Wednesday, April 29, 2015

JoZebwrites: On (mostly) accidental darkness.

JoZebwrites: On (mostly) accidental darkness.: I wrote a book that I knew was a little dark in places, but considered to be not outstandingly so, especially in this age of Grimdark. I&...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review::Stardoc by S.L. Viehl

Stardoc (Stardoc, #1)Stardoc by S.L. Viehl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stardoc(Stardoc#1) by S.L.Viehl

This is one of those books I so wanted to love. It has a lot going for it. As some have mentioned it has that certain something that came of the Star Trek era. It has a plethora of alien life forms; many are similar to humans and others are more like spiders and bugs. It has this political atmosphere where the Earth shuns the aliens though star travel is an every day thing. There is a slight air of superiority in this exclusion and that is a bit off putting while definitely not quite the same flavor as a Star Trek. But overall for this novel it works.

What this novel also has is a bit of romance and some mystery and these could be a great addition if there were not some elements about them that seemed to get in the way. I should qualify that I'm not averse to romance and more so in my science fiction. What I have a problem with is the manner in which it's presented and how that portrays the character.

The mystery is another thing that is one of those things that might be compared to humor. When done well it comes across quite successfully; but when mismanaged it can get in the way.

I have only four of the novels in this series; one thing they have in common is they start with a bit taken from Hippocrates. This is about a Star Doc so it makes sense and there seems to always follow a snide response from Cherijo, the main character, about the value of such advice. I suppose in a small way this prepares us for the sassy character behind these stories. Just a tiny bit of a spoiler here; I've read three of the novels so far and one thing that is clear is that Cherijo doesn't change much throughout. Oddly her character is like one part Bones from Star Trek and one part Bones from the TV series and one part Candid. I say Candid because sometimes her focus on healing makes her oblivious to everything else to the point that she often seems quite naive about life and the consequences of her actions and just like Candid she always manages to come out smelling like a rose even though she often has to roll in dung-heap a bit before hand.

The mystery starts right from the beginning when Cherijo is trying to get off Earth and away from her father. Of course this is a common trope in fiction so no surprise that the young woman wants to put as much distance between her and her parent. The first wrinkle is that her father is one of those who are bigoted against aliens; but we are soon to find that in some other beliefs he is quite hypocritical and one of those belongs to the list off reasons Cherijo is leaving Earth. Her destination is a Free Clinic on Kevarzangia Two where she will get experience in perfuming surgery on aliens. Her secret and her fathers secret and some few other revelations involving Maggie, someone she calls her maternal influence since she never knew her mother, are all stretched throughout. It would be a spoiler to state any of the secrets because so far they span across the three books I have read. This book reveals some, but not all. This I could live with but it was just one annoying thing that hung in there for me with a bad taste.

The best I can do in describing the romance in this book, well this one is the exception, for the most part Cherijo's romance is rather schizoid. Now on the surface one might argue that that word can't describe romance and I'm certain you are right; but read this novel and the next two and then tell me that that doesn't describe the romance category for Cherijo.

Regardless; Cherijo goes to the seedy part of town and hires Dhreen, captain of Bestshot, who decides he likes her after circumstances in the bar require Cherijo to display both her assertiveness and her dedication to healing. Dhreen agrees to take her to Kevarzangia and all that's left for Cherijo is for her to get off planet before her father finds out.

Cherijo makes it eventless to her destination where she takes up residency and meets a lot of strange species while not making many friends. She honestly has the bedside manner of Temperance Brennen sometimes. But she's so dedicated to her work of healing that she really steps into it when she heals a Hsktskt, one of the most feared and hated species. This gets mixed reactions from everyone and is soon forgotten when a plague threatens to overtake the planet; but not before Cherijo starts an inter-species romance with a Jorenian, Kao Torin. I've no objection to interspecies romance and Cherijo honestly seems to love him though she falls quickly into love. But alas I think that the author is using Kao. Enough of that though because it ventures into spoiler territory.

Overall I enjoyed this novel and read it in one night. My one qualm is that Cherijo doesn't seem changeable and at the same time because of some circumstances she seems to often be hard to pin down. I think that it’s the oath and her healing that tend to hold back the growth and often lead to confusing territory with the character actions. But more so, and this is a spoiler, it's the whole basis of the mystery and Cherijo herself being so perfect at some things that causes her to stay static throughout.

