Indie Highlight: “Project Nemesis” by Jeremy Robinson

The “Indie Highlight” is a series of posts in which I shine the lights on Indie/Self-Published books that I believe are worthy of your attention. I’ll be writing reviews and recommending them, along with providing links on where to get the books. This is a special edition post for Indie April!

Project Nemesis by Jeremy Robinson

Look, I’m a simple person. I like stories about big monsters. Is it too much to ask that we have more novels based upon them? There just aren’t very many. After watching the absolutely fantastic “Pacific Rim: The Black” on Netflix (which I wrote about here), I was scrambling to find some kaiju reads to fill the void. Project Nemesis was one of the novels recommended to me in a group I’m in when I asked for recommendations, and I’m glad I got it.

Based on the cover, I expected to basically be thrown into a Godzilla-like scenario with some apocalyptic creature blowing up whole cities. Instead, after a few intense scenes setting up what’s to come, readers start following Jon Hudson, a DHS investigator in a secret division tasked with investigating the paranormal. He meets up with Ashley Collins, the local sheriff, as he works to investigate alleged Bigfoot sightings. The winsome way Robinson writes these characters drew me in, and the steady stream of self-deprecating humor from Hudson makes it fun to read all the way through.

There is, of course, plenty of Kaiju action once push comes to shove, too. Here, though, our kaiju is three-dimensional rather than being exclusively a “destroy-everything” creature. I thought Robinson did a great job adding some flesh and bones to the concept of a kaiju without taking it too far. Though I’d not call the book thoughtful, it is pure fun and has more layers to it than may be expected for the genre.

This novel can also serve fairly well as a standalone, but the series is completed at 5 novels.

There are a few issues here. There are a few nods to gender norms such as a line about “throwing like a girl.” Even there, though, it’s not entirely clear that even lines like that are intended as reinforcing such norms, because contextually we have Collins subverting those expectations. I still could have done without comments like that, however.

Overall, Project Nemesis is a blast of pure fun to read. I recommend it to readers who, like me, thirst for a story about gigantic monsters with at least some thought put into it.

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Indie Highlight: “The Sovereign of the Seven Isles” by David A. Wells

The “Indie Highlight” is a series of posts in which I shine the lights on Indie/Self-Published books that I believe are worthy of your attention. I’ll be writing reviews and recommending them, along with providing links on where to get the books. This is a special edition post for Indie April!

The Sovereign of the Seven Isles by David A. Wells

“The Sovereign of the Seven Isles” is a lengthy epic fantasy series by David A. Wells. Some time ago, the first book popped up as free on Kindle, and I snagged a copy. With Indie April approaching, I decided to finally dive into the series, and read the first book, Thinblade. I quickly followed up by reading the second in the series, Sovereign Stone. I can’t yet comment on later books in the series, as I’ve yet to read them. But I already got the third book from Kindle Unlimited, so I will be continuing this series fairly soon.

The core thrust of the series is a story of prophecy and expectation regarding the Sovereign of the Seven Isles. It’s a setup that will seem familiar to fans of epic fantasy, and so far the series doesn’t diverge much from what one would expect going in. There is ancient family expectation woven seamlessly into ancient evil and, as I said, prophecy.

So far, what makes the series stand out is mostly that it has been so conventional. Normally, that would be a point to potentially un-sell a novel for me, but there’s a sense of comfort reading these books that comes from being a longtime fan of fantasy. It’s easy to sit down and churn through half the book in an afternoon because it just feels like entering into a fantasy world that doesn’t ask too much from its readers. There are a lot of characters, but it’s never overwhelming. More importantly, the action keeps up at such a brisk pace that some of the flaws regarding narrative or prose are easy to ignore for the sake of continuing to the next major point.

The first book, Thinblade, has Alexander working to find the titular blade, which is so fine that it seems to be able to slice through or destroy just about anything. By the second book, the importance of this blade is tempered a bit by Alexander learning he must also have sound strategy and skill. It’s a coming-of-age story in the middle of world-rending events, and fans of fantasy will be quite comfortable.

Wells has written an intriguing world, and for fans of epic fantasy, it’s easy to recommend this one to give a try, especially if you have Kindle Unlimited. I recommend these especially for those looking for some epic fantasy that don’t also want to spend actual hours trying to figure out the world or memorize all the names going in. Sometimes I love books like that–but we all need a break once in a while. These books are a good bridge book for those breaks between heavier reads. The first book, Thinblade, is still just $0.99 on Kindle, so it’s worth a try if you’re interested. Let me know what you think!

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Indie Highlight: “The Carnelian Fox” by Kay MacLeod

The “Indie Highlight” is a series of posts in which I shine the lights on Indie/Self-Published books that I believe are worthy of your attention. I’ll be writing reviews and recommending them, along with providing links on where to get the books.

The Carnelian Fox by Kay MacLeod

I love Pokémon. I love monster collecting games in general, and have tracked down a bunch on Steam and other platforms. I’ve always craved books that capture (hah!) that same feel of excitement, exploration, and bonding with creatures of games like Pokémon. Kay MacLeod’s The Carnelian Fox is a fantastic book that does exactly that.

