Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review::Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart

Rebel Wing (Rebel Wing #1)Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart

I really enjoyed this novel as a tale of growth within the main character. This growth was both external and internal and the full understanding of the character's growth evolves so slowly across the story that it still takes a huge jolt at one point close to the end for them to realize how much they've changed. The story had consistent science and world building throughout and main premise in the story seemed to hinge on one specific element.

Aris loves to fly her wingjet and she expects soon to be promised to her young man Calix. She knows flying is impractical unless she preforms crop dusting or traveling for a living but Calix will be going into the health sector and he understands her need to fly. In their perfect world it could be that way, but they are about to find out their perfect world will be shattered. The day before that revelation Aris receives a visitor who offers her something that sounds exciting and yet impossible while foretelling the coming events that will require enough manpower that many, including Calix, will be inducted into the military.

The Dominion of Atalanta[Aris and Calix's home] is at war with Safaran dominion and they are losing despite their own propaganda to the contrary. There is an intricate political landscape that involves disputes over control of resources and even a few personal conflicts. The majority of the Dominions seem to be caught in the middle but the leader of Atalanta believes that Safaran is after more than just resources and he knows that the first in danger after Atalanta would be Ruslana whose leader is someone he knows well enough that he has to step carefully in order to enlist her help. As it is she can only offer a minimum of support, but that is integral to the rest of the story.

In this world and particularly in Atalanta the women are not allowed to fight in the military, in fact doing so would be a punishable crime. If I as a reader had one niggling with this novel it would be that the reason for this was never made clear. I appreciate that there might be some attempt to parallel our attitudes and emphasize those feelings by making it a crime. And that would explain that some women might dress as men to sneak into the ranks and the notion of the veil that is used to disguise them is quite ingenious. The women who serve may even die but will never be acknowledge. Although there might be parallels in our western culture there seem to be less of those in the east to the tune that woman were acknowledged to have been warriors; so that not all history has been altered to cast those women as men. So it might have been helpful, all around, to demonstrate some solid reasoning for it being a crime or maybe an explanation that, the logic behind it all; defies logic[which might just sound like reality].

The whole notion does add some interesting flavor to the story so as long as every reader might accept the rule as fact without any substantial background it stands very much to enrich the story as Aris has to make her decision, which in this case she makes for all the wrong reasons. But more than that is that Aris undergoes training that she would otherwise never have because of a childhood ailment that left her physically stunted and as it seems to turn out her life in her village managed to continue to keep her stunted. Her training eventually removes some physical affectations she has and makes her a stronger person while we are introduced to the actual character behind all the physical as we watch that character grow.

Aris is deployed as Aristos and has to carefully hide her secret lest she be caught and arrested. She believes she is in this only when and until she is reunited with Calix; while she's being used by others for her outstanding skill at flying. Her journey from being a selfish sheltered young woman to coming face to face with the horror of war and the realization of the part she could play in all of this make this story a very well told and defined tale of coming of age.

This story should appeal to lovers of SFF and Romance and Adventure and certainly all the mid to upper half of the young adult crowd. The complex political atmosphere and relationships between the players keep the reader on their toes and the pay off is well worth the read.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Review::The Empress Graves by E.J. Tett

The Empress GravesThe Empress Graves by E.J. Tett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Empress Graves(The Power of Malinas Book 2) by E.J. Tett

When I read the first novel of this series, The Kingdom of Malinas, I didn't have that many of the strict fantasy genre, from which this comes, under my belt. Since then I've been trying to get in a few and now I've returned to the world of Sorrel, Little Cloud, Millicent and others with a bit more understanding. This book is every bit as much as good and readable as the first.

I now have somewhat the ability to compare and I would easily compare this series with that of The Healers of Meligna-series by K.J. Colt. Though there is a certain polished quality behind the Healers that isn't quite here in the The Emperess Graves and Kingdom of Malinas I still found similar depth of world building and great writing style. Though E.J. Tett's characters are well defined and developed they lack a certain dimensionality that I see in other author's work. By this I mean that there where times, such as when someone close to Sorrel is ruthlessly murdered before her eyes, that though she has a somewhat appropriate response in seeking revenge, there is never much time spent with any inner struggle she might have with the loss of someone so close. It's as though she compartmentalizes it while she seeks revenge, but the reader never gets a full sense that that is really what she's doing. It's as though the rush to the plot has no regard for some precious character details and its hard to feel the true impact of the loss of this character.

Admit-ably I had to return to the first book to recall much of what happened previously since it has been a while since I last read that. This is important because the main antagonist--the Empress--is a figure from out of the first novel and it took me a while to realize this. And though this novel might easily stand alone, it is enhanced with some knowledge from the previous novel. It is at the end of the first novel that Millicent makes it clear that there is a power hidden in the Kingdom of Malinas and that that power draws evil.

This novel concerns a quest for that power. On the surface throughout the novel we see Sorrel struggling, but it is hard to tell if she is struggling with her own quest for revenge or if she might be influenced by this power. As we get closer to the end, the power itself is a major turning point and it remained unclear to me whether that power would have a negative influence on Sorrel and though we see her struggle greatly near the end it's not all that clear if its only a struggle with her quest for vengeance or it might be something more tied to this power drawing evil.

The Empress Graves is well paced and keeps the readers attention throughout and for me it was easy to finish in one sitting. As it gets closer to the end the tension mounts and as is with novels of this nature death takes no favorites.

This is good SFF for the young and old and should stand well with those who love the epic fantasies. I would recommend to anyone who hasn't read the first book to read that before reading this one though it's not absolutely mandatory.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review::The Beasts of Upton Puddle by Simon West-Bulford

The Beasts of Upton PuddleThe Beasts of Upton Puddle by Simon West-Bulford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Beasts of Upton Puddle by Simon West-Bulford

This was a surprising book. I'd picked it up with several others and left it unattended for quite a bit. I was recently going to be reformatting hard drives on two computers and needed something to pass the time while I sat and observed the electronic equivalent of paint drying. I remembered I had this book and thought it would be just the right kind of light reading I needed for this task. I'm glad I finally decided to read this one.

This is the well told tale of a young man who is going through life with the usual adolescent problems for any bright young man with few if any true friends. The story opens with Joe stopping during his weekend delivery of newspapers to take a nap at the edge of the forest[Something he might be less inclined to do if he were reading the news he was delivering]. I know; pretty sedate, but there's a prologue that punched it up for a starter. Joe nods off and dreams a peculiar dream only to be awakened to catch a glimps of what is possibly the Beast of Upton Puddle. This leads to the dicovery of an injured badger, which Joe takes to the vet, as usual; but this time Joe is told the vet is too busy to help him. The vet gives Joe a list of alternate possibilities, which leads to Ms. Merrynether's Elizabethan Mansion where Joe discovers several mythical creatures.[But not before first becoming a delivery boy for Ronny Merrynether; bringing back strange groceries.]

It doesn't take long to discover that Joe has some peculiar talents, some of which may account for his inability to make friends. When Joe meets a tiny saraph, a giant flying eyeball, a narcoleptic kappa, a hiccup-y wyvern and poisonous manticore at the mansion, it's not hard to see why he becomes suspicious of where the beast in the forest may have come from. He also finds Heinrich, a man with a severely burnt face, at the mansion; along with a cluricaun with a drinking problem. Lilly, the cluricaun, is the comic relief; though his mischief borders on dangerous.

The entire group add up to a strange army of misfits. And it doesn't take long for the evil to show up in the form of Mr. Redwar, someone who wants to buy out Ms. Merrynether for undisclosed reasons. But far worse than one wicked man is what might happen if the world where all these wonderful creatures have come from is exposed to the human race and that opens the possibility of war.

