Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thoughts on Scott - Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth's Bio (Wikipedia): Elizabeth Bear was a winner of the 2005 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Short Story for "Tideline," and the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for "Shoggoths in Bloom." She is one of only five writers who have gone on to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She's also Scott's girlfriend and apprarently wrote a pretty amazing book called Range of Ghosts that you should all be reading. Seriously, I haven't seen a negative review of this book yet. Go buy it, and then come back and read this.


Bear's Thoughts on Scott

So the thing about Scott Lynch as a writer--the outstanding thing, the
first thing you notice, what sweeps you off your metaphorical feet--is
his voice. Nuanced, observant, charismatic, humane, trenchant, a
little bit flashy and a little bit grandiose--and funny as hell, it's
a five-hundred-pound gorilla of style, a towering inferno layercake of
metaphor with blue buttercream roses. I'm actually tempted, right
here, to pastiche it a little... but I will restrain myself--because I
know my strengths, and I'd only make myself look like an idiot trying.

But trust me. He's funny. *Really* funny, on the level that makes you
wince with recognition at some of the seedier facets of the human
condition just as you're snickering at the cleverness of his
observations and the way they're framed.

I was a little too established in my own style when he came along to
count his work as an influence, but I blurbed his first novel when I
barely knew the man, and that was largely on the strength of that
amazing, influential voice--often imitated, even in a few short years
of publication history--never equaled.

The thing you might not know if you don't know Scott is that that
voice isn't an affectation. His characters aren't ego inserts--he's
certainly capable of being narratively critical of all their
less-than-savory aspects--but the voice?

That's really how he talks. The wit and perspicacity and humanity come
through in the in-person Scott Lynch as clearly as they do in the
on-paper one, making that rarest of creatures among writers: a person
who's not *just* more funny and charming *on paper* than most people.



The Lies of Locke Lamora Read-Along Week 4

Hi Everyone!

Busy weekend for me, so I'll be posting this right now (forgot to schedule it, silly me) and then I'll put my answers up later today. These are some great questions, so make sure to thank @ohthatashley for the wonderful discussion that will ensue.

1.      In the chapter “A Curious Tale for Countess Amberglass” we learn of the tradition of the night tea in Camorr. I found that not so much fantastical as realistic – how about you?

2.      When Jean meets with what will become the Wicked Sisters for the first time, the meeting is described very much like how people feel when they find their true work or home. Agree? Disagree? Some of both?

3.      Salt devils. Bug. Jean. The description is intense. Do you find that description a help in visualizing the scene? Do you find yourself wishing the description was occasionally – well – a littleless descriptive?

4.      This section has so much action in it, it’s hard to find a place to pause. But…but.. oh, Locke. Oh, Jean. On their return to the House of Perelandro, their world is turned upside down. Did you see it coming?

5.      Tavrin Callas’s service to the House of Aza Guilla is recalled at an opportune moment, and may have something to do with saving a life or three. Do you believe Chains knew what he set in motion? Why or why not?

6.      As Locke and Jean prepare for Capa Raza, Dona Vorchenza’s remark that the Thorn of Camorr has never been violent – only greedy and resorting to trickery – comes to mind again. Will this pattern continue?

7.      Does Locke Lamora or the Thorn of Camorr enter Meraggio’s
Countinghouse that day? Is there a difference? 




Here are my answers for this week


1. You know, I'd never thought about it too much, but I could definitely see that being a very real thing.


2. I definitely agree. They were his weapon from the moment he laid his hands on them, that much was obvious. I think that we're all like that to some degree. We find something that really works for us, and we stick with it. It just feels right.


3. Well, giant sea spiders would scare the everloving crap out of me regardless of the description, but I think that the heavy description involved with them really adds to the horror of what they are and what they're capable of. I was actually a little surprised that Jean dealt with them so easily. Not surprised, I guess. Just wishing that maybe there had been a little more difficulty there, I guess.


4. Never saw it coming, and I still have a hard time making myself turn those pages, even after the 4th time through. I know it's coming, but I really want to avoid it if possible.


5. I think Chains knew one thing: As priests in the various orders, the Bastards can slip by unnoticed in a lot of places, which just might save their lives when things get really hot. It's a perfect way to hide, especially the priests that have masks.


6. I don't think so. At least, not for the Grey King. There will be blood, because Locke has lost too much to just trick him. He'll put him in the dirt or die trying.


7. I'd say a very desperate Locke entered Merragio's that day. When Locke gets desperate, that's when his true brilliance shines through, but it's also when he hurts others through his actions.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gabriel's Redemption by Steve Umstead

Gabriel's Redemption, you may remember, was one of the two titles that won my twitter contest a while back. I picked this self-published title at random from the 100 followers I had and agreed to review it. Honestly, it couldn't have gone better.

Blurb (Amazon): North American Federation Navy Commander Evan Gabriel was dishonorably discharged after a disastrous mission on a far off world called Eden. He's spent the last five years hiding from his past, from those responsible for the failed mission, from those responsible for running him out of the Navy, and from those originally responsible for making him into who he was - a highly-trained, physically and mentally augmented Special Forces soldier.

Two mysterious visitors appear unannounced at the door of a Gabriel's seedy hotel room in the slums of Jamaica. His past has finally caught up with him. 
From the decaying Caribbean to politically-charged South America, from the back alleys of Mars to a tiny colony on a planet six hundred light years from Earth, Gabriel's Redemption is a near-future military science fiction story of a personal journey seen from the perspective of a soldier who has lost everything -- one who desperately needs to redeem himself not only in his government's eyes, but also his own.
Interstellar action and political intrigue mix with one-on-one battles on the surface of a frozen planet in Book One of the science fiction-adventure trilogy.



Now, I'm going to come clean about something, and I don't want anyone mocking me too badly. I don't read Sci-Fi. I know, I know. I really need to get started, and I am slowly getting there. Fantasy has always been my baby, but I'm trying to change that. So I started into Gabriel's Redemption expecting...nothing, really. I've had terrible luck with self-pubbed titles in the past, and I'm horribly under-read when it comes to Sci-Fi. However, I left Gabriel's Redemption with a newfound belief that there are authors out there self publishing that are worth reading, which might surprise some folks out there.

Evan Gabriel was easy to like as a character. He's got that Danny Glover "gettin' too old for this shit" vibe going for him. A hard man that had something terrible happen in his past, he's getting thrown back into the action all of a sudden, and it's no surprise that not everything it what it seems. The other characters weren't quite as well rounded, particularly Sabra and Lamber, which led to a little disappointment on my end when things took a twist about 50% of the way through the book.

