Monday, March 30, 2015

Review::Take the Star Road by Peter Grant

Take the Star Road (The Maxwell Saga, #1)Take the Star Road by Peter Grant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Take the Star Road (The Maxwell Saga Book 1) by Peter Grant

This novel is billed as being on par with Heinlein's juvenile series of novels and I can almost reconcile how that comes about. There are a number of problems with that assessment that I feel must be addressed. In all I enjoyed the story and the writing; but felt in many ways that this falls short of what it could be by some simple style choices. These same choices seem to be what would begin to distance this reader from comparing it to the Heinlein that I remember. There is room for thought that others might find the assessment of this work to be spot on; so I think as usual that it is best for future readers to make their own judgment. Of course to that end for some it might involve having to acquaint themselves with Heinlein's work.

To begin one thing that does hold true to Heinlein is the treatment of women in the novel is indicative of the expected treatment of someone writing back in the late fifties and early sixties. I'm not sure that is much of an endorsement though.

Steve Maxwell is an orphan. He's lived a rough life-from the sound of it-and has become seriously disillusioned of Earths government and is now working as a dishwasher on a space terminal with the hopes that he can scratch together enough funds to continue his education to a point he can qualify to work aboard a space vessel to reach the Commonweath: where he might hope to work to become a citizen. Steve has a certain moral ethics that is quite outstanding; but we don't learn this so much from him or from watching him as we do from having characters tell us this. We don't get close enough to Steve to really be able to examine this and this for me caused some puzzling incongruities. Steve is loyal and trustworthy and hardworking and he also holds title to second dan in karate. We learn all of this in the first chapter-along with a few other things. Almost enough to say we know everything we need to know just in that chapter alone.

Steve is near destitute while working for Louie in a saloon that caters to spacers and is at least a close connection to Steve's pursuits. Louie is not just a successful business man; but he is someone who has ties to the shady Dragon Tong who control this sector. The Lotus Tong mean to move in-apparently oblivious to the hornet’s nest they are stepping into-and they put pressure on Louie; who blows them off, resulting in them attacking Louie while Steve is still around and has a chance to display his talent and save his employer and endear himself to the Dragon Tong who consider Louis an irreplaceable resource. This also results in a reward removing that period of destitution; and indebtedness of his employer who will help facilitate his career with the Commonwealth. This is also the first time Steve has been involved in killing someone.

This covers a majority of the plot and a reader could almost skip to the last few chapters. I wouldn't personally recommend that; because for me it's the journey ( not the start point and destination) that counts. And there are still some things the reader has to learn about Steve and there is this puzzle about his seeming moral stance mentioned earlier and his easy acceptance of the forsaking of proper authority while allowing the Dragon Tong to administer their own justice to the Lotus Tong. And this will eventually lead to a bit more trouble for Steve before he leaves the Terminal for his career in space. But that misfortune will result in the fortune of obtaining an item that will become important later.

In many ways as a reader I was seeing more similarities to Voltair's Candide than to Heinlein's works. (In fact I reread Candide because of this.)Steve is rather naive, or at least seems that way; and that condition causes some discomfort that often results in unexpected fortune. The main difference between Steve and Candide is that Steve never really suffers as much physically. Morally Steve seems to be walking the fence between the pristine Commonweath he wants to join and the seedy underworld of the Dragon Tong without much thought that those two might conflict with each other somewhere down the line. But before that we must face the incongruity between his morals and his ending up in bed with his bosses girlfriend. This is passed off as something similar to the old trope about the big sendoff of the young soldier heading to boot camp and to battle. Only in this case Steve is heading toward everything good that he's imagined for his life.

