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
Fantasy Science Fiction

The Song Unsung by Steven J. Morris (Book Tour & ARC Review)

This is truly a month full of endings! I toured with T.A. Bruno for the end of his Song of Kamaria series, Mary Beesley wrapped up the Draco Sang trilogy, and The Song Unsung is the fourth and final book in Steven J. Morris’ Guardian League series.

As always I have to thank By the Book VBP and the author for having me on the tour for this entire series.  It’s been a ride and I’m glad to join in the final book tour!

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Song Unsung 
  • Series: Guardian League #4
  • Author: Steven J Morris 
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 07/01/23
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for SFF fans and gamers, computer nerds, anyone looking for something different

Here’s the synopsis:

Where do you hide when monsters threaten humanity?
You don’t!
Ride along as Red teams up with the Angel of Death to take the fight to the Infected.
Scan, using his Gift to see magical threads, fights to save the once fame-hungry dwarf, Harry. Grundle, the fearsome troll Warlord, safeguards Smith, along with a cadre of elf and dwarf Healers. And Elliah tries desperately to lead the elves from the prison where her ex trapped them.
With their companions benched, Red and Galad must forge ahead… the fate of humans and elves, intertwined by the selfish actions of the High Lord, depends upon stopping the Infected. But even with the help of the rescued elves, how can they Teleport to a world overrun by their monstrous foes?
New allies, along with ancient ones, aid them on their journey. The key lies in goblin song, lost to the small company of reptilian refugees who escaped to Earth, but not forgotten by the elves. The Song holds the gift of life and the foreknowledge of death. When the tale of the goblins unravels, will humans and elves unravel with it?
Immerse yourself in the fantasy worlds of The Guardian League, and fight your way back to the beginning of the end.

It’s always hard to talk about the fourth book in a series without giving away spoilers, so I will do my best not to.

I think my favorite thing about book 4 is that Morris actually managed to condense the points of view and make almost everyone’s voice distinctive. I’ve been griping through all three books that I can’t keep the characters apart but between Cora, Red, and Scan as the main viewpoints, I had no trouble distinguishing their narrative voices.

The goblins are everything with their banter and popcorn too🤣, but I also have to give honorable mention to Red bantering with the easily amused giant bugs 🤣

That said, I think Cora was my favorite point of view to read.  We finally found out where and how everything started, which also tied directly into Red’s chapters.  This created a sense of continuity that I wasn’t feeling in prior books and I was able to sit down and read this whole thing in about three sittings!

The Song Unsung is not as action packed as the prior three and gets dense into the magic theory, but still tied the first book in terms of enjoyment and readability for me now with the storylines condensed.

PLUS GRUNDLE BABIES, WE HAVE GRUNDLE BABIES!

I am not exactly sure what happened at the tail end of the book but it seems that Morris has more stories to tell, and I’ll be here for them!

Overall I think this book had a LOT of strings to tie up and ground to cover, it’s not perfect but he pulled it off in terms of both giving the history we needed and wrapping up a TON of storylines.  A satisfying ending for sure.

I definitely recommend the series for anyone who enjoys fast paced mashup type novels.  These contain everything from scifi to fantasy to thriller and mild horror elements, plus all the subgenres, and part of the fun is never knowing what will come next. Thanks again to Steven Morris and By the Book for having me along for the story!

Categories
audiobooks Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker (Book & Audio Thoughts)

I haven’t read a dystopian in a while and found one that I don’t see talked about a whole lot.  The End of the World Running Club hits all the right points for a dystopian but fell short over all for me and I’m blaming it on 1) the audio and 2) the ending.

When I read these types of books, the primary questions in my mind are “Ok, how far will these characters go to survive, and what keeps them going? What flavor does the ending leave for both humanity and our remaining characters?”

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The End of the World Running Club
  • Series: ” ” #1
  • Author: Adrian J. Walker
  • Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Landmark, September 3017
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ more for those who want to sample the genre

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Asteroids are striking Earth, the end of the world is near, and Edgar Hill is on the wrong side of the country.

Over five hundred miles of devastated wastelands stretch between him and his family, and every second counts. His only option is to run―or risk losing everything he loves. He’ll have to be ingenious and push himself to the very limit if he wants to see them again. Can he reach them in the race against time, or will the end of the world defeat him?

A dystopian page-turner about the endurance of the human body and spirit―perfect for lovers of apocalyptic science fiction, running books, and anyone who knows that true strength comes from love.

As I said it hits all the points of a good dystopian. There’s a cataclysmic event, despair, survival, hope and hopelessness, the exploration of human nature, an incredible journey, etc. Everything the book should have.  There are helpful friends and harmful scum along the way, complete with all the obstacles you’d expect in a cross country run through a landscape devastated by asteroids.  It also takes place in the UK which is not something that I see so frequently in these types of novels.

