Saturday, July 18, 2015

Review::Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicles (Galvanic Century Book 1)by Michael Coorlim

Bartleby and JamesBartleby and James by Michael Coorlim

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicles (Galvanic Century Book 1)by Michael Coorlim

Michael Coorlim does write some mean steam punk. If I could say that anything was typical steampunk I would have to say that his work has a lot of the marks, but falls short of a bit of steam. There are air ships and geared mechanical devices and necromancing with the use of brains and other body parts brought back to life to integrate with some of these devices. There also exists in this universe a Mr. Holmes and a Victor Von Frankenstein. But once again, if it is there, steam is in the background somewhere where I missed it. We are in an Edwardian era rather than Victorian. But what's important to me is that these short stories entertained me and I'm giving them high marks; and for that I'm going to be just a bit nit-picky in some areas.

I'm told short stories are a lot more difficult than novels and I will give it this much in that there is less time to introduce characters and the science involved when you have to get right to the plot and reach a conclusion in short order. This set does a fair job and because it is told from James’s point of view we often get more of a look at James than Bartleby. Though much like the Holmes and Watson duo the story is told by James and he is the one to introduce us to Bartleby. But the dynamic is quite different from those other two old soldiers and this narrative ends up favoring James.

James is a bit of an antisocial loner who has strong anti-religious opinions and he often denigrates other engineers. We find out quite early that they both might share the weakness of being bigots.

Bartleby detests Americans.
"Likewise a low creature. Just another nouveau-riche American trophy wife who has thus far spent the voyage trying to insinuate herself into the good graces of her betters. No doubt she holds hopes of an introduction into the London social scene. As if I'd inflict her upon them."

Coorlim, Michael (2014-09-10). Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) (p. 41). Pomoconsumption Press. Kindle Edition.

While James expresses poor opinions about America's engineers.
"For what?" I'd lived and worked in the man's country previously, and I didn't find it very suiting. A very different sort of engineering culture and climate, one I wasn't keen on entering into again. Sloppy. Undisciplined.

Coorlim, Michael (2014-09-10). Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) (p. 52). Pomoconsumption Press. Kindle Edition.

In context I thought this was James but looking back it could be just as easily Bartleby though it would make more sense to be James. The progression of dialogue would almost argue Bartleby. So I might attribute it, in spirit, to both.

Yet later we find both acknowledging that the RGAE or RGEA allow for enough slop in it's membership to have members of somewhat unaccredited nature, which makes them just a bit hypocritical.

The R.G.A.E. and the R.G.E.A. show up often and seem as though there might be two organizations one is The Royal Guild of Artificers and Engineers and the other is the Royal Guild of Engineers and Artificers.

I'm sure they are the same; but just the same, what's the difference: really?

It is not difficult to see that James has issues dealing with Bartleby's fiancé though in the same token its a wonder that Bartleby has Aldora as his intended.

As mentioned early on it's easy to see that there is almost a comparison to Holmes and Watson and when a character named Holmes makes a cameo it cements that thought. But these two are nowhere near the dynamic of that duo (And, somewhere internally to this set of stories, that fact is mentioned). Bartleby is far from a concise deductive reasoning detective. In fact often his logic seems flawed. Take the example below::

"Our killer probably doesn't know how to do a proper wash, which points to an officer as the culprit. Perhaps the blood stained all the uniforms in his load. He discovered this, wheeled the load out in a laundry trolley and dumped the lot overboard, disposing of enough to obfuscate his identity, I'd wager. That was the shift we felt. Wet laundry as ballast."

"Why does an inability to do the wash indicate an officer?"

"Trust me, James. I was an officer once. We're rather quite helpless." He almost stumbled as he crept to the hatch. "I say, James, we'd better hurry. The tilt is getting quite noticeable."

Coorlim, Michael (2014-09-10). Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) (p. 44). Pomoconsumption Press. Kindle Edition.

This one is the most outstanding of all examples; but it clearly shows that his deductions seem more colored by his own personal experience rather than observable fact.

Perhaps this helps put James in a better position than Watson was with Holmes, in that they now become a team that works together equally blessed and flawed; as a complementary set.

Bartleby is more often than not ready to rely on someone else knowledge to help solve the case so there are a number of contacts he has for this. Holmes, if I remember correctly, had many agents that were good for the legwork and information gathering while he more often relied on his own knowledge and the expanding of that knowledge. Still the stories are all quite clever mysteries.

