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

View all my reviews

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

View all my reviews

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

View all my reviews

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

View all my reviews

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

View all my reviews

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

View all my reviews

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

View all my reviews

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.


View all my reviews

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

View all my reviews

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

View all my reviews

Monday, May 25, 2015

Review::The Refugee Sentinel by Harrison Hayes

The Refugee SentinelThe Refugee Sentinel by Harrison Hayes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Refugee Sentinel by Harrison Hayes

The year is 2052 population has outgrown the earth the polar caps are melting and the people who are considered to be High-Potentials are the only people deemed of any value to the future. When world governments come up with a lottery like system to reduce the population things begin to happen in the background that are subtle nudges toward trying to affect at least one of the High-Potentials. This novel has a lot going for it; but it will be taking you out of your comfort zone, which is never a bad thing. This time though this one takes the reader into the strange world of the antagonist (hit woman); and had there been any reason for us to even remotely want to have compassion for that character it might have been compelling. Unfortunately in this story there is little reason to feel anything for the trained hit person and I'm confused as to why we need to see so much of their training; since that entire thread distracts the reader from the real story: I think.

This is a well written story; but one of those that likes to time travel through back-story to get us to the day of greatest interest. Li-Mei, the hit woman, has a horrible past. Taken from her parents at a young age and trained to be an instrument of death. Now she is out in the world meting out death and destruction one step ahead of the lottery. She's been trained to be a heartless killer.

Colton Parker is a loser. The estranged husband of a High-Potential, Sarah, and father to an eight year old girl named Yana; Colton is going to find himself the center of attention from two directions. Each agency focused on him wants to see him dead.

This is the year that everyone must earmark each other for death. They can't earmark High-Potentials, so Sarah is safe; but some faceless person presumably working for a government wants to disrupt Sarah's life and earmarks her daughter Yana. The law says that someone might volunteer to take the death sentence from Yana and Sarah is hoping her estranged husband can be shamed into doing that.

For the mysterious evil plan to succeed the unknown agency must make sure that Colton Parker does not live long enough to save his daughter.

There is a reason behind his whole plan; and the entire concept of the lottery to reduce the population and having it go awry is enough to keep the reader in the story. The description of what Li-Mei goes through for her training is a bit disturbing and for me added little to the story. Perhaps if she could have been portrayed as some sort of hero, having to make a sacrifice at the end, it may have justified a need to show her back-story. As it is accomplishing her mission never really took much more from her than to be of cold-blooded murderous intent. Since the trail of bodies she was leaving showed that well enough, I didn't feel I needed to know much more than that she was a contract killer. Perhaps for me it didn't delve enough into her emotionally. I have enjoyed books such a those written by Trevanian where the protagonist might be a hit man for hire who has a set value system that's being challenged by the more egregious elements of the business and must decide how much they need to sacrifice and how far they will be pushed before they push back. I didn't see that here.

Perhaps, as often is the case, that's just me. There might be a lot of people who love to understand what made the cold-blooded killer the way they are. I felt it distracted from the purpose of this story; if the story was to be mostly about Colton Parker's willingness and capability of making a sacrifice. That back-story is well told and demonstrates the challenge behind that decision.

This is a Mystery Suspense Thriller Dystopia that should hold the interest of Thriller fans and maybe even those who like to dwell in the mind of the cold-blooded person who dogs the multi-flawed protagonist.

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bad Book Covers: Gypsies: Self-Publishing: A modern fable

Bad Book Covers: Gypsies: Self-Publishing: A modern fable
Bad covers gypsiesSelf-Publishing modern fable

It was just a book. It had, no flashy cover; no jacket at all and was somewhere between hard and soft bound. The one thing it had going for it was it had the sweet smell of leather, though I wasn't all that certain what animal hide was stretched over it. And the cover was not black; maybe grey, with dark lettering that was almost discernible. It was a bit worn. I had no idea why I kept it; but it was one of those small books, like the New Testament ones, some of those churches handed out. I'd pulled it out again, never really tempted to open it.

