Categories
Science Fiction

Daros by Dave Dobson (Book Review)

When I jumped into the book tour for Daros last month to interview Dave Dobson, I knew I wouldn’t have time to read the book beforehand.  I did want to read it though.  I finally finished after weeks of putting it off at the 55% ish point and just telling myself “come on, you can finish this book!”

There are many well executed parts that kept me vaguely interested.  Overall though this book just did not flow well for me.  It was hard to focus, I couldn’t see the imagery, and it felt like it took far too long to explain itself in one point of view.  I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying the book though since it has overwhelmingly positive feedback from many trusted Sci Fi reviewers

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Daros
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Dave Dobson
  • Publisher & Release: Self published, May 2021
  • Length: 415 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐✨   I would say try if you like the genre and synopsis

Here’s the synopsis:

High above Daros, sixteen-year-old Brecca Vereen prepares to unload a cargo of trade goods aboard her father’s ship, the Envy’s Price. Nellen Vereen shows her a mysterious artifact bound for a contact below, one that will earn them a lot of credits, and one that they definitely won’t be declaring to customs.

Materializing out of nowhere, alien invaders fire upon all ships, destroy the jump gate, and knock out communications. The Envy’s Price is crippled, and as her father tries to guide it down from orbit, Brecca rescues the illicit artifact and jettisons in a life pod to an uncertain fate below.

On the flagship of the invading fleet, Navigator Frim tries to persist within the cruel autocracy of the Zeelin Hegemony, under constant threat of death, but wishing for something better. And then she notices a whisper of radiation above Daros – the trail of a cloaked Vonar ship. What are they doing in the midst of all this? And will the captain kill her just for revealing this disagreeable news?

I don’t know if it was my mood or what reading this but I just never got fully engaged with Daros.  It was an SPSFC semifinalist with overwhelmingly positive feedback so I am willing to chalk it up to my mood and possibly the format – I read ePUB on the ReadEra reader and it can be hard to interact with this at times.

OK let’s start with the positive – In itself, the plot is a good idea.  There’s an alien invasion and humans are caught in the crossfire.  The issue is that we don’t know why they are invading or what artifact on the surface is being protected for quite a while.  There’s plenty of action interspersed throughout the book too but after an exciting beginning and interesting ending, I found a lot of the middle dragging.

Character wise, I liked our main character Brecca.  She’s funny, resourceful, and took the events in stride better than most teenagers would.  Frim’s storyline, according to the author, was written into the plot later and I think it shows.  The chapters come in alternating points of view and it was hard to tell what was happening in Frim’s at first.  I don’t think we got enough Zeelin backstory to make me care about her even once her goals and that of the fleet became apparent.

The first contact elements to me were the best thing that Dobson did in this book.  It was funny, entertaining, and realistic that the human and Zeelin would be eyeing each other trying to figure out what, for example, each facial feature was for.  The comparison of oral openings was my favorite part of the entire novel – and what the heck are THOSE slits for? Exactly. He only dropped it once when the Zeelin magically learned what the human body parts were called for a minute, then they snapped back into character.

As with any space opera, you’d better believe there is also a snarky ship’s AI.  I liked the Lyra and Brecca dynamic. The banter and reasoning back and forth was excellent.  Every AI has a “thing” and I liked Dobson’s concept of reasoning through the ethical codes and such.  As much as I liked Lyra – this is where my readers groan – SJW commentary always shuts me off, which is ironic as a SciFi fan, but I’m not here to be lectured about things like gender, and the ship got a little high-horsed about it

That said, I did ok with some of the imagery but Dobson’s descriptive language didn’t give me a great idea of what certain things like ships and characters looked like.  I pictured the Zeelin as upright walking crocodiles without the long noses, for example.

I don’t have any real complaints about the book but it just dragged overall for me despite having many great elements. I have also been reading a TON of sci-fi recently and maybe I need a break.  All the space opera elements are there AND you get plenty of entertainment as you go.  Also make sure to read the chapter titles, they are entirely punny

Thanks to Escapist Tours and the author for providing me an ecopy to read!

Categories
Science Fiction

Book Tour & Giveaway: At the Threshold of the Universe by T.A. Bruno

Thank you endlessly to T.A. Bruno for the beautiful hardcover of At the Threshold of the Universe! Do ya all see the 4th quote down🤪

I’m so glad that Escapist Tours picked up the tour for the end of the trilogy.  I’m a huge fan of the series and it came to a whopping conclusion. Bruno not only wrapped up the storylines but created this amazingly intense backstory for the events leading up to the start of the first novel and eventual fall of the solar system.  There is a proper balance of nostalgia and forward motion to tie everything together and bring The Song of Kamaria to an epic conclusion!

You can find the giveaway and other info below.  I also linked to the Sunday Brunch Series feature that we did before if anyone wants to further “meet the author”!