I kept turning pages, and not just because I had promised a stranger on the internet that I would. I actually enjoyed the book. Sci-Fi has a different feel than fantasy, and as someone who hasn't read a lot of it, it was interesting to get a feel for the pacing and description, which seem somewhat different than fantasy. If I had to point out any major flaw in the book, it would be that things seemed to take too long to get going. I was reading on the Kindle, so I don't have a page count, but I think i was over 50% of the way through the book before our protagonist got into a scuffle with our antagonist. The stuff leading up to it was interesting enough for me, but for someone that's more well-read in Sci-Fi, it might not have held their attention as easily.

The book felt somewhat predictable, but once the pace got moving it was easy to just keep turning pages and enjoying the whole experience. Umstead's got a career ahead of him, and he's already got books 2 and 3 in this trilogy published for a good price, so it just might be something I'll come back to in the future. I won't declare that this is the greatest Sci-Fi epic of all time, but it was a fun read, with an enjoyable protagonist that had an almost James Bond feel to him (especially by the end of the first book).

I loved
  • The Fun Factor: This felt like a summer read of a classic-style Sci-Fi.
  • Umstead's action scenes. He can write them pretty darned well.
  • The idea of extracting pituitary glands from Ewoks and making drugs out of them (that's how I imagined it prior to meeting the aliens on the distant planet).

I hated
  • The slow start. While I kept turning pages (which is a testament to his writing) others might be turned off by the long setup to the action of the book.



More than anything, I came away from this with the knowledge that there ARE good writers out there doing self-publishing, and that Steve Umstead is probably toward the head of the pack. It's a light, fun read, but that doesn't mean there's no talent there. Also, you can tell that his book is actually pretty worthwhile just by looking at Amazon. Unlike all of the other people who have 20 5 star reviews, 3 four star reviews and nothing else, Umstead actually has people who AREN'T his mother reading and reviewing his book, which means 3 stars are present and have meaningful reviews. Good luck, Steve! You impressed me and made me a believer in the self-pub industry to a degree. I was expecting another novel that fell apart halfway through, but yours got considerably better with each page. 7.75/10.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

10 Questions with Author E.C. Myers

For an in depth rundown of E.C. Myers and his writing, check out his Bio on his blog, as well as these two excellent interviews here and here. For those that need the quick and dirty version, Pyr recently published Myers' first novel, Fair Coin, which I reviewed here. There's a second book in the works, titled Quantum Coin, coming later down the road.


1. What is one thing that's critical to understanding who you are as a person and as a writer?

That I do my best in everything that matters to me: I try to be the best person I can be, the best husband, and the best writer. It’s an ongoing learning process, and I try to grow and get better at it every day.


2. So. Star Trek. It seems you might like it. A little. How did that come about?

When I was very young, I actually went out of my way to avoid Star Trek; I thought it was the cheesiest thing ever. Then when I was in junior high, I saw a commercial for a new episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the crew encounters Scotty from the original series, who had kept himself in stasis in a transporter. I had only been vaguely aware of the newer series, but I was intrigued by the cross-generational story and thought I would try to watch it. I didn’t, because I had completely forgotten about it by the time it aired.

One of my teachers in the 7th grade was a huge Trekkie. He owned all of the original series on VHS from Columbia House, which mailed new tapes to members every month at an exorbitant price. He hadn’t seen Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country yet, so I taped it for him when it premiered on HBO. I watched it too and was instantly hooked, even though I had no idea who any of those characters were. Around the same time, the series Deep Space Nine was premiering, so there were Star Trek marathons on TV and I started watching both the original series and The Next Generation. Through friends and a couple of teachers at school, I soon caught up on the entire run of Star Trek, The Next Generation, and the films, and I was reading all the novels, too.

I stopped watching Star Trek for a while after the show Enterprise turned me off to the franchise, and I was just too busy to devote any more time to the shows. The editors at Tor.com suggested I contribute to a Star Trek re-watch when the new film was about to come out, and that rekindled my love for the franchise. It’s wonderful to revisit the show at a later point in my life, with a more critical eye. My friend Torie Atkinson and I have analyzed every episode of the original series, the animated series, and the first six films at theviewscreen.com, and now we’re working our way through TNG. This is going to take a while.

3. I noticed that along with your love of Star Trek, you've also got a woman in your life. Has being a newlywed affected your writing in any way that you didn't expect?

I should probably clarify here that obviously I love my wife a lot more than I do Star Trek… I suppose on some level I didn’t think things would change too much when we got married, because we already had been together for more than six years. But it has presented some challenges in making time to write because there seem to be many more demands on both of our time. She’s in medical school right now, so she’s at least as busy as I am, and we have to share the household chores, daily cooking, weekly shopping, caring for our cat, and other joint obligations. For example, we were married in July, and we still haven’t sent thank you notes to our friends and family, thanks to one deadline after another and all the related work involved with having a book published. But we’re slowly making progress on all those things. My writing is very important to both of us, but I try to help out as much as I can, because studying to be a doctor is rather demanding and I think she should be focusing on that whenever she can. It would all be much harder if we weren’t such a good team.

4. I really enjoyed how standalone Fair Coin was. From what I've read on the interwebs, I think it started as a standalone book. As a newly published author, is there a lot of pressure from the top down to make sure your works can be part of a series? I ask, because everything seems to be a series these days, no standalones. I'm assuming it's better from a marketing standpoint for the publisher, but could you enlighten us on this subject a little bit?

That might be the case at some publishers, but Pyr didn’t pressure me to deliver a second book just for the sake of having one. On the contrary, I had already written a draft of the sequel, and I was thrilled that Pyr was interested in publishing it as well. Even though Fair Coin was always intended to be a standalone book, and still is, I was really excited to continue the story and spend more time with those characters; I essentially wrote Quantum Coin for myself, because it didn’t make practical sense to devote any time on it when I didn’t even know if I could get representation for the first book. It was a lot of fun and I think it complements Fair Coin well.

From what I understand, if a publisher commits to a series upfront, they can get each book for less money, instead of waiting to see how the first book performs. It’s a gamble, especially for a debut author, but it’s a calculated one. Sometimes they will make a deal for two or more unrelated books, which becomes an investment in the author instead of just one book. I hope publishers wouldn’t artificially extend a story beyond the length needed to tell it, but there are a lot of factors in play, and it is a business designed to make money.

 5. Question five isn't really a question at all! Instead, it's an opportunity to shamelessly plug anything that you'd like. Go ahead, give it a try. What's out there that's awesome that people need to know about?

