Friday, August 21, 2015

Review:: The Soulkeepers(book 1)by G.P. Ching

The Soulkeepers (The Soulkeepers, #1)The Soulkeepers by G.P. Ching

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Soulkeepers(The soulkeepers Series book1)by G.P. Ching

As I grouse around for good reads, I've come to quite a number that have the flavor of the paranormal. This one falls in that category with the emphasis on fallen angels and watchers and horsemen. It has mostly elements of magic and mystic along with a tad of divine intervention. It all falls together enough that the feel of Deus Ex Machina is forgivable.

Jacob wakes from near death, he is certain he died, to find himself alone; his mother has vanished leaving only traces of blood around the car and vague recollections in Jacobs mind as to what might have occurred. The next time he awakes he is no longer alone, but is with his new-found uncle whom he'd never known he had. He also finds that his last name Lau is really Laudner and that he'll now be moving from Hawaii to Paris, Illinois.

He inherits a family who never wanted him and a whole bunch of trouble he never wanted. Life is bad and he's definitely not helping himself with his horrible temper and mean response to other peoples bad attitudes. This is definitely one main character who is hard to feel empathy for in the early parts. His anger, directed at his cousin Katrina, is released on a neighbor who proceeds to help take him from a miserable life to a miserable yet interesting life.

Dr. Abigail Silva is a professor of Ethnobotany at the university and she is very strange; to say the least. Along with that is her strange fixation of Jacob; whom she has enlisted into gardening in payment for the damage he's done to her house. Everything about Dr. Silva is abnormal and her's is the strongest tie to paranormal that the story begins to unfold. If not for his new friend Malini, another uprooted ethnic import to Paris, Jacob would have gone off the rails in no time.

Malini's story is another intersting story, but she's not a token girlfriend for the main character; she's a the missing piece in the puzzle that is Jacob. I don't think he understands how much he needs her until she follows him nearly to hell and back-but that's telling too much.

In a small way this is a coming of age story that comes at it from a rather slanted approach. It's also a mystical and spiritual tale that wants to say that even if you don't believe in something, and perhaps especially because you don't, it is easy to become the instrument of that in which you don't believe.

Quite well written and definitely paranormal in nature this was and interesting and somewhat thoughtful look into something that has only occupied a small portion of my shelf. It does help peek my fondness for the genre.

J.L. Dobias

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review::Priceless (Rylee Adamson book 1)by Shannon Mayer

Priceless (Rylee Adamson, #1)Priceless by Shannon Mayer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Priceless (A Rylee Adamson Novel Book 1)by Shannon Mayer

This is yet another Para-normal with vampires and werewolves and witches and other magic things. And once again I'm thriving on my love of character development. Not being a die-hard fan of all things Para-normal I have to rely on my meager observation of the genre. It seems that the rules for the various creatures are sliding in nature depending on each author’s Point of View. So the most important feature seems to be keeping an eye on the internal consistency of both the rules and the characters within the rules. Still as I've said before; for me it's about character development and Rylee is definitely a complex character.

Rylee was an adopted child and traumatically lost her 'sister' under mysterious circumstances that left her as a suspect both because of her feelings of guilt and her own naiveté at that time. She has since been dogged by Agent O'Shea who seems mostly upset that he could find no conclusive evidence against her. She has since become a Tracker who locates missing children and sometimes returns them safely to their parents. This has only fueled O'Shea’s suspicions.

When the most recent case takes on the familiarity of her sister's disappearance there is a strong reason for her to become suspicious and she might be a bit thrown off her game. There is also a slight recurring thread in that many of her usual contacts that assist her are for some reason or another dropping the ball. Thankfully it's all woven into the character development and that helps it move more smoothly along.

As it is; because her friends are falling down on the job her worst nightmare, O'Shea, may turn out to be her best chance in wrapping this case up before another child dies.

The writing is pretty solid and the pacing is well done; plus there is the strangest werewolf and weirdest relationship with that werewolf that I've seen in a while. Keep in mind this is not my usual genre.

I'm not sure that I saw much change or growth in Rylee; but having her roll out at the beginning as a kick-ass feminine hero might have lofted her a bit high making the changes less noticeable.

This is great SFF with emphasis on fantasy and para-normal with almost 'Buffy-like' female lead and similar cast with its own twist in plot with the missing children theme. At just the right size and pace to carry the incautious reader into the night and possibly into daybreak.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review::Grounded (The Grounded book 1)by G.P. Ching

Grounded (The Grounded Trilogy, #1)Grounded by G.P. Ching

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Grounded (The Grounded Trilogy book 1)by G.P. Ching

This is a sort of Para-normal dystopic series of books that caught my eye and has some interesting notions and a somewhat unique look into a community that might be able to avoid the evil that grows out of efforts to create a ecological green world while masking a more insidious plot to control everything. I really enjoyed reading the novel and I think that goes back to my preferring character driven stories over the Simon Pure Science stories that have too much possibility of forgetting about characters or creating characters that are walking clichés of Sci-Fi. No such clichés here these are pretty complex characters.