Throughout there are examples of sentences that baffle and befuddle me, requiring deciphering, and I often have to be careful because sometimes it's a difference in British and USA English. I have highlighted a couple here that I feel were most troubling.

"I always pined myself for a personal experience with the mysteries of the divine. In the Orient my wishes were granted.

Coorlim, Michael (2014-09-10). Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) (p. 97). Pomoconsumption Press. Kindle Edition.

I always pined myself for a personal experience with the mysteries of the divine.

The 'I always' is simple present yet the pined doesn't seem to work with it and perhaps it should be 'I always pine'- but this is the least of the problems with this sentence.

Without punctuation I first read this as 'I always pined myself' and oddly that works if you take the use of 'for' as 'because of' it would read:: 'I always pine myself because of a personal experience.' :: But then the next sentence refutes that:: 'In the orient my wishes were granted.':: So pined here seems to mean 'long for'.

I always long for a personal experience with the mysteries of the divine.

Since this is in dialogue and people do speak this way it might work but as you can see at least one reader gets confused.

A second example is""
I joined Bartleby in the dining room to tell him my findings of a supper over cold knots of beef and ginger beer.

Coorlim, Michael (2014-09-10). Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) (p. 20). Pomoconsumption Press. Kindle Edition.

This one took a stretch for me to try to unravel.

Again there is a lack of punctuation and this time in narrative it leaves me thinking there are words missing unless perhaps I could switch of and over.

I joined Bartleby in the dining room, to tell him my finding, over a supper of cold knots of beef and ginger beer.
Other wise I keep having it::..., to tell him my findings of a supper, over cold knots of beef and ginger beer.

I do think that these stories could use one more brush with the editors. But other than the confusing sentence structure, which might be just me being sensitive, these stories are well written mysteries with a smidgen of character development, but emphasis seems more toward the punk aspect albeit Steampunk, Clockworkpunk, or Paranormalpunk. It is all very entertaining and should be of interest to most SFF fans who are not particular about the science aspects and definitely an addition to any collector of things Steampunk.

I'll be looking at more from Michael Coorlim

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review::Beautiful Intelligence by Stephen Palmer

Beautiful IntelligenceBeautiful Intelligence by Stephen Palmer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful Intelligence by Stephen Palmer

I really enjoyed this author’s work, The Rat and the Serpent; and when this novel came to my attention I couldn't help but wonder how he would treat the notion of artificial intelligence. I started reading and I couldn't help but draw some comparisons to the work of William Gibson and then there were images right out of Do androids dream of electric sheep by Philip K. Dick. Needless I was drawn into the whole thing and thoroughly enjoyed it. That is not to say there weren't some puzzling elements that made me wonder just what universe this came out of.

This is a dystopic tale of two competing teams of bio-engineers trying to build toward the singularity by creating artificial intelligence; but because there are two teams we have AI and then BI which accounts for the beautiful intelligence. The teams come out of a single lab where two people have virtually been held prisoner while developing for a company. The world into they escape to is one that has shifted from the western dominated internet to the new eastern dominated nexus. The big difference touted is that the nexis is more styled to a Japanese culture that is less individualistic and more collective and that's where I had to stop and think.

This is a ‘what if’ novel, which hinges largely on what if the collective Japanese culture dominated the nexis and thereby had more emphasis on the collective and less on individual thereby creating an environment where there was less privacy and more exposure when connected. The story emphasizes this collective mind as both a key point in the nexus and in the whole pursuit of the teams by a collective company that has to try to adjust its thinking to individualism of the west and the United States. Also an underlying theme is that the nexus is forcing all people to this collective nature. And this works; but only if you go back to 1980 and pre 1980 because since then the Japanese and other asian countries have almost reached a level of individualization that rivals or exceeds the US. (But keep in mind I'm not an expert on this in any way)

That aside this is what this universe is in this 'what if' and so it affords the two teams the advantage or at least the illusion of advantage that the man pursuing them has to alter his thinking in order to understand them in order to find them. It also sets the mood for some of the main characters who think that they are drowning in this collective oppression and they have to go solo or fly under the radar (nexus), often as sort of ghost or silhouettes that are decoys to cover their tracks.

