The pacing of this book is amazing. It starts with the obligatory opening ass-kicking scene, of course. Next, you get the beginning of a flashback tale that begins about six months after Z-Day from the perspective of a different survivor, Sandy. He has a very unique tale, and his journey is one of metamorphosis. It is much closer to a Walking Dead, in-the-thick-of-it survival tale. It is interspersed with the main story line which is now revolving around Pete Matthews, and his friend Charley (whose special nature makes him indispensable) who tags along as they join up with the remnants of the military forces of the U.S. that are trying to reclaim America for humanity.
The new characters you get to meet in this book, mostly military personnel, are ones you will find it hard to forget. Their heroic actions and their front-line humor will also stick in your mind.
A Place Called Hope is still a zombie apocalypse novel, but it is also a military science fiction novel. In fact, it is blended so well, that I found it un-put-downable. There is also the main underlying mystery of how the plague started, and what’s going on with the zombies NOW, that make it part intrigue as well. It’s a great book, and it will leave you wanting more!
I give it 4 stars and call it a Give Me More Read!
A Place Outside The Wild is not a typical dystopian novel despite its setting – eight years post zombie apocalypse – which I think makes it a unique read in the genre. The characters are fully fleshed (no pun intended), as is the world. There are twists to the plot that grabbed me by the collar and shook the crap out of me. The biggest flaw was the slow build up to said twists. It was never boring (good suspense), but it is very light on action (after the opening grab) up to almost the 70% mark. I like the work very much, and plan to read the next in the series.
The story is centered on a small enclave of survivors who have managed to ‘wait out’ the zombie life-spans (or so they believe) and scratch out a steadily improving life post Z-day. They have their internal struggles: politics, psychological and social issues, that are all consequences of the apocalypse. The society described in this book is totally believable and will suck you into itself.
The overall plot arc of the zombies and their origins is also a major deviation from most of the stories I’ve seen. You are given hints throughout, some of which I admit I questioned as odd at first, until the final shoe drops. When it does, it’s a Bozo the Clown sized sum-bitch that will leave you gaping at the ramifications!
Now for the ‘critical’ part of my review, which I almost hate to give because I know the difficulties in writing… but I started these reviews to remind myself about my feeling on the books I read, so… here it is. I have two things that keep me from giving the book the fifth star on Goodreads. They are related to pacing and conflict resolution.
Firstly, the drawback to having many small side arcs in the novel is that while they do help build tension and give the overall world more detail, they are also a bit dull to hold onto all the way to the end. All the side arcs fed the climax. If they had been a bit more self-contained I think they would have helped the pacing, giving it more of an ebb-and-flow of action and resolution.
Secondly, the resolutions in the end felt a bit dues-ex-machina in nature. The climax of the overall plot was exciting, but the side arc resolutions were a bit of a let-down, especially when I had already felt them to be a bit slow in the first place.
I can’t explain this well without spoilers, so let me smooth out the criticisms here for anyone reading this review… these are only slight negatives. The book is still getting FOUR STARS!
If you like being immersed in a world and surprised by new concepts to an already expansive genre, then this book is one you need to read. It puts a twist to the zombie origin story that has so much potential it will stagger you. It also doesn’t drag you to the depths of despair, but shows the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable odds. Read the book. I give it four stars and call it a Great Read!
The first installment of the Vox Machina Origins Arc comic is a spot-on rendering of the characters of Vax, Vex & Keyleth in both art, dialogue, and action. The only negative is that the story is so short! I want more!!!!!!!!
This is a short/novella length read, so the blog review will be short as well.
The third installment of the Netcast shorts (which are a prequel series of The Frontiers Saga by Ryk Brown) still pulls you right back into the tale. Intrigue abounds as reporter Hanna Bohl goes back to the field to bring you all the news of the end of the world as she knows it!
The conclusion will leave you wanting more… As usual!
Astounding Frontiers is a new science fiction magazine that consists of short stories and serialized novels in the pulp fiction vein. Although I only give it 3.4 stars overall, the potential for some great stories is there in the editing choices. The serials seem to be of high caliber; it just remains to be seen if they will be worth the expense of the format.
A review of each short story & serial in this issue is below.
Average is 3.4 stars, although if it were weighted by word count, it would be higher.
The fate of old nukes of Earth and the politics of a now old failed rebellion are revealed. It’s an interesting backstory, maybe even a good prologue to a novel, but not a very good story in and of itself. Also slightly repetitive in places.
