Screenshot from my computer.
Yes, it’s a bland image to be sure, but writing fiction isn’t all fun, games, and glory. Once a story is accepted, or in this case two, it doesn’t mean what you’ve submitted to the publisher is perfect. It just means that it’s a good story (well, I hope that’s what it means).
It also means that someone is going to go over your story with the proverbial fine-toothed comb, pointing out issues, everything from word usage to punctuation.
Cover art for the novel “Terminum” by Lyla El-Fayomi
You may have read my review of Lyla El-Fayomi‘s novel Terminum about ten days or so ago. As I mentioned in the original review, I wrote it for Reedsy Discovery at their invitation. Today, my review went live. I was surprised at the response.
Ms. El-Fayomi made her name unavailable on the review and presumably in Discovery. She wrote this comment by way of an explanation:
IMPORTANT MESSAGE: Despite the large area it occupies, the lengthy review of Terminum featured on the Reedsy book page WAS NOT written by a professional in the field. It is simply one man’s opinion. Please treat it as such. You may find your reading experience to be entirely different from his.
In spite of her obvious intelligence and education, I don’t think she understands what a book review is.
Cover art for the novel “Terminum” by Lyla El-Fayomi
Disclosure: This is my first review of an indie SciFi book for Reedsy Discovery. In exchange for a free digital copy of a book, they ask that the writer craft a review of between 300 to 400 words in length and have it published on their site prior to a specific date. Basically, it’s free promotion for the book, Reedsy, and the reviewer.
I chose Lyla El-Fayomi’s Terminum to review because the premise was compelling. An experimental virus stops people from aging but at random points in their lives. However, the darker side is that some of those infected will be abruptly killed by an unknown side effect called Sudden Death Syndrome.
In investigating a cure, scientists Yasmine Holloway and Leo Genix suddenly become fugitives, being hunted down both by law enforcement and bounty hunters. They are thrust into the shadowy realm of a group of covert operatives who have, perhaps for decades, been aware of a conspiracy to hide the truth about the virus and to prevent them from ever delivering a cure.
Cover art for Michael Gilwood’s novel “Mission: Outbreak”
Starting Mission: Outbreak by Michael Gilwood, when I read that 200 year old human remains are found on one of Neptune’s moons, I was somewhat reminded of James P. Hogan’s novel “Inherit the Stars,” which I’d consumed some decades ago and remembered enjoying.
But afterward, there was a significant section of exposition which, I suppose, was necessary to cover a long stretch of history in a shorter span of pages.
After that, I found Gilwood’s novel was a sort of mix between the original Star Trek television series, and something written by E.E. “Doc” Smith.
That’s not necessarily bad as far as it goes, but not only did it seem familiar, but too often repeated as a science fiction trope.
Captain Philip Wakefield and our heroes on the starship Excelsior visit an alien planet in search of clues of perhaps humanity’s origins, as well as evidence that the Earth has been visited before by extraterrestrials.
Cover art for the 1968 edition of “First Lensman”
I’ve been reading the legendary E.E. “Doc” Smith‘s Lensman series recently. After Triplanetary (1948 – originally published as a serial in 1934), which really wasn’t about the Lensmen, but did introduce a few key characters, came First Lensman (1950) which still gave off more of a 1930s flavor.
While readers get their first real glimpse into the lives and power of the Lensmen, the tale reveals itself as terribly dated. The “good guys” are very “North American” centric, women don’t have minds compatible with interacting with the lens, and our guys are scrupulously honest and forthright.
As with “Triplanetary,” I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of scene changes and figure out where I was in the story from one point to the next.
Along with the purely space opera aspects, there were heavy political overtones, no doubt reflecting Smith’s actual viewpoints.
Screen capture of an email from Amazon.
I know, right?
To be fair, Amazon has the right to accept or refuse reviews posted on their site because, after all, it is their site. If I did unintentionally violate their standards, I guess that’s that.
On the other hand, if you don’t like a book that’s supposed to be popular (and I did like the book for the most part), or say anything critical of it when you shouldn’t, does Amazon tip the scales in favor of “popular” works or “popular” authors?
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.