The middle part of the novel becomes an even paced story-maybe too even paced. Throughout Steve has a favorite phrase that signals a bit of something that becomes too obvious: eventually. It varies a bit from; I hear; to I see; to the most favored of-I get it. What this signals is the completion of a long dialogue that begins in the form of the old ‘as you know’ or ‘as you should know’ or ‘let me explain’. If you’re a fan of dialogue, that’s good; because with this formula you get a lot of it. The middle of this book is a lot of world building where you will get a lot of science of this universe and how things work and even the structure of the hierarchy of crew on space ships and some of the military of the Commonwealth. All accomplished through dialogue. Because of that we lack in narrative that might bring us close to Steve. Lacking some in the five senses and mostly in any expressions that might confirm what we are led to believe about his morality, which we are mostly to take for granted through what others express and some face value. That is where the problem arises because we don't know exactly how he feels having to be closely allied with the Dragon Tong and looking to join the Commonwealth while maintaining his sense of morality.

I'm hoping; perhaps some of this will show up better in the future stories of this series.

Still: This is a good story overall and a great beginning to a new series that promises to open a whole new world or universe for us as Steve matures. If I have any complaint it might be that there is a point, when you read this you will see, where Steve seems to take a sharp turn from naive to some bit of too much cunning as he begins to try to steer developments between him and the Dragon Tong. So far the Commonwealth has either been oblivious to his Dragon Tong connection or they don't perceive it as a problem and we really don't know what Steve is thinking and once again at best we can hope that the next few stories will begin sorting that all out.

I'd love to give this four or five stars; but it faltered for me and as usual it could be chalked up to not enough character development in regards to getting up close and personal with the main character, which is my personal preference.

Great SFF and good for YA though there might be some moral ripples to work through and though we get a lot of ‘science’ I’m not sure it is that important to the story.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review::Battleframe:the Mindwars by Michael Gilmour

Battleframe: The Mindwars, Book 1Battleframe: The Mindwars, Book 1 by Michael Gilmour

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Battleframe: The Mindwars(Volume 1)by Michael Gilmour

This is another to add to my love to hate list. I wanted to really love this one; and it could have worked even with the rough start; unfortunately most of the problems that started in the first half were perpetuated through to the end. This is a good book with a great story and it should be four star read; but in the same token I'd have to stretch to do that; because there are style choices that interfere with character development.It's a debut of a new author so there is that to consider, and as is often the case style issues can appear to become exaggerated from inexperience in writing fiction. This can blindside some readers and perhaps in this case, because I like my stories to have good character development, it colors my perception. I think that a discerning reader will have to read this novel to make their own judgement.

The book starts with two separate stories that will inevitably meet and it employs something I've recently seen in a lot of other fiction; which is the omniscient seeming beings that meddle everywhere, but seem to be constrained from changing certain things. They show up throughout and serve mostly to distract in my opinion. The second story is that of two young boys who survive an alien invasion. These boys train to become warriors fighting those aliens using newly invented technology that might have been augmented by one of the mysterious omniscient ones from the prologue. The problem is that their story comprises about half the book and it turns out to be a deceit, which may be a determining part of the writers decision to use a specific style of writing to pull off this deceit. The author chose to write this part in omniscient third person. That's not such a bad decisions for pulling off this type of deceit because maintaining the deceit requires that the reader not get too much information from the characters head. What I mean by that is that if the reader were to be constantly close to the inside of the characters head there would have to be some obviously non-congruent thoughts; or the character's thoughts would have to be naturally deceitful, which then creates an unreliable narrator situation.

Unfortunately this point of view lends itself to the possibility of abuse and that seems to happen a lot in the first half of this novel. What I mean by that, is that; when in this point of view, it becomes easier to be tempted to use the narrator to dig into the surface thoughts of the characters and guide the reader to character motives in a seemingly capricious manner. But not just that, it also becomes easy to fall into the bad habit of digging into snippets of thoughts from all the characters all at once. And that occurs often in this novel to the tune of switching heads three or four times on the same page. What this does is create an impression of confusion and false impression of too much information; while at the same time preventing the reader from getting acquainted with any one character. But in this case the author is trying to prevent connection to the reader, because he doesn't want certain information to leak out just yet. The problem with all of that is that the deception becomes painfully obvious partially because of this point of view. I say painfully because I found myself so hoping that I was wrong about where this was going; because it did not bode well for my preferences in reading. Add to this deception the anomaly of flash backs that create back-story for the two characters, to fill in what has happened to get them to this point, and then when reaching the reveal the reader begins to wonder what purpose that back-story served.

