Survivor: Blackout by Peter Anderson

AndersonSurvivorBlackoutWhy I Read It: I enjoy adventure scifi.

Where I Got It: A review copy courtesy of the blog tour (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Scifi adventure fans who enjoy serialized stories.

Publisher: Bastei Entertainment (2014)

Length: 44 pages

Series: Episode 1, Season 1 of Survivor

Author’s Page

Blackout is a fast-paced opening episode to Season 1 of Survivor. The story is told in present time with flashbacks that set up the how and why these space adventurers ended up in their current pickle. CERN, Switzerland, finds a group of scientist pulling together our adventurers for a special trip through a wormhole. Each of these specially chosen adventurers has some unique gift, and during the course of Episode 1 only 3 of those gifts are revealed. Ryan Nash is in charge of the voyage. Jabo is his right hand man. Maria dos Santos, Ai Rogers, and Gabriel Proctor make up the rest of the team. The CERN project is headed by a man with a mysterious secret – Dr. Kasanov. His right hand is Dr. Eva Kessler.

There’s plenty of suspense and action in these opening 44 pages. The back and forth between present and past made it easy to come up to speed on the project and also gave the main characters some backgrounds. I enjoyed the whole secret project feel to the mission. Plus there is Dr. Kasanov with his secret agenda, one that is only hinted at in this episode. Dr. Kessler gets to go all science-y for us science nerds out there, which is always nice in a science fiction story.

Ryan Nash, who spends the most time on screen and whose head we get to ride around in the most, strikes me as a man of action, going on gut instinct. In some ways, he is a very typical male hero that is interchangeable with any number of other male action heroes. But I enjoyed this episode enough to give Ryan more episodes to develop a more in-depth character. He did find himself in a highly unexpected and rather awful situation and it will be difficult to extricate himself from it. I have to see what happens next with him.

While Dr. Kessler got some decent screen time, she did most of the info dumps in the flashback scenes. Dr. Kasanov had the action, the decision making. On board the ship, present time, Ryan and Jabo called the shots while Maria was ordered around and Ai said nothing. So I would really like to see more active scenes with the ladies calling the shots or at least sharing important decisions. Again, I enjoyed the mystery of Episode one quite a bit and am willing to sit back and see what Episode 2 holds for us. I see lots of potential in the female characters and want to see what the author made of that potential.

Over all, there is plenty to entertain the reader in this episode – cool science, plenty of action, the mysterious powers of our adventurers, and the difficult and awful situation Ryan Nash finds himself in. Dr. Kasanov has his secret agenda and I think he knew what he was sending our heroes into – and I really want to know why he did so! This episode definitely whetted my appetite for the series.

What I Liked: Plenty of action; interesting mystery powers; secret agendas.

What I Disliked: Could make better use of the female characters, but I am willing to see how they progress in Episode 2.

What Others Think:

Mallory Heart Reviews

Dystopic

You can also catch other reviews, spotlights, etc. on the JKS Communications Blog Tour.

Guest Post: Jim Bernheimer, Author of Prime Suspects

BernheimerPenniesForferrymanFolks, please welcome Jim Bernheimer back to Dab of Darkness. I have enjoyed a few of his novels and a short story collection to date. ‘Enjoyed’ really is too light a term. I tore through three of Jim’s books back to back. Little housework was accomplished that week. So it is with great pleasure that Jim agreed to do a guest post and tell us about his latest book, Origins of a D-List Supervillain. You can also check out the Dab of Darkness interview along with my reviews of Prime Suspects, Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, and Horror, Humor, and Heroes.

A Post That’s Pretty Much About Nothing

I’ll start with thanking Susan for allowing me to come on and do a guest post.

She gave me a plethora of topics to choose from, which was cool, and it gave me the opportunity to use plethora in a sentence. Unfortunately, as I read on it became crystal clear that all her imaginative ideas weren’t clicking with me. The good news was she said I was free to come up with my own topic.

I’m a writer. How hard could that possibly be?

The answer is very. In the aftermath of finishing my latest novel, I find myself devoid of any meaningful ideas, so I’m going to try and totally wing it.

BernheimerOriginsOfD-ListSupervillainObviously I want to talk about my new book, Origins of a D-List Supervillain (available in paperback, Kindle/Nook, and with the audiobook coming soon). However I figured I shouldn’t be blatant because savvy and intelligent readers, like those visiting Dab of Darkness, can spot a shameless, self-promoter hawking their wares from a mile away. So I figured I’d have to be clever when I insert a paragraph promoting the prequel to one of the highest rated novels in the superhero genre. Y’know, so people won’t roll their eyes at me when they read this and do so without seeming to pander to this well-read and fascinating audience.

Prequel? Yeah, I wanted to be like George Lucas and go there – only with less Jar-Jar, because that’s how “Meesa Roll.” Anyway, I just did a single prequel. That’s all I had material for, which is also sort of like, well movies 1-3.

Maybe I should get rid of that last bit? Picking on the prequel trilogy and Jar-Jar is low hanging fruit. Then again, most everyone laughs; so I guess it stays.