Cover

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: At the Threshold of the Universe
  • Series: The Son of Kamaria, #3
  • Author: T.A. Bruno
  • Publisher & Release: Self Published, May 2022
  • Length: 496 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨yes 100% recommend to SFF readers or anyone looking for an adventure

Here’s the Synopsis:

ALL SONGS END.

War ravages Kamaria as an old enemy resurfaces from the depths of the ocean. Offering no support in the coming battles, the Auk’nai isolate themselves in their tightly guarded Nest. Outgunned and outmatched, humanity once again trembles on the edge of obliteration.

The Castus family is torn apart. Denton fights on the front lines, hoping to free Cade from a nightmarish foe. Meanwhile, Eliana and Nella set out on a path that will change everything they understand about the Sirens. The Song will end, but who will remain to hear its final verse?

I didn’t think he would take it easy on the characters but was not ready for how perfectly devastating this book would be.  The depth of suffering in the final battle for humanity … Was actually probably appropriate, I wouldn’t have loved the book if he had done anything less.

I liked how I pretty much spent the entire book chewing my nails for the characters. Extinction was a very plausible conclusion as things got bleaker and bleaker for the remaining humans – and I didn’t let my figurative breath out until it was over.

That said – you guys already know that these scenes play out like a movie.  Everything is laid out for the imagination and the authors experience in cinema and visual storytelling is apparent as war rages between moments of quiet in Kamaria’s magical settings.  It reads like scifi on a fantasy planet and it works here.

The backstory was my favorite part.  Cade is able to learn the history of the Undriel through the eyes of the leader and generals and now we finally know how the machines began and why they pushed humanity out of the solar system. There are some curve balls to keep it interesting and at no point does he drop the general feeling and tone of the rest of the book.

Nella separately learns the history of the Sirens and I’ll admit that this part went a bit over my head with the timelines and tasks. It had its moments though and hey, now we know. 

We also get many memorable quotes as things go to hell for Denton and the Marines.  Combs said this in one of the last quiet moments of the story and it merits repeating:

I had that pegged as one of the flagship passages of the book and it was an accurate guess!

Many characters in the series are memorable in both life and death.  In war some deaths are heroic and others are utterly pointless. I did like how that was reflected, as well as how the memories are carried forward.

In all honestly I did dock half a star for … This is painful but the editing wasn’t quite there in this one.  The first two books were nearly flawlessly edited and this one is just not up to par. It’s a personal preference and typos throw me out of immersion like nothing else, although the rest of the books presentation is stellar

The section and chapter artwork is another extra touch that makes this feel like a classic scifi read.

Overall …. I mean this is one of my favorite independently published series out there and I think he did the conclusion full justice.  It’s action packed, cinematic, in the feels, epic in scope, and you just want to shield the entire human race from any further harm.  I think giving Talulo the last word of the Song and Cade the epilogue was a good touch too, we can’t forget how much the Auk’nai also lost. 

100% no hesitation to recommend this series to anyone! Thank you again to Escapist Book Tours and the author for having me on the tour!


Alright now that I’ve hopefully gotten everyone interested in the series (p.s. In The Orbit of Sirens is an SPSFC finalist)!  Here is the giveaway:

At the Threshold of the Universe giveaway

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/79e197ac30/ enter here, open now and ends 6/22!

Book Links:

Amazon Series Page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09B4YVKGT
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60484283-at-the-threshold-of-the-universe

Meet the author!

T. A. Bruno grew up in a suburb south of Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is the proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife.

Author Website: TABruno.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/TABrunoAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TABrunoAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TABrunoAuthor

There’s also the Sunday Brunch Series interview to check out for more info! https://onereadingnurse.com/2021/08/22/sunday-brunch-author-interview-series-featuring-t-a-bruno/

Categories
Science Fiction Thrillers Young Adult

Exo by Fonda Lee (Book Thoughts)

I’ve been on a sci-fi binge recently and have absolutely no regrets about picking up Exo by Fonda Lee. Everyone talks about The Green Bone Saga books but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Exo on Bookstagram or Twitter, so here we are.

YA scifi is totally hit or miss and I only have good things to say about Exo. Content and theme wise I’m all about this one both as a sci-fi and YA book! (If you see Categories – I also gave this one credit as a thriller because it’s more action than ideology based, although there’s plenty of both).

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Exo
  • Series: Exo #1 (Duology)
  • Author: Fonda Lee
  • Publisher & Release: Scholastic Press, January 2017
  • Length: 384
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for Sci-fi thriller and YA fans

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one…

Excellent synopsis, ok here we go. So Earth is now a few generations post invasion and governed by an alien race. Humans are part of the government and enjoy many rights, they have been given advanced alien technology in including these fused Exocels, protection from other alien races, and many other benefits

There’s a faction of humans that didn’t benefit so much though and have turned into a terrorist organization called Sapience. Donovan’s security patrols are primarily concerned with rooting these terrorists out, although *most* are smalltime offenders.

