Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review::Emergence by Nick M. Lloyd

EmergenceEmergence by Nick M. Lloyd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every once in a while there is a book that just grabs my attention and keeps it. I hadn't quite expected that from Nick Lloyd's Emergence. It seems to be written in the style of a procedural suspense thriller. This tends to create the air of Hard Science Fiction and thankfully not the difficult kind of hard. Well, maybe some difficult if you try to include the many worlds interpretation. I almost thought it would slip away from me when I was forced to focus heavily on the alien race. The world of Jack and Louise was becoming so entertaining that I didn't really want to take a break to examine the Gadium in the ship above Earth and certainly not the ones far off in space at other worlds.

There are a number of ways to handle alien races in a Science Fiction novel. One of those ways is to try to make everyday life and dialogue sound like us. Sometimes that choice can make the story a bit less than palatable. In Emergence it helped a lot, because there's a lot to get to know about these aliens before the climax of the story. What brings them here; and why they have come all this way only to watch. Much of this gets answered and even more questions the reader hasn't thought to ask. The procedural nature of the story is not limited to the Earth half of the story and the reader should be ready to learn a lot about the procedural nature of the aliens who watch.

But, to be honest, what I liked about Emergence is the characters. I had resolved that I was going to be concentrating on the colorful characters of all the Earth Humans. The animosity between Jack and Louise drive the story. Louise might not have begun her investigation, but for the conflict she'd been having with Jack. The dynamic duo of Jeff and Mike as college professors and the main researchers within the story are a good foil for Louise's hard nosed investigative reporting. But that was quickly derailed by the scenes depicting the initial discomfort between the aliens Aytch and Justio, which expands as the reader finds there are dissenters in the most perfect ranks of the great race.

At one point I was almost ready to let the story guide me into the look and feel of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But this never got to the level of silliness of Douglas Adam's work. This seems to stay in the more serious vein perhaps like X-files. One would think that since the aliens are mostly there to watch that it would be pretty boring. For the most part the reader is initially led to believe it is pretty sedate; but soon, with the potential for internal strife, things begin to get interesting.

It takes a while for the reader to come to grips with the rules that the Gadium must abide by while observing the Emergence. It's those rules that set the stage for most of the story's conflicts. It's those rules and the Gadium belief that they are doing the right thing that lead to some pretty strange occurrences. Eventually everyone will be in a race against time to complete missions that all seem to be at odds with each other.

It's easy to start picking sides but it becomes confusing when the reader has to take into consideration that one or the other of the Gadium factions has to dominate and when that happens then the conflict becomes between them and the humans and neither of the former two are a good choice for that ultimate conflict and the humans are being set up to mostly lose in any situation.

When it gets to the final solutions the readers is left satisfied; but the final judgment will be that there will likely be more to this story.

This is well written well paced Procedural Science Fiction that waxes Hard most of the time though the seeming theoretical nature of Many Worlds Interpretation will stretch some readers suspension of disbelief.

You need to read this to see what I mean and you shouldn't be disappointed.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review::The Star Thief (Star Thief Chronicles 1)by Jamie Grey

The Star Thief (Star Thief Chronicles, #1)The Star Thief by Jamie Grey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Star Thief (Star Thief Chronicles Book 1) by Jamie Grey

The Star Thief is well written. What I mean by that is that it doesn't present all of the problems with grammar that I've been finding lately in books like this.[Someone else did mention finding some problems but if there are that many there I must have been distracted.] I enjoyed reading it and have given it high marks for that and as usual that means I'll be a bit brutal about the things I had problems with.

The story is quite well paced with enough action to keep the reader's interest. Renna is a thief and seems to style herself a mercenary. We later get a better notion of her start in this life and I'd stay with thief. The Star Thief comes from her having stolen the Seralline Star Sapphire; a feat that apparently no one is supposed to know was her job; though many more people seem to know, than she would expect. The Sapphire is also a bit of a running joke in the story because she still has it and is wearing it and so far only one other person seems to realize that she's wearing it.[Either that or I was very unattentive while reading.]

Being a thief for hire; Renna is hired to pick up some high tech weapon component that has been stolen by the Evil Cordozas. While doing that job she finds human cargo and decides to liberate it setting off a great escape scene. This leads them into the hands of a group of what look like ninja like mercenaries and also to my first quibble. This turns out to be a special group of official or unofficial people meant to police space and they mean to recruit her. They are not very straight forward about their intent and in an attempt to escape Renna kills one of these soldiers.[Which is all fine because the stakes feel high and the threat real so it tracks well... until they recruit her.] When they recruit her I kept waiting for someone to complain that she'd killed (so and so[I don't recall if we are ever told who it was.]) and they won't work with someone who killed him. Instead it just seems to go away and we never hear much about it other than when the man who is hiring her sees the body and frowns and calls it his own miscalculation of her abilities.

It turns out that her saving the young boy from the human cargo container is an added bonus to her job and we will see much more about the boy as the story develops. The boy starts out looking like a plot MacGuffin but has a much larger part in the whole plot. There are some parts predictable at this point in the greater parts of the plot but for me that's not a problem.[Some people might be dissappointed.]

There are at least two places where there is graphic sexual content and so; I would rate this as an Older Young Adult. The Young Adults on the other end of the scale should probably not be reading this. There is something to say for it being a portion of the character development of Renna and there is even a backstory to support it, so in a most liberal sense it seems to be necessary. I can take or leave it and honestly the person across the room from me who reads mostly romance is often put off by this much of this type of description.[So be warned.]

This is a series so there is more to come. That said I was still really surprised with the turn at the end. Definitely worth checking the next novel.

This is a good Sci-Fi Thriller with a bit of dystopia in the mix so fans of both should check it out.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review::Seed Seeker by Pamela Sargent

Seed Seeker (Seed, #3)Seed Seeker by Pamela Sargent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seed Seeker by Pamela Sargent

Seed Seeker is Pamela Sargent's third book in the Seed Series.The first two set the tone for the series and this one follows through with the same tone capping off the series that is more character driven than innovative.

In the first book the Ship which is both a generation ship and sentient AI, has raised generations of humans with the goal to deliver them to their new home where she would seed the new world. She was doing so in the belief that she was completing the work of some of the finest minds Earth had to offer. Saving mankind by preparing the generations to survive on a potential new and wild world.[The sentience of the ship seems to be minimized throughout the series though the main thread of the moral dilemma is tied to its sentience.]

The story starts with a generation that has some conflicts amongst its members and as they come close to reaching their destination they discover that the ship has had a previous generation in suspension because the first world she stopped at was not suitable. The waking of that generation causes more conflict and sets the stage for strife in the near future when they are all dropped upon the new world. At the same time Ship discovers that the original group that set her on her mission may have been the missfits of Earth rather than the great minds she'd been programed to believe.

In the second book the colony of three disparate groups attempt to survive while ship goes on with her mission to create more generations and continue to seed the universe. The story begins with a few of the original colonist still arround, but centers on the next generation. A generation that might contain some who have some dramatic adaptations to the new world. This sets the stage for the division of those who are affected and those that are not. And the isolation of the ones who believe they are the future of pure man on the new world.

This third book takes up from there in the next generation and also at a time when the generation Ship has been having some doubts about her purpose and some regrets about leaving the first generations on the new planet. As the story opens there is a new light in the sky above the new world and this sets off a pilgrimage to the original settlement to find out if the light might be Ship. There are mixed feelings about the potential arrival of ship because those who have been changed by something on this new planet are fearful that the Ship may reject them as being less than adequate[less than human].

Once again Pamela Sargent creates some interesting and credible characters that come to life in a world of strife, conflict, and misunderstanding. And the leading question in the readers mind might be; how will ship react to this world of savages and how could they possibly fit into her programmed plan.