I recommend this to anyone who loves science fiction; especially the bug eyed monster kind and in a small way watching how a writer can take Star Trek and push it into a fifty-ish novel with a female lead that could only be conceived in the future.

I honestly thoroughly enjoyed the novel despite some of the drawbacks I've mentioned.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Review::Mark of the Centipede by Cara Brookins

Mark of the Centipede (Timeshifters Journey 1)Mark of the Centipede by Cara Brookins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mark of the Centipede (Time Shifters 1)by Cara Brookins

This is a slightly different time travel novel than I've seen out here. This one requires less thought about historic accuracy and spends more time on the development of characters. It also has a bit of a twist in that there are two compellingly separate protagonists that end up at odds with each other adding a bit of wrinkle to the usual reader empathy factor. It also is written for young adults, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying it.

The story starts with a clever bit about Namor the Time Ranger who is inducted into the Time Rangers at age 12 and is 32 now and the agency has fallen on bad times and now most agents are Rogue agents who chose their own assignments and Namor's assignment is to locate another possible time traveler named Jordan Booker who is responsible for the death of Namor's time traveling parents.

Then the reader is introduced to Jordan Booker; perhaps to see how he became such a despicable person. Jordan and his sister Jada are on their way to Arkansas to live with their Aunt Maggie. They are orphans. And Aunt Maggie is now their guardian and she has used the (estate) money given her to purchase a rundown shack out in the middle of nowhere. Life isn't going to be very easy for these two and perhaps one might think that this and the abusive nature of Maggie might be what drives Jordan to evil straits.

On this secluded property is a crater that’s fenced in and its former owner, Albert, has been mining the crater for artifacts that might be alien in nature. Albert left some notes and artifacts and Jordan and Jada soon discover that there is definitely something strange out in the crater. Jordan eventually discovers that the Chronos (a possibly advanced society of some other time) have sent the time machine here so that he could travel through time and collect some artifacts that would help them save the future world. With that in mind he recklessly activates the time machine and ends up in a prehistoric landscape full of early humans who seem much more intelligent than historians have given them credit for with plenty of dangerous flora and fauna; and Jordan is stuck for 60 days before he can return. Jordan must undergo a severe self taught survival course and find the time machine, which has been moved; Plus he unknowingly is stalked by another time traveler.

So throughout the story we have two possible protagonist/antagonists who will eventually collide if Jordan survives long enough.

The novel is an interesting and surprisingly satisfying introduction to the strange world that Namor and Jordan live in and its interesting past. It also serves as a great medium to introduce the two characters who are destined to some eventual major conflict; but it’s a serial and there are three books: so it might be a while before I find all the answers.

Overall the novel is well written and draws to a satisfactory conclusion, leaving plenty of room for the next two novels. Definitely worth the time to read the well told story and crafted characters.

Good SFF for the Young and Adult and neat little Time Travel yarn though it does tend to stretch the Suspension of Disbelief factor a bit.

Well Done.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Review::Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson, #5)Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Silver Borne [Mercedes Thompson] by Patricia Briggs

This is book 5 in a series of books and I've not read any of the others so I'm not coming from the position of being a fan and some people might even wonder why I'm even bothering to try to pick up in the middle or even far end of something. The good news is that this stands well alone and there is plenty of information to bring a reader up to speed enough to understand this novel. I've no idea yet whether there's enough to understand the series, but it was a pretty fair read and since my usual genre reading doesn't touch much on Fae, Faries; and Shape-shifters; and werewolves; and witches. I don't come in with a whole bunch of baggage and expectations of what it means to be great urban fantasy.

I have read some of the samples of the first books and was already interested in this shape-shifting mechanic with an odd assortment of friends. While I was putting together a packet of paper books to have delivered to me, I was touched by a note that indicated I could get this bound edition for much less than an e-book or trade paper edition so I decided to give it a try before realizing that it was number 5 in the series. It sat with several others on my desk in a neat stack waiting patiently always trying to push itself to the top of the stack.

When I started reading it; it was much the same as the samples; with a sort of smooth story telling style that sucked me into the world of Mercedes Thompson. It didn't take long to find that she was owner of a specialty repair shop for imports and had a helper, Gabriel, who seemed quite normal and a few other helpers that seemed a bit more than what they appear. She also has access to Zee, the former repair shop owner, who stops by now and then to help bring wrecks back from the brink of death; sometimes he does this by way of his Fae Magic. Mercy has a bit of magic of her own; or at least she has a cane that follows her around and appears and disappears at the most opportune of moments. She has other magic friends and one of those has lent her an old book of Fae written by a Fae and this is what starts the story as she gets a call from a relative of the book owner, who gives her a strange message from Phineas Brewster about the book. When she attempts to return the book she finds that Phin might be missing and that begins a small mystery.