The story starts with a power breakdown on the grid and a fireman who happens across an abandoned infant and the mysterious man who seems to be a walking lightning storm.

Seventeen year later we find Lydia on an Amish farm doing chores and going about her usual life of simplicity in an area that has been abandoned to the supposed radioactive waste from a nuclear meltdown. The implication that their community should all have died from the radiation has kept their home a relative secret from the world that still struggles with energy accessibility. Her friend Jeremiah is trying to talk her into doing the Rumspringa with him; mostly so he can more freely court her. This is important because later she questions how serious he is about her when this should have been a strong indicator.

When her father Frank is stricken with a possible stroke they have to decide to let it play out as is or send him to the city to undergo treatment. The decision to send him off begins the series of events that eventually lead to Lydia reluctantly agreeing to Rumspringa so she can be closer to her father at the hospital.

It does not take long into this story for us to see that it is more than a simple life that has made the Amish community the perfect place for Lydia. Lydia has powers that might be elemental in nature and she hasn't been trained to use them so she's a walking disaster set off by exposure to electricity.

If there is one quibble I have with this novel; it would be that when her powers blossom they take on a familiar feel to them. It's been a while since I read the Firestarter novel so most of my feelings about this come from the movie. But I think it is fair to say that as her powers grow and her confusion turns more to anger the display is very much like the hotter points in the Firestarter movie. There is that balance or loss of balance between the overwhelming power and control that leave her exhausted and sometimes uncontrollable.

One redeeming quality is that where Firestarter relies on her parents training to control herself; Lydia is relying on her belief system to help guide her and that brings the character into focus just a bit better or differently.

This is another reasonable SFF for fans who aren't pernickety about the science and even better for the dystopia world fans. I will definitely be looking to finish out the trilogy.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review::The Core (Equilibrium book 1)by Kate Thomas

The Core (Equilibrium, #1)The Core by Kate Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Core (Equilibrium Book 1 )by Kate Thomas

I’ve read a few paranormal genre novels so that parts not totally new but the romance part is not my first choice and I leave that to the person across the room from me. Occasionally we do cross paths and I have to admit that this one caught my eye first so I will be recommending this to the romance lover.

The story starts simple enough with Elle and her twin Jacob spying on her boss whom she has recently witnessed possibly cleaning blood out of his office. Elle has worked for David for two year now and though she does accounting for him and is well paid she has no idea what he does. So when he catches her spy on him and ends up waiting for her at her house she realizes she's putting her well paid job to risk. And predictably it's easy to see that she is interested in him as more than just her boss even if she doesn't know it yet.

So when he decides to take her on his next business trip to the west coast she's surprise. But later she's flabbergasted by being invited into his world for an eye opening look at what he does. And as this mystery unfolds she falls deeper under his charming spell. And that's about as far as I'll go with that so we don't spoil things.

What makes this story unique for me (remember there might be some aspects of this story that don't fall into my usual genre) is that what the story is really about arrives a bit later when we find out about the Core and the Equilibrium which I'll leave for the next readers to uncover for themselves. I’ll just say that how things were manipulated and why, add to the intriguing element that drove the magic in the story.

There is a certain fantastic magical nature to the story and the fact that it doesn't really quite end isn't even the least bit troubling. Or at least it wasn't for me.

Even though this is not an action packed thriller this book is well paced and kept me right into it from the beginning while wondering how it was that David seemed to be able to almost read Elle's mind at times; and watching her sleuth around to find answers to things that she could have just ask David about, is rather entertaining. Even so there are elements of the story that rise above the seeming and somewhat misleading silliness; because there is an element of seriousness to the plot.

A little bit aside from my usual SFF; but the paranormal and magic bit, though requiring some suspension of disbelief, fit in quite well with all the great prose around it.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Review::Earthrise (Her Instruments Book 1)by M.C.A. Hogarth

Earthrise (Her Instruments, #1)Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Earthrise(Her Instruments book 1)by M.C.A. Hogarth

I've read a few of M.C.A. Hogarth's shorts and her Spots the Space Marine and I've come to enjoy her as having a unique perspective from which to view her far future. Earthrise is no exception; though the character development is quite exceptional. I’ve definitely put her on my to-read list. But this might not be the fare for everyone; though I’d recommend that you try at least one of her novels and this would be a good one to start with.