This is a great Generation Ship series that is both for Young Adults and SFF fans.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Review::The Master of Izindi by Dave Wallace

The Master of IzindiThe Master of Izindi by David Wallace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Master of Izindi by Dave Wallace

My attention was drawn to this by someone who recommended it[on several occasions]as a very good self-published novel. I avoided it for some time, but finally gave it a try and I did enjoy the overall story, but....

This is one more of those love hate novels in my library; and I debated on whether to do any sort of review, because I'm not sure if I can do much justice to the novel itself because of the choices Dave Wallace made in his style of writing. I did like the story and give it high marks for being entertaining; but I can't give it my highest marks, because of a number of obvious flaws in the version that I had available to me. In fact, because I am giving it high marks I once again feel obligated to point to some of the flaws that might annoy other readers more than they managed to put me off.

I tried starting this once and immediately saw that there would be a small problem for me. I love character driven stories that dig in close to the character to reveal their thoughts and motivations; and because this seems to be a third person omniscient point of view with a tendency to stay omniscient and distant, this did not give that particular feel to me. In fact, I was forced to go back and look at One Thousand Nights and a Night to try to determine if it might be that the author was trying to mimic the style of that book. [I'm still not sure even after looking; if he was trying to set that mood, it fell a bit flat; because this book is not suited to the format used in One Thousand Nights and A Night.]

What I mean by that is that One Thousand Nights and A Night is the story of Scheherazade telling stories in such a manner to make them interesting enough that she might waylay her death by keeping the king interested enough to allow her another day to continue the tale.[Each day she was preventing the king from marrying and then slaying another bride.(The king is a serial killer.)] The tale becomes a string of tales within tales[with sometimes even another nested tale] that are all done mostly in a dispassionate nonjudgmental manner with an often curious twist that Scheherazade might leave off at; for the next day. These were also tales that appear to be somewhat moral in nature while often using language and images that some cultures might find somewhat objectionable. The only transferable key within these tales is that it is mostly narrated from a third omnicient point of view. But it might be unfair to stop there; because we should look at the characters who often seems to be blown around by the winds of fate and sometimes striking upon the correct choice and the often heroic figure who might sometimes seem invincible.

But in a way I might be unfair trying to make a comparison, in that Dave Wallace may have just been trying to transfer some Arabian mythical creatures into a modern format. Even so with that in mind I find that one of my first difficulties was that the novel seems to be set into three basic tales that include the same character; but a character who seems to make such startling leaps within his character that it seems like its a story of three different characters. And yet it is all one tale with one character.

In the beginning, Zafir is described many times as a street urchin; and I'm sure somewhere in the defintion of that term he qualifies, but some parts not so much when we find out more about him. And that's part of the problem, which is that we don't know much about him throughout the entire novel. In this first part about the street urchin Zafir we know more about the woman who helps him, Alima, than we do Zafir. Alima is another problem, which is that she helps save him from the Emir's guard and takes him to the edge of the city and pretty much has to give up her way of life in the city because of all that and she ends up being discarded, so that the reader can be moved onto the next part of the story.[Although, I'm not sure how I'd have felt if she'd been killed.]

The next part of the novel Zafir is taken in by Master Storm where he becomes possibly some sort of novice trainee who manages to stumble into the right direction when they are in danger and in need of making decisions on the fly. In this instance the adventures that they encounter on their trek to Izindi do read a lot like the stories out of One Thousand Nights and A Night. Each time we seem to be witness to the strange growth of the novice Zafir with the potential to understanding his underlying 'wisdom' which he often just happens to stumble into.

Somewhere along the line we finally discover that Zafir has a family[I have yet to find the spot since my amazon for pc keeps crashing when I search.] including not only a father and mother, but a sister and brother. It is convenient that we discover this as it becomes an important part of his shifting motivation.

The third and final part is Zafir the Master. He has passed his tests he has proven himself and he has surpassed all his masters and on top of that it might be that he's the chosen one. This part might get a bit sticky for those people who don't care for Deus Ex Machina. For quite a few pages Zafir seems undefeatable and he strangly strings together a bunch of seemingly random, but serial, adventures that lead to his acquiring all the equipment he needs to accomplish his final task.

As it is all of those features in the story did not account for my dropping a point save for the choice to use an omniscient third that was so distant. Despite the cringeworthy notion of deviating from rules: I would have been happier had the author chosen to break the rules a bit and come closer to the main character. This reader would have loved to know how the character felt in each of the steps from the urchin to the master and his thoughts and feelings during the greater part of stress up to and within the climatic moments. And if we were to go with the notion of trying to catch the mood of One Thousand Nights and A Night then I could almost live with the treatment or maybe lack of treatment of the women especially the discarding of the character Alima whom I at some point was holding such hopes for.

Now we reach the part of caveats. I don't downgrade the stars for grammar, but I do feel when the errors reach a specific boundary it's important to mention. The copy I have of this novel contains, at a minimum, 50 gramatical problem. These range from spelling to incorrect words to punctuation and sentences that are confusing at best.
As one Example of the handful or more.
The scimitar rebounded from her neck with a clang and fell notched from the astonished noble’s grasp.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 4210-4211). . Kindle Edition.
[I think I understood this but it needs punctuation or the removal of notched because it's confusing]

There are several instances when you is used and should be your along with the switching out of then and than;of for on; so for do;road for rode; past for passed. And sometimes extra words just hanging at the front or end of a sentence[often duplication of words]. There were instances where a character named Samael was referred to as the Samael and though there might be some instances where such wording might become necessary; there was no clear indicator that there was any reason for that.

Somehow:: shows up at least 21 times
Suddenly:: shows up at least 40 times

I don't have an overall aversion to the use of these words but most of the time in this novel they were used to somehow suddenly avoid explaining things.

The application of comming close to stopping the narrative to address the reader with facts that none of the characters would know was likely permissible within the context of the omnicient narrator; yet it was still rather annoying and sometimes not all that necessary.

Years later, no man alive could have approached him thus unnoticed, but as it was, he simply did not hear them.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 865-866). . Kindle Edition

[Sometimes the information was important]

Zafir again failed to note the sidelong glance the Abbott gave him upon arriving in the Tower of Stars, and he missed the envy and hate that filled the man’s face.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 5125-5126). . Kindle Edition.

There were too many instances of what I would call convenient application of knowledge[discovered by the reader in the moment of application].

“I recognize it from Izindi’s teachings.”

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Location 5160). . Kindle Edition.
Conversely there were moments when something was so distanced from the reference that I have yet to go back and find the reference.

As Zafir ran off, the Master of Fire stared after him, pondering the Abbott's words.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Location 1290). . Kindle Edition.

I do believe that lovers of Arabian tales and mythologies in general should enjoy this book with a warning that some might find a few glitches a bit frustrating. If you are like me, though, you may be prompted into taking a fresh look at A Thousand Nights and A Night.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review:: Silvern (The Gilded Series Book Two)by Christina Farley

Silvern (Gilded #2)Silvern by Christina L. Farley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Silvern(The Gilded Series Book Two)By Christina Farley

I really enjoyed the novel Gilded and was looking forward to reading this novel. There was no disappointment in the anticipation. Silvern starts with a bang and ends powerful enough to ensure that you want to read the next book. I liked the notion of learning a bit about the mythology of a different culture and was entertained with the special treat of having something akin to the Korean version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are plenty of demons to slay but there is also a heart-wrenching conflict between Jae Hwa's apparent destiny and her wishes.

Jae Hwa just wants a normal life with her friends and family. And that's how the story starts with her trying to do normal things with her boyfriend and her best friend and when that turns into an assassins attempt at her life things start rolling and soon Michelle will learn more about the secret life of Jae Hwa than Jae wants her to know. It's bad enough that Marc knows because it seems that everyone she cares about is in danger and more than one agency wants her to remain active in the spirit world despite her own wishes.