A more important aspect of this story is that Mercy is a coyote shape-shifter and her boyfriend Adam is a Werewolf and that relationship makes her a part of the pack: because Adam is the Alpha. There are pack members who are not happy with this and it creates a tension and subplot in the story that eventually converges with the main plot. Mercy lives in a motor home with a Werewolf roommate who has no pack and seems to be a long acquaintance; and though there are none apparent in this novel she has a few vampire connections, which show up as part of the contention between her and the Pack. Samuel the Werewolf roommate has his own subplot that also will converge with the main plot.

When someone mistakes Samuel's wolf for Adam’s and tries to collect an inexplicable bounty, someone has deadly intent, and Mercy eventually comes to the conclusion that the real target was her; and then begins the search for the reason that someone is trying to kill her.

To say that this has everything that a fan of Urban Fantasy could want would be a bit high handed of me since it's not my usual genre. But it has plenty enough for me with some tight writing and interesting plotting. The action and pace were good, though not the usual high octane stuff I see in today’s fiction; it was balanced well and kept the tension at the right amount in the right moment so it passes my test; but I'm not a great fan of the usual blood and gut carnage that seems to follow some of this genre.

Great urban fantasy in my limited opinion and well told story that might keep a few SFF fans happy.

J.L. Dobias

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review::Survival of the Fittest by Michael Taylor

Survival of the Fittest: The Last Hope for the Human RaceSurvival of the Fittest: The Last Hope for the Human Race by Michael Taylor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Survival of the Fittest by Michael Taylor

In the final analysis I enjoyed the story; but that’s not saying I didn't have some problems reading it. This is a book that one could really want to give five stars to; but you would have to make a number of stretches to accomplish that. I wanted to like this but I must have some predefined prejudices that stand in the way. This has the earmarks for a great start to a new series of books with a fantastic premise and some interesting notions; but there are some style choices that stepped in the way of my enjoyment of the piece as a whole.

Lindsey Sutten finds herself alone in the darkness with confusion about where she is and why she's alone and uncertain of where her mother is: and she is afraid. This begins the first of several sections in the first chapter that introduce us to the main characters that will share this story. Having them each start with a separate section breaks up the initial tension by spreading it out in a slight confusing way; yet acts as a means to protect the reader from the up and coming style decisions that might jar a few people out of the story. But the trouble with Lindsey is that she sounds, at best, to be ten or twelve years old but is supposed to be 15 years old.

The second section is Alex and Ricardo and since more than one character shows up here we start to see the style choices showing up. The POV of choice seems to struggle at being Omniscient and at best perhaps subjective because it comes just a bit close to becoming Close third and that even starts to be head hopping but we can let it slide if we consider it to be Omniscient third. The problem I had was that the POV went from outside to often close to each boy one at a time and then jumps into a Plural POV that I just let slide because it was brief in this section. Unfortunately this seems to be a deliberate act that is used throughout the book. It is meant to achieve something (I think); but it keeps pushing me out of the story.

The story is interesting and suspenseful despite my struggles with the style and it keeps me into it; to find out what's going on and see what's going to happen. So far this is starting to read like one of those thrillers that often devolve into slashers. I'm not sure how eager I am to go on; but I forge ahead as the people group together first in small groups and then one large group of seven only to be attacked and separated. But this is good it gives us different dynamics within the group as they work their way back to becoming one group again.

The first part of the novel is named The Inner World Beginning. The second part is called The Outer World Beginning. This should have been the biggest clue to another problem. Probably another that is just a personal problem to me. The next part takes us back 40 years to a time when Earth was visited by UFO's and we did all those strange alien autopsies and discovered that the aliens intended on invading earth and they were sending super soldiers that had been augmented. This is where things become X-files strange in more way than one. The decision is to create our own augmented army based on theirs so there are some experiments put into place. They are creepy experiments with rather cold heartless creepy people who are all trapped into the system that says the only way out is if we kill you.