What the story does have going for it is some interesting blend of various ideas. We have nano-tech that seems to be used both to augment biology and create somewhat unique battle armor for the characters to use in their fight against a relentless enemy( an enemy that apparently view them both as vermin to be exterminated and a possible source of food). The plot is a simple one of perseverance to survive and remain free. The main characters use the tech to fight and there is an added feature that allows the wearer to be whisked away from the battle in some instances; when they are incapacitated (through some sort of tele-porting that is so painful it is the last resort kind of thing the soldier wants to do and may even border on a fate worse than death or at least close to it). There are many more wonders of science in use in this world and oddly enough most of the tech part of the story survives after the deception is revealed.

Eventually the deception falls apart and what I most feared is true, but the upside is that this could mean that we now will be able to alter the point of view a bit and begin learning some things about these characters and why I should care about them. But first: as it falls apart we find out that our heroes have sons; but the back-story hasn't gotten even remotely near to how that might have occurred and as a reader I'm now tempted to want to know (more back-story please), but at the same time-things fall apart and I suddenly realize it might not be relevant.

I've seen the type of deception that we have here work in other novels. Many of Philip K. Dick's better pieces had stuff like this. But there's a way of crafting the deception that doesn't work here; because I get the impression that through all of this our main characters already were fully aware of at least one level of the deception(there are several levels here), which was why we had to be kept at a distance from their thoughts. The biggest problem in this novel is that we're dragged through the deception for half the novel, which means that we have to stay distanced from those thoughts for that half. Now with that out of the way there's room to redeem the narrative, but the writer seems to chose to remain remote. This created a few problems for me.

One oddity here is that I was just getting used to the writers use of third omniscience just as the story took this wide left turn to reveal the deception. A deception I had early on detected and had hoped, now that we were half way into the book, that I had been wrong about. The reader is quickly dropped into a new plot that seems to be a blend of the movie The Last Starfighter and Orson Scott Card's Ender series. I was hoping that now I'd get a look at the true character of the people behind the facade, unfortunately we are led to believe that, though there was a deception, we have to rely on the previous character development for any understanding of these characters and for me that was a problem, because I saw scant development of characters up to this point; so in many ways I had no idea what to expect of them. Yet from all of that previous deception we're supposed to believe that they would make the decisions they make; which are more suited to the plot than to the character abilities and motives: of which we really have little evidence.

At the same time according to our ever-present yet nearly invisible omniscient meddlers; these may be the ones that they have waited 50 thousand years for. They are the ones; the chosen; and in some ways we start sounding a lot like the original Star Wars, which is interesting since later there will be a tense scene that almost mirrors the destruction of the planet killing battle-star from the first movie. And many times this novel feels more like a movie than a book. By that I mean that we have the camera zooming all around and stopping now an then for a closeup of some faces. We get entire paragraphs of descriptions that look like a still photo; yet only a few lines now and then from out of someones head that tease us. And there was even one anomalous occasion where for some reason the narrator dropped to second person almost as though we were reading a manual.

The action is good and there is an element of suspense where there are some mysteries that occasionally crop up that make you wonder where things are going. There are some neat notions that seem to be extrapolations of things already examined in other novels. I found all of that to be well built with it's own defined rules and caveats, yet once again it's not enough to carry the story for me because I'm a character driven story lover. These characters were less the drivers and more the driven.

The good news is that most if not all the technology and world building stays intact despite the deception and for the most part continues to be consistent; though when our heroic chosen arrive to the final battle there are some developments that take us close to that chasm of Deus Ex Machina. But there will be sacrifices and lives will be lost; so they are not all that powerful: yet. Still there is a point that the story reaches that gave me strong impressions of the influence of the last few books of E.E. Doc Smith Skylark series; where some of the characters obtain some awesome mental powers. And the reader needs to read this to see what I mean.