This time it seems as though Jae is the only one taking things seriously and the result is that she has to constantly watch out for her friends and family as they seem almost to blindly walk into danger. Everyone seems to want her to help find the Tiger Orb because she seems to be the only one who might be able to retrieve it. More enticingly she learns that it might be what she needs to help her Aunt Komo who lies in a coma in the hospital. Of the immortals Palk wants to hide the Orb with the others that they have retrieved and Kud, the ruler of darkness, wants it to use to help him find all the Orbs so he can use them to have power over the World and the Spirit World.

Jae would just as soon leave it in the protection of the Dragons but that's not an option when Kud begins threatening those close to her. And this time it just seems that her friends are going to make lots of horribly bad decisions while inadvertently backing Jae into a corner.

The Orb can have a terrible effect on mortals and it would seem that Jae is on the precipice between mortal and immortal and once she has the Orb in her possession it could have a tremendous impact on her. She could risk losing her humanity. There's no doubt that despite all her efforts things are never going to be the same for her.

Christina Farley has a well paced action packed thriller full of interesting character and some mighty strange and deadly demons. I was floored by the ending and will definitely be waiting for the next book.

This is a great Young Adult novel that should make a good addition to anyone's Fantasy shelf. Lovers of folk lore and myth should soak this one up. If you haven't read Gilded please read that first and then this--you shouldn't be disappointed.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review::Farseed (The Seed Trilogy)by Pamela Sargent

FarseedFarseed by Pamela Sargent

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Earthseed a while ago and almost started Farseed but it seemed almost a bit leaning toward the Lord of the Flies and I'm more into science fiction than the the whole psychology of survival of potentially degenerate societies. I finally picked it up to read and almost read it through at one sitting. This is definitely a book that you have to read carefully.

As a part of the trilogy it has its position and usually number two can tend to take a dip. This novel is not all that bad and I would have given it the highest marks if there hadn't been that whole section where the main character seems compelled or maybe forced to repeat herself numerous times while everyone should be packing up and moving on before someone gets killed.

The story itself is quite compelling in the sense that we have Nuy the daughter of Ho (from the first book) fighting against the will of her father in an almost naive manner at the beginning. This leads to the death of a stranger she's befriended with the hope of improving the lifestyle of her settlement. In the previous novel Ho had taken his people off away from the other settlers to see more of the new world and to get away from the other people they felt were so disagreeable. Since then some sort of virus has wiped out many of them and Ho blames it on the other settlers since the infection occured after he had sent people to trade with them. For ten years they have remained isolated from the others and have lived a hard life.

Ho is described as being near to madness half the time and it seems predictable that he won't be welcoming Nuy's new friend with open arms, but she has hopes that trade with the other settlers will make life easier for her and the other youths in their camp. When things go bad it leaves one of the three travelers dead and the other two are unable to return to their settlement.

The remainder of the book is the quest of the other settlers to find the missing three and the story of their own self imposed isolation from the new world itself as they try to live in their own little bubble of life that mirrors what they know of Earth. I'm not partial to the--we've blown everyone back to the stone-age type of books and this really is more a survivalist fiction to be honest; but elements of it tend to slide in the direction of civilization taking backward steps.

One redeeming feature of the book for me is that it's also a story of evolution within that framework of backward steps and this whole novel is a building block to get to the final book which I had recently obtained and that was the main reason to push to read this one. This is the story of Nuy mostly as she tries to survive and perhaps even make right the horrendous outcome of her mistake. I love character driven stories and Nuy is one complex character for a savage.

As usual Pamela Sargents characters are all well drawn and finely tuned and the conflicts are plenty and as I mentioned the real one quibble I have is that at the most exciting part we have the main character over dramatically explaining herself too many times and a corresponding breakdown in leadership that tends to muck around for a whole chapter and I could have done without that.

Otherwise this is a great addition to my library of everything Sargent. I would recommend this to Young Adults and lovers of SFF and of course anyone who has read the first book Earthseed.

J.L. Dobias

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review::Saves Nine by Les Lynam

. . . Saves Nine. . . Saves Nine by Les Lynam

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Saves Nine by Les Lynam

I had an opportunity to read this as a sort of review copy quite a while ago. It obviously has undergone a few changes since then and it somehow became even longer than it was the first time. Since it's a time travel novel; sometimes being longer can be a horribly bad thing. I'm happy to say that that's not the case with this. This read to me the second time just a well as the first and in many ways felt as though I were reading it for the first time.

What I mean when I say that a long time travel novel can be bad; is that it can become recursive to an ad-nausea degree. You know: that bit where you have the character or characters live the same scene over and over until you feel like you are in some horrible remake of groundhog day. That doesn't happen here; though there is some overlap it usually breezes past quickly, because there's way too much other stuff going on to waste space[and time].

An odd thing I took from this novel is that I felt the main character Sean seemed almost a bit weak at time[which can be a good thing because character's need flaws]. This was not a showstopper weak, but there are times when as a reader I felt I would like to slap him up the side of the head for his actions and even his inaction. Of course, to his credit sometimes his inaction was a result of the programming of the enigmatic time traveler; claiming to be related to him.

The story starts out as an almost simple teen tale in high school with the usual angst. Some of this is the lame part of our character Sean as he tries to deal[not very well] with first someone obsessively stalking him and then his own obsession. But most of this is the setup for an early twist in the story and in a small way the prologue almost spoils some of it. Things get just a bit scary before they get really strange. And then when there is an excursion further into the past things are quite fun for bit.

In reading this twice I still found that it was well into the book that we meet the character I felt was the strongest in the whole story. This could just be me, so you really should read this book to see how you feel about it. At about this same time the book takes a more serious tone as we start to add up a few of the consequences of traveling through time and interacting with people[some who have been dead a few years or more in the time traveler's own time]. Les Lynam even threw a few thoughts and wrinkles that I don't recall seeing in this type of novel.

This is a long novel and happily I can say that in reading it through I never felt that there were any places where things could or should have been cut so the writing justifies the length[which is always a great thing]. When we weren't coming up with new ideas we were going through the process of developing the characters and moving the story forward. In fact; near the end and in the last few chapters I almost felt a sense of being rushed, which may have been exaggerated for me; because my favorite character was being developed a bit more and I hope that in the next installment of this series we see that happening at a different pace.

This is an outstanding debut novel from an author who cares enough to make the best attempt at delivering the cleanest clearest copy to the reader. This will make a great addition to the library of and Young Adult and those who love SFF just as well. A very thoughtful and thought provoking read.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Review::Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence #3)Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

I saw an ad and some comments about Max Gladstone and this book and decided to read the sample. The sample intrigued me and drew me into Max's strange world of magic quickly enough that I knew I'd be picking this one up for my library. The writing style is so unique and compelling I overlooked the fact that I felt like I was being dropped into the middle of a world I knew nothing about and expected to flounder around in. So before purchasing this book I took note that he had two others in the same world and decided I might do well to purchase those also and read them in order. This turned out to be quite fortuitous, but not in the way I had hoped. I love the writing and the whole idea of Max Gladstone's world of magic with its complexity, but it sometimes can be a rather difficult read because the world building is the type that sort of trickles in slowly as the characters in the world reluctantly reveal the world's story to the reader.

Full Fathom Five can stand alone as a novel as can both Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise. Each novel takes place in a different city in a world where magic is used as currency and the flow of magic can deplete or replenish an individual depending on which end of the flow they are. The novels take place in a time after a great war against the gods and now we have people trying to prove they can exist without the gods. Though the gods seemed oppressive and in need of being deposed, it becomes clear early that those who deposed them might be just another evil and somewhere within all of that are the flawed but heroic characters who are trying to honorably mark out their existence within the new system. The players in the first two books seem to be separate groups and only in the third book does the reader see some crossover of characters from the first two, with mostly the name of cities and deposed gods being a factor to previously tie the books together.