Long story short, things go badly and Donovan gets thrown into the world of Sapience.  He has literal and figurative bombshells thrown at him and learns both sides of the war.  He sees the face of “evil” and ultimately faces legitimate moral conflicts involving family, loyalty, the alien races, and the big picture of Earth’s survival.

The ideas of nature vs nurture and natural vs unnatural are huge themes in this book. The main character has significant life changing events that allows him to see both sides of the story and I think this is great for YA readers.  Both of Donovan’s parents had terrible choices to make and also made terrible choices, and isn’t it eventually the child’s burden to sort this out and make their own choices? Yes, and Lee NAILS this 

There’s also first contact from the perspective of the leader of the alien race. This is an interesting choice and not done so frequently.  He comes to survey Earth and has never seen humans before, even though the aliens on Earth have grown up with humans and protect/care for them. The leader is like “ew, the hell are these little squishy things and why do they have Exos? Do we need to save these things?”

Another thing I appreciate is the LANGUAGE! World appropriate slang that is based off the Zhree (alien) language is a great touch.  Tell me again why SFF books need modern day swearing, especially in YA … they don’t!

Lastly a note on the characters – I liked Donovan and Jet too.  Jet is a saint and Donovan is lucky to have him as a best friend.  I do think the little romance could have been cut out but it was clean and gave the characters incentive to bridge the gap between their politics.

Overall: fast moving plot, plotting, frequent action, great characters, micro and macro threats, family… This is a really solid Young Adult book and I think some adults may enjoy it as well.

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series – Featuring Dave Dobson!

Happy Sunday again! Brunch is back, this time in conjunction with Escapist Book Tours
 
 
Episode 23 features Daros author Dave Dobson and a giveaway.  Thanks for my digital copy to read too!
 
Daros is a space opera that made it to the semifinal round of the current SPSFC! I’m happy to have a feature on the tour and will share book and giveaway details at the end. For now let’s jump in!
 

 
🍳Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?
 
🎤I’ve taken part in several sediment drilling expeditions on ships. The longest one was for two months on the JOIDES Resolution off the coast of Brazil as part of the Ocean Drilling Program.
 
🍳What’s your brunch order like?
 
🎤Pretty much waffles, french toast, pancakes – anything with syrup. And at brunch you can usually grab a bunch of bacon or sausage when nobody’s looking, if it’s a buffet. Otherwise, I have to order a reasonable amount. My grandma used to make me bacon nearly every morning when we visited, so it always reminds me of those times out in California.
 
🍳I know this is a Daros interview but Snood was the first game that anyone in my family ever got hooked on – and you were the designer? That’s amazing! Can you talk about it?
 
🎤Sure! Snood was a really great experience for me, and it still gives me a little bit of third-rate celebrity, although it’s faded a bit from the public mindset. It started as this game I made for my wife, and then I ended up releasing it as shareware using the free web space they gave all Michigan students back in 1996. I had released a couple other games that way, games I wrote when I was supposed to be working on my research. Snood really took off that year and the next, mostly among Mac users on college campuses, and it became a national thing a few years later after an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that got picked up in syndication and hit newspapers all over the country, back when newspapers were a primary way people got information. There have been at least 30 million downloads of the game (although that’s a little hard to calculate). The number of people who actually paid for it is significantly smaller.
 
My favorite part of the whole experience was hearing from players who were having fun with the game. For the first few years, all of the payments came in via postal mail, because nobody was used to paying for things online. That meant I would go out to my mailbox every day and find a few letters, sometimes more (the biggest day I remember was over 30 different letters), from all over the world, many of them with crumpled $10 bills inside, most of them with a nice note.
 
The weirdest thing that ever happened to me was actually being identified from my grainy website picture at a movie theater in Ann Arbor as the Snood guy. I had no idea people were even paying attention to that. Once we had T-shirts and other clothes, I liked wearing them to public places like amusement parks. Sometimes people would point at the shirt and say, “Hey, I play that game,” and I’d be able to say that I wrote it. It was super cheesy and self-indulgent, but it was really fun, and I got to meet some players that way. My favorite one of those was in a random motel elevator in Wyoming when I was with my dad. He thought that was really fun.
 
🍳There are a ton of gamers here too, can you tell us some pearls about your game design life/career/etc?
 
🎤 I don’t know about pearls, but I’ve always been a gamer and a game designer. Video games were born (at least in mainstream life) during my childhood, and I would save all the money I had to go to the local video arcades with my friends. Once we got a computer, I taught myself programming and started making games. They were terrible, but it was really fun, and it’s a hobby (and eventually a business) that I’ve kept up ever since. Even before that, I loved playing board games and card games, and I used to design them when I was a kid and make my friends and family play them. Some of them were really spectacularly bad. I can remember this Roy Rogers game I made, where you moved around this track with events happening to you, and the way I designed the board, you had to roll a 3 and then a 6, or you’d get sent back to the corral and have to start over. It was impossible. My parents played for maybe 20 minutes, and my brother for a little longer, but that wasn’t one of my successes. More recently, I’ve put out a set of puzzle card games, the Dr. Esker’s Notebook series. Getting a bunch of those printed and starting to sell them has been really fun (and a little scary, sending a bunch of money overseas), but it has all the excitement of the early days of Snood.
 