The more important discovery in part two is the deceit. This novel is what I'll affectionately call a Deceit-topia. I have read a number of them now. By the end of the chapter we discover that the seven people we read about earlier, who were left fighting for their lives against aliens while they were slowly transforming into their own version of these aliens; is all a simulation and these youths and many more are being held in stasis while they experience complete immersion into the virtual environment where they have nothing to fear as they can't get hurt. Which sort of kills all the tension built earlier; but the cool part is that their changes in world are changes that they are expected to undergo in the real world; so it's forgivable: this Deceit.

It's about now that we start experiencing a lot of the plural third sections and I almost at first thought it was perhaps somehow related to these seven and some connection they might have. That hope proves false when later, further narrative from the doctors and scientists on the outside indicates that often, when there are mobs of people together, the narrative starts describing things that happen to them all together in plural third. Almost like a mob. A huge problem though with the scientist and doctors is that they all seem to be the same cold type of personality that has rationalized why they do what they do while at the same time there is an almost false appearance that fear is held over them to keep them doing what they are told despite their conscience (which later you have to wonder if any of them have a conscience). Often their actions conflicted with what the narrator wanted us to believe. I found it very difficult to find any one of them that felt real while they seemed to vacillate back and forth up and down some moral scale that seemed to be there only as a means to drive the tension of the story instead of helping us find out who these people really are below the cold exteriors.

That and the strange decision that they couldn't implement their special forces until after the entire world is slaughtered seem to make the outside world part of the story hard to rationalize.

As for the inner world; that is vindicated somewhat when one of the researchers goes mad and tries to destroy the program putting anyone in the world at risk of real death. So real tension again.

As a whole this novel looks as though it's the possible beginning of a series and it does have some potential, though it might be just fine as a standalone considering the possibility of it going close into the horror genre. If you don't mind head hopping and the often shifts to Plural third person then there is a lot of food for thought in this novel; though you might have to throw a bit more suspension of disbelief into the decision making capabilities of all the adults.

This falls into SFF and horror with some Deceit-topic tendencies. Great read as long as you don't try to examine the adult player's motives too closely.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review::Tmpest by Julie Cross

Tempest (Tempest, #1)Tempest by Julie Cross

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tempest by Julie Cross

I so much loved this novel. This was one of those that you go into a bit tentatively, not sure if you'll like it and in some way hoping you won't [It's a trilogy and if you like it, maybe; okay I'll look into the others later; but if you love it: then you're going to want to read the other two. Like yesterday.].

This was a great read. Done in first person and even with some sections in the bound book that are supposed to look hand written like a journal, which makes sense because Jackson's friend Adam has suggested that he needs to keep one with information about each of the Time Jumps that he takes. It was only by accident that he'd discovered that he could time jump and once Adam was convinced that that was what was happening, rather than Jackson having catatonic fits, Adam got on board quick and they started doing experiments to see how far back in time he could go. (The kindle version seems different with perhaps italic and bold italic for the handwritten part. So for the complete effect you might want to do the printed copies unless the first one is the only one that has this feature.)

Anyway Jackson's time travel life is his and Adam's secret and that will soon complicate things for Jackson, especially in his relationship to his girlfriend Holly. His dad seems too busy with his high paying job with a Pharmacy Company to take much notice. But when you are time traveling experimentally there are consequences, one of those being that you never know who might be watching. And though the reader soon finds out that Jackson's life is already a bit strangely complicate, it's about to get that much more complicated.

Jackson has a twin that died from cancer and he keeps seeing someone that looks like his sister; back before she died. Jackson and Courtney's mother died when they were young and their father had to raise them alone and when Courtney died that left Jackson alone. It's about the time that Adam and Jackson decide that there might be merit in finding out more about Jackson's mother, that all the experimentation catches up to him and while he is making up with Holly for having missed so many things while he'd been experimenting with Time Travel, they are attacked by some people who turn out to be time travelers who are aware of him and his abilities. Holly gets seriously injured and Jackson draws a parallel to possibly loosing her and having lost his sister and somehow he ends up trapped two years in the past (possibly from the trauma).

He needs to get back and somehow save Holly, but just as before he can only travel into the past; except now he ends up two years in the past as if that's his starting point and his real time is now his future. Between living two years in the past and traveling farther back in time, Jackson needs to find some answers that will lead him to the way of getting back to his own time. While he searches he uncovers a whole different picture about his own family and his father and his life and things will never be the same only because they were never quite what they appeared to be.