The magic and the rules of magic in the world are always quite clear but the world itself can often seem enigmatic in many ways, but as I read this I began to get a sense of why. It seemed for me that the world itself was a world that was being built within the characters. The very way that the magic linked the people with each other and with their existence and the notion that for many of the people the magic is drawn from each other and then from the stars.

In a world where man has waged war against gods and put down many there are still cities that make use of their gods as it is in Three Parts Dead the city of Alt Coulumb is still powered mostly by the fire of the Lord of Flame, Kos until the day Kos is murdered and Tara Abernathy, a new intern of the Craft firm of Kelethras, Albrecht and Ao, is sent to investigate. This is a world where those with the greatest power, the Deathless Kings rule, and that power the craft exacts a price and though they live long they wither away to a skeletal existence. Many of those would strive to be like the gods and be rid of the old gods while some search for a mutual existence and firms like Kelethras Albrecht and Ao can resurrect a god under certain conditions; though the god will never be quite the same.

There are still priests who used to sacrifice to the gods and in Two Serpents Rise Caleb is the son of one such priest; Caleb works for Red King Consolidated, his job is to help keep the gods and their demons under control, which puts him at odds with his father. Caleb recalls too many of those sacrificed by his father to ever want to go back to that. But someone is trying to subvert things in Dresediel Lex; and Caleb must find out if it's his priestly father or some other subversive faction before it's too late.

In Kavekana of Full Fathom Five they make idols for their clients. Not the usual kind but those that can store the soul magic of their clients and act almost like a stock market for magic. But the idols can die if their magic is extended too thin and when a friends project is targeted for termination[the Idol is dying] Kai makes one desperate attempt to help her friend and the Idol; out of the belief that the Idol shouldn't be dying. The attempt goes poorly and Kai is injured badly and her career with the company is in danger. But in that brief moment of contact with the Idol when she nearly lost her life she saw something that will shake up her life more than the loss of her career. Along with the indigent Izza, who still worships gods, Kai is about to uncover something sinister about the Idols and supposedly dead Gods.

Max Gladstones protagonists in all of these stories are strong willed, honor bound and in many ways strangely flawed. The richness of each of these characters brings the reader closer to the world in which they live. But it takes a lot of attention to the details and descriptions to grasp that world and it's not always clear that the protagonists are doing the right thing though they are always doing it with the strong conviction and, even when they shy away from being martyrs, they end up positioning themselves to make a sacrifice because of their own strong sense of honor.

This is epic fantasy but in many ways for me it read as a literary epic that focuses on character more than setting and though some might find that to be a deficiency I love the character driven novels above all else so if a reader loves those stories about well crafted strong characters they will love this series of books and if they appreciate good prose they will drink these down or sip them slowly to their own tastes.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Saves Nine by Les Lynam (SFF-Time Travel)

I read the ARC for this and it's been thoroughly polished since then; don't take my word for it[give it a test read.] . . . Saves Nine eBook: Les Lynam: Kindle Store

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review::Fluency (Confluence Book 1) by Jennifer Foehner Wells

FluencyFluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fluency (Confluence Book 1) by Jennifer Foehner Wells

I'm selective in my reading and I try to read as much as I can, but apparently I'm not near as selective as some people. I love to read the one star reviews when I read a book because that way I can't say I wasn't warned. Thankfully I rarely get put off by the negative reviews or I'd likely get no experience reading some of the stuff that I do like. This book grabbed me from the start and it might be that many of the negatives people were talking about were just things I felt I'd expect.

Fluency has a lot of old tropes that run through it in a sort of old lace interwoven fashion. What I mean by that is that it starts out with the mystery of what may have happened at area 51 and brings our astronauts to a seeming derelict space craft far out in space. All these years it has waited for us to put together the technology necessary to get to it. Next it has a sort of horror element that could almost rival the Alien movie franchise. Throw into all of this some astronauts with seeming anomalous behavior and you have that usual recipe for disaster.

There is also that style decision that doesn't bother me very much, but does need mentioning for those who it does bother. This is where the supposed professional astronauts start acting like hormone driven adolescents. It really doesn't predominate; but it lurks in there and peeks it's head out now and then. There is an explanation for it and it is fairly plausible within the context of the story so in this instance even my usual gnashing and grinding of teeth is interrupted with a feeling of acceptance.

I don't want to suggest that there is zero tolerance in science fiction for romance, but I think that the SF author is expected to handle it in a less intrusive way. I like good character development and so I have some tolerance for the romance in that even the consummate professional do manage to work some of that into their lives. So although I felt there might have been some cringe worthy moments, they were not oppressive. What probably bothered me more would be that some of them end up being moments that are dream or hallucinatory sequences and then the reader ends up wondering, when the next one happens, if it will ever be real.

This had a lot of interesting premises and some interesting ways of developing those and sometimes giving them a bit of a twist. There was also an interesting development of the reason for the alien ship to be where it is and the reason that it seems abandoned and even the bit of conspiracy theory that demonstrates why some of the actions of the characters seem to be a bit anomalous. Overall I give Jennifer Foehner Wells some high marks for her development of her plot, though I can see where some people might be distracted by the astronauts behavior enough to miss some of the points behind the 'why' to that behavior.

I recommend this to lovers of SFF and even SF as long as you don't need your science distilled down it's finest particle. I would even recommend it as a young adult offering with the caveat that it does seem to exceed my bad language filter by at least about 55 occurrences.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Review::Gilded (The Gilded Series Book 1) by Christina Farley

Gilded (Gilded, #1)Gilded by Christina L. Farley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gilded (The Gilded Series Book 1) by Christina Farley

Gilded is probably going to be one of those books that people either love or hate with little in between. I picked the novel up from an ad running in Goodreads and I usually read the bad reviews first. There were some brutal thoughts there and, sometimes, that can color a readers point of view. Thankfully the story begins quite well and was able to draw me in. I really enjoyed it.

The story uses some standard tropes for young adult novels and it does seem geared for the lower to middle end of the scale, but it doesn't necessarily exclude adult readers. The grammar and spelling are well handled so there is little in mechanical road bumps going into the story. It is written in first person which seems again par for many young adults and it's a great POV to use when starting writing. There are a number of pitfalls that naturally occur in first person writing that seem to have been avoided; so it's a job well done. It is also presented in present tense, which can be a challenge to both the writer and the reader. Christina Farley handles it all quite well, but even so it's not always that easy to convince the reader to read on; even when it's well done.

The writing and pace flow quite well and make this a very quick read for a novel of its length. I found myself sailing through it in the early part of a quiet weekend. It was easy to finish in one sitting. With all these great things going for it, I have to wonder why there are people who were disappointed in the novel as a whole. I think that one thing that stood out was that many expected something different from this novel. I can't put my finger on why, because I knew right off since it was young adult and involved mythology; so I knew it was going to be a strong fantasy story. I felt that I got as much as I expected. If you consider learning a few things about Korea, then I obtained a bit more than that.

Because there are a lot of young adult novels out these days there does seem to be a standard pattern of tropes that weave into most narratives and that is probably another potential negative point. With this in mind it makes it hard on the writer who writes young adult, because they have to create some strong characters that are different in order to give the reader more than just the same old same. Christina Farley does a good job of creating a diverse group of people to drive her story. There are some decisions about main characters that stand out; often not quite in the best way possible and I think it was a style choice rather than poor writing. What I mean by that is that this is a heavy fantasy with the need for the reader to suspend their disbelief a lot about the plot and the underlying world of the story. With that in mind the reader needs strong realistic characters to pull them through all of the wonder; and in some way the decision to portray Jae Hwa a specific way may not have helped some readers.