Still this is not a book that gives you growth of character or a visible change through the journey of the story. It is difficult to reconcile the decisions made in the second half with the characters making those decisions and most assuredly those decision don't appear to reflect any growth or such in the characters. This has a great many notions and bits of technology that are of interest to those who like the world building. Yet even though the reader gets some close looks at the enemy there is little if any development of their motive other than that they react in fear and command by fear and intimidation.

I liked the ideas and the tech and they manage to stay consistent up until a certain point. But to be honest to discuss further my thoughts would likely be delving into some spoilers. I will be watching for more in this series from Michael Gilmour in the hope that, as his writing matures, his interest in developing characters will mature. This is good science fiction for those who like the technical end of the fiction without too much emphasis on the Simon Pure part of that. With a little more attention to balance in the writing, there is potential for greatness.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Review::Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This was a real surprise to me. I was searching for a quote from something else and there were enough word matches to place me smack dab in the middle of an html version of Jane Eyre. I wasn't sure what it was and had to scroll to the top to see; but sure enough it turns out that it was Jane Eyre. I've always thought Jane Eyre to be a sort of gothic romance; and it is. Never took much interest and was never obligated to read it all through school and college.

When I got to the top I started reading it.

Of course I'm aware that everyone these days in the writer’s forums talks about a great opening and a good hook. I'm not sure this had that but somehow it did manage to draw me in and now I'm perplexed. I read this in two sittings taking up half of two days; but I found I needed to read it.

It starts quite simple enough:
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

Told in first person it is at the onset difficult to tell if this is some poor child being neglected or if she is truly in need of some bit of civilizing and has rightfully been partitioned off from her cousins and subjected to severe discipline. Being an orphan living with her uncle's family; on her father’s side; and being that her mother is reputed to have come from a poor family she should feel privileged to be here. But now her uncle has died; almost orphaning her again in a manner of speaking; and she's left with an aunt who doesn't want her and wouldn't care for her, but for the promise she made to her late husband before he died. As the story unfolds it becomes very clear that Jane is aware of all of this and that might influence her behavior some. Once again this is first person and told in a way that it is evident that it is the past and the narrator is likely a much older wiser Jane Eyre and yet it sometimes is difficult to separate that out, so it leaves the reader often seeing Jane as someone a bit more mature than her age. This and the acceptable mores of the time in relationship to woman’s place in that era sometimes make the novel frustrating until the reader remembers this is a very young girl in distant past times.

I suppose that one thing that drew me immediately into the story was the moral and physical privation Jane suffers once one clearly sees what is going on in this family. She's not just an outsider looking in; she's a prisoner of an unjust development of circumstance and an almost predatory indifference from those who should be close to her. She virtually lives in a closet. All of this reminds me of my favorite Dickens novels and is partially the reason I continued reading. But after her cousin strikes her in the head with a book, drawing blood, and comes at her violently; forcing her to defend herself, she’s chastised and sent to the red-room for punishment.

This is where the gothic element comes into the story. The red-room is the room her uncle died in and Jane is quickly overcome with the suspicion that his ghost resides within the room. Her aunt will have nothing of her complaints and relegates her to further time in the room. Eventually the unreasonable fear overtakes her and she passes out to be found that way some indeterminate time later. This leads to a visit from a doctor who is keen enough to recognize some things and suggest to the aunt that perhaps Jane would be better tempered if sent off to a school. His true motive seems clearly to be to somehow release the aunt of obligation and save Jane. There is still some struggle ahead before Jane is sent off and when she is her aunt sends a message that she is troubled and demon possessed child.

In school she meets more disagreeable sorts and the stigma of that pronouncement of her aunt threatens her condition until one teacher, Miss Temple, contacts the doctor for the true story and is able to acquit Jane. Jane makes a quick friend of Helen Burns who seems to have a quite Christian view about her life despite her own troubled nature and often tries to entreat Jane to follow her example; which in many ways might help Jane because she has become a person who vacillates between grudging acceptance to igniting like a flame when pushed too far and always getting herself into trouble with her honest forward nature during that time. But by now much of Jane's character has been formed and though some of Helen Burns does seem to rub off on her; she has her own specific treatment of morality that will mold her life later on.

