Several Books Reviewed

Hello again.

I did a bunch of reading while we were in the hospital.  In preparing for the trip, I picked up several ebooks, since I figured I’d have time to power through them.  I didn’t finish all of them, but here’s what I thought of those I did finish.

Back when I was getting started writing, late December/early January, I decided to do a bunch of research into the business side of writing and publishing.  I don’t recall exactly how I found Derek J Canyon’s site, but I was pretty impressed with how open he was about how he was doing business, his costs, the steps he took to get his books done and out there, and how he was doing in sales.  I didn’t immediately key on his book though.  But while getting ready for the hospital, I decided what the heck and picked up a copy.

I’m glad I did, because Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance is a very fun and quick read.  Noose is a great character.  Heck, they all are.  And there’s nothing like gun fights, car chases, skydiving onto blimps, aerial battles, and general mayhem for great entertainment.  I’m just glad I don’t live in that world.  That said, I do have a few nits to pick.  One character is advertised to be several hundred years old, but if you do that math on that, it means he was born in the 1800s, and none of the technology he supposedly used to prolong his life existed back then.  And they all suffered from the “you shot me but I’m going to keep on trucking as though it didn’t affect me” problem every now and then.  Now, Derek has a reasonable explanation for it with one character: pain inhibitors.  And nanobots for healing solves the long-term wounding problem nicely.  But that still left the immediate “I’m shot” reaction lacking in some of the characters sometimes.  That’s a small nit, though.  I’m going to go ahead and give Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance five stars on Amazon and Goodreads, because I liked it a lot.

On to J E Medrick.  You may recall a few weeks ago I read her first book, Shackled, and that I liked it a lot. Cheat is the first novella in her new Icarus Helix series.  The vision is to put out shorter, serialized works more frequently.  Her schedule right now is to churn out one 20,000 word piece each month for the series.  That’s a pretty good idea, I think.  Several people have commented that ebooks are a great format for shorter reads, and that serialized stories could be primed to make a comeback.  Anecdotally, my wife and her friends have commented to me that they really like the notion of shorter stories, since you can tear through them in a single sitting, vice having to spend days or weeks (depending on schedule and the size of the book) finishing a full novel.  Plus, writing shorter pieces mean you finish them quicker, and get more titles out there faster, which is a great help for getting noticed.  Hard to find you if you have just one story out there.  If you’ve got twenty?  That’s a different matter altogether.  So in all, I’d say this is a smart business move, and a good way to tell stories.  Heck, it works pretty well for comic books, right?

Anyway, back to Cheat.  I enjoyed it, but not as much as Shackled.  She’s going for the YA genre here, and while I found the story fun and enthralling, I don’t think she quite hit the age of the characters correctly.  The main character is supposed to be seventeen, but to me it seemed he acted more like thirteen at times, especially when it came to interaction with girls.  Also, it seemed she made the characters a little too ignorant about some things, and I didn’t buy it (e.g. – is it really believable that juniors in high school wouldn’t know the word fiction?).  Those gripes aside, I dug the story, and she set up the future of the series pretty well.  I’m intrigued about what exactly CGT is trying to pull.  So overall, pretty good, but I thought it had some flaws.  I’ll be throwing three stars onto Amazon and Goodreads.

I’ve been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast for a long time now (a year?  year and a half? Maybe more? Not sure exactly).  I started listening to it because I’m a big Wheel of Time fan, and when Brandon Sanderson got tapped to complete the series I, like everyone else, said “Who the hell is that?”  I found his website, and contented myself that he was legit.  Then, at some point after The Gathering Storm came out, I noticed the Writing Excuses link on his site and followed it.  I dig podcasts in general, so I decided to start listening in, and liked it.  So even though I wasn’t writing, I listened every week.  It helped fan the embers though, I guess.  In January, after I started writing Masters, I went back into the podcast archives and found an episode about agents.  Since every writer HAS to have an agent (or, it turns out, not), I listened in, and realized I’d heard it before.  They talked about some controversial discussions that had stemmed from one of Dean Wesley Smith‘s blog posts.  Intrigued, I went to his site.  I’ve been reading his blog religiously ever since.  His Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing blog series was one of the first essays about the publishing business I read in my research.  It totally opened my eyes, since he talks about writing and publishing from a practical business-oriented perspective, and that resonated with me as an MBA.  It might be going a bit far to claim him as a mentor, since, though I’ve commented on his blog a few times and exchanged facebook messages with him once, he doesn’t know me from Adam.  But he’s definitely had a big influence on my thinking about this business.

Anyway, he set himself a challenge to write 100 short stories and epublish them, on top of everything else he’s writing this year.  Because his discussion on this topic has fueled my thinking a lot, I decided to buy and read The Challenge: Volume 2. A Collection of Five Stories, which he obviously he wrote as part of that challenge.  I’ve got mixed feelings about it.  I like his two “Poker Boy” stories a lot.  The second story in the collection, about the talking tree, was, as advertised, a bit weird.  But whatever, it’s all good.  “On Top of the Dead” was neat, but I had a couple nits to pick with it.  First, he’s talking about a pulsar being the thing that killed everyone.  I’m pretty sure he means a Gamma Ray Burst, since a pulsar is a quickly rotating neutron star that gives off radio pulses: not harmful.  The second thing is that while a Gamma Ray Burst will, if close enough, sterilize a planet, unless I’m vastly mistaken, it’ll only kill half of it.  The far side of the planet from the Burst would not receive any dose unless the Burst lasted for a full rotation of the planet, because while the gamma rays will be bent by the Earth’s gravity well, they won’t be bent THAT far that the planet wouldn’t still cast a “shadow”.  Now my wife would say, “It’s make believe” and roll her eyes at me for analyzing it like this, and I think Dean would too.  But that’s just how I roll as an Engineer and science guy.  I prefer plot points and details that are as close to factual as possible before they start deviating, if that makes any sense.  I still liked the story, though.  The last story was pretty cool.  I liked the concept: you get younger the farther away from your home planet you travel.  I wonder why anyone would consent to return to Earth at the completion of these missions, though.  So yeah, good stuff overall, despite a couple hiccups.  I’m throwing a 4 up on Amazon and Goodreads.

Ok, I haven’t finished The Name of the Wind.  I’m only into the second chapter.  But I went into it expecting brilliance, and so far it’s living up to that expectation.  As a guy who fancies himself a big time fan of fantasy fiction, I’m rather embarrassed that I’d never heard of Patrick Rothfuss until about a month ago, when he did a bunch of podcast interviews to promote his new book.  Considering he’s gotten all kinds of accolades, I rather think I should have.  Oh well, I’m making up for lost time now.  So far, I give it three snaps up in Z formation, to coin a phrase from “In Living Color”, back in the early 90s.  Ok, I’m dating myself now.  Let’s go with two thumbs up and leave it at that.

Not that it really matters what I think about these works, but I felt like pontificating.

I’m done now.  Carry on, then.  🙂