This novel takes place in the universe of the Alliance and the Pelted. The Pelted seem to be some sort of designer sentient species that are [well] furry in nature. They each have their own subculture and that helps define how their personal moral characteristics might appear and when you add in the standard elements of good bad and in between [black, white and shades of grey] you have some rather complex characters.

In this story we have the captain, Theresa [Reese] Eddings,of TMS Earthrise who is a simple dark human female who was raised on Mars in a culture that at one time lost all its male population and used other means to proliferate and a subculture of that, which now exists, excludes men: while designing all offspring to be women. Her family is in that subgroup and she's the rebellious one who is not sure she wants to live that life. Of course she instead is a space merchant who reads a lot of romance fiction and has managed to keep to herself when it comes to personal relationships. That might all change since she started taking on crew: all from out of the Pelted races.

TMS Earthrise has a number of interesting crew.

Kis’eh’t, is a centauroid type of the Glaseahn and seems to have feathers and wings along with four legs and two arms. Information about them can be found at a couple web sites.

Next we have Bryer, a Phoenix; a giant birdlike creature with metallic plumage. And the twins Irine and Sascha are of the felinoid Harat-Shar who wear as few clothing as they can get by with. And then there is the more subdued but equally as strange Flitzbe named Allacazam [ a furball] that might be similar to Tribbles [out of Star Trek]; with an ability to be telepathic plus to emote in color: on its outer fur.

We join the story as Reese, who has been long indebted to a mysterious patron who long ago funded her continuation in her mercantile endeavors, finding out that her patron wants to collect on that debt. They want her to retrieve Hirianthial Sarel Jisiensire, an Eldrich, who has been arrested on a planet that might have some affiliations with slave trade. And as thing work out it seems that her patron is the Queen of the Eldrich and her assignment might be of noble birth. Eldriches are somewhat xenophobic and don't get around much and as a result there are plenty of strange myths surrounding their alleged magical nature.

Predictably this all follows a rather trope-ic path from a rescue to possibly acquiring a new crew member who actually does have some pretty strange abilities; but is mostly a pain because some piratical slavers want the Eldrich; and Reese wants to get rid of it [him]. Since her debt to the Queen forbids her from letting the pirate slavers have him back [well] we can see where it is all going.

What made this a great read for me was the character development and the interaction as a team that sometimes seems quite dysfunctional. So although in some ways there are parts that seem predictable; it's how the characters get to the end that makes this a story worth reading.

This is a well written story in a universe full of possibilities that have definite rules that stand to get in the path of the heroes and sometimes help the unsavory elements.

This is great SFF for the fan who isn't focused on the more mundane part of science [Simon Pure] and of course the few furry fans out there. Although as furry stories go this one has quite exceptional with thoughtful development as to how these beings all fit together in this universe.

With such a myriad of creatures in space; were bound to see some fur fly.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Circa 1975 Portrait by M. Rowley

About 40 some years ago I was managing a restaurant across from Lansing Community College. I had been working my way through college and had just gotten my Associates degree and had the better part of my life ahead of me. A gentleman had sat for quite some time next to a window that faced part of the main campus and looked to be studiously writing something on a note pad. Before he left he came up to the main counter where I was at the time and he put it down and I was amazed that he could do a portrait of me while I was darting around the restaurant. I complimented him on such fine work in such a short time and he pushed it toward me and said he'd done it for me and he left. I don't really think I ever saw him again after that.

Just recently I pulled out an old album and found this. Made me wonder if M. Rowley might be still around and then I started wondering what he did with the rest of his life.

J.L. Dobias

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Review::True Calling by Siobhan Davis

True Calling (True Calling #1)True Calling by Siobhan Davis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

True Calling by Siobhan Davis

This novel has some good qualities; and I am glad I didn't just totally overlook it. There's a fairly good plot that gets wrapped up with a romance that’s integral to understanding the dystopic nature of the novel. But there are frustrations abounding throughout; not so much with the science, but with nomenclature for the orbital objects and the lack of explanation about them to help the reader understand what it is that lies within the farthest extent of the Low Earth Orbit definition. The author unfortunately refers to the construct as a planet and then goes on to explain that the characters are exploring other planets to the west in the same manner one might explain exploring neighboring continents. Trying to wrap your head around the notion would be quite distracting so I had to give these planets my own bit of spin so I could enjoy the rest of the story.

This story is more about the politics and the power and control of the masses than it is a story about the science. Some disaster has nearly decimated Earth and those who survive take advantage by creating their own ideal governing body. They have grand plans to use the previously designed and constructed 'Planet' Novo to house the future of mankind, for which they hand pick what they feel is the cream-of-the-crop to undergo specialized preparations to be fitted with special devices (Vita) that can monitor their health and a whole lot more. Along with that, selective memories have been wiped with the explanation that that will give them the cleanest possible start to their new utopia. This is an interesting take on how a utopia slides easily to dystopic confusion as the power hungry take advantage of the technology used to supposedly keep everyone healthy and happy. The story itself is marred a bit by language that caused this reader to try to picture an entire planet being within Low Earth Orbit; although that alone might account for some of the disaster that occurred on Earth.