Soon Jane is introduced to harsh reality of life in those times when her friend Helen grows sick and eventually dies on a night that Jane sneaks in to comfort her. This can't help but have a profound effect on Jane. Eventually because of poor conditions at the school many more of the girls die from Typhus and changes are eventually made to the way the facility is administered to make sure this doesn't happen again.

It is interesting to note that up to this point there are many parallels that historians and biographers draw between the life of Jane and that of Charlotte Bronte, though Charlotte was far from ever being orphaned.

The novel soon fast-forwards through her schooling to the time she becomes a teacher at the school and then becomes discontent enough to decide to reach out to become a governess to privately teach someone’s children. This leads to the real meat of the story that is a strong reflection of the time and mores and Jane's constant struggle to stay within the limits and confines of what is expected of a young woman and yet still stay within her own self defined moral concept.

I recall at the time I was reading this that there was a writer in a forum attempting a period piece that was near; but still quite a reach from Jane's time and during Suffrage. I made the observation that in one instance the inner dialogue of the young girl seemed to weaken her and that if she was working toward woman suffrage then perhaps she might not think so conventionally. Another reader commented that it would probably still be that way (the conventional way of thinking) for that time and cited Bronte's work among others to support this. That got me to thinking and I had to respond that although Jane Eyre tried to stay mute in many situations, when push came to shove she always shone through like a lioness with quite a lot of disregard for convention when it butted up to her ideal of moral sense and self worth.
Jane Eyre was way ahead of her time and was in many ways doomed to almost too much tragedy that would leave me shaking my head until I reminded myself of the era in which this was all taking place. Still there could have been no more liberated a woman in that time than was Jane Eyre and though tragic, it was inevitable that the only way she could enter into a happy marriage was with someone who was free to marry and who truly loved her and could treat her as an equal.

Eventually things work out; but not before a lot of hardship and few more brushes with what borders on the gothic with mentions of ghosts and vampires often leaving Jane in bits of melodramatic narrative. But all is well because Charlotte Bronte has a powerful command of the language and storytelling and it all works to support the framework of her story.

Not my usual fare but not as far away as one might think. A great Gothic Romance that is still worth reading today, as it was back then. For lovers of Gothic and Paranormal and of course Romance though much more the tragic romance.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review::Guy Erma and the Son of Empire by Sally Ann Melia

Guy Erma and the Son of EmpireGuy Erma and the Son of Empire by Sally Ann Melia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Guy Erma and Son of Empire by Sally Ann Melia

Once you start this book you won't put it down. It is a tightly woven well crafted tale that has all the mystery and suspense and intrigue that many of the old classics had. This novel wants to grab you and pull you through one adventure to the next with just enough time to put your head above the water and gasp for breath; then hold onto the seat of your pants ‘cause we got another reckless slide up ahead. Sometimes the pace seems relentless and yet there is a lot of time spent with the grandeur of world building, which tells you that there were some quiet moments; they just got filled with interesting narrative about the world and the people and the creatures.

This novel truly has everything. Character's with depth; and breath. Almost overwhelming sometimes; yet at the same time I never lost track of who was who in the large cast. The narrative takes the reader through the examination of prejudices and tenuous alliances and political intrigue that rival those in such classics as the Dune sagas.

The story starts with Karl Valvanchi, a Zaracan warrior, at Mezzatorra on the planet Sas Darona; a territory that is under dispute. The Freyne Empire believes it should be theirs. Karl is fighting a cold war of suspicion that the people inciting and helping the natives of Sas Darona to commit terrorist acts are part of the Dome Elite of the Freyne Empire. In the introduction we see the horrible result of the terrorists work and the one momentary gleam of hope for Karl when they capture a Dome Elite; only to watch as the proof slips through his fingers. And the damage is done because somehow someone has stolen s high tech virus from the Mezzatorra facility. (A virus that shouldn't exist; because the goal was to find a cure for a virulent virus on the planet; while someone of the Zaracan and the United Races thought it might make an interesting weapon.)