🍳 Ok, Daros!  Your book is in SPSFC 08! How was the competition experience for you as an author?
 
[Note: Daros was a semi-finalist – didn’t make the finals. Placed 15th out of 377]
It was really, really fun. My fellow authors formed a really strong community, reading and promoting each other’s books. The judges are all volunteers, and they put a ton of work and thought into their reviews and evaluations, and most of them ended up being big supporters of the indie authors who took part also. I’m so grateful to Hugh Howey and Duncan Swan for running it, and also to the fantasy precursor to the SPSFC, Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO. I’ve entered that a few times, and it has a similar supportive community and really neat vibe.
 
🍳I love asking authors why they chose specific magic or precious or valuable items – so the valuable green Chevron that Becca was in possession of – a random choice or a real life object??
 
🎤That was just something I added when I wrote the second chapter of the book. It has nothing to do with real life, just an object. I usually write without a firm plan in place (in writer lingo, I’m a pantser), so when I added that, I knew it should probably end up being important to the story, but I had no idea what it was or what it did. I didn’t really figure that out until about 70% of the way through the book, when I started figuring out what the big story was and how it might end.
 
🍳Daros is pretty funny despite some tough subject matter! I love the chapter titles!  Did you originally set out to write a book with humor or did it get more or less light as you went?
 
My kids and my students and my long-suffering wife will tell you that I’m nearly always looking for a way to make a joke, so I like to include humor in all of my books. Some of them are funnier than others, but I try in all of them to include a full range of emotions – they’re not just full of gags. In Daros, the relationship between Brecca and Lyra was a great spark for humor, and Frim’s unusual situation was also a way to get at some humor, sometimes pretty dark.
 
The silly chapter titles are something I do in all my books. I started with Flames Over Frosthelm back in 2019, and I had a lot of fun with it, so I’ve done it in every book since.  Daros has some of my favorites, some of them real groaners.
 
🍳Do you have favorite themes to write about, and if so how did they manifest in Daros?
 
🎤I love reading books where the main character is somebody you can cheer for. I don’t need them to be perfect, but I do need them to be trying to help others and have a strong sense of right and wrong and of justice. So, that’s what I tend to write. I love an interesting villain, but I’m much more drawn to heroes, especially people who are forced into challenging situations and have to muddle through. That’s why Frim is how she is in Daros – I wanted to include somebody from the invading alien force as a narrator character, but I hit upon the idea of having that person be a secret rebel. That let me like Frim (and it also put her in danger, which was cool) while still revealing more about the Zeelin’s culture and goals.
 
 
🍳Here is the rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  favorite author? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character?
 
🎤Favorite authors are numerous. Some that I like a lot are William Goldman, Nnedi Okorafor, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Scalzi, and Ursula K. Leguin. I’m a total sucker for the John Carter books – I loved them as a kid, and they’re obviously dated and sometimes problematic today, but they were romantic, thrilling, and exciting as anything. I try to model my writing after The Princess Bride – an engaging story that you end up caring a lot about, but with a lot of fun along the way. A lesser-known personal favorite is Bridge Of Birds by Barry Hughart (and the sequels). A really great story about a charming pair of friends having a grand adventure in ancient China.
 
 
🍳Thank you for joining Sunday Brunch! If there’s anything else you want to add or say about anything at all, please do so here!
 
🎤Thanks so much for having me – these have been fun questions to answer. If anybody wants to write, I love getting email from readers (or Snood fans) – just drop me a line at dave@davedobsonbooks.com.
 

Author Bio & Links
 
A native of Ames, Iowa, Dave loves writing, reading, boardgames, computer games, improv comedy, pizza, barbarian movies, and the cheaper end of the Taco Bell menu. Also, his wife and kids.
In addition to his novels, Dave is the author of Snood, Snoodoku, Snood Towers, and other computer games. Dave first published Snood in 1996, and it became one of the most popular shareware games of the early Internet. His most recent project (other than writing) is Doctor Esker’s Notebook, a puzzle card game in the spirit of escape rooms.
Dave taught geology, environmental studies, and computer programming at Guilford College for 24 years, and he does improv comedy every week at the Idiot Box in Greensboro, North Carolina. He’s also played the world’s largest tuba in concert. Not that that is relevant, but it’s still kinda cool.
 

Giveaway info! 

Prize: An eBook, Audiobook, or Signed Paperback copy of Daros!
Starts: June 6, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: June 12, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/79e197ac28/

Categories
Science Fiction

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (Book Thoughts)

Well – I have completed my Murderbot read through and have no regrets. There are more stories coming in the MB franchise – I am not sure when or if I will read them, but I enjoyed this quite a bit.