If Jackson thought life was complicated before; he didn't know the half of it.

Now the reader gets a better look into Jackson's past and into a bit of teen life while Jackson juggles life with his search and with trying to survive a past that he's slowly but surely beginning to alter just by being there. Throughout all of this the author never loses sight of the plot and the need to move the story forward and what develops it a tightly woven narrative that keeps twisting and reshaping as Jackson uncovers his past to save the future. Each step as the stakes get higher, Jackson finds himself with fewer people he can trust.

This is a roller-coaster ride with some big turns at the end that keep this exciting and still manage to give the absolute feel that this novel stands quite strong on its own despite being part of a trilogy.

Great SSF for fans of Time Travel conundrums and I just realized as I finished the sentence above this one, that I was going to give this one a five star.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review::Goblin Moon:Mask and Dagger 1 by Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Moon: Mask and Dagger 1Goblin Moon: Mask and Dagger 1 by Teresa Edgerton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goblin Moon: Mask and Dagger 1 by Teresa Edgerton

I read this novel a while ago and when I saw that the e-book was being re-released by a new publisher I thought I'd check to see if some problems had been taken care of.

This is an excellent read in many senses and it might be considered typical for what they refer to as GasLight Fantasy and GasLight Romance. And it has some very long sentences. I love long sentences and I especially love them when crafted well. This novel has plenty to whet the appetite and I shall show some from the first chapter that contain some of the problems I was looking at. Often the difficulty with long sentences is deciding how to punctuate them and sometimes that all boils down to style preferences. In this instance below the first paragraph seems okay but there was a glitch in my original copy in the second paragraph (that I had hoped would be fixed now), but it appears it made it through to this edition also.

In the paragraph that starts [For by river-wrack... ] at the word [floating] there is a period; which might be an intended semicolon or comma though I suppose that the following [with] might just be a new sentence with the capitol dropped by mistake; though this sentence works both ways and in a small way seems almost incomprehensible either way, unless you include the first paragraph, which is why I included it. Anyway at the very least I’m puzzled by the punctuation.
Old Lunn, she was a capricious river, as Jed well knew: restlessly eroding her own banks, making sudden leaps and changes in her course, especially upriver in the country districts where there were no strong river walls to contain her. Swelled by a high tide or by the rains and snow-melt of Quickening, she swept away manors and villages, churches and farmhouses, crumbled old graveyards and flooded ancient burial vaults, dislodging the dead as ruthlessly as she evicted the living. No, the Lunn respected no persons, either living or dead, but the crueler she was to others, she was that much kinder to men like Jed and his Uncle Caleb.

For by river-wrack and by sea-wrack brought in by the tide, off goods salvaged from water-logged bales and salt-stained wooden chests, by an occasional bloated corpse found floating. with money still in its pockets, the scavengers gleaned a meagre existence year 'round, and— especially when the full moon brought high tides and other disturbances— were sometimes able to live in comfort for an entire season off the grave offerings of the pious departed.
Edgerton, Teresa (2014-09-02). Goblin Moon: Mask and Dagger 1 (p. 5). Tickety Boo Press. Kindle Edition.

The scope of these paragraphs and especially the second paragraph even if we split it seem to bring to mind that famous quote from Paul Clifford.
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. Through one of the obscurest quarters of London, and among haunts little loved by the gentlemen of the police, a man, evidently of the lowest orders, was wending his solitary way.
Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Edward (2012-05-16). Paul Clifford - Complete (p. 9). . Kindle Edition.

I've never understood this to be purple prose; because if read in context it makes sense that it really is moving the story forward and the same holds true when you read each of the long sentences in Goblin Moon.

What I did find in my reading of Goblin Moon is a pattern that accompanied the paragraphs packed with long sentences. Often they contained what might be considered info dump in the form of character or scene description. So rather than have nine sentences it might become three very long and eloquent sentences. Or in some instances one paragraph-long-sentence.

But speaking of Paul Clifford one could draw more than style similarities with just a casual look. Both novels have a roguish man falling in love with young woman of some moderate station and having her inadvertently falling for the rogue. And both novels have a striking similar ending.

Goblin Moon might be described as primarily the story of Sara Vorder and Francis Skelbrooke; but it is also a story of the lives that intersect with theirs and perhaps a bit of a comedy of manners as they navigate the customs and mores of their society and try to save their friends.