That said, I had mixed feelings about where the book ended, and I think a lot of my overall negative feelings are influenced by the fact that the audiobook narrator’s voice got so annoying that I had to close it down and buy the ebook.

I really liked the beginning because Ed, the narrator, started at the end of the story with the description of three graves that he was thinking of digging up to prove his sanity.  Or had he already lost it? He talked about beliefs and it set the book up for the potential to be a mirage.  The whole beginning was absolutely wonderful as the asteroids occurred and then the family was trapped in the cellar. I felt like it went slowly downhill once Ed & Co started the journey.

At the end, again focusing on the graves, Edgar made a big point of bringing into question whether or not the events he told actually happened, versus what he believed. So… I don’t really know what to believe happened at the end and I wasn’t in the mood for that much literary ambiguity in a now open ending. I do think these books need open endings but not necessarily a riddle.

Anyway, I got truly annoyed with the book about the time that Jenny Rae came in. Whether or not my annoyance should give the author more points, I’m not sure. I tend to be super picky with dystopian and this one had a lot of really good elements, and some overdone ones. Like a large, borderline schizophrenic woman that wreaks havoc and is the last person in the world that should be in charge of anything, but would definitely come out on top in the apocalypse.  This is an archetypal dystopian character and I kind of just feel like somebody would have shot her before she came to any kind of power. That whole section was hard, (but heck yeah go Mr Angelbeck!)

Ed’s character arc from inviting the end of the world to running across a continent for his family was lovely.  He’s a morally gray character – as is everyone in a dystopian – and I liked who he became. Harvey, Bryce and Grimes were good characters too but we didn’t get too much of a good look at them. The book took an appropriately deep dive into humanity in general as well as what keeps us going in the dark. Running not so much although there were a few long distance insights and I am in awe that the untrained people ran so far.

I would recommend this one to people wanting to try a dystopian, but probably not hardcore fans of the genre. My favorite one to recommend (after The Road) is A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World. As far as this one, I would read a book version and stay away from the audio. I just did not like the narrator’s voice because he always sounded so happy, regardless of what was going on, and there was an awful lot of loud yelling. The guy also could absolutely not do female voices and eventually I shut it off and bought the ebook, which was a better experience.

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
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series – Featuring R.W.W. Greene

Hello friends and Robots! First off Happy Mother’s Day if this applies to you in any way shape or form!

For episode 22 of the Sunday Brunch Series I am honored to be kicking off the Angry Robot Books Mercury Rising tour with author R.W.W. Greene! Mercury Rising releases this coming Tuesday the 10th!

Let’s jump right into the interview, then I’ll share book and author info at the end!

Also do 100% be sure to check out this stunning lineup of content through the rest of the tour!

Screenshot_20220508-095240


🥞 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?
 
🎤First, thanks so much for inviting me to brunch. Interesting fact … Yeah, I don’t know. I can’t swim. Is that interesting or pathetic?
 
 
🥞I think it’s awesome that you listed breakfast as a possible interview question! This was meant to be 😂 what’s your favorite brunch food?
🎤Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day — whatever time of the day I choose to have it — and this big plate of eggs and homefries sets the mood just right. I will be accompanying it with nigh-infinite cups of black coffee and maybe a sliver of that quiche.
🥞 One of my favorite topics is morally gray characters and you nailed it with Brooklyn in Mercury Rising.  What do you think makes a good morally gray character?

🎤When the Color Wheel of Our Lives spins, it blurs into grayness. We might be blue or orange at certain points, but the average is that cloudy gray. You’re a good person. Okay, would you steal if you were starving? If your kids were starving? Do you ever drive faster than the speed limit? Ethics come from the outside. Morals are interior, and like everything else inside us, they’re slippery. We tend to resolve the cognitive dissonance of our own immoral actions pretty quickly. It’s just one puppy. Everybody does it. I’m a good person, and I pee in the shower, so obviously, to be a good person, you must pee in the shower, too.

I think the trick is to make the character as real as possible, and realize that real is really messy.

🥞Each of your books takes a big issue (as in pollution or climate change or war or etc) and gives the readers a big *hey this is happening* message – is this the thought that starts your book ideas? Is there an issue that’s particularly near and dear to you?

🎤My stories usually start with character and situation. For “The Light Years,” I had some version of Adem and his arranged marriage. For ‘Twenty-Five,’ I had Julie being left behind on Earth. For ‘Mercury,’ I had Brooklyn and his need to just make it through the day and get back to his apartment.

The ‘hey this is happening’ stuff comes in because everything is happening all the time, and it keeps happening over and over. We’re drowning in the rhymes and resonances of all the things we’ve (the Big We) ever seen or done. I suppose I’m most attuned to things that will affect the future. Which, I guess, is everything.

I don’t sleep all that well, and I take pills for anxiety. I wonder why

🥞You were a part of a “swearing in SFF” panel at Quarancon! Can you share your general thoughts on foul language & slang in SFF?