Hate to end on a sour note but by and by far Fugitive Telemetry was my least favorite of all the stories for multiple reasons. I’ll be brief!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Fugitive Telemetry
  • Series: The Murderbot Diaries #6 (chronologically it’s 4.5)
  • Author: Martha Wells
  • Publisher & Release: TorDotCom, April 2021
  • Length: 172 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 if you decide to read it, do so between Exit Strategy and Network Effect

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!


My thoughts

I got off to a bad and confused start with this one because I thought it would have taken place after Network Effect. I was expecting something wildly different and was excited to see if MB took ART’s job offer.

All I wanted to do was watch media and not exist. I said, “You know I don’t like fun”

That said, Fugitive Telemetry falls chronologically as book number 4.5, after  Murderbot brought Mensah home and apparently took some contracts with Preservation Security before it went on the survey with Amena and Art and co.

I do only plan to read future installments if the storyline picks back up after Network Effect

So what’s this one about? It was like one of those locked door type who dunit mysteries, with the main conflict being Murderbot trying to fit in on Preservation as a SecUnit without scaring anyone.

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall, for fuck’s sake

Favorite side character this time…. Goes to Pin-Lee of all people!

Pin-Lee had promised, “Don’t worry, I’ll preserve your right to wander off like an asshole anytime you like.” (I said, “It takes one to know one”)

The mystery was interesting enough but I didn’t love the new side characters, and the culprit just did not make sense to me at all.  I honestly don’t know what the heck happened, 20 or 40 years or whatever seems like a long time for a program to lie dormant and what, just wait there incase there were fugitives? Who ever even set it off? I am so confused.

Also the action was a lot weaker and I wasn’t feeling the banter as much either, although the food particles bits were funny. Murderbot  really hates when humans touch everything and leave their food trash lying around.

Trying to get humans not to touch dangerous things was a full-time job

3 stars for this one and I feel like that is generous but it did explore my favorite sci-fi theme, which is where AI fits into society ethically

Categories
Science Fiction

Prison of Sleep by Tim Pratt (ARC Review, Book Tour)

Once again thank you so much to Angry Robot for introducing me to another great author and allowing me to participate in their online book tours!!

51ruzzqzshL._AC_SY780_

Prison of Sleep is Tim Pratt’s followup to Doors of Sleep, review can be seen here.  While I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book, I think it’s a solid duology and would definitely recommend reading them for fans of the genre!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Prison of Sleep
  • Series: The Journals of Zaxony Delatree #2
  • Author: Tim Pratt
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 4/26/22
  • Length: 400 pages (p.s. what is it with Angry Robot and 400 pages?? Stay tuned while I continue to nag them on twitter for answers regarding this utmost mystery LOL)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡for fans of sci-fi adventures, the multiverse

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

After escaping the ruthless Lector, Zax Delatree has a new enemy to fight in the sequel to Doors of Sleep.

Every time Zaxony Delatree falls asleep he wakes up on a new world. His life has turned into an endless series of brief encounters. But at least he and Minna, the one companion who has found a way of travelling with him, are no longer pursued by the psychotic and vengeful Lector.

But now Zax has been joined once again by Ana, a companion he thought left behind long ago. Ana is one of the Sleepers, a group of fellow travellers between worlds. Ana tells Zax that he is unknowingly host to a parasitic alien that exists partly in his blood and partly between dimensions. The chemical that the alien secretes is what allows Zax to travel. Every time he does, however, the parasite grows, damaging the fabric of the Universes. Anas is desperate to recruit Zax to her cause and stop the alien.

But there are others who are using the parasite, such as the cult who serve the Prisoner – an entity trapped in the dimension between universes. Every world is like a bar in its prison. The cult want to collapse all the bars of the worlds and free their god. Can Zax, Minna, Ana and the other Sleepers band together and stop them?

I believe it is hard to talk about sequels without hinting at spoilers, so I will keep this review very broad and not spoil anything!

The Plot & Story: I definitely think that idea wise, Prison of Sleep was the more interesting of the two books.  We get the history of both the Cult of the Worm and of The Sleepers. While Zax’s storyline was equally interesting and engaging, Ana’s ended up being more of an info dump that unfortunately slowed the story down and also confused me relentlessly regarding the timelines. (I mentally confused Zax’s battle with the attack on Sleeperhold at first and contextually it was hard to s

I won’t spend a ton of time on world building, but as far as history goes and my understanding of the book’s multiverse – A+ by the end. This is one of the more interesting creation stories I have read – I just can’t discuss it for spoilers.

The Characters: Ana is the most prominent new character.  Her point of view is introduced and used to fill in our knowledge gaps as she tells of her travels, training, and experiences with the Sleepers.  That said, I just wasn’t as interested in her and her voice sounded a lot like Zax’s at times.