Next we switch to Freyne 2 where we meet the two main protagonist characters. It might take a while for them to realize they are both protagonists; but they get there before the end of the novel. Prince Teodor lives a structured life and the introduction to him is ambiguous as we see him in a somewhat weakened state, but it's a human weakness of fear based on history and a duty he needs to perform soon. His father and brother were murdered by a terrorist bomb while visiting the Dome where the Dome Elite are trained. He is now scheduled to visit and entertain the orphans in the Dome and he's frightened for his life. But duty calls and his mother Regent Sayginn has her own problems; what with unwanted advances from Emperor, now that she’s a widow, and her attempts at trying to maintain order on Freyne 2 until her son is ready to take control.

The society on Freyne is quite complex and the other main character is Guy Erma, an orphan living in the Dome, whose dream is to become one of the Elite. But even doing that is a quite complex task fighting a complex social structure that is stacked against him. And from here we are introduced to Chart Segat, the man who heads the Dome Elite once a friend of Teodor's father Serge and now a man who plays dangerous political games since his friends death. One of those games includes Guy because Guy is not what he appears to be and Chart Segat means to take every advantage. And everyone keeps telling Guy that to become part of Elite he must do whatever Chart Segat says.

Add to this mix Karl Valvanchi's brother Nikato is the ambassador to Freyne 2 and that their father is also an ambassador; it becomes understandable that, when Nikato uses their father to influence (strong-arm) Karl into sending some members of the local tribes on Sas Darona to Freyne on a sort of diplomatic cultural exchange, that Karl decides to come along for a visit and a bit of reconnaissance. There will be so many reasons he might regret that later; but you will have to read that to find out about those. For now when Prince Teodor is kidnapped Karl is enlisted by the Regent to help find him, so that's one good outcome of his coming to Freyne 2.

As you should see by now, this is becoming complex and this is only the tip of the iceberg; because there is so much more to the world that Sally has created. And it is all tightly woven while at the same time the narrative is handled so smoothly that it doesn't feel overwhelming.

There is almost the hint of one more main protagonist in the young Princess Nell Valvanchi, a niece of Karl's. Unfortunately she is not as strong a character as I was hoping to find in the work. But when you read you will see that there are plenty of reasons for that; and more than enough distractions in the plot to justify toning some of it down.

The plot itself seems to feel often like a rollercoaster ride; though it might be because of the extensive world building built into the scenes. This creates a rather protracted pace that though not too disturbing may account for what I felt was the one letdown at the end of the novel.

The novel ends well enough and I would give this a five star if it were not for the fact that I somehow perceived that the last chapter and the epilogue were two things that I could have done without. As I said I don't have a problem with how it ended and I don't think I have a problem with those two sections at the end setting things up for the next book. What struck me was that somehow the writing felt like it went from very tight to frayed at the ends.

I can't say more without giving up much; so again when you read the book you can make your own judgment. I might just be overreacting.

This is a great SFF for all fans of Fantasy and Science Fiction. If you loved Dune you'll love this and even if you may have struggled through Dune you won't find this as much a struggle because the narrative is set to let the details flow around the reader as you dive further into the novel.

Loved it and will be looking for more.

J.L. Dobias

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Review::Convent of the Pure by Sara M. Harvey

Convent of the Pure by Sara M. Harvey

The Convent of the Pure by Sara M. Harvey is listed as a Steampunk novel.

Original Review Date June 15th 2012

I'm not a fan of Steampunk though I have enjoyed the Girl Genius and I must admit that this novel as well as some others gave me good reason to look up the definition of Steampunk. Since I'm giving this one the possibility of a read that makes defining it almost paramount.

