to her friend exposes her to more imminent danger than just the danger of her heart. And on this night all the cards are beginning to be set in place. And not without a bit of her past catching up to her in the form of her childhood love Nick.

Nick and Evelina come from a Circus life, something Evelina has tried to leave behind when Mrs. Holmes brought her home from all of that to fulfill some of what she’d wished for her own daughter who had run away to the circus, so to speak. It might even be said that this places Evelina in the precarious place of navigating the treacherous life of a young woman in 1888 England even though it be an alternate England. And this society becomes a thread in the plot when the Gold King uses her as inducement to get Sherlock to work for him in a supposed exchange for lifting Evelina past her station in life to be presented before the Queen. It's all a subplot within the main plot and you need a second scorecard for all the subplots that linger in the wings of this tale.

England is primarily run by six power players and a rather seedy group whose leader remains obscured. They are: Jasper Keeting, the Gold King; William Reading, the Scarlet King; Coal, the Blue King, Bartholemeow Thane, the gray king; Jane Spicer the Green king and chairwoman; Valerie Cutter, the Violet king; then lastly The Black kingdom (underground) presently represented by (Mr. Fish).

But let's get to the heart of the mysteries. Evelina while engaging in a number of crafts that might get her in trouble, one of which looks like witchcraft and could get her killed, witnesses Bancroft’s men removing what might be illegal automatons from the attic of the Bancroft’s house. In an effort to get away undetected she encounters some unknown people in the house because she's skulking in the near darkness. At least one of those might have had some tinge of magic, but she’s not certain. While diverting herself into her friend’s room to help her (Imogen has insomnia and frightful nightmares) Evelina is there when one of the servants, Grace Child, is murdered downstairs. To compound the issues and before the murder is discovered Evelina returns to her own room to find her childhood friend Nick has broken into the house and into her room. When brought to the scene of the crime Evelina begins her own investigation and purloins some evidence that could possibly get Lord Bancroft into a lot of trouble if it is found and she finds she also has to consider her friend Nick as a suspect in the murder. The strong evidence against her friend’s family is such that she decides to do her own investigation to determine some things before her Uncle Sherlock gets involved in the case.

This leads the reader into a whole bunch of world building and some explanation of details that not only begin to unravel many mysteries, but begin to weave even more mysteries while the main mystery of who killed Grace Child remains as the primary mystery throughout and frames the largest concern for suspicion of many of the main figures in the story.

Yet it seems that even this mystery begins to take a backseat near the end when someone tries to kill Evelina's Uncle Sherlock. The attempt on his life is integral to the story in so many ways that it almost overshadows Grace Child's murder. The clues are there though and the reader can easily deduce this mystery so it is more a matter of waiting for our young investigator to uncover the truth.

Though the world building is a large focus, the character development is quite well done and seems mostly to dominate; which serves to enhance the writing style that is already quite engaging. It is not difficult to sink deep into this world and the story to a level of maximum engrossment.

There seem to be threads that are left hanging; but the core of the story, the mysteries that define the primary plot are well taken care of with enough left to serve as inducement to continue to read the series. This is traditional published and that means that the ebooks are priced quite steep and as long as the price is right I'll likely be waiting for the hard copy to show up in the mail.

This makes for fantastic Alternate History, Gas-lite Mystery with some dominating Paranormal Magic. Just the right combination to be called Steampunk and should satisfy the hunger of most readers of those Genre.

J.L. Dobias



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