Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review::C-Shapes by Matthew Fish

C-ShapesC-Shapes by Matthew Fish

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

C-Shapes by Matthew Fish

This is a sort of Dystopia novel, a genre that I'm only just warming up to. It contains many elements that look familiar to me already with the few novels I have read in this genre. I like this book a lot though, It had a character that I immediately identified with and then it had a lot of very good character development.

Ethan Chase, the protagonist and person telling the story is just an average guy who in fact prior to day of the great virus had been more of a deadbeat than anything else. Now he's decide to clean himself up and do something useful; if he can.

Imagine a world where half the population has been strricken with something that makes them all seem like a potential threat to humanity. Some suffer amnesia, some catatonia, some are mimics who drift from reality while mimicking those around them and some are downright psychotic. What they all have in common is that they are no longer able to function properly in society and eventually they all pose a threat of becoming what is called Aggro, a state of agitation where they become unstoppably aggressive and begin to kill.

This begins to sound almost like a military secret that has gone awry. An attempt at creating the perfect soldier's that is accidentally unleashed on the entire population. When they go aggro they seem to aggro together and almost seem linked somehow, again almost like the perfect army. But it's a virus and only half the population is afflicted. C-Shapes is a pharmaceutical company that has developed C-Alysium or calm as they call it. This controls the afflicted keeping them from going aggro.

Ethan has gotten the job of being the sitter for two cases of this affliction. One is a memory loss victim and the other is a mirror or mimic. We come into the story on his first day where he is expected to follow specific rules of conduct that seem quite simple and are enforced by graphic examples of what can happen when things go wrong. But imagine one of the cases being an old school friend who you once idolized and is now become debilitate and then imagine another who looks so frail and lost and becomes someone you're easily attracted to. This about sums up Ethan's first day at work. Since he is not supposed to become closely attached or emotionally involved; he's pretty much about to be blindsided.

But things aren't as they seem and Ethan is about to have rude awakening that's even worse than when his parents died from the virus. The world is poised at a moment of decision ready to kill off half of the population that poses such a threat to the rest. Ethan comes into possession of information that could change the way the world sees everything and he's not at all confident about his ability to complete the task he never signed up for.

All of that said I must once again raise a caution to those who insist on perfect grammar. This book will fail that test. My star system does not downgrade for those unless it seriously distracts me from the book. I have some friends though who will have that fingernail on chalkboard reaction too often in this book. I've marked 38 instance and there are likely more and that is more than I usually allow for, but I loved the plot and the character development I didn't feel there were any great out-in-left-field plot twists or that things were rushed along. But there are many odd sentence structures along with the 38 instances of missing words typos and incorrect words and double word that I think that mostly explains why many people didn't finish the book. If the editing had been just a bit tighter many of those people might have made it to the end and I think they would have been satisfied with the overall story.

This is a good novel for those not so picky people who love Dystopic SFF.

The first half of the book is the setup to how things look while the second is the slow reveal of how things really are and it all does fit as long as you don't get distracted by the typos. Given another thorough edit I'd have had no problem giving this a 5 star.

There are editors listed here and I hope they are reading the customer reviews carefully.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Review::Flag in Exile (Honor Harrington book 5) by David Weber

Flag in Exile (Honor Harrington, #5)Flag in Exile by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Flag in Exile (Honor Harrington book 5) by David Weber

This book is great, but I think I like the forth book better. This one we get to see another side of Honor. In a way, from her own point of view she starts to look a bit like a whiny woe is me everything I touch turns out bad. And with as many people who have died in the first four novels it's not all that hard to see why. It's a good thing that what David Weber excels at is giving the reader the other picture of Honor from the people around her. I have nothing to truly measure by but I often feel that David Weber creates military characters for both sides that are often overly honorable while they slaughter each other and I'm not sure that it is the way it is or the way many would like to believe it should be.

On half pay and in semi-retirement and shame Honor has moved to her Steadholder property Harrington on Grayson. As with the last book this book involves a lot of political intrigue on both sides of the war and some social upheaval on Grayson.It's difficult to tell sometimes if the Protector of Grayson , Benjamin Mayhew and High Admiral Wesley Mathews have Honor's best interests at heart. Sure they have enough to deal with trying to upend their own social order and religious beliefs, but they seem to have put themselves in a place where they are using Honor more than rewarding her. And though it seems we often see characters in black and white as regards Honor it is evident in this book that there are many who praise her while they hate her which seems more duplicitous and maybe greyish.

Once again I'll caution new readers do not expect a lot of space battles, start at the beginning of the series and work your way up and it will ween you into David Weber's style. We do get to see Hamish Alexander in action a bit and there is a lot of military posturing along with the politics, but the actual battle time is very short and near the end.

This story is almost written as a counterpoint to the events in the last book. Honor will have to go through a similar personal trial but the motive and method created in this book make it quite a bit different from last book.

There is almost too much time spent with the trials and tribulations of both sides political climate. Whole chapters devoted to essentially telling us that 'uneasy lies the head that wears the crown'. Both side seem to be mired in rotten politics and the inability to act decisively. The both seem to bungle along merrily heading into battles that will kill thousands.

While Honor is feeling low we get to see how the men who protect her see her and their very loyalty speaks volumes about the person she really is. The men of Grayson have to struggle with this woman who is an example of everything they've been taught a woman shouldn't be, but to their credit the ones close to her can see her for what she is. Eventually they will wise up and give her the kick she needs to get going again. In some ways though they do tend to drag her down with over-protection.

Once Honor gets back into the routine of things it's back to her cool calculated killer self again, although she does occasionally laps into self doubt based on the faces of people she's lost in previous battles.

I can honestly say that if I didn't have all the other eyes looking at her and showing me the real Honor Harrington I'm not sure how much I would like the person she kept presenting herself as in this story.

David Weber is still doing a lot of world building and because in Grayson things are poised for change it does seem critical to find out what it is that is being changed. If a reader has made it this far in the series they are used to this, or should be. And he does it so elegantly sometimes that I felt like I shouldn't interrupt and tell him to get to the point.

Once again this is a good book for those who like Military Science Fiction with heavy description in strategy and power and the political posturing that goes on beneath the whole mess. It's also a pretty good study of Honor's character if you know where to look.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Review::Becoming Human (The Exilon 5 Trilogy, Book1) By Eliza Green

Becoming Human (The Exilon 5 Trilogy, #1)Becoming Human by Eliza Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Becoming Human (The Exilon 5 Trilogy, Book1) By Eliza Green

I'm not sure exactly who or where this was recommended so I'll have to just give an obscure thanks to whoever. This is an enjoyable read despite a few road bumps some caused by my own neglect where I'd have to back track. It was a slow starter for me and it took about twenty pages or more before I was invested into the story.

Exilon 5 is a planet that was close to earth like located long before man was ready to attempt to make a journey out and to consider colonization. But it initially was not all that promising because its atmosphere was toxic to humans. In this future the future of humanity on Earth is threatened by abuse of Earth and its resources. And by the time humanity has created the ships to travel to Exilon they also have the technology to change the planet to make it habitable and it is their last best hope.

The story starts after a number of years of terra-forming and colonization and one of the main characters Bill Taggart finds himself finally on the planet. Unfortunately its to investigate the presence of an indigent population. One that might be responsible for the disappearance and maybe even death of his wife.

The story itself unfolds both on Exilon 5 and Earth through the eyes of several characters.Some of these characters are the Indigenes. There are questions about the Indigenes the reader will want to address, which I won't mention because it's a plot point and your will have to read to find out.

There is more wrong on Earth than problems with the biosphere. The citizens seem to live in the Orwellian nightmare. And there was even a scene in here that reminded me of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Characters are afraid to talk to each other for fear of those who watch and the consequences. Exchanges made in secret keep the reader cringing waiting for the participants to be caught out and worrying that someone might be drawing someone else out with ill intent.

Then there is the investigation into the Indigenes. There is something not right with all of that and it's becoming a two way street as the Indigenes begin to show greater intelligence and aptitude than everyone has been led to believe. It soon becomes a question of who is watching who and what they are up to.

Plenty of mysteries to go around and a great start to a series of books with engaging characters and insidious villains.

Lovers of SFF and even apocalyptic and dystopic tales should enjoy this book.

As always a bit of caution that I did find a handful of errors with missing words and sentences that seemed incomplete and strange splitting of words like percent into per cent. So beware you who have issues with finding such things in the reading. They did not slow me down or dissuade me.