What am I working on now? That’s always good to talk about. People like that, but that’s usually at the end of the guest post and I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Plus, it’s fairly self-evident. I’m reasonably certain that everyone can see that I’m out contacting blogs and trying to promote my latest novel. Also, there are all those tasks that my wife has reminded me that I’ve been neglecting while writing my latest rollicking adventure that’s already receiving a number of excellent reviews from readers.

I told her that I needed to spend most of July marketing it, so I’m safe for a few more weeks. The deck has lasted this long. Sanding it down and then applying a new coat of stain during the hottest months of the year doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of fun in the sun. Really, I should be thanking you folks for helping me delay that particular bit of nastiness. If sales continue to improve, I can probably make it to fall before the honey-do list becomes a get your butt off the computer and do something other than convert oxygen into carbon dioxide list.

I can’t really say I suffer for my art. It’s more like I suffer without my art or whenever my wife of twenty years realizes she married a slacker. I’m not sure.

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainSo thanks in advance for doing me a solid. What does that really mean anyway? It’s a good thing I’m just typing this and not saying it. After all, I’m about to turn forty-five. Isn’t it embarrassing when middle aged men try to use hip terms to try and sound cool and with it? The pinnacle of my wild side is usually Friday Night Magic or playing Cards Against Humanity, which clearly makes me a rebel without a cause. (Perhaps a rebel without a clue is more appropriate?) That’s when I’m not busy writing a number of really excellent books that are so good that everyone should take a moment and check out my Amazon author page right here – http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Bernheimer/e/B0028OE2UA

I figured putting my youngest daughter in the picture with me would help my sales better than one of just me. We just got a new puppy, so he’ll probably be in the next picture I upload there along with my daughter. My goal is to get enough cute things in there to offset my ugly mug because I’m kind of like the Grumpy Cat without the viral Internet presence. Heck, I just searched Amazon and discovered that the Grumpy Cat has an author page. It has a book out with 298 reviews! That eclipses even the 263 reviews for Confessions of a D-List Supervillain! Though, my story has a significantly higher rating. I can still hang my hat on that.

Now I can say I did some research for this guest post.

Do you think Susan will notice? If you folks are reading this either she didn’t or is tolerant of my rambling and feeble attempt at humor.

Wow! I’ve got over eight hundred words done and it’s about time to tie off the loose ends. This might prove to be difficult because the whole thing has been just one big loose end covering for a marketing ploy.

BernheimerSorceressI suppose now would be the right spot for talking about the next books I’ll be working on. My wife and several fans want to see the third Dead Eye novel and there is also a small, but rather vocal group who are eagerly awaiting the third Spirals of Destiny installment, but considering how well the D-List books are doing, I’d be an idiot (or an even bigger one than I already am) not to write more in that universe. So yes, I’m hoping to have two more D-List books ready by the end of the year. Also, I’m collaborating on a screenplay adaptation of my novel Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective mystery because I want to be that author who is muttering how Hollywood corrupted my art while cashing their check. For enough money, I’d even let them write Jar-Jar into … No! I’d have to draw the line somewhere.

Places to Stalk Jim Bernheimer

Website

Amazon

Goodreads

Interview: Michael Coorlim, Author of Sky Pirates Over London

CoorlimSkyPiratesOverLondonI have enjoyed several of Michael’s works, so it is with great pleasure that I wheedled an interview out of him. Please sit back and enjoy the chat about Doctor Who, Stargate, The Lord of the Rings, Xena, and plenty more!

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

That’s a hard question. I’ve found that often, a lot of my favorite series don’t really match up to the way I remember them, because they haven’t aged well, or because I’ve changed from the person who first enjoyed them.

That said: Doctor Who. It hasn’t let me down. I’d love to watch it all over again with fresh eyes.

CoorlimInfernalRevelation1Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

Reality is important when it comes to characterization and consequences. Lengthy travel and bathroom breaks and the like should be skipped over unless, for whatever reason, they’re vital to the plot or the character’s nature. Swearing is definitely part of characterization; the way people talk and the words they use tells us a lot about them.

My most recent release, Infernal Revelation, recently had a reviewer mark it down for its profanity. The speakers in question are rebellious teenage boys outside of adult supervision, and yeah, that’s how they talk. It’s part of their cultural make-up. In particular, it’s a YA book, and teens know how teens talk.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I’d like to see a simulation/management game based on Leo Frankowski‘s Cross-Time Engineer. A modern day man is sent back to the 13th century and has ten years to prepare medieval Poland for the Mongol invasion. I like games where you build things, where you see a lot of development on any scale, personal or social or whatever.

CoorlimMaidenVoyageOfRioGrandeWith the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

Genre has always been a bit of a tyrannical marketing tool. I think that we’re only beginning to see the possibilities available. This has impacted my writing more than my reading… I’ve always read anything I could get my hands on, but now I’m no longer being told that to be a successful writer I have to pick a single genre and stick to it.

I think we’re going to see some great experimentation from big name authors in the future.