Rich in descriptions; I still found Goblin Moon has a solid plot making a satisfying and entertaining read; even though it might be a bit light on character growth.

Great GasLight type Romance for fans of that type of fantasy.

J.L. Dobias

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Review::Oracle by Susan Boulton

OracleOracle by Susan Boulton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oracle by Susan Boulton

I must admit that I was drawn to this novel by reading the first chapter and getting acquainted with the Oracle; a character; who reminded me of another character in something I recently read. In Diamond Eyes by A.A. Bell there is a blind girl not quite blind who sees the past (not the future) and rambles on about things and is generally ignored. But where Oracle is allowed to roam and live off the charity of others Mira was institutionalized and often kept sedated. Both are integral to the plot of the story and both seem to embody the most innocent of characters. (Though Mira does have the spirit of an imp in her.) And somewhere around there the similarity ends and the Oracle takes on her own life as I dig into the story.

This novel is billed as Gaslight Fantasy and mentions Steam power also on the cover though it is only the vaguest of reference drawn to Steampunk and this book surely does not lean much into the Steampunk. Gaslight or Gaslamp as some would have it, seems to be where this story is. I'm not sure whether to call it Victorian or Edwardian; but that is mostly my own deficiency. Its historical fiction of a slightly altered world that has a lot that borders onto the Paranormal. It is a landscape of intrigue and suspense.

We have trains; possibly steam trains though there is no real depth taken in their description. The train is important, because the first half of the book is a bit of trying to understand the Oracle's fractured predictions: possibly to save the day. There are two characters that seem to be the main characters in the novel although it took me a bit to finally decide that. Through careful elimination as many characters became duplicitous and multifaceted and deceitful. Finally it devolved down to Pugh Avinguard and the Oracle (who is really his ex-wife; Claire). Pugh is a quite well developed character while the Oracle's development is often stunted by her being two personalities struggling to control one form.

One hindrance for me throughout the novel was that the shifting point of view would give me several different explanations of events in peoples lives-somewhat based on rumor so that it was often difficult to tell which story was the truth. As an example the rumors ran everywhere from Claire being dead to her having eloped with Pugh then running away and having the marriage annulled. And finally; to her father arraigned the marriage for political reasons and Pugh having cast her out and divorcing her and thwarting his father inlaws dreams. And I might not have all of that correct; but there were other characters as equally misrepresented this way.

This world in which the Oracle exists is one where slavery is practiced under another name and passed off as the best way to take care of the poor. There is change in the air and the Oracle is in tune with this though the political climate is still fraught with those who are comfortable with things staying the way they are. But rebellion is afoot and foreign interest would love to see the country fracture under the stress of social upheaval.

The Oracle has a future that seems to be heading into a dark area of things, but the reader is not to fear as there is some hope of redemption; though it may cost the few that are near to her.

There is an end to this story that can satisfy the reader, though there seems to be a large number of threads that are left hanging; or perhaps left to the imagination. It is difficult to tell from this if the author will seek to visit this land again.

Overall the novel has solid writing with a fair to sprawling plot that only resolves, at the end, if we look strictly toward this being the story of Clair and Pugh.

I would have loved to see Claire come out stronger in the story especially when there were other strong female characters such as Elizabeth who delivered my favorite tongue in cheek statement.

Remember, I am just a woman, and you are making my delicate mind hurt.

Boulton, Susan (2015-03-31). Oracle (Kindle Location 150). Tickety Boo Press. Kindle Edition.

J.L. Dobias

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Review::Suspended Earth by M.R. Mortimer

Suspended EarthSuspended Earth by M.R. Mortimer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Suspended Earth by M.R. Mortimer

Cyberpunk has been around since well before someone coined the term; sometimes lightly touched on by such greats as John Brunner and Philip K. Dick and in some cases examined to the extreme. But usually what stands out in the mind when another cyber punk novel comes around is; oh another matrix book. I suppose some might nod more toward William Gibson and say another Johnny Mnemonic book. Well they might pick one of his several other books. This book starts out a lot like the Matrix and eventually leads to a grossly nasty scene where the main character apparently explodes all across a room in a bloody mess as he vanishes from the net.