There are some words with British English spelling and I almost think there is some colloquial terms in here. Not a problem just an observation. And a bit of playful use of Cliches.

Some interesting, potentially brave choices made with a first novel in a series. I think they work well with the writing style.
I'll be looking for the next book, because I want to know what happens.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review::The Rat and the Serpent by Stephen Palmer (as Bryn Llewellyn)

The Rat and the SerpentThe Rat and the Serpent by Bryn Llewellyn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Rat and the Serpent by Stephen Palmer (as Bryn Llewellyn)

First of all; I enjoyed this novel, but I had to make it halfway through the book before it grabbed me. This is by far one of the most difficult reads I’ve had in a while. At some times it felt almost as painful as the poor translation of Don Quixote I’d tried to read long ago. It’s written well and for the most part well edited but there are some style choices that made it difficult for me to follow.

This novel reminded me of Thea von Harbou’s Metropolis. It’s written in a similar style. A modern critic said of Metropolis that it was full of over-the-top prose. I don’t agree because I think it was still apropos for its time though this critic cited a number contemporary works that came nowhere near the OTT of Metropolis. But Metropolis was a blend of mythology with technology in what might be described as a Dystopic environment written in a style that tried to emulate some epic classics. And that’s what you get from The Rat and the Serpent which almost becomes something of an anachronistic style of writing.

The serpent in the story gives us the only clue that might explain why this style was chosen. This serpent seems to be drawn from a description that finds it root somewhere between 1400 BCE to 1100 CE and if we used that as our measure then this could have been meant to take place at that time. In keeping with this style there are words that crop up that demanded the use of a dictionary, not so much to understand the meaning as to first find out if they exist in the sense that many were alternate spellings to other words and then after that finally ascertaining the meaning in the reference. I don’t mind because I always have a dictionary handy. What made it more difficult is that there were occasional slang terms out of modern day urbanized terms and a whole slew of created names and words that were there mostly for world building. There were times I would have been happy to know the etymology of these names although that might have slowed things down and for me slowing things down wouldn’t have helped.

There’s a certain mood and tone that goes with the world building that brings to mind Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren which is another novel I struggled through many years ago. But the world of Ugliy is a gray world at best in many ways. It’s difficult to try to separate black and white and everything is covered constantly in soot from sootstorms that plague the region. Somehow this reflected in the style of the writing which created a sort mono paced story that dragged me though the first half of the novel.

Just like Ugliy in the novel who experience multiple times of self doubt while being told he could never be a Citidenizen I felt like giving up several times. But(just like Ugliy) I didn’t and by the time I got halfway through there were finally enough questions in my mind that I wanted answers to that I had to stick it out just a little longer. I don’t think the pace changed appreciably even in the moments that would usually be recognized as tense moments.

There are elements of this story that seem often like allegory; the never ending battle against the erosion and erasure of Mavrosopolis. The Thawers the Dessicators and the Bafflers fighting the wind the frost and the water. Each group had its tower and any of the three could be used to begin the test to rise from Nogoth to Citidenizen. In a way it was like trying to stave off the march of time using strange methods to block collect and remove the agents of erosion. But now as I think about it the whole story also seems to be an allegory of me the reader and the struggle to get through the novel as I look back at my previous paragraph.

This novel stands well as a view into world building from the ground up. Through the narrative as told by Ugliy the shaman of the BlackRat we see it unfold. It’s a rather tainted and prejudicial view, but it’s the only view we have beyond the second voice which for most of the story remains a mystery as to who they are. Each chapter has a two page entry into the thoughts of a second character. Oddly this short bit is just as engaging and informative as the longer version from Ugliy.

In the Nogoths there are several social divisions and all of those have in common the fact that they are all considered nonpersons and none seem satisfied with their lot. Since there is that carrot placed before them that invites them to join the Citidenizens they all have this idyllic notion about how those people live. Since we are not introduced directly with anyone of those who have knowledge of how the Citidenizens live who would be willing to share that experience we have only the view from below where everything up looks so much better and only the glimmer of suspicion for the reader to worry about where things are headed.

To make things interesting Citidenizens seemed to be obsessed with perfection of physical appearance and this makes it unlikely that Ugliy who is a cripple (one bad leg) deformed at birth to ever even dream of becoming Citidenizens. But Ugliy is a shaman of the BlackRat and that gives him a small edge in this world of struggle. I confess that at first I thought this BlackRat thing was just a scam he’d tried to pull to alleviate his own humiliation in front of Atavalens the shaman of the Panther when they were fighting over food. In a way though it seems that often Ugliy is congruent in his grumbling over being humiliated since all of them are at the lowest of the low in the class scale and scraping for any bits of food to sustain themselves and one would think he’d be familiar with and comfortable with humility when trying to find crumbs to satisfy his hunger.

As the story unfolds we meet Zveratu who helps Ugliy to begin the test that should lead to Citidenizenship while Ugliy is paranoid and distrustful and even knows that as a cripple it’s improbable that he’d be allowed to become Citidenizen he still allows this man to push him into this. When he joins the Dessicators he finds he’s allied to his enemy Atavalens and he meets Raknia (who in a peculiar twist to her name is the shaman of the widowspider.)At this point the characters become more caricature than real people and they seem to have some duality in their makeup although for the most part Atavalens is portrayed as just stubborn mean when it comes to Ugliy. Rakina vacillates from giving praise and encouragement to Ugliy to ranting and wanting to murder him-she has her reasons but it’s difficult to take her serious after a while.

The plot of the story or the story itself seems to be one of self discovery and improvement and the blinders that one puts on to justify never looking back. Ugliy despite being crippled becomes focused on the end and as with all the characters we seem to have an end justifies the mean mentality that permeates the story. Ultimately Ugliy’s greatest difficulty in life comes from within and is only minimally influenced by the physical deformity. In his quest he appears to try to maintain some of his humanity but one has to wonder if he ever truly had any. It’s this that makes it difficult to sympathize with any of the characters in this story.

Throughout the story there are a number of interesting things and ideas brought into the story in a sort of discovery fashion for both Ugliy and the reader. But as Ugliy struggles forward many or most seem to become disposable though there are smatterings that show up within the final parts and in all honestly there are so many of these loose pieces to the puzzle that I might easily have overlooked how they connected at the end.

Still even with some confusion there is a story with a plot that seems to thread its way into this novel and it’s enough to bring the reader to a satisfactory conclusion even if there might be some level of frustration with some of the outcome. I do enjoy a book that makes you think and takes you out of your comfort zone just a bit; though while I would have liked the climaxes to have reached a bit higher it might have been a delicate balance with trying not to become too absurd.

Though I wouldn’t recommend this solely for entertainment value If a person is a reader who likes to think and have the dictionary handy this is a fair Dystopic tale that includes shades of paranormal and a slow grinding horror that permeates the writing of such classic writers as Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review::In A Glass Darkly by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

In a Glass DarklyIn a Glass Darkly by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In A Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

Through a glass, darkly (1 Corinthians 13)

I enjoyed these stories and of course this includes Carmilla which I've already spoken about. The other stories here often come close to making me ask what's the the point. But these are early ghost stories that set the template for many of the strange stories I read in my youth and so I think I understand a bit about the stories.

The first volume of a three volume set that I downloaded has three short stories that would each qualify as a creepy ghost story. They are told from the point of coming from the journals kept by a occult detective Dr. Martin Hesselius as edited posthumously by his medical secretary. The notion is that the doctor had explanations for the phenomenon that might include a combination of medical knowledge and metaphysics.

These are ghost stories so they end poorly for the subject and they contain all of the exciting details that lead up to thier demise with it being left to the reader to decide if this was the work of ghosts or other agencies.

Green Tea is the story of Rev. Mr. Jennings and his brush with demons.

The Familiar is the story of Captain Barton and his struggle with ghosts of his past.

Mr. Justic Harbottle is the story of a corrupt Judges judgment.

These are all also listed as mysteries, but the mystery is never really solved, which is common in ghost stories. Although the reader gets enough background to make some conclusions.

What is interesting to me about these is that they precede the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and there are enough similarities to wonder if Sir Arthur was influenced by the work of Le Fanu although I've found one reference that intimated that Sir Arthur borrowed from his work in Uncle Silas.

The only real difference as detective stories go is that the strange cases Holmes took were mostly solvable cases.