The Apocalypsies is a group of 2012 debut picture book, middle grade, and young adult authors. We all help each other navigate the often confusing and complex publishing process, give advice at every stage of the way, offer moral support and encouragement when needed, share ideas, and generally help to promote each others’ work. We participate in group chats, giveaways, and have even formed a video blog called Apocalypsies Now.

Communities like this are one of the things that made me interested in becoming a writer in the first place, because everyone is smart, nice, and genuinely helpful; everything has been so much easier and more fun with them backing me up through my book launch and beyond.

So check out the website to read about our members’ great published and forthcoming work (http://apocalypsies.blogspot.com/) and visit our vlog at (http://youtube.com/apocalypsies). I pretty much want to read everyone’s books and hang out with them in person all the time, if I could.

6. I noticed that you're a long-time livejournal user. If you didn't have a career that requires a large amount of self-promotion, would you still be as heavily involved with blogs and facebook and twitter as you are?

Probably not Facebook or Google Plus so much, but I was using LiveJournal long before I had anything to promote, mainly as a way to keep up with friends, interact with other writers, follow news, and stay disciplined by being transparent about my writing goals and progress.

I happen to really like connecting with people on Twitter; it appeals because it takes much less time and effort than blogging and it’s very convenient to use from my phone. I don’t use any social media exclusively for self-promotion, but there’s always some element of networking in any social interaction these days — I just try to form relationships with people I find interesting, entertaining, or informative, and it’s all the better if we can help each other out in our professional pursuits.

I hope I pay it forward and balance out self-promotion with spreading the word on other people’s work. But at the same time, regardless of your reasons, I think you do need to have some presence online, so people can find you if they want to, to give a sense of your personality outside of the work, and because it is a helpful way to let others know that you and your book exist with minimal cost and effort.

7. When you were writing Fair Coin, was there any one aspect of your writing that you were worried about. Any area that you felt you needed to be especially careful in because it wasn't your strong suit?

Fair Coin was my first novel, so I was worried about everything on some level: the plot development, the pacing, the characterization, the dialogue. I trusted my instincts, developed from a lifetime of reading novels and writing short fiction, and I relied on the sound judgment of my beta readers to let me know where things weren’t working or could be improved. I was especially worried about getting the young adult tone right, and making the characters’ dialogue and behavior authentic. I did second guess myself from time to time on how dark I could go with it, but I think in the end the book hit a good balance. I had a lot of help.

8. Speaking of beta readers, you're a member of the writer supergroup Altered Fluid. How did you get started with them as a writing group, and what tips would you give to writers out there looking for a great group of their own?

I was introduced to Altered Fluid through one of its founding members, Kristine Dikeman, who was one of my classmates at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2005. Shortly after we returned to New York, she coerced them into letting me audition for the group. After they had reviewed two of my stories and I had participated in a trial critique session, they kindly extended me an invitation to join. The group is very serious about its application process!

I’m really fortunate to have found a place in Altered Fluid, both because its members are talented, professional, supportive, and fun writers and because they have become some of my very best friends. I attribute much of my writing success to Altered Fluid; the group kept me writing steadily and I’ve learned so much from everyone. You really do benefit from the diverse perspectives of other writers, at different stages of their career and with different backgrounds, cultures, strengths, and expertise.

If you’re looking to get involved with a writing group, you probably need to ask around or search online to see if any local groups are near you and looking for members. If there aren’t any, or they aren’t open to new members, you can try starting your own, or sign up with an online writing workshop. If you can, try taking a writing class or attending a workshop, because that’s a great way of meeting other writers and you can stay in touch with them after the class is over. In fact, that’s how Altered Fluid began.

I do think it’s important for all the members to be serious about pursuing a professional writing career, and treat the group seriously and responsibly. Be organized, stick to a schedule, make sure everyone is writing and participating regularly, establish rules for critique, and it helps if all of you get along with each other! Also, bring snacks to meetings.

9. I'll admit to shamelessly stealing this question from Bastard Books, but most readers don't really know just how ridiculously hard it is to make a career of writing books. Why do you think it's so difficult? How do you see your career looking in the next ten years? Where would you LIKE your career to be instead?

I think what makes it most difficult is that it takes more than talent to be successful. That’s probably true of most jobs, but it takes a lot of work to get your book into a store. First, you have to write and revise a manuscript. Then you have to revise it some more, or sometimes you have to rewrite it entirely or even abandon it. Then you have a potentially long querying process to find an agent. Then your book goes on submission. It almost never happens overnight. That book on the shelf often represents years of effort, by lots of people, from first draft through final proofread. That might mean late nights, early mornings, lunch breaks, or other stolen moments during the day.

There are also many good writers out there submitting good books, but publishers have very few slots each year — especially for new authors. One of the hardest lessons to learn is that not everything that gets published is good, and not everything that’s good gets published. So much is out of your control; when your book is on submission, even if an editor wants to acquire it, anyone on the publisher’s editorial, marketing, or sales team can still say no for whatever reason. Basically, there are so many points where your book might not make the cut, and the farther you get in the process, the harder it gets. That’s why it’s so important to be persistent: to give your book every chance at success it deserves, to make sure it gets to the people who will love and advocate for it, and because it only takes one yes to make a sale. And it has to be your very best work if you’re going to believe in it enough to put in that work and stick with it.

In ten years, I’ll still be writing young adult books and hopefully getting them published. Ideally I will have written many books I am proud of, and they’ll still be in print and making a profit. I’m not looking to get rich from this, but I have to say, that would be nice. I never wanted to quit my day job and write full time, until my free time abruptly became more limited than I would like it to be.

10. It's late at night. You're lying in bed next to your wife, when suddenly you're filled with desire. She can't help you, though. No, no, it's nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to men from time to time, this late night desire for something...different. New. Fresh. You get out of bed, and slowly get dressed. The keys jingle in your pocket as you carefully put one leg in your pants, and you worry that she might wake up and ask where you're going. The truth is, you hadn't really decided where you'd be getting it from, just that you desperately need it and she can't provide it for you....So, are you going to Shoprite or Wawa to get your tuna hoagie?

I haven’t sampled the tuna sandwiches at either yet, but I suspect it would be a Wawa because there are so many of them near me. I’ll try one from each and get back to you. For the record, my wife hates tuna, so she would be pretty upset if I came back to bed smelling like a cheap hoagie I picked up at some convenience store.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Scott Lynch mini-mini-review of Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

Just had to share this. Elizabeth Bear tweeted it earlier today and it brought a hearty chuckle out of me. Here's the original tweet, in case you're interested. I'm really looking forward to reading her latest book, Range of Ghosts, so it's always nice to see a positive review....especially when it's from her boyfriend, Scott Lynch. And it's a hilarious picture. Anyway, here's what he sent her.


