On The (political) Spectrum


Posted on : 2/08/2018 02:20:00 PM | By : Dann

I took this particular political quiz back in 2010.  I'm sure the questions have changed some.  So I'm not sure if the change in my score is due to changes in the questions or changes in me.  Both are reasonable options.

My complaints remain the same as before.  Some of the questions are loaded to get a specific emotional response.  Other questions ask the respondent to endorse A and B where I was inclined to support A but oppose B.  So which one do you choose; support both or oppose both?

Formerly, I was Economic Left/Right: 4.12 and Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.92.  Now I seem to be Economic Left/Right 4.5 and Social Libertarian/Authoritarian -4.46.

They also had a series of graphs of various governments and political parties for comparison purposes.
The US presidential candidates in 2016.  No wonder I voted for Gary Johnson.

The UK in 2015.  I'm not close to anybody there.

Germany in 2017.  Same story.  Glad I'm an American.

France in 2017.  Curiously, Macron is close to Gary Johnson.

Australia in 2016.  Again, I'm all alone.

Canada in 2015.  I could manage there OK.

Ireland in 2011.  I'd manage there as well, oddly enough.

And a conglomeration of European nations.  I'm assuming that they are plotted based on government policies rather than on any specific party.  Here's an odd thing.  Of my interlocutors regarding political subjects that live within the EU, the most earnest opposition that I receive comes from people in countries like The Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany.  And those are the countries to which I am more closely aligned politically!

Mostly these are folks that perceive of their nations as being essentially "socialist".  The truth is that those nations clearly are not socialist.


I modest note.  I've added the word "political" to the title of this post.  As it was originally posted, the title was a bit too "click bait-y" for me.

Hugo Awards Nominations - 2018


Posted on : 2/06/2018 01:25:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Nomination season for this year's Hugo Awards has opened.  The Hugos are the annual award presented by the WSFS for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy.  Nominations will continue until March 16, 2018.  Shortly thereafter, the short list of nominees will be released on March 31, 2018, with voting in the final round continuing over the first half of the summer.  The awards will be presented at the WSFS Worldcon.  This year's Worldcon will take place in San Jose, CA.  Information on participating in the Hugo Awards is at the Worldcon website.

Should you choose to participate, please only nominate works that you have directly experienced.  Don't nominate something just because I (or someone else) recommends it.

There are several categories where I do not expect to have a nomination.  I just do not believe that I have either experienced something that is noteworthy or that I have a broad enough experience to make an informed nomination in those categories.

My list of nominations will be updated as I go through the process.

I hope to have nominations in most of the following categories:

Your nominations for Best Novel:

  • All Good Things  - Emma Newman  - Diversion Books
  • The Core  - Peter V. Brett  - Del Rey
  • Tyrant's Throne - Sebastien de Castell - Jo Fletcher Books
  • Wizard's Sun Rising - Damien Black - Amazon Digital Services LLC

Your nominations for Best Short Story:

  • Empty Nest - Brian Keene - Aliens - Bug Hunt / Titan Books 
  • Chance Encounter - Paul Kupperberg - Aliens - Bug Hunt / Titan Books 
  • The Divine Death of Jirella Martigore - Alex Marshall - Evil is a Matter of Perspective / Grimdark Magazine

Your nominations for Best Series:

While not a requirement according to WSFS rules, I will not be nominating a series unless it has been completed.  I might vote for an incomplete series in the final round, but I do not expect to nominate an incomplete series.
  • The Split World - Emma Newman - All Good Things - Diversion Books
  • The Demon Cycle - Peter V. Brett - The Core - Del Rey
  • Great Coats - Sebastien de Castell - Tyrant's Throne - Jo Fletcher Books

Your nominations for Best Related Work:

Your nominations for Best Graphic Story:

Your nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):
  • Bright - David Ayer - Netflix
  • Logan  - Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, and The Donners' Company
  • Stranger Things Season 2  - Netflix

Your nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):
  • The Mission - Styx (band) - Blackbird Studios

    Styx is one of my favorite bands.  This album tells the story of a mission to the planet Mars.  I think it that is worthy of consideration from both a musical and story-telling perspective.