A greedy slaver grabs the wrong girl, the daughter of a Space Ranger, who proceeds to ‘correct’ the culture of the Caplud Empire. Very entertaining, fast paced, action packed. This is a great short story that’s full ass kicking and bubblegum chewing. I’d say the flavor is a little John Ringo with a little H. Beam Piper and a dash of Laumer’s Retief.
This is a serialized sequel to Somewither. The prologue is a summary of that rather large tome (590 pages?). I wish I had realized that so that I could faster my mental seatbelt before reading it. My medulla oblongata had whiplash by the time I was done, but that was offset by my pleasure centers being over-stimulated by the rest of the story. This alone is enough to hook me on the Astounding Frontiers magazine. My only problem is that I have not read the first book, so I am a bit behind in my understanding. I think I will go read that before I continue this one. *sigh* More items in the T.B.R. pile.
Oh, the story is about the escape from the forces of the Darkest Tower. It’s awesome.
In the Seraglio of the Sheik of Mars (4 stars)
by Ben Wheeler
Even though it takes place in the solar system, the settings and culture of this story is Middle Eastern/Arabic. There is a major back-story to it that is not fully revealed up front, and the main story is actually a tale being told by an old man of his youth. It’s quite good, but you have to like the Scheherazade/Aladdin/Ali Baba style tales. It may prove to be an enticing serial, but my personal take is wait and see. I’ll probably be picking up the next issue, so maybe I’ll know then.
It what feels like an homage to Star Wars, we find the young Prisma Maydoon arriving on the frontier world of Ackabar looking for a bounty hunter just as the big bad evil empire arrives to take charge. It’s good, campy, and I like it. I need more.
Overall, I give this one 3.4 stars and call it an Enticing Read.
I picked this one up a while back, but only decided to move it up in the queue when it hit the Dragon Award Nominees for 2017. Wow, am I glad I did. What an an amazing ride!
You can get a copy for $0.99 at Amazon through the 31st of Aug (2017) by clicking here.
Even if you don’t make the sale, trust me, it’s worth the price.
For those of you who don’t want to read a whole book, let me summarized it for you (highlight below to read spoilers):
<…>Once upon a time aliens blew up the Earth by accident, then a bunch of people hung out at the Infinity Hotel for forever until it wasn’t anymore, and that’s when they met Jesus Jr. and went off to explore the universe.<…>
What’s that, now? You really do want to read it? Well, alright then. Let me give you my review.
When I started reading it, it went something like this:
First, the Earth blew up. It was done in the most AMAZING way… by accident! Then I found myself lost on Route 66 with two architectural engineers, and I was going ‘WTF just happened’? That’s when I saw the Infinity Hotel out in the middle of nowhere and realized this was going to be one of those ‘try to keep up’ books.
Then I was<highlight for spoilers><…> trying to help the M.C. get out of the Twilight Zone Hotel, when suddenly an electric blue bear almost ate me, but I got away and found out I was invincible and also fell in love with a beautiful woman from before the Civil War!<…>
No, wait, that wasn’t me.. that was the Main Character!
OMG this is why it’s called Escaping Infinity… you can’t put it down!
The plot… OMG the plot!… is non-stop whiplash where the hell is this thing going and why is it so good! (Yes, that run-on sentence is meant to be read that way!)
The characters… well, there are really only three important ones, but trust me, you will know all about them before it’s over with. And you will like them!
I’m not going to spoil any more of it. Just go buy it!
I really can’t say enough good things about how fun this book was to read. It was genuinely refreshing, and it was a mix of so many genres in one! Some of them are not even my typical reading fare, but they were written so well, so engrossingly, that I could not put it down.
5 HUGE stars for this book, and much appreciation to Mr. Paolinelli for writing it!
Jon Del Arroz brings life and depth to two of the main factions of the world of the Star Realms deck building card game. He creates a backstory for the corporation centered Trade Federation and the militaristic Star Empire that draws you immediately into the lives of the main characters. It is not your typical shoot-em-up or space battle Military Sci-Fi, but is instead focused on intrigue and espionage. The world building is excellent, and the characters’ depths grows considerably as the story progresses.
The ‘sciencey’ stuff is cool too! Ocular implants, advance Artificial Intelligence, body mods, multi-level mega-structures extending from planet to orbit. Cool stuffs!
There is a very distinct romance arc to the story as well. Unfortunately, this is the main reasons I can’t give the fourth star on Goodreads. I don’t mind romance being a secondary arc, but this one puts it too much in the forefront for me. I also can’t abide ‘love at first sight’, ‘teen angst’, and ‘it makes me stupid’ romance either. That’s not my genre, so having to deal with it here was a bit sigh-inducing. The characters aren’t teens either, which made it worse. YMMV though, so if you like that sort of thing, you can definitely get it here.
All in all, I give this one 3.5 stars and call it just a plain old Fun Read!
The voting is open to anyone. If you’ve read any of the authors here, you should go register to vote and show your appreciation. You can even grab a nominee or two and read up before the end of the month if you haven’t read anyone on the list yet.
Balance is a decent continuation of The Frontiers Saga Rogue Castes, but it is what I would call a ‘filler novel’. Sure, parts of it were necessary because they build the story up and introduce some new characters.
Unfortunately, it’s a slow read for the most part. The ending is great, which is typical of these books; however, the plot suffered from a bit too much foreshadowing, and a lot of extraneous information was dumped in regarding the details of how to program some of the tech. The entire trip to Earth could have been done much easier and without all the boring details of the trip. All of that just served to make the book tedious and longer that it had to be. Honesty, I think it could have been compacted with whatever is coming next to make a much more exciting read out of it.
There are some new characters that are introduced, and some expanded, that I just do not care about yet. Maybe they will be important later, but right now they are boring to watch. On the other hand, some of the newest were boring to start with, but ended up being kind of cool at the end.
It’s hard to write hit after hit, and this series has had it’s share, so one that’s not a chart topper is not going to make me stop reading the it by any stretch. So, I will give this one a 3 star rating and call it an Average Read. I look forward to the next one in the series.
So…I’ve been working on Venus stories, and was thinking of what terraforming it would look like. I saw this in the news and the gears went into overdrive….
It was too dangerous for direct observation to the uninitiated, so Mr. Smith narrated for the tour group as he walked the edge of the burning sulfur lake. “As you can see here, the terraforming process has introduced enough oxygenated atmosphere in this area that we sometimes get these situations at random. Heat and pressure changes, or the occasional lightening strike will set these fires off in areas with high concentrations of sulfur. It’s really mesmerizing to watch, but the byproducts are still the opposite of what we want for our environment here on Venus. A crew will be out shortly to deal with it so that it doesn’t spread.”
“How much longer will it be before we get to the Polar Dome, Mr. Smith? Little Suzie here really needs to potty, and she’s afraid to go in her suit.
Smith sighed and turned to walk back to the surface rover. “Just about ten more minutes Mrs. Jones.” He hated tour groups so much. Why Horizons Unlimited thought they need the pittance of money made from this part of the project, he would never understand.
OK, so the title is click-bait, I admit it. That’s right; I’m not really a Captain. But I was inducted into the Grand Rislandian Army, and I did lead my Blob army to a couple intergalactic victories, so almost.
Hmmm? What’s that?… Oh, Sugar Britches? Well, that part is actually kind of true… here, let me start at the beginning…
So, last Friday was the start of LibertyCon XXX (that’s Roman numeral 30 you dirty minded things, you). I arrived later than planned, but still too early to check in. As always at the Choo Choo, if you aren’t blessed by the Parking Lot Fairies, you end up miles from your room. I got a mixed blessing by getting a spot close to the Convention area before check-in time. It was not so close to the hotel, and my room-to-be, but I didn’t know that yet.
Anyway, I missed the first panel I wanted to see due to lateness. I managed to catch most of the next one, Stealth In Space, all about how to hide things in space when the way you see stuff is through heat and light, and there’s nothing to hide behind. Space is big and cold, but if you’re trying to sneak up on someone (for reasons) you’re probably going to have a really hard time doing it if they are looking. I learned lots of back-of-the-mind things for possible later reference in writing.
After that, I had a gap and it was late enough that my room was ready. It was all the way up and all the way at the end as far from the parking spot as you can get… of course. And, also of course, all the parking fairies were hiding in the bushes laughing at me as they had let everyone else have the other closer spots. This brings us to the cause of the accident… well, besides the fairies, of course.
You see, I always take too many things when I travel. One of them is that heavenly anointed maker of happiness and giver of energy, the coffee pot. It is accompanied by its lesser servants: the remover of bitterness, carnation creamer; and the source of all pre-lunch energies, the sugar canister. They are weighty minor deities, but nonetheless must be appeased.
Naturally, being a Manufacturing Engineer, I have the gift (pronounced curse) of organization and efficiency. (Parking fairies can sense this, by the way, and use it for sadistic purposes – more on that in moment). Well, I discovered that I had room in the pull-behind bag for said coffee condiments, which would allow the number of trips to the far far away vehicle to be limited to just one. Huzzah for organization! Therefore, they went into the bag. With the clothes. (It should also be noted that Parking fairies also have a bit of foresight that I, as a human, do not posses).
Fast forward to a long hot walk and bumping the luggage up a flight of stairs (elevators are too slow… poor efficiency for the transition of a single flight). Once in the room, the plan was to utilize the redundant sleeping surface as a platform for accessing the case of holding for the weekend (unpacking is dumb… and inefficient).
Nope. I opened the case and found that approximately 1 pound (this quantity is known because a full sugar canister is half of a four pound bag of sugar, and I had filled it before leaving home) had escaped its containment device and liberally coated everything in the bag.
Now, I know what you are thinking… Why did I need two pounds of sugar? The answer is both simple and two-fold. The first, of course, is efficiency. When you prefer your sugar with a bit of coffee, as I do, it is quite annoying to have to open twenty small packets of sugar to fill a four cup mug. And you can only do that once because all the sugar packets are gone. Then you have to go borrow/steal from others. It’s very inefficient. Secondly, I didn’t really need two pounds, I only needed one, but the other was my redundant sugar. My only mistake was putting them both in a non-redundant container… and near my… well, I’ll get to that.
The majority of the sugar was now at the bottom corner of the suitcase… right where the undies were carefully stored beside the socks. I say majority because a very persistent minority of it was IN the socks… and the undies.
So, for the next thirty minutes I was forced not only to unpack shudder, but also to carefully shake out each article of clothing, each book I had brought for autographs, and each and every small crevasse of a suitcase. Of course, this meant the floor was now sugar coated as well. It had to be dealt with because… I mean, do you want ants? ‘Cause that’s how you get ants.
I was sure I could hear giggling from the parking lot when I made my way back to the truck for coffee mug I had forgotten in the cup holder. After that I made my way to game room to check out what was what there. I kibitzed on a little OGRE action and reacquainted with some folks I’d befriended last year.
Then I made my way back to the panel on Short Story Writing Tips which covered the usual range of ‘everybody does it different’ mixed with a few examples of ‘everyone agrees: don’t do this or that’. It was interesting to hear, and I did manage to pan a few small nuggets out of it.
Next, Opening Ceremonies kicked off the Con with Dominatrix (ices?) Toni Weisskopf and Brandy Spraker whipping the audience of filthy minded minions of LC XXX into… record scratch So anyway, the Con kicked off with a very humorous MC rattling off the many many many pros in attendance, and the annual drafting… welcoming of the slaves… um first timers. After, we all parted to revel in the festivities.
Later in the evening, I found myself making new friends in the game room again. Not only did I meet my first Critter (see Critical Role fan) in the wild, but I also discovered we shared an alma mater (Hail State!). The world is indeed small.
Soon, many of us were getting our initiation into the world of Star Realms courtesy of Mr. Jon del Arroz (still lugging a suitcase and wearing formal attire… I don’t think he got the memo about the South being hot and muggy.) I did not win the tourney, being taken out in round two by said memo-less del Arroz, but I was allowed to join the Grand Rislandian Army (from For Steam & Country) and got a set of cards out of the deal. Thanks Jon!
Somehow, I managed to miss the dinner bell at the Con Suite and had to subsist on chips and soda, but the gaming and company more than made up for the exchange at the time. More games and coffee later, we began a late night Call of Cthulhu session. Our Keeper, Anita Moore, pushed us through time into a Nameless Horror adventure where I played the lovable rogue, Theodore Maynard. He had a knack for very poorly timed humor. It was a good fit, overall. I got to practice my British accent skills (have you ever heard a Britt that sometimes sounds like a good ole boy?). That lasted until just past 3 AM. I was quite insane by the end… so was Theo. I didn’t get to exhausted sleep until 4 AM.
FF to the next day and… What? Yes, yes, yes, I’m getting back to the Sugar Britches part you bunch of sensationalists! Have a little patience.
So, Saturday was going to end up hot, wet and exhausting (calm down). It started off with the hotel deciding it was very important that they mow the little patches of green between the wings of the building at 8:00 AM on the first night after the start of a convention because, obviously, that’s always a good idea and everyone must be awake by now. eyeroll I missed breakfast, but managed to fumble through a shower and get to the autograph session with John Ringo and my planned loop through the Art show.
It rained heavily a few times and the steam content of Chattanooga went up to somewhere around 113% plus or minus delirium.
This is where the problem came in. I wrote the giggles off to lack of sleep this time, but I now realize it was the Parking fairies. They play the long game, those fairies. I returned to my room for another infusion of coffee and to use the facilities. Now, I won’t get too graphic, but let me just say that I was very surprised to find myself unable to let go of certain body parts after using the restroom.
