Friday, December 28, 2012

REVIEW: Rock Killer

Title: Rock Killer
Genre: SF
Price: $4.99 (ebook) / $11.69 (paperback)
Publisher: World Castle Publishing
ISBN: 978-1937593452
Point of Sale: Amazon / Barnes & Noble
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I’m not exactly sure how Townsend’s new novel Rock Killer came to my attention.  All I do recall is that the ebook edition was up on Amazon as a free download, so I took a flyer on it.  The book proved an entertaining read, if a bit irritating at times.

Rock Killer is set in the latter half of this century.  Several private companies, including Space Resources Inc. (SRI), are mining the asteroid belt by locating and moving asteroids into Earth orbit.  Charlene Jones is a member of the security group for SRI, and when the book opens, her base on the moon is under attack by terrorists, presumably working with Gaia Alliance, a group opposed to all space mining.  From that point on, the action continues briskly, ending up with a dramatic battle in space.

This novel is a SF thriller, and suffers from some of the problems inherent in the genre.  Character development is secondary to plot, although in fairness to Townsend there is some development, mostly of the protagonists.  The author falls down on characterization for his antagonists, making them either fools or one step away from mustachio-twirling cardboard cutouts.

I also found the author’s politics both grating and gratuitous.  Townsend postulates an America where “radical socialism” has run rampant, and defending oneself from a criminal attack has become a crime.  These are not my politics, and so I found them grating.

I also felt that these political leanings were unnecessary to the plot.  I have reviewed and enjoyed books like Charles Sheehan-Miles’ Insurgent and Republic.  Here the politics were strongly left-leaning, but in Sheehan-Miles’ case, the story simply couldn’t be told without the politics.  Not so with Rock Killer.  The plot point of the “illegal self-defense” was simply to blow somebody’s cover, which could have been done in other ways, and the “radical socialism” was simply not needed. 

Yet, despite these objections, I found myself quickly flipping electronic pages while reading Rock Killer.  Simply put, it’s an exciting read, with protagonists, at least, that are believable and that one can care about. 


Sunday, December 16, 2012

REVIEW: Apocalypse Ocean

Title: Apocalypse Ocean
Genre: SF
Price: $4.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Amazon Digital
Point of Sale: Amazon / Barnes & Noble
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I’ve been a fan of the SF writer Tobias Buckell ever since I met him at a convention.  He’s a cool dude, and writes fairly hard-boiled SF novels.  He first came to fame with Crystal Rain, set in a world colonized in part by aliens who wanted to be worshipped as ancient Aztec gods – human sacrifice and all.  This was to be Book One of a five-book series.  Alas, after three books, his publisher suggested they move on, and Tobias did so.  But he still wanted to write Book Four and Book Five, and had fans willing to read it.  So he did a Kickstarter project (full disclosure – I contributed) and the result is Apocalypse Ocean.  This novel is now available to the general public as an ebook.

Buckell has done something I am striving to do in my own writing, namely write loosely-connected sequels, such that a reader can start with any book in the series.  I believe Buckell has succeeded in that goal with this book.  Set on Trumbull, a human-colonized world that has fairly recently become independent of alien domination, the book features Buckell’s recurring dreadlocked agent of general chaos Pepper, one of his “daughters” Nashara and a criminal mastermind named Kay.

Trumbull is a world where trees emit a flammable mist, which rains down and coats buildings and people like napalm.  Oh, and there’s a dead zone, an area in which all unshielded electronics fail to work.  Lastly, an unknown “thing” called a Doaq is running around at night, eating buildings and people.  It is, in short, a nasty place; interesting to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.

I’ve admitted my bias – after all, you don’t donate to a Kickstarter project unless you like the work – but Apocalypse Ocean is one hell of a good read!   Buckell starts the action early, and it never lets up.  Not only that, his worlds are not the stereotypical clean rooms of old-school SF; they are real, gritty places inhabited by believable aliens and people.  I highly recommend you read this book.


Just posted today - Tobias Buckell talks about the Kickstarter process.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

REVIEW: Just Remember to Breathe

Title: Just Remember to Breathe
Author: Charles Sheehan-Miles
Genre: romance
Price: $13.62 (paperback) / $3.99 (Kindle)
Publisher: Cincinnatus Press
ISBN: 978-0988273603
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

This blog (or at least this writer at this blog) has been a fan of Charles Sheehan-Miles since I devoured and loved his novels Republic and Insurgent (reviews at link).  Now, much though I like Mr. Sheehan-Miles’ books, he has been known as a slow writer.  The gap between the releases of Republic and Insurgent is six years.  So when I heard he cranked out a book in 14 days (!) I decided I had to buy it and read it.  As is typical with his work, I enjoyed it.

Just Remember to Breathe is almost a complete 180 from Sheehan-Miles’ previous work.  It is a straight-up romance novel, with minimal violence and no gun-play.  It’s set in the current day, as opposed to a near-future world, and about the only commonality between this and the author’s previous work is that one of the characters, Dylan Paris, is a war veteran. 