This is a complex story that evolves around the two teams as they flee in separate continents from the same threat with their diverse experiments and devolves into a sort of dialogue about the merits of two different approaches to the AI problem.

Leonora and team have created a single entity named Zeug and they believe through teaching it language it will become conscious. (My best description of what they get is ‘think Frankenstein.)

Manfred and team have created 9 entities Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Grey, White, Violet, Orange and Indigo. They have created a community of peers that will learn and develop by creating their own social structure. (Initially they have them linked together but this proves to retard their progress. Oddly they are almost like a collective.)

Both methods are fraught with errors in thinking and the story evolves around how the teams deal with those while at the same time keeping one step ahead of the bad guys. Adding to this is the need to be hidden from the nexus; though neither team seems to have made much provision for the possibility that the ever invasive nexus might creep into their whole experiment.

There are several moments when the characters philosophize about various related topics such as a mention of the Hierarchy of knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom. But possibly the most important was one that seemed for me to be fraught with some illusive and obtuse semantics is from this quote.

[QUOTE]Manfred shook his head. "It all started when personality became important. Old fashioned character was strangled by personality, and we all had to be smiling and go-getting and extrovert for the endless rows of cameras. Damn fucking media. But, you know Dirk, you’re half correct. The internet and the nexus have leaned on humanity, and they’ve squashed a lot of individualism out of us."
Palmer, Stephen (2015-06-29). Beautiful Intelligence (Kindle Locations 3768-3771). infinity plus. Kindle Edition. [/QUOTE]

It's difficult to understand from even the context of the entire novel just what exactly these two words are meant to mean: Personality and Character. In many instances they a synonyms of each other and yet here they are treated as different things. Much like the old further and farther thing but more complicated. At best what I could draw from this is that maybe Personality here is best compared to Persona or the image one puts on in the Nexus as opposed to Character being related to the true self, though in this context it also has to include something with individuality where some how the personae or the personality in reference is part of the nexus collective or as one character calls it the identikit.

There are so many well developed characters in this story that the reader needs a score card for each; not to mention there is a bit of changing of sides between teams that helps confuse things. But the largest portion of the novel is bent on understanding the motivation of each team to coincide with how they get to where they are.

Oddly enough for this reader the main character that I most related to and felt empathy for was Indigo, who shows the most growth and development throughout the entire piece.

There is a bit of a mystery in the story with Manfred's 9 in that at one point one of the 9 seems to possibly be killing the others. I'm not sure this was solved but you need to read this to find out what you think.

This is great SFF with a touch of Cyberpunk and Some great android development with a hint of mystery and lots of suspense so there's a bit for everyone. Probably not much for the Romance lovers though.

If there's a vote for more of this world and what might happen next I'll put mine in.

A must read and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Review::The Great Symmetry by James R. Wells

The Great SymmetryThe Great Symmetry by James R. Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Great Symmetry by James R. Wells

I picked this one up from the author's post on Kboards. I checked it out and ran through the sample offered and decided I wanted to read it. I'm glad I did because it’s a good story in more ways than I had expected.

It starts with Exoarcheologist Evan McElroy, who has made revelatory discoveries about an ancient race, the Versari, a long-departed alien race; and he is expecting this will round out his academic credentials. But Evan's sponsor, the Affirmatix family of companies, see everything as risk and opportunity and that vision will call for the death of everyone on Evan's team. While out in space checking out his theory about a new glome (most glome exit points are unknown until they send probes through and even then if they are too far our in space it might be a while to confirm); Evan is certain that he know the exit point of this new glome based on knowledge from an artifact. While finding the glome he also finds himself under attack from the family and he must make a rapid series of decisions. His decisions leave him in a known area of space waiting to float endlessly and uselessly in orbit until he dies.

This alone was a draw into the story as we see the oxygen level running out and the story of what it is he has discovered is slowly revealed.

But then we switch below to the Kelter the world which Evan calls home and the place he has sent an enigmatic message for an old friend Mira Adastra, who owes him. He also left behind an ex-girlfriend Kate DelMonaco. And these three Mira, Kate, and Evan would seem to be the primary characters in the story. But there are more.