Joe doesn't know it yet but he's about to become a pawn in the much larger game that has intimate ties with the prologue.

This novel was just what the doctor ordered for the day and it seems the whole process began to be paced around finishing The Beasts of Upton Puddle.

A well paced action packed, sometimes hilarious, read full of a great variety of characters. this book is a great addition to the reading stack of any YA lover of SFF.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Review:: Lightwing by Tara K. Harper

LightwingLightwing by Tara K. Harper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lightwing by Tara K. Harper

This is my second read of this old classic. Old now because it's over twenty years and it still reads well. This reminded me of many of my favorite classics from back in the sixties and seventies and many of those are Robert Heinlein books. This one though had the flavor of a Marion Zimmer Bradley and in particular the Color's of Space. The protagonist is female and a somewhat modified human variant.

Kiondili Wae has some considerable Esper talent that will do her well down the road, but she doesn't yet realize how strong her talent is. She's the underdog fighting her way up alone, because her parents were mistakenly blacklisted and then murdered; although the guild called it a regrettable accident. It left her with minor citizenship with fewer privileges than her peers and having to work hard to earn her education. She has little hope of moving rapidly up the ladder to fair employment, but she's not discouraged because she has confidence in her abilities. She just seems to need better focus.

Kiondili has an Esper ability that has been measured lower than actual and she's treading thin ice because if they find out they might become suspicious that she has excelled in her lessons by stripping the answers from other peoples heads. But that becomes a double edge sword when some job recruiters find this out and offer her a job and wave the normal testing fee she would have to pay. The tester is a Ruvian and they are high in Esper abilities and this is one of many aliens the reader will be introduced to.

If I had one quibble with this book it might be that there are almost too many interesting aliens peopling the story. Still Tara Harper does a great job of keeping them sorted for this reader and she gets high marks for that. The science sometimes almost seems a bit inexplicable, but what is of greater interest is that it is consistent science within the story and it seems well thought out though this reader got a bit lost in it sometimes.

When Kiondili reaches her posting at Corson she discovers it won't be an easy fit right from the start with a handful of alien species, some predatory; and the few species she should be comfortable with end up being the worst to deal with. She'll be Dr. Stillman's assistant and the doctor seems quite nice, but manages to put her right in the middle of an ongoing practical joke battle between the doctor and an alien race, the Dhirrnu, who love to engage in practical jokes. But that's just a mild part of her start at the facility since she's already made the acquaintance of an Ixia who would just as easily make her its lunch, as to take her to lunch.

When her higher Esper abilities are discovered Kiondili finds herself accused of stealing ideas from the mind of a human researcher and she undergoes a close examination from a Ruvian who digs deep into her mind to uncover the truth. Though she comes out exonerated she does not come out unscathed and I thought that Tara Harper did a splendid job of describing what could only be understood to be a mind rape and it's affects on Kiondili.

The science of the story though is about this consortium of aliens and humans who are trying to uncover the secrets to faster than light travel and how Kiondili contributes despite all the stumbling blocks thrown before her.

Even after twenty years this is a solidly good read with fine characterization and a story that grips the reader from front to back. It's a must read for lovers of SF and SFF.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review:: When Night Falls(Regeneration Series)by Airicka Phoenix

When Night FallsWhen Night Falls by Airicka Phoenix

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Night Falls(Regeneration Series)by Airicka Phoenix

I like a good science fiction and I can take or leave a horror and even tolerate a romance now and then. So this book seems to be a sort of teasy treat that tries to combine all three and include a bit of suspense. I can give it high marks for entertaining but not the highest. I can't give it 3.5 so I have gone with 4 and will be brutally honest about why its not a 5.

This starts out strong with a spaceship full of the last survivors of a self destructed earth. It reminded me of Poul Anderson's After Doomsday, but within a few pages that comparison fell apart which was a bit of a shame. We move quickly into the romance and angsty romance at that.

It might be the romance that spoiled this, but only because it seemed like a trope here and rather than enhancing the development of the character I felt it hindered. We start out with two couples Scarlett and Hunter; and RolfGray and Kiera. But as it develops we discover that Scarlett and Hunter are not really a couple; though I felt it confusing at first, yet some how clear that Hunter might prefer men over women. The confusion might be deliberate because at first Hunter comes off as the somewhat laid back but still capable of being jealous boyfriend. Later it becomes clearer that he might just dislike Rolf, though his protest seem more in line with not liking Scarlett getting into the middle of what he perceives as a couple; in RolfGray and Kiera. [This might be Rolf Gray but in my edition it always shows as RolfGray]

As the story develops we discover there is a slowly percolating relationship between Scarlett and Rolf. It started from their first meeting as they boarded the ship long ago and grew stronger because of an incident that occurred after they discovered Earth was dead. I will leave it to others to read the novel to discover this. What concerns me is that in part this relationship and the people involved are what drag things down a bit for me. I like a story that has good characterization and this story had potential for that, but I kept feeling it was falling short and in some cases confusing me. By this I mean that though I can understand the fault of the characters having crossed up relationships; I would have like to have seen some evidence of growth or understanding and or growth of understanding. That said; they are young people still so we need to cut a bit of slack and realize that the angst could look just as real as it looks like a trope.

I don't mind tropes as long as they don't drive the story and for a while these do.

This novel lacks any real strong characters. And though we do get introduced to the horror[some zombie-fy-ing virus], we don't get introduced to the real evil until very close to the end; so the novel has to rely on the protagonists and they all come off pretty weak to me. They do have their moments and though Rolf does shine as a leader he often drops the ball. Scarlett could have been an awesome kick evil protagonist if she didn't seem to get so weak at the knee's around Rolf. But the weakest thing was the complicated relationship between Rolf and Kiera, which seemed to exist only for the sole purpose to allow time for Hunter to spout recriminations at Scarlett and for Scarlett to angst over while beating herself up.

The tropes themselves were not as much the problem as the fact that they were necessary to drive some of the plot and develop the characters. And for me as character development they all fell short. I think they could be mentioned, but then would have been better shoved off in the background. Again; for me the angsty love scenes hurt more than helped. The whole whinny Hunter friendship jealousy thing was too far off for me and didn't help though I could see that it adds to the tension. In the same token the clingy needy and sometime sulky nature of Kiera in her relationship, though adding tension, did less to help. When certain points resolve around these characters the nature of Hunter's and Kiera's relationships to Scarlett and Rolf almost make less sense to me, but that could just be me and I think the reader would have to make their own judgement on this. So you should read it and see.

The plot, and there is a plot that drives the story, is another redeeming feature. I was pleasantly pleased with the twists and even comfortable with the ending of this as the first part of a series. The entire novel is written well with only a handful of grammatical problems that shouldn't hamper the average reader's enjoyment. I think with the strong start and the twisty plot this could easily have been a five for me had there been less emphasis on tropes and more on strengthening the characters. As it is I would give it a 3.5 star but in lieu of that it's a 4 that could be a 5.

For readers who like zombie stories that have a plot that doesn't devolve into a gore fest and who like a bit of light Sci Fi in the mix with a dash of romance this should make an easy enjoyable read. If you can get past the tropes or maybe even discover that I'm overreacting to my own perceptions of trope you should read this and let me know.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Review::Endeavour (A Sleeping Gods Novel)by Ralph Kern

EndeavourEndeavour by Ralph Kern

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Endeavour by Ralph Kerns

I have visited this novel once before and read it now three time. This year I've had the pleasure of reading three outstanding novels by debut novelists in the Science Fiction category. Each of them qualifies in my mind as solid pure science science fiction. But I think that the reader should make their own choice so you should read them. The other two are; Day One by John Forsberg and Emergence by Nick M. Lloyd. This; the third novel in the group[and at least the third time this one has been released after edits] was just as outstanding, but initially had some problems with editing. I'm happy to say 'most' of those were taken care of.

