Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review::The Legion of Nothing

The Web Story

I purchased the E-book version of this:

Truth be told I read this all on the web version which does have a few extra words and missing words on occasion. I have not really seen many spelling problems. So really Jim Zoetewey does an excellent job of keeping his ongoing work on the web in both tight story and excellent grammar. For me though what really helps is that this all take place in Michigan. Being a native of Michigan the story brings a slice of home into the world building.

The Legion of Nothing is mostly the story of Nick and his struggle to live up to his grandfathers expectations while trying to complete high school and stay in his parents good grace. His friends and co-heroes are all too helpful, which is probably really no help until he finally commits to being a hero.

I don't want to call him a reluctant hero. It's just more difficult when all his friends, Haley, Cassie, Daniel, Vaughn, Rachel and Travis have real super powers while he's quite normal. If he can be normal having a grandfather who taught him how to make super armor and a martial arts trainer who is an enigmatic mercenary.

Going out to fight crime the first time seems like a great idea on a boring night. It quickly turns into a dangerous and deadly turn of events that exposes them to a wide range of super and not so super villains who really don't want anyone interfering with their comfortable lives of crime.

It goes without saying that school is going to interfere with their crime fighting work, a lot.

This story has it all along with a cast of thousands that I have to admire Jim for being able to keep up with. If you liked those old comic heroes and or want to see a little something different then this book is for you. There's a lot of that sly humor you get in those books. And Jim does such a good job of description and keeping things moving that you hardly notice that there are none of those pictures in each panel.

Can't wait for the next book. And I won't because I'll just keep up with his web site.
Thanks for a fun read Jim.

J.L. Dobias author of Cripple-Mode:Hot Electric

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review::The Kingdom of Malinas

E.J.Tett's first effort at writing is by far one of the better first efforts I have read in quite some time.
She puts together all the elements of story with her own style and class that have not been matched by her peers.
She has tremendous characterizations, conflict, plot and theme nailed down.

This is a well thought out effort for a first book. And it says a lot that although I venture into the fantasy genre now and then my favorite is Science Fiction. This does give me an advantage and disadvantage in that I have little to compare it to.

The only reason I picked up this novel was because I'd been snooping around the SSFchronicle writers forum and noticed that several people there have published various works in various fashion from traditional to self and I have to say that I've up to this point been disappointed with the ones I have tried out.

I came in not expecting much after three other disappointments , one of those is a traditional published author. I'm happy to say that this one surprised me.

It starts out slow and I suppose that it could be argued that its a bit rough around the edges because it's a first effort and its self published. And I suppose that if I were coming from the place of being in a forum of writers I might tend to try to be hyper critical.

Fortunately I come from being a reader of fiction with a 50 plus year background and I have to say that I found the author's style of writing to be be fresh, entertaining, and quite tightly woven. She can only improve from there.

The story begins slowly with our main protagonist Sorrel who is a very strong female character- there are many of those in this story. Her father was a warrior and her brother is one and she wants to follow in their footsteps. Despite the families efforts she will if it kills her and as the tale unfolds it seems that fate is on her side. There is enough in the development of characters to keep me in the story. Her plot seems quite original though I admit that I lack enough exposure to this type of fantasy.

And then:

It's at chapter 12 that she grabs me- one quarter the way through the book. I found the hook that kept me reading this in one sitting. I think its safe for her to say to her friends at SSFchronicles that it does not take a major hook at the beginning of every story too keep your readers happy. She feeds the line out carefully and then hooks you into the story so deep you can't get out until you are finished.

What's really great about this novel is that it's full of characters that can hook any reader. There are almost too may to chose from and yet she pulls it off and this is a first novel; as long as she keeps her present voice she can't go wrong.

What I have a hard time understanding is why there are no reviews here from her fellow SFFchronicle pals there are thousands of people in that forum. Don't they have anything to say? And I won't accept the lame excuse that they could be accused of being partial or having a conflict of interests.

Ms. Tett I think you could teach Ian and Toby some tricks to help them out they need it.