In the world of Maiyamon, some corporation made real life monsters that could be caught out of everyday creatures. Of course, this included giving them stats, bonuses, and other things that go along with monster catching games. The company faded and interested in the ‘mons faded along with it, but the ‘mons remained, and became a problem for the real world to deal with.

Jump forward in time, and we get to follow Sam, a Maiyamon trainer who wants to better herself and her team as she sets out to become a great trainer. She gets paired with Lucy, a wealthy young woman who wants to use her Maiyamon(s) for show (think of dog shows), in order to protect her and earn some money. From there, readers follow a series of adventures, competitions, and more as we get exposed to the world of Maiyamon.

MacLeod has created a beautiful experience with this book. The battles feel just like what I had hoped for–real time, epic battles between ‘mons that still have a kind of pseudo rock-paper-scissors aspect to them. The battles are one of the major highlights of the book. I also quite enjoyed the bonding between the Maiyamon and trainers that happened. Sam cares for her critters, and their interactions are sometimes touching. I didn’t expect to feel emotional in this book, but I did. MacLeod’s characterization is great, and genuine (often witty) dialogue is the name of the game.

There are a few typos here and there, and a few sentences that end with a question mark that doesn’t seem to fit. These are more jarring than I expected (I tend to be pretty good at ignoring such things) because of how few and far between they were.

The Carnelian Fox is a great indie read that absolutely, at last, scratches that Pokémon itch. If you like monster training games and have longed for a novel that can give you that same feeling with a great story, you should run and grab this book. I recommend it.

(All Amazon Links are Affiliates)

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Indie April Highlight: “Awaken Online: Cartharsis” by Travis Bagwell

The “Indie Highlight” is a series of posts in which I shine the lights on Indie/Self-Published books that I believe are worthy of your attention. I’ll be writing reviews and recommending them, along with providing links on where to get the books.

Awaken Online: Catharsis by Travis Bagwell

It’s been one heck of a couple months with COVID-19 going around. I decided to finally cave and try out a sub-genre I’ve been thinking about for a while: LitRPG. Simply put, a LitRPG books are written as though they’re taking place in an RPG, complete with leveling up and stats in the text. I know pretty little about the genre, so I can’t comment on how broadly that definition works but that’s how I’ve seen people talk about it. The book I went with was one that advertised hard for me on Facebook to the point I finally snagged a copy of it: Awaken Online: Catharsis

The book follows Jason, a young man who’s had a lot of things go wrong recently–getting in fights, a girl he likes apparently siding with a bully against him, school troubles, etc. He decides to play “Awaken Online,” a virtual reality MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) to blow off some steam, and discovers an experience that seems tailored to his own life in some ways. There are other things going on in the plot, much more than I expected, to be honest.

The book is basically broken into two phases taking place simultaneously: Jason’s real life, and his in-game life and development. I was honestly surprised by how quickly I got sucked into the MMORPG life of Jason’s VR avatar. It wasn’t complex, but it was a lot of fun. The wa he leveled up and thought through how to gain what he desired was interesting, and made for a page-turning read. I loved the magic and other aspects of gameplay, and found myself thinking of it as a real video game I’d want to play. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, there are some shenanigans with the company that made the addictive Awaken Online and an AI they created to make it fun to play. 

The real-life portion of the book almost seemed a distraction at times as I wanted to see what was going on with Jason in Awaken Online. But it was important to the story’s flow, and I think it does credit to Travis Bagwell’s writing that I got sucked in so well to the game world. Jason’s real life, as I said, is pretty tough, and his parents aren’t great either. That said, the characters outside the game world have very little interaction or development. I’d say at this point in the series, the meat of the book is the gameworld, though it’s clear more ‘real life’ things could transpire as well. 

I was extremely pleasantly surprised by Awaken Online: CatharsisIt served as my first foray into LitRPG as a sub-genre, and I expect to spend a lot of time here. Check it out, and let me know what you think, too!

Links

Indie Highlight– Read about more indie titles by looking at all my posts about indie sci-fi/fantasy (mostly)! Scroll down for more. Let me know what you think, and tell me your recommendations!

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

 

Indie April Highlight: “The Sword of Kaigen” by M. L. Wang

The “Indie Highlight” is a series of posts in which I shine the lights on Indie/Self-Published books that I believe are worthy of your attention. I’ll be writing reviews and recommending them, along with providing links on where to get the books.

The Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang

One of my favorite things to do is read lists of great books, and I also love book clubs! I am part of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club on Goodreads, and in March they chose The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang. I saw that some reviews described it as a Wuxia-like fantasy novel, and I was all in. The story is a prequel to the Thenoite series by the same author. That series has unfortunately been discontinued for now, but Sword is a standalone, and since I didn’t read anything else by the author before reading it, I can confidently say it truly does stand on its own. 