So if you enjoy those ghost stories told in front of the campfire in the dead of night you should probably enjoy these. Perhaps we could even consider Dr.Hesselius as one of the original paranormal detectives if not the original.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review::Field of Dishonor by David Weber Book 4

Field of Dishonor (Honor Harrington, #4)Field of Dishonor by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Field of Dishonor by David Weber

This is one of my favorites and in a way it's for the reasons that ten percent of the readers dislike this one. It might be the fact that David Weber had three sure books assigned to write that led to this one or it might be that he wanted the springboard for the next couple of novels. Whichever way it might be; this one shows up almost as an experiment to see how well Honor stands without the great battle scenes at the end.

The book starts out with a long setup toward the court-martial of Pavel Young, which is a rehash of everything that happened pretty much in the last half of the half of the book prior to this: "A Short Victorious War", which is the part concerning Honor. This is all a setup for all of the political posturing that's going to occur soon.

So as with all his books, which seem like 50% Honor story 33% political posturing 17% war and instruments of war. This one cuts it 50 50 with Honor and politics. There is no great battle between ships at the end and not much talk of the armament.

What there is is an in-depth look at the characters as they are stuck in the mired political landscape. This time we get a clearer picture of the devotion all the people around Honor have for their captain.

This book can be frustrating especially to anyone skimming the pages of the previous three because there have been some political and cultural references to the story building that are peppered through those like some inane meaningless drivel that are now going to be pivotal to things that happen in this book in the world of Honor. Things the reader might have missed.

Questions of motivation and proper decorum within the universe are possibly raised here that might seem to upend everything, but it's not like you haven't been warned; if you've been able to stay awake through those passages.

That aside what hooks me with this novel is the fact that it's the one of all four so far that has moved me to feel something. Halfway through the book when politics interferes with justice and inevitable tragedy is visited on Honor there are several key scenes that struck me with some emotional impact not only garnering feelings for Honor but also those around her who want to protect her. As I've mentioned before it seems that the character building that David Weber does is more invested in the picture we receive from other characters and how they see Honor and I think that holds true for many of the main characters. I believe that might be one thing that throws people off if they are looking for the actions and narrative around the character to give them the full description. The character development is there, but the reader has to work a bit to squeeze it out of the story.

As I've mentioned, what is missing from this one is all that techno-babel that drives the other three and that's because the battle to be won is not a ship board battle. There is a lot of legalize and probably more of Honor than we see in the other books. And this is the build up for the next few novels setting the stage for where Honor will be and why.

This is again good for the SFF fan but not so much the military science fiction as it is the political. Anyone picking this one up as the first read of an Honor Harrington novel who likes space battles, is going to be disappointed. Start with On Baslisk Station.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Review::The Ripple Trilogy Books 1-3 by Cidney Swanson

The Ripple Trilogy Books 1-3The Ripple Trilogy Books 1-3 by Cidney Swanson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Ripple Trilogy Books 1-3 by Cidney Swanson
"the beautiful and the dark together"

First of all I really enjoyed this set of books; a lot. For me it took off right at the beginning and then just kept me running at a steady pace all the way through. The writing is superb, well crafted characters with an exciting though measured even pace that kept me right there with Samantha and Will.

This seems to target young adults, but I didn't let that sway me. In fact I was doing my usual cleanup of my kindle app on my PC when I recalled I hadn't downloaded this one and so I did and usually to do that the book gets opened so my eyes started scanning the page and I was hooked.

Apparently from the reviews there are some few rare people who seem to escape that hook, but I can't for the life of me see how.

In the Rippler we start with Sam our on the river rafting with her friends when the unthinkable happens. Sam has this problem where she just sort of vanishes like the invisible girl in fantastic four comics. She's been hiding it and she'd had some unusual trauma, the death of her best friend and her mother in an accident so she's been withdrawn up until now, which means that this vanishing trick is not going to help her much. Everyone except for Will has missed her vanishing act and they all somehow think she fell out of the raft so they all have a moment of panic.

With everyone running around Will talks to the invisible Sam trying to get her to make herself visible again while no one is watching. Of course it's puzzling to Sam how Will knows this and how he seems to be so calm about it. Will and Sam are already friends and this is going to bring them closer or tear them apart, but it is definitely going to have some impact.

We soon find out that Will has secrets of his own and that both of them are going to be in a lot of danger. They have special abilities that people are going to want to take advantage of.

One small comment about this story.Neo Nazi plots, characters with special abilities, siblings or parents who have passed away often under mysterious circumstances, and evil people who want to kill or control the special ability group. The themes and subplots are all familiar ones to this genre although Cidney Swanson has added a few ripples of her own to make it unique. But always with these types of stories what becomes the most important is the writing style and the crafting of characters. In those two I was extremely impressed.

The dynamic between the group around Sam and Will drive the story and the plot is driven by revelation of the evil through old journal entries present often through the eyes of the followers of the master mind of all the evil.

The Cameleon continues the story with further explanation of what is really happening and the danger that it poses to not only our main protagonists, but also to everyone they care about.

Will and Sam struggle with the best way to use their abilities to stay out of trouble and with the struggle of the growing relationship between them.

Finally Unfurl brings things all to an exciting dramatic conclusion that you will just have to read once you read the first two. At least that's how it was for me. And it doesn't disappoint. Each book builds on the previous and each one is better than the last.

Young Adults and even Adults who like the SFF should enjoy this and anyone that likes all those comic characters with their special power and angst should enjoy this. (Except they'll have to draw their own cartoon panels. And that seems to be one complaint of a fellow reader about these types of books.)

I loved it and I'll likely be reading a lot more of Cidney Swanson's work.

J.L. Dobias

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review::Max and the Gatekeeper by James Todd Cochrane

Max and the GatekeeperMax and the Gatekeeper by James Todd Cochrane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Max and the Gatekeeper by James Todd Cochrane

Max and the Gatekeeper starts out well with some bit of excitement to get the reader interested and then a slower paced mystery that stretches out only for as long as Max's Grandfather sees fit to torture him.

Max Rigdon is just an ordinary kid who is not quite so ordinary (by virtue of his connection to his grandfather) yet is quite ordinary in the world that he lives because of how things in the story work. The premise is that we have high potential for magic in our world but less inclination and thus less ability to tap into it.

Grandpa was once involved in a science program that examined certain potential and ended up opening a gateway into many dimensions where magic existed and in a way the gateway was emulating what some of the other worlds do with magic. Once the door was open Grandpa and some others were able to tap into the magic of the other worlds and learn how to use it on ours. But there is a sort of war going on and Max's Grandpa is guarding our world from the evil while helping others in other worlds to fight the evil and try to keep the gateway technology out of the hands of others. In the war Max's father was a casualty and that leaves Max as the sole heir to the task his grandfather has undertaken.

What Max doesn't realize is that he has been sent to his grandfather this year to learn all that they can teach him about the gateway and the magic. And the whole town where his grandfather lives is controlled by the evil that is trying to gain access to the Gateway.

I've already probably gone too far so I'll stop there.

There are a number of things I really liked about this novel. First off it obviously is a Young Adult or Teen novel. Max is around twelve and Max's partner in magic schooling Cindy is also of that age. I really enjoyed that Cindy was in no way ever portrayed as being helpless and in need of protecting. She's pretty level headed most of the time and even her mistakes seem to make sense and the consequences only help demonstrate her ability to fend for herself. Max too is an independent spirit and he learns quickly.

These stories-yes there are more- have the potential to be like the Harry Potter franchise. But as some others have noted the reader might get the feeling of things being rushed. The big evil is addressed right away and that helps to rush things along. I at one point was not sure there would be enough left for more story, but there really is plenty of wiggle room.

The parallel worlds or universes give this an element similar to Sliders of TV fame and open the stories for lots of possibilities. The magic rules are interesting and seemed consistent and the pace was pretty well handled to keep me interested.

I'm sure if James Todd Cochrane had decided to spend just a bit more time on developing both the good and the evil characters that this book could have been much longer. I'm not sure how much more improved it would be, but definitely longer and that might limit the age group. So I think in the long run the decision to look a bit rushed may be good for the age group this seems to target.

And the fact that there are more gives room for character development. We'll definitely have to see.

This is a good book for the Younger reader with mostly tame content to give it a wide distribution of readers. I'm well beyond that target age and really loved it.I think people interested in Fantasy and some SFF fans who aren't picky about needing adult scenes and solid science will really enjoy it.

It's a great and fun read.

I picked this up in June and notice that it was updated in November. I'm not sure what all needed fixing but I must have been mostly distracted by the story and didn't notice any problems.