This novel itself is almost indicative of the space program today and then what it might be like in the future. At first glance it is almost akin to a Star Trek spin-off; but it takes the story of the Dyson Sphere further. It moves to the more current trend in science fiction to Matrioshka Arrays based on the Dyson Sphere. But first it has to get us into space so we invent a sort of cross between a star-gate and the transporter technologies. A three Dee printer using the stuff of the cosmos to print copies of the travelers to their destination.

The primary plot premise in this story derives from the question; where is everybody? I'm not talking about a Twilight Zone last man on earth episode I'm talking of the Fermi Paradox. Since our sun and world are relatively young then there might be older systems with older worlds with older civilizations with more advanced technology and the universe should be full of explorers and colonies- so where is everybody?

This book is about the search for the answer. Endeavour should appeal to all Pure science Science Fiction Fans because Ralph Kern does a great job of trying to keep his science well grounded with the physics we know today. There are a lot of recognizable locations that are used in the search and some interesting speculations on what we might find out there.

Ralph Kern does a spectacular job of entertaining.

And despite the new edits I do have some of the usual Caveats. Most of the previous problems were conquered, but for me there were still some problems with around a dozen sentences that had poor punctuation that often left me confuse.

Lydia rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, as Harry filled them in quickly and succinctly.

Kern, Ralph (2014-10-17). Endeavour: A Sleeping Gods Novel (Kindle Location 1061). Tickety Boo Press. Kindle Edition.

I offer the one above as the mildest example where I was not really sure what Harry was filling Lydia's eyes with. And this may just be me; but I felt it would have made more sense if it had read ' ,as Harry filled everyone in quickly and succinctly '.

Also; and this is a pet peeve of mine when it come to the pure science ones; there is a word here that is spelled Tokomak. If this is the Magnetic Plasma Torus then it should be TOKAMAK or Tokamak since it's name is an acronym and there is an English variety from a different acronym that is Tochamac. But all of this is minor stuff and many readers will not notice them or at least you should read and make your own judgement about the punctuation at best.

The story spans long distances and a long time, but we experience it through the eyes of those chosen to explore and their unique situation allows them to stretch the time of their lives. The search is like searching for a needle in a haystack only it's in the middle of a field of haystacks and it's pitch black out. So what happens when we light a match to see? You will have to read this fine piece to get that answer.

Great stuff for the SFF fans and for anyone who enjoys entertaining and thought provoking speculative fiction. If you're a fan of Star Trek or Babylon 5 or just someone who enjoys watching the space program and are looking for something fresh to read; you should read this.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review::Change of Seasons(Relics and Remnants)by Shiva Winters

Change of SeasonsChange of Seasons by Shiva Winters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Change of Seasons(The Relics and Remnants)by Shiva Winters

Shiva Winters is master of the long sentence, which is what I love so much about her prose. She is an artist pushing the limits of the craft and sometimes it becomes recognizable by the flaws that creep into the whole mix. Despite those few flaws I can not help reading everything she writes. This novel is a bit less than the two action series that she's done in that it has a more sedate feel to it. It's much the same as her Wandering Steps Across a Starry Sky. They both deal with some somewhat nomadic characters. WSAASS had Gypsies in space and Change of Seasons has its Gypsies in the rough wilderness world of the Relics and Remnants.

This novel has a lot of world building; but it is all carefully ensconced in a bit of an Adventure Romance[putting emphasis on Romance]. There is a bit of steam punk without the Steam and the Victorian feel. There are airships and there are mechanical devices that have been left from an ancient race that lived on this world prior to man's arrival. So its more of a clockwork-punk type of novel without the added feature of vampires and werewolves and fictional characters remade. Well there are some mechanical wolves of a sort and even some mechanical birds with AI's.

The focus of the plot for this story is less the dark drama of the the Salak'patan Series and the Forgotten Children Series[That's not to say it won't get there in the coming future.]; but right now in this first novel the focus is on introducing the Winters family and taking them through the gruesome trail of Romance along with a bit of light adventure. The youngest girls; Talia and Katia; steal the show for me. But the romances are around them, though they have their own special relationship. This is the story of Daniel and Serina and their family and the romance is all on their daughter Sana and a family friend Stephen. But it's also the story of the Ronin and the Winters family and the precarious life they have as being considered the cast-off bits of the empire.

As far as the adventure and intrigue; this time it's more akin to what we read in Dumas and the Three Musketters. There is a lot of court intrigue and even the society of the gypsy like Ronin has a complex structure. Stephen(an outsider) must wend his way into the Ronin so he might court the one he loves while Sana has traveled off to the empire on vacation only to discover that she is courted by a high noble while she knows that her family name will doom any such relationship.

The scope of the book is quite wide as Talia and Katia uncover and restore a multitude of Remnants of the others who used to live on their world. What they are doing will be dangerous and costly but will benefit both the Winters family and the Ronin of whom their mother is one. In this back drop we have such creatures as the mechanical wolves and the birds and floating wagons and replicator machines.

Once again there is no end to Shiva's imagination and the execution is a treat to explore though it has it's rough edges that border on some few errors and style choices that some will love and some will hate. Shiva writes these for her own enjoyment and publishes them with the hope that others will enjoy.

I hope that fans of SFF and Romance and Adventure novels will find as much to enjoy and love about these books as I do and I hope Shiva has a lot of time yet to write many more.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review::Emergence by Nick M. Lloyd

EmergenceEmergence by Nick M. Lloyd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every once in a while there is a book that just grabs my attention and keeps it. I hadn't quite expected that from Nick Lloyd's Emergence. It seems to be written in the style of a procedural suspense thriller. This tends to create the air of Hard Science Fiction and thankfully not the difficult kind of hard. Well, maybe some difficult if you try to include the many worlds interpretation. I almost thought it would slip away from me when I was forced to focus heavily on the alien race. The world of Jack and Louise was becoming so entertaining that I didn't really want to take a break to examine the Gadium in the ship above Earth and certainly not the ones far off in space at other worlds.

There are a number of ways to handle alien races in a Science Fiction novel. One of those ways is to try to make everyday life and dialogue sound like us. Sometimes that choice can make the story a bit less than palatable. In Emergence it helped a lot, because there's a lot to get to know about these aliens before the climax of the story. What brings them here; and why they have come all this way only to watch. Much of this gets answered and even more questions the reader hasn't thought to ask. The procedural nature of the story is not limited to the Earth half of the story and the reader should be ready to learn a lot about the procedural nature of the aliens who watch.

But, to be honest, what I liked about Emergence is the characters. I had resolved that I was going to be concentrating on the colorful characters of all the Earth Humans. The animosity between Jack and Louise drive the story. Louise might not have begun her investigation, but for the conflict she'd been having with Jack. The dynamic duo of Jeff and Mike as college professors and the main researchers within the story are a good foil for Louise's hard nosed investigative reporting. But that was quickly derailed by the scenes depicting the initial discomfort between the aliens Aytch and Justio, which expands as the reader finds there are dissenters in the most perfect ranks of the great race.

At one point I was almost ready to let the story guide me into the look and feel of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But this never got to the level of silliness of Douglas Adam's work. This seems to stay in the more serious vein perhaps like X-files. One would think that since the aliens are mostly there to watch that it would be pretty boring. For the most part the reader is initially led to believe it is pretty sedate; but soon, with the potential for internal strife, things begin to get interesting.