Who are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes was great because you don’t really see him so much as you see the effects of his presence. Hero duos: Frodo and Sam. Gilgamesh and Enkidu if you want to get tragic about it.

CoorlimFineYoungTurkOften various historical aspects (people, locations, events) are used in fantasy and sometimes rehashed in a far-flung future. Are there examples of such historical aspects being used well in the SF/F genre? Examples of what didn’t work for you?

I read a lot of alternate history and time travel fiction. Michael Chriton’s Timeline – the book – was good. I didn’t care so much for the movie. Stargate – the movie and the television series – mined mythology, as did the Hercules and Xena television shows. They weren’t terribly accurate, but they didn’t have to be. It was just great to catch the references.

Oh, and the early Doctor Who seasons did a lot more with time travel. They weren’t always terribly accurate, but they were a lot of fun.

In writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

The best villains are the tragic villains. Ideally I want my readers to identify with and even sympathize for my villains. I want them to understand why they commit terrible acts, and perhaps to see how they might end up in the same situation. Ultimately, though, what makes a villain is the failure to change, to grow like the protagonist does. They are defined and defeated by their destructive patterns.

I want readers to feel bad for my villains, but also that their downfall was inevitable.

CoorlimTrailScissormanIf you could go enjoy a meal in a fictional world, where would that be, and what would you eat?

Middle-Earth. Lembas wafers.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I was on a Worldcon panel with Eleanor Arnason, Bud Sparhawk, and Connie Willis. All I could think about was that I should probably be down in the audience instead, not alongside Hugo and Nebula award-winning authors. I’d grown up reading their stories.

Cover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. What cover art has caught your eye, that you found stood above other books?

I think I notice bad covers more than good, but I’m approaching them from a design standpoint. I evaluate them for their color compositions, layout, and typography. I find it hard to “see” them like a reader.

CoorlimCollectedJameAndBartlebyAdventuresWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

The validity of genre fiction compared to “literature.” There are a lot of people out there who like to look down on others because of what they read and what they enjoy. I think it’s a form of insecurity, seeking validation through the dismissal of others.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

I really liked Merry and Pippin in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In my own work, I’ve found that often secondary characters will spawn books of their own; in The Collected Bartleby and James Adventures, Bartleby’s fiance Aldora makes a few appearances, but I was so taken with the character that I wrote the second collection in the series all about her. I have vague plans now to do the same for some of the other characters, namely James’s old friend and con-artist Buckley and his experiences with the Parisian underworld of the Belle Epoque.

Places to Find Michael Coorlim

Website

Goodreads

Facebook

Twitter

Interview: T. Jackson King, Author of the Vigilante Series

T. Jackson King AuthorEveryone, please welcome T. Jackson King, an author I have had the pleasure of listening to at Bubonicon 45 (Albuquerque’s yearly scifi convention). Today we chat about some classics (The Odyssey, Kipling’s Kim, Dr. Jekyll, etc.), the dangers of unicorns, comics, and Wicca beliefs. Plus a whole lot more. So sit back and be entertained!

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Star Trek the Original of course! I loved its first TV run. I spent the decade of the 60s following the US space program of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, with the landing on the Moon, and was truly hoping that by –now-, 50 years later, we would have bases on the Moon and a full size colony on Mars with ships exploring Jupiter, Saturn and even distant Pluto. Which I still count as a planet! In books, I would love to re-read as “new” the KIM novel of Rudyard Kipling, which I first read in junior high school. It introduced me to the idea of a Land with multiple cultures, peoples and beliefs, a theme I have pursued in my Alien-dominated galactic adventure novels!

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The ancient Viking beast Beowulf, who struck me as the essence of the Outsider, the Loner, the person Too Different to be tolerated by everyone else. Since I’ve felt like an outsider most of my life, yup, Beowulf would be fun to meet in the wild as we toasted rabbits over hot coals. As for avoiding a fantastic beast, well, I think it would be the Unicorn. Seems to me a horse with a pointed horn that long is meant to do one thing only—impale. I object to being impaled by something painful.

KingAnarchateVigilanteConventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

Self-promotion is how we devoted writers meet New Readers and reward Loyal Readers. That includes in person book autographing, meeting folks at conventions, and chatting with them online on one of the Amazon threads that I spend too much time on! I most enjoy going to sci-fi conventions and doing book signings. I have yet to start a blog cause . . . it does not appeal. But I love the hunt for great artwork to use as cover art for my Indy published science fiction novels! Since I’ve read sci-fi since fourth grade, I love it and know what kind of artwork appeals to most SF readers. And there are fine pieces of original art with space themes that a writer/publisher can now license to use for cover art, at a very low cost. The cover art for my newest novel, ANARCHATE VIGILANTE, was done by a Spanish artist living in Madrid. I give his artwork credit on the copyright page.

As for least popular parts of self-promotion, it is the assumption by a few online people that folks who produce their own ebook novels for sale on Amazon are ‘not pros’ or are ‘all miserable amateurs’. Not me. I’ve been writing professionally for 26 years since 1988, when Warner Books issued my first novel RETREAD SHOP. I’ve been writing short stories and novels ever since. While there are plenty of amateur ebooks out there, as a reader I know that other readers will leave Reviews that alert browsing readers to an ebook’s deficiencies. And will compliment an author on a well done novel.