J.L. Dobias

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review::The Zondon by Robby Charters

The ZondonThe Zondon by Robby Charters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Zondon by Robby Charters

This was an interesting read unfortunately I can see that it might easily be one that is quite easily discarded before being finished. Overall I think it was well plotted out storyline with interesting features. I read it all the way through but I swear that it took me a very long time to digest the first two pages of chapter one and I'm not sure exactly why other than that the style of writing and sometimes oddly structured sentences were distracting not to mention the notion of twins right away that called for names that were closely related Eddie and Ernie. I had some difficulty being assured that we were always in Ernies head. After that bit it became easier to read.

A word of caution this has spelling errors-wrong words- missing words and very odd sentence structure on occasion that number beyond a dozen and for me reaches the severe warning level. Such things as the word father instead of Farther; Though instead of thought; 'that I do what have now done.'(missing an I maybe.) 'there did came a time'. There were instances where the grammar and word choices were correct but the sentence was a bear to digest and that often comes from passive sentence structure.

Robby Charters has a lot of background in religious study so there is a lot of theology in here. It is quite diverse and probably because his background is with interdenominational church. I did not find it preachy or anything of that sort and it was pretty integral to the plot of the story. What I did find interesting was the exclusion of many religions considered by mainstream Christianity as cults. The main reason for the aspect of exclusion to be of note is because this story reads like at least one of those religions. If I had not checked his bio I'd have thought Robby was one of that ilk. There is at least one time where the dive into theology becomes so steep that it could be construed as preaching (except it wouldn't be preaching anything from any of those interdenominational churches).

This story takes place in many geographical locations but it centers often on Ireland and Thailand, which I gathered from the bio were the two places the author calls home so he's well acquainted with these areas.

Also most of the characters often end up with odd speech patterns somehow related to geographic origin which is okay but when that serves as the only device to give the characters depth it falls short for me and even with that aspect they all manage to sound the same as many people complain when an author fails to use this device. Unfortunately it began to feel for me as though someone decided everyone sounded the same so lets change up the speech patterns. That's always a good trick to start with if you really feel you need to do that. In this case I think most of the time it worked alright, but on occasion I got confused about who was from where and had to keep looking back to make sure that that speech affectation worked for that person. Sometimes for me this use for differentiating characters by speech affectation becomes a distraction when overused.

There are a lot of pop references. Almost too many of those. And there were even some where the reference became a bit obtuse for some reason.

Also it became evident at some point that the quest in this book was patterned like some of the MMORPG's online. Each quest done in a specific order and often portioned out one at a time or at least in that order.

I'd recommend this to lovers of SFF that are not too finicky about the Science part and don't mind a lot if theological discourse. Also Young Adult, but not anyone who hasn't yet grounded themselves in their personal beliefs about religion. This could just get confusing.

There was even a place I started thinking Thetans. (And that's not even the religion this reminds me of.)

Overall I enjoyed the book it contained a lot of interesting information pertaining to mainstream religion and some unusual notions.

There was one very interesting passage that felt like a recurring dream I've had and it was really pretty creepy having someone crawling through ever tightening passages until they get stuck.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review::Dark Night by Christopher A. Gray

Dark NightsDark Nights by Christopher A. Gray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dark Night by Christopher A. Gray

A friend of mine suggested I read this. He gave me a sneak peek of the copy he had and I decided it would be worth the small amount to check the rest out. This is one of those slow moving suspense novels that kind of unravels before the readers eye keeping them hanging there in the same confused place that the characters are at until it finally kicks in.

We agreed on one thing this reminded us of some stuff we've been reading from Robert Sawyer so if you like the Science Fiction of Robert Sawyer you should like this. I read Rollover and the pace and intensity of that story are similar to this. This is not one of those seat of your pants thrillers that are a dime a dozen these days. It's more of an intellectual plodder that requires you to think and also requires wading through a bit of scientific description.

The first thing that struck me about this story was it started out sounding a lot like the (1969) Roy Thinnes movie Journey to the Far Side of the Sun. In this book future technologies allow us to peer beyond and around the sun and we discover a world quite similar to Earth on the other side. And they're pretty sure it wasn't there not that long ago.

Next it begins to sound like the 1966 book by D. F. Jones Colossus:The Forbin project. A story about a pair of computers that go just a little bit out into left field. In Dark Night the Computer has become sentient and has the ability to out think modern day physicist and has found a way to move very large objects through dimensional space and into our dimension. There is a whole end of the world scenario that leads up to this. Now one small hick-up here is that this big brain seems to have overlooked some simple things that must remain intact when making the transfer.(Maybe it was just too much work and energy to move the planet.) Still this is an important plot point to help make this story interesting.

Christopher Gray takes us on the long scenic route to get there, but I think it's well worth the journey. Most of the early chapters are spent in finding cataloging and theorizing. Possibly for me not enough time was spent on development of the Characters. There seem to be three characters that drive the story, I almost said two but I can't ignore the sentient computer of the alternate Earth. Since there is a strong plot thread that runs to the end with this character and it makes a deep decision along with its several errors I have to admit that Mekhos is definitely a sort of antagonistic protagonist. Then we have Doug Lockwood of real Earth and Norman Stravinsky of the alt Earth who created Mekhos. Though there is all speculation about the two worlds colliding eventually and studies to determine the stability of the orbit of the alt-Earth, the real excitement in this story doesn't begin until about one third the way through when we find out how devastating it is to an Earth to try to survive some drastic changes.

Later on there are even elements in this story that remind me of the 1984 thriller Terminator. Pitting man against machine.
On a side note the web comic Skin Horse written by Shaenon K. Garrity and Jeffrey Channing Wells that has rather funny thread about something similar to this story about an AI that goes sentient and causes a lot of grief..

If I had to put Dark Night in a nutshell:

Mekhos, an artificial intelligence that has grown far beyond all expectations finds itself at the cusp of a decision as to how to save humanity from the impending disaster. The very design structure of its computational array is integral to the solution that presents itself. With too little time to allow the inhabitants to make the decision; Mekhos moves its Earth into another dimension and shifts the time reference to insert it's Earth half a year out of sync with the present Earth in the new location. But Mekhos has made a small error by leaving something behind that is vital to the continued survival of the humans. There is a solution because what Mekhos needs is just on the other side of the sun.

Mekhos has a problem. The inhabitants of the alt-Earth are unaware of what Mekhos is doing; mostly because Mekhos has a firm grip on the people of the planet and the real Earth is about to discover Mekhos plan in a most horrifying way.

Soon there will be a mad dash on both planets to pit human against machine and the ultimate consequence could be the destruction of two global civilizations. If that's not bad enough; man being man and already unable to trust himself is going to have a devil of a time trusting his counterparts from a parallel world.

And that's where this story diverges from the comparisons I just made above.

I recommend this for all SFF lovers Hard Soft and in between. Anyone that likes authors like Robert Sawyer and those slow-boiling science thrillers.

If there comes to be a second book to this I'll be reading it. Well written and edited. I did find a couple of minor faults that were easily overlooked and did not impact the read.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review::The Short Victorious War (#3 Honor Harrington) by David Weber

The Short Victorious War (Honor Harrington, #3)The Short Victorious War by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Short Victorious War (#3 Honor Harrington) by David Weber

While I do love my kindle and I sometimes seem to read much more smoothly with it, when it's a book I already have on my shelf its difficult to justify paying more for the kindle version than I did for the paperback on my shelf. And who can deny the thrill of coming away from the book with ink smudge thumbs.

Back around 98 I bought these four at once and I'm no longer certain if I ever read these in the correct order the first time because the Flag in Exile is missing from the receipts.

A Short Victorious War
Field of Dishonor
Honor Among Enemies
In Enemy Hands

In my effort to recapture the experience I'm trying to go through them in order.

I've also tried to pay attention to something purely out of the fact that I purchased these solely on the strength of the character herself-Honor Harrington. So just as an observation I found that out of 360 page there are roughly 180 pages that actually center upon the part of the story that I came into this for. That's pretty good because 180 pages is okay for a novel. So what's in the rest?

That's actually a good question because I've come to see Honor's novels as being multi-plot and multi-story novels. Of the first three I felt this was the most diverse in the number of plots or plot threads that were running through it. I'm not even certain if I could easily qualify what the main plot and story is. Instead I'll begin by highlighting the main part that was of interest to me.