Your nominations for Best Professional Editor (Short Form):
  • Jonathan Maberry - Alien: Bug Hunt (anthology)
  • Adrian Collins - Evil is a Matter of Perspective (anthology); Grim Dark Magazine

Your nominations for Best Fanzine:

Your nominations for Best Fancast:
  • SinCast - by Cinema Sins - Chris Atkinson, Jeremy Scott, Barrett Share
  • The Sarcastic Voyage - Ron "Algar" Watt, Matt Rowbotham, & cast
  • The Post Atomic Horror Podcast - Ron "Algar" Watt, Matt Rowbotham
  • The Horror Show with Brian Keene - Brian Keene, Dave Thomas. Geoff Cooper, Mary SanGiovanni, Mike Lombardo, Phoebe, Dungeonmaster 77.1
  • Tea & Jeopardy - Emma & Peter Newman

I also want to acknowledge The Grim Tidings Podcast as being worthy of recognition.  There are only five slots and I have six SF/F related podcasts that are top notch.  I would very much be willing to vote for the GTP if they make the shortlist.

Your nominations for Best Fan Writer:

Your nominations for Award for Best Young Adult Book (not a Hugo):

Your nominations for The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo):
  • Damien Black - Devil's Night Dawning 2016/Wizard's Sun Rising 2017
  • Nicholas Eames - Kings of the Wyld 2017
  • JR Handley - The Legion Awakes 2016

Review: Aliens: Bug Hunt


Posted on : 1/15/2018 07:37:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Aliens: Bug Hunt Aliens: Bug Hunt by Jonathan Maberry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a 4-star review. It is a weak 4-star book; closer to 3.5 stars.

The premise of the book it a series of short stories told in the Alien universe. While the aliens are not all xenomorphs of the type shown in the Alien movies, most of them are close to that.

A few of the early stories are quite good. They expand on the premise of humanity discovering a harsh and dangerous universe and present characters that are short-sighted in their pursuit of success.

The weakness of the book is that the stories trade extensively on the standard premise of the movies. An evil corporation sends an unwitting military patrol to someplace where the corporation knows is the home of an evil critter. The military discovers that they are suckers far too late in the game.


If you enjoy the Alien franchise, then you will largely enjoy this book. The stories are largely entertaining even if it becomes a bit repetitive by the end.

Two standout stories were by Larry Correia and Brian Keene. Larry's story was the most disappointing as it ended up being largely gun porn. Brian's story was the best of the bunch as it delved deeper into his characters rather than focusing on the aliens.

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Review: Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists


Posted on : 1/15/2018 07:37:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists by Adrian Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a 5-star review.

The premise of this book is to tell stories from the vantage point of the antagonist. It is supposed to present a logical, if not sympathetic, perspective on why villains do what they do.

The stories in this book largely deliver on that premise. I believe that all of the stories take place in fictional worlds that were used to write longer books. So each story ends up being a vignette into a world that already has a book in place. If you like a story, then the chances are that you will like the book (or books) that also take place in the story.

I found the stories by Peter Orullian, Alex Marshall, and R. Scott Baker to inspire much greater interest in their work. If I wasn't already a fan of Brian Stavely, then his entry would have caused me to want to read more of his work as well.

Every story delivers on the premise of the book. Even if you never quite buy into the justifications that the antagonist has for their evil, you will eventually appreciate the logic that supports their actions.

I fully expect this to be a book that I will read again in the future.

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Review: Kings of the Wyld


Posted on : 1/15/2018 07:36:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Kings of the Wyld Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a 5-star review.

Kings of the Wyld is a lovely bit of farce. Bands of adventurers are treated like rock and roll bands. They show off. They "tour". The "play" big halls. They have groupies.

They get old. They retire. They have kids. And then those kids...or at least one of them...decides to show old dad exactly how many poor life choices a person can make.

And one of the bands has to come out of retirement to go save a wayward daughter intent on having her own adventure. Even if it kills here. Which it probably will.

The old bandmates aren't exactly enthusiastic about going back on the road and into the "Wyld". The Wyld is where all the dangerous monsters live. In truth, all the younger bands avoid going into the Wyld because it is dangerous.

Instead their lives are an imitation of how the old bands used to do it. The young bands fight creatures from the Wyld in stadiums where it is easier for the humans to win. The young bands focus on putting on a good show with parades instead of actually going out into the world and having adventures.

In some respects, the book is a great reflection on our modern society where real risk is managed almost to the point of avoidance. Where individuals seem less likely to experience a larger world first hand.

While being a bit of a farce, the book also deals in deeper truths regarding the bonds of friendship, how success can be a bit illusory, and why doing things for real matters more than doing things just to look good.

