Tuesday, July 24, 2012


One of the nice things about being self-published is that one can decide to relaunch a book without push back from anybody.  So, Christian Cantrell, author of Containment (reviewed recently here) is relaunching his book with a new cover.  It's much more descriptive of the novel.

In other relaunch news, I released an updated version of my novel The Mars Run on Kindle and Nook.  I kept the cover, but priced the ebooks at $2.99.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Penguin Buys AuthorHouse

Pearson, the company behind Penguin, has acquired the AuthorSolutions stable of fee-charging publishing companies including Xlibris, Trafford and iUniverse. These companies are dogged by customer complaints but are profitable to the tune of about 100 million per year.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

REVIEW: Facilitators

Title: Facilitators
Author: Johanna Gedraitis
Genre: science fiction
Price: $14
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1463685072
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

One of the occupational hazards of reviewing books is that, when you tell somebody “I review books,” they may just hand you one to review.  This happened to me recently at ConQuesT, a science fiction convention in Kansas City.  My companions at the con expressed a hope that the book, Johanna Gedraitis’ novel Facilitator, would be better than the amateurish cover.  Unfortunately, one can judge this book by its cover.

Like any author, I have received negative reviews, and they are not fun.  In this case, I attempted to contact the author and offer to not review the book publicly.  She has not returned my email, so I am publishing my thoughts here.

The basic concept of the book is interesting – two oncologists, one British and one American, are kidnapped while at a convention in Chicago and taken to Latebra, minus their spouses.  Latebra is ran by augmented humans called vytoc, who consider themselves “facilitators” of the human settlement.  The concept, in short, had promise.

Alas, the promise wasn’t realized.  Our two doctors wake up in the stereotypical white room, and their abductor arrives to educate them about their new life.  Despite the vytocs’ great ability, including enhancing themselves to superhuman strength and great regenerative powers, the food they are feeding the humans causes cancer.  So, our doctors are tasked with developing a cure!  Hello? The vytoc can make humans who can survive a car bomb with only a headache, and can keep a city stocked with breathable air, but they can’t cure cancer or figure out how to grow non-cancer-causing Earth foods?

Chapter 1 disposes of the succeeding eight years in a paragraph, and finds our doctors happily at work.  Apparently they were abducted from our past, because one of the doctors misses his punch-card-driven computer.  That’s the only hint of time I found in this story, so I didn’t know if it was deliberate or an authorial error.  Later, we meet the vytoc AKA enhanced human head of security.  He carries a Mauser C98 “broom handle” semi-auto pistol, obsolete even before the Second World War, and what’s worse, he loads it with blanks because it jams every time he fires it!

I also found the layout and mechanics of the book off-putting.  The margins were too wide, and the lines were set, not at single space but at 1.5 spaces.  This made the book feel padded.  The book is told in third person, with no defined narrator, yet various footnotes, most of them not terribly useful, dot the text. 

In short, I really can’t recommend Facilitators to anybody.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

REVIEW: Containment

Title: Containment
Genre: science fiction
Price: $2.99 (ebook) / $10.08 (paperback)
Publisher: Cantrell Media Company
ISBN: 978-0-9845505-1-7
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I bought Christian Cantrell’s book Containment based on an Amazon recommendation and the cover, which shows a picture of the inside of a Stanford Torus, a type of orbital colony.  I found the book interesting, but the cover is highly misleading.  Also misleading, and deliberately so, is the novel’s blurb on Amazon.  The book purports to be the story of Arik Ockley, one of the first humans born on Venus.  Humanity has established a lone colony there, and Arik, after a mysterious accident, must discover artificial photosynthesis in order to assure air for his soon-to-be-born daughter. 

The problem is that Arik, the book’s point-of-view character, is unreliable.  A former US cabinet minister was quoted as saying there are “unknown unknowns.  In other words, things we don’t know that we don’t know.”  The depths of what Arik doesn’t know he doesn’t know are nearly as deep as the Marianas Trench.  His attempts to fill that trench are what drives this story.

Unfortunately, because of these unknown unknowns, there is little external conflict for much of the story.  Arik is just another schlep doing his thing on Venus.  Also unfortunately, Mr. Cantrell, the author, is perfectly willing to stop the action mid-stream and explain a concept in perhaps more detail than is usually the case in science fiction.  I personally am a hard-SF geek, and stopping to look at the shiny toys was a perfectly good use of my time.  Your mileage may vary.