It takes a while for the reader to come to grips with the rules that the Gadium must abide by while observing the Emergence. It's those rules that set the stage for most of the story's conflicts. It's those rules and the Gadium belief that they are doing the right thing that lead to some pretty strange occurrences. Eventually everyone will be in a race against time to complete missions that all seem to be at odds with each other.

It's easy to start picking sides but it becomes confusing when the reader has to take into consideration that one or the other of the Gadium factions has to dominate and when that happens then the conflict becomes between them and the humans and neither of the former two are a good choice for that ultimate conflict and the humans are being set up to mostly lose in any situation.

When it gets to the final solutions the readers is left satisfied; but the final judgment will be that there will likely be more to this story.

This is well written well paced Procedural Science Fiction that waxes Hard most of the time though the seeming theoretical nature of Many Worlds Interpretation will stretch some readers suspension of disbelief.

You need to read this to see what I mean and you shouldn't be disappointed.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review::The Star Thief (Star Thief Chronicles 1)by Jamie Grey

The Star Thief (Star Thief Chronicles, #1)The Star Thief by Jamie Grey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Star Thief (Star Thief Chronicles Book 1) by Jamie Grey

The Star Thief is well written. What I mean by that is that it doesn't present all of the problems with grammar that I've been finding lately in books like this.[Someone else did mention finding some problems but if there are that many there I must have been distracted.] I enjoyed reading it and have given it high marks for that and as usual that means I'll be a bit brutal about the things I had problems with.

The story is quite well paced with enough action to keep the reader's interest. Renna is a thief and seems to style herself a mercenary. We later get a better notion of her start in this life and I'd stay with thief. The Star Thief comes from her having stolen the Seralline Star Sapphire; a feat that apparently no one is supposed to know was her job; though many more people seem to know, than she would expect. The Sapphire is also a bit of a running joke in the story because she still has it and is wearing it and so far only one other person seems to realize that she's wearing it.[Either that or I was very unattentive while reading.]

Being a thief for hire; Renna is hired to pick up some high tech weapon component that has been stolen by the Evil Cordozas. While doing that job she finds human cargo and decides to liberate it setting off a great escape scene. This leads them into the hands of a group of what look like ninja like mercenaries and also to my first quibble. This turns out to be a special group of official or unofficial people meant to police space and they mean to recruit her. They are not very straight forward about their intent and in an attempt to escape Renna kills one of these soldiers.[Which is all fine because the stakes feel high and the threat real so it tracks well... until they recruit her.] When they recruit her I kept waiting for someone to complain that she'd killed (so and so[I don't recall if we are ever told who it was.]) and they won't work with someone who killed him. Instead it just seems to go away and we never hear much about it other than when the man who is hiring her sees the body and frowns and calls it his own miscalculation of her abilities.

It turns out that her saving the young boy from the human cargo container is an added bonus to her job and we will see much more about the boy as the story develops. The boy starts out looking like a plot MacGuffin but has a much larger part in the whole plot. There are some parts predictable at this point in the greater parts of the plot but for me that's not a problem.[Some people might be dissappointed.]

There are at least two places where there is graphic sexual content and so; I would rate this as an Older Young Adult. The Young Adults on the other end of the scale should probably not be reading this. There is something to say for it being a portion of the character development of Renna and there is even a backstory to support it, so in a most liberal sense it seems to be necessary. I can take or leave it and honestly the person across the room from me who reads mostly romance is often put off by this much of this type of description.[So be warned.]

This is a series so there is more to come. That said I was still really surprised with the turn at the end. Definitely worth checking the next novel.

This is a good Sci-Fi Thriller with a bit of dystopia in the mix so fans of both should check it out.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review::Seed Seeker by Pamela Sargent

Seed Seeker (Seed, #3)Seed Seeker by Pamela Sargent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seed Seeker by Pamela Sargent

Seed Seeker is Pamela Sargent's third book in the Seed Series.The first two set the tone for the series and this one follows through with the same tone capping off the series that is more character driven than innovative.

In the first book the Ship which is both a generation ship and sentient AI, has raised generations of humans with the goal to deliver them to their new home where she would seed the new world. She was doing so in the belief that she was completing the work of some of the finest minds Earth had to offer. Saving mankind by preparing the generations to survive on a potential new and wild world.[The sentience of the ship seems to be minimized throughout the series though the main thread of the moral dilemma is tied to its sentience.]

The story starts with a generation that has some conflicts amongst its members and as they come close to reaching their destination they discover that the ship has had a previous generation in suspension because the first world she stopped at was not suitable. The waking of that generation causes more conflict and sets the stage for strife in the near future when they are all dropped upon the new world. At the same time Ship discovers that the original group that set her on her mission may have been the missfits of Earth rather than the great minds she'd been programed to believe.

In the second book the colony of three disparate groups attempt to survive while ship goes on with her mission to create more generations and continue to seed the universe. The story begins with a few of the original colonist still arround, but centers on the next generation. A generation that might contain some who have some dramatic adaptations to the new world. This sets the stage for the division of those who are affected and those that are not. And the isolation of the ones who believe they are the future of pure man on the new world.

This third book takes up from there in the next generation and also at a time when the generation Ship has been having some doubts about her purpose and some regrets about leaving the first generations on the new planet. As the story opens there is a new light in the sky above the new world and this sets off a pilgrimage to the original settlement to find out if the light might be Ship. There are mixed feelings about the potential arrival of ship because those who have been changed by something on this new planet are fearful that the Ship may reject them as being less than adequate[less than human].

Once again Pamela Sargent creates some interesting and credible characters that come to life in a world of strife, conflict, and misunderstanding. And the leading question in the readers mind might be; how will ship react to this world of savages and how could they possibly fit into her programmed plan.

This is a great Generation Ship series that is both for Young Adults and SFF fans.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Review::The Master of Izindi by Dave Wallace

The Master of IzindiThe Master of Izindi by David Wallace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Master of Izindi by Dave Wallace

My attention was drawn to this by someone who recommended it[on several occasions]as a very good self-published novel. I avoided it for some time, but finally gave it a try and I did enjoy the overall story, but....

This is one more of those love hate novels in my library; and I debated on whether to do any sort of review, because I'm not sure if I can do much justice to the novel itself because of the choices Dave Wallace made in his style of writing. I did like the story and give it high marks for being entertaining; but I can't give it my highest marks, because of a number of obvious flaws in the version that I had available to me. In fact, because I am giving it high marks I once again feel obligated to point to some of the flaws that might annoy other readers more than they managed to put me off.

I tried starting this once and immediately saw that there would be a small problem for me. I love character driven stories that dig in close to the character to reveal their thoughts and motivations; and because this seems to be a third person omniscient point of view with a tendency to stay omniscient and distant, this did not give that particular feel to me. In fact, I was forced to go back and look at One Thousand Nights and a Night to try to determine if it might be that the author was trying to mimic the style of that book. [I'm still not sure even after looking; if he was trying to set that mood, it fell a bit flat; because this book is not suited to the format used in One Thousand Nights and A Night.]

What I mean by that is that One Thousand Nights and A Night is the story of Scheherazade telling stories in such a manner to make them interesting enough that she might waylay her death by keeping the king interested enough to allow her another day to continue the tale.[Each day she was preventing the king from marrying and then slaying another bride.(The king is a serial killer.)] The tale becomes a string of tales within tales[with sometimes even another nested tale] that are all done mostly in a dispassionate nonjudgmental manner with an often curious twist that Scheherazade might leave off at; for the next day. These were also tales that appear to be somewhat moral in nature while often using language and images that some cultures might find somewhat objectionable. The only transferable key within these tales is that it is mostly narrated from a third omnicient point of view. But it might be unfair to stop there; because we should look at the characters who often seems to be blown around by the winds of fate and sometimes striking upon the correct choice and the often heroic figure who might sometimes seem invincible.