What I mean by this is that many times I felt Jae was being portrayed as someone who acted a few ages below her actual age. This lack of maturity may have been meant to offset the fact that she seems to be a master at Tae Kwan Do and a crack archer. She most times seems fairly bright but the lack of maturity and being up against some heavy duty academic types in her new school often seems to off-balance her character too much. This created the opportunity to overlook the fact that part of the story seems to be about her character flaw of being somewhat immature and having to work on reaching a more mature attitude and as a reader I almost lost that entirely.

This growth is there; unfortunately it occurs at the same time as the reader is distracted by the somewhat obvious collection of 'key' elements that Jae must assemble and then by some bits of wit and mostly luck she finds how to use them. Many of these are pretty obvious to the reader, but extra time and words are spent making sure the reader sees them several times to have them indelibly placed within their thoughts. It may have proven as profitable to spend as much time on the clues to Jae gathering maturity.

That much said; I think I did figure it out and I was thoroughly entertained, which is why I give Gilded high marks. It takes a little bit of thought and some great patience to get to the end and realize that Jae has actually made some strides forward.

This is a good read for Young Adults on the lower to middle half of the scale and for all lovers of pure fantasy and a bit of romance.

J.L. Dobias

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review::The Last Starship from Earth (a novel) by John Boyd

>The Last Starship from EarthThe Last Starship from Earth by John Boyd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Last Starship from Earth (a novel) by John Boyd

Back in the late sixties early seventies I joined the science fiction book club and this was one of many offerings. I still have the 1968 edition they sent me and it's in fair condition. What wasn't so much intact was my recall of the story; so I had to reread it. I was seventeen in 1968 when this was published and I was going to Junior College while just barely becoming eighteen. This book creates for me the feeling of a literary epic. It's written in the time of cold wars and civil uprisings and government conspiracies. All a perfect back drop for a dystopic tale of a parallel universe. A universe where Christ didn't die as a martyr and the church took the world by storm rather than suffering persecution as happened in ours. A 'what if' story that begins in a far different version of 1968.

This book has a lot going for it in that it has a sort of twisted poetic bent that lends itself nicely to the prose of the author. What it lacks is consistent background on what might have wrought all the changes to bring us up to Haldane's world where space travel is already accomplished and we have the perfect society guarded by the "Weird Sisters" Psychology, Sociology and the Church. Sure: there are other disciplines such as Mathematics and Poetry [those are two that drive the story]. What this book also lacks is involvement with what could have been the most important character. Part of this might well be the times it was written and the rest would probably fall to being a part of the continued tropes that trapes through all of histories diverse tomes.

I'm giving this book high marks for entertaining me and making me think and even a bit for nostalgia. I have to be honest and note that I didn't go happily down the trail of reading John Boyd's later works and in part that may be for the strange twist in structure that caused the plot to become un-potted at a certain point and an orphaned epilogue at the end that almost adds insult to injury in light of the fact that the entire book requires the reader to think upon the 'what if' proposed and realize that there is no true logical progression to how John Boyd got from there to where he did; which leaves it to the reader to do some research or at least have some understanding of the impact of Christianity upon western development. Even so it's left to the reader to determine how things took such a left turn because of the difference in how Christianity took foot.

So if Christ was not martyred on the cross and his movement brought down the Roman Empire without the bulk of Christianity being persecuted, that might change some things. One can only guess that perhaps the strength of the church and lack of humble roots may have excluded the reformation and the Protestant movement. But somehow the church and its two sisters Psychology and Sociology have slipped into a near socialistic totalitarian society whose highest judge is a mechanical Pope created by the worlds leading Mathematician Fairweather I, which is perhaps why John Boyd chose to make this a story of adolescent forbidden love between the Mathematician and a Poet. Forbidden love: lust perhaps would be allowed but not love and certainly there are taboos on any thought of an offspring from such forbidden union. Our young man, Haldane, makes a wrong turn on the way to a Mathematics conference and ends up at a museum where he meets Helix [the essence of a spirit that might rival Helen of Troy]; and his inexplicable love at first sight only drives home the importance of this character he has fallen for.

After a comedy of errors where the reader is left wondering, after a ream of logic about where Haldane could accidentally run into Helix on purpose only to find that she's not there, 'is she avoiding him. As it turns out while he's searched where she might be she seems to be searching where he should be and the two are going in opposite directions until she stumbles across his father and sets up a chance to meet Haldane through him. There's a lot of time and detail spent on the logistics necessary to create the illusion that any time they spend together has some logic to it and this becomes the part for reads who like the average dystopic tale where the players move in the shadows trying to avoid detection of the secret police. Suffice it to say there will be a day of reckoning and when that comes there is a twist because Helix is pregnant and that makes things that much worse.

A trial ensues and this is where John Boyd drops the ball with Helix. She becomes a none entity as Haldane is taken to task for the wretched deed and he is worked at by the forces of Church, Psychology, and Sociology until they offer him the out, by placing all the blame and responsibility on Helix shoulders and denying his own love for her. He even refuses to recant when it becomes rather muddily clear that Helix may have been part of an entrapment that was set up to bring him down and expose his nature as a sufferer of the Fairweather Syndrome [named after Fairweather I's son Fairweather II (who was proven to be a most heinous criminal in society)]. With no cure: the only outcome for Haldane is to be deported to the planet Hell. This is all confirmed when the mechanical Pope asks Haldane if he loves Helix; Haldane can't deny it and is relegated to hell for the admission.

This is where our author, John Boyd, fell a bit more, because the next part takes some major twists and the first is with Helix. Without much real background of a character that is treated as backdrop; the story loses out. I could easily attribute this treatment as a part of the era this is written since the world prior to 1968 was still pretty primitive in some notions about women. And since this parallel world is in 1968 that seems to track okay in that the women may be treated as Helix is in this story. Still there is this whole notion that Helix has an effect on Haldane and she is compared to Helen of Troy and she deserves much more than she gets, but this is Haldane's story and this is how John Boyd chose tell it.

To go much further would contain all the spoilers that would make reading this redundant and I think that every lover of dystopia's should read and love this story. There are a few more twists before the epilogue and I would have been just as happy if I'd been left with the final twist in the final chapter. The epilogue can only be described as a corkscrew of twists that could boggle the mind on any thoughtful or thoughtless reader and was probably not necessary though it adds a certain flavor to the Haldane character that almost seems at odds with the one the reader has become intimate with.

I recommend this to all lovers of Science Fiction Fantasy with the caveat that not everyone will be happy with it and you will have to ask yourself if it's a deficiency in the author's writing or perhaps your own attempt to read too much into a story the author has left so much wiggle room for the reader to imagine.

Really good story that reflects some of the time it was written in, while still meeting the test of time.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review::Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey

Nobody Gets the Girl (Whoosh! Bam! Pow!, #1)Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey

So here we have an admitted superhero novel and I wasn't sure what to expect. It has a prologue and I'm not usually a fan of those. Add to that the content of the prologue dripped of definite cartoon-y tropes. Then we move to Richard Rogers your everyman; married with a geeky job and a penchant for enjoying entertaining at comedy clubs.

I have to give the writer some extra marks for having the poor man have to make the decision about cheating on his wife when his own fantasy encounter with a supposed comedy club fan makes her entrance. At that point though the reader is still wondering where this is going. After reluctantly staying faithful he returns home for the night and sneaks into bed so as not to wake the wife. The next morning he wakes up to find out that he's nothing more than a ghost in a world that has been turned on its head.

From this point forward the novel develops a clear plot with good writing and a fine pace. It takes a while of wondering what is happening before the good Dr. Know. shows up to straighten things out. The Dr.'s answers are not all that welcome when he tells Richard that he's been erased from history because of the Dr.'s experiments with time travel. Conveniently the Dr. has decide not to time travel anymore because of the consequences and he therefore can't get Richard's life back. That leaves Richard with a decision of whether to live out the rest of existence as a wandering ghost or join the Dr. in his fight to bring peace to the world.

The doctor's two lovely daughters sweeten the deal; at least until Richard uncovers the fact that the whole family is dysfunctional.