In this universe information is of high value and the seven great families have kept it under lock and key for decades. One place on Kelter, the Untrusted Zone, Infoterrorist, who believe information should be shared, have been held at bay by an uneasy truce. Now Arn Lobeck has brought the force of the Affirmatix Family into Kelter space in pursuit of Evan to suppress the knowledge Evan has. With him he has brought a mix of Contract Professionals of which Sonia and Ravi are two who are meant to advise him.

This novel is a complex thriller with the threat of a world destroying battle formation known as D6 and while this thread takes a back seat most of the way through as a reader I found that this thread contained the story of the two most important characters.

James R. Wells creates some complex and real characters in this story. And the struggle that Sonia and Ravi go through and how it leads to their heroic and yet less than heroic actions will determine the outcome of the most threatening feature of Arn Lobeck's plan. And intermixed within all of this is the political landscape that surrounds the more powerful members of the great families.

This one goes in my top 5 of new Science Fiction with debut authors.

I think this is a Great SFF and should even satisfy some of those Simon Pure Science Fiction readers. There are some aspects of the ancient race that might look mystical but for the most part the science within the story stays fairly sound. Definite recommended reading and it will be interesting to see how Mr. Wells follows this one with book 2.

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review::Travel Glasses (The Call to Search Everywhen Book 1)by Chess Desalls

Travel Glasses (The Call to Search Everywhen, #1)Travel Glasses by Chess Desalls

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Travel Glasses (The Call to Search Everywhen Book 1)by Chess Desalls

For me this was a somewhat deceptive novel that managed to capture me within the offered sample even though it gave a slight difference of appearance than my usual fare.

When we first meet her, Calidora Winston lives in a resort community coming near the end of tourist season and she's contemplating back-to-school. She lives with her Uncle while her mother is off somewhere keeping busy. She is out for a run, because she has given up on making friends and has eschewed technology; since the time she befriended someone online who later began publishing lewd and hateful pictures and information about Calla and even though Calla had used a different name the person had somehow found and publisher her real name. So she spends her days running and this day something mysterious knocks her down; that's how she meets Valcas who assists her and asks her out to dinner.

So, yes, I thought pretty much a romance coming up here. But I'm glad I continued to read. Soon it appears that Valcas has saved her from some sort of attack and he appears to have to do so again while they are on the date, which he admits is not a date since he came to help her. This pushes her into a time travel nightmare that starts out almost romantic but quickly turns to something that sounds creepy and makes Valcas look mostly like a kidnapper. The story is vindicated when Calla starts feeling the same way and decides to be proactive. When Calla discovers that the time travel device is built into the strange glasses that Valcas wears everywhere, she plots to steal them and escape. But escape is not so easy, since the rules of time travel involve the need to focus on someone in history as your target point.

When Calla escapes she seeks out the creator of the Travel Glasses based on a rather suspect algorithm of what she would expect the creator to look like. Oddly she does manage to find a gentleman who claims to have created them and that Valcas had stolen them. The place where she finds the man is something straight out of Alice in Wonderland and it doesn't take long for this reader to decide that the turn this story is taking could easily be viewed as the resulting thought experiment conducted if Albert Einstein had met Lewis Carroll for an evening of tea and contemplation.

Aside from the ease with which she finds the creator of the glasses the time travel rules stay fairly tight and consistent. There was one minor possible quibble that comes with the mention of silhouettes, which perhaps I missed something or it might be better explained later as to who and how a time traveler becomes and is qualified as a silhouette. Otherwise I felt that for the story internally the time travel held it's consistency well. You will have to read the novel to see what I mean about those mentions above. There are even a clever set rules and regulations enforced by the TSTA Time and Space Travel Authority.

This novel took several twists and turns to get to the meat, which I felt was when Calla finally decides to confront her kidnapper and manages to do so in a timeline that is prior to the act. This allows her the possibility of seeing what lies behind the nature of Valcas and it allows the reader a chance to see more depth in Calla as she navigates through it all and begins to grow into a character that the reader can better relate to and understand.

The unveiling of Valcas possible motives and the discovery of the true Callas made this novel a gem and I'll be moving on to the second novel to see what happens next.

This is a rather unusual time travel tale that might be more comfortable in a paranormal classification, but still holds strong as SFF time travel. And it might be a bit less of a romance than it appears on the surface.