J.L. Dobias

Monday, December 24, 2012

Book Review::Space Captain Smith

Space Captain Smith by Toby Frost.

I always like to say something good about a book before I point out the negative.
It has a nice cover and I was able to read more than a full chapter for free.

Toby should look at the small piece where he introduced Paul Devrin there are a number of paragraphs where he develops this character that almost hooked me. If only he had done this with the main characters or any number of his sidekicks. Sadly he did not and it digressed quickly even with this more evil sounding character, Paul.

There are few books that I don't finish.
I must admit that I only read the part that was available free so I won't belabor any points. I can't give away plot points because there was only one that I sort of noticed here.

I'm one of those people who do not judge a book by its cover or the blurb on the back. Rarely do I read the blurb that might be in the front. What I do; is read the first chapter and if it doesn't grab me I don't take it home.

I tried to give this the benefit of the doubt but perhaps the humor has missed me and perhaps the development of the characters is tied to that humor.

Either way even had I spent the overly bloated price for the e-book I probably would have put it down after the end of the second chapter.

It's likely just me but this just didn't do it for me.

The two stars if for that one bright light in the dark character of Paul Devrin.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Yes Virginia: Pure Science Fiction Can Entertain

Here is an Interesting Review

Yes Virginia: Pure Science Fiction Can Entertain

I recently read someone’s rant about how Science Fiction doesn’t need all the Gee Wiz science that pervade the modern era of writing. The author bemoaned the fact that readers prefer the Wiz Bang to real science. They state that those who write Science Fiction with real science are writing to an elite audience of readers.

It was a comment meant to make me think. It did just that. I look into what is being proposed.

Yes we can take all of the stuff of science today and fill the stories with only that. That would truly be Science - Fiction or Fact - depending on whether we depict fictional characters or real people. Science - recognizable today - turned to Fiction with the what if- that is common to Science Fiction - adding fictional but believable characters into the what if of speculation.

This made me think of the old discussion about Sci-Fi not being Science Fiction. Perhaps the above would be one of the delineating elements. In the article I read this was one distinction the writer was making, because of a bad connotation put upon Skiffy as they call it.

That aside I actually hate that word Skiffy so I’ll use Sci-Fi for the remainder of this article.

The issue I take is that for a reader it’s difficult to find and for the writer to write an as if without extrapolating the Science to some itchy limit, which runs the author head on into a bucket load of Sci-Fi.

I look at what I like to read. Both Science Fiction and Fantasy. I look at what works and what doesn’t. I look at what is strict science and what looks like Gee Wiz or Wiz Bang; and I rediscover something.

When we object to all the special effects and strange (over- extrapolated) notions we usually do so with the notion that these stories are driven by those props. For us; people buy these genre because they have all the fancy gadgets and flashy lights. That’s why the book cover is so important!

What I like in my fiction is stories driven by characters.(I look at the cover-read the blurb in back-if possible I read the first chapter or ten pages- then I decide if I’ll like it.)

Any author who has mastered the ability to place a believable, likeable character into whatever situation will get my full attention every time.

Plots do not drive the fiction. Many plots are rehashes of old reliable plots. Occasionally there is something that looks to be new.

Themes don’t drive the fiction. Themes often are planned but sometimes they just happen.

Wiz Bang and Gee Wiz and over the top science don’t drive the fiction. Those are the props.

Characters drive the fiction. Believable people the readers relate to and become sympathetic with.

When we obsess with avoiding the Wiz Bang, go for the straight science with a pure heart. We fall short, because we forget to develop the character while we painstakingly bring the science to life.

A problem for science purists is a lack of understanding as to how the reader ignores their writing in favor of the Wiz Bang fiction writers. Many times we attribute it to a deficiency in the reader.

We don’t comprehend the Wiz Bang authors skill at creating some really believable people. People who are driven by normal desires and hopes and dreams. People who just happen to be surrounded by gardens of wiz bang.