What they live in seems more like those cities in flight from the James Blish’s novels. A massive platform city, with 15 sections. And that’s the image I had to put there in order to push through to the good stuff. Even if it was a spheroid platform with artificial gravity I would have a hard time if it became moon size let alone planet size. Then again when they started exploring other worlds I wasn't sure if that would be real worlds or whether there might be more platforms such as Novo. But for the story we don't need to obsess over how they work because we aren't given that information; it's just unfortunate that the reference to them as being planets begs for some explanation.

The romance could almost be a put-off for the reader, except that it is integral to the plot; and even some of the character action that might seem a bit off, are most easily understood within the context of the intended conflict rather than the superficial one. This is more a story about the slow progression of oppression of the citizens of Novo as they try to follow the directives of their self proclaimed saviors who brought them off Earth to live in this small paradise. As the narrative unfolds, certain things become apparent. It begins with the selective nature of the program as to who is allowed on Novo and the fact that many people get left on the dying Earth. Then there are the implants used to help keep the citizens happy and healthy; even if that involves drugging them to submission. This all evolves into the Calling, which is a time when those of a certain age will undergo mandatory marriage and mandatory pregnancy to populate the rest of the paradise while ignoring the fact that there are still people on the Earth who could be brought up. It's easy to see how this is becoming a repressed society with totalitarian leanings.

The author treats this in a rather light manner, which is fine since the prevailing government is, in fact, treating it that way when they decide to run the whole thing like some sort of reality show. And although the initial struggles seem to be those of the main characters vying to get the one they truly love, while the system seems to be stacked against them; there are larger issues that float around deep below this surface and sometimes float to the top.

For Ariana, who doesn't want to think about marriage or children, this is an inconvenience to her plans for her future; and the circus that evolves from the start to the climax of the matchmaking program, do not afford the reader a flattering view of her character. But there is some depth beneath it all; and that involves some strange dreams that might be memories of things that may have been wiped from her mind by the leaders of the program. When Ariana rebels and other parts of her life are shattered she begins to uncover something more sinister than the overt attempts to set feminism back by hundreds of year.

There’s a possibility that Novo is a proving ground for the technology that will be used elsewhere.

This is the beginning of a series of some sort; so not all of the questions brought into the story will be answered definitively. Often character personal conflicts overshadow the main conflict; making it a bit of a puzzle sometimes to key into all the indicators. Overall the story acquits itself once the threads are drawn tightly, near the end; and the reader can see where things are headed. The reality show distraction has played-out; perhaps the next book can concentrate on the more sinister side of conflict.

I’ll definitely be looking into the next book to see where it all is heading.

The pacing seems a bit off at the beginning because of the focus on the dysfunctional government repopulation program and the second half begins to create a momentum of more exciting moments.

I would recommend this to the SFF fans that like romance and are not too keen on Simon pure science, because the suspension of disbelief gets to be a struggle in the beginning and could distract from the story. Once I got past that and could see the real conflict hanging under the surface, I found it to be written well and reasonably enjoyable.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cripple-Mode:Hot Electric

The Tesla Legacy (Joe Tesla, #2)In the Science Fiction Thriller Cripple-Mode:Hot Electric

Give me liberty or give me death wasn't Travis Lucia Hamilton-McQueen's foremost declaration. She'd returned from near death and wasn't keen on revisiting; she just wanted her life back.

When Travis gets a second chance, she goes all the way. A new life; a new body; and even some new memories. The memories come with extra baggage that she would rather have left behind, if she could have; unfortunately at the time of arrival she was in a coma. Regardless; they're the only memories she had; no matter how insane they made her sound to the staff of the Medical Space Station Perl.

A soulless clone with limited freedom and an amnesiac ward of Greater Terran Galactic Properties, with a possible Dissociative fugue identity, Travis was produced from a family line of murderers; convicts; and terrorist. To be fair, she's the one being accused of being a terrorist. At least she's fitting into the family. She has no memories of herself to confirm or deny the evidence, but if medical tests are to be trusted; she's the Granddaughter of Dane Hamilton and daughter of Travis Hamilton. And if that's true then what's ultimately crazier than her strange memories, is the person belonging to those memories.