One major Storyline and plot/theme that runs through these novels is the notion that Honor Harrington is constantly trying to prove herself. This is mostly her trying to prove herself to herself because as the reader progresses through the stories its easy to see there are three kinds of people around Honor. There are those who see her as already proven and those who have mostly preconceived or prejudicial views who have to be won over. And there are those who outright hate her and don't care that she has proven herself. In honesty there might be some shades in there but its mostly that. What's prevalent is that though she needs to prove herself to some she never goes out of the way to do so in fact sometimes she goes counter to that and it becomes more evident that she mostly needs to prove herself to herself. I'm not sure if she ever realizes this although people keep dropping hints.

Another plot/theme story is that there are a number of people who would like to see her fail and the plot involves how they move to help that along intentionally or accidentally. These range from severe hatred such as Paval Young to people working out of ignorance such as Admiral Park. And of course her enemies among the Havenites who just would rather win than lose to her.

In the previous two novels her brilliant decisions have made many friends and enemies alike and have helped her come through the battle nearly unscathed. But many around her have fallen and this novel does touch some on the impact that has upon her personally. When all is said and done Honor works like a well oiled machine despite all the odds that stack against her when it comes to her duty and command. In this particular novel she gets to see a bit of romance which was nice to see and it in no way interferes with the performance of her duties. So in a way this is the story of Honor's healing process both physically and emotionally with the plot that helps show how this occurs.

What David Weber does in these novels is keep a thread of plot about the various political and military factions of both sides of the conflict. In this particular novel it seemed that we got a large portion of this. I'm not sure how necessary they are to this story but they do seem to track toward being necessary to the series as a whole. There's a story about Hamish Alexander and those around him figure prominently within this story I'm not yet sure there is a plot to that story. This book contains two heavy stories about the Haven side. One is the attempt for a short victorious war hopes and the other is the shift in the political power brought on by coup. Those both seem well plotted.

So there are a handful of stories with just as many plots that all converge into one story, which perhaps could perhaps be the story of the horror's of war that inevitably culminates in the major loss of life and limb for honor and duty. It would be easier to say that this has one story with about six major plots, but it's hard in many cases to see those plots until you put all the books together so they become more like threads stories that are told through several other stories which are the novels.

Once again this is great SFF for those who don't mind some hand-waving and love to trace the internal logic of strategy and battle that are woven into the story. There's even a section in back for those who haven't gotten enough techno-speak from the internal parts of the story.

After reading this three times now I still rate it high for it's entertainment value although it still contains sections that almost beg to be scanned by some readers.(Including myself sometimes.)

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review::Memoria(A Corporation of LIes) by Alex Bobl (They control your memories - They tell you how to live.)

Memoria. A Corporation of LiesMemoria. A Corporation of Lies by Alex Bobl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Memoria By Alex Bobl (They control your memories - They tell you how to live.)

This was one of those few that took my interest by the book cover. It's cover reminded me of Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in its incantation as Blade Runner (the movie) and the tag line and it's title reminded me of Philip K Dick's We Can Remember it For You Wholesale aka Total Recall. But in reading it I couldn't help but be reminded of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The story sucked me in and caught my interest and eventually the closest it ever came was mostly to the movie versions of the Philip K Dick Stories which include all the dynamic twist and turns of plot while mayhem and carnage reigned supreme.

While little that's published today seems to ever reach that same literary level that the Huxley parody of other utopian works has reached it is of note that there are some interesting similarities in this story that plot-wise bring it close only toward being like examining Brave New World in a distorted fun-house mirror that populates today's writing styles.

I love a good suspense novel. I confess that I could never read them at any sustained level. I like mine in small doses. This is the second one this year and both have contained a theme that borders onto paranoid conspiracy theories and the possibility of mass mind control. They both have high body counts also.

As the story goes; Frank Shelby is an attorney coming back to the city from a non-productive meeting and is looking forward to connecting with his girl friend Kathleen whom he believes he wants to take the next step with despite the fact that he doesn't know that much about her, including her last name. His troubles start when a pushy cabbie tries to pick him up, he doesn't know it yet but that's his first clue things will go south. When he arrives at his apartment where Kathleen is waiting, because he gave her a key, he finds her dead and ends up embroiled in...well a conspiracy of a sort.

Frank becomes a fugitive and as the bodies begin to pile up it's clear that giving himself up is no option. The problem is that he lives in a world where everything and everyone is controlled by Memoria tech that monitor everyone all the time and everyone is expected to periodically show up at Memoria to have their brains cleaned. They have their thoughts scanned and have bad memories removed. This of course leads to something similar to PKD's Minority Report where criminals might be caught by their thoughts. The bracelets they wear and the procedure they undergo are similar to the notion of Soma in BNW. But soon we will see that things might go further with the Memoria tech and skills might be transferable which is similar to what goes on in PKD's We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (Total Recall).

The group Frank is helping to negotiate with are the people who don't have bracelets and are on a sort of reservation away from the rest. These are like the savages in Huxley's BNW. Because the Memoria tech has been weakening the will of the people they have come to rely on much of their food and energy coming from the reservation. The powers that be are looking toward changing that.

If the author Alex Bobl tried to tell me he'd never read Philip K Dick he'd be hard pressed to convince me although it's possible since Aldous Huxley did claim he'd not read We by Yevgeny Zamyatin prior to writing Brave New World.

Anyone that loves Suspense Novels and lots of action and body counts should find this enjoyable. And for those who have read the other books mentioned it will be an added treat. For anyone who hasn't read those books I'd suggest reading a few them to make the comparison and because i feel they are superior.

As always I warn there were a few grammatical stumbles with word choices that seemed odd and sentence structure that had me reading a few times to figure something out and the use of things like 151th that just seemed like it would sound better as 151st although it looks just as bad that way. As a total less than a handful of serious road-stops so not so bad.


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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review:: Window In Time A Time-Travel Fantasy by Charlotte A Banchi

Window in Time - A Time-Travel FantasyWindow in Time - A Time-Travel Fantasy by Charlotte A. Banchi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Window In Time A Time-Travel Fantasy by Charlotte A Banchi

I enjoyed this book a lot. There are a few speed-bumps (mostly of my own making; I believe) along the way that could have gotten in the way but I think the Charlotte Banchi does a great job of keeping the pace going and keeping the readers interest up and it makes this a very good read. I did have some reservations about another wizard school story-a certain British wizard uprooted and dropped in Oregon. The time travel aspect added a nice spicy flavor but that too has it drawbacks in that it reminded me of a device similar to the parallel universes of Star Trek where the main cast get to alternately play some evil part. And as far as time travel goes I love all kinds and really enjoy the ones with a lot of history showing up in the pages. I don't think I got much history in here. But internally and just trying to keep up with the lives of the main characters I think there was enough going on to say that historic accuracy could have just been too much distraction.

I've read a few Mage novels in the science fiction category so I'm only a bit more schooled about magick's than I'd be if it were only the HP novels. Still it took a few pages to get past that feeling that this is written around that set of novels before accepting it for itself. Wands, spells and spell-books, grimoire's and evil creatures from other dimensions and the dark evil that brings out the worst in everyone all almost smelled like fan fiction. There are a lot of similarities and so we have to go for what stands out and that's that this is a time travel novel.

Sentinel Sebastian Darkus already has problems, with his marriage, and he's trying to figure out just what went wrong between him and Kenna when the Dark Magick Warlock Hunter Sloane decides to wage war on Merlyn Academy killing adults and students alike. Being left in charge of several orphans and with the help of his twin sister Celeste they are waiting for the other shoe to drop while Sebastian is still struggling with the notion that everyone saw his Kenna helping Hunter Sloane kill the other witches and wizards. Knowing that this has something to do with the great dark magickal Obsidian Star, Sebastian decides he should address the question of where the Star is by going to the source in the past. He starts in the immediate past because his father in-law Bill Abbott has laid claim that he held the Star in his bookshop just only a few years earlier.

This eventually leads to the necessity to go all the way back to the real source, the time when the Star dropped into our dimension and Sebastian has mostly only tales and myth to guide him, but he eventually visits Merlyn in the 16thcentury past.

I've recently read a number of time travel novels (One that hasn't yet been published -ARC) and there is always that place where the author has to decide what to do with the altered time lines. In this case Charlotte double duties it as I mentioned by using it as a device to pass the evil ball from character to character, which was rather interesting.

There are a couple errors that slipped past the editing process but really not that much. A few times I was befuddled by the way a sentence was stacked. And there's a reference to Anne Frank that still has me scratching my head, but I'll get over that.

This is for fantasy lovers who are not obsessed with historic accuracy or being transported visually into a stunning rendition of the past. Time Travel afficionados should enjoy it as a light read.