San Angelo Showdown by William W. Johnstone


Publisher: GraphicAudio (2007)

Narrated by: Thomas Penny and Full Cast

Blurb from Goodreads: Young Matt Bodine and Sam Two Wolves became blood brothers on the day the rancher's son saved the halfbreed's life, forging a bond no one could ever break. Beneath the Montana big sky, Matt learned the ways of the Cheyenne from his friend. And as years passed, a legend grew of the breed and the white man who rode together—and who could jerk killing iron with the best of them…


This was a Western full of cliches, from the characters themselves to the situations presented. Yet, I had fun with it. William Johnstone gave us two good guys that we could root for without any guilt - Matt Bodine and Sam Two Wolves. They have been gallivanting about the desert Southwest for 6 prior books - and no, I didn't feel like I had missed anything important by jumping in the middle.

In this episode, our heroes get deputized into the Texas Rangers by Josiah Finch in order to track down a gang of mis-behaving buffalo hunters and bring them to justice. However, there are a couple of things working against them, such as these two bureaucrats from Washington DC with orders to keep US law enforcers from violating the Mexican border, even if it is in order to bring the bad guys to order. In addition to that, the Dingo Waley gang has worked out a financial arrangement with the officials of the Mexican territory that butts up against Texas; they can do misdeeds on the US side and ride like hell to Mexico, where they will be sheltered, for a sizable fee of course.

Most of this book is staged at San Angelo and Fort Concho, with nearly everyone crossing the Rio Grande at one point or another. Leeds is the local military law-enforcement and is sworn to uphold the rules dished out by DC and hence, has to hinder our heroes from crossing the Rio Grande. He's an OK guy, so he only gets knocked on his ass.

A second group of two-bit crooks complicate matters with some dynamite - they are bank robbers without a well-thought out plan. But while spending quality time in jail, they learn that a captured member of the Waley gang is tattle-telling on Dingo and his crew. So these idiots come up with the idea of breaking out, riding to Mexico, and chatting with Dingo. They hope to become part of his crew. Now Dingo has two reasons to go back to the area - to steal a large shipment of gold and to eliminate his former gang-member.

Matt and Sam are being wined and dined by Finch and Leeds and the local ladies. They are some of the best shots in the Western US and their legend has proceeded them. They are all around good guys and perfect gentlemen to the ladies. In fact, it is hard to find any bad habits embedded in these two, which feeds into the cliches mentioned above.

Thomas Penny and crew did a good job with the narrations. Once again, GraphicAudio produced a 5 CD long radio production. The background sound effects and the full cast brought this book to life.

Pluses: Brain candy; pretty bland and inoffensive; lots of horses; Southwest setting; fun audio production.

Minuses: Few females, all interchangeable; sometimes the cliches were a little thick; predictable; the numerous bad guys tended to blend together, even in voice.

Rating: 5 out of 10 (based on storyline only, 4; but the audio bumps it up a notch)

Monday, March 26, 2012

And The Winner of Thief's Covenant Is...

Kate Mergener!

I'll be emailing you shortly, Kate! Congratulations. And for the rest of you, may the odds be ever in your favor, or something. I should be having another giveaway fairly soon (maybe when I hit 100 friends on Google Friend Connect, or maybe 250 followers on Twitter? Who knows).


Fire by Sebastian Junger


Publisher: HarperAudio (2001)

Narrated by: Kevin Conway

Blurb from Amazon.com: For readers and viewers of The Perfect Storm, opening this long-awaited new work by Sebastian Junger will be like stepping off the deck of the Andrea Gail and into the inferno of a fire burning out of control in the steep canyons of Idaho. Here is the same meticulous prose brought to bear on the inner workings of a terrifying elemental force; here is a cast of characters risking everything in an effort to bring that force under control. Few writers have been to so many desperate corners of the globe as has Sebastian Junger; fewer still have provided such starkly memorable evocations of characters and events. From the murderous mechanics of the diamond trade in Sierra Leone to the logic of guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan and the forensics of genocide in Kosovo, this new collection of Junger's nonfiction will take you places you wouldn't dream of going to on your own.

Every couple of books, I need some nonfiction and this was a good pick. In a series of essay-like writings, Sebastian Junger takes his readers along - to a fire line, on a modern-day whaling expedition, to the frontlines of Kosovo, quality time in Cyprus, at a diamond mine in Africa, and also as a hostage in Asia. Every once in a while I read a book and I shake my head; how could I get through this world knowing so little? I didn't know convicts were sometimes used to help put out wildfires, and sometimes died in them. I didn't know there were still those who hunted whales the old way, without modern harpoon equipment. I knew nothing of the Cyprus conflict (Now I can see you shaking your head in amazement at my ignorance).

Each of the essays in this book are told in an easy to grasp reporter style, even if your beginning knowledge is zero on the subject.

Kevin Conway told each story in a straight forward way, putting in humor, shock, disgust, and incredulity when needed.

+++: This book expanded my knowledge, easily accessible info, the chapters on fire-fighting, whaling, and hostage situation were the most interesting. The insights into the decades-old stalemate in Cyprus were thought-provoking.

--: I think the book would have held more interest if the non-war related essays were scattered in between the war essays.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

Publisher: Tor
Date: October 12, 2010
Where I got it: Library!

Blurb (Amazon)

The world is only half made. What exists has been carved out amidst a war between two rival factions: the Line, paving the world with industry and claiming its residents as slaves; and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence that cripples the population with fear. The only hope at stopping them has seemingly disappeared—the Red Republic that once battled the Gun and the Line, and almost won. Now they’re just a myth, a bedtime story parents tell their children, of hope.
To the west lies a vast, uncharted world, inhabited only by the legends of the immortal and powerful Hill People, who live at one with the earth and its elements. Liv Alverhyusen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels to the edge of the made world to a spiritually protected mental institution in order to study the minds of those broken by the Gun and the Line. In its rooms lies an old general of the Red Republic, a man whose shattered mind just may hold the secret to stopping the Gun and the Line. And either side will do anything to understand how.


It's no secret (for those who know me) that I lightly dabble in writing from time to time. One of the ideas that I have sloshing around in my brain is for a fantasy western with x-men style powers. So, whenever I see a book that has elements of the wild west and magic, I automatically have to give it a go. And I have to say, I'm very glad that I gave The Half-Made World a go.