The explanation lies with the League Jump Guild, people in charge of the technology that drives Starships through deep space. Travis would rather not deal with the LJG for a number of good reasons including the fact that they suspect she's used Black Tech or stolen Jump Technology to illegally jump through space. Worse yet, she did so without the protection of a space ship or space suit, which exposed her to a number of theorized conditions that would account for her present fugue like state of identity confusion. The LJG would say a person would be quite mad to do as she's done, with little chance of surviving. Being alive could seem like a blessing, if she overlooks the expected eventual outcome of such a capricious act: a severe irreversible psychotic episode.

When Travis and a nurse are attacked; two staff members die under suspicious circumstances; and an LJG General, with an agenda, comes calling on her; she checks herself out of the facility and bolts. Using her father's knowledge she attempts to hide out on a space station in the middle of nowhere with few practical places to conceal herself and begins to wonder if this all might be the beginning of her psychosis. While fearful of becoming unhinged and dangerous, she must avoid the people trying to kill her and find a way off the station so everyone will be safe. But Travis brought something back with her from JumpSpace that wants her to remain on the station: to complete a task or finish driving her completely over the edge.


J.L. Dobias

Monday, June 1, 2015

Review::The Tesla Legacy by Rebecca Cantrell

The Tesla Legacy (Joe Tesla, #2)The Tesla Legacy (Joe Tesla, #2)The Tesla Legacy by Rebecca Cantrell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Tesla Legacy (Joe Tesla Series 2) by Rebecca Cantrell

I picked this one up on a recommendation, through twitter. It's part of a series; but it stands well alone. There are references that make you want to read the first book, but that's alright. Oddly it's difficult to mention some things about this story without running a risk of spoiling some of the previous story, but to confirm that; I have to first read that one. So this is the warning this might contain some spoilers; or not.

This is a sort of suspense mystery that starts out introducing a character that in some ways seems similarly challenged as Nero Wolf was in this genre. Where Nero Wolf had a mobility problem by being somewhat overweight and usually solved murders from his home; Joe Tesla has his own problems that limit the scope of his mobility. Being extremely agoraphobic he lives in a house in an underground cave in New York. His home is connected to the underground caverns for the steam and subway that exists under New York. His fear is something that might be the result of chemical poisoning and some possibility that someone deliberately poisoned him; though the answer to that puzzle doesn't exist in this story. Joe tries to stick mostly to the underground and mostly what is local to the house that he rents from the family of the lead engineer of the station and tracks of New York underground. This house and the keys for many doors throughout the tunnel allow Joe access to a large perimeter of the playing field. Joe must stay underground because his reaction to the open and to sunlight would make a vampire shiver in sympathetic terror.

This novel has a large cast of well defined characters. And while as such it could be overwhelming, the overall handling of the narrative is quite crisp and clear. In an age when first person writing is becoming predominant in some genre, it's refreshing not only to see third person writing; but to see it crafted so well. Characters get their separate chapter allowing each character to be fully developed and to inform the reader of things that begin to make this less of a mystery of who done it than a suspense of when will the characters reveal themselves or each other and who will pay a price at the climax of that event. And though there is the risk that some of the threads created therein will not be fully realized there is a gestalt of a main story that takes us from a time before Joe's birth to the excitement of the ending in his time.

Joe, having his own problems, is helped around with a companion dog named Edison; he has an ex-girlfriend Celeste who suffers ALS and could die any day. Being a rich software designer, in his crippled state he still consults with Pellucid, the company he created. He tried to be selective when he sold Pellucid to ensure no one abuse the software, but he fears that the NSA are taking advantage of his facial recognition software to keep tabs on everyone and he has trouble reconciling himself between doing what he feels is right and bringing the company down and destroying his constant source of income. Vivian Torres works as Joe’s security and often the person doing his legwork similar to Nero Wolf's Archie Goodwin. Vivian is ex-military, a climbing enthusiast and has a well sculpted body; she's not to be messed with. She also seems to work though Tesla's lawyer, Mr. Rossi, which is important because between her, the lawyer, and Dirk, a part time helper who is a police officer, they constitute something I've seen a lot of in Robert Heinlein's writing. This is the knowledgeable group or couple who help the protagonist, for less than understandable reasons, and keep them out of trouble when possible. And lastly in the mix of the good we have Tatiana, Joe Tesla's mother.

On the evil or not so nice end, we have Ash who is Alan Wright who leads a double life as the creator of a company that helps the environment while staying in the lead with commerce; and as Ash he is the creator of a hacker entity called Spooky, which has some rather shady membership and borders on the potential to become radicalized. Two of his most involved contacts as Ash are known to him as Geezer and Quantum and together the three make an alliance of distrust that hatch a plan to steal the Tesla Oscillator from Joe; though Joe doesn't yet know that he has such a thing. When the target becomes Joe Tesla it molds the story perfectly by keeping it well within the confines where Joe's disability has kept him. The diverse directions of each of the villains in the story add more depth to a somewhat already cluttered plot.

