SPSFC Round 1, Part 4: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

Above the Sky by J.W. Lynne

First of all, J.W. Lynne shares a great name with yours truly, who has gone by J.W. his whole life. Lynne is a woman, and her writing rocks. More on that now! Second of all, this book’s description makes it sound possibly derivative–shades of The Hunger Games and Divergent and we’ve already gotten about a million of these copycat books, right? Yes, we do, but Above the Sky grabbed me at the beginning with some great characterization and, more importantly, an intriguing overhanging threat that is alluded to from the beginning of the story–something that is above the sky. As the teens deal with Ender’s Game like scenarios, that lingering threat looms in the reader’s head. What exactly is “Above the Sky”? I don’t know, but I can tell you right now I’ll have this on my yes list because I want to find out.

Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees by Rob Kent

Other readers in my group noted that this one seems aimed towards a younger age group. That is a disqualification based on our rules, but we in the group were also interested enough to investigate by reading to see if that was the case. I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of juvenile fiction as an adult, and Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees does read like an enjoyable romp. It’s on the “no” list because of the contest rules, but readers who enjoy (intentionally) silly robot stories and juvenile fiction should check it out.

World of Difference by WJ Donovan

So close to having two people with the same initials as myself in one book contest! That would have been awesome. WJ was a nickname I had in grade school, though. Anyway, I am guessing readers are more interested in the contents of the book than my musings about people’s names, so here goes. At 11% in, I’m not sure what to make of this novel. There are a lot of character threads being introduced and it’s a bit hard to get my legs under myself as it goes. On the flip side, there’s enough action and intrigue here–and weird technology combined with today’s technology–to make a mashup of interesting that makes me want to keep going. I’m going to push my read of it to 20% and make a decision then, but I’m thinking this is a firm maybe right now.

Round 1 Status

I’ve now dipped my toes into 12 out of 31 books. I’m now at 3 yes, 5 no, and 4 maybes. That “maybes” list is going to have to get cut down for me at some point, but I don’t want to think about that right now. Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

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.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 3: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest Reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

Things They Buried by Amanda K. King and Michael R. Swanson

Kids are disappearing, and only a few people are paying attention. Things They Buried sucked me in with it’s intriguing world-building but left me a little confused about its direction and tone. I read 23% of this one so far, and I am enjoying it. It’s got a sense of lost-ness and bewilderment at times that is almost as unsettling as some of the horror-ish elements. I’m not really sure how to categorize this one, either. Science fantasy seems accurate, but how much of the fantasy elements are really science? I don’t know. I’m interested enough to read more, though this remains a maybe for me.

Zenith: The Interscission Project Book One by Arshad Ahsanuddin

I’m not really sure what to make of this one. The cover had me thinking far future, but the story itself seems like it could be happening today. The premise is some kind of group of corporations is working together to try to get technology to travel between stars. The problem is finding a crew willing to risk their lives on an unproven technology. At 20%, not much has happened, and I don’t think it’s making the cut for me.

The Jagged Edge by AJ Frazer

Frazer’s book reads like a thriller more than sci-fi, but it’s got traces there, too. I am not sure what to make of it at 20% in. Shadowy insinuations about eco-terrorism and the possibility of changing the ecology as well as environment are starting to appear, but the bulk of the story so far is some rich guy having fun climbing mountains and having sex. It seems like the story is just about to take off, which has me interested, but also at 1/5 into the book, I lean towards thinking I should be more invested. This one sits firmly in the “maybe” category for me.

Round 1 Status

I’ve at least sampled 9 out of 31 books. I need to eliminate 2/3 books every time, and this part of round 1 has me with one maybe and one yes. So far, that means I have 2 yes, 4 no, and 3 maybes. See my previous posts in this series to read my other sample thoughts. Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

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.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 2: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest Reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

Edge of the Breach by Halo Scot

Ever read a book that is well-written and even engrossing but also turns you off based on the world? That’s kind of how I felt through the first 20% of this one. The world is honestly depressing. I enjoy my share of grimdark–I’m a huge fan of Warhammer 40K, for example–but this just felt relentless in a feeling of hopelessness and even anger. The main character is like wandering around in a future Earth that was literally turned upside down by apocalyptic war. He’s traveling with his mom, who hates him and they talk about how they want him dead a bunch. It’s relentlessly dark almost to the level of being a caricature. I honestly am guessing some of the other reviewers may vote for this one to be one we finish because it reads as some quality writing, and I’ll read it if it comes to that. For now my vote is against it. It’s too sad.