But in a way I might be unfair trying to make a comparison, in that Dave Wallace may have just been trying to transfer some Arabian mythical creatures into a modern format. Even so with that in mind I find that one of my first difficulties was that the novel seems to be set into three basic tales that include the same character; but a character who seems to make such startling leaps within his character that it seems like its a story of three different characters. And yet it is all one tale with one character.

In the beginning, Zafir is described many times as a street urchin; and I'm sure somewhere in the defintion of that term he qualifies, but some parts not so much when we find out more about him. And that's part of the problem, which is that we don't know much about him throughout the entire novel. In this first part about the street urchin Zafir we know more about the woman who helps him, Alima, than we do Zafir. Alima is another problem, which is that she helps save him from the Emir's guard and takes him to the edge of the city and pretty much has to give up her way of life in the city because of all that and she ends up being discarded, so that the reader can be moved onto the next part of the story.[Although, I'm not sure how I'd have felt if she'd been killed.]

The next part of the novel Zafir is taken in by Master Storm where he becomes possibly some sort of novice trainee who manages to stumble into the right direction when they are in danger and in need of making decisions on the fly. In this instance the adventures that they encounter on their trek to Izindi do read a lot like the stories out of One Thousand Nights and A Night. Each time we seem to be witness to the strange growth of the novice Zafir with the potential to understanding his underlying 'wisdom' which he often just happens to stumble into.

Somewhere along the line we finally discover that Zafir has a family[I have yet to find the spot since my amazon for pc keeps crashing when I search.] including not only a father and mother, but a sister and brother. It is convenient that we discover this as it becomes an important part of his shifting motivation.

The third and final part is Zafir the Master. He has passed his tests he has proven himself and he has surpassed all his masters and on top of that it might be that he's the chosen one. This part might get a bit sticky for those people who don't care for Deus Ex Machina. For quite a few pages Zafir seems undefeatable and he strangly strings together a bunch of seemingly random, but serial, adventures that lead to his acquiring all the equipment he needs to accomplish his final task.

As it is all of those features in the story did not account for my dropping a point save for the choice to use an omniscient third that was so distant. Despite the cringeworthy notion of deviating from rules: I would have been happier had the author chosen to break the rules a bit and come closer to the main character. This reader would have loved to know how the character felt in each of the steps from the urchin to the master and his thoughts and feelings during the greater part of stress up to and within the climatic moments. And if we were to go with the notion of trying to catch the mood of One Thousand Nights and A Night then I could almost live with the treatment or maybe lack of treatment of the women especially the discarding of the character Alima whom I at some point was holding such hopes for.

Now we reach the part of caveats. I don't downgrade the stars for grammar, but I do feel when the errors reach a specific boundary it's important to mention. The copy I have of this novel contains, at a minimum, 50 gramatical problem. These range from spelling to incorrect words to punctuation and sentences that are confusing at best.
As one Example of the handful or more.
The scimitar rebounded from her neck with a clang and fell notched from the astonished noble’s grasp.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 4210-4211). . Kindle Edition.
[I think I understood this but it needs punctuation or the removal of notched because it's confusing]

There are several instances when you is used and should be your along with the switching out of then and than;of for on; so for do;road for rode; past for passed. And sometimes extra words just hanging at the front or end of a sentence[often duplication of words]. There were instances where a character named Samael was referred to as the Samael and though there might be some instances where such wording might become necessary; there was no clear indicator that there was any reason for that.

Somehow:: shows up at least 21 times
Suddenly:: shows up at least 40 times

I don't have an overall aversion to the use of these words but most of the time in this novel they were used to somehow suddenly avoid explaining things.

The application of comming close to stopping the narrative to address the reader with facts that none of the characters would know was likely permissible within the context of the omnicient narrator; yet it was still rather annoying and sometimes not all that necessary.

Years later, no man alive could have approached him thus unnoticed, but as it was, he simply did not hear them.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 865-866). . Kindle Edition

[Sometimes the information was important]

Zafir again failed to note the sidelong glance the Abbott gave him upon arriving in the Tower of Stars, and he missed the envy and hate that filled the man’s face.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 5125-5126). . Kindle Edition.

There were too many instances of what I would call convenient application of knowledge[discovered by the reader in the moment of application].

“I recognize it from Izindi’s teachings.”

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Location 5160). . Kindle Edition.
Conversely there were moments when something was so distanced from the reference that I have yet to go back and find the reference.

As Zafir ran off, the Master of Fire stared after him, pondering the Abbott's words.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Location 1290). . Kindle Edition.

I do believe that lovers of Arabian tales and mythologies in general should enjoy this book with a warning that some might find a few glitches a bit frustrating. If you are like me, though, you may be prompted into taking a fresh look at A Thousand Nights and A Night.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review:: Silvern (The Gilded Series Book Two)by Christina Farley

Silvern (Gilded #2)Silvern by Christina L. Farley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Silvern(The Gilded Series Book Two)By Christina Farley

I really enjoyed the novel Gilded and was looking forward to reading this novel. There was no disappointment in the anticipation. Silvern starts with a bang and ends powerful enough to ensure that you want to read the next book. I liked the notion of learning a bit about the mythology of a different culture and was entertained with the special treat of having something akin to the Korean version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are plenty of demons to slay but there is also a heart-wrenching conflict between Jae Hwa's apparent destiny and her wishes.

Jae Hwa just wants a normal life with her friends and family. And that's how the story starts with her trying to do normal things with her boyfriend and her best friend and when that turns into an assassins attempt at her life things start rolling and soon Michelle will learn more about the secret life of Jae Hwa than Jae wants her to know. It's bad enough that Marc knows because it seems that everyone she cares about is in danger and more than one agency wants her to remain active in the spirit world despite her own wishes.

This time it seems as though Jae is the only one taking things seriously and the result is that she has to constantly watch out for her friends and family as they seem almost to blindly walk into danger. Everyone seems to want her to help find the Tiger Orb because she seems to be the only one who might be able to retrieve it. More enticingly she learns that it might be what she needs to help her Aunt Komo who lies in a coma in the hospital. Of the immortals Palk wants to hide the Orb with the others that they have retrieved and Kud, the ruler of darkness, wants it to use to help him find all the Orbs so he can use them to have power over the World and the Spirit World.

Jae would just as soon leave it in the protection of the Dragons but that's not an option when Kud begins threatening those close to her. And this time it just seems that her friends are going to make lots of horribly bad decisions while inadvertently backing Jae into a corner.

The Orb can have a terrible effect on mortals and it would seem that Jae is on the precipice between mortal and immortal and once she has the Orb in her possession it could have a tremendous impact on her. She could risk losing her humanity. There's no doubt that despite all her efforts things are never going to be the same for her.

Christina Farley has a well paced action packed thriller full of interesting character and some mighty strange and deadly demons. I was floored by the ending and will definitely be waiting for the next book.

This is a great Young Adult novel that should make a good addition to anyone's Fantasy shelf. Lovers of folk lore and myth should soak this one up. If you haven't read Gilded please read that first and then this--you shouldn't be disappointed.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review::Farseed (The Seed Trilogy)by Pamela Sargent

FarseedFarseed by Pamela Sargent

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Earthseed a while ago and almost started Farseed but it seemed almost a bit leaning toward the Lord of the Flies and I'm more into science fiction than the the whole psychology of survival of potentially degenerate societies. I finally picked it up to read and almost read it through at one sitting. This is definitely a book that you have to read carefully.