When Joe finally realizes what he had and lost and the threat that it presents, it's a mad dash to try to find and stop an evil he has yet to unmask. In this particular story it's not so much the final outcome as it is the road we take to get there. And there is no lack of excitement on the way.

This is a great SFF novel that works as suspense thriller and has some elements that could almost qualify it with the steam-punk category. Well worth the read; and for some of us it might be a one sit read.

J.L. Dobias

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review::The Madmen's City by Cady Vance

The Madmen's CityThe Madmen's City by Cady Vance

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Madmen's City by Cady Vance

This novel helps fill out the growing number of super hero novels I've been reading lately. It's a tough job without all the panels of drawings; but when done right they read quite well. This one is definitely going into the well done pile. This novel is more about vigilante than super powered heroes; but that's what Batman started out as. And this novel fits well with that in that it is drawn in a dystopic world that has the noir mood and images that go along with crime bosses and thugs and suspicious authority who don’t know what to do about the vigilantes.

Silas Snow is the rougher side of vigilantism. The story opens up after his having cleaned one more soldier from the Nerozzi crime family off the streets. Disguised as the faceless Ethos he's cleaning up the Coil; in part because he's the son of a crime boss that is in prison and he'd love to see a few more of the crime bosses sent away. Tonight while disposing of the body he is confronted by Phantom, Damian Kane, who is more like the morally correct super hero in the story. Phantom asks Ethos to vacate this particular area of the Coil: while Phantom is busy with some unknown project. Instead of vacating Ethos sticks around to find that Phantom is training his daughter to become a vigilante. At the same time some of the Nerozzi thugs show up threatening Phantom and his daughter; and Phantom is forced to leave with them to save his daughter; who ends up still in danger, but Ethos helps her get away in time for them both to see her father, Phantom, being arrested and placed in a police cruiser. Gwen Kane, Lady Hood, would rather not have had to rely on the seedy Ethos to get away, but she has no choice.

As it turns out Gwen's father is charged with the murder committed by Ethos, which fact Gwen does not yet know. Gwen also, in super hero irony, is not aware that her friend Silas Snow (she befriended him after the trial that sent his mother to prison) is really Ethos. Ethos is quickly placed in a tough situation with her father taking the blame for his crime. There's a long dance of the secret identities where Ethos helps Gwen and her friends try to get to the bottom of things. Once the cat is out of the bag and Ethos is unmasked, Silas decides to turn himself in; except other people have other plans; and Gwen might have to now return the favor and save Ethos, before they can clear her father's name.

The story is an interesting if frequently used storyline in this genre. The Phantom's vigilante justice is righteous and clean, but is falling short of effective. Ethos is brutal and exacting and perhaps has wakened the crime community to a point of wanting to pull his plug. Gwen, Lady Hood, must learn to walk the line between the two types of justice in order to help her father and she'll have to see how far she might go to compromise everything her father has stood for and taught her.

This is a well written evenly paced story with interesting characters in a typical situation for the realm of noir vigilante justice. A great read for fans of the Graphic Noir (Suspense and Mystery) novels minus the graphics and a pretty good read for YA and even some SFF fans.

J.L. Dobias

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Colors of Space by Marion Eleanor Zimmer Bradley (June 3, 1930 – September 25, 1999)

The Colors of Space
The Colors of Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Colors of Space by Marion Eleanor Zimmer Bradley (June 3, 1930 – September 25, 1999)
The Colors of Space

The Colors of Space

I remember reading this a long time ago. Many times. Some time after the 1963 edition was published. I decided to read it again and see if it still stood well against time.

Bart Steele is a young Vegan who has come to Earth to study at the academy. He's a product of a human and Mentorian pair, although he lost his mother, the Mentorian, early in his life. His father, a Terran, owns a space shipping business that struggles as it must against the monopoly that the Lhari race has over interstellar flight. The Lhari have made it clear that only Lhari can survive while the warp-drive is active and that all other races must go into cold-sleep.

This monopoly causes Bart and many others to have a prejudice against the Lhari.

Upon graduation Bart is to meet his father at the Lhari spaceport where he will leave Earth and return home. But Bart will never see his father again and will be catapulted into a universe of danger and intrigue. He discovers his father and several others have died while trying to obtain the secrets of the Lhari and of the warp-drive. Bart is thrust into his father's world while he's become a fugitive from Lhari authorities.

An important plot point is that the Lhari are not able to perceive colors the way humans and Mentorians do; and this becomes a major plot device or I should say part of several plot devices. This is the only part that my more mature insight has quibbles about during this read. There are some big things that are hinged on this color disability that might not work quite as well as I once believed. One major one is that the Lhari could not tell something was red hot because they couldn't see the red. Since often survival hinges on such things there would likely have been another way for them to discern that a surface they were working on, in their ship, might be hot.