Dragon’s Baby by Miranda Martin

I’ll be honest up front: romance is just not my genre. Don’t get me long, I enjoy romantic connections between characters and enjoy many classics that might be called “romance,” in a sense, but the genre that is largely considered “romance” now is just not my cup of tea. I decided to give Dragon’s Baby a fair go, and read 30% of it instead of the 10-20% we’re committed to for each book before moving on. I was surprised because it didn’t really seem like anything happened… at all. Like, there’s some space dragon guy with multiple man-parts who is sad or something, and there’s some women over in this other part of the universe who are joking about guys and that’s… really about it. I almost want to keep going just to see if anything at all happens, but this just isn’t my style.

This Blue Ball by Wayne V. Miller

The award for the most minimalistic cover goes to… this book! I don’t dislike minimalism, though. As of my look at this book, it has no reviews on either Amazon or Goodreads. That certainly makes it feel like among the most indie of the indie titles we have in this contest. The story is told through a series of “weblog” entries as a kind of found story. The main character of these weblogs is… not a very good person as far as I can tell. There’s some subtle racist and sexist tones here, but I can’t tell if the author is critiquing them or not. The guy writing the weblog isn’t the most likable, but the story is intriguing to me. I can’t decide if it’s a yes or no yet so I’m putting it on my maybe stack.

Round 1 Status

I’ve now dipped my toes into 6 out of 31 books, with tons more to go. I need to eliminate 2/3 books every time, and this part of round 1 has me with one maybe out of 3. So far, that means I have 2 yes, 3 no, and a maybe! Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

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.

SPSFC Book Review: “Wherever Seeds May Fall” by Peter Cawdron

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest is well underway, and I’m bringing you reviews as I finish books.

There will be some minor spoilers in my reviews.

Wherever Seeds May Fall by Peter Cawdron

There’s an object in space, but it’s behaving in a way suggests more than it just being an asteroid. As the evidence becomes more and clear that there’s more than meets the eye, people on Earth race to do the math, figure out what’s happening, and manage the political consequences of whatever news they come up with.

It’s a pretty fantastic premise, though it’s been done before. What makes Cawdron’s work stand out is a combination of great characterization, contemporary issues, and adept use of science and action to keep the plot moving.

Cawdron introduces a number of very contemporary issues in the novel. One character is a full-on conspiracy theorist with a huge platform for spreading misinformation. But Cawdron gives even this character development, so that even what could turn into a caricature has more dimensions than may initially seem. Other characters get development throughout the book, but largely are there to help push the plot along. That said, they all have clear personalities and are well-written.

There’s science in this book–and as far as I can tell as a lay person, it’s pretty accurate. There are even a few illustrations throughout the novel showing how the object might be impacted by various bodies in our solar system. I’m a huge fan of hard sci-fi, and so I ate this all up. It’s quite well done.

Wherever Seeds May Fall was the first book I started reading for the SPSFC and I gotta say that for me it’s a frontrunner to win the contest. Have you read it, and if so, what do you think?

All Links to Amazon 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.

SPSFC Round 1: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin

First off, this book has a great cover, with hints of anime/manga mecha combat. I figured this one would be right up my alley. The author graciously provided an audio copy of the book, so I dove in to listening as I folded an embarassing amount of laundry on my day off.

So far, the book definitely seems like it’s in my wheelhouse. It’s the story of a kid with an uncertain background working his way through a cutthroat fighting (martial arts) school in a future (maybe?) in which the fights settle wars or conflicts before they break out… or something. There’s a lot of worldbuilding to happen yet, but it thrust me as a reader right into the action while also giving an intriguing glimpse of a bigger world. I’ll be listening to this whole thing, most likely before we even give it the rubber stamp to continue to the next round.

I should note, too, because this matters: I think the reader does a fantastic job. Fair warning: I always listen to books at 2x speed, so my judgment is based on that.