As a part of the trilogy it has its position and usually number two can tend to take a dip. This novel is not all that bad and I would have given it the highest marks if there hadn't been that whole section where the main character seems compelled or maybe forced to repeat herself numerous times while everyone should be packing up and moving on before someone gets killed.

The story itself is quite compelling in the sense that we have Nuy the daughter of Ho (from the first book) fighting against the will of her father in an almost naive manner at the beginning. This leads to the death of a stranger she's befriended with the hope of improving the lifestyle of her settlement. In the previous novel Ho had taken his people off away from the other settlers to see more of the new world and to get away from the other people they felt were so disagreeable. Since then some sort of virus has wiped out many of them and Ho blames it on the other settlers since the infection occured after he had sent people to trade with them. For ten years they have remained isolated from the others and have lived a hard life.

Ho is described as being near to madness half the time and it seems predictable that he won't be welcoming Nuy's new friend with open arms, but she has hopes that trade with the other settlers will make life easier for her and the other youths in their camp. When things go bad it leaves one of the three travelers dead and the other two are unable to return to their settlement.

The remainder of the book is the quest of the other settlers to find the missing three and the story of their own self imposed isolation from the new world itself as they try to live in their own little bubble of life that mirrors what they know of Earth. I'm not partial to the--we've blown everyone back to the stone-age type of books and this really is more a survivalist fiction to be honest; but elements of it tend to slide in the direction of civilization taking backward steps.

One redeeming feature of the book for me is that it's also a story of evolution within that framework of backward steps and this whole novel is a building block to get to the final book which I had recently obtained and that was the main reason to push to read this one. This is the story of Nuy mostly as she tries to survive and perhaps even make right the horrendous outcome of her mistake. I love character driven stories and Nuy is one complex character for a savage.

As usual Pamela Sargents characters are all well drawn and finely tuned and the conflicts are plenty and as I mentioned the real one quibble I have is that at the most exciting part we have the main character over dramatically explaining herself too many times and a corresponding breakdown in leadership that tends to muck around for a whole chapter and I could have done without that.

Otherwise this is a great addition to my library of everything Sargent. I would recommend this to Young Adults and lovers of SFF and of course anyone who has read the first book Earthseed.

J.L. Dobias

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review::Saves Nine by Les Lynam

. . . Saves Nine. . . Saves Nine by Les Lynam

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Saves Nine by Les Lynam

I had an opportunity to read this as a sort of review copy quite a while ago. It obviously has undergone a few changes since then and it somehow became even longer than it was the first time. Since it's a time travel novel; sometimes being longer can be a horribly bad thing. I'm happy to say that that's not the case with this. This read to me the second time just a well as the first and in many ways felt as though I were reading it for the first time.

What I mean when I say that a long time travel novel can be bad; is that it can become recursive to an ad-nausea degree. You know: that bit where you have the character or characters live the same scene over and over until you feel like you are in some horrible remake of groundhog day. That doesn't happen here; though there is some overlap it usually breezes past quickly, because there's way too much other stuff going on to waste space[and time].

An odd thing I took from this novel is that I felt the main character Sean seemed almost a bit weak at time[which can be a good thing because character's need flaws]. This was not a showstopper weak, but there are times when as a reader I felt I would like to slap him up the side of the head for his actions and even his inaction. Of course, to his credit sometimes his inaction was a result of the programming of the enigmatic time traveler; claiming to be related to him.

The story starts out as an almost simple teen tale in high school with the usual angst. Some of this is the lame part of our character Sean as he tries to deal[not very well] with first someone obsessively stalking him and then his own obsession. But most of this is the setup for an early twist in the story and in a small way the prologue almost spoils some of it. Things get just a bit scary before they get really strange. And then when there is an excursion further into the past things are quite fun for bit.

In reading this twice I still found that it was well into the book that we meet the character I felt was the strongest in the whole story. This could just be me, so you really should read this book to see how you feel about it. At about this same time the book takes a more serious tone as we start to add up a few of the consequences of traveling through time and interacting with people[some who have been dead a few years or more in the time traveler's own time]. Les Lynam even threw a few thoughts and wrinkles that I don't recall seeing in this type of novel.

This is a long novel and happily I can say that in reading it through I never felt that there were any places where things could or should have been cut so the writing justifies the length[which is always a great thing]. When we weren't coming up with new ideas we were going through the process of developing the characters and moving the story forward. In fact; near the end and in the last few chapters I almost felt a sense of being rushed, which may have been exaggerated for me; because my favorite character was being developed a bit more and I hope that in the next installment of this series we see that happening at a different pace.

This is an outstanding debut novel from an author who cares enough to make the best attempt at delivering the cleanest clearest copy to the reader. This will make a great addition to the library of and Young Adult and those who love SFF just as well. A very thoughtful and thought provoking read.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Review::Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence #3)Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

I saw an ad and some comments about Max Gladstone and this book and decided to read the sample. The sample intrigued me and drew me into Max's strange world of magic quickly enough that I knew I'd be picking this one up for my library. The writing style is so unique and compelling I overlooked the fact that I felt like I was being dropped into the middle of a world I knew nothing about and expected to flounder around in. So before purchasing this book I took note that he had two others in the same world and decided I might do well to purchase those also and read them in order. This turned out to be quite fortuitous, but not in the way I had hoped. I love the writing and the whole idea of Max Gladstone's world of magic with its complexity, but it sometimes can be a rather difficult read because the world building is the type that sort of trickles in slowly as the characters in the world reluctantly reveal the world's story to the reader.

Full Fathom Five can stand alone as a novel as can both Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise. Each novel takes place in a different city in a world where magic is used as currency and the flow of magic can deplete or replenish an individual depending on which end of the flow they are. The novels take place in a time after a great war against the gods and now we have people trying to prove they can exist without the gods. Though the gods seemed oppressive and in need of being deposed, it becomes clear early that those who deposed them might be just another evil and somewhere within all of that are the flawed but heroic characters who are trying to honorably mark out their existence within the new system. The players in the first two books seem to be separate groups and only in the third book does the reader see some crossover of characters from the first two, with mostly the name of cities and deposed gods being a factor to previously tie the books together.

The magic and the rules of magic in the world are always quite clear but the world itself can often seem enigmatic in many ways, but as I read this I began to get a sense of why. It seemed for me that the world itself was a world that was being built within the characters. The very way that the magic linked the people with each other and with their existence and the notion that for many of the people the magic is drawn from each other and then from the stars.

In a world where man has waged war against gods and put down many there are still cities that make use of their gods as it is in Three Parts Dead the city of Alt Coulumb is still powered mostly by the fire of the Lord of Flame, Kos until the day Kos is murdered and Tara Abernathy, a new intern of the Craft firm of Kelethras, Albrecht and Ao, is sent to investigate. This is a world where those with the greatest power, the Deathless Kings rule, and that power the craft exacts a price and though they live long they wither away to a skeletal existence. Many of those would strive to be like the gods and be rid of the old gods while some search for a mutual existence and firms like Kelethras Albrecht and Ao can resurrect a god under certain conditions; though the god will never be quite the same.

There are still priests who used to sacrifice to the gods and in Two Serpents Rise Caleb is the son of one such priest; Caleb works for Red King Consolidated, his job is to help keep the gods and their demons under control, which puts him at odds with his father. Caleb recalls too many of those sacrificed by his father to ever want to go back to that. But someone is trying to subvert things in Dresediel Lex; and Caleb must find out if it's his priestly father or some other subversive faction before it's too late.