Most everything else in the story seems to stand the test of time and still seems to work quite well to move the plot along. Since not enough is revealed about how a specific disguise is worked out, it might seem a bit thin but it still works here.

The story itself beyond being science fiction seems to contain a mix of moral elements as regards prejudices and race hate. It becomes a story of a young mans journey to grow to maturity and whether he can alter his thinking and his beliefs when the time comes; or if he'll let the rage building inside to overflow and color his own sense of justice.

Even after all these years this is not only an great Classic; but it stands as a story that SFF fans should love and would stand well with other YA novels today.


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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Self-Publishing: Shooting Feet: Farwell to old friends

Self-Publish:shoot foot:farwell
Self-Publishing: Shooting Feet: Farwell to old friends

My coffee is lukewarm: the smell of tobacco and beer fall upon us like a familiar overcoat. The warm face sitting across from me has harsh disparaging eyes. He turns away; because he knows I know him all too well. The best of friends, even when he's being a troll. His beer goes down with a resounding thunk, so he can fold his beard with the thumb and forefingers of each hand: he points his head toward me. He says, "I know I said I didn't want to hear your lame ass justifications, but tell me again. The last time I wasn't listening."

I lean onto the table lowering my lids a bit and watch him just a moment longer. Still looking my way; that says something. It's probably safe to go on.

My hands splay out on the table palms down; I try to give the appearance of saying a small prayer, not for him to be enlightened, but for me to have patience. "Well, it starts back when I went to a blog where it was clearly explained that there are thousands of submissions every year for new books from new authors. There were a series of daunting hoops to go through just to be sure your i's are dotted and t's crossed. Those were not insurmountable. In fact they're instructive. With the insight offered, I could ensure that I'd not fall into some of the usual pratfalls of the average new author. And it isn't that I can't finish the work. It's finished. I have another on the way. And I have an infinite supply up here." One hand leaves the table for a quick gesture.

Shaking my head, it lists slowly as though it's over heavy, I wait and watch. There should be more comment from the peanut gallery any second. When only silence reigns I clear my throat. "None of that poses a problem. It's those blasted statistics. One in several thousand chances that an agent or publisher will spend more than a passing glance on my work: even when it's presented properly. It's like a slow death march. I'm sending out clones of my manuscript on one way trips with such a small chance that they will survive the purges. That alone would not be so bad, but it's not knowing what I'm sending them into. Rejection notes vary but the common theme is to just say keep trying. Not much in the line of battle reports to tell intelligence what we're up against. God, it would be at least something if they just said that they'd decided to burn the remaining 1000 manuscripts to make room for the next invasion. Seriously though; some constructive criticism would be nice. It would dispel any vision that there are a whole circle of agents and publishers with a large hat just pulling submissions until they reach the quota.

"This same blog-site had a link.

"It has statistics related to authors in print and their experience with getting published by major publishing houses. It was in part done to help highlight the importance of doing short stories to build your reputation and credibility as an author. It had statistics showing the difference between published authors who first did short stories and then published a novel as opposed to those who were fortunate enough to go straight to a first novel. It also included the success rate of both sides of that coin. Showing that building a reputation with short stories has a higher probability of delivering success in maintaining a consistent flow of novel work. This was all instructive in painting a clear picture of what needs to be done.

"Still, a daunting part, the submissions and rejections, remain to hang my manuscript over a fire.

"Then, light at the end of the tunnel. The author of this post painted this horrible picture of self publishing. For some reason he'd deemed it necessary to include statistics on the number of self publishers who might be noticed by an agent or publisher. His indication was that it was a sad 1 out of 256 chance. I looked at this and realize 1 out of 256 as opposed to 1 out of thousands. And, there was my solution to my dilemma."

My companion looks only slightly baffled. Eyebrows furrowed above thin slits behind the dark reflective spectacles. This is good; I expect he's forgotten previous rounds of discussions about my book. I say, "Remember, you indicated that you didn't want to read my book to review it. You wanted the hard evidence in your hand so you could browse page by page in one night the efforts of all my years. And, there it is, chance is more in my favor with self publishing. All I have to do is sacrifice my first born. And it's not really that much of a sacrifice, when I can place a copy in those fleshy maws of yours. To say nothing of the fact that it would cost the same or less than a custom made furry costume."

As is his characteristic response to such revelation he sits back in his chair and forms an O with his mouth. Then his eyes light and he smiles and chuckles, nearly sloshing the beer from his mug. His throat adds its own reverberation to his chortle. The wind comes up swiftly to whip the smoke up and away. The smell of beer washes away from us like the evening tide. I lift my eyes to watch the smoke become a part of the clouds. Then I force them to come back to the empty chair across from me.