Zaveta was Zax’s new travelling partner and I liked her! She was funny without meaning to be, and occasionally when she meant to be.  Her warrior attributes were a good counterbalance to Zax’s unaggressive approach.

One thing was that Zax didn’t really get to be the hero in this one – I think I expected him to be the hero.  Don’t we always expect the MC’s to be the hero? ((Food for thought)). It didn’t affect my rating but struck me that he was more of the passive observer this time while dear, dear Minna and Vicki came back in a big way this time.

I also continued to like the chapter headlines as a summary of coming events!

Overall: This duology is good for fans of the multiverse, sci-fi adventures, and unconventional heroes.  There is plenty of recap incase anyone forgot important parts of book one, but this is not going to read as a standalone.  My main issue came with Ana’s POV and how she inadvertently confused my timelines – 100% on me. The book is out now for everyone interested!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series – featuring Chris Panatier!

As part of the Angry Robot Books tour for Stringers, I am entirely thrilled to chat with Chris Panatier on episode 21 of the Sunday Brunch Series!!

IMG_20220409_154307_502

I reviewed Stringers here, now let’s focus on the author!  There were some other recent interviews included in the tour (check them out!) so I went a little out there and asked about everyday heroes, short fiction, dog-goats, and so much more.

Here he is!


🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?

🎤Thanks for having me! I guess one fact is that I know how to glue on fake eyelashes

Screenshot_20220424-092741

🥞Do you or your main character have a favorite Brunch food?

🎤My favorite brunch food is probably eggs benedict or like a giant hash. Ben’s favorite brunch is anything he can cancel out later with healthier food. Patton’s favorite brunch is drugs.

🥞My two favorite character archetypes are “morally gray” and “irredeemable jerk”, therefore I loved the snarky bounty hunter Aptat.  Is there anything you would be able to share about the character?

🎤This is a great question! I’m so happy Aptat came along. I have found myself drawn to exploring characters who eschew moral codes and Aptat was a perfect way to play with the freedom one has when they feel no longer bound to an ethical framework. Even though Aptat is a self-described “bespoke” flesh construct and decidedly not human, they give us one perspective of how some might choose to behave in a lawless state of nature. Aptat loves to point out that moral codes only work so long as everyone is in on the plan—which they are not. And while these are all serious discussion points, I wanted Aptat to be fun. They love the Real Housewives of television fame, pop music, and dancing. And what Aptat lacks in morals, they make up for in blistering commentary—they are free-wheeling, with a come-what-may attitude which I thought to be a natural extension of their freedom from societal norms of conduct.

🥞 In both Stringers and The Phlebotomist your main human characters avoid tropes. They are everyday people thrust into bizarre situations where their heroic capacity is tested! Is this your preferred approach to character writing?

🎤 The funny thing about both books is that neither main character has to go through some transformation to become heroic. I think that both Willa Wallace and Ben Sullivan ended up taking actions that most people would take in the same circumstances. Does this mean that most people have heroic capacity? Maybe—if it’s for the right reasons. Willa and Ben are driven only by what motivates them and their actions stem from that. As for tropes? Tropes are tropes because they work, I guess. They’re compelling and interesting. The only tropes I tend to stay away from are those where an ordinary person transforms into an extraordinary one. I rarely find those arcs believable as I think human beings, at least, are who they are. Now, you may not know it until they are tested and it may surprise, but it’s only because they hadn’t been in that situation before that we hadn’t seen the “hero” potential.

🥞Do we want to know what your Google search history looked like during your research for Stringers??

🎤 No comment. But I will say, hypothetically, that the very first search might have been very similar to this: “bug that fucks itself in the head”.

🥞What is the most valuable (or entertaining) feedback you’ve gotten so far about Stringers?

🎤 The thing that has made me most happy is that people have seen the serious stories woven into Stringers amid all the jokes. There are some big emotional pieces to the book and I’m glad people are finding them and they are hitting. The most entertaining feedback has to be the love for Mr. Pickles. It’s just a jar of pickles. Totally inanimate. And yet it’s pickles 24/7. Not complaining at all, I love it.

🥞I know this is the Stringers tour but I’ve enjoyed tracking down and reading some of your short fiction!  Which stories would you point new readers to?

🎤 Oh that’s lovely! My short fiction is way different than my books. Two suggests. For those who enjoy longer, more fleshed out science fiction, I have one longish story about conflicting clans of octopuses trying to get home to their planet (yes octopuses are not from Earth, this is science) called “The Eighth Fathom” and it was published in Metaphorosis Magazine. A short one I love to this day is called “Angels of Purgatory” and it was published in The Molotov Cocktail Magazine and a winner of one of their flash contests. All my shorties are on my website here: https://chrispanatier.com/short-stories/ 

Will you share a picture of your dog-goat?

This is Gretel. Tell me that this animal isn’t at least part goat:

Screenshot_20220424-092715

🥞 A while back you were writing about a Sci-Fi Trilogy that you were working on, is there any chance of that ever coming to fruition? Do I dare ask what it was about?