In Kavekana of Full Fathom Five they make idols for their clients. Not the usual kind but those that can store the soul magic of their clients and act almost like a stock market for magic. But the idols can die if their magic is extended too thin and when a friends project is targeted for termination[the Idol is dying] Kai makes one desperate attempt to help her friend and the Idol; out of the belief that the Idol shouldn't be dying. The attempt goes poorly and Kai is injured badly and her career with the company is in danger. But in that brief moment of contact with the Idol when she nearly lost her life she saw something that will shake up her life more than the loss of her career. Along with the indigent Izza, who still worships gods, Kai is about to uncover something sinister about the Idols and supposedly dead Gods.

Max Gladstones protagonists in all of these stories are strong willed, honor bound and in many ways strangely flawed. The richness of each of these characters brings the reader closer to the world in which they live. But it takes a lot of attention to the details and descriptions to grasp that world and it's not always clear that the protagonists are doing the right thing though they are always doing it with the strong conviction and, even when they shy away from being martyrs, they end up positioning themselves to make a sacrifice because of their own strong sense of honor.

This is epic fantasy but in many ways for me it read as a literary epic that focuses on character more than setting and though some might find that to be a deficiency I love the character driven novels above all else so if a reader loves those stories about well crafted strong characters they will love this series of books and if they appreciate good prose they will drink these down or sip them slowly to their own tastes.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Saves Nine by Les Lynam (SFF-Time Travel)

I read the ARC for this and it's been thoroughly polished since then; don't take my word for it[give it a test read.] Amazon.com: . . . Saves Nine eBook: Les Lynam: Kindle Store

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review::Fluency (Confluence Book 1) by Jennifer Foehner Wells

FluencyFluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fluency (Confluence Book 1) by Jennifer Foehner Wells

I'm selective in my reading and I try to read as much as I can, but apparently I'm not near as selective as some people. I love to read the one star reviews when I read a book because that way I can't say I wasn't warned. Thankfully I rarely get put off by the negative reviews or I'd likely get no experience reading some of the stuff that I do like. This book grabbed me from the start and it might be that many of the negatives people were talking about were just things I felt I'd expect.

Fluency has a lot of old tropes that run through it in a sort of old lace interwoven fashion. What I mean by that is that it starts out with the mystery of what may have happened at area 51 and brings our astronauts to a seeming derelict space craft far out in space. All these years it has waited for us to put together the technology necessary to get to it. Next it has a sort of horror element that could almost rival the Alien movie franchise. Throw into all of this some astronauts with seeming anomalous behavior and you have that usual recipe for disaster.

There is also that style decision that doesn't bother me very much, but does need mentioning for those who it does bother. This is where the supposed professional astronauts start acting like hormone driven adolescents. It really doesn't predominate; but it lurks in there and peeks it's head out now and then. There is an explanation for it and it is fairly plausible within the context of the story so in this instance even my usual gnashing and grinding of teeth is interrupted with a feeling of acceptance.

I don't want to suggest that there is zero tolerance in science fiction for romance, but I think that the SF author is expected to handle it in a less intrusive way. I like good character development and so I have some tolerance for the romance in that even the consummate professional do manage to work some of that into their lives. So although I felt there might have been some cringe worthy moments, they were not oppressive. What probably bothered me more would be that some of them end up being moments that are dream or hallucinatory sequences and then the reader ends up wondering, when the next one happens, if it will ever be real.

This had a lot of interesting premises and some interesting ways of developing those and sometimes giving them a bit of a twist. There was also an interesting development of the reason for the alien ship to be where it is and the reason that it seems abandoned and even the bit of conspiracy theory that demonstrates why some of the actions of the characters seem to be a bit anomalous. Overall I give Jennifer Foehner Wells some high marks for her development of her plot, though I can see where some people might be distracted by the astronauts behavior enough to miss some of the points behind the 'why' to that behavior.

I recommend this to lovers of SFF and even SF as long as you don't need your science distilled down it's finest particle. I would even recommend it as a young adult offering with the caveat that it does seem to exceed my bad language filter by at least about 55 occurrences.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Review::Gilded (The Gilded Series Book 1) by Christina Farley

Gilded (Gilded, #1)Gilded by Christina L. Farley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gilded (The Gilded Series Book 1) by Christina Farley

Gilded is probably going to be one of those books that people either love or hate with little in between. I picked the novel up from an ad running in Goodreads and I usually read the bad reviews first. There were some brutal thoughts there and, sometimes, that can color a readers point of view. Thankfully the story begins quite well and was able to draw me in. I really enjoyed it.

The story uses some standard tropes for young adult novels and it does seem geared for the lower to middle end of the scale, but it doesn't necessarily exclude adult readers. The grammar and spelling are well handled so there is little in mechanical road bumps going into the story. It is written in first person which seems again par for many young adults and it's a great POV to use when starting writing. There are a number of pitfalls that naturally occur in first person writing that seem to have been avoided; so it's a job well done. It is also presented in present tense, which can be a challenge to both the writer and the reader. Christina Farley handles it all quite well, but even so it's not always that easy to convince the reader to read on; even when it's well done.

The writing and pace flow quite well and make this a very quick read for a novel of its length. I found myself sailing through it in the early part of a quiet weekend. It was easy to finish in one sitting. With all these great things going for it, I have to wonder why there are people who were disappointed in the novel as a whole. I think that one thing that stood out was that many expected something different from this novel. I can't put my finger on why, because I knew right off since it was young adult and involved mythology; so I knew it was going to be a strong fantasy story. I felt that I got as much as I expected. If you consider learning a few things about Korea, then I obtained a bit more than that.

Because there are a lot of young adult novels out these days there does seem to be a standard pattern of tropes that weave into most narratives and that is probably another potential negative point. With this in mind it makes it hard on the writer who writes young adult, because they have to create some strong characters that are different in order to give the reader more than just the same old same. Christina Farley does a good job of creating a diverse group of people to drive her story. There are some decisions about main characters that stand out; often not quite in the best way possible and I think it was a style choice rather than poor writing. What I mean by that is that this is a heavy fantasy with the need for the reader to suspend their disbelief a lot about the plot and the underlying world of the story. With that in mind the reader needs strong realistic characters to pull them through all of the wonder; and in some way the decision to portray Jae Hwa a specific way may not have helped some readers.

What I mean by this is that many times I felt Jae was being portrayed as someone who acted a few ages below her actual age. This lack of maturity may have been meant to offset the fact that she seems to be a master at Tae Kwan Do and a crack archer. She most times seems fairly bright but the lack of maturity and being up against some heavy duty academic types in her new school often seems to off-balance her character too much. This created the opportunity to overlook the fact that part of the story seems to be about her character flaw of being somewhat immature and having to work on reaching a more mature attitude and as a reader I almost lost that entirely.

This growth is there; unfortunately it occurs at the same time as the reader is distracted by the somewhat obvious collection of 'key' elements that Jae must assemble and then by some bits of wit and mostly luck she finds how to use them. Many of these are pretty obvious to the reader, but extra time and words are spent making sure the reader sees them several times to have them indelibly placed within their thoughts. It may have proven as profitable to spend as much time on the clues to Jae gathering maturity.

That much said; I think I did figure it out and I was thoroughly entertained, which is why I give Gilded high marks. It takes a little bit of thought and some great patience to get to the end and realize that Jae has actually made some strides forward.

This is a good read for Young Adults on the lower to middle half of the scale and for all lovers of pure fantasy and a bit of romance.