I found the plot quite easy to follow and the writing was well done making the story easy to follow though some major parts of the plot were predictable. The overall story idea and several of the threads seemed original in the manor in which things were put together and there was at least one point where I almost felt, as a reader, that we were moving into one of those Robert Heinlein utopia scenarios. But James Maxey deviously turns some of that on its ear, as the thread of the dysfunctional family starts leaving the reader worried about the the direction that the Dr. is trying to take his utopian world.

There are no easy outs and no simple solutions and this is not a good verses evil superhero novel. These are complex characters that drive a story that is full of complex threads that all come neatly to an interesting conclusion. And even though Nobody gets the girl, no character in this story makes it through totally unscathed.

Great Sci-Fi for the Sci-Fi fans; contains some interesting notions about time and reality.

J.L. Dobias

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Review::The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I picked this up because there was a discussion about Margaret Atwood and this book was mentioned and I realized that, though I'd watched the movie, I hadn't read this at all. So since Amazon is offering the Kindle Unlimited and I was lucky enough to find this in the mix I decided I had to do it. I wasn't disappointed. But then usually I find that the novel contains a richness that can't be transformed into the screen production.

First of all, The Handmaid's Tale takes place in some dystopic future; and though it almost seems that the time of the book may already have passed without all these things happening, the guts of the story are such that one can't really shake it off and say that it won't still happen. In fact sometimes I fear that attitudes and events are conspiring to constantly try taking us in this direction.

Offred, meaning of Fred, is a handmaiden to a Commander and is described as a sacred vessel of sorts though in fact she can be considered no more or less than a sex slave. Something has wiped out the United States abilities to procreate. It seems a combination of self regulation and viruses and perhaps even drugs meant to counteract viruses. A radical religious group takes matters into their own hands and use passages from the bible to push everything back a number of decades to where women have no rights. This amounts to a form of chauvinism where women can own nothing and have no true rights and this is all done because man is superior and needs to protect women and based on their own logic of things; they mean to protect women from themselves: Feminism.

This is the story of Offred as told by Offred and apparently it was dictated onto magnetic tapes and later transcribed but we'll get to that after we get through the rest of the story. The story is in first person and it is neatly separated into First Person Present Tense for the immediate now and First Person Past Tense for the flash backs that she has. The flash backs are important because they help connect the reader to an approximation of when the now is and it also connect the reader to Offred by putting her into contemporary times. An important reason for this is that the initial connection to Offred is mostly only that which we see in the flashbacks; because she seems to be so distanced in her narration. The distancing might be deliberate because of the dehumanizing nature of what's happened to her, but there are some arguments that all of Margaret Atwood's characters in her novels are this distanced from the reader. I'll talk about that later also.

First person writing can be easy, but it can also be insidiously difficult. Add present tense and the whole thing can become interesting. Next throw in a lot and I really mean a lot of flashbacks and you can have something of a challenge. As a reader I felt this challenge as the story went along. There were a number of times I missed the cue and had to look back to find that I had in fact just slipped into a flashback without realizing it. One part of that was inattentiveness of the reader; but the other part was some of the style choices that come with flashbacks. To understand that we have to go back to the beginning which is first person and past tense that seems to introduce the story and could almost be considered the first frame of a multi framed story although it might just be a backflash. This is followed by a chapter that starts out as First Person Present Tense of what is happening in the now and contains flash backs that are primarily First Person Past Tense, but there are some of these flashbacks that allow for the style of changing tense to create more immediacy and if you miss the transition to flashback with the first few past tense verbs you easily find yourself wondering when you are when it slips into present tense.

The good news is that this doesn't last for long because the reader can separate out the time zones easily. There is early childhood with her mother; her life with Luke and her own child; her life being indoctrinated into the system; and finally the present where all the atrocities are occurring. The most important part of all this is that the early life is a contemporary life that a reader can relate to and then wonder how everything went to hell so fast.

By demonstrating the indoctrination Offred explains but does not excuse her action in the present. Being inside her head we see the conflicts she constantly puts herself through and I believe that adds to the general feeling of hopelessness that the reader is suppose to get also from all the distancing. Offred has gone through extreme dehumanizing that is only offset by a message left by the last Offred that offers a possible way to get past it all with the caveat that it comes from someone who may have taken the easy way out.

The place where it's revealed that this story is being transcribed from tapes is a place that caused me the most trouble. The story has ended and it's left the reader with much to think about then there is this thing in the back that seems to try to explain a bit about the fictional history that I really didn't feel enhanced the story for me. The only point it seemed to have is to continue making fun of the backwards steps that man is taking to remain supreme over women. And perhaps making the reader wonder how wide spread the problem was though it is given the appearance of being limited to the United States. Still for me as a reader everything up to that point stands well as the story with a hopeful ending that is left up to the reader.

I think one problem when approaching this book is to consider it as a Dystopic novel when in fact it is an extension of something that has existed and still exists on our planet. It's more of a social commentary about the dehumanizing of half the worlds population.

This is a great novel for anyone who likes something that challenges and moves them to think. It's good Soft Science Fiction or Social Science Fiction and great for the Speculative Fiction Fans. Knowing human nature I don't think that this novel can ever be fully outdated.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review::Replica by Christian Johnson

ReplicaReplica by Christian Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Replica by Christian Johnson

I wanted to say I loved this book. I like it I like it a lot and it has an interesting moral dilemma built into it. I'm willing to give it high marks, but I'm going to be brutal about what I don't like. The problem for me is that it has too much of a feel like the movie The Sixth Day. And honestly there is nothing wrong with that when making a movie or a script for a movie. But this is all just personal preference in wanting a bit more focus on the moral dilemma and the main character.

Like any good movie this book hits the ground running; so anyone that likes their action upfront and straight on through until morning, this is the one. There is hardly room to breath and very little room for any time dwelling on the moral implication although somehow it does get squeezed in and that much I would have to chalk up to good writing.

On that note though I have to give my usual caveat when it comes to grammar and spelling and style. This book boast of three editors and that gives us three other people to blame. There are problems; some of them are pretty obvious and others are just subtle and then the last are just style preferences, which probably don't count for more than a hill of beans. In some places it makes for awkward sentences that made me stop and go back.

In the story Veronica wakes up inside what could only be the vat containing her clone. This is only supposed to happen if she's been killed and then brought back and the way she arrives is not quite by the book, so the whole thing is suspicious from the start. Fortunately for Veronica, she's a bad-ass agent for the CDA and for some reason the normal procedure that would leave her unable to act properly for a while has been subverted. But the SecuraLife Corporation has a reputation to uphold and since she wasn't marked for activation that means shes a Replica and the real her is still alive and she has to be terminated.

Here the excitement begins and a great story unfolds, but for me the problems start here also. We really don't have time to get to know Veronica and the story touches several brief times on the subject of her having a soul or not and since she starts life by accidentally being responsible for a technicians demise and then blowing up the facility and ending a few more lives we really don't get to know her as a person but as an assassin we have her pegged quite well. If this is the real Veronica I'm not sure I'd be able to sympathize with her very much and for long. We do get some insight when she starts realizing she is going to be treated as an un-person; because she's a replica. That only lasts long enough for us to understand that she's ready to fight tooth and nails to stay alive and independent.

For those people who like the action suspense thrillers this really hits the note and keeps going all the way through. We reach a point where things do settle for a bit; but Veronica's constant desire to remain free, clouds any ability to listen to reason. That turns out to be a somewhat good thing because when she does listen it seems she might be somewhat gullible.

I figured out where some of this was heading, but I held out hope that the author might twist it a bit at the last moment: that didn't happen. I could explain but it would be a spoiler for anyone else who may or may not be able to put two and two together. We do not get any real satisfaction for the question of soul and what should become of a replicant, but that doesn't matter because a bulk of the plot does get resolved.[But not everything, so...]