KingRetreadShopWhat book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

Well, I would love to see a board game with that comic book magician guy Dr. Strange. I read lots of issues with him as the lead character and loved how he related magical and mystical stuff to the real world. His casting of spells was just great! Since then I’ve learned more about true ‘magical events’ by studying Wiccan beliefs. It is the Wiccan belief in Mother Earth having an internal ‘energy’ force that is the basis for the contemporary magic that I use in my post-apocalyptic novel THE GAEAN ENCHANTMENT. Gaean Earth Magic is a big deal in that novel. And I loved writing it.

KingGaeanEnchantmentWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Well, I have not read the ODYSSEY by Homer. Did read the ILLIAD. Both books are long shaman-like retellings of the adventures of gods, goddesses and mortals. Ancient Greek mythology, along with some Japanese, Chinese and Hindu mythology, have informed my use of such characters in some of my short stories and novels. My epic novel GALACTIC AVATAR is a mix of hard scifi with mythic archetypes that melds together Joseph Campbell-like gods and goddesses with the last 16 human survivors of Earth’s destruction as the humans realize they are also the “avatars” of those ancient gods and goddesses “in the flesh”. Had great fun writing that novel. Another ancient book that I have in my library, but not yet read, is the first Japanese novel by a courtesan lady of the imperial court. I gotta read it before the end of the year!

KingGalacticAvatarWith the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

I think it allows readers to do what people always do—hunt around for stuff that rewards their effort in reading! And yes, while most of my novels are science fiction, I think several of them fit the Action Adventure and Spy Thriller categories, albeit set in the far future. As for my reading zones, they have indeed been expanded. I like reading about dragons in fantasy, like JD Hallowell’s novel DRAGON FATE. I also enjoy some horror, like a very short story I read recently titled “Feeding” by Elizabeth VanZwoll. She penned a very fine story that is under 1,000 words. But ancient history reading and sci-fi reading are my two primary zones of reading enjoyment!

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

Well, the Hyde side of the split personality Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is pretty awesome. He is a very very misunderstood villain. In my opinion! And Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a fine novella staring the two of them!

Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Well, Superman in his various comic book incarnations has been a long favorite of mine. Read the original novel from the 1930s that gave rise to him and liked it. Batman and Robin are pretty decent superhero duos, tho most of their actions are well within the realm of normal physics.

CrispinKingAncestor'sWorldOften various historical aspects (people, locations, events) are used in fantasy and sometimes rehashed in a far-flung future. Are there examples of such historical aspects being used well in the SF/F genres? Examples of what didn’t work for you?

Well, yes, I myself have used ancient Egypt’s River Nile as the basis of a story in my novel ANCESTOR’S WORLD, while other writers past and present have done the same. I really like author Steve White’s use of ancient Mycenae and Crete, along with the real conflict between the Minoans and the Myceneans, in several Baen Books sci-fi adventures. As for poorly used examples, I would cite the use of Atlantis as culture and location in many “popular adventure” novels set in the present day, all of which paint a too simplistic picture of Bronze Age culture and humans. IMO.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Ah, a hard question! Well, I would invite Dr. Strange, Ironman, Odysseus himself, Beowulf the critter and Charon the Ancient who conveys dead people along the River Styx to their final abode in the Underworld. Bet Charon would have loads of neat stories to share! Course, I would have to have bowls for the weak Greek wine, pitchers of honey mead and high dose caffeine for other folks to enjoy as we spent a few hours outdoors under the spreading limbs of an ancient oak tree.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Have not had any fanperson moments yet. I guess my brief chat with Robert Silverberg 15 years ago at a SFWA members-only event during a con might qualify for me feeling geekish and gushing.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I will be attending two science fiction conventions this year. They are Balticon 48 in Baltimore, Maryland, from May 23-26, and Bubonicon 46 from August 1-3 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Love to meet readers of all genres!

Places to Stalk T. Jackson King

Amazon

Website / Blog

Facebook

Goodreads

Twitter

Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold

SeboldShanghaiSparrowWhy I Read It: It was the cover.

Where I Got It: ARC from Netgalley (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Steampunk fans!

Publisher: Solaris (2014)

Length: 373 pages

Series: Book 1 Shanghai Sparrow

Author’s Page

Set in Victorian times, Eveline (Evie) Duchen and her family live in the country, a life of privilege, and also a life that rubs elbows with the Fae. But then tragedy strikes, and Evie, her sister Charlotte, and her mother must move to the city and live with her uncle. But then tragedy strikes again and Evie finds herself living on the streets, until she is taken in by the steampunk tinker Ma Pether.  From there, things get even more odd for Evie. A British agent (Mr. Holmforth), who is stationed in Shanghai, has an unhealthy interest in the little known (and quite under appreciated) science called Etherics. Believing that Evie has inherited some family talent for this esoteric field, he hunts her down. And that is when she finds herself forced into a school for girls, one that trains them to be spies for the British Empire.