Wherever Seeds May Fall by Peter Cawdron

I was grabbed by this one the moment I started reading it. It’s got elements of hard sci-fi and first contact, and those are two of my favorite sub-genres. The opening is a good scene, in my opinion, too: it’s a domestic scene as two couples start to chat during dinner, a NASA transmission that one of them is desperately trying to watch on in the background. As they finally settle in and watch, the unexpected nature of the way the comet/asteroid bounces leads to more questions, and those set the stage for the rest of the novel.

I was sucked into this one from the get-go, and I’m now 24% into this book, despite round 1 being “read 10-20%”! Cawdron threw some extremely relevant present day stuff into this novel, and that has me wanting to see where he’s going to take it.

Turnabout by Carmen Webster Buxton

I’m going to file this under “not my type of book.” It uses the term “harem” in one description and the first 20% feels like intense teen-ish drama with a bit of forced action mixed in. Not my style, though I suspect it is for some–if that’s what you enjoy, check it out!

Round 1 Status

I’ve now dipped my toes into 3 out of 31 books, with tons more to go. With two of these three on my “yes” list, I am hoping I won’t have to get too crazy and circle back and uncheck any yes boxes later. Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

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.

Reading the Lodestar Awards for Best YA Book- 2021

I am a Hugo voter this year (you can be, too, by paying the fee) and I have set off to try to read everything that was nominated in the awards so that I can more fairly vote for what I believe are the best works of the year. The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book is not technically a Hugo Award, but it is awarded at the same time for the best YA novel of the year in the genres of science fiction or fantasy. I have read all the nominatees for this year and given them reviews and scores below. I’ve also chosen my winner. Let me know what you think!

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn- Grade: A-
A retelling of King Arthur in which a magical society made of white people is enlisted for help fighting demons by Bree Matthews, a black woman. Racial tensions loom large in this story that has a number of refreshing themes that spin off the Arthurian core in surprising ways. I ate it up in a lengthy afternoon read. My main complaint is that the book, weighing in at almost 500 pages in hardcover, felt like it was just as long as it is. It’s got a bit too much exposition crammed in between the covers for my liking, but once it gets going, it goes. Matthews is an intensely likable protagonist and the theme found throughout the book make it resonate with today in challenging ways. It’s a great read.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko (My Winner)- Grade: A+
Raybearer is a story that subverts expectations time and again. It starts with The Lady assigning our protagonist, Tarisai, to a task of befriending and killing the crown prince. As a reader, certain expectations got built in to what I thought would happen based on that. Some played out, but many didn’t. Even those expectations that were fulfilled went in ways I didn’t foresee. But Ifueko’s talent for subverting the narrative isn’t the only great thing about this novel. Her prose is beautiful; the plot remains compelling throughout, the system of magic used is intriguing, and the world is captivating. Raybearer reveals Ifueko as a remarkable new talent, and I will most definitely be reading everything she puts out in the future.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik- Grade: B-
I love Novik, and this novel has some of her strongest work. The reason I didn’t rate it higher is because it truly takes somewhere around 200 pages for me to start liking any of the characters. The reasons for this are extreme spoilers, but suffice to say that I’m convinced you’re not really supposed to fall in love with any of the characters early on. However, that means that the book relies on its worldbuilding for those first couple hundred pages to keep you going. The worldbuilding is quite strong–strong enough to carry the load–but it doesn’t make it entirely enjoyable. That said, this is a series I am waiting for the next book with supreme eagerness.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger- Grade: B+
Elatsoe is a triumphant tale of a young Apache woman who’s able to summon the spirits of dead animals. It’s got noir aspects, some elements of horror, questions of racism, and some good art mixed in. The novel reads a bit like a travelogue to me, which feels wrong to type because it isn’t one. It just reminds me of the spirit of the older travelogue-style speculative fiction. Elatsoe is a fun character, and I love her interest in fossils. This is a perfect read for a freezing cold day indoors next to a fireplace. This isn’t a cozy mystery, but it had some of the same comfortable elements as cozy mysteries I enjoy, with a character in Ellie/Elatsoe who carries the story with her spirit.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher- Grade: B+
A wizard with powers of baking animate bread has to fend off an attack on her home city and all wizardkind. Defensive Baking is a fun fantasy romp combined with a mystery. Fun is a simple word, but it seems like the right one to describe this book. It’s just a delight to read. That said, I think the plot bites off a bit more than it can chew. I loved the first half with its blend of mystery and wizard baking, but when it came to the actual defensive baking, it felt more generic. I would definitely read more set in this same universe.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas- Grade: B-
A latinx school/urban fantasy that includes necromancy, LGBT+ affirmation, and teen drama! Cemetery Boys is full of interesting ideas, but suffers from major pacing issues. The opening scene and story concept take far too long to develop for what isn’t a very long novel. Then, the rest of the story rushes quickly past in a blur. It slows down again near the end, only to stuff a bunch of fulfilling plot points in at the very end. It felt a bit like being jerked along on a chain. That said, the core concepts that are there–teen drama, finding oneself, and a splash of dark magic–made it a fast and fun read.