Once again I'd let my eyes focus and then go bleary; if I did this enough I could just read the lettering; the evening dusk wasn't helping. It said, 'Don't Mind Me'. And just below 'Anon', well it looked more like Anun: in it's worn condition. I'd never thought it was really A nun. I'd stifled the laugh and ended up chortling. I ran my finger along the binding and then in the channel between covers to feel the paper. The book was small and the pages looked a bit like onion paper, so it could still have the reality of a lengthy tome.

With it in my palm I'd slipped my thumb away from one of the covers and the softness had made the thing buckle just a bit and enough to flip the pages. It had opened to the title page which read, 'Don't Mind Me: I'm just your life'. It made me laugh, out loud.

I'd gotten the book from a gypsy palm reader at the traveling show; after she'd tried to read my lifeline on my palm and had gone to sleep. I should have known something was up, but I was waiting for her to say something; and when the big fellow from outside barged in, it had startled her awake: but the damage was done. Apparently something was way off, if my lifeline could put her to sleep; but no one was talking, they just wanted me to travel as far from their show as I could get.

It was while I ducked back through the beads and lace to relieve the line of customers that the gypsy pawned the book off to me. "Here kid you need this." I asked her what it was and she said, "A blessing and a curse." I told her she could keep her blessing and she shook her head. "You need the curse." That was the first time I'd looked at the book and I'd squinted the title into existence, before I'd stuffed it in my pocket.

What was that old saying about curses and making life interesting?

Well, if my lifeline had made her fall to sleep, I guess I could use some interesting in there. As I walked away with the large man stalking behind, I guessed he was there to make certain I followed their advice, I'd kept pulling the book out of my pocket: maybe to smell the leather.

Thoughts about my life; and the truth behind it all being quite boring, had given me pause as I reflected on the book and mused over the thought that I need a new author. I flipped more pages, each consecutive one was blank. I looked up to scan the outline of tents under a fog of colorful glowing lights and tried to ignore the presence of my watchdog.

I smiled: folded and stuffed the book back in my pocket: looked as though I'd get to write my own story: now.

J.L. Dobias - May 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

Review::Atlantida by Pierre Benoît

AtlantidaAtlantida by Pierre Benoît

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Atlantida by Pierre Benoît

Even though this is a bit average in a classic; I enjoyed reading it.

It reminded me of those old Tarzan movies.

What it is though; is more of an example of the old Trope about the beautiful, seductive, feminine character whom the protagonists all fall in love with (sometimes inexplicably).

It seems there was some argument that Pierre plagiarized this from H.R. Haggard's SHE.

Though it does use a similar template of lost world and has Africa as a setting and the lovely irresistible woman as the centerpiece; the similarities end there.

Where She's Alesha, the centerpiece of H.R. Haggards story, is an almost tragic woman trapped in her own tragic love story; the centerpiece of Alantida, Antinea, is more of a sinister siren that would be almost a complete opposite to Alesha.

Alantida seems to lack the examination of morals and ethics that She has.

It's still an interesting read that once again gives the reader an examination of the views of woman and the affect on literature. But as I mentioned, it reads, to me, more like some of the movies I've seen from that time where the male characters are paralyzed under the influence of a hideously though beautiful and seductive evil.

I recommend this to anyone who has read SHE for the contrast and to those who have read this I'd recommend SHE for something with just a bit more substance.

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Yes Virginia: Pure Science Fiction Can Entertain

Yes Virginia: Pure Science Fiction Can Entertain
Rock paper kindle

I recently read a rant about how Science Fiction shouldn't have or need the Gee Wiz science that pervade the modern era of such writing. The author bemoaned that it appeared today's readers prefer the Wiz Bang to real science. They stated: those who write Science Fiction with real science are writing to an elite audience of readers. I have doubts about this.

It was a comment meant to make me think. It did just that. I look into what is being proposed and tried to match that with what I look for myself and I saw some patterns; but not the ones being touted. It seems more a matter of one being more entertaining than the other and there is no good reason that they both shouldn't entertain the reader.