🥞 I wonder if that was my very first project—it probably was. Like a lot of writers, I had Big Dreams™ for my first novel, but also a pretty realistic appreciation for what it would take to get published. Of course, that didn’t stop me from daydreaming about how huge it might, could, maybe, possibly get. After 80+ rejections from agents I recalibrated my expectations. Lolol. Anyway, it’s a portal fantasy/sci-fi tale about a girl trying to save her brother. I still love the core of the story and expect to return to it in the future.

🥞Here is the rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  Last 5 star read? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character?

🥞I think all books get five stars because, look, you wrote a book. That said, I really have to recommend The Despicable Fantasies of Quentin Sergenov by Preston Fassel. That novella is fantastic. Ex-pro wrestler gets kicked out of the league for being gay, gets turned into a velociraptor and seeks revenge. Splatterpunk, but like, literary. For a series, I always recommend the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer. Favorite literary character is a tie between Randy Marsh of Southpark (do cartoon scripts count as literature?) and Portia the spider from Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. 

🥞 Thank you for joining Sunday Brunch! If there’s anything else you want to add or say about anything at all, please do so here!

🎤Thanks for having me!


Meet the Author:

Chris Panatier lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, daughter, and a fluctuating herd of animals resembling dogs (one is almost certainly a goat). He writes short stories and novels, “plays” the drums, and draws album covers for metal bands. Chris’s debut novel, The Phlebotomist, was on the “Recommended Reading” list for Bram Stoker Award 2020. Plays himself on twitter @chrisjpanatier.

Check out the other book tour stops!

stringers online tour week 3

Categories
Adventure Science Fiction

Network Effect by Martha Wells (Book Thoughts)

Hi friends! I normally don’t post every day but I am absolutely heck-bent on catching up with my book reviews. I’m almost there too!

One of the reasons that I read so many this month was due to the Murderbot novellas – shorter, quick, four “books” for the time investment of one.

That all said, I finally finished the full length novel and …. man I have mixed thoughts about the franchise. Not Network Effect, I LOVED Network Effect, but the franchise itself.  I expected the book to be something different but it started right near the end of Exit Strategy and kept the story going, although in a new direction.

This was a point where if I were a human (ick) I might have laughed. I decided to go with my first inclination and kill the shit out of some ass-faced hostiles instead – MB

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Network Effect
  • Series: The Murderbot Diaries, #5
  • Author: Martha Wells 
  • Publisher & Release: TorDotCom, May 2020
  • Length: 348 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes yes yes all the yes

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction?

Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

“I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.”

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

The first thing I want to point out is that while this advertises as a standalone, I truly do not think it would read well as a standalone.  Yes there is some background given but the reader would miss the entire ART storyline, and so many others, if they were to read this first and I highly do not recommend it.  My verdict: read in publication order

…granted while I have been a key factor in certain clusterfucks of giant proportions…

-MB

Murderbot is back, Mensah is back, ART is back!! Side character wise though, this time we focus more on Mensah’s daughter Amena as well as Arada, Overse, Ratthi, and a new character Thiago.

I do enjoy that the other members of PreservationAux got some time in the spotlight! Ratthi kept the peace, Overse was the backbone, Arada was a rockstar, and Thiago was like the poor overprotective father figure along for the ride (who ended up being a huge player too).

Enough nonsense – the Murderbot + ART reunion was everything. EVERYTHING.  One more time for the people in the back: EVERYTHING!

The good thing about being a construct is that I can have a dramatic emotional breakdown while still running my background search

These two are the most dramatic AI’s ever, and I found it hilarious that Amena (the teenager) got in between and was so good at helping them navigate, as well as Ratthi.  When MB locked itself in the bathroom and a half hour later the other two came in – ha ha omg. The emotion was so real

Anyone who thinks machine intelligences don’t have emotions needs to be in this very uncomfortable room right now

– Ratthi

Besides the banter and characters, which is really everything, and the complex emotions and meditation on humanity of tbe bots, constructs, humans, and modified humans (😂)  the action really was quite good as well.

I never was bored reading, even if the plot got a bit convoluted toward the end and Wells lost me, just a bit.  The plot truly never turned into what I thought it would, and the blending of action and ethic was masterful.

I also liked the “3” storyline but you’ll have to read to find out about that one.  It did go to show that MB might not be the only not entirely evil SecUnit 

One more weird anomaly in this unending cycle of ‘whatthefuck’

-MB

Odds and ends: My biggest regret was that I missed the titular name drop in the book.  Usually the title ends up in a dramatic moment somewhere in the book.  There is also a little bit more actual science in this one, finally, but not much.  I felt like the first contact, alien remnant, virus, even medical suite action brought this a little more towards traditional sci-fi as well as how the humans interfaced with ART.

My recommendation: read the series, read the series, read the series – thru your local library or Libby or KU if possible

Categories
Adventure Science Fiction

Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (Book Thoughts)

I was bummed out by Rogue Protocol, but Exit Strategy was my favorite of the novellas so far!

