Review: Get Blank by Justin Robinson

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Publisher: Candlemark and Gleam
Publishing Date: May 2014
ISBN: 9781936460571
Genre: Scifi/Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5.0

Publisher Description: No more running around, doing the scut work for every conspiracy in the Information Underground. I quit all that a year ago, got myself a nice quiet life up the coast, doing normal things with normal people like my girlfriend, Mina. And then someone framed her for murder.

Now I’m coming out of retirement to figure out who wants her behind bars – and me dead. Again. At least this time I’m pretty sure it’s not aliens. Or the government. Might still be the Russian mob, but at least Bigfoot’s on my side. I don’t know who to trust, and I don’t know how I’m going to survive this one, especially with an unkillable hitman, some Satanists, and a couple of lunatic movie stars gunning for me.

Review: I like the cover art. Simple and defines an elaborately built world.

This was a fun romp through pop culture both past and present. It read like Still Life With Woodpecker on LSD. I really liked the glib sarcastic wit of the many named one-“Bob” and his subsequent interactions with a host of entities. I really have not laughed while reading, in quite a awhile. Maybe the genres I survey are not the best vessels for humor.

There is so much going on with the story line and characters that it would take forever to tell you why it was so fun to read. Just Get Blank and lose yourself for awhile….

Review: Matcher Rules by Mary Holland

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Publisher: Mary Holland
Genre: SciFi
Publishing Date: March 2014
Rating: 2/5

Publisher Description: Novi colony is inhumanly peaceful and John Jerzy has been sent to find out why. Jerzy’s last assignment ended in disaster, his career has stalled, and he plans to unravel this minor mystery the Novians call the Matcher and get a real assignment as soon as possible. Stella has lived on Novi all her life and she’s going to the Matcher to find her affinity group. She sees no reason to change and she plans to live happily ever after. Max Bari wants to change Novi from a backwater colonial planet to an interstellar power, with himself at the helm. All he needs is to fix the Matcher. He has a plan. Three people, three plans. But the Matcher has no plans. Only rules…

Review: I liked the author’s writing but the story-line (for off-world Scifi) was kind of ho-hum.

The premise that an ancient alien construct (big crystal rock) chooses a solo person as a conduit to form the best matches for a hive like society, is a snooze fest. The idea that everyone is more complete when all their needs are met (emotional, physical, spiritual etc.) through appropriate matches of usually three or more people is kind of boring. It reads like a liberals wet dream of the colonized mind where everyone has the same ideals and the “Retros” are well, bad because they don’t want some alien fucking with their minds.

The Retros are painted as diminished in myriad ways, but I identified more with their plight of resistance than traipsing down the hippy trail with Stella, Jerzy and their band of vacuous followers. The Retros, imho, are justifiably angry at the people of Novi for tying to push their pogrom of alien coercion upon them. The matcher and ITS followers seem to know what’s best for everyone and when the Retros try to fight back, the matcher kills them. Yay! Fug.

This is a great novel if you can’t think for yourself, are afraid of being alone and need a collective to feel complete.

Review: Courier by Terry Irving

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Publisher: Angry Robot
Publishing Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9781909223806
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 2/5

Publisher Description: It’s 1972. The Watergate scandal has Washington on edge. Rick Putnam, a Vietnam veteran and motorcycle courier for one of the capital’s leading television stations, is trying to get his life back together after his nightmarish ordeal in the war. But when Rick picks up film from a news crew interviewing a government worker with a hot story, his life begins to unravel as everyone involved in the story dies within hours of the interview and Rick realizes he is the next target.

Review: Cover is pretty cool.

This novel didn’t really hold my interest. I think the story-line was too simplistic to fit the mystery thriller genre. Most of the novel was built around scene development and character interaction.

If I were to boil the contents of this novel, down to it’s most basic elements it would go something like this. 1. How a newsroom operates and the machinations within. 2. A tour guides historical review of the Washington DC area. 3. Motorcycle ride. 4. Tour guide review. 5. Vietnam flashback 6. Motorcycle ride/chase 7. Vietnam Flashback 8. Conservatives suck/Liberals R’ Great 9. Vietnam flashback with Gay premise 10. Motorcycle ride/chase 11. Tour guide/historical review 12. Motorcycle ride. 13. Vietnam Flashback 14. Motorcycle ride/chase 15. Sex with an Indian 16. Motorcycle ride/chase 17. Death of a lesbian 18. Death of Vietnam Vet. 19. More sex with an Indian/Vietnam flashback 20. Montana/The End.

This was boring with a capital “B”. The only mystery in the novel is how a zippo lighter is still functioning after being in the jungles of Vietnam and how a BMW motorcycle is never described as having a Boxer motor. (Psssst…cars beat motorcycles on the corners and lose on the straights, not the other way around).