This story keeps the reader moving along and guessing at where and what the grimoire is and reads well enough to finish in one read.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Review::Stem (ZombPunk 1) by Christopher Blankley

STEM (Zombpunk #1)STEM by Christopher Blankley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zombpunk(book 1) Stem by Christopher Blankley

First of all; this was a thoroughly enjoyable read despite what some people see as catastrophic failure and I only see as mild speed bumps. I like the way that this started because you have this impression that there will be zombies you also get this confusion because the alleged zombies are neat, fit and civilized while the non-zombies are dirty, wretched hungry creatures who are what you mostly expect zombie's to be.

The bottom line to that is it's difficult to really see at first who is going to turn out to be the evil in this book.

Now it does seem that someone might be trying to make some new genre here- calling it ZombPunk in sync with Steam-Punk of course without steam technology and I somehow think it would have been more appropriate to call this Stem-Punk but then the whole idea of a potential for horror would be left out. As it is I'd much rather go for the title of 'The Night of Bread and Fish' although if it's going to be more than one type of fish it should be 'The Night of Bread and Fishes'

There really are no redeemable characters in this story. You have the terrorists against the pod people. I say pod people because at first they seem more like the pod people from the Body Snatchers than anything else. In fact this seemed like a quiet rework of the body snatchers with a twist that the people left are not so much pursued by the pod people as they are phased out by the lack of processed food.(Somehow they all have forgotten how to hunt and then again we don't see much in the line of repopulating the wildlife and such; so maybe that is a factor.) Anyway the Pod People do have that pod people attitude that says we're superior and if you understood that you wouldn't resist.

The book starts out reading as a comedy of errors where things snowball by little misunderstandings until you have the non-stem group becoming terrorists because they feel so threatened and you have at least one of the Stem group thinking they are targeting him because of a coincidental incident. And then you finally have the group targeting him just because.

I read this straight through in one sit and enjoyed it.

Now for the caveat. This book has a few grammar errors. My copy didn't seem to have as many as some readers have claimed. And by way of search I'm fairly confident that this copy has been corrected since those claims. There are still some problems, but it is hard even with professional editing to get them all unless your professional editor has more than two sets of eyes looking at the manuscript and even then it depends on their ability to catch everything. So there are still some errors but nothing distracting. There might still be some style choices that are suspect, but overall this copy is pretty solid.

I think that this qualifies more as good SFF for those types of fans and only the ending comes off a bit zombie-ish. Even then it still seems more pod people especially in some scenes where the pack sniffs out the normals. Overall this is great entertainment.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review::The Honor of the Queen(Honor Harrington) by David Weber

The Honor of the Queen (Honor Harrington, #2)The Honor of the Queen by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Honor of the Queen(Honor Harrington) by David Weber

Once more I'm reading the next Honor Harrington novel to try to understand why I like them so much. One might ask why( I'm doing this) and this came about because in trying to read the newest of the series I found myself making constant starts and stops and wondering what has changed. Obviously the most changed factor would seem to be me. (Since some of these books are twenty years old it is that long ago that I first read them.)

I really love this book the first three times I read it and I still do but this time I tried to pay particular attention to why. And I discovered first that the style of writing is one that I would describe for myself as a reader as the writing that reads like a bad LP plays on a player. There are passages that are like a scratch on a record and you suddenly find yourself at the bottom of the page wondering how you managed to skip those last three paragraphs. I realize that in the best description I can give I have been scanning large portions of this book to get to the parts I like.

This in fact is caused by the massive walls of techo-babel that seem so important to the tactics of battle that will play out later. It's quite interesting because it does add some element of depth to that part of the story and it suddenly made me realize that the main character in this story often seems to be the techno-babel. That's not necessarily a bad thing but it can be annoying to some readers. There is still a lot of world building going on here and David has a lot to tell us about this new system where Grayson is. There is a lot of political and religious background that goes into the telling of this story. In fact it all might be considered Techno-Politico-Religio-babel. That's a trifecta destined to either awe or bore.

What I love about these novels is the character of Honor Harrington. She's one of the best female protagonists in this type of science fiction and yet she is in some ways the worst. I say this because David Weber seems to have difficulty in directly accessing the true emotions of Honor Harrington. I believe that its an effort to make her some uber war strategist that might impair this process. Most, not all, of her emotions are throttled until something within the context of her general macho nature goes beyond the pale. Let's translate that to the type of character Clint Eastwood plays so well. The kind that shows few emotions until he's pushed beyond some limit. That means most of the time we see Honor as a dispassionate soldier. Oh sure she has her opinions of politics and other such things but they are all driven and focused into her military career. This is probably quite accurate for what David is going for here, but it creates that sort on one dimensional character that people can't peer around without loosing sight of since the other side of the page is blank.

What David does do is give insight into much of Honor's character through how other characters see her. The problem with that is is that it's no holds barred in the field because it ranges from everyone from close friend to worst foe. Mostly this ends up creating caricature's of these other characters who are being judged by how they perceive the protagonist and that perception is colored by the reader's own opinion of what Honor is (as they see her). The largest window into Honor is in chapter Twenty Six and her reaction to the way the prisoners of war were treated. Unfortunately the focus on the treatment of the women in particular causes the rest to pale, but the overall reaction in Honor is again a good indication of what this woman soldier is all about. Sad to say that's a small portion of this long book.

The interesting part of all of this one dimensional nature of Honor is that in a way David Weber is leaving it open for the reader to fill in a lot of the blanks based on the information and misinformation traveling through the thoughts of others. This is actually normally a good trick in writing-not telling the reader everything and letting them think for themselves. It obviously works quite well here because more people like these books than those who don't. The caveat here is that those who don't can't grasp the fundamental to why they don't like it other than that the characters are all flat.

David has an interesting opinion and take on the directions that politics, religion, and technology might shape the future and unfortunately the reader gets a lot of this in long bouts of telling that leave little to the imagination though sometime it left me scratching my head. The biggest stumbling block for Honor this time might be this sexist thing with the Graysons and its in Chapter Twenty that we see Honor putting the nails to that coffin by her selfless act (which she later tries to minimize by stating she was only protecting herself.)

And just like many of those protagonists of the great movies everyone around Honor gets killed and injured while she walks away with all the guilt and the rewards. Once again the most heroic people are those who have cleaved to this their leader and have marched off to their deaths in defense of honor and country (world).

This is a great read for SFF fans who like a lot of techno-babel and somewhat authentic sounding space battles and strategy.

Once again I loved this story, but I'm not sure if I see the same Honor Harrington that David wrote about by the time I reach the end, and I don't think that that is such a bad thing.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Review::The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift(Emerald City Nights)Volume 1 by Jayme Beddingfield

The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift (Emerald City Nights #1)The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift by Jayme Beddingfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift(Emerald City Nights)Volume 1 by Jayme Beddingfield

I came really close to putting this book down after the first dozen or so pages. I have to admit that I'm glad I forged past that rough patch to watch the rest of the story unfold.

This story is told in first person present tense and I don't have to be reminded how difficult this can be sometimes. Add to that some other writing style decisions and it really was a struggle reading through those first dozen pages to get the pace of things.

The first most difficult thing about first person is trying to avoid sounding like a shopping list with starting every sentence with I. But this is told from the protagonist's point of view and Ruby has already told us how bored she is with her life of crime so it becomes difficult to determine if some of that style was intentional in order to reinforce the mundane quality of her life.

I should warn anyone who is inclined to bleed from the eyes with all the grammar and punctuation anomalies that this has some suspect word choices, some missing words, and probably a bit of excess in punctuation. Combined with the-as many as ten to twelve sentences beginning with-I plus a verb-in a lot of paragraphs it can get distracting. But once you get to the important stuff and get into the story the distraction seems to go away. (Maybe depending on your level of exactitude; I suppose.)

What this story has going for it is a very strong character in Ruby. Ruby has super human abilities but she is fraught with a lot of flaws that get in the way. It's Ruby's struggle with the flaws and her awakening to the destructive path she on that creates a somewhat complex character. She's the kind of person who makes you want to slap her up the side of the head, if you weren't afraid she'd kill you.

Left to her own devices when she was thirteen Ruby was taken in by a family of a sort who also have special powers. They befriended her and taught her how to deal with and use those powers. The problem is that they taught her to become a criminal. Not just a thief but also a murderer. This is part of what has gotten her stuck in her situation with no easy way out. And she's beginning to want out.