Did Christian Johnson mention this was book one. I don't quite recall. I hope he did because I want to know what happens next.

This is a good novel for those who like Sci-Fi Suspense Thrillers with a touch of Cyberpunk built into it.

J.L. Dobias

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Review:: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Sputnik SweetheartSputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

High marks for leaving this reader baffled.

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Of the many books I have come to learn to love to hate this one takes me to the highest level of that dichotomy.

This book has a lot going for it and just as much going against it and many times the things that make it so frustrating are the very same things that make it so good.

The writer chose a style that may have deliberately been designed to do much of this or may have just naturally settled into it. Now see how frustrating this is getting.

It's a first person story that seems to favor telling. Both of those limit the author quite a bit unless they are quite clever. And there is no doubt in my mind that Haruki Murakami is quite clever when it comes to style but there is enough ambiquity in this psychological thriller to create a weariness about which parts are planned and which parts just worked out that way because of style choices.

That alone could say much about the author though it also might say much about the confusion of the reader at this point.

The story has three central characters; the narrator who is in love with one of the other central characters and then that character who in turn is in love with the third character. It's a love triangle that has the added twist that the second love is a lesbian love and possibly unrequited love. The first love is also unrequited. But the confusing part about these loves is that all the characters sound the same and are only differentiated by what the narrator tells us about each character including himself. Because the reader has been pushed back to a distance by the narrative style there is really no connection to the characters. But this is a story about disaffected characters who all seem to isolate themselves from others and have issues with expressing their desires which is why they sound the same.

In either a twisted way or a clever way the writing style reinforces the disaffection by creating that mood with the reader. The reader doesn't necessarilty empathize but rather is drawn into the mood of the characters by the selected mode of writing. As the reader is drawn deeper into the story and the suspenseful events of the story the distance becomes greater because we have the characters questioning the reality of thier own lives until one of them vanishes as if up in smoke.

In the end the reader is left with a conundrum because the reader must decide what is reality based on the outcome which reads, at best, as a puzzle that we see from the outside with very little involvement with the characters either at the end or in the whole of the story.

At some point the reader could easily draw some wrong conclusions but never quite be sure if they are wrong because of the writing style or wrong because that's how the writing style was used to steer us; in which case then perhaps the conclusions are correct.

Just the fact that the three characters read the same in many ways could make one wonder if these three are not all the same person and their interrelationship and disaffection through unrequited love is the strand that is trying to hold three parts of the same person together after some sort of fracture. Because throughout; the three are never together at any time, and when two are together there are few others around of consequence to validate the existence of each being separate from the other. And that the narrator eventually feels drawn somehow to the third person upon meeting her despite his obsession with the other woman, would seem to support this theory.

I would recommend this to anyone who loves a great seemingly unsolvable puzzle. And a story where the parts are revealed to the reader as they are revealed to the characters with the same hope of resolution to both.

I give this book high marks for its cleverness; despite the possibility it might not all have been planned.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Review:: Paul Clifford by Baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Paul Clifford (Pocket Penguin Classics)Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paul Clifford by Baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton

This is a marvelous and greatly maligned piece of fiction that begins with this ever over-popularized piece of purple prose.

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Edward (2012-05-16). Paul Clifford - Complete (p. 9). . Kindle Edition.

One must wonder when looking at the Point of View of this novel which seems to be some omniscient narrator who in a rather tongue and cheeky fashion keeps addressing the reader directly through the holes he creates in the forth wall. By the end of the story there are more holes in that wall than there might be in a block of Swiss cheese. This and the florid manor of writing alone cause one to suspect the author has deliberately waxed purple all the way through this seemingly florid bit of prose.

Add to this a later instance of similar quality:

It was a frosty and tolerably clear night. The dusk of the twilight had melted away beneath the moon which had just risen, and the hoary rime glittered from the bushes and the sward, breaking into a thousand diamonds as it caught the rays of the stars.

Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Edward (2012-05-16). Paul Clifford - Complete (p. 246). . Kindle Edition.

Granted there is a period here after night, but then how much different is that really than the semicolon of the former. I think that the author is having the last laugh, if he could only see how well quoted he has become.

Beyond such valuable prose this novel holds many things. I've read the analysis that it portrays the injustice of the justice system of the time holding that our hero who ends up being a rogue and highwayman is unjustly convicted and housed among other thieves where he may learn more of the craft of thievery from the real pros. And this does seem to be a major thread that runs through the novel with multitudes of soliloquies about such injustice and the justification for all men to become Robin Hoods. But there is so much more here. What I've mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg.

Another rather important thread that touches early in the story seems almost to address the issue of florid prose or at least perhaps the criticism of such.

For background; in the story, Paul has been orphaned and left to the care of Mrs. Margery Lobkins who is owner of an inn and alehouse and is rough around the edges but seems to have a heart of gold. Mrs.Lobkins who would likely never attempt to have children of her own vows to do her best to educate Paul to the fullest of her ability. To this end she enlists the help of many of her clientele who often do display higher levels of learning in some areas. The trouble is that many of these men are of ill repute and such relationships created with Paul make this reader wonder about the previous assessment that this is primarily a novel about how the system makes the young man go wrong. Enter into this group Mr. Peter MacGrawler; whose station in life seems often to be in question. He is a frequenter of the Lobkins alehouse and an editor of a magazine that promotes prints and critiques literary works. He becomes Paul's tutor and eventually his employer for a brief time after he teaches Paul the art of the critique.

This brings us to what seems to be a most scathing view of what a critique is. Paul is taught in a nutshell how to critique works of which MacGrawler seems to predestine rather arbitrarily to specific fates.

"Listen, then," rejoined MacGrawler; and as he spoke, the candle cast an awful glimmering on his countenance. "To slash is, speaking grammatically, to employ the accusative, or accusing case; you must cut up your book right and left, top and bottom, root and branch. To plaster a book is to employ the dative, or giving case; and you must bestow on the work all the superlatives in the language,—you must lay on your praise thick and thin, and not leave a crevice untrowelled. But to tickle, sir, is a comprehensive word, and it comprises all the infinite varieties that fill the interval between slashing and plastering. This is the nicety of the art, and you can only acquire it by practice; a few examples will suffice to give you an idea of its delicacy.

Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Edward (2012-05-16). Paul Clifford - Complete (p. 42). . Kindle Edition.

And as if that isn't enough MacGrawler explains it is not always necessary to read the entire piece; though they may be required to read some of a piece they tickle he offers this further explanation.

MacGrawler continued:— "There is another grand difficulty attendant on this class of criticism.—it is generally requisite to read a few pages of the work; because we seldom tickle without extracting, and it requires some judgment to make the context agree with the extract. But it is not often necessary to extract when you slash or when you plaster; when you slash, it is better in general to conclude with: 'After what we have said, it is unnecessary to add that we cannot offend the taste of our readers by any quotation from this execrable trash.' And when you plaster, you may wind up with: 'We regret that our limits will not allow us to give any extracts from this wonderful and unrivalled work. We must refer our readers to the book itself.'

Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Edward (2012-05-16). Paul Clifford - Complete (p. 43). . Kindle Edition.

Paul does well as a critic, but finds it does not pay well and when he finds that MacGrawler has been pocketing money that belongs to him he quits and this is how he moves into the world of Highwaymen.

It is through the acquaintance of his past that he's caught for someone else crime and sentenced to prison. And somewhere from prison; to escape; to joining the gang, he's introduced to the moral conundrum that allows the thieves to lie, cheat, and steal with a sense of impunity. And Paul becomes a leader among the highwaymen.

This novel is far from over because there is a romance between a roguish rake and gentle lady. There's a mystery about Paul's origins. And there is the moral comparison of those in charge of the governing of men to those who would rob them on the road.