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.

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest is on Eclectic Theist!

I’m happy to announce that this blog, Eclectic Theist, is part of the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What does that mean? Well, it means I’m part of a team of judges that will be filtering through 30-some self-published science fiction novels, narrowing it down to some amount of novels to read, picking some semi-finalists, and ultimately helping to decide an overall winner of the best science fiction novel out of over 300 entrants! I’m thrilled to be part of this! Readers of this blog know I’m enthusiastic about indie publishing. I’m actually just enthusiastic about books in general, however they’re published. But indie publishing and self-publishing allows even more avenues for authors to get their books in the hands of readers.

I’ll be reviewing as many books from my group’s novels as I can, along with reviewing semi-finalists from other groups. I can’t wait to continue this epic journey and I hope not only to find some new great reads for me, but also to lead you to some new reads and authors as well.

For now, whet your appetite by reading all my Indie Highlight posts on science fiction over at my Science Fiction Hub!

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1974

I adore this cover art.

I’m a huge science fiction fan, and, having read a list of what are alleged to be the top 200 science fiction novels, I decided to next tackle a read-through of all the Hugo Award winners and nominees for best novel. Let me know your thoughts and favorites. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees. I’ve also dropped a short reflection on the year’s Hugo list at the end.

Protector by Larry Niven– Grade: B+
The first book in the “Known Space” series best known for RingworldProtector features the same mix of hard science and wild speculation. Niven’s style works well for me in this book, though it delves into some implausible explanations later in the novel. I did like the truly different feel of the aliens. There was a real sense of strangeness and foreboding in parts of the book, and the works relative brevity is in its favor. The drama ramps up well. Some characters’ blunders are frustratingly predictable, but I’m not convinced that’s a strike against the novel. The characerization, though, does leave something to be desired, as none of them stuck with me long after reading the book. It’s a solid first contact story. Also, just look at that cover!

Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein- Grade: F
What the hell did I just read? Heinlein went off the deep end. This reads like he just wanted to write an attack on religious sexual mores, but he did so in a way that seemed to combine crudeness, disgust, and a kind of remarkably naive misogyny into one confused, awful mess. Indeed, he basically admits that the book is an attack on any kind of sexual code as he, through the main character, writes that “‘incest’ was a religious concept, not a scientific one… the last twenty years had washed away in his mind almost the last trace of his tribal taboo.” Sin is similarly chalked up not as wrongdoing or evil but as a tired, backward way of looking at the world. Yep, incest is a-ok in Heinlein’s book, or at least that of his protagonist. Not only that, but so is pedophilia and other forms of sexual exploitation by men, specifically. Those silly religious people and their ideas of not having sexual thoughts about very young minors, not sleeping with your sibling/parent, etc. Oh yeah, but let’s not forget that this is all couched in decidedly 1940s/50s concepts of male-female relations, such that it is accompanied by a not-so-subtle male-dominance matrix.  Forward thinking? not so much. Heinlein’s vision of sex in the future is that of the unfettered male, free to satisfy himself with anyone he chooses. Women are not included in this reasoning process, because they are simply the subjects of lust, expected to be willingly subservient to the sexual desires of the man, whether that man is their grandchild, brother, or adopted parent. Terrible, terrible book. I hate it.