The story starts with Alex Thompson being assigned a student work job at Colombia University.  She’s both carrying a torch for and upset at an unnamed prior boyfriend.  This boyfriend proves to be Dylan Paris, fresh back from Afghanistan, wounded, and feeling betrayed by Alex.  What’s worse is that they are both assigned as the sole research assistants to an author-in-residence at Colombia!

From this “re-meet cute” the story follows Alex and Dylan as they attempt to negotiate the trials of their new lives.  Dylan has emotional issues from both his war experience and his poor home life, and Alex, although of a wealthy family, has her own crosses to bear.  Sheehan-Miles skillful weaves these various threads together, resulting in an entertaining and engrossing read.  I’m not normally a fan of romance novels, but this one I enjoyed, and I expect you will too.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Harlequin Digital First

The new Harlequin digital imprint is open to submissions in many genres.  They will accept previously self-published material.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

WordClay will close on December 31

As reported by Publishers Weekly.  WordClay was the basic package a bit like Lulu or Createspace.  No surprise that AuthorHouse wants to focus on the 'pay thousands of dollars' approach instead.

REVIEW: Velveteen Vs. The Junior Super Patriots

Title: Velveteen Vs. The Junior Super Patriots
Genre: science fiction
Price: $25 hardcover / $9.99 electronic
Publisher: ISFIC Press
ASIN: 978-0985798918
Point of Sale: ISFIC Press
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

ISFIC Press, the publishing arm of Chicago science fiction fandom, has a tradition of publishing a book written by the guest of honor at Windycon, their annual convention.  I have a tradition of buying that book.  Since this year’s guest was Seanan Mcguire, I took home a shiny new signed copy of Velveteen Vs. The Junior Super Patriots.

According to McGuire, in 2008 on a whim she decided to write short stories “about a strange superhero universe where cosmic powers not only came with great responsibility, they came with great legislation, merchandising, and focus group oversight. Many young heroes were effectively "adopted" by a corporate entity known as The Super Patriots, Inc., which promised to teach them how to best control their amazing gifts.  Some of those junior heroes wanted out. Very few of them ever got it.”

The star of these stories is Velma “Velveteen” Martinez, a young woman whose superpower is the ability to animate stuffed animals and dolls.  It’s a weird superpower, but it works for her, and got her out of a rotten home life.  Unfortunately, she got into a rotten existence, fighting supervillains while under the thumb of a malevolent corporation.  Then, at age eighteen, she walked away – but Marketing wants her back.
The nine stories wrapped up in this slim volume are entertaining, combining a well-earned cynicism with flashes at humor.  This is “urban realistic” fantasy / SF – McGuire’s characters need to earn a living, want to go on dates and otherwise are more than cartoon cutouts.
My chief exposure to McGuire’s writing is when she is writing zombie novels under her pen name Mira Grant.  Although Velveteen is much lighter fare, I saw a lot of parallels in the two bodies of work.  McGuire has a distrust of institutions, even ones supposedly dedicated to good, and she has a firm grasp of what combat does to a person.
I own just about every book ISFIC Press has issued, and I keep finding myself saying “they do good stuff.”  Velveteen Vs. The Junior Super Patriots is yet another solid offering in their library.  Highly recommended. 


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

REVIEW: Cocaine Zombies

Title: Cocaine Zombies
Genre: crime thriller
Price: $4.95 Kindle
Publisher: Camel Press
ASIN: B009W45276
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my sister said “you have got to read this book!”  I decided to give it a try, and I’m glad I did.

Scott Lerner, the author, is an attorney in Champaign, IL.  I attended the University of Illinois there, and it’s the nearest “big city” to where I grew up and where my sister lives.  Mr. Lerner, taking the advice of “write what you know,” decided to set his story there, but you don’t have to have any familiarity with Champaign to appreciate this book.

Cocaine Zombies is a twist on the tried but true old genre of hard-boiled crime fiction.  Samuel Roberts, the book’s narrator, isn’t a detective but rather a lawyer.  Sam doesn’t even own a gun.  However, he still has a one-man office in a not-very nice building, and as the story opens up his first client walks into the door.  His client is accused of selling cocaine, and is escorted and bankrolled by an exotic beauty named Chloe.  Things get interesting from there.

The book is structured as a mystery, and so I can’t explain the plot without giving things away.  But I can say that even though the book is set in modern-day Champaign, it includes zombies, Nazis, sex and drugs.  About all that’s missing is rock and roll!

Lerner’s prose is workmanlike at best, and the ending is a bit over the top, but these are minor quibbles.  This book is intended to be cotton candy for the brain, and should be read in one sitting.  Since it’s only 210 pages long, that one sitting should be fairly short and enjoyable.

Cocaine Zombies is not great literature, but it is great fun.