The world of Evie was so easy to fall into. The steampunk and fairy elements weren’t all glitzy and distracting. No, they were subtle and a part of Evie’s every day life. And that allowed me to focus on Evie and her storyline, which was very engaging. She’s cheeky, but also tries very hard to take care of those she cares about. Her life of hard knocks has taught her the value of listening at doors, sneaking around, and being nimble of mind as well as foot. And all those skills are put to the test in her interactions with Mr. Holmforth.

The story actually starts with Mr. Holmforth in Shanghai. He’s trying to climb the ranks of the bureaucracy of the British Empire but something about his bloodlines holds him back. Or rather the prejudices of his fellow workers and, well, the whole British society hold him back. We learn he is scheming, trying to get his hands on a weapon in development that could launch his career, make him a shining star in the eyes of his coworkers.  And then he tracks down Evie and only tells her the barest of information while motivating her with promises of security balanced by threats to those she calls friend.

I loved the way the Fae in and out in this story. We learn a tiny smidgeon of their lives away from humans, but mostly we see how Evie interacts with a few choice Fae. They find humans a pleasant distraction, and interesting digression from their normal lives. Liu, who is more fox than linguistics teacher, shows more of an interest in Evie and her talent in Etherics. In fact, he is the one to give a most potent warning: Do not threaten the Fae, for if they take you seriously, they will annihilate all of humanity. Gulp! That can’t be good. So Evie has to try to navigate that while keeping Mr. Holmforth happy.   

If I have to put down a criticism it is that the story starts out with Mr. Holmforth in Shanghai, and then jumps in time and location to Evie in England. It took me a while to figure out that not only had a geographical leap been made, but also a chronological one. That was early on in the book and I got over it quickly and went on to happily enjoy the rest of the novel.

Steampunk, fairies, precocious young lady, secret spy school for young girls, and an esoteric science known as Etherics. Yeah, all that goodness wrapped up in an awesome book cover. go get yourself a copy!

What I Liked: Evie was so easy to connect with; little bits of steampunk placed into the crannies and corners of the narrative; Liu and his foxy tail; the side story of Charlotte; how Evie sorts it all out; spy school for young ladies; the cover.

What I Disliked: There was one leap in time and place early on in the narrative that threw me off. But I got over it. :)

What Others Think:

Tolerably Smart

Drunken Dragon Reviews

Koeur’s Book Reviews

The Heaven Makers by Frank Herbert

HerbertHeavenMakersWhy I Read It: I have never been disappointed by Frank Herbert’s works.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Enjoy stalkerish aliens that mess with human events, big and small? Check this out.

Narrator: Scott Brick

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2014)

Length: 7 hours 35 minutes

Author’s Page

Fraffin is the king of his little world. As a Chem, he is immortal, receiving regular rejuvenations, and he is infinitely bored. He’s seen it all, done it all, and watched others do it all. So he did something forbidden with this little world. The Chem are not suppose to interfere in the lives and histories of the native species of the ‘story ships’ they run. But Fraffin couldn’t resist taking careful time, decades, to set up a few interesting scenarios. The Chem have been recording human histories for centuries – and broadcasting these recordings to full-sensory interface viewers for the bulk of the Chem to enjoy. But now Fraffin is about to receive an inspector – Kelexel. And of course a pair of humans are on the brink of unmasking the Chem.

I have read several Frank Herbert books over the years and have always enjoyed them. So in writing this review I have to keep his other works (the greatness the man was capable of) in mind. While this book was interesting, it is not among my favorite Frank Herbert books. First, the good stuff. I loved the whole idea of our little human lives being recorded, even meddled with, for the entertainment of others. Isn’t that how things go? Think of your favorite nature TV shows – think the producers and narrators and filmers didn’t occasionally add angry bees to the mix or tease the grizzly bear with a fish or poke the branch a great horned owl was sitting on to get the bird into flight? Yeah, so if we do it, why wouldn’t other sentient beings with advanced tech want to do the same to us? And I enjoyed the Chem politics and Fraffin and Kelexel trying to outmaneuver each other. Then there are the humans – two of which catch on to what may be happening. But who are they going to tell? Who would believe them? So, lots of entertainment in the overall plot.

Now, why isn’t this novel among my favorites? Well, there’s really only 1 female character (the human Ruth) plus a few other ladies with tiny, minute roles. Ruth is the love interest and sex object of the book. The other ladies get the simple roles of murder victim, sympathetic neighbor, sympathetic aunt, and ambitious alien on the rise. I know this was originally published in 1967 as a serialized story for a pulp fiction magazine, but Ruth is an idiot. She relies on men for her stability in life and can’t work on her own out of the house nor run her father’s business. Hmmm…. let’s see…. what was my grandma doing in 1967? Oh, yeah, that’s right – independent business woman working in realty.

MINOR SPOILER Ruth becomes the sex object for one of the Chem later in the book and is abducted. Through advanced tech, she is forced into happily servicing him. But there were plenty of times when she wasn’t under the manipulator and could have done things – like try to escape, neuter some Chem, break machinery. But no, she sits and cries. END SPOILER So I found her character weak and rather uninteresting. She needs rescuing more than once throughout the novel.