There is this relentless pounding by the author on “social perspectives” that belies a tainted liberal rear. The premise that monetary aid given to south Vietnam somehow reappears back into American re-election coffers is absurd in that it is not interesting as a story-line development. Seems to be a lot of work with a high exposure risk to those involved. So our reluctant war hero is going to make things right by bringing down the a-holes that are allowing service men and women to sacrifice themselves for a false ideal. Really? Did no one help the author through the development of a mundane story-line?

This is basically a Watergate story-line with a guy running around on a motorcycle yacking about the history of Washington DC like a retarded tour guide. But he gets to bang Indians and make jokes about “Gooks” and Natives, well because he fought alongside homosexuals. Fug.

Review: Treasure Planet by Hal Colebatch, Jessica Q Fox

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Publisher: Baen
Publishing Date: May 2014
ISBN: 9781476736402
Genre: Scifi
Rating: 1.2/5.0

Publisher Description: On Wunderland, a generation after Liberation, memories of the bloody kzin conquest and Occupation have faded, and men and kzin live largely in peace. But the fabulous treasure of the kzin pirates, hidden on a distant world, remains a magnet for freebooters. Young Peter Cartwright and his kzinrett friend Marthar receive information and map from a most unlikely source and soon themselves fighting the most ruthless pirates in Known Space for an unimaginable prize.

Review: The cover art looks like a gay tiger parade.

Let it be known that this is NOT written by Larry Niven as evidenced by the overuse of the verb, “growled” at every turn. I think I will make a new rule. If growled is used more than 2x before 10% of the novel is completed it will get a DNF and zero rating. I am sick to fuggin’ death of authors using these dam word crutches to expedite scene closure. Its fuggin’ lazy and irritates the shjt out of me.

Larry Niven is a wonderful author but that is where the similarities end with this installment. Larry hand feeds these dopes the story-line with creative license and they bungle it with poor character development and the whole “growled” thing. Backstories at various descriptive levels is lazy, and just so happens to be a part of the conversation. Like they have to tell each other what they both already know. Riiiiiiight.

So a Kzin tiger space pirate who talks like a frickin’ human earth pirate and drinks rum, strolls into a human village and suddenly everyone is off to a distant galaxy to find Space Pirate Tiger Treasure. Really? It is that fast. One day they are fighting ‘ye olde pirates of Katmandu, ARRRRGGGHHH!!!!, er….meow??’ and the next they are on a spaceship to “fin yeh olde space treasure, aye”.

Besides the ridiculousness of giant warring space tigers that behave like drunk piratical Klingons speaking like Captain Barobossa, we have Peter the human who is dumber than a bag of hammers and bounces around with no real assertive intelligence. And how is this guy supposed to carry the novels load? With a frickin’ amulet a dying space tiger/pirate gave him. His best friend, Marthar, a Kzin princess?? has this super secret royal family lineage that enables them to go anywhere in the galaxy without little monetary effort. But she chooses to live in a backwater town, on a backwater planet in a backwater galaxy. Fug. The bad space pirate, Silver, speaks in this olde pirate English, then all of a sudden it is switched off during a lengthy narrative. Huh? When space tigers say things like “Skel showed a bit o’sense,..an’ e gone…we lives rough an’ ye’ die..K’zarr’s hisself was feared o’ me, an’ be sure o’ it.” Double fug.

The authors kill off 3 of the most interesting characters in the novel at about the 15% mark, then we get dull space travel and tiger pirates masquerading as the crew of the Black Pearl. I would say Larry Niven would be turning over in his grave but he isn’t dead yet.

Review: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

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Publisher:Hodder & Stoughton
Publishing Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9781444762754
Genre: SciFi/Fantasy
Rating: 3.0/5.0

Publisher Description: When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself. Lagoon expertly juggles multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives with prose that is at once propulsive and poetic, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

At its heart a story about humanity at the crossroads between the past, present, and future, Lagoon touches on political and philosophical issues in the rich tradition of the very best science fiction, and ultimately asks us to consider the things that bind us together – and the things that make us human.

Review: The cover is pretty good. Should have left out the city scape. though.

Loved the overall story-line. The transformative process of the internal and external. The parallel religious message of Jesus/Ayodele self-sacrifice, healing and subsequent resurrection is purveyed in the scifi genre of otherworld alien beings that have landed in a Nigerian Lagoon. She has disciples Agu, Adaora and Anthony that have been given special powers.

The thinking, transformed denizens of the deep was really creative. Where this novel falls flat is not the writing but the pages of interactive detail that really takes you nowhere near the story-line. Just sub-groups of people with their own machinating designs. I suppose this could be construed as commentary of the mass-mind where negativity develops for want of a collective identity. i.e. people suck or more accurately peoples minds suck. The author paints a really good message of “forgive them , they know not what they do” but that message, and others, gets bogged down by the tedium of pointless detail. Her message of the “mind” is embodied in Bishop Oke who takes from the poor for his own personal aggrandizement. It is an old message that many authors use as a tool to diminish Religion in favor of their own perspectives.

The author develops a good story-line but feels the need to express her own identity/belief systems in the form of LGBT within the body of the novel. There is no reason for this, other than that the author’s own identity with regards to “social justice” is being met. It really detracts from the novel as do other vignettes within.