The novel starts with an excellent prologue, where The General, who is losing his mind, tries desperately to cling to anything that he can remember. This gives us a lot of information to work with, and helps us understand a great deal about the world, The Gun, and The Line before we really get started.

As much as I enjoyed the prologue, I have to be honest and say that I quickly found myself very close to putting the book down just a few pages later. Liv's character wasn't someone that I seemed to be able to immediately relate to, for whatever reason, and her character and the pace of her storyline nearly caused me to put the book down. This was only something that affected me for her first few chapters, so to anyone that buys this book on the strength of this review, push on! There's great stuff in store for all the characters.

Creedmor, and agent of The Gun, saved me in chapter 2. From there, it was smooth sailing. I fell for the loveable rogue, though Creedmor seems to have less to love than most. Sometimes it's easy to get drawn to a character like him, though. Fast, wreckless, dangerous, and devious, his story kept me turning pages. His view of the world, and his conversations with his superiors were equal parts sarcastic, depressing and enlightening.

Creedmor's counterpart, sub-invigilator, grade 3 Lowry, was perhaps the most interesting character of the three. His view of how the world should be organized was frightening, and, unfortunately, all-too-visible in our modern world. It's safe to say that he quickly took the number two spot on my favorites list.

These three distinct characters all converge on the mental institution, and that's where things start to get weird (in a good way). We finally start to see just what sort of magic the hill folk have, and we start to see how different and dangerous The West is. In this magical, half-made world, the danger is much more menacing and dark than just a horse-thief or a bandit. It won't spoil anything to say that the world is literally half-made, and on the edges of civilization, things can get strange and dangerous in scary, magical ways. And, since Gilman's a great writer, he makes sure they do.

Probably the single biggest problem that I had with The Half-Made World was the ending. It wasn't abrupt, with a monster cliffhanger like some first or second books have. It wasn't too drawn out, either. No, the problem here was that there was so much promise in the first book, that even with a very complete and solid ending, there was too much mystery for me to enjoy that ending. Don't get me wrong. A lot happens in this story. Still, the ending made me ponder whether or not Gilman's barely scratching the surface of his worldbuilding and storyline. If he is, then I can't imagine what's in store for the sequel, The Rise of Ransom City. But I desperately want to.

I loved

  • The Weird West. So much raw danger and potential for great stories.
  • Creedmor. He's a dark, depressing man that makes a lot of bad decisions, and seems to get some satisfaction from his work. And yet you'll find yourself wondering if maybe there's just an ounce more Batman than Joker in there, and rooting for him.
  • The mix of steampunk and western was excellent, and there needs to be more of this. Right now! Go! Start writing!
I hated

  • The ending. There's still so much that could be done, and so many amazing things that can happen. And yet, I can't imagine them happening in one sequel, and that makes me a sad panda.
The Half-Made World is one of those rare books where I didn't seem to truly enjoy the beginning or the end, but still found myself loving the whole thing. No number rating for this one. I think I'm done with those. Instead, I'll just say that if you like The Wild West and you like fantasy, then you should already have read this book.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thoughts On Scott

So, it turns out that Average Joes aren't the only people that really think Scott Lynch is great at what he does. I've been tweeting around, and found out that there are several people that think he's the bee's knees within the author community as well. Sam Sykes is one such person (his twitter avatar is a monkey, but don't be fooled. I'm 87% sure he's human).

Sam's Bio: Sam Sykes is the author of The Aeons’ Gate trilogy, a vast and sprawling story of adventure, demons, madness and carnage.  Suspected by many to be at least tangentially related to most causes of human suffering, Sam Sykes is also a force to be reckoned with beyond literature.

At 25, Sykes is one of the younger authors to have arrived on the stage of literary fantasy.  Tome of the Undergates and Black Halo are currently published in nine countries.  He currently resides in the United States and is probably watching you read this right now.

Sam Sykes has done many things worthy of note, most of them involving violence of one manner or another.  Amongst his feats of strength, he counts the following:
  • Wrestling a Kodiak bear to the earth
  • Defeating nine of ten prime ministers
  • Founding, and later destroying, the East India Company
  • The Renaissance
Those are most likely true, as Sam Sykes is not given to lying without cause.

Sam Sykes currently lives in the United States with his two hounds and, at any given time, is probably yelling at something inanimate.  Tome of the Undergates is his first book, but far from his last.  At 25, Sam Sykes is in an excellent position to provide entertainment while other authors are dying from various infections and stress-related illnesses.  Sam Sykes looks forward to being one of the sole providers of fantasy entertainment, assuming no other authors are actually discovered in the next forty years.

Sam's Thoughts on Scott

Like most predators, Scott Lynch came into my life at a very opportune moment.  I was in that awkward phase of life where I wasn't certain where I stood with fantasy novels.  It all used to be so simple when I had began reading Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms, with concepts like good and evil clearly illustrated by feasting scenes and training montages.  But as I went on, I started to think that maybe I no longer thought that moody dark elves were the pinnacle of literature, no matter how badass their swords were.  Oh, sure, I had started on George R.R. Martin, but his was a name etched on a restroom door behind which the hardcore fantasy kids dwelled, smoking cigarettes, shaving neckbeards and talking about how incest was okay in very certain circumstances.

Like most readers, I fell in with that crowd.  And I devoured the books.  And when they were done, I realized that, occasionally, one does long for a story in which someone getting some good news does not necessarily forebode an imminent sodomization.  One does, occasionally, long for a story where conflict is a many-sided thing, depressions are all the more depressing for the good times that were had, where shock simply happens without expectation.

Admittedly, I had no idea that the sort of book that had a cover of a weird kid in tight pants looking at a sparkly phallus against a pink sky was that kind of book.  But I picked up The Lies of Locke Lamora, anyway, and went to town.

In many ways, things simply don't get any better than Scott Lynch.  His characters are genuine, his plots are vast, he relies on no gimmicks but his own skill.  He might not be the book that launched a thousand thief stories, but he was surely one of them that took tropes and set out not to subvert them, but to make them his own.  In every page does his love for what he's doing come out and it's that kind of love that can draw a reader in more deeply than rage and sorrow can.  Yes, I love Scott Lynch.

And I have gone deeply into him.

The Lies of Locke Lamora Read-Along, Part 3

Beginning the Don Salvara Game by TolmanCotton
Lynchmob unite!

Hey everyone, it's that time again. No, not bath time (though things are a bit ripe in the Awful Review house). It's Lies of Locke Lamora Read-Along, week 3! And that means that the other incredible bloggers that started this hot mess of awesome gave me the keys to the ferrari and looked the other way. Vegas, baby!