The ending was a surprise – a very nice twist. I didn’t see that coming and I really, really liked it. At first, as I was listening to the ending, I felt that it was anticlimatic. But then all the fall out happens and it all melds together to make a great ending.

One final comment – one racial slur is used and perhaps it was appropriate for 1967, but I don’t care for it today, or even 10 years ago. It is used 2-3 times in the novel and not gratuitously.

Narration: Scott Brick, as always, did a great job. It seems he tried really hard to make Ruth an interesting character, adding plenty of emotions to her voice.

What I Liked: The overall plot; twisted ending.

What I Disliked: Idiotic main female; the racial slur.

What Others Think:

A Drip of Truth

Val’s Random Comments

Phoenix Island by John Dixon

DixonPhoenixIslandWhy I Read It: Shallow me, it was the cover that drew me in.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Have issues with authority figures? This book might let you exercise some of that angst.

Narrator: Kirby Heyborne

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 12 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 1 of the series (which I can’t find a name for at any of the regular places)

Author’s Page

Carl is in a lot of trouble. In fact, he’s been in trouble for quite some time, which explains why he has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. The courts have had enough of him and he is being sent to a somewhat secret boot camp island prison called Phoenix Island. He will have to endure there until he turns 18. Carl is also a champion boxer and since he keeps slamming his fists into bullies, and Phoenix Island is run by bullies, I expect Carl will have some trouble there.

Phoenix Island is a mix of tough boot camp, abusive authority figures, really nice kids in the wrong place, and illegal science experiments on humans. Carl, our all-around boyscout, tries to help the weak and gets a few more scars for his efforts. His sidekick, Ross, is always quipping off some reply to the wrong person, which earns him a few more scars. The romantic interest is Octavia, who tries very hard to blend into the background and not draw attention, but things don’t work out that way and she earns a few new scars too.

Eventually, Carl’s physical abilities draw the attention of the Old Man, the guy who runs Phoenix Island. Carl is given a gift, one that enhances his physical prowess. Even more important, the Old Man becomes the caring authority/parental figure in Carl’s life as Carl is given further training in hand-to-hand combat, small arms training, and a taste of the Old Man’s zero tolerance policy for terrorists…….But perhaps the Old Man takes it too far.

I think if I had a lot of angst towards authority figures, I would have enjoyed this book quite a bit more. At first I questioned Carl’s all around good-guy-in-a-bad-situation character, I got use to it and thought he would be an exception. How many kids go through foster homes like crack-laced popcorn and stay boyscouts? But I settled into it. But then we get o the island. Seems like all of the ‘good kids’ are innocent cherubs inadvertently stuck in hell. There’s some bad kids, but they are totally bad, spoiled, rotten – not redeemable. There are definitely black and white (good and evil) characters in this book and not much in between. I count this as the only big flaw for the book because it made things predictable.

That issue aside, I enjoyed this book for the suspense. It was like a mix of The Island and Lord of the Flies. The innocent eventually suspect they are being used for something more (what really goes on in the Chop Shop?) while the baddies start to hold sway (maybe there will be a really exciting hunt?). Still, I kept expecting the innocent to somehow out trick the baddies and win the day. The ending did surprise me. Nice little twist at the end sets it up just right for Book 2.

Narration: Kirby Heyborne did a good job as narrator. He was a believable Carl and he did great bullying voices (and there were lots of bullies). His feminine voices could use a little more work, but each was distinct.

What I Liked: Mystery island; through the main character, I was able to vent some angst towards authority figures; twist at the end.

What I Disliked: The characters were pretty black and white (they were either good or bad) and this made parts of the book very predictable.

What Others Think:

On Starships & Dragonwings

Scott Reads It

Step Into Fiction

Dead End Follies

The Soul of the World by Joshua Silverman

SilvermanSoulOfWorldWhy I Read It: Book 1 (The Emerald Tablet) was pretty good so obviously I needed to read Book 2.

Where I got It: A review copy via the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: SFF fans, especially those who enjoy ancient Egypt & ancient Greece.

Publisher: Enchanted Forest Press (2013)

Length: 375 pages

Series: Book 2 Legends of Amun Ra

Author’s Page

Book 2 in the Legends of Amun Ra series picks up a few years after Book 1 ends. The characters we got to know on Potara have aged under the rule of Kem and Shirin. Meanwhile, Leoros back on Earth has spent considerable time trying to find his way back to Potara, often at personal cost. In large part, Book 2 is about development of the main characters we met in Book 1. Much of the action takes place off-screen, with the exception of a few skirmishes and the final battle. In contrast, Book 1 had a lot of action that the reader was put directly in the middle of.