This novel should be a must read, especially by those whose only introduction is through the first line in the novel. Sure it might act as an example of what not to do, but it contains elements that show up even in today's fiction; both romance and fantasy. Along with all the florid passages are a number of threads that feed an interesting plot. Lovers of romance should find this interesting and lovers of such fiction as The Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo will certainly be entertained.

Lastly lovers of the classics in all their purple nature will enjoy this novel and perhaps revel in the humor of the delivery. (I may be seeing some humor that wasn't intended.)

Novels like this make me wonder if today we haven't taken the bite out of good fiction. We've weakened and decayed the author's teeth through a lack of Florid-ation.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review::Conundrum by C.S. Lakin

ConundrumConundrum by C.S. Lakin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Conundrum by C.S. Lakin

I can't make a claim to reading a lot of Psychological Thrillers; though I am a fan of Suspense Thrillers my latest foray into the genre was Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors by Benjamin X. Wretlind and that one took me way out of my comfort zone. Thankfully this one didn't drag me too far down any tough roads. There were some mighty strange places though.

It seems a good Psychological Thriller is done in first person. That way you get a real look at the psyche of the main character or POV character. I really enjoyed the book and read it straight through and I'm giving it high points, but I'm going to be honest about some of things that bothered me.

The story takes place in 1986 and though there is some relevance to some science technology of that time; other than the that; and the lack of computer Internet; and cell phone; I think this could have taken place anytime. Still the lack of cell phones figures strongly. A lot of the suspense in the story is revolving around connections with people who might have answers to questions. People don't want to leave messages they want face to face and things like that; and having to reach some home base to talk on the phone helps extend things out. At some point it gets tiring that no one wants to give information over the phone though everyone has information. Because of no Internet the hero has to use the library and micro-fiche a lot. Something that is still prevalent today especially for people doing genealogy.

Another device in the story is the cryptic letter. People leave ambiguous letters behind in their life and though it has good information it's difficult to pinpoint the truth and relevance of some of the information. Relationships and inability to communicate figure heavily in the story almost to a point of annoyance.

There are a lot of pop references and some events are mentioned all to help pinpoint that this is really 1986 and they add a small flavoring to the whole plot. Along with memories and speculation that run through the main character's head we have lyrics to songs.

And just like in Vertigo we have the Psychological weakness of a character who freezes and panics under certain conditions. This case its enclose elevators. All of this come through really well for the first half of the story. But we reach a point where the main device of the Psychological Thriller begins to feel as though it's being overused. That's the place where the main character takes every story and clue she gets and analyzes it :and because it all relates to her father's death after mysteriously contracting leukemia, she seems to go over and over the same road with occasional new twists and turns, until I reached a place where my mind shut down when I hit the passages and I would have to go back and re-read a whole section as I realized I'd gone gently half the way to sleep. That might be just me and you have to read this to get a sense of what I'm saying. To be fair though it is this part of her mind that helps envelop the psychological part of this thriller where every clue sends her through the whole series of speculations and often dredges up memories of things that happened throughout her life that she's chose to forget,[and the eventual reason for the lapses in memories in some cases are found in these memories] so it's a necessary growing process that contains a level of tedium.

Despite that bit of sleepy tone this is a well put together story and for the most part has a good pace to it. The writing is excellent in regards to mechanics and grammar though in the e-book there's a weird format problem that split words funny by separating the b eginning letter and the en d letter of a word by one extra space.

Conundrum in this case is referring to story puzzles that include this very story. The main character and her brother love solving the stories; and it's her brothers descent into manic depressive fits that might be similar to their father's behavior before his death that lead her to investigate the conundrums in her fathers death. And about three quarters of the way through the story; for those readers who haven't figured it all out; one of the minor characters offers the conundrum of what he saw but did not hear that contains the answer. She goes into her usual round of speculation and remembrance and from there on, for the reader who has it figured out, it's a matter of wondering when our character is going to get though her drama to figure it out.

This is an excellent read and for those who enjoy Psychological Thrillers and Suspense; this should offer something to keep the mind active while trying to unravel the conundrum. And perhaps the largest conundrum is deciding what parts of the whole are the truth.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review::The Kingdom of Malinas by. E.J.Tett

The Kingdom of Malinas by. E.J.Tett

The Kingdom of Malinas is a remarkable book.
E.J.Tett's first effort at writing is by far one of the best first efforts I have read in quite some time.
She puts together all the elements of story with her own style and class that have not been matched by her peers.
She has tremendous characterizations, conflict, plot and theme nailed down.

This is a well thought out effort for a first book. And it says a lot that although I venture into the fantasy genre now and then my favorite is Science Fiction. This does give me an advantage and disadvantage in that I have little to compare it to.

The only reason I picked up this novel was because I'd been snooping around the SSFchronicle writers forum and noticed that several people there have published various works in various fashion from traditional to self and I have to say that I've up to this point been disappointed with the ones I have tried out.

I came in not expecting much after three other disappointments , one of those is a traditional published author. I'm happy to say that this one surprised me.

It starts out slow and I suppose that it could be argued that its a bit rough around the edges because it's a first effort and its self published. And I suppose that if I were coming from the place of being in a forum of writers I might tend to try to be hyper critical.

Fortunately I come from being a reader of fiction with a 50 plus year background and I have to say that I found the author's style of writing to be be fresh, entertaining, and quite tightly woven. She can only improve from there.

The story begins slowly with our main protagonist Sorrel who is a very strong female character- there are many of those in this story. Her father was a warrior and her brother is one and she wants to follow in their footsteps. Despite the families efforts she will if it kills her and as the tale unfolds it seems that fate is on her side. There is enough in the development of characters to keep me in the story. Her plot seems quite original though I admit that I lack enough exposure to this type of fantasy to truly judge.

And then:

It's at chapter 12 she grabs me- one quarter the way through the book. I found the hook that kept me reading this in one sitting. She feeds the line out carefully and then hooks you into the story so deep you can't get out until you are finished.

What's really great about this novel is that it's full of characters that can hook any reader. There are almost too may to chose from and yet she pulls it off and this is a first novel; as long as she keeps her present voice she can't go wrong.

J.L. Dobias

This was good the first time through now with all the edits it's great, so I'd still like to see more reviews.
Preferably from people who have read it. Trust me you'll like it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review::Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett

Kindling the Moon (Arcadia Bell, #1)Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kindling the Moon:An Arcadia Bell Novel by Jenn Bennett

This was an interesting read and it did keep my interest all the way through. I will have to qualify that it is unfortunate that at this point in my reading it is rife with tropes; some of which are beginning to make me feel like they are becoming cliches.

Arcadia Bell, not her real name but that's okay, owns a bar that caters to demons. Though she is not a demon she has an aura that is like a demon. She does magic, which most demons eschew because it might be bad for them to do too much magic. So Arcadia is a magician. She's trying to lead a simple life but its a dual life and her real life parents who are supposed to be dead are wanted accused killers. Her real name is Selene and she is a Moonchild which is supposed to be a good thing; giving her great power. She hasn't seen that happen yet.

Arcadia(Selene)is being hidden and protected by her lodge but when her supposedly dead parents show up on the radar the Luxe, a lodge wants either her parents or her so they can extract vengeance upon them for the murders, all bets are off. This send Arcadia off into an adventure to find the proof that will clear her parents. Throughout all of this though she begins as a rather strong female character in the story she doesn't develop much beyond that, although her power does grow.

The main plot eventually becomes too predictable and it's such an overused trope; as a reader I kept hoping that Jenn Bennett had some massive twist coming up that would blind side me; but no that didn't happen. Either way for all of the importance those trope-ed events; I thought it should have greatly impacted the main character in a much more visible way.You will have to read the story to understand.

It is still a good solid Fantasy story with demons and magicians and bits of magic. Great for the Fantasy and Paranormal Romance lovers. A bit on the mature side for Young Adults.

J.L. Dobias

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