Quick Reminder: Week 3 covers chapter five thru the end of Interlude “The Half Crown War,” so if you haven't read that far, get your nose in that book before you start peeking at my tasty questions.

Quick Reminder the Second: I'll be trying to add everyone's reviews to this post in a nice happy list. However, my wife just got called into work, which means I've got the kids (not all that different, since I have the kids every day, but unexpected nonetheless). So, it might take me a bit to catch up. If you want to add your link in the comments, that should help things a LOT.

Now that we've got that out of the way, here are this week's questions. Enjoy!

1. This section is where we finally get to sneak a peek at the magic in The Gentleman Bastard sequence. From what we read, what are your initial impressions of the magic Lynch is using? Is there any way that Locke and Company would be able to get around the Bondsmage's powers?

2. Not a question, but an area for rampant speculation: If you want to take a stab at who you think the Grey King might be, feel free to do it here.

2.5 (since 2 wasn't really a question) Anyone see the Nazca thing coming? Anyone? Do you think there are more crazy turns like this in store for the book? Would you like to speculate about them here? (yes, yes you would)

3. When Locke says "Nice bird, arsehole," I lose it. EVERY TIME. And not just because I have the UK version of the book and the word arsehole is funnier than asshole. Have there been any other places in the books so far where you found yourself laughing out loud, or giggling like a crazy person on the subway?

4. By the end of this reading section, have your opinions changed about how clever the Bastards are? Do you still feel like they're "cleverer than all the rest?" Or have they been decidedly outplayed by the Grey King and his Bondsmage?

5. I imagine that you've probably read ahead, since this was a huge cliffhanger of an ending for the "present" storyline, but I'll ask this anyway: Where do you see the story going from here, now that the Grey King is thought to be dead?

6. What do you think of the characters Scott Lynch has given us so far? Are they believable? Real? Fleshed out? If not, what are they lacking?

7. Now that you've seen how clever Chains is about his "apprenticeships," why do you think he's doing all of this? Does he have an endgame in sight? Is there a goal he wants them to achieve, or is it something more emotional like revenge?




MY ANSWERS

1. In my first read-through, I would have answered that Locke would probably find a way. I mean, otherwise there's not really much of a novel, is there?

2. Since I know, I'll tell you who the Grey King isn't. He isn't Bug. There ya go. Major spoilers there.

2.5. Once the whole Nazca thing went down, I started to realize (to a small degree) that no one was off-limits. The situation suddenly felt a lot more dangerous for Locke and Co.

3. Far too many to count! The other one that brings a maniacal grin to my face, hasn't happened yet, though, so I'll wait until next week. Oh! I almost forgot the part where they climb down the tower. Yeah, that part gets me every time as well.

4. The first read-through, I was shocked. They got played, and they got played bad. I had really started to think that they'd find a way out of everything, but they Nazca....yeah.

5. No comment, except to say that the first time I was far too busy devouring pages to think about things like "the future."

6. I love Lynch's characters. If I had to fault them in any way, I'd say that for me the Sanza twins just seem a little too similar, and not quite filled out enough for me to be 100% invested in them. The same goes for Bug. It seems like Jean and Locke got a little better treatment as characters up to this point in the novel, that's for sure.

7. Pure speculation, but I think Chains simply wanted to create a new brand of thieves, to have a legacy as someone that created the greatest group of con-men in the history of a world that hadn't had many con-men to that point.


Well, have a great weekend, everyone! Also, check back at 10:30 or so (EST) for the first of three posts called Thoughts on Scott, where an author gives his opinion of what makes Scott Lynch's writing so great.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Darwin Conspiracy by John Darnton


Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2005)

Narrated by: Bernadette Quigley, David Colacci, and Buck Schirner

Blurb from Amazon.com: In this riveting new novel, bestselling author John Darnton transports us to Victorian England and around the world to reveal the secrets of a legendary nineteenth-century figure. Darnton elegantly blends the power of fact and the insights of fiction to explore the many mysteries attached to the life and work of Charles Darwin. What led Darwin to the theory of evolution? Why did he wait twenty-two years to write On the Origin of Species? Why was he incapacitated by mysterious illnesses and frightened of travel? Who was his secret rival? These are some of the questions driving Darnton’s richly dramatic narrative, which unfolds through three vivid points of view: Darwin’s own as he sails around the world aboard the Beagle; his daughter Lizzie’s as she strives to understand the guilt and fear that struck her father at the height of his fame; and that of present-day anthropologist Hugh Kellem and Darwin scholar Beth Dulcimer, whose obsession with Darwin (and with each other) drives them beyond the accepted boundaries of scholarly research. What Hugh and Beth discover - Lizzie’s diaries and letters lead them to a hidden chapter of Darwin’s autobiography - is a maze of bitter rivalries, petty deceptions, and jealously guarded secrets, at the heart of which lies the birth of the theory of evolution.

This audiobook hit several marks for me: entertaining, educational, excellent audio production. As a biologist by education and inclination, I've heard bits and pieces of Darwin's life over the years. In this book, John Darnton filled in many of the gaps for me with facts and then went a step further with some calculated guesswork.

Jumping back and forth between three timelines, the tale unfolds secrets from each bit by bit. Hugh Kellem has his past haunting with the death of a much-loved older brother. Beth Dulcimer has a murky, hidden past involving a mysterious generations-old adoption. We are introduced to them both on the island of Sin Nombre, in the Galapagos studying Darwin's finches.

Then we meet Darwin as a young man, trying to gain berth on a ship for an adventure. He eventually gets his place on The Beagle and we get to follow along on his adventures around the world.

The third timeline is told through Lizzie Darwin's letters and journals. She tries to ferret out her father's secrets and eventually has to carry them herself. She was the most interesting and engaging character for me.

I loved watching the modern day researchers, Hugh and Beth, try to figure out this old mystery, stumbling upon bits and pieces of Lizzie's journals. We first see Lizzie as a young lady, just barely coming into womanhood, snooping around her father's study. Then it skipped ahead some years to Lizzie, a woman in love and with secrets of her own.

Young Darwin was quite the adventurer and somewhat of an athlete - climbing, hiking, swimming, riding, etc. Him and his shipmates came into several scrapes with the native peoples of the places they visited. This is quite a contrast from the retired, sick Darwin of some years later. He is wracked by pain and recurring stomach illnesses, and perhaps guilt or regret.