We as authors can take all of the stuff of science today and fill the stories with only that, which fulfills the notion of writing what we know. That would truly be Science and Fiction or maybe even Fact - depending on whether we depict fictional characters or real people and historically recognizable stories. Science - recognizable today (with physics as we understand it today) - turned to Fiction with the what if- that is common to Science Fiction - adding fictional and believable characters into the what if of speculation.

This reminds me of the old discussion about Sci-Fi not being Science Fiction and perhaps the above would be one of the delineating elements. In the article I read this was one distinction the writer was trying to make, though he called Sci-Fi Skiffy, because of a bad connotation put upon Skiffy as they call it. I actually hate that word Skiffy; so I’ll use Sci-Fi for the remainder of this article.

The issue I take is that for a reader it’s difficult to find and for the writer to write an as if without extrapolating the Science to some itchy limit, which runs the author head on into a bucket load of Sci-Fi. I'm not saying that that is bad or even wrong because some of the things Jules Verne wrote about seemed pretty fantastic at the time he wrote them, yet today there are parallels to the technology he imagined and what we have. What is interesting with an old classic such as that is that Jules Verne put some well defined characters into the story with all that fantastical science.

I look at what I like to read in both Science Fiction and Fantasy and try to discern what works and what doesn't: for me. I look at what is strict science and what looks like Gee Wiz or Wiz Bang; and I rediscover something that rises above the discussion about science and physics that we know.

That would be simple good story telling.

When objecting to all the special effects and strange (over- extrapolated) notions that appear to go too far (which all may ring true), is the focus so narrow that the narrative that surrounds it escapes us in our frustration? What I mean by that is that we sometimes labor under the misconception that the fantastic what if and derivative science we extrapolate from present understanding is the only element of the story that is important enough to define its quality, while overlooking skill in narrative and the well crafted stories with strong character development. The error lies in the belief that the science is the story and it doesn't matter how well we write or who we put into the story as long as the science is stunningly accurate and sounds plausible. So when people buy the story with inexplicable science, some camps are baffled that these readers can rave about the whole thing. We dismiss the idea that a well written story with strong believable characters the reader can relate to might be enough for many readers.

This is not to say we can't have both, but it also doesn't say that the stories with Simon Pure science fiction always naturally contains the elements of good fiction writing.

What I like in my fiction is stories driven about characters.(I look at the cover-read the blurb in back-if possible I read the first chapter or ten pages- then I decide if I’ll like it.) For me: if there are no stunning characters then the science must fill that void with science that becomes the missing element of character. Then we might have something like Anne McCaffrey's Ship Who Sang or perhaps Clark's Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey. And we are still very far away from those types of Artificial Intelligence that they could both be considered extrapolations that stretch the readers suspension of disbelief too far.

Any author who has mastered the ability to place a believable, likable character into whatever situation will get my full attention every time. For me good solid science becomes added value. The science becomes less necessary for me to enjoy and relate to the characters. Too often I've found novels that are mired in the science while they are peopled with one dimensional characters who could be interchanged with anyone and not change the story.

This underlines the most difficult problem encountered by new authors when they get caught up in the notion that they have the greatest new idea for a plot and they try to run with that, keeping it secret so that no one else will steal the idea, and then end up wondering how their idea can't catch on when they finish the piece. They don't recognize that their 'story' is not that great science woven into some fantastic notion that may in many cases turn out to be some combination of old tried and true plots such as blending Frankenstein with Sherlock Holmes and mixing them with Victorian fashion in a novel driven by the wonders of Steampunk with a mix of vampires and werewolves.Well that might be pure fantasy. But the point is that the reader has to see the human element in all of this and understand what drives the main character's story as it intersects with the myriad of ideas sprouting out of the authors mind.

For me plot's and themes and gadgets and fantastic scenes don't drive the story. The plots and themes keep it under control and help shape the story. The lands and technology are a backdrop to help keep the characters from becoming talking heads; but they still are nothing more than the props. Though I will grant that sometimes they are well crafted props.

