Image captured from Amazon
Over 50 years ago, when all the other guys in Junior High were reading E.E. “Doc” Smith‘s Lensmen series, I was reading his Skylark series, and loving it. I tried re-reading Skylark of Space, the first novel in the series, several years ago, going so far as to buy a paperback copy. It was tough to swallow because it was originally written in the 1930s (the stories were originally serialized in the ’30s and then published in novel form in the 1940s – they had a resurgence in the 1960s and became incredibly popular with teenage males), and comes across as extremely dated. I didn’t notice it when I first read the book, but then I was only 14 at the time.
I’ve owned a copy of Triplanetary, the first in the “Lensmen” series, for years, but every time I tried to read it, I never got past the first few pages. I think it was our hero and heroine enjoying a ballroom dance aboard a spaceliner that put me off. Very 1930s.
Cover art for John Scalzi’s 2017 novel “The Collapsing Empire”
I recently downloaded a free copy of John Scalzi’s novel The Collapsing Empire from TOR.com. It was part of a promotion of the third novel in this series The Last Emperox being published later this month (as I write this).
Scalzi comes with a rather stellar reputation and background, having won two Hugos and been nominated for other awards, but the proof of an author is in the writing, not the rep (as least as far as I’m concerned), so I thought I’d give him a whirl.
But first, the kudos I gleaned from Amazon:
“John Scalzi is the most entertaining, accessible writer working in SF today.” —Joe Hill, author of The Fireman
“Fans of Game of Thrones and Dune will enjoy this bawdy, brutal, and brilliant political adventure” —Booklist on The Collapsing Empire
Cover art for Iain Kelly’s novel “A Justified State”
I’ve been following Iain Kelly‘s writing online for a few years now. He and I (along with a bunch of other folks) met while participating in a series of internet writing challenges such as this one. That’s where I found out that he’s the undisputed master of murder mysteries, only in his case, he actually created a series of novels in that genre to prove it.
Finally (given my meager budget), I was able to download a free promotional copy of A Justified State, the first novel in his “The State Trilogy”.
It was amazing.
The story is set slightly in the future in the UK, known as the nameless “state.” The nation is in a conflict with unrevealed adversaries in “The First Strike War,” which is the backdrop for everything that follows.
Police Detective Danny Samson, who lost his twin newborns soon after birth, and his wife a year later by suicide, is mysteriously assigned to investigate the murder of a local politician, who was the victim of a professional assassination.
Cover at for “Spring Into SciFi 2020”
Spring Into SciFi: 2020 Edition just got its first review, but not on Amazon. Cheyanne A. Lepka reviewed the anthology on her personal blog five days ago (as I write this), giving it a four out of five star (which is pretty good).
Read the full review HERE.
The review calls out four of the contributing authors: Gary Wosk, Charles Venable, Elizabeth Houseman, and James Pyles (me).
She also included links to all the author bios on the “Cloaked Press” website. Here’s what mine looks like.
Cover art for the Zombie Pirate Publishing anthology “Witches vs. Wizards”
I just finished Zombie Pirate Publishing‘s 2018 anthology WITCHES VS WIZARDS: A Fantasy Anthology, and I must say I was exceptionally impressed. Typically, indie anthologies are a mix of terrific, good, and okay stories, with one or two stinkers, but this one surprised me.
I can’t say I found a story I didn’t like. A few of them were on themes I don’t naturally resonate with, but in each and every case, the writing was solid, and they all had an interesting, if not always unique take on the world of magic.
Derek Paterson’s “The House of Magus” was a compelling tale that could have come out of the pages of a Robert E. Howard “Conan” short story, although with more thought and a bit less bashing.
Adam Bennett’s “The Apprentice” was somewhat predictable, at least at the end, but getting there was half the fun. I had hoped for a happier ending for the hapless protagonist, but sometimes that’s not how magic and quest to slay witches works out.
Cover art for the Eerie River Publishing anthology “Forgotten Ones”
I’ve been downloading a lot of digital books that are being offered cost free as promotions lately. It’s a great way to read new material and it’s easy on my meager budget, especially since the libraries have closed (sounds dystopian, doesn’t it?).
Somewhere on Facebook (probably), I found a link to the Eerie River Publishing anthology Forgotten Ones: Drabbles of Myth and Legend. Although I’ve written a drabble or two in my time, and have had them published in various anthologies, I’ve never read a drabble anthology cover to cover.
I guess the concept never really appealed to me (ducks as objects by drabble authors are thrown at my head).
And that was how I started reading “Forgotten Ones”. I quickly picked up on each author’s source material in mythology and theology, but they just didn’t seem to float my boat. At heart, I’m a short story to novella writer. I thrive on character development, painting a scene with broad strokes, and then highlighting it with subtle pens and pencils. A 100-word drabble just doesn’t allow for that.