Saga rides again! Hang on for a wild and entertaining ride.

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Review: The Grey Bastards


Posted on : 1/15/2018 07:36:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Grey Bastards The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What happens when a group of half-orcs stands between full orcs and the destruction of humanity? Are the orcs willing defenders or dupes? Is there something else holding back the tide or orcs?

These and so many other questions get explored in this outstanding book from Jonathan French.

The story revolves around a group of almost exclusively male fighters that are loyal to the cause. They know how to fight the orcs and win. They are defending their homeland; bestowed upon them by the humans they protect.

It is only somewhat later that the reader learns that not everything is as it seems.

One one level, this is a straightforward story about males doing male-oriented things and living male-oriented lives. On a second level, this is a story about being cautious about accepting the narrative that you are handed. Both levels are entertaining, engaging, and intriguing.

I recommend this book to everyone except one type of reader. That would be the reader that disdains reading about masculine characters being happily masculine. 'Cause there's a fair amount of that here.

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Review: The Mussorgsky Riddle


Posted on : 1/01/2018 05:49:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Mussorgsky Riddle The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up this book due to it using the suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modeste Mussorgsky as a framework for the story. One of my teachers in junior high taught a section on Mussorgsky using the same music suite.

Each movement of the suite was inspired by a series of paintings done by Viktor Hartmann. The teacher told a unique story about each painting that related the visual work with the music written by Mussorgsky. As an example, the fourth movement is entitled "Cattle". The movement features a steady deep bass and percussion beat that mirrors the imagined feet of the ox pulling a cart. The music crescendos just as the oxcart reaches the center of the painting with a bit of a crash before slowly fading as the oxcart goes off into the distance.

The teacher suggested that the crescendo as the oxcart reaches the middle of the painting coincided with the oxcart running over the legs of the man that was sitting against a hut by the side of the road. I guess he should have pulled in those legs.

So now Darin Kennedy decided to use the same musical work as the basis for his book. In this case, an abused boy is experiencing episodes where he travels into an imaginary world described by Hartmann's and Mussorgsky's works. An investigator and spiritually "sensitive" person is hired to help solve the riddle of the boy's episodes. The story was interesting, but a little muddled.

It had a detective style murder mystery. It had some sort of mystical world traveling. It had some sort of spirituality. It tried to have some sort of "science". It has witchcraft.

But all of the elements are rather loosely connected. The resolution was decidedly unfulfilling. The protagonist was successful largely because she emoted enough.

If you have an attachment to any of the features above, then you will have a pleasant time with this book.

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Review: The Forgetting Moon


Posted on : 1/01/2018 05:10:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Forgetting Moon The Forgetting Moon by Brian Lee Durfee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a 4-star review. That is a reasonable estimate of my experience.

This is the start of a standard sword/sorcery epic with multiple point-of-view characters. The world building is phenomenal.

The short version of the story's hooks is that there are five of everything. Five ancient heroes waiting to be reborn. Five pieces of armor (helm/crown, armor, axe, sword, etc.) worn/used by the lead hero waiting to be recovered. Five sacred stones that also need to be recovered. Five different theological views of the actions of those ancient heroes. Five islands. Five cultures. Five armies (although some are already broken).

The author does a good job of hiding the protagonists. Characters that are presented as being good are also shown performing decidedly non-good actions; calling their motivations into question.

Which of the five theological views of the past is correct? Which has been twisted by the hands of time and machinations of humanity/elves/etc?

Along with the usual sword and sorcery activities, there is also a mystery that one of the protagonists has to solve to save her friend's life.

A personal issue I have is with the tendency of authors to put diminutive female characters up against big, burly male characters and expect the smaller characters to measure up. The author does a very good job of describing why all of the characters are the way they are. He provides an appropriate backstory for each character that meshes well with the events that follow.

One nitpick and one criticism.

The nitpick has to do with the dominant religion. It makes a big deal out of having every person be the product of a known union. Being a bastard significantly reduces the social status of the character.

Under such a religion, there should be a whole lot more focus on chastity. While there is a significant focus on marriage, some of the characters are quite willing to engage in pre-marital sex. The theology doesn't mesh up with the social norms as a result.

The criticism is that an awful lot of names of people and places are thrown at the reader in the first few chapters. Rather than slowly bring the reader into the world and natively building familiarity with geography and personalities, the author tosses a lot of detail at the reader in the first few chapters.