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Review:: The Mind Readers (Book 1)by Lori Brighton

The Mind Readers (The Mind Readers Series)The Mind Readers by Lori Brighton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Mind Readers (book 1)by Lori Brighton

This is a novel that stands as verification of the notion that I like good character development. It’s a YA Paranormal, possible romance, that comes out of that same cookie cutter structure that many of these types of novels come from. It's not a bad thing in the sense that it means that the author has to work harder to make the characters stand out and they must write well to make this all work. And this book does all of that and I really do love it.

When I say cookie cutter, I mean that the plot and themes are quite familiar. Let me explain; they always start with the main character, often a young girl, who is about to discover her whole life has been a lie. She's an orphan, as they usually are, and is living with her grandmother. In most instances it might be a grandparent or aunt or uncle or someone somehow related to the family. She’s about to discover that she has a special place in the world as the chosen. She'll also discover her parents might have been leaning toward the evil side (but then don't most teens think that once in their life) and the boy she's interested in is possibly working for the enemy.

Cameron Winters is a mind reader and for once in this trope, she knew this well in advance of events that catapult her into her adventure. She’s a mind reader as is her grandmother and they have been hiding and running in fear of something or someone that has never been full explained to Cameron. Soon she'll fall for a man who claims to be there to save her, which is just great since everyone keeps telling her that everything they do is to keep her safe. Cameron figures she can take care of herself until things start to get dangerous and she realizes it's time to move again and this time she has a new friend who is also a mind reader who wants to train her; and she's beginning to wonder why her grandmother hasn't properly trained her to use her abilities.

The people she befriends coax her into doing things with her abilities that she knows are wrong and she has to deal with the moral dilemma that it creates and she has to decide if she'll compromise her principles in trade for the safety they offer her. There's a war going on between the mind readers that work for the government and the ones who claim they are trying to gain their freedom from government control. There is always something hanging in the air and it doesn't take long for Cameron to begin wondering if these rivals are just two sides to the same coin.

Cameron is a complex character who has been sheltered all her life and never trained to use her abilities. She's been moved around enough to have few friends and to have to be somewhat self-reliant while left somewhat naive through her grandmother's overbearing control. And she's about to discover she might have more abilities that she doesn't yet know about because her grandmother has chosen not to train her. As Cameron’s new friends draw her further into the politics of the mind readers, she allows herself to extend beyond her own moral sense until she's almost too deep to stop and escape. Other characters that claim to be helping her prove to be that much more complex in their willingness to use her and her power to their own ends, while claiming they are trying to keep her safe while training her to use her powers.

This world of mind reading and teleportation and telekinesis has its own complex set of rules and limitations that seem internally sound. And, until she is trained, Cameron has to learn that her mind is like an open book to the others like her and that many of them can shield their thoughts and even project false thoughts to make her believe what they wish. That makes her far more vulnerable than what one might expect of the usually talented chosen, and she's about to discover that there are few people she can trust.

This novel is full of twists and turns that are revealed in a building suspenseful tale that leads the reader further into the story as Cameron becomes committed closer to a point of no return.

Solid YA Paranormal with some romance with the extra treat of being well written.

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Short Burst of Noise::Something Awesome

descriptionThe Healers of Meligna Series Boxed Set (Healers of Meligna #1-3)
by K.J. Colt

I just finished a sneak-peek look at the fourth installment in this series of books and I have got to say that it is awesome.

If you haven't started this series and are a fan of SFF and Epic fantasy then I would suggest you get started.

If you've read the first three then you are like me and you should get ready for the big release coming soon.

Tremendous world building on a new and fresh landscape in fantasy.

Well crafted characters with a balance of dark and light - good and evil. The main character will steal your heart away, while making you shake your head at her flaws that make her her own worst enemy at times.

I'm not usually a fan of those series that look like they might go on forever but this one has captivated me with K.J. Colts crisp clear writing and twisty imagination that constantly presents something new and intriguing into the world the plot and the character development.

Never a dull moment with Adenine.

Even if you aren't usually a fan of epic fantasy. you might find this to your liking; but be prepared to occasionally be dragged into a darker side that might force you out of your comfort zone.


On another note:

descriptionEndeavour (The Sleeping Gods, #1)
by Ralph Kern

What's this I hear?

Someone might be looking to convert Ralph Kern's debut novel into a screen play.
What would be more awesome than that?