While Leoros spends about half the book trying to get out of his foster care hell and back to Potara, plenty is going on with Axios having an active part in an underground rebellion, Dio drunk and having a pity party, Atlantia trying to find Leukos, etc. The chapters switch around between the characters, so you never feel like you get bogged down in any one single storyline. However, I did get a little confused in that so much seems to happen on Potara between Leoros chapters, yet when Leoros finally joins his Potaran friends, everyone has aged the same amount. So, for about the first half of the book, days would pass on Potara compared to hours on Earth (for Leoros’s storyline).

The story picks up after Leoros gets to Potara and there is this one really intense scene where an ancient game, the truth, and deadly ghosts come into play. I think this was one of my more favorite scenes from the book. And I really liked the mythological beasties that came into play – many more than we had in Book 1. Atlantia and Leoros have some pretty intense conversations. And then there are Kem and Shirin. I really like Shirin as this total control freak and often-times bad guy. In this book, she has one of Kem’s relatives to contend with while Kem is off on a male-bonding expedition with the Brotherhood of the Rose to find an artifact that will let him rule the world.

Overall, I liked Book 1 more. This book was mostly character development and setting things up for something big in Book 3 (hopefully). There were long stretches that had little action and I could have used a few more scenes watching these characters in action. Dio’s drunken pity party went on for ~90% of the book, and I was pretty ready to lock her in a cold shower at 50%. My favorite characters did get a lot of page time – and that would be Kem and Shirin in this book. They have a complex relationship and Shirin is a pretty complex person. Will I read Book 3? Yes, definitely. There is plenty I would like to see wrapped up. And with all the development that happened in this book, I need the validation of something big happening in Book 3.

What I Liked: Mythological beasties!; Kem and Shirin, each insane in their own ways; Leoros’s deadly challenge over an ancient game; the final fight scene.

What I Disliked: There seemed to be some sort of time issue between Potara and Earth that through me off for half the book; a little heavy on the character development in proportion to the action scenes.

What Others Think:

Cuzinlogic

All Fantasy Worlds

Literary Sweet

Divine Books

My Other Book Blog

The Winey Reader

Interview: Sarah Dalton, Author of Blemished

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DaltonBlemishedWelcome everyone to The Book of Apex Blog Tour! Today, I have Sarah Dalton here, author of the Blemished series, giving us an interview. She was kind enough to swing by again, having been here last week with her guest post: Cruelty Is Needed.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Well, I like to think that humans are a lot less superstitious than they used to be when we hunted dragons and unicorns! I’m not sure we’ll ever be that suspicious again, what with the internet and Wikipedia and everything. Maybe after the apocalypse.

But that doesn’t mean fantasy literature doesn’t have an effect on human cultures. Reading rich fantasy worlds can enrich our imaginations and influence a generation as they grow into adults. Fantasy worlds inspire art, and costume, and language. We only need to look at the success of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, and the wonderful TV adaptation, ‘Game of Thrones’ to see how it is inspiring artists, writers and enthusiasts. DeviantArt is full of wonderful fan art just for starters.

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

I like a good old-fashioned vampire. There’s definitely an allure about the prospect of an eternal life living in the shadows. Plus it would be fascinating to sit and talk to someone who had lived for a thousand years, to discover their opinions on war, or what life was really like.

Dragons I would avoid at all costs. I’ve played enough Skyrim to know you don’t mess with a dragon.

DaltonMyDaylightMonstersWith the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

Yes! I have been lured outside my comfort zone. I’m a genre-hopping reader anyway, but I’ve recently ventured into reading New Adult. I’ve not read any romance for a long time, but there are some real gems in New Adult, and it’s a genre that may have not emerged if it wasn’t for ebooks.

I think we’ll see more niche markets and unusual books, especially in length. Publishers tend to have a preferred word count, but self-published books can be any length at all. I’ve published three novellas so far, books that probably wouldn’t have found an audience without epublishing. We will also see more book bundles and anthologies hitting the scene. I’ve worked with other self-published authors to put together anthologies and multi-author bundles. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to find new readers.

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay?

Oh wow, that’s a tough question! Most of my characters are teens, so it would be a pretty unrealistic cosplay. The MC for my upcoming YA fantasy has a white stag to ride. That would be particularly awesome.

DaltonWhiteHartIs there a book to move/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

I love Game of Thrones. Who doesn’t? For some reason I couldn’t get into the books, despite them being well-written and engaging, but the TV show is probably my favorite show airing right now. The costumes, the acting… it’s all fantastic, and I think the characters are brought to life beautifully.

What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

Creative mess! The messier it is, the more I’m struggling with a plot bunny. I get steadily more and more untidy as I delve into the writing process. Every now and then I have to have a complete tidy to clear my head and focus.

I prefer to write in my office, but I can work in other places. It’s better in silence, so working in cafes, as lovely as it looks in films, isn’t usually very practical. Also I stare into space when I’m writing, which freaks people out in public.

DaltonFracturedFinally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I’m working with an amazing bunch of authors to put out a YA dystopian bundle of six books. I’m really excited about that.

I’m also working on two new series, one a YA high fantasy called White Hart about a young girl born with the craft, a magical power which binds her with nature, the other called Mary Hades, which is a YA paranormal horror. I’m in the early stages of this one. It’s a follow up to my gothic novella My Daylight Monsters, about a girl who can see ghostly beings that help her solve mysteries.