I have been willing in the past to nod to aspects of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells that would easily slide into the Steampunk genre. There have been some aspects of the horror or shock fiction which I've struggled with. Such as Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. All and all I think I came to an agreeable understanding that the Convent of the Pure qualified. It also opened the avenue to look to some of my other old authors and to see how easily Edgar Rice Burroughs could fall in this category.

In fact the description of some of the scenes in the macabre lab reminded me of the Master Mind of Mars. Even the subsequent 'surgery' kept taking me back to that old novel.

The narrative itself without the aspects of Genre was more than enough to sustain my attention most of the way through. There may have been two or three places where I caught myself skipping ahead. If I were of the ilk of those in some forums I would write a two page analysis of what was wrong with one paragraph or sentence. It would be more likely that the fault lie in the reader who may have been trying to get an advanced look at where things were going.

It did not hurt that I'm a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and that I kept trying to draw parallels to Portia and Buffy. But, this story has its own unique elements. I enjoyed the take on the Nephilim - the children of the sons of god and daughters of man. That they survived the flood and were hiding while assigning themselves as watchers over man. Elements of this part of the story bordered on a dystopic life for these watchers and once again - not a fan of dystopia novels. But it was Portia and her relationship to the ever present spirit of her lost love Imogen that catapulted me past those parts.

Being new to the genre I hesitate to say that the first half of the novel does or doesn't seem to contain much that is new and unique. It was a good and sustainable read and when I reached the second half which I'll refer to as that more grisly half I think the style and voice of the author, Sara, comes shining through. We see her show us Portia at her most vulnerable moments having to grow and learn to trust that the strength and determination she's been trying to build within herself is not as distant from her as she thinks.

Overall for me Sara M. Harvey may have tipped the scale that's been balancing me away from getting immersed in Steampunk. Way to go; as if I don't have enough to read already.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Review::Oxygen by J.B. Olson& R.S Ingermanson

Oxygen by John B. Olson & randy Ingermanson

Original Review Date May 23rd 2012

I purchased the book Oxygen for two reasons one of those being to read the bit at the end for other Authors.

I wanted to thank the authors for a good read. I read the story first knowing it probably would have spoilers at the end.

I normally don't write much about what I read and it tends more towards the saccharin than anything else. Probably because mom said if you don't have anything nice to say...

In this case though I have so much nice to say I have to say a bit more.
I've read science fiction for quite some time well over 50 years. And if I were one prone to try to distill what would be pure science fiction I think that the authors nailed it here. Its fiction based on science as close to what we see today with little if any deviation. This could be happening now.

It's peopled with believable characters and situations and quirks. I think I've met some of these people. And the story contained 'for me' a predictable element at the beginning which might have blindsided me into not being ready for the twisting turning plot up ahead. I'm not revealing any of this trust me it starts out like a predictable episode of Murders She wrote and veers off into a roller-coaster ride of who dunnits.

The Authors John B. Olsen and Randy Ingermanson have done a thorough job of putting together an enjoyable and informative read. I did stop a couple times to double check their facts. But that's just me being me. If they slipped a few by me, well good for them. Their overall writing is solid.

That part said;I did see one issue or maybe a feature depending on what the authors might know or have intended. There is a great portion of the plot device that smacks of something I read long ago in Robert Heinleins The Man Who Sold the Moon. If the authors have read this I'm sure they should know what I'm referring to. If not they should perhaps check it out.

I'm assuming the best in that they pay homage to one of my favorite authors.
That said I envisioned this as an Apollo 13 meets The Man Who Sold the Moon.

For anyone who has read neither of these I suggest you read Oxygen first. Because its really good and it won't disappoint. Then read the Man Who Sold the Moon because it's pretty darn good too.

And anyone who has read The Man Who Sold the Moon I hope that doesn't end up as a spoiler. It shouldn't because its more of a cosmetic type lift and tuck and perhaps not even intended. Only the authors know for sure.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review::Transgression(a City of God Book)by R.S Ingermanson

Transgression (City of God #1)Transgression by Randy Ingermanson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Transgression(a City of God Book)by R.S Ingermanson

This was free and might still be; so I picked it up along with a few other free books and attempted to read two others before I started into this one. I won't name the other two since I might attempt yet to read them some future date. This is the only of the three freebies that grabbed my attention from the beginning. It managed to keep my attention for one long read in a rather quiet day.