The person who saved her (Tristan) and introduced her to this family of criminals is someone she fell in love with. But now Tristan has become an addict to the drug (rift) and has changed. Ruby knows she will never get the old Tristan back but she keeps hanging in there, that's just one of her flaws. In the same way she stays with the gang even as she begins to detest what she has to do. She's never really known any other life and it's difficult for her to cut the cords and start anew.

When she's ordered by Madison, her boss, to kill the street waif, Darcy, Ruby rebels and spares the young girl who reminds her of herself when she was alone and on the street. This and all of her other soul searching lead her to wonder what would have happened if she'd not fallen in with this gang and wondering how she can get out of these destructive relationships. It also compels her to want to protect Darcy from entering into a life like Ruby's.

Because of the more than a handful of grammar and punctuation problems I would downgrade this to a 4.5 but there was so much depth in Ruby's character that I'm going with the 5. As for the style choices made in the way the story was told, I'm leaning toward some of it being a deliberate though dangerous experiment with creating a bit of the atmosphere. I think in order to make their own judgement someone has to read this all the way through.

This is a good SFF and maybe I could list it potentially as Young Adult(mature).

It's not often lately that I find interesting quotes to take from my reading. I, for some reason, found this one compelling.

" Trying not to smoke is like attempting to avoid staring at a person without legs. "

Beddingfield, Jayme (2013-11-08). The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift (Emerald City Nights) (Kindle Location 1151). Sky Portal Publishing. Kindle Edition.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review::Death Whispers(The Death Series,#1) by Tamara Rose Blodgett

Death Whispers (Death, #1)Death Whispers by Tamara Rose Blodgett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death Whispers(The Death Series,#1) by Tamara Rose Blodgett

I wasn't sure how much I'd like this. Paranormal Young Adult with some romance. It starts out slow and with the protagonist being somewhere between 13 and 14 that's understandable because we're going to see a lot of school time. The young age and the school setting and a lot of the dialogue, not to mention some unusual narrative make this a teen novel teetering on the edge of young adult. But as it goes along it sustains my interest and it makes for an entertaining first novel for a series. Being a grandfather I winced at the too soon early age falling in love thing.

It has a prologue which I think was unnecessary it just needed to be an extra chapter. If there were an epilogue and they stood like book ends or sentries on each end, I might let it slide, but it reads like just another chapter and I'm not sure why a prologue was decide. It doesn't hurt the book because it's just another part so it's not bad; like the one that seem to have marginal content to help move the story.

Caleb Hart is just an average teen, with a lot of growing up to do. He acts and sounds like a teen and that is expected. He hangs with teens and they all act like typical teens and that's expected again. But they live in a world that has moved the bar on the teens and now everyone gets a shot that will tweak their DNA and somewhere around their 14 the birthday many will start manifesting their paranormal gifts. And for Hart its going to be AFTD (Affinity for the Dead) one of the most prized and least sought after gifts. There are levels; five of them, and if Hart were lucky he'd only score a two or three. But Hart is not lucky and he knows he has a five. Hart also has a father who is famous for his research in this area and dad can find something to tone his talent down a bit before he gets tested because if he tests out to a five he'll be like Jeffrey Parker.( and he sort of vanished in the system because of what a level 5 AFTD can do. )For Caleb it starts out simple, he hears dead frogs and a few other unfortunate creatures. Then to prove to his buddies that its AFTD and not queasiness that makes him shun his work in biology he accidentally raises the dead and nearly can't put the poor fellow back in the ground. So of course his parents do what any parent should do and they test his abilities by heading out to raise grandma. That of course could only go bad and it gets worse when some people from school happen by and everyone freaks out while granny is punching a few of the kids around.

Before they put granny back to sleep she tells Caleb that a girl with the name of a stone is going to be his greatest ally and that he needs to protect her, which is great because Caleb has a girl friend he likes named Jade (who test out for Empathy.) In the meantime while trying to keep it all low key Caleb brings a dog back to life before it's life force gets away and he has a new friend in the dog. His mother names the dog Onyx even after having heard what grandma said so I'm not sure what kind of message she's trying to send. Being slightly irresponsible as are many teens Caleb and his group have a devil of a time keeping his talent a secret and they will soon find out there is a secret government project inside the government project that means to take Caleb who may turn out to be even more than what Jeffrey Parker was.

Caleb puts together his team (think scoobies.) They even have a dog. They hunt ghosts and raise the dead and fight the evil and eat lots of cookies, pizza and ice-cream.

This book kept me entertained and I look forward to more, but now for the caveats. This book is not for the faint of heart grammarian. Those who are picky and pernickety should steer clear for a number of reason. There are missing words and the wrong words used in several occasions. There are times when the dialogue is missing a quote mark and I don't mean dialogue that spans paragraphs I mean dialogue that goes right on into or comes right out of narrative with no quote mark and such rapidity that it make the head spin.

This book also has some different style choices. Such as breaking up works or sentences with periods almost like web addresses.

Sunday. At. The. Cemetery.

Blodgett, Tamara Rose (2011-03-30). Death Whispers (The Death Series, #1) (p. 116).(p. 118). . Kindle Edition.

There are several expressions I'm unfamiliar with but I'll let that pass since its been a long time since I was a teen and teen speak is probably different. Punctuation sometimes seems a bit odd, but that's my weak suit also.

All in all there are enough road bumps to make this four star instead of five.

A little editing could have gone a long way. And possibly some of us writers would benefit by not trying to give English lessons within the text of our novels until we get our own grammar sorted out. Some of it was enlightening, but there were suspicious elements in there.

The part with the dog's thoughts were a bit of a different style choice that I'll for the time chalk up to that funny name Onyx.

Overall this is a pretty good Teen Tween Young Adult Paranormal and Occult. Not much for SFF and Dystopia, but one might argue that there are thin weaves of the two in the text. Good plot, good story line, great pacing. I read straight through and cruised past all those road bumps. And I'm looking forward to reading the next two.

J.L. Dobias

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Review:: American Goddesses by Gary Henry

American GoddessesAmerican Goddesses by Gary R. Henry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

American Goddesses by Gary Henry

I enjoyed this story, but for me there were moments when it seemed to be extremely campy.

It's well written although it is of an unusual style which is something it shares with some few other novels I've recently read. There's an excessive amount of dialogue and it's often difficult to give the reader a full depth of the characters from that and that alone. It takes some skill to keep the readers attention with only dialogue. Although this does keep my attention I think it might also account for the feeling that there is a comedy built into this.

I have an old favorite movie called His Girl Friday, which comes from a popular play. It has a lot of banter back and forth that is quick fire and almost leaves the audience breathless at times and I think that's what this reminds me of. The story is written in enough dialogue form that it looks like a screen play and reads a bit like a comedy.

The premise is fresh on the one hand yet overused on another. We have a great amount of female protagonists lately that are endowed with fantastic powers that make them indestructible and I'm not sure if that's all that helpful in trying to portray women with any measure of extra depth. It is nice to see that these women have their weaknesses even when they are powerful but the examination of those weaknesses such as when Megan finds her husband with the other woman are not so much unbelievable as swept under the rug too quickly. In fact her husbands easy conversion almost makes one wonder if her psychic powers were used to sway his mind a bit.

And then I'm not even all that sure how well someone might be reliant upon powers that might be reduced to nothing by their present state of mind.(Although the mind rape might make some argument for those circumstance.)

But this did entertain me and kept me reading all the way to the end so there is a lot to say to that.

This would have made a great young adult story because it really does read that way and it has the feel of having had adult situations and language inserted just to throw people off from making that assessment.

The prologue ( which is more distraction than helping the story along since we don't really see these people again) and the subsequent portrayal of evil organizations of men seem a bit on the excess of trying to villain - ize men in general not to mention a whole diatribe of anti-male sentiment with a contrast that if everything is run by women it will be suddenly all that much better. It's interesting, but the use of all those visuals includes specific elements in the plot that never get resolved they merely stand as 'oh these are horrible things perpetrated by horrible men' and now we have these super women who can fix everything. We do not see our hero's solve but only the tip of the iceberg; while being unaware that there is something massively dangerous underneath.

The only character with enough power to hurt them is another woman and though she makes a thoroughly good villain she's a woman and her existence stands in the way of one prevalent theme in the novel. But she's necessary otherwise there is no conflict, just the hero's squashing the bad guys.

While there were strong women abounding throughout this story I really didn't see any strong characters that really put me into this story to care about them. So though I love to give everyone high marks for their effort I think there was a story in between the dialogue that didn't make it to the paper. This novel could have been longer and much better.