The series is promising. People that enjoy epic fantasy should give this a try.

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Review: Dust


Posted on : 1/01/2018 05:10:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Dust Dust by Hugh Howey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a brief 3-star review. More like a 2.5-star experience.

This book could not overcome the serious defects in Silo, #2 (Shift). The engineering/construction flaws in the imagining of the silos is made ever clearer as the story progresses.

Read Wool.....stop there.

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Review: Defiance: A Narrative Poem


Posted on : 1/01/2018 05:10:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Defiance: A Narrative Poem Defiance: A Narrative Poem by Lela E. Buis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a 4-star review.

The book is a narrative poem about a potential future time when non-binary people are compelled by the government to undergo surgery to "correct" their condition. The story features a woman in love with another person despite the fact that they seem incapable of returning her affection.

The protagonist doesn't want to have to choose a gender. Their non-choice is their identity. They fear that having to choose one or the other would be to ultimately turn them into someone else. Someone they did not choose to be.

This was a very interesting and nuanced treatment of gender-related issues. The one flaw that held back the story is the constant references to "straight white men" as being unimaginative, non-creative, and largely unproductive. In attempting a nuanced discussion of gender-related issues, the author relaxed into a one-note description of the alternative.

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Review: Red Sonja: Unchained, Volume One


Posted on : 1/01/2018 05:09:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Red Sonja: Unchained, Volume One Red Sonja: Unchained, Volume One by Peter V. Brett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a solid 5-star review.

This is a stand-alone series about Robert E. Howard's Red Sonja. In this story. Sonja's trademark bikini chain mail is broken and needs to be repaired. In the interim, Sonja ends up wearing the blue fur pelt of a demon that she has killed.

This is a straightforward sword and sorcery tale that is an earnest homage to RE Howard and his characters. The artwork is top notch as is the writing. I learned about this book while attending an author event for Peter V. Brett. I had no idea that he has written it.

The writing, in particular, is noteworthy as it works on two levels. The primary story is well crafted. At the same time, there are undertones that the reader can enjoy if they are so inclined. One of those undertones has to do with Sonja being portrayed in sexy armor that would be pointless in a real sword fight. She was created to give largely male readers a little more flesh to look at.

The side observations on that issue acknowledge that we are living in the 21st century where women are more than eye candy while at the same time not being dismissive to readers that frankly enjoy the eye candy. It is a subtle and sophisticated treatment of that issue.

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Review: Injection, Vol. 2


Posted on : 1/01/2018 05:09:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Injection, Vol. 2 Injection, Vol. 2 by Warren Ellis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a solid 5-star review.

The saga of the Injection continues. The Injection is a sort of artificial intelligence that exists within computers but is able to manifest itself in the real world. The manifestations may be physical, spiritual, on this plane of existence or another, or some combination of all three.

Instead of following the characters from Injection #1 forward, we get to see the Injection operating in a different way as it continues to figure out how humanity functions.

Great art. Great writing. A series that is worth your time.

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Review: Too Like the Lightning


Posted on : 1/01/2018 05:08:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Too Like the Lightning Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-star review.

I read this book as it was one of the 2017 Hugo best novel nominees.

I made it about a third of the way before a Dorothy Parker response was needed.

The book takes place in the future. Humanity has apparently cast off religion and overt sexuality. There are counselors that offer advice, but due to the current human convention, cannot discuss anything that smacks of religion.

In another development, people no longer align themselves with a national identity. Instead, there are 7 "Hives" that manage global affairs. One can live in one place, exhibit cultural traditions from a second place, and belong to a "Hive" that exists in no place in particular. On the one hand, this is an interesting concept that is modeled somewhat within our modern human conventions. How else does one explain religious groups such as the Mormons or Quakers?

People apparently change from hive to hive as their personal convention permits. The poorly defined government structure seeks to balance those population groups. One crisis in the book results from an action that will severely undermine the "popularity" of one of the Hives. Accordingly, the author appears to be relegating human decision making to the same level as deciding which movie star/media personality we support.

This infantilizing continues when a group of adults is chanting for one of the adults in charge of the government to buy them all some ice cream. Adults would dig into their own pocket and buy their own dairy confections rather than abase themselves before a supposed authority figure.

The book features air cars that can whisk a person halfway around the world in a very short amount of time. Unfortunately, I believe that the mathematics of speed, the physics of energy, and the economics of productivity help move the book from the science fiction category to being more properly fantasy.