J.L. Dobias

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review::The Last Starship from Earth (a novel) by John Boyd

>The Last Starship from EarthThe Last Starship from Earth by John Boyd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Last Starship from Earth (a novel) by John Boyd

Back in the late sixties early seventies I joined the science fiction book club and this was one of many offerings. I still have the 1968 edition they sent me and it's in fair condition. What wasn't so much intact was my recall of the story; so I had to reread it. I was seventeen in 1968 when this was published and I was going to Junior College while just barely becoming eighteen. This book creates for me the feeling of a literary epic. It's written in the time of cold wars and civil uprisings and government conspiracies. All a perfect back drop for a dystopic tale of a parallel universe. A universe where Christ didn't die as a martyr and the church took the world by storm rather than suffering persecution as happened in ours. A 'what if' story that begins in a far different version of 1968.

This book has a lot going for it in that it has a sort of twisted poetic bent that lends itself nicely to the prose of the author. What it lacks is consistent background on what might have wrought all the changes to bring us up to Haldane's world where space travel is already accomplished and we have the perfect society guarded by the "Weird Sisters" Psychology, Sociology and the Church. Sure: there are other disciplines such as Mathematics and Poetry [those are two that drive the story]. What this book also lacks is involvement with what could have been the most important character. Part of this might well be the times it was written and the rest would probably fall to being a part of the continued tropes that trapes through all of histories diverse tomes.

I'm giving this book high marks for entertaining me and making me think and even a bit for nostalgia. I have to be honest and note that I didn't go happily down the trail of reading John Boyd's later works and in part that may be for the strange twist in structure that caused the plot to become un-potted at a certain point and an orphaned epilogue at the end that almost adds insult to injury in light of the fact that the entire book requires the reader to think upon the 'what if' proposed and realize that there is no true logical progression to how John Boyd got from there to where he did; which leaves it to the reader to do some research or at least have some understanding of the impact of Christianity upon western development. Even so it's left to the reader to determine how things took such a left turn because of the difference in how Christianity took foot.

So if Christ was not martyred on the cross and his movement brought down the Roman Empire without the bulk of Christianity being persecuted, that might change some things. One can only guess that perhaps the strength of the church and lack of humble roots may have excluded the reformation and the Protestant movement. But somehow the church and its two sisters Psychology and Sociology have slipped into a near socialistic totalitarian society whose highest judge is a mechanical Pope created by the worlds leading Mathematician Fairweather I, which is perhaps why John Boyd chose to make this a story of adolescent forbidden love between the Mathematician and a Poet. Forbidden love: lust perhaps would be allowed but not love and certainly there are taboos on any thought of an offspring from such forbidden union. Our young man, Haldane, makes a wrong turn on the way to a Mathematics conference and ends up at a museum where he meets Helix [the essence of a spirit that might rival Helen of Troy]; and his inexplicable love at first sight only drives home the importance of this character he has fallen for.

After a comedy of errors where the reader is left wondering, after a ream of logic about where Haldane could accidentally run into Helix on purpose only to find that she's not there, 'is she avoiding him. As it turns out while he's searched where she might be she seems to be searching where he should be and the two are going in opposite directions until she stumbles across his father and sets up a chance to meet Haldane through him. There's a lot of time and detail spent on the logistics necessary to create the illusion that any time they spend together has some logic to it and this becomes the part for reads who like the average dystopic tale where the players move in the shadows trying to avoid detection of the secret police. Suffice it to say there will be a day of reckoning and when that comes there is a twist because Helix is pregnant and that makes things that much worse.

A trial ensues and this is where John Boyd drops the ball with Helix. She becomes a none entity as Haldane is taken to task for the wretched deed and he is worked at by the forces of Church, Psychology, and Sociology until they offer him the out, by placing all the blame and responsibility on Helix shoulders and denying his own love for her. He even refuses to recant when it becomes rather muddily clear that Helix may have been part of an entrapment that was set up to bring him down and expose his nature as a sufferer of the Fairweather Syndrome [named after Fairweather I's son Fairweather II (who was proven to be a most heinous criminal in society)]. With no cure: the only outcome for Haldane is to be deported to the planet Hell. This is all confirmed when the mechanical Pope asks Haldane if he loves Helix; Haldane can't deny it and is relegated to hell for the admission.

This is where our author, John Boyd, fell a bit more, because the next part takes some major twists and the first is with Helix. Without much real background of a character that is treated as backdrop; the story loses out. I could easily attribute this treatment as a part of the era this is written since the world prior to 1968 was still pretty primitive in some notions about women. And since this parallel world is in 1968 that seems to track okay in that the women may be treated as Helix is in this story. Still there is this whole notion that Helix has an effect on Haldane and she is compared to Helen of Troy and she deserves much more than she gets, but this is Haldane's story and this is how John Boyd chose tell it.

To go much further would contain all the spoilers that would make reading this redundant and I think that every lover of dystopia's should read and love this story. There are a few more twists before the epilogue and I would have been just as happy if I'd been left with the final twist in the final chapter. The epilogue can only be described as a corkscrew of twists that could boggle the mind on any thoughtful or thoughtless reader and was probably not necessary though it adds a certain flavor to the Haldane character that almost seems at odds with the one the reader has become intimate with.

I recommend this to all lovers of Science Fiction Fantasy with the caveat that not everyone will be happy with it and you will have to ask yourself if it's a deficiency in the author's writing or perhaps your own attempt to read too much into a story the author has left so much wiggle room for the reader to imagine.

Really good story that reflects some of the time it was written in, while still meeting the test of time.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review::Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey

Nobody Gets the Girl (Whoosh! Bam! Pow!, #1)Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey

So here we have an admitted superhero novel and I wasn't sure what to expect. It has a prologue and I'm not usually a fan of those. Add to that the content of the prologue dripped of definite cartoon-y tropes. Then we move to Richard Rogers your everyman; married with a geeky job and a penchant for enjoying entertaining at comedy clubs.

I have to give the writer some extra marks for having the poor man have to make the decision about cheating on his wife when his own fantasy encounter with a supposed comedy club fan makes her entrance. At that point though the reader is still wondering where this is going. After reluctantly staying faithful he returns home for the night and sneaks into bed so as not to wake the wife. The next morning he wakes up to find out that he's nothing more than a ghost in a world that has been turned on its head.

From this point forward the novel develops a clear plot with good writing and a fine pace. It takes a while of wondering what is happening before the good Dr. Know. shows up to straighten things out. The Dr.'s answers are not all that welcome when he tells Richard that he's been erased from history because of the Dr.'s experiments with time travel. Conveniently the Dr. has decide not to time travel anymore because of the consequences and he therefore can't get Richard's life back. That leaves Richard with a decision of whether to live out the rest of existence as a wandering ghost or join the Dr. in his fight to bring peace to the world.

The doctor's two lovely daughters sweeten the deal; at least until Richard uncovers the fact that the whole family is dysfunctional.

I found the plot quite easy to follow and the writing was well done making the story easy to follow though some major parts of the plot were predictable. The overall story idea and several of the threads seemed original in the manor in which things were put together and there was at least one point where I almost felt, as a reader, that we were moving into one of those Robert Heinlein utopia scenarios. But James Maxey deviously turns some of that on its ear, as the thread of the dysfunctional family starts leaving the reader worried about the the direction that the Dr. is trying to take his utopian world.

There are no easy outs and no simple solutions and this is not a good verses evil superhero novel. These are complex characters that drive a story that is full of complex threads that all come neatly to an interesting conclusion. And even though Nobody gets the girl, no character in this story makes it through totally unscathed.

Great Sci-Fi for the Sci-Fi fans; contains some interesting notions about time and reality.

J.L. Dobias

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