The narrators (Quigley, Colacci, Schirner) brought these historical and fictional characters to life. Bernadette Quigley had such a rich voice for Lizzie, and precocious for the Young Lizzie. David Colacci and Buck Schirner brought Hugh Kellem and Young and Old Darwin to vibrancy.

++++: Multiple mystery lines, adventure from the days when the world was not wholey known, and I really enjoyed the answer to the Darwin mystery.

-: Occassionally the parts concerning modern-day sleuths Hugh and Beth were a little slow and I was eager to return to the past and Darwin's mysteries.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach


Publisher: W. W. Norton (2005)

Blurb from Amazon.com:
The best-selling author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers now trains her considerable wit and curiosity on the human soul. "What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?" In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.
If Mary Roach ever makes it to my neck of the woods for a guest lecture, I am dropping whatever I am doing and attending. Her books (this is the 4th I've read) are full of interesting tidbits and humor. She uses footnotes a lot and for most books, footnotes are a source of boredom and sighs. But I look forward to her footnotes because it means another intriguing, sometimes disgusting, piece of info is coming up.

Spook was an investigation into what humans have done to prove the existence of the afterlife. Ever thought of weighing a person as they die to see if the soul, as it leaves, causes a predictable weight loss? But we don't only weigh the souls of humans; we curious creatures also attempted to weigh the souls of mice, dogs, sheep, lambs, and goats. How about taking a course in becoming a medium? Follow along with Roach as she takes a tour-bus to the Donner Party camp ground in order to record the whispered messages of ghosts.

Descartes wasn't only a mathematician and philosopher; he also collected and dissected cow heads looking for evidence of the soul. However, Herophilus was the first to dissect humans looking for that elusive thing. Ever heard the term 'luz' or soul bone? It is a bone that can not be destroyed and houses the soul.

She went to India to explore the culture of reincarnation and she posed a very good question: If the culture expects it (reincarnation, spiritual hauntings, whatever), then isn't more likely to 'occur' and be accepted? She visited with a variety of scientists, like those looking into the effects on humans by infrasounds (very low notes). Could such low notes cause that eerie, creepy, 'I'm being watched' sensation? What about electromagnetic energy? Roach allows a scientist to zap her head in order to find out if she is susceptible to mini-seizure spiritual experiences.

The info on historical mediums that channeled spirits and produced ectoplasm was fascinating and hysterical. Often the ectoplasm was found to be cheesecloth, which under poor lighting, magically appearing from some hidden orifice (perhaps the vagina) caused the paying customers to gasp and believe in the channeled spirit.

+++++: I learned all sorts of odd bits of trivia (hearing last to go when loosing consciousness, Edison electrocuted and elephant and filmed it, most humans gain their writing maturity mid-teens), info is presented in a fun and questioning way, the author isn't afraid to ask those awkward, embarrassing questions.

-: I think it would have been interesting to have added a little about the American fascination with being frightened by a spirit; example: the plethora of haunted houses, even at permanent amusement parks. But this definitely wasn't needed to enjoy the book. I would just have loved to see what the author could turn up on that topic.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Patrimony by Alan Dean Foster


Publisher: Audible, Inc. (2009)

Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki

Blurb from Audible.com: In this new Pip & Flinx thriller, Alan Dean Foster displays the brilliance that has made him one of the brightest lights in science fiction. In Patrimony, fans will learn more about their favorite redhead - with emerald eyes, uncanny powers, and a poisonous minidrag - than they ever dreamed possible.

"I know who your father is . . . Gestalt."

A shocked Flinx hears these dying words from one of the renegade eugenicists whose experiments with humans 20-odd years ago shocked the galaxy...and spawned Flinx. So Flinx and his minidrag, Pip, venture to Gestalt, an out-of-the-way planet perfect for someone who never wants to be found - disregarding the advice of those who think Flinx could make better use of his time locating the ancient, sentient weapons platform that could be the galaxy's only chance of stopping the exterminating scourge that's fast approaching. Flinx might agree with them - but the quest for patrimony wins out. (Sorry, galaxy!)

Could Gestalt supply the key to Flinx's shadowy past and strange powers? An eccentric loner in a remote area of the distant planet could be he father Flinx has never stopped searching for, perhaps the only person who can unravel the mystery of Flinx's birth and his amazing, agonizing powers.

Unfortunately for Flinx, Gestalt also hosts a resident bounty hunter who's just learned about the stupendous reward offered for a certain dead redhead. Flinx gets a chance to test his adversary's skills when our hero's skimmer is blasted out of the sky and into a raging river in the middle of nowhere - a nowhere of impassable terrain and ravenous, carnivorous beasts.

But hey, what's one more impossible challenge for someone who's spent his life defying the odds and escaping the inescapable? Flinx has one thing going for him...plenty of experience.

I have been reading Alan Dean Foster, and in particular, the Flinx and Pip series for over 2 decades. Patrimony is the next to last book in this series, and I have been putting off reading it and the final book for the simple reason that I don't want to say goodbye to these characters.

Flinx is an empath, and perhaps something more, and has had many adventures with his companion, the flying minidrag Pip. She has done her best over the years to keep Flinx out of harm's way, and she is tested once again in this book. Flinx is driven to find out who his father is and he drops everything to try to track him down based on one slim piece of info. He is attacked on the landing pad of Gestalt right off the bat by some local fauna. It does not bode well for his long-term safety on this particular planet.

The locals are curious beings with a large eyeband, slim necks, and lots of cilia. They also lack any sense of smell and have quite a potent odor to humans. In addition, they have the unusual sense of picking up on a living organisms flee - basically their electromagnetic fields, much like Terran sharks.

Flinx conducts some research and does some interviews to try to find human individuals who match what little he can guess with an accuracy about his potential father. He then hires a skimmer transport and a local guide to take him to this outback place. That bounty hunter mentioned in the blurb above, yep he shows up and ruins Flinx's easy plans.

Stefan Rudnicki has one of the best voices out there. He could read the ingredients to wall joint compound and make it sound interesting and sexy. I loved listening to his voice as Flinx and he pronounced the unpronounceable alien names and words with finesses and ease.

++++: I love this series and there was little chance I wouldn't love this book, Flinx finally has his answers, Pip rescued Flinx again, the detail to the alien world and it's native inhabitants.

-: I'm one step closer to the end of this series... sigh.....



Monday, March 19, 2012

Hammered by Kevin Hearne


Publisher: Brilliance Audio, Inc. (2011)

Narrated by: Luke Daniels

Blurb from Audible.com: Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully - he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.
One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. But things are heating up in Atticus’s home base of Tempe, Arizona. There’s a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plane of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry gods, and the hammer-wielding Thunder Thug himself.