This is a fairly good light read for someone who's looking for that certain something different in their SFF and doesn't take their science too serious.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Review:: On Baslisk Station by David Weber [or how my writer group is ruining my enjoyment of reading]

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1)On Basilisk Station by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On Baslisk Station by David Weber (Honor Harrington)

I've read this four times and each time I've left enough time-span between to be certain I've forgotten enough that it will grab my attention anew. This time I have it in e-book form, which is just great because I can make notes as I read. Knowing that the three previous times I've read this I still enjoyed it I wanted to figure out just what it is that makes this book so compelling to me.

It has a prologue and these days on-line writer groups will most times try to talk a writer out of doing a prologue. I can see why. This prologue does nothing for me. There is some interesting banter amongst the political heads but they seem to me more like a business meeting discussing the next year sales strategy. But that could be because I'd know business meetings much better than political or military strategy meeting.

So for me the real story begins in chapter one.(Well, I do have to read the prologue because its the setup for what happens at the Baslisk Station.) And this is where the writer groups on-line will tell you to put your hook. (For many of those groups it seems to mean you need some sort of high action dramatic scene that sucks the reader in.--I'm not sure what kind of reader they're trying to suck in though.)

We start with the introduction of Honor Harrington and Nimitz her treecat companion. We get a rather lengthy description of Nimitz first and for me the impression I had was possibly a wolverine mixed with a house cat that's a carnivore except for the occasions it can lay its paws on some celery.(Nimitz as with several other characters have integral parts and these descriptions are useful for later more than they are for now.) After Nimitz's introduction we move to Harrington who we discover is the senior aboard the shuttle that is arriving at the Station Hephaestus where she'll be taking command of her first cruiser,HMS Fearless. Fearless is at Hephaestus for a refit. While Honor mentally reminisces about her academy years and her tour of duty and promotions we also learn a bit about treecats and their relationship to the humans they attach themselves to and why they're allowed aboard vessels. All this information leads to the first mystery which is why her mentor Admiral Courvosier was so vague about the refit that was being effected on her new command.

Most of this might seem pretty bland in its individual pieces, but it's the whole of it that brings me into the story. We next see Honor through the eyes of Lieutenant Commander McKeon, her new exec, who we also find was hoping to draw command of Fearless. He's not happy.

Not only was she a full commander, not only did the breast of her tunic bear the embroidered gold star denoting a previous hyper-capable command, but she looked young enough to be his daughter. Well, no, not that young, perhaps, but she could have been his niece. Of course, she was third-generation prolong. He'd checked the open portion of her record closely enough to know that, and the anti-aging treatments seemed to be proving even more effective for second- and third-generation recipients. Other parts of her record—like her penchant for unorthodox tactical maneuvers, and the CGM and Monarch's Thanks she'd earned saving lives when HMS Manticore's forward power room exploded—soothed his resentment a bit, but neither they nor knowing why she seemed so youthful could lessen the emotional impact of finding the slot he'd longed for so hopelessly filled by an officer who not only oozed the effortless magnetism he'd always envied in others but also looked as if she'd graduated from the Academy last year. Nor did the bright, unwavering regard the treecat bent upon him make him feel any better.[/quote]

David Weber. On Basilisk Station (Kindle Locations 263-268). Baen Books.

When McKeon reveals that are they're refitting with a new Grav lance and they've gutted a few of their tried and true armament, Honor shows her knowledge and perhaps a bit more.

He watched her closely, and she didn't—quite—wince. Which, he reflected, spoke well for her self-control. Energy torpedoes were quick-firing, destructive, very difficult for point defense to stop. . . and completely ineffectual against a target protected by a military-grade sidewall. That, obviously, was the reason for the grav lance, yet if a grav lance could (usually) burn out its target's sidewall generators, it was slow-firing and had a very short maximum effective range. But if Captain Harrington was aware of that, she allowed no trace of it to color her voice.[/quote]

David Weber. On Basilisk Station (Kindle Locations 323-327). Baen Books.

Everything we've learned about Honor and the description of the universe (the shuttle; the station; the ship) in which she lives has been peppered into the first chapter to lead up to the basic realization that her new command is going to be much more of a challenge than she'd have expected and that there will be personal conflicts of which she's yet to become aware. And that's the hook.

It has taken us over 15 pages and 5000 words into the story until I am fully cemented in to where I want to invest in the rest of the book. So its all those baby steps from the start of chapter one to the end that entice me into going on.

In the next chapters I find out what kind of stuff Honor Harrington is made of because things get better for a bit and then they get worse until someone decides to bury her and her crew on a dead-end assignment at Baslisk station placing Honor under the command of a man she has some bad history with. Then while doing her job she uncovers a plot and some criminal negligence.

Honor carries this novel, but the people around her, how they react to her when she comes on board, how they begin to rally around her as thing get tough and she begins to prove herself, are all integral to how we perceive Honor's growth.

That sums up what I like about the book there are a multitude of other facets that I'll leave to other people since I've never been in a space battle and have no idea how realistic the ones in here are.

That said I'll add my usual warning to people. For those who are pick or pernickety. There were some grammatical errors usually missing words. Had those missing words been in dialogue or in character's thoughts I might let them pass. To some there may be a lot or even too much exposition because there is a lot to cover in creating this world. I think because David Weber was leading to a dramatic battle at the end there was an over emphasis on the machinery that would be used. Possibly the politics and art of war in space might be drawn out a bit. Again it's all a necessary part of building the world or universe in which Honor's stories take place.
There are some areas some readers might find questionable such as the narrative in two instances below, which stand as counterpoint to one another, but don't readily seem to serve as much a purpose in moving the story forward than to tell us a bit of dimensional information about Hamish Alexander.
Alexander plays a much smaller role in this novel than in some.

He turned away from the window, folding his hands behind him, and surveyed the office of the First Space Lord. The room was paneled in light-toned native woods, not the extravagance it would have been on one of the inner-worlds, and there was a fireplace in one corner. It was functional, not merely ornamental, and that, Alexander thought, was an extravagance. The Admiralty Building was over a Manticoran century-and-a-half old and little more than a hundred stories tall, a modest little structure for a counter-gravity civilization, but that fireplace's chimney bored up through thirty-odd stories of air shafts and ventilation ducting. He could only marvel at the stubborn insistence of whoever had designed the building, especially in a climate which required air-conditioning far more often than heating.[/quote]

David Weber. On Basilisk Station (Kindle Locations 2035-2040). Baen Books.

Fat flakes of snow fell like silent, feathery ghosts in the windless sub-arctic night beyond the window. Hamish Alexander stood watching them through the thick, double-paned plastic and felt the welcome heat of the fire against his back. His study was in the oldest part of White Haven, the sprawling Alexander family seat, and the walls of native stone were over two meters thick. Unlike some commodities, rock had been plentiful when White Haven was first built, and enough of it worked just as well as more esoteric off-world insulation would have.

He turned back to the huge fireplace and added another log. He adjusted it with the poker, settling the native hemlock (which, in fact, bore very little resemblance to the Old Earth tree of the same name) into the bed of coals, then straightened and replaced the poker in its stand as he checked the wall clock again. It was twelve past comp, well into the twenty-seven-minute midnight "hour" officially called Compensate that adjusted Manticore's 22.45-hour day to permit use of Standard Reckoning time units, and his eyebrow rose again. Even allowing for the time zone difference, it was unusual for his brother to screen him this late—and even more unusual for him to specify the exact time at which he would call.

David Weber. On Basilisk Station (Kindle Locations 3724-3733). Baen Books.

There are other style issues that don't always agree with on-line writer forums and on-line writer groups. So if a reader subscribes heavily into those, this novel might disappoint them. On the other hand for those who want to examine what a traditional publisher publishes then this would be a good book to start with when looking at Baen publishing.

Dialogue in On Baslisk Station often seems to make everyone sound the same (That's not so much a complaint of mine as it is one of a friend. I concur but it's not an issue with me.) This one tone dialogue tends to artificially flatten out all the characters. Most of the characters in this novel gain their depth more in how other characters see them. (This occurs sometimes with inner thoughts and might look more like telling than showing.) Once again this was not an issue to me and probably why I did not perceive the characters as one dimensional.

Lovers of Sci-Fi SFF and are not picky about some issues should love this book.

This time around I gained a better appreciation of the other characters around Honor and found that they seemed to be more heroic than she in that they followed her into combat supporting her one hundred percent. There were times when David Weber's depiction of command reminded me of fast food management, except when I sent someone grudgingly off to take care of the fry station they generally didn't die. Though I did have one pass out on me.

J.L. Dobias

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