In many ways, the novel is the literary equivalent of the movie The Sixth Sense.  Much of what we the audience see is not what we think we see.   I found that interesting, but perhaps a bit unfair to the reader.  Frankly, I’m not sure that there were enough clues buried into the story for us to have figured it out.  Since I did, however, devour the book in one sitting, I have to say that Containment proved to be well worth my money, and recommended to all readers.


Monday, July 09, 2012

My Story Interview: A House Divided Against Itself, by Bob O'Connor

Why did you choose to self-publish and what were your expectations?
I chose self-publishing after being rejected by every agent and publisher I sent a letter to.

Why did you select your specific self-publishing company?
 I did lots of research, asking authors who had published with Infinity Publishing. Then I also went to their author conference and talked to staff, their authors, and the speakers.

How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals?
It is going great, but I work hard. I have done over 500 book presentations and signings since 2006, including 108 programs in 2011.

Tell us a bit about your latest release and what have you been doing to promote it?
 My latest book is an interesting historical fiction account based on a true story about four characters from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The story follows two brothers as they enlist and train--one in the Confederate army the other in the Union army. My promotions include programs at the Jennie Wade house in Gettysburg (she is one of the characters) and at sesquicentennial events throughout this year.

What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self-publishing?
 It certainly is an option. It works for me, but may not work for them. What it does provide is control over your content and cover and ownership of your rights (at least from the company I use). They should ask one question to any author they meet: ask them, "If you were publishing another book, would you use the same publisher?" Most say no. I have published six books in a row with my publisher.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

REVIEW: Hollow Moon

Title: Hollow Moon   
Author: Steph Bennion
Genre: science fiction
Price: $2.99 (ebook)
Publisher: WyrdStar Books
ISBN: 9781476259000
Point of Sale: Smashwords
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Steph Bennion, the author of Hollow Moon, knows how to write an interesting blurb.  Her book is a tale of “A kidnapping, a school band competition and an electric cat that eats everything in sight!”  Targeted at the YA market, the story is of Ravana O’Brien, resident of the asteroid / spaceship Dandridge Cole, which is in orbit around Barnard’s Star.  The inhabitants live inside the hollowed-up asteroid, which is spun to produce artificial gravity.  Chapter 1 starts with Ravana trying to retrieve her electronic cat, and in the process witnessing a kidnapping.

Chapter 2 takes place on the planet Ascension, also orbiting Barnard’s Star, and highlights the exploits of the local high school band (all three of them) while on a field trip.  There they discover the spaceship used in the kidnapping in Chapter 1, and eventually they meet up with Ravana.  Hijinks ensue, taking place on several planets in two star system.

Hollow Moon is a fast-paced book, full of action.  Characters don’t seem to spend much time catching their breath between adventures, of which there are a number.  The tone of the novel is “Boys and Girls Own Adventure,” with more than a touch of British understatement, fitting for a British author.  Despite the death-defying nature of some of these adventures, the book as a whole works due to the speed of events.  I will also say that Ms. Bennion’s teenagers are very believable, and generally engaging.

The book is not without its flaws, however.  First, I found the omniscient point of view a bit jarring.  There’s nothing wrong with omniscient per se, but if you’re going to use it, it needs to be established firmly at the start of the book.  Second, and more of a personal pet peeve, are the subject of aliens in science fiction.  Basically, if you have aliens in your story, you should either establish fairly early on that aliens exist and are known or the story needs to be about the discovery of the aliens.  Hollow Moon doesn’t follow either of those conventions, rather it tosses the aliens into the mix somewhat in the middle.

The last flaw is somewhat more serious.  Without giving too much away, you can’t hide forever in a space ship.  Sooner or later, every part of the ship will be visited by the crew.  Critical areas, and power supply is always critical, will be visited more often and more carefully monitored. 

Having said all of that, I found Hollow Moon a very enjoyable read.  Ms. Bennion spent a good deal of time thinking about how her future world came to be, which is reflected in the names of planets and the cultures on them.  Her characters are believable and interesting, and I look forward to more from her.