Characters are what drive the type of fiction that I like. Believable people the reader can relate to and become sympathetic with. Their struggle or conflict and all the pitfalls and obstacles put in their path and how they deal with all of that while growing or maturing right there on the page. How they deal with and react to the science. This often rubs shoulders with what some define as the soft science fiction; the stories dealing with social, political or psychological sciences. It is when the Simon Purist try to avoid those three that they run afoul; because that distancing caused by the avoidance often rips at the heart of the story that I'm looking for.

Both the Pure and the Sci-Fi with Wiz Bang have to be balanced with good writing that engages the reader and if the author becomes enamored with the science or the special effects to the detriment of good character development then the story is lost. When the reader puts down one to pick up the other it is not a deficiency in the reader it is rather a disconnect of the story from the reader. They may not be abandoning the Wiz Bang in favor of real science or vice versa; but they are abandoning poor writing for something that is well crafted that grabs their attention and keeps them riveted to their seat while pages flow by. And it just might happen that those well crafted characters are surrounded by gardens of Wiz Bang.

There is no doubt that Pure Science can enhance a story as do a new and fresh plot or scene. But these cannot replace a well crafted story; they are the icing on the cake. They are the gift wrap under which awaits the surprise that is the author's skill at his craft of telling the story.

J.L. Dobias

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review::She by H. Rider Haggard

SheShe by H. Rider Haggard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

She By Henry Rider Haggard.

I suppose, were I a scholar of those languages, the formatting might be a problem.

This is a great novel and a tremendous classic; but if I understood even a shred of Egyptian; Greek; or Latin, I might be as incensed as some others about the butchery of those parts of the book.(And once again we are looking at the e-book edition so one has to keep that in mind. As usual I would advise looking for a printed edition.)

As it is I thoroughly enjoyed the story and hope that there are not any plot points buried in the hashed up gobble-de-gook of old language. The standard form of prose from that era sometimes is enough struggle without having to consider the extra special effects.

I read She, in part, as a result of having had read Atlantida by Pierre Benoit; which someone had claimed was a major rip from She.

I find that argument to be quite thin upon examining both. To begin: I would like to say that Atlantida doesn't come anywhere close to being the intense classic that She is and such a claim might denigrate the work of Henry Ride Haggard. Atlantida differs considerably, so much so that such claims deserve only a shrug.

She, Ayesha, is liken to old Tropes in history and mythology and literature: amongst such greats as Aphrodite; Helen of Troy; Cleopatra; and Nefertiti-She finds her place. Women known for great beauty and seductive nature whom men will throw down kingdoms and fortunes to their very deaths, to stand beside. They have that certain something that draw men like moths to flame and probably today these types do not do so much in favor of helping the image of women. Yet it remains that these images are an excellent snapshot into the time from which they are drawn.

It would seem many key elements or threads that find their place in H.R.Haggard's She, later became the template for further lost world sub-genre and some of those elements end up in the dying earth or dying planet's genre of such greats as Edgar Rice Burroughs. So it might come as no surprise that Pierre Benoit may have borrowed elements when he wrote his Atlantida. It may even be argued that H.R. Haggard borrowed heavily from similar and more ancient tropes.

One point of interesting about She, is that there are mountains of exposition from one central character, Ayesha, that not only tell the backstory of her long life, but give insight into her philosophy and ideals about religion. Her arguments twist and sway the narrator who is also enthralled with her beauty and her very presence: often loosing a portion of his ability to argue rationally.

The narrator, Holly, is not a handsome man. He in fact is liken to a Baboon. But the orphan whom he has raised from childhood, Leo, perhaps has a handsomeness that could almost rival the beauty of She.

Of course this wouldn't be a story without the back-story of the family line of Leo. A back-story that may fatefully link Leo to Ayesha.

The story is written in that favored high and almost florid manner of prose of it's time; and might weigh heavy on the readers of this age, but I think it still stands well through time with a multilevel examination of several moral and ethical dilemma. Though it often seems that the narrator goes purple, the writing is strong and the story does not suffer.