This is a fair novel and as I said it grabbed me right away; but there were a number of things that were annoying to me. I think though that it's worth a read for anyone who likes to mix their science fiction with a bit of theology. Having already read both Oxygen novels (Oxygen and Fifth Man) and finding those entertaining, I'm not surprised that this one also entertains. It unfortunately contains many of the pitfalls that are in both oxygen stories. The writing is based on a formulaic method that in itself is fairly tight, but lends itself to some things I find particularly annoying.

As with many novels today the formula is to start with an action scene that draws the reader in by creating or display a bit of tightened drama and action (because the reader wants this?). This novel certainly does that; and its blurb hawks itself as a mystery suspense so this snippet at the beginning is meant to roll the mystery footage. The trouble is that it becomes mostly vital and probably is there because the actual first chapter is rather sedate and might not carry some readers into the story. For me chapter one was intriguing enough and all that the prologue did was keep me anticipating that at some point the novel was going to pick up the pace. It does pick it up but in a large way that prologue is really like those preview scenes from a movie that highlight all the action in the movie so that the best parts have been viewed before the movie-goer gets to the theater for the show. So when it reaches that point the main character Rivka manages to do a 180 turn on the drama and loses the momentum started by the prologue. She next wanders off like a tourist; rather than someone who was just hijacked into the past.

Normally I would begin with the explanation that what hurts this book the most is an attempt at keeping things a mystery. What I mean by this is that desire to keep the reader in the dark about certain facts becomes an impediment to good character development. But having read the two mentioned science fiction collaborations I would also have to say that this becomes compounded by some sort of stylistic method behind the writing. Often it feels like the narrative oscillates in and out for brief moments in the head of one character and sometimes gets too much information; and then snapping out to a far view to see characters that often display too much adolescent immaturity. There also seems to be a formulaic romance going on where Rivka is asked by Dov to find a date for Ari the physicist; creating the love quadrangle with Dov, Rivka, Ari, and Jessica. So while Jessica and Ari are suppose to get together; we discover that Jessica and Dov end up together more often and Rivka and Ari become close, then we discover there are seeming irreconcilable differences between Rivka and Ari pertaining to religion.

Finally we meet Damien West who has an almost inexplicable fondness for the manifesto of the Uni-bomber and has some agenda related to the wormhole time loop generator that Ari is having him construct.

It becomes difficult to decide if this is a romance or is meant to showcase a philosophical discussion about religion; while it becomes more certain that the science and the time travel have really minor parts and have fallen to the wayside in favor of one of those two. There are elements of what occur that definitely are locked into the need for these characters to be in the past and there is really some fun irony to the fact that of the three the one best to communicate and understand the language of the people is a woman; who is not to be spoken to directly in public. But as with other novels of this type there are characters of the past who seem all too ready to take in the time travelers despite anomalies that might characterize the future people as demons or heretics.

In the past each character seems to begin a path of examination of their beliefs as the 'truth' unfolds. And as it is this novel could not help but remind me of another recent read by Amy Deardon in her novel 'A Lever Long Enough'. She too had time travelers heading to the past to investigate the truth about Yeshua. These two novels seem almost a bit too parallel at the onset with the only difference being that in one there is a conspiracy to ultimately steer the proof in one direction; where in the other there's an attempt to end Christianity at one of its roots.

This novel is most likely best for those who might enjoy the discussion of religion and the difference between what is widely believed today as opposed to what may have been the root of our beliefs. Anyone that read 'A Lever Long Enough' could enjoy this book, but science fiction fans might be disappointed about the light treatment of the science involved.

Overall it's an enjoyable read; but if it was meant to be thought provoking it might have missed that mark for me.

J.L. Dobias

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