Taking the book from my bag I set it on the table.

It's a shame you couldn't stick around long enough to see this. I can only hope that as I sit and read you will be reading over my shoulder. Farewell my friend and have a good rest.

Copyright 2012 J.L. Dobias

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review::After Doomsday by Poul Anderson

After DoomsdayAfter Doomsday by Poul Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After Doomsday by Poul Anderson

This is a book I read so many times I wore the glue off the back and had a copy with a rubber band holding it together for a number of years; until I finally replaced it with a used copy. I've read this at least half a dozen times maybe more. If there are any books that stand the test of time it is those by Poul Anderson. Sometimes the secret is to keep the description of some devices vague while injecting good science to back up what they are supposed to do.

Carl Donnan is one of several hundreds of men aboard the starship Franklin when they return to Earth to find it has been decimated of all life. Carl doesn't consider himself a leader; but finds himself in an awkward position when Captain Strathey seems too shocked to maintain control of the ship. There are anti-ship missiles hunting them down; weapons they assume were left by whoever of the advanced races did this. The missiles are Kandamirian; so it's not much thought to placing blame. Even so with the tension abounding it is difficult for Carl to keep the alien adviser aboard safe from harm though he is a Monwaing. The Monwaing are the ones who helped bring Earth into space. With tension high, though, every other space faring race is under a cloud of suspicion. Eventually Carl will reluctantly have to take charge of all the humans.

After escaping they seek sanctuary while waiting to find out if there were other ships with more humans out in space. There are, and right from the beginning we get a dual story told from the POV of the Franklin and crew and then the Europa and crew. Europa, thankfully, is a ship with a hundred females. Though neither knows of the other, the reader knows; so the story seems mostly to be about searching for clues to who murdered Earth. Even as the case becomes stronger against the Kandamirian and the men of Franklin begin to seek revenge; there is enough doubt that Donnan continues to search, because he wants to be certain he gets revenge on the correct aliens.

The task is difficult and things are never that clear and with Poul Anderson there is often a bit of a twist at the end: this one is no exception to that rule.

If I had one caveat in this all: I would say that it was pertaining to the bit of conceit in having the Franklin crew come up with such unique ideas to alter alien technology that help them develop some new and highly effective war hardware. Yes they do think differently, so perhaps there is that. Yet there are so many races already out in space using this technology that they’ve improve, you would think that one or more might just think close enough to have developed these seeming remarkable advancements.

Still all the raw emotion and the mystery and intrigue carry this story to keep it at a satisfying level that the suspension of disbelief remains intact despite the age of the novel.

This is an excellent Classic by one of the best in his field. I recommend this for all SFF fans.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Review::When You Went Away by Michael Baron

When You Went AwayWhen You Went Away by Michael Baron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When You Went Away by Michael Baron

Taking another break from my usual SF fare and my target has been sitting quietly in my kindle for two years. One more time I looked and asked myself what this one was doing here. So of course I started reading it; and kept right on reading it to the end.

I don't mind Nicholas Sparks and I've recently read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. But this book nailed some of the feeling of hopelessness and despair, midst the driving pressure to keep sane while trying to raise a child alone. Add to this that his teen aged daughter had run away, just prior to the babies arrival and his wife’s death, and you've go someone who has little time and less inclination to be out looking for companionship.

This book adds an interesting touch in that his wife’s sister visits a lot. She looks just like her sister, his wife, and that can't be helpful. After taking time off to try to put the remains of his life back together, we find Gerry having a difficult time letting go enough to find a reasonable babysitter. But he knows he must get back to work; and he's buried himself for such a long time raising his infant son Reese that he may not have allowed himself enough time to grieve.

To add to this, when Gerry returns to work, he finds himself attracted to someone who seems so perfect; her only fault is that she's not his deceased wife and it's too early for him to start dating. Neither being too stoic nor to soppy his ruminations seem quite genuine as he tries to sort through his life. The only oasis he has is his son who remains forever his reason for continuing on. His daughter’s occasional emails, to let him know she is alright, have a dual effect: especially since she uses a forwarding agent that prevents him from locating her. He tries to sort through his life to figure out why she ran off with a boy three years older than her and vowed never to return. He blames himself.

Anger over his daughters estrangement and guilt over having feelings for someone else so soon and fear of forging ahead in life without his one true love; he's a powder keg waiting to be sparked to life. When something happens to his one anchor in life, Reese, blind rage might undo the work he started when he chose to return to his life.

There are a lot of things I can relate to in this book and it's well done and quite a compelling read for someone who expects different fiction and conflict.

Excellent Dramatic Romance, for someone taking a break from the usual; and just as great for someone who loves a good Romance.

J.L. Dobias

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