I am really enjoying this series, which Kevin Hearne started with Hounded, continued with Hexed, and now Hammered. In case you don't know, Atticus is a 2100 year old druid living in the desert southwest with his Irish wolfhound Oberon and training up a new druid, former barmaid Granuile.
In Hexed, Atticus had to compromise and make some promises to his lawyer, the Icelandic vampire Leif. Leif wants something next to impossible - he wants Atticus to join forces with him in taking on Thor, God of Thunder. Yeah, right. Sounds like suicide to me. And a great story.

First Atticus must set a few things right. He knows that if he keeps his promise, and survives, he won't be able to stay in Tempe, AZ any longer. He'll have the Norse pantheon after him, and probably after all those he cares about. So, first things first. He has to uphold his promise to Lakshmi, the Indian witch body snatcher. She wants one of Idun's golden apples, which will allow her to stay young and healthy for centuries. And that quest starts with a squirrel the size of a Mack truck. Folks, meet Ratatosk, the insult-shuttling squirrel of the World tree.

This was a great, wild ride of a book. Constantly, I wondered if Atticus was going to get handed his head, ever find his clothes again, take a spear in the gut, be forced to take out large, fuzzy, mythical animals, get laid. The balance between tension and humor is exquisite! It was hard to put this audiobook on pause and go make dinner, run the trash out, shower, etc.

Luke Daniels once again gave us an awesome performance. His pronunciation of the Russian and Nordic gods, along with the Scandinavian names of the Thor-Crushing Squad was excellent. I especially loved his voice for Ratatosk - it truly sounded like a large fuzzy hoarding nuts in his cheeks.

+++++: Excellent action scenes, humor in the face of death, Oberon is such a lovable character, the male-bonding chapters.

-: Purely my opinion, but I hope Kevin Hearne finds it in his heart to resurrect one the mythical characters that bites the dust (the first to go in this book).

Win a Free Copy of Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell

So, here were are, the dawning of a new age....or something. Anyway, today's my first every giveaway. That's right, free stuff! Just enter below and you can win a lovely copy of Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell, thanks to the wonderful people at Pyr SF. They're building quite the army of great YA authors, so you'd best take notice.

This is a very fun YA fantasy book, and I'm only going to do a mini review here since I want to get you straight to the free stuff.

I loved

  • The plot. It was interesting, and enjoyable for me to move back and forth in time and see what events caused others.
  • The humor. Though it feels at points like it's trying to hard, it still had me chuckling.
  • Widdershins relationship with her god. It's very interesting, and often the source of the book's best humor.
I hated

  •  Sometimes the humor seemed like it was trying too hard, and the long sentence structure didn't always sit well with the action scenes for me.

Now, you know I liked the book, but don't just take my word for it. Check out reviews here, here and here. It's also worth noting that the shiny white cover could be used to make your pet dog or cat go crazy chasing ghost lights, or deter would-be thieves, murderers and rapists by shining it in their eyes.

Some quick notes:

First, YOU MUST COMMENT ON THE POST in order to be eligible for the giveaway at all. Anything you do after that gets you an increased chance of winning, but without that comment I won't count your entry.

Second, YOU CAN TWEET ABOUT ONCE PER DAY. That's right, each tweet that you blast out into the ether during the six days that I'm running this giveaway will get you 10 extra points. Each Day! That's a lot! Now, to make sure that it's all working the way I'd like it to, just include @myawfulreviews in the tweet, and we'll be golden. :)

Third, THIS IS NOT INTERNATIONAL. Sorry guys, but I can't afford to go shipping books all over the world. So this is US only.


So, what are you waiting for? You've seen the book, you know it's shiny, now get entering!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Death Lands: Time Nomad by James Axler


Publisher: GraphicAudio (2006)

Narrated By: Richard Rohan plus full cast

Amazon Blurb: In the blasted heart of the new America, Ryan Cawdor and his band of warrior-survivalists search for hidden caches of food, weapons and technology the legacy of a preholocaust society stashed in lonely outposts known as redoubts.

When Ryan ingests bacteria-infested food, he lies near death his body paralyzed but his mind traveling rapidly back to his early days in the Deathlands...moving through the southwest on post-nuke vehicles called warwags...and his run-in with the Baron.

Towse, near what was once Albuquerque, is a ville in a freakishly beautiful landscape populated by scabbies and armed Apaches. Baron Alias Carson and his bejeweled wife, Sharona, welcom Ryan, J.B. Dix and the Tracker to their treacherous world.

In the Deathlands the past is a dream. The future is a nightmare.

This is bad, bad fiction. There, I was honest up front. But I sure as hell enjoyed this book. James Axler came up with a post-apocalyptic setting that intrigued me. Our main hero Ryan and his band start off exploring a redoubt for supplies and goodies. They sit down for a reconstituted meal and Ryan insists on eating some questionable fish meal. Needless to say, he becomes very ill and enters a coma-like state, at which point the reader is drawn into his past as he dreams.

The story from his past is set in what was once the US Desert Southwest and a fair chunk of the story takes place in and around Taos. This flash to his past allows the reader to 'relive' some of his sexual exploits (which were performed enthusiastically by the narrators). Aside from those hilarious moments, he and his boss, The Trader, have to figure out what kind of game Alias Carson is up to. The Trader and his war wagons had rolled into Taos to resupply - gas, food, amo, water, etc. They have gotten everything but the gas and The Trader is starting to suspect Carson plans to take their war wagons and is playing for time.

While Ryan tries to gain info from Alias Carson's wife, Sharona, The Trader and crew redouble their sentry patrols on the war wagons and quietly prepare for a fire fight.

Otherwise, while Ryan lies dreaming of his past, his buddies are trapped in this redoubt. They have water, air, and food to last for years. But as with any caged animal, they want out. When, and if, Ryan regains consciousness will they be able to escape?

So, if this was bad fiction, why did I stick with it? Well, I recently finished two big classics and needed some brain candy, it was only 6 CDs, the main character with his murky past and single eyeball was intriguing, and the audio production was incredible.

Richard Rohan was our main narrator for this GraphicAudio production and I enjoyed his even pacing. The full cast, with music and background sound effects, was amazing. It really brought this book to life and made it very enjoyable.

+++: Post-apocalyptic desert Southwest setting, intriguing characters, mutants, strong female characters with practical clothing and weapons, enthusiastic noisy bedroom scenes (can tell the cast had to get all the giggles out before recording these scenes!), audio production was superb.

---: I lost count of how many sexual encounters the main character had, cheesy lines here and there.