This author certainly has a writing style that is very unique. She jumps around within the scene to suddenly complete what should have taken a while to hammer out. Very inventive. There is the dreaded overuse of the verb “growled”. This fugging ruined some portions of this novel, yet thankfully desisted after a bit.

I would have rated this much higher except that some of the scenes and their subsequent development tended to detract from the overall story-line. The idea that most people have minds that trend in negative ways is a message that is oft repeated within the novel as is redemption for the meek. Perhaps this overuse is the authors own experiential past coming to life. Still, I would definitely not overlook any future novels from Ms. Okorafor.

Review: Colt Humboldt and the Close of Death by TA Anderson

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Publisher: TA Anderson
Publishing Date: February 2014
ISBN: 9781492297857
Genre: Fantasy YA
Rating: 3.8/5.0

Publisher Description: When twelve-year-old Colt Humboldt’s dad drags the two of them from perfectly good Texas to ancient Scotland for a fresh start, Colt knows he’s doomed to a summer as the “new kid”. No friends, no fun, no life as he knows it. Fat chance.
That very first night, the peculiar Alesone and her more peculiar little brother Peter crawl out of Colt’s closet, begging for his help to save their family from a horrible fate.
Fortunately, the secret for doing so is hidden inside a mysterious book. Unfortunately, this book demands that our ragged trio first journey across Scotland and capture three treasures—treasures fiercely protected by a shadowy, treacherous world determined to see Colt fail……preferably by death.
But if Colt and his new friends can survive a horror novel come-to-life, defeat a madman and his minions, win over a disagreeable folklore legend, and discover the shocking reason why Alesone and Peter are just so odd… well, the next two treasures won’t come so easily.

Review: Cover art is quite inventive.

This novel is not just for the YA crowd, all ages should have a good time with it. It is hard to review a novel that is fantastical and glib at the same time as you can’t take the characters or story-line too serious. It’s like scolding a nice dog who did nothing bad.

The writing is good. It has inventive and clever dialogue and a creative story-line. The characters are many and fairly well developed, especially the main characters. Initially, my first review stated that I felt rather Ho-Hum about this and was not very engaged in the novel. Was I too old for it? Is it an easily recognized pattern of writing with no real surprises in development? Initially, yes. About mid-way through the novel starts to rev up and throw a few surprises in the form of “other beings” and clever mini-adventures. The arrow puncturing the Dallas Cowboys helmet was funny as were some of the character names. Vermyne (Vermin) a rat-man.

One reviewer thought that a good editor was needed in order to compress the author’s penchant for rambling on about details. Yeah, I suppose I agree with that. Although I felt that it did not detract in any way from the body of work. The author plans to have a series of Colt Humboldt adventures. He may need to expand his make-believe universe to embrace a grander adventure.

Review: Troll Mountain: Episode 1 by Matthew Reilly

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Publisher: Momentum
Publishing Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9781760080624
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.0/5.0

Publisher Description: In an isolated valley, a small tribe of humans is dying from a terrible illness.
There are rumors, however, that the trolls of Troll Mountain, the valley’s fearsome overlords, have found a cure for the illness: a fabulous elixir.
When his sister is struck down by the disease and his tribal leaders refuse to help him, an intrepid youth named Raf decides to defy his tribe and do the unthinkable: he will journey alone to Troll Mountain and steal the elixir from the dreaded trolls.
But to get to Troll Mountain, Raf will have to pass through dangerous swamps and haunting forests filled with wolves, hobgoblins and, worst of all, the ever-present danger of rogue trolls …

Review: No effort was made in developing the cover art.
This is the first in the series of 3 novellas (short stories). I say short stories, because it was dam short. I doubt that 3 serialized novellas will make a whole and viable novel, but we shall see….

I have been a big fan of Reilly’s works, especially the scarecrow series. Most of his novels have these intricate mazes with hidden traps to figure out. The hero usually is smarter than most of his cohorts and puts others before himself. We see that the author has not abandoned his formula in this novella. Raf is a runt with a heart of gold, and of course is smart and can climb anywhere (see where this is going??). He saves a rogue Troll who is stuck in the clinging mud. Dum the Troll is much like Raf in that he is smarter than his brethren and smaller in stature. Raf, Dum and Ko (a wise old man living in the badlands) set out to find a cure for the existing malady that everyone in the valley suffers from. So Dum spelled backwards is Mud (stuck in it). Ko, is Ok meaning good guy and Raf is Far, as in going on a quest to a distant land. Funny. Ha.

Because of the nature of novellas, the character development and story-line get compressed and the dialogue seeks to fill you in on this world in a literal progression. Comes off stilted but the author manages to make it work as we are quickly escorted into the adventure.

I usually don’t rate novellas in a series but will attempt to give this one a score based on the limited scope of the novella and what may come after. It is not hard to guess what will happen in the ensuing series and assume it will become more entertaining due to the high risks that will occur in the maze of traps.