Fortunately we right away get images of what is: as opposed to what appears to be: and there are scenes of a caretaker with tanks of people in suspension with tubes hanging from them. Inside the Caretaker Generation Facility is the single caretaker who is getting ready to be replaced. His replacement apparently comes-seamlessly out of the many rows of potential candidates-and the caretakers own retirement to an incinerator is all done in a placid tone. It's a well orchestrated transfer, all done through the agency of a computer and in just the right number of steps that when the new caretaker goes crazy and nearly destroys some critical panels the old caretaker has already been incinerated and the computer is forced to kill the present caretaker and quickly extract a new caretaker.

Enter Daniel who is yanked out while with his girlfriend; leaving her traumatized in a grizzly room and left to answer questions the police have. Soon, by virtue of the virtual environment she discovers her boyfriend is not who he said he is or maybe even didn't exist and the police begin to suspect she's the victim of a gruesome hoax.

In the real world Daniel is confronted with a new reality including the body of the last failed caretaker as warning not to upset the computer. Daniel is left to try to figure out what's going on; but the computer has been programmed to not be very helpful in that area. Fortunately Daniel is a bit of a computer hacker and he begins to examine ways to get past all the safety features and in his efforts to locate his girlfriend and try to contact her he eventually triggers an event that nearly begins the destruction of the virtual world and that would mean the death of everyone in the tanks.

It takes a good portion of the book to get to a point where the people in the virtual world are safe and Daniel and others are able to, through the help of a rogue program previously inserted into the system, remove those who want out and begin to build a force that can investigate what is actually going on. They think they can do this, because there are a multitude of similar facilities in the world that have been programmed to various different historic eras and they are certain that one of them has clues to what might have happened; to have most of the earths population placed in these tanks.

Soon it's discovered that in our exploration of space we came across a race of beings who found that the human body contains a resource that they need and through some form of sinister alliance with humans have created these massive farms to keep people like cattle and oblivious to the real world as they live their lives in a virtual world.

This is when the real story begins and the struggle for mankind to regain it's foothold on its own planet.

This is a mostly well written story that appears to be a Prequel to the Author's previous work that takes place in the same universe. If I have any complaint it would be to the dozen or so times the sentence structure was convoluted enough to confuse me. They weren’t passive sentences, but they were just as difficult to read as any of the worst of those.

Because this was apparently written long before the others and later altered to fit into the front end of his series of books it seems appropriate enough to become a debut novel of a sort with a possibility of having a lot of his younger raw talent exposed. I have yet to read the others in the series, but this one is done well enough to entice me into finding out what else goes on in the strange universe as Earth regains its freedom.

This is fair SFF and some CyberPunk with a bit of a twist and lots of potential for future stories both in the real and the virtual world.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Review::Abendau's Heir by Jo Zebedee

Abendau's Heir (The Inheritance Trilogy Book 1)Abendau's Heir by Jo Zebedee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Abendau's Heir (The Inheritance Trilogy Book 1) by Jo Zebedee

This is one of those novels that I wanted to really like maybe even love. It has that potential. And yet, in my enthusiasm I kept stumbling through the first chapters with this odd feeling of disconnect that confused me. I had to read through a second time to try to figure out what my problem was. Style choices the author made might have resonated with me in a rather unusual way. I would have to definitely recommend that others not take my judgment without trying to first read the novel. And then, if you do find some trouble as I did, you might want to tough it through; because eventually you'll get used to way the author writes and you can better appreciate the story.

This is a dark story, which was a bit unexpected: to me. It's a tragedy wrapped in a dark world. It reminded me of a discussion recently about GrimDark being a genre and someone’s argument that it was meant to be an ironic or satirical comment about certain over the top writing. I should qualify that I think it's a valid and respectable label these days; so when I say that this novel is GrimDark I mean it in a good sense. Jo Zebedee's world and universe is a dark universe that is lorded over by an evil Empress. But more so than that it's an unforgiving universe where every action has its consequence and, though some may have potential for good outcomes, the reader quickly discovers it pays to keep those consequences in mind; because they will show up like a bad penny.

If you read the prologue carefully you'll have everything you need to know. Ealyn is a seer and the Empress is evil. The Empress forces Ealyn to look at the prism and see her future, but not just her future; his too. The Empress has powers to delve into other minds so she too can see what he sees. Ealyn resists; because he knows there are great consequences to what he does when he Seers. But what he sees is that somehow the Empress is now pregnant with his and her children and that between their two powers she means to create ultimate power for herself. He sees the result in the cold adult faces of their powerful children and is horrified. After the Empress leaves his cell Ealyn is once more drawn into a vision; but this time he sees himself free and then he sees his children now happy and free. Energized with that vision he throws caution to the wind and despite knowing there will be everlasting consequences he's determined to find out how to make the second vision a reality and will seek the answer through his visions.