Places to Stalk Sarah

Facebook

Goodreads

Website

Blemished Website

Twitter

Want to see more of blog tour? There’s reviews, interviews, guest posts, even more giveaways. Well, don’t hesitate to jump over to Little Red Reviewer (the maniac who organized this delightful blog tour) to see what all is going down this month.

Of course, you can always check out Apex Magazine for more SFF goodness.

Guest Post: Cruelty Is Needed by Sarah Dalton

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DaltonBlemishedWelcome everyone to The Book of Apex Blog Tour! Today, I have Sarah Dalton here, author of the Blemished series, giving us a guest post. She’s here to talk about a time for cruelty – how an author handles criticism.

Cruelty Is Needed

Every time I receive a bit of criticism for my work, a natural defensive ripple passes through my body. It has to be the worst part of creating something, knowing that other people will judge it. So why do I put myself through it every time I write a book?

Because I need to.

DaltonFracturedThe moment writing became more of a career then a hobby, was the moment I began to receive criticism from other writers. I still remember my first time, it was on a critiquing forum, and a member politely pointed out that my short piece of prose was little more than a great big info dump. At this point I’d never heard of info dumping. I had no idea that in the first five paragraphs of my book, I’d been world building in my head, and dumping those thoughts on the page. Heck, I didn’t even know what world building was. I was an instinctive writer, making it up as I went along. I needed a prod in the right direction, otherwise I might still be writing two thousand word descriptive introductions for each character.

Every word I write is in some way influenced by the books I have read. When it comes to my work, I owe a lot of it to other writers. It has been said before, but it bears saying again, writing is a collaborative process, and the only way you can get better, is by opening yourself to the views of other people.

Part of that process is listening. There’s a lot of advice out there. Part of your job as writer, and CEO of your book, is choosing which advice to heed, and which to ignore. And believe me, receiving criticism isn’t always about changing everything your critique partner tells you to change, because you cannot tailor a book to every single reader’s wants and needs. It’s impossible, you’re never going to please everyone.

So, for what it’s worth, here are my top tips for surviving criticism, and utilizing it to your full advantage.

DaltonMyDaylightMonsters1.    Find authors you trust – most writers establish a number of trusted critique partners either at a local meeting, or via email, or via forums. But you don’t want an echo chamber—it’s good to have differing opinions. I like to find beta readers who have never read any of my work, even if my WIP happens to be the second or third book in a series. I want to know how the reader will experience my book completely blind. The results can be interesting.
2.    Keep an open mind – working in collaboration with your critique partners is a two way street. There’s no point asking for feedback if you are going to completely ignore it. No matter how crazy or different the comments may be, no matter how much work it requires you to do, you’ve asked for honest feedback and you must at least consider it.
3.    …but having said that, after giving your criticism due consideration, you might still think that it doesn’t work for your novel. Trust your instincts. This is where you have to decide what’s best for your novel. Easier said than done. I like Neil Gaiman’s quote on this: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
4.    Read your reviews – sitting and reading every single review you’ve ever received is pretty crazy, and unhealthy. But, I still think that it’s worthwhile to read some of them. There are a lot of reviews that cancel each other out. Sometimes readers love the characters, sometimes they hate them, sometimes they think the book is too fast, others believe it to be too slow… it’s a real reminder that you can’t please everyone. But then you get the very thoughtful and insightful reviews that create light bulb moments. Readers are perceptive. I’ve learned a lot about my writing by reading reviews.
DaltonWhiteHart5.    Put on your public face – last but not least, the hardest part of criticism – taking it. Like I said at the beginning of this, most of us will get a knee-jerk reaction to being criticized. Sometimes I think people forget how difficult it is to see a bad review or be ripped to shreds on a critique forum. People also forget that authors ‘behaving badly’ is not new or confined to the internet, there is a wealth of history where authors have attacked their critics in the most embarrassing, or even violent ways. No, we’re not ‘speshul snowflakes’ or ‘butt-hurt authors’, we’re human. So my advice is not to toughen up, it’s to put on your public face. Follow this advice and you’re well on your way to becoming a professional author. The internet is public. Editors and beta readers are there to help, not be shouted at. Do your crying, bemoaning, angry rants in private, and then when it comes to emailing your betas or editors, keep that public persona on. Keep it professional at all times. If you think your editor has not provided a professional service, that doesn’t mean you can be unprofessional. Most of all never reply to a bad review. Reviewers don’t want to know you’re there, just keep out of it. You are both writer and author, person and business, private and public. Never the twain shall meet.

Places to Stalk Sarah

Facebook

Goodreads

Website

Blemished Website

Twitter

Also, catch the giveaway of The Book of Apex over HERE.

Want to see more of blog tour? There’s reviews, interviews, guest posts, even more giveaways. Well, don’t hesitate to jump over to Little Red Reviewer (the maniac who organized this delightful blog tour) to see what all is going down this month.

Of course, you can always check out Apex Magazine for more SFF goodness.