Murderbot is finally going to confront both enemies and friends, taking on GrayCris to rescue Dr. Mensah and hopefully bring those fuckers down!  MB has interpreted messages that imply Mensah is being held for ransom while the PreservationAux team stalls until she can be retrieved or rescued

Enter one planetary sized standoff between GrayCris, the Corporation (MB’s original owners), and one more private company hired to bring down Murderbot

It would have been hilarious if I wasn’t about to die. Ok, it was still a little hilarious

It’s gonna need a heck of an exit strategy 😉

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Exit Strategy
  • Series: The Murderbot Diaries – #4
  • Author: Martha Wells
  • Publisher & Release: Tordotcom, October 2018
  • Length: 163 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ since I could read on Libby.  I 100% think the publisher should be ashamed for splitting one book up into 4 novellas and charging so much!

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right?

Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading home to help Dr. Mensah—its former owner (protector? friend?)—submit evidence that could prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit.

But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue?

And what will become of it when it’s caught?

This final novella in the original series was fast paced and action packed from start to finish.  The security standoff on the corporate planet was crazy. I was as surprised as Murderbot to see a corporation gunship there!

With the evidence against Graycris out, they were desperate and somehow thought they could kidnap Mensah and end up not destroyed.

I think this one had the best action scenes too by far.

I was having an emotion, and I hate that.

What we really have to focus on is Murderbot itself!  It was definitely afraid/awkward to face Mensah and the team after leaving.  MB had to pull on all it’s human experiences so far to navigate that reunion show. It was nice to see all the original side characters again too!

You can hug me if you need to

Also I did enjoy the planet itself, Wells created a lot of cool imagery with businesses fighting for consumer attention and of course, all the hacking.  Alll the hacking.  The hacking is way too easy but fun to read anyway.

So the plan wasn’t a clusterfuck, it was just circling the clusterfuck target zone, getting ready to come in for a landing

I think the last thing to note is that as much ad MB tends to act like a human, this one reminds us of it’s background and we got a glimpse of how it communicated and behaved as a SecUnit construct.  I liked watching it interact with the company ship because it drove home how the Units interact and process information and we see how far it’s come since

You don’t know what I am

Categories
Adventure Science Fiction

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells (Book Thoughts)

Continuing my read of The Murderbot Diaries, I finished Rogue Protocol!  Murderbot experiences an emotion (the horror..) and gets one step closer to helping Dr. Mensah and the PreservationAux team.  It encounters an annoying pet robot, truly pretends to be a human, and of course all things go to complete shit during a rescue mission.

My least favorite of the three so far but a solid installment

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Rogue Protocol
  • Series: The Murderbot Diaries, #3
  • Author: Martha Wells
  • Publisher & Release: Tordotcom, August 2018
  • Length: 150 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ everyone should at least try the series

Here’s the synopsis (from Am*zon):

Rogue Protocol is the third entry in Martha Wells’s Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, The Murderbot Diaries.

Starring a human-like android who keeps getting sucked back into adventure after adventure, though it just wants to be left alone, away from humanity and small talk.

Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas?

Sci-fi’s favorite antisocial A.I. is back on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is.

And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.

Rogue Protocol is another quick, exciting installment in the series, but my least favorite of the three so far. I liked how Murderbot has to really, really fall in with humans and then have to compare that new freedom with it’s complex feelings of the life of Miki, the “pet robot”.

Everything was annoying right now and I had no idea why – MB

First s*xbots then Miki, I’m probably reading into it too much but I feel like Wells is making some PC statement about how various entities fit into societies and can end up being more than they appear.   I did like Miki though, she gives MB another type of human + bot partnership context and reminds us how even the simplest bots can be pretty bad ass.

Anyway, Murderbot is off to an abandoned terraforming site to gather incriminating evidence about GrayCris and it’s illegal alien biofarming exploits for.”strange synthetics”. I liked how MB had to improvise and really get those people out of a hard situation alive. We see how corrupted GrayCris is and also learn that Dr Mensah is captured, which sets up the next book.

I know in the telling it sounds like I was on top of this situation but really, I was still just thinking, Oh shit oh shit oh shit – MB7

I just didn’t care about the new set of human characters.  There were too many names thrown out with no relevance to the story, which got confusing quick.  The plot and rescue and banter were up to par, the snark was still there, just soo many people. The end confused me too – I think Abene would have helped but MB decided to just sneak away 😳

My biggest gripe, as with many readers, is this is clearly one book chopped into four parts. And yet they’re charging full book price even for the electronic version of each novella. I will just hold out until they come up on Libby, thanks

“I am at eighty-six percent functional capacity.” It held up its arm stump. “It’s only a flesh wound.” – Miki

I approve of the Monty Python nod!

Anyway, I definitely recommend that pretty much anybody that likes action fiction and snark should at least try the series!