Cover image for Aditya Deshmukh’s short story “Plastic Nightmare”
Aditya Deshmukh’s short story Plastic Nightmare reads more like a prelude to a novel than anything else. It certainly ended on a cliffhanger, and Deshmukh even states that there will be a sequel.
I really felt like the author didn’t give himself enough room to develop the situation or the characters.
Five years ago, police officer Razia lost her brother. To the rest of the world, it was a tragic accident, but accidents don’t happen in their future utopia. The result is that she has increasingly become obsessed with his disappearance, letting her career begin a long, downward spiral.
Her main foil seems to be her lover and her boss on the police force (not a good combination), and when what appears to be a serial murder impossibly occurs in a world with practically no crime, Razia starts making connections between the so-called “Scarlet Killer” and her brother’s vanishing.
Cover image of Kent Wayne’s novel “Echo Volume 4: The Last Edge of Darkness”
I finally got around to keeping my promise to Kent Wayne (pseudonym) and finishing and reviewing the fourth edition of his “Echo” series, Echo Volume 4: The Last Edge of Darkness Kindle Edition . It marks the conclusion of the physical, psychological, and spiritual quest of elite soldier, Crusader Kischan Atriya.
For reference, here are my reviews of Echo 1, Echo 2, and Echo 3.
In this final installment, Atriya finally arrives at the semi-mythical Mandala City. He has a brief reunion with his former tutor and mystical adept Chrysalis Verus, but the main action centers around his training (again) with Mandala City’s blind “Headmaster” Dake. The training physically disassembles Atriya on a daily basis in an effort to get him to “free his mind” (shades of “the Matrix”).
Actually, there were tons and tons of entertainment, literary, religious, and philosophical references. Wayne pulled no punches in pouring every last ounce of his own viewpoints and beliefs (which he makes very plain in the afterword) into Atriya, Dake, and most of the other characters.
Cover art for the novel Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
“Autonomous is to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the Internet.” —Neal Stephenson
“Something genuinely and thrillingly new in the naturalistic, subjective, paradoxically humanistic but non-anthropomorphic depiction of bot-POV—and all in the service of vivid, solid storytelling.” —William Gibson
“This book is a cyborg. Partly, it’s a novel of ideas, about property, the very concept of it, and how our laws and systems about property shape class structure and society, as well as notions of identity, the self, bodies, autonomy at the most fundamental levels, all woven seamlessly into a dense mesh of impressive complexity. Don’t let that fool you though. Because wrapped around that is the most badass exoskeleton–a thrilling and sexy story about pirates and their adventures. Newitz has fused these two layers together at the micro- and macro-levels with insight and wit and verbal flair. Moves fast, with frightening intelligence.” ―Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
“Annalee Newitz has conjured the rarest, most exciting thing: a future that’s truly new … a terrific novel and a tremendous vision.” ―Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
“Holy hell. Autonomous is remarkable.” ―Lauren Beukes, bestselling author of Broken Monsters
“Everything you’d hope for from the co-founder of io9 … Combines the gonzo, corporatized future of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash with the weird sex of Charlie Stross’s Saturn’s Children; throws in an action hero that’s a biohacker version of Bruce Sterling’s Leggy Starlitz, and then saturates it with decades of deep involvement with free software hackers, pop culture, and the leading edge of human sexuality.” ―Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Walkaway.
“Wait! What?” -Me
Oh, here’s part of Amazon’s blurb on the book on Autonomous:
Their first novel, Autonomous, won the Lambda Literary Award and was nominated for the Nebula and Locus Awards.
My reaction to this novel and the glowing reviews it has received, more or less mirrors my response to N.K. Jemisin‘s award winning tome The Fifth Season.
Cover image for the Death’s Head Press anthology “And Hell Followed”
I don’t quite recall the original conversation I had on Facebook, but a little over a month ago, I agreed to review the Death’s Head Press anthology And Hell Followed. Jarod Barbee purchased a digital copy for me, and I downloaded it to my kindle device and started reading.
What intrigued me about this particular horror anthology, was that the theme required authors to craft tales based on the Book of Revelation. Yeah that one. The last book in the Christian Bible. The one that foretells the end of life as we know it on Earth and the second coming of Jesus Christ…
…and a whole bunch of very, very horrible sounding events.
I just finished reading it earlier today, and I must say, it didn’t disappoint. The general quality of the tome held up pretty well. Usually in anthologies, there’s some fluctuation in quality from one story to another, and while each missive was quite different from the next, all of them were engaging and entertaining.
More than a few creeped me out.