Great Classic SFF that helps forge the way for further such adventure novels.

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review::Vortex Travelers:Sovereigns and Unwed Sailors by J.L. Holtz

Vortex Travelers: Sovereigns and Unwed SailorsVortex Travelers: Sovereigns and Unwed Sailors by J.L. Holtz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Vortex Travelers: Sovereigns and Unwed Sailors by J.L. Holtz

This is definitely one of those novels that will fall in the love/hate category. I can see a quick division delineating those who forge on to finish the novel and those who fall quickly away from it. The stars could easily be well balance on this one and to that end I chose to place my two cents in the center as the fulcrum to the see-saw of reviews to follow. There are many things I love about this: one being the whole concept behind the plot; another is the sassy main character; and then there is the very fact I had to work to come to love it, which included having to finish it. There are some drawbacks and those tend to be the niggling bits that stand in the way toward possibly having someone throw the whole book down.(Which in this case is self defeating because it damages the kindle.)

The author is up front,
In her early explanations,
That her novel is written with a certain artistic flare: which makes it like a graphic novel; or a movie; or a piece of music. And it might well be that it often looks poetic, though there are certain elements rather lacking in the whole. Though if you look at what I did with this paragraph, you might have a small window into what to expect from what's inside this novel.

Add to that the interesting fact there are somewhere beyond six hundred colons used within and they outnumber the semi-colons but are dwarfed by the hyphens and dashes that are spread throughout. So with that in mind I think that it becomes clear, at least to me, why there might be some people putting this down after a sampling of pages proves that this condition is going to exist throughout. I wouldn't be surprised if some might suggest that this work needed a colon dash hyphen-ectomy.

But if you can get past that and the numerous grammatical problems, some of which one could wonder if they were errors or deliberate, then once settling down to where you know what to expect you have a better chance for enjoying the whole. The next hurdle for me was to sort out what was happening because of the next style choice, which seemed to me to be stream of consciousness writing. And this is not just from one character but primarily from two characters.

The story is part stream and part standard first person narration and the stream of consciousness is mostly present tense though there were some itchy moments in that that felt otherwise; and at first I had thought that the whole was going to be stream with present tense and standard first person narration in past tense; yet the whole thing started crossing boundaries (sometimes with good reason; other times not so much). Still as a whole this assessment might only be from out of my own perception; and I'd suggest when you read it you make your own judgment while possibly being ready for it; and then try to tough it out because the whole piece makes for an interesting literary attempt that poses as Science Fiction.

I do think that, with the right amount of editing, this could become good literary fiction. The problem with that might be that it would drive some editors mad until they began to find the pattern in the prose. For me though, this caused my reading comprehension to become very difficult and I was forced to slow my pace which always made the perceived errors stick out a bit more. But I forged on through and found that once I ignored the majority of the punctuation and the few other oddities I was able to focus on the story itself and though the science mixed with myth within the streams of conscious flowing off the page was often daunting: it often add; more than detracted from the story.

And though the story seems to be one of a teen named Lulu Wu and her struggle to focus while strange things start occurring around her and then moves into a potential for a love story with time travel and dimensional shifting. The real plot seems to be one more of the Universe trying to figure itself out. A universe formed from a big bang, which occurred when a godlike being was killed. And now the present universe faces destruction by a similar means which won't wait for this universe to find itself.

My stars on this one are meaningless-because I really loved most of the novel. But I think that the reader should be warned that it's not the usual novel and anyone wanting to read it should read the sample before purchasing it. I did that and still picked it up and there were moments I felt like putting the whole thing down. In the final analysis I'm glad I didn't.

And though some of the errors I found might be a part of the artsy-ness of the whole, I think there are a justified number of problems evident that this could use at least one good edit to pull it up and into the class of literary fiction where it belongs. There’s a lot of promise here in the future of this author.

I recommend this to all SFF fans (with caveats) and anyone who likes to delve in the literary end of the genre. A challenging read.

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews