Saturday, May 9, 2015

New Writing Excuses Updates

In this week’s new Writing Excuses episode, Build an Entire World? Are You Crazy?, we address those of you who who start writing the story before you finish building your world. Letting the story drive the worldbuilding can often be more efficient... New Writing Excuses Updates

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

JoZebwrites: On (mostly) accidental darkness.

JoZebwrites: On (mostly) accidental darkness.: I wrote a book that I knew was a little dark in places, but considered to be not outstandingly so, especially in this age of Grimdark. I&...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review::Stardoc by S.L. Viehl

Stardoc (Stardoc, #1)Stardoc by S.L. Viehl My rating: 4 of 5 stars ComNet::Stardoc(Stardoc#1) by S.L.Viehl Stardoc(Stardoc#1) by S.L.Viehl

This is one of those books I so wanted to love. It has a lot going for it. As some have mentioned it has that certain something that came of the Star Trek era. It has a plethora of alien life forms; many are similar to humans and others are more like spiders and bugs. It has this political atmosphere where the Earth shuns the aliens though star travel is an every day thing. There is a slight air of superiority in this exclusion and that is a bit off putting while definitely not quite the same flavor as a Star Trek. But overall for this novel it works.

What this novel also has is a bit of romance and some mystery and these could be a great addition if there were not some elements about them that seemed to get in the way. I should qualify that I'm not averse to romance and more so in my science fiction. What I have a problem with is the manner in which it's presented and how that portrays the character.

The mystery is another thing that is one of those things that might be compared to humor. When done well it comes across quite successfully; but when mismanaged it can get in the way.

I have only four of the novels in this series; one thing they have in common is they start with a bit taken from Hippocrates. This is about a Star Doc so it makes sense and there seems to always follow a snide response from Cherijo, the main character, about the value of such advice. I suppose in a small way this prepares us for the sassy character behind these stories. Just a tiny bit of a spoiler here; I've read three of the novels so far and one thing that is clear is that Cherijo doesn't change much throughout. Oddly her character is like one part Bones from Star Trek and one part Bones from the TV series and one part Candid. I say Candid because sometimes her focus on healing makes her oblivious to everything else to the point that she often seems quite naive about life and the consequences of her actions and just like Candid she always manages to come out smelling like a rose even though she often has to roll in dung-heap a bit before hand.

The mystery starts right from the beginning when Cherijo is trying to get off Earth and away from her father. Of course this is a common trope in fiction so no surprise that the young woman wants to put as much distance between her and her parent. The first wrinkle is that her father is one of those who are bigoted against aliens; but we are soon to find that in some other beliefs he is quite hypocritical and one of those belongs to the list off reasons Cherijo is leaving Earth. Her destination is a Free Clinic on Kevarzangia Two where she will get experience in perfuming surgery on aliens. Her secret and her fathers secret and some few other revelations involving Maggie, someone she calls her maternal influence since she never knew her mother, are all stretched throughout. It would be a spoiler to state any of the secrets because so far they span across the three books I have read. This book reveals some, but not all. This I could live with but it was just one annoying thing that hung in there for me with a bad taste.

The best I can do in describing the romance in this book, well this one is the exception, for the most part Cherijo's romance is rather schizoid. Now on the surface one might argue that that word can't describe romance and I'm certain you are right; but read this novel and the next two and then tell me that that doesn't describe the romance category for Cherijo.

Regardless; Cherijo goes to the seedy part of town and hires Dhreen, captain of Bestshot, who decides he likes her after circumstances in the bar require Cherijo to display both her assertiveness and her dedication to healing. Dhreen agrees to take her to Kevarzangia and all that's left for Cherijo is for her to get off planet before her father finds out.

Cherijo makes it eventless to her destination where she takes up residency and meets a lot of strange species while not making many friends. She honestly has the bedside manner of Temperance Brennen sometimes. But she's so dedicated to her work of healing that she really steps into it when she heals a Hsktskt, one of the most feared and hated species. This gets mixed reactions from everyone and is soon forgotten when a plague threatens to overtake the planet; but not before Cherijo starts an inter-species romance with a Jorenian, Kao Torin. I've no objection to interspecies romance and Cherijo honestly seems to love him though she falls quickly into love. But alas I think that the author is using Kao. Enough of that though because it ventures into spoiler territory.

Overall I enjoyed this novel and read it in one night. My one qualm is that Cherijo doesn't seem changeable and at the same time because of some circumstances she seems to often be hard to pin down. I think that it’s the oath and her healing that tend to hold back the growth and often lead to confusing territory with the character actions. But more so, and this is a spoiler, it's the whole basis of the mystery and Cherijo herself being so perfect at some things that causes her to stay static throughout.

I recommend this to anyone who loves science fiction; especially the bug eyed monster kind and in a small way watching how a writer can take Star Trek and push it into a fifty-ish novel with a female lead that could only be conceived in the future.

I honestly thoroughly enjoyed the novel despite some of the drawbacks I've mentioned.

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Review::The Soldier's Sympathy by Chris Guillory

The Soldier's SympathyThe Soldier's Sympathy by Chris Guillory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Soldier's Sympathy by Chris Guillory

The Soldier's Sympathy starts with and Epilogue and Jaron, an evident assassin for Kamiken [A sort of Corporate Agency that employs mercenaries.] We see Jaron casually making his hit while talking to himself. Only he's getting answers in his head and for a bit it might sound like he's employing some sort of advanced AI weapon that is helping him acquire the target; if not for his asking the voice to recall their wedding. After the kill we get a flash back to when Jaron was a soldier on a mission to the moon to rout out a nasty terrorist group known as the Tantalus [Think mindless zombie like followers who eat other people]. There ensues a slight bit of techno-babel related to the mission and a slight bit of world building that is mostly, but not quite (we'll see the Tantalus later), unimportant because the point of this flashback is that upon completion of the mission Jaron gets the bad news that his wife Mari has died; victim of an accident. This is followed by a brief explanation how that all leads to his employment with Kamiken and the suggestion by them that he have a Sympathy implant.

This is a good novel and right away we can see it will be a suspense novel with elements reminiscent of Philip k. Dick[[ASIN:0547572298 Ubik]] or for more recent readers perhaps William Gibson [[ASIN:0399158448 The Peripheral]]. But as I read on I find it has so many more elements twisted into the plot that it might seem a bit overpopulate. It's also a neat adventure yarn for those who love the near ceaseless action. But being suspense it carry's baggage that I've always had trouble with in this genre and that more than anything is what prevents me from giving five stars. I do give it high marks though and for all of that as usual I'll try to explain myself somewhat. Not everyone will agree with the way I see things and I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from reading this because it's the kind of book that you will want to read in one sitting regardless of whether you are capable or not.

I resume the story with Jaron reporting in to find he has another assignment with just enough time to rest in between. I get to know a bit more about Jaron but Jaron is one of many mysteries in the story that create the suspense so Chris Guillory deliberately short changes the reader on details. As with all good suspense I'll get to know what I need to know, but only when the author decides. There are many such omissions throughout and for me as a reader these add up to anticipation of a big payoff and in most instances the author acquits himself.
I get a walk through of the building Jaron works out of; one somewhat protracted by detailed description until we reach the assistant's office out side of Mr. Santos office, which thankfully is sparsely decorated. But this is setting a tone I'm going to see throughout for both the type of description of scene and location and the techno-babel involving the hardware employed by the mercs. For the reader who gets excited about world building and the detail of weaponry this novel will be a great treat.

The next scene I get to is the next assignment that is a retrieve or kill situation. Here things go poorly and it turns rapidly into a kill operation (Well, maybe a bit sluggishly considering all the detail to hardware.) Still as it turns out the target is a child. Thankfully Jaron makes a hasty decision and turns on his comrades and runs off with the young girl. By this time we're introduced to at least five distinct and well developed characters and there will be many more; almost an overwhelming amount for this reader.(I'll get back to this.) For now though the important thing is that for me I struggled with this turn about because all there is are hints to some element in Jaron's past that might influence the mans decision to risk everything to save a child. Sure it is a child, but up to this point all I know is that all these characters are ruthless killers. But once again this is part of that mystery and suspense aspect of withholding information.

After the failure and loss of the target and Jaron two of those involved are sent on a pickup that will intersect with more people important to the story. Alex Ibara and Daniel Richter are official police troops investigating a case involving someone who might be having a reaction to his Sympathy implant. The two Kamiken agents have been sent to intercept the suspect after they take him down. Despite objections that Alex and Dan have about giving the man up they have to because of orders from headquarters, but they both suspect that something is way off. Their subsequent investigation leads them head on into a confrontation with Jaron who is on the run with the child. Alex turns out to be the one character I love the most in this novel and it might be because she's one of the few major players who doesn't seem to have all the extra baggage that we aren't suppose to know yet. It might also be that her point of view isn't as cluttered with all the techno-babel, though I'm not sure why because she is in possession of one of the neatest technical devices.

It would probably take a novel to mention all the major players and that might account for why it seemed that the story would always bog down a bit while we encounter a paragraph or two of the newly introduced characters. It took me a while to get used to this pace to where I began to expect it and was sometimes pleasantly surprised when I received information about other characters through the eyes of someone else. Strangely it was often someone looking at one of the many ones with mysterious pasts and there were clues included for the reader, like specific tattoos and such which are important later. Once again I might be hyper sensitive to this and it's best for the discerning reader to make their own judgment.

This novel contains a lot of familiar elements to me. Throughout the novel the scenes switch up through a wide variety so varied I had visions of several other stories come to mind. When describing the facility where the girl, Jessica, had come from and her dreams of what might have occurred there, it brought to mind A.A. Bell's [[ASIN:B0047O2JB8 Diamond Eyes]]. And of course the flight scenes with Joran and the child reminded me of Stephen Kings [[ASIN:0451167805 Firestarter]]. But much later some desert scenes couldn't help but bring to mind the Mad Max movies. Later there is an explanation of the auger witches and how they interface with computers and satellites and the use of a viruse that regulates the connection which brought to mind a recent read of Tara K. Harper's [[ASIN:0345380517 Cat Scratch Fever]] and subsequent sequel [[ASIN:0345380525 Cataract]]. And this story does get every bit as gritty as the Cat Scratch Fever though it doesn't ever get quite as dark.

So though the ground work is familiar there are some style choices that make this unique to itself. Some choices seemed a bit risky but many paid off in the long run, but for me it meant that I had to get 20 percent of the way into the novel before it really took off and that was only after I managed to understand the pace and general style of presentation to where I could anticipate certain slowdowns at the introduction of each new major character.[Sometimes the effort seems to be duplicated in that as the story unfolds we get to know what we need to know without the separate blocked paragraphs of character description, though those blocks did help to cement the differences between characters.] There are grizzly elements in the description of many scenes because there are scenes with mass slaughter happening, which are mostly justified by the need to level the playing field between protagonist and antagonist by a show of somewhat indiscriminate destruction evident in the nature of augmented mercenaries.

This novel should excite most SFF military suspense enthusiasts and contains elements of Cyberpunk and even a slight dystopic atmosphere.

I highly recommend this to those interested in this type of fiction and despite my protests I did read it all in one sitting; because I was really interested in getting the answers to the questions. The reader won't be disappointed.

One note: There is one possible plot hole, but to discuss it would give away too much and spoil things so my best suggestion to the reader is to see if you notice it when you read The Soldier's Sympathy. [I'm easily confused sometimes and this may be the case. (translates:: I'll probably have to read this novel one more time.)]

J.L. Dobias

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

COM NET: Review:: Lightwing by Tara K. Harper

COM NET: Review:: Lightwing by Tara K. Harper: Lightwing by Tara K. Harper My rating: 5 of 5 stars Lightwing by Tara K. Harper This is my second read of this old classic. Old now becau...