🎤Swearing is interesting because we lose vocabulary as the arc of history bends toward justice. I don’t hear origins as expletives nearly as much as I used to. Being a bastard isn’t the curse it once was. As the meaning of ‘bitch’ changes and evolves, being a ‘son of a bitch’ ain’t so bad. Slut-shaming is slowly giving way to sex-positivity. As we become more secular, there are fewer gods to blaspheme.

Most of what we’re left with is body parts and bodily functions. And fuck, which is  the Swiss-Army knife of swear words.

What would a wood elf find profane? ‘You slayer of trees! Culler of conifers! Maple mauler! Fucking asshole!”

A William Gibson cyberpunk-cowboy: “Cube! (from ‘cubicle’) Drug-cutting corpie! You dirty little dataport! Virus licker! Fucking asshole!

🥞Is there more to come in the Mercury Rising universe? {I loved the open ending but also want more Brooklyn}

🎤 There is. Angry Robot and I have contracted for a second book in what is meant to be a trilogy. You’ll see book two in early summer of 2023. If all goes well, the third book should come out summerish 2024, either from Angry Robot (fingers crossed) or self-published.

{{I’m on board, ESPECIALLY IF AR FINALLY EXPLAINS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 400. I should start asking the authors}}

🥞After three books now and multiple short stories, what is the most valuable (or entertaining) feedback you’ve gotten so far?

🎤One short-story reviewer pronounced me a ‘middle-aged writer,” which while true, hurt. A dude on Goodreads recently gave ‘Twenty-Five to Life’ one star because he didn’t like who I dedicated the book to. One gent out on the West Coast of the U.S. wrote and said ‘The Light Years’ helped him come to terms with his father, which is cool but completely unplanned.

Probably the most useful feedback I’ve received is ‘Don’t read the reviews!” I don’t always listen.

🥞Random Sci-fi question: With the conference coming in May, any thoughts on the Nebula nominees this year?

🎤My secret shame — not so secret now — is that I often don’t get to the Nebula nominees until they are on the final ballot. I read a lot, easily three or four books a week, but much of it is not in-genre and the stuff that is doesn’t always show up on awards lists. After the ballot is released, I usually go on an all-Nebula reading spree so I can cast an informed vote.

There are so many books being published, I have no idea how anyone keeps up, and that’s not including all the novellas, novelettes, and short stories. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

{{True fact, I’ve succumbed to mood reading and pretty much anything from AR}}

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

🎤My favorite SFF author is currently a three-way tie among William Gibson (always), Becky Chambers, and Seanan McGuire. Gary Shteyngart is orbiting this triumvirate waiting for one of them to die or retire.

I’ve recommended Mary Doria Russell’s ‘The Sparrow’ more times than I can remember. Series … maybe the ‘Emberverse’ stuff by S.M. Stirling.

Character … Henry Palace in Ben Winter’s ‘Last Policeman’ series. Or Trixe Belden. If you push me, Trixie beats Henry all the way.

🥞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. The company was excellent and the quiche divine. Have a lovely day!


There you have it!

If you want to see my early Mercury Rising review, click here!

Author Bio:

R.W.W. Greene is a New Hampshire USA writer with an MA in Fine Arts, which he exorcises in dive bars and coffee shops. He is a frequent panelist at the Boskone Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention in Boston, and his work has been in Stupefying Stories, Daily Science Fiction, New Myths, and Jersey Devil Press, among others. Greene is a past board member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. He keeps bees, collects typewriters, and lives with writer/artist spouse Brenda and two cats

Book Blurb:
Even in a technologically-advanced, Kennedy-Didn’t-Die alternate-history, Brooklyn Lamontagne is going nowhere fast. The year is 1975, thirty years after Robert Oppenheimer invented the Oppenheimer Atomic Engine, twenty-five years after the first human walked on the moon, and eighteen years after Jet Carson and the Eagle Seven sacrificed their lives to stop the alien invaders. Brooklyn just wants to keep his mother’s rent paid, earn a little scratch of his own, steer clear of the cops, and maybe get laid sometime in the near future. Simple pleasures, right? But a killer with a baseball bat and a mysterious box of 8-track tapes is about to make his life real complicated.
So, rot away in prison or sign up to defend the planet from the assholes who dropped a meteorite on Cleveland?  Brooklyn crosses his fingers and picks  the Earth Orbital Forces. A few years in the trenches and then — assuming he survives — he’ll get his life back, right? Unfortunately, the universe has other plans, and Brooklyn is launched into a story about saving humanity, finding family, and growing as a person — while coping with high-stakes space battles, mystery science experiments and finding out the real enemies aren’t the tentacled monsters on the recruitment poster.

Unless they are.

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!!

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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!!

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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

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🥞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:

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🥞 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