Friday, November 30, 2012

REVIEW: A Wind Out of Canaan

Title: A Wind Out of Canaan
Author: Sally Gwylan
Genre: alternate history, science fiction
Price: $2.99 Kindle
Publisher: Birds Nest Press
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

POD People receives a number of unsolicited review requests.  In fact, we average around 20 such requests a week.  Deciding which request you’ll accept is difficult, so when I saw Sally Gwylan’s note that parts of the story had been published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, I decided that was a signal that this would be a good story.  I was mostly right.

A Wind Out Of Canaan is set in the Great Depression, and starts by having Phillipa, a young girl who has become a hobo, struggling to get into a “jungle” or hobo camp.  This particular jungle is in an abandoned icehouse in Minnesota, and Phillipa is being held up by a blizzard – an unusually early one at that.  As the story progresses, Phillipa discovers that the foreigners – “Wobs” (short for “Wobblies” or members of the International Workers of the World, a radical trade union) running the camp aren’t from Europe.  Wherever they are from, they access home via a powerful energy portal.

This portal malfunctions, killing several hobos and burning down the icehouse.  The story is then one of survival as the remaining hobos have to find a new home.  Also, one of the surviving Wobs wants to go to Saint Paul, where he can link up with the rest of his group. 

I really wanted to like the story, and it is written well enough.  Sally Gwylan is a graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop, so she has some professional cred.  However, I’m not a fan of the story.

My first problem was that the “Wobs from space” (or wherever they are from – it’s not explained in the book) felt unnecessary.  The whole story felt to me as if Gwylan had taken a perfectly-good story about a girl in the Great Depression and bolted on some vague science fiction in order to make it fit a market.  This bolt-on made the story feel padded, because I kept waiting to find out more about the science fiction.

My second problem was with the ending.  I don’t want to give away too much of the ending, but there was no real conclusion to the story.  The book just ended, leaving pretty much everything unresolved.  In short, I can’t really recommend this story.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Simon & Schuster Start Selp-Pub Imprint: Archway

What is a gatekeeper when it isn't a gatekeeper.  The answer is apparently Archway.

The base novel package is $1,999.  To which I say: Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

I would be astounded if they are offering a better deal that other companies off for free or less than $500.

See also:

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I just saw a television advertisement for an Authorhouse book, on a major channel in the middle of Thanksgiving day.

Advertising a children's book about making Easter eggs. That is all of 24 pages long.  Easter eggs.  On Thanksgiving.

Why on earth would any author do that? Someone must have money to burn.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

What a POD Peep Reads: Silent Dances (StarBridge Book 2)

Title: Silent Dances (StarBridge #2)
Genre: science fiction
Price: $4.95 Kindle
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

A while back, I did a “What A POD Peep Reads” segment on StarBridge, A. C. Crispin’s debut SF novel.  While on vacation last week, I found myself tired of touring and facing a nice hotel pool and a warm, sunny day.  So, I fired up my tablet device, purchased and downloaded Silent Dances, book two in the series, and settled in for poolside for a good read.

Crispin’s first novel, StarBridge, ended with the creation of the StarBridge Academy, a site dedicated to training young humans and aliens to interact peacefully and work to discover other alien species.  Silent Dances starts a number of years later, with one of the academy’s recent graduates, Tesa, a Native American woman born deaf, getting two offers.  One involves returning to Earth and getting her hearing restored.  The other involves going to Trinity, a planet occupied by an intelligent but primitive bird-like species called the Grus.  They are contradictory tasks, as the bird’s alarm cries are loud enough to (literally) deafen and even kill humans.

Tesa takes the offer to go to Trinity, where she has to work with a small human crew to prove that the Grus are intelligent enough to be brought into the Cooperative League of Systems.  At the same time, somebody is killing Grus for their skins, and factions of a rival alien species would love to embarrass and discredit humans.  In short, it’s a sticky situation, especially for a nineteen-year-old on her first mission.

Crispin and her co-author O’Malley put a lot of work into thinking about how an avian society would work, in part based on O’Malley’s work with whooping cranes.  They also put a lot of effort into understanding the culture of people born deaf (“Deaf”) who don’t see themselves as disabled and have no interest in becoming Hearing.  Lastly, Tesa was raised on a living museum on Earth, and knows the ways of primitive life, something that will come in quite handy.

Silent Dances is, simply put, a romp.  There’s action and adventure on nearly every page, tied to well-written characters that the reader cares about.  The alien society feels real, and the humans (good and bad) are believable.  One of Tesa’s jobs is unraveling a mystery, which makes this book both SF and mystery.  Lastly, although this is Book Two of a series, everything you need to know about Book One (which is not much) is contained in Book Two.  Silent Dances stands alone, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

REVIEW: There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes

Title: There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes  
Author: Robert Jacoby
Genre: fiction
Price: $12.95 paperback / $6.99 Kindle
Publisher: Cloud Books       
ISBN: 978-0983969709
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

A while back, I reviewed Robert Jacoby’s first book-length nonfiction effort, Escaping Reality Without Really Trying.  Based on that review, Mr. Jacoby asked me to review his first novel, There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes, and I agreed to do so.  I found the book an interesting read.

Noah is the story of Richard Issych, a nineteen-year-old boy who tries to kill himself with an overdose of Quaaludes.  It doesn’t work, and he wakes up in a mental ward.  The story then becomes how Richard deals with his fellow inmates, his doctor and his parents.  This being the 1980s, his parents are still somewhat ashamed of mental illness, and their reactions to their son’s suicide attempt reflect that.

This book is a classic example of “literary fiction” – the story is a slice of life, focusing on one rather ordinary character’s reactions to a not-terribly-unusual set of circumstances.  This is not my typical cup of tea, and I am not at all happy with the way Jacoby chooses to end the book.  However, I found the story engaging, well-written and generally interesting.

Richard, the protagonist and narrator, is in many ways a typical struggling teenager.  He does have more problems than most in that he is suffering from clinical depression, something that was not diagnosed until his suicide attempt.  I found his reactions to being stuck in the asylum with the “crazies” (his term) both believable and sympathetic.  I also found his fellow inmates to be interesting and internally consistent. 

Jacoby, the author, does a good job of portraying a man who doesn’t see himself as crazy becoming sane while dealing with other crazy people.  This made the book well worth the read.  I ended up caring about not just Richard but his parents and the other inmates, which is a neat trick to pull on an action / SF reader like me.  Like I said, I didn’t like the ending at all, but it was fair and consistent with what had happened up to that point.