That Wiz Bang can be altered or removed and the story remains interesting the plot remains true. The reader is reading because they are invested in the characters. They relate to the characters.

So, yes, there might be a distinction between fiction that takes science and extrapolates a what if that stays mostly within the confines of today’s science; and fiction that warps today’s science with what if’s that look like magic.

What the reader likes is not so much effected by either of those. If the reader doesn’t like the story it’s not the science or lack of science; it’s more likely the author’s characters didn’t connect with the reader.

Any fiction writer who peoples his story with weak cardboard characters with no redeeming qualities must rely on the Wiz Bang or the Pure Science and will likely not get the reader’s attention.

Writers of either type will get any number of readers as long as their voice and characters come alive on the page. Everything else is gift-wrapping, around a gift that is the way the author tells the story.

J.L.Dobias author of Cripple-Mode:Hot Electric

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review::Writing the Breakout Novel

Writing the Breakout Novel is clearly a book that every aspiring writer should consider reading.

As far as to say that Donald Maass is a definitive source or this is a definitive work would be presumptuous.

There are quite a few definitive ideas in here that I believe every writer should know. And I believe it is presented with an entertaining and authoritative air.

I must admit that I made the mistake of reading The Fire in Fiction first and I don't believe that it is quite as informative as this book is. It in fact reads mostly like mini reviews of some of the author's favorite books.

Yes there are things an author should try to do to be more marketable and those are covered here, but Donald is in no way preachy about these ideas. I believe Donald is quite clear that there is a need for balance and his notion is not to make all writers write the same- but, to make them all write better.

I'm not sure that my writing will ever reach the level of respectability that he holds out for, but I think I can easily see where I need to improve and that's what counts as to how this book works as a tool.

I will definitely recommend this along with other tools to all of my friends and even those who help me edit my work.

I especially like the notion I was able to take away that when questioning things like POV (point of view) and tense that it is not as some would try to make a person believe ; too difficult and not recommended for a new author to go down such a path; but it's more likely that the style around what the author is trying to do just needs to be focused to make it more readable.

And Donald Maass gives examples and ways for this to be accomplished.

It the difference that you see when trying to do a do it your self task at home and someone comes and says.
"You are going about that the wrong way." Then they walk away.

They could have at least shown you the right way- but maybe they don't know the right way.

What Donald Maass says here is let me show you how to make that work.

Two thumbs up.

J.L. Dobias

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review::The Fire in Fiction

I found The Fire in Fiction to be helpful only in delineating things I've previously discovered and wished I'd known earlier. Perhaps it even has helped me hone in on the target in some areas I tend to slack off in and I would have loved to have read this five years ago before I did all the research that helped me see the targets the first time.

What it is most insightful of is that it encompasses the mind of a literary agent and what this one likes and expects from his authors. And perhaps some bit of unintentional verification of something I have long suspected. They really do like purple prose as long as it is purple prose that helps develop the unique character that is integral to the story. There's a lot of it in these example that he critiques.

That leads us to the problem that resides in the pages. This book is a serial compilation of critiques or reviews of what appear to be this authors favorite authors. And I would agree with others that it serves little purpose other than to pat the backs of these authors and fill the pages. Much of what is said here could be condensed and I would expect that to be the first thing that would be recognized by a literary agent when editing this whether it is self edited or otherwise. ( and it would be insane to self edit in this context).

Something that would have been helpful is examples of what went wrong amidst all the what went right.

And at least twice we were told certain things could not be covered here as they would take too much time and space which becomes ridiculous when one considers that 100 pages of this could have been eliminated by narrowing down all of the favorable reviews.

The reason I gave this four stars is that it doesn't deserve five and I am taking enough out of it to rate it higher than three.

I definitely recommend this to any author as a refresher on what works for some of this agents favorite writers. There is much to take away and I would also recommend it to the Forums and writers groups who always claim they are helping each other meet the requirements of an agent. This might help them focus a bit on the real as opposed to their preconceived notions.

It's also engaging and entertaining despite the bloat of examples.

J.L. Dobias