The first chapter brings us eight years in advance to a point where Ealyn and his children, Kare and Karia, are in a tenuous life aboard a spaceship trying to get by while the Empress pursues them and the rebels deny them full access to the rebel base because of the danger the Empress and her relentless pursuit represents. Ealyn is stuck between a rock and a hard place; because of all the time he spent doing visions he can see that some horrible future is overtaking him no matter which direction he goes and soon Kare will have to be trained to control any tendency to Seer. In a feeble effort to train Kare, Ealyn goes too far and is sucked into a trance like state to the worst of futures. The only hope for help to bring him out of this is to go to the rebel base where they will eventually be ejected again. All through these chapters it is for some reason very difficult for me as a reader to get close to the characters; but that turns out to be a blessing since people are about to die.

Eventually Kare will be left alone with relatives-more people who would rather not have the object of the Empress search in their home. Again we fast forward ten years and from here this becomes the story of Kare's tragic life in his efforts to elude his mother and stay alive. Kare doesn't get many breaks and every decision he makes has consequence, some of those not apparent to him until after he makes them. This does keep the tension high in the story and in some part helps the reader understand the final outcome to some degree. But let's get back to figuring out which part of my personal preference interferes with the style choices in this novel.

When I looked back through the second read I realized that the author loves long sentences and has a fixation on commas. This is not all bad. I love long sentences and enjoy the ones that are properly punctuated. The problem comes in some of the medium size sentences that almost appear to be long sentences that were shortened to vary the beat. The problem with that is that there is that beat or rhythm of the sentences in a paragraph and the more internal beat of the individual sentences that you start punctuating with commas and semicolons.

In the first paragraph this sentence…-
His captors knew him well enough to use subtle things to torment him: the sound of water, so blessed on the hot, dry, Abendau; the prism on its thin chain catching sunlight from a small window and sending rainbows darting; the slow build of pain in muscles held firm, a pain that went deep, full of despair.

Zebedee, Jo (2015-03-29). Abendau's Heir (The Inheritance Trilogy Book 1) (Kindle Locations 29-31). Tickety Boo Press Ltd. Kindle Edition.

…Begins to highlight both the skill of the author and the beginning of a pattern that threw me off just a bit.

This part--so blessed on the hot, dry, Abendau;--creates a distinct staccato effect separating out Hot- Dry - Abendau; giving it an intended beat and alone it seems quite harmless, but quickly it shows up again and again until it's like a pattern. Often there are separate sentences engineered into incomplete thoughts that get chained by commas while ignoring conjunctions to create the same distinct separation that might just as well have been short separate sentences; though those would once again interfere with the rhythm.

For me though this created a second problem because the narrator often was this shifting close third POV that unfortunately always has the same quirk and that tended to overshadow the character development and I had difficulty separating the characters from one another. The irony is that they are distinct characters once I get past that peculiar distracting consistent beat. The dropping or ignoring of conjunctions to create the beat creates a distinct narrator voice that becomes hard to separate from the close third POV.

The writing is good and tight and sometimes even a bit too sparse. There are only about a handful of sentences where I felt words were missing and they usually were stuck within these bits of beats as though necessary verbs were thrown away (I have no idea if that was by accident or on purpose.)

The plot is tight and as I have said quite dark.

If as a reader you like stories that balance upbeat with the down then this might not be for you. Not to say there are no upbeat moments, just that those usually follow major decisions and then there seems to be a need to show the consequences. If you are a reader who likes happy endings then I would stay away from this one. This is a tragedy in many ways and perhaps because the author intends to have more novels in this series she creates several tragedies at the end that drag the whole into a downward spiral. And those follow the major tragedy of the story pertaining to the primary protagonist.

All of the tragedies at the end, after the primary (concerning Kare), seem either to be part of a summation of what happened afterwards and the consequences; or they act as a prelude to the next story. I really find it ambiguous in that respect and probably could have stopped at the primary tragic choice without the extra added summations after; which could have been left to my imagination and for the next story. As a whole it just made the story that much darker.

This is okay SSF light on the science heavy fantasy and great for those who love GrimDark tragedies. And if you love novels that delve thickly into the consequences of the character's actions this is going to be a treat.

J.L. Dobias

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