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (Winner)- Grade: B
It’s not difficult for me to understand why this is a much-beloved classic. But it also is difficult for me to love it. The book’s pacing is the main issue, as it plods along for chapters with hardly anything happening until it suddenly, like a roller coaster cresting its summit, plummets into a series of startling discoveries and action that gets jumbled together with alarming swiftness. The middle of the book is particularly subject to the problem of pace, as it is wholly occupied with lengthy descriptions of people moving from point A to point B without much characterization or plot to go along with it. The conclusion is ambiguous, but not in a bad way. Again, it’s easy for me to see how this won the award and is loved by many. The bigness of the ideas Clarke explores are always fun. But the novel itself just doesn’t make me want to love it forever. It’s fine.

The People of the Wind by Poul Anderson- Grade: C-
I think a lot of science fiction in the 60s-70s could be re-categorized into its own sub-genre of sex, with sci-fi tropes. The People of the Wind would not be easily filed into this made up category, but it teeters on the edge. I think maybe there’s an interesting subtext here about how different societies or peoples can relate with each other. Sex is used as a kind of way to open the conversation–or, more accurately, themselves–to the perceived “other.” But the prose in the novel doesn’t support this higher level reading. Anderson oscillates between matter-of-fact and seedy here, such that as a reader I never could fully buy into the notion that something else might be going on behind the scenes. The best part about the book is that it doesn’t entirely go black and white on the morality of either society. The humans or Ythrians could each be seen as morally superior here. That props up enough interest to have kept me reading. It’s an okay story that in the hands of another writer might have been great.

The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold- Grade: C-
Gerrold wrote a fantastic exploration of the notion of time travel and how that might play out if one person got careless and perhaps a little wild with it. True to when it was written, however, it devolves that somewhat compelling thread into a series of explorations about sex and orgies and more sex and horse racing. What? Yeah, that’s basically how it plays out. It goes from was an initially decent yarn to a totally absurd tale about one’s self-absorption with himself. Actually, the more I think about the main plot, the more it annoys me immensely. I keep thinking I need to adjust the score down, because this book was basically just a narcissist fantasy told with time travel. It reads almost like wish-fulfillment for the most self-absorbed person alive. That said, Gerrold brings forward some genuine questions about time travel and its possibilities. It’s just not one that I can reflect on with much liking.

1974- Not a great year for the Hugo Awards, in my opinion. Each book feels as though it has missed opportunities for greatness, except, perhaps, the terrible Heinlein work. That book is total garbage, in my opinion. I could rant on about it more, but I think my brief review above is enough said. My choice for the winner probably isn’t the best book in the bunch. I think Rendezvous may be objectively the best book here, but I enjoyed reading Protector more. As always with awards, subjectivity is involved, and on other days I may have picked the Clarke novel over the Niven book. Anyway, time travel continues to be a sore spot for me. I love the idea of novels about time travel, but rarely enjoy the books I read about it. Gerrold’s book had one of the least sympathetic protagonists I’ve encountered. Poul Anderson continues to baffle me. It was possible to be great with the story he came up with, but his delivery is so off that I couldn’t appreciate it for what it was. There’s no nuance to Anderson’s writing, which is a shame, because with some nuance, People… may have been great. What did you think of these nominees?

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: “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.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1972

I’m a huge science fiction fan, and, having read a list of what are alleged to be the top 200 science fiction novels, I decided to next tackle a read-through of all the Hugo Award winners and nominees for best novel. Let me know your thoughts and favorites. Here are the nominees and the winner of the 1972 Hugo Awards. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees.

1972

This year featured one of the more diverse arrays of styles so far in the Hugo reading list. There are two science fantasy novels (Dragonflight and Jack of Shadows), two women authors and incidentally the first time more than one woman author made the list (Anne McAffrey and Ursula K. Le Guin), some radically different New Wave sci-fi (A Time of Changes and To Your Scattered Bodies Go), pseudo time travel (Scattered Bodies…), and a hauntingly thoughtful–if flawed–look at the human psyche (The Lathe of Heaven). The science fantasy books are quite different as well. Anyway, I was deeply disappointed by To Your Scattered Bodies Go. It should have been so much better, but the author didn’t change tone no matter which of the incredible caste of characters he introduced. On the flip side, A Time of Changes is the book that got me to appreciate Silverberg. I have rarely been so moved as I was by that book, and listening to the excellent audiobook is what sold me on it. It’s strange and even uncomfortable at times, but it’s great. Dragonquest looks on the surface like an easy read but has incredible depth. Lathe and Jack were each fine novels, but not as intriguing as some of their authors’ other works.

Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey- Grade: A-
The quiet nature of these books by McCaffrey belies the epic scale of her world and the place she built in Pern. Dragonquest is a science fantasy novel of the best kind. There are dragons, hints of ancient secrets, dire threats, and human striving of the best kind. What makes the novel especially poignant is that the “villain” here is not really a person but a kind of natural threat. In a world with raging pandemics and climate change, the “natural” kind of evil in this novel is especially haunting. The dizzying heights of dragon flight and characterization help offset what would otherwise be a fairly bleak story. McCaffrey’s worldbuilding is especially dense, though in the first book, Dragonflight, it’s even more dense. I expected these books to be fairly breezy reading, but they’re in fact phenomenally deep explorations of a well thought out world that McCaffrey has created. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to like about the characters and plot here, too, but the real star is the world she’s created. Readers who enjoy science fantasy should consider these must-reads.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer (Winner)- Grade: C-
Farmer had all of humanity to choose from for his characters, and he chose some truly awesome figures. The problem is that he never gave any one character the time or space to develop properly and show the unique personality of each. The characters should surely speak in radically different voices, have conflicting concerns, and even see the world in quite diverse ways. But instead, each character was a fairly standard science fiction trope with a historical figure’s name slapped onto him or her. Their voices all sounded the same to me on almost every page. The book came very highly recommended from a number of sources. I’m pretty disappointed, to be honest.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin Grade: B-
I thought the premise–a man whose dreams become reality–was a bit tacky, but Le Guin is a master of prose and makes it work as a compelling piece about humanity. Really, that seems to be what all I’ve read from her is about, at its core: human nature. What does it mean to be human? What kind of fears would guide us if we had such a power? Who might try to harness it and why? These are intriguing questions that are just lightly touched throughout the book. The characters, unfortunately, end up largely being stand-ins for various philosophies or ways to explore different ideas. Unlike some of Le Guin’s other works, I never felt connected in any way to the characters. They read more like caricatures than characters. That said, it’s a thoughtful work that I enjoyed greatly.

Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny Grade: C+
After reading this book, I looked it up online and discovered it was written in one draft. I’m impressed, but also somewhat dismayed, because it seems the book could have been much improved with some thorough edits and rewrites. The concepts are there for a truly excellent novel, but it’s hampered by a kind of meandering at points that means I as a reader struggled to follow along with the events. Zelazny’s talent is on display here in glimpses, but it only presents itself in fragments. The Jack of Shadows has power in the shadows, unlike many of the magic users of his world whose power relies on the light or darkness on their side of the planet. It makes for a cool idea, but doesn’t go much beyond a few lines of dialogue and some action scenes. I don’t know what it is about the book, I guess I just wanted more from it.

A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg- Grade: A
I admit part of my score here is likely due to the simply phenomenal reading by Tom Parker. I listened to it from my library and was simply blown away by the quality of this narration. Parker lends the novel a kind of alien/familiar feel that reflects the dichotomies found therein. Yet even if my score is slanted because of that, there’s no denying this is a pretty excellent read. Silverberg here creates a society that sees the revealing of the self as a great crime. Only among certain relationships is it permitted to even begin to reveal oneself to others. The use of words like “I” or “me” is considered horribly obscene. Inside this society, there are priests called “Drainers” who basically act as places people can confess their wrongs and “drain” their souls of them. The multifaceted nature of this is juxtaposed with Silverberg’s central drama, the autobiographical journey of the main character as he discovers the joys of self-revealing, in part due to the use of a drug from a society most people on his planet view as barbarians. Throughout the whole book there are a number of dichotomies. Alien/familiar is the most obvious, as the people of this society are humans but act so inhumanly by denying the self; civil/uncivil is another; pious/pagan another; and the list could go on. It’s a masterfully crafted, thought-provoking science fiction novel that manages to make a rather well-worn Nu Wave sci-fi trope (drug use) into something eloquent and fresh rather than tired and dated.

Links

My Read-Through of the Hugos– Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

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SDG.