The world of The Sword of Kaigen is a big part of the draw. It seems to parallel our own in many ways, and I was initially shocked when one character came to a school and began talking with Mamoru, one of the main viewpoint characters, about things similar to telephone towers. I had to sit down and think about it for a bit–I do enjoy science fantasy (eg. Star Wars) but what about fantasy science? I’ve had a love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with urban fantasy, so I was a bit chagrined, but I pressed on and ultimately really loved where Wang took some of the ideas. Mamoru, a 14-year-old, is confronted by stark realities about what he was taught opposing what visual evidence and other evidence he is presented with about the Empire and its relationship with his home. Misaki, a woman who has a secretive past (in swordplay!), provides the other main viewpoint, and her story takes its own surprising twists and turns.

I don’t want to spoil too much, so I’ll try to keep this somewhat vague. There are effectively 3 major parts of the novel, and they are so different that this almost feels like 3 books in one. I confess I probably enjoyed the first part the most, but I liked the whole book all the way through. The first part is a lot of buildup, the second part is a lot of action, and the third part is a wrapping up of the previous two. There’s a coming-of-age story here, but it’s not what one would expect as it goes on. I was surprised, I cried, I triumphed with the characters. It was well done. That’s not to say it was flawless, though, as at times it felt the frenetic action of the second part did away with the elaborate world-building of the first part. 

If you’re looking for a deeply built story with some magical wuxia- like fighting, this is an indie novel for you. Coming in at a bit over 600 pages, it will scratch that itch for a while, and you’ll be in love with the characters. Check out The Sword of Kaigen

Links

Indie Highlight– Read about more indie titles by looking at all my posts about indie sci-fi/fantasy (mostly)! Scroll down for more. Let me know what you think, and tell me your recommendations!

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

 

Indie Highlight: “The Wings of War” by Bryce O’Connor and “The Ixan Prophecies” by Scott Bartlett

The “Indie Highlight” is a series of posts in which I shine the lights on Indie/Self-Published books that I believe are worthy of your attention. I’ll be writing reviews and recommending them, along with providing links on where to get the books.

The Wings of War series by Bryce O’Connor

The Wings of War series box set was one that got me with great ads. The artwork featured on the covers were fantastic, and we can’t help but judge books by their covers, so I was interested. I was sold when I saw the first four books lumped together for $.99 with more than 500 reviews averaging over 4 stars.

But all of that doesn’t matter if the content isn’t good. Bryce O’Connor has created a fascinating character in Raz i’Syul, a dragon person (the name for his species escapes me) whose life is compelling and tragic. Some aspects of prophecy get woven throughout the fantasy setting of the four books in this series. There are many fantasy tropes packed in here, but none of them feel particularly overdone or boring. O’Connor grabbed me with his characters right from the start and that’s the major selling point of this series. The world-building for the series is compact, generally focused directly around the actions of Raz and his companions. It will be interesting to see if the sequel (the promised 5th book is coming soon!) opens the world up more for exploration or maintains the narrow focus.

The series is sold, in part, as ‘dark fantasy’ and there are certainly some pretty dark parts in the books, though it is rare that the darker/violent moments felt like window dressing as opposed to intrinsic to the plot. There are times where it does dip into the unbelievable with some aspects of how the violence plays out, but it never drove me off the more powerful urge to read just one more chapter. The series is definitely a page-turner that had me looking forward to reading more while I was doing other things throughout the day.

The whole series weighs in at around 1700 pages so far, with at least one more book on the way. It’s a series worth checking out, especially if you like narrowly focused action-filled fantasy. Get the first four books for $0.99!

The Ixan Prophecies Trilogy by Scott Bartlett

The Ixan Prophecies Trilogy begins with Supercarrier, a book I got through Prime Reading and decided to give a chance because I like big spaceships shooting at each other. I didn’t anticipate a truly fascinating piece of world-building accompanied by shades of religion, prophecy, questions of the dangers of unfettered capitalism, and more.

The crew of a supercarrier that some believe is obsolete get thrust into a major conflict that may endanger the whole human race. Does that sound familiar? Maybe a little bit like Battlestar Galactica? I thought that too, but I didn’t anticipate the way that Bartlett would throw much bigger questions as well as a group of fascinating alien species at me to accompany what initially felt like a tried-and-true plot formula. The series continued to evolve throughout the second book, Juggernaut, and came to a satisfying conclusion with the third book, Reckoning. The possibility for more works was left open, and I was pleased to see Bartlett has put out more books.

At times, the actions of the crew were a little bit strange to me, particularly on a vessel that is run with military efficiency. The amount of questioning orders and second-guessing command decisions was a bit more than I tend to think necessary in fiction (admittedly, I have absolutely no idea how things go in the real military other than secondhand reports, so maybe I’m in the wrong here). The battle sequences are a delight. The aliens are interesting, often in ways that were unexpected. I love running into ideas for aliens that feel genuinely original, and Bartlett offered more than one in this series.

The Ixan Prophecies trilogy is definitely worth your time if you are into military sci-fi or like science fiction with interesting aliens. My complaints are minor enough to recommend the series for your reading. Additionally, Bartlett is super engaged through social media and his fantastic newsletter. I love when authors engage with readers, and Bartlett definitely meets that desire. Check out the first book, Supercarrier, for a low price (varying).

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.