Now, for anyone not familiar with the details of men’s undergarments, in the front there is an area where the fabric overlaps, called the ‘fly’. It serves the purpose of both a potential access way and room for… expansion… in Engineering terms… a redundant mechanism for an extra degree of freedom of movement. In short (shorts?), it is arranged in a way that makes it quite possible for fine granules of a substance (say, sugar) to find their way into this overlap of materials and become trapped there… undetected. If said granules are water soluble, (also, like sugar) it can become mixed with sweat and then permeate through the cloth to coat… other things. I think you see where I’m headed with this, so I won’t bore you (or gross you out any further) with any more details.
Suffice it to say, the next thing I did was take another shower. The next thing I did after that was make sure ALL the sugar was out of any other articles of clothing before wearing them. (Damn fairies) [Thus ended (thankfully and forever) the not so daring adventure of Captain Sugar Britches.]
Tired and perturbed, I decide to grab another hour of sleep, then went to scrounge in the Con Suite for scraps because I had missed yet another meal call. I hung out in the game room until the next panel I wanted to see rolled around at 2 PM.
At the Baen Traveling Slide show, I acquired swag and list of books that I want to read on top of all the ones I am already behind on reading. I wish those Parking fairies could make me read faster. I bailed out after the first hour for another panel of interest.
At 3 PM, I was educated on the International Space Treaty by Space Lawyer Laura Montgomery. This was fruitful in that it gave me a good idea for a short story. Did you know that if you catch a cold in space, that it could technically be illegal to let you come back to Earth because you now contain a mutated organism?
Next, I learned a lot about Planetary Formation, exoplanets, and n-body models (No, they were not Swedish, nor were they wearing bikinis. I told you before ‘XXX’ is Roman
numerals for 30!) from the Science GoH, Elisa Quintana. She works for the SETI Institute on the Kepler program. They look for Earth-like planets in other solar systems. She wrote the predictive model that tries to explain how they form, and determine where a good place to look next will be. I’m pretty sure she is much smarter than anyone else at the Con. In fact, she is probably an extra terrestrial being with partial amnesia who is trying to use Earth’s resources to re-locate her home planet. I spoke to her afterwards and tried to convince her to turn her n-body model into a video game for nerds. I’d play it.
Am I boring you? Ah, who am I kidding, no one reads this blog anyway, so I’ll just keep going for my own sake.
The next event, hosted by my friend Doug Loss, was an RPG game called ‘One Last Job’. It’s an RPG where the players make up the story, describing what happens and giving out scars and legends to each other that can be used to help with dice rolls in situations that determine failure of success of the mission objectives. My new friend (Critter/MSU grad), his wife and I were the only ones who ended up playing due to the unfortunate time slot. Yep, right at meal time. I was starving by this point, so I had to beg a delay to get grub before the game. Anyway, it was still a great time. We invented some characters, told some lies and made some hilarious memories. Heck, I may even write the scenario up as a short story someday. You can get the pdf for the whole game and a few scenario ideas for free here.
After that, I tried to resolve some sleep deprivation, but… noise. Next year I will have earplugs that link to my phone so I can use them and still hear my alarm. Anyway, I gave up and returned to the game room where I was sucked into a game of Cards Against Humanity. It was deplorably fun, but I ended up with a migraine and had to abandon all hope at midnight. The parties below my room kept me from sleep for a few more hours. (The Choo Choo’s strike number three for me, as I had specifically asked to be on the other side. I would not stay there again even if the Con was not going to move.) I did get at least six hours I think, and the migraine went away.
When Sunday rolled around, I was up and checked out before the Kaffeeklatch started at 10AM. I decided to skip out early on that and instead just sat in the rocking chairs outside and enjoyed the morning air, which was not quite as stuffy as the day before. I caught up on email and Facebook, then headed to the Space Opera panel. It was fun, but mainly just turned into a ‘what’s your favorite/least favorite tv/movie space opera’ as answered by the ‘pros’.
I picked up my pre-auction art bid winnings (another neat print) at the Art Show and celebrated my friend Anita Moore’s win for Best 3D Art.
She does really amazing 3D-scapes that can be used for all kinds of miniature style game sets. If you’re in the market, you should definitely check her stuff out on her Facebook page here.
A round of lunch at a nearby shop with friends, old and new, followed by the Con closing Bitch Session, would conclude my LibertyCon XXX adventures. As I left, I thought I’d gotten the last laugh when I walked out the door and was right there at my truck. Then I realized I needed a new drink for the ride home and had to go get some ice… across the parking lot… at the back of the hotel.