The coupling of nearly infinite individual movement with the dissolution of borders creates an intriguing circumstance to discuss the utility of national identities. Breaking the laws of physics and economics so thoroughly undermines that discussion.

The characters apparently hew towards an androgynous exhibition of sexuality. This is highlighted by a scene where one woman who chooses to embrace and exhibit her female sexuality/sensuality. When another character is reluctant to agree to a course of action suggested by her husband, she quietly uses her sexuality to inspire agreement.

Humanity has several million years worth of evolution that includes sexuality and sexually based responses. That's a bunch of long words for saying that boys naturally want to please pretty girls.

Those sexual responses are part of why we have been so successful as a species. Denying that part of our evolution is, in effect, denying our existence.

All that being said, the single greatest sin of this book is that it flips from characters that were interesting over to other characters that are less than interesting. At the send, the book comes off as a high-minded college text book with a message of "sit down so I can teach you something".

A little digging indicated that the author is a college professor. Ironically, I spent some time reading her blog and found those entries to be interesting. I would probably enjoy taking a serious college course with this author. I have no interest in her fantasy writing.

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Review: The Dinosaur Lords


Posted on : 1/01/2018 03:55:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Dinosaur Lords The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book had all of the hooks that should have made it a great experience for me. It had knights...fighting while mounted on dinosaurs. It had the usual palace/court intrigue.

Early in the author reveals that it has an additional hook; people have to be killed twice before they are truly dead.

Yet the book demonstrated just how poorly it can fail to measure up to expectations. While I was expecting to read more about how knights and squires managed their dinosaur mounts, the dinos were just rolled out for the combat scenes. Then they were taken away with little interest in their care, feeding, breeding, selection, etc.

The book also trades in the sort of nonsense that suggests that a lithe character can compete with a more muscular character. In this case, the leading female protagonist imagines that she could be a knight riding a dinosaur alongside her paramour despite her being a demonstrably slender character. The knights are, as one would expect, described as being significantly larger and stronger by comparison. There is no way that she could reasonably expect to don a heavy set of armor and be able to move effectively.

On the flip side, the book does do a good job of presenting characters training and fighting effectively within their "weight class" regardless of gender.

The author, unfortunately, decided to include an unnecessary rape scene. The primary villain is well established as being evil by the time this occurs. Aside from demeaning the protagonist (the same one with visions of armor dancing in her head), the rape does nothing to alter the mechanics of the plot. The female protagonist is seized and imprisoned by the villain. She is accused of treason and expect to be found guilty and killed as a result. The rape does nothing to further diminish her in the eyes of the other characters and it does nothing to further motivate her to escape.

The author felt the need to name every location in the book twice; once in something similar to Spanish or Portuguese and once in English. This was mildly distracting. People that know enough of either Spanish or Portuguese will be able to infer the English translation. Those that do not, being fantasy readers already, will parse as they do elvish or orcish or Klingonee and move on.

At the end of the story, the need for a double death to kill a character was applied inconsistently. The entire phenomenon was largely left unexplored.

And finally, one region decided to go "socialist". This was presented as working reasonably well despite the extensive human history of socialism resulting in shortages. The one realistic aspect that the author got right was the noble that decided to abandon his title and let the region go socialist. The noble ends up being an influential member of the leadership committee for the community. One of the lower caste members observes that the change to socialism hasn't really altered his status. He did whatever the noble told him to do before the change and he does what the noble....and the rest of the committee...tells him to do after the change.

The author wades into the human sexuality arena. The characters display none of the common bonding tendencies that exist within the human condition.

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Review: The Reborn King


Posted on : 11/22/2017 10:40:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Reborn King The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a 1-star review. I made it to chapter 3 before the ghost of Dorothy Parker rose from the pages. I rarely ever give 1-star reviews. Usually, the grammar and spelling have to be atrocious to warrant that sort of review. The grammar and spelling in this book are fine.

The characters and setting exuded an air of cardboard. Fortunately for the reader, this book does not feature any fire-breathing dragons. The resulting conflagration would have required the Herculean efforts of the entire firefighting staff of a minor metropolitan area to contain.

The characters were one dimensional and uninspiring. We start off with a villain being given some greater evil power. Why? Did they ask for the power? Were they on some sort of evil short list? Who knows. What does the greater evil power want? Again, who knows.

Then we get to the protagonists. The king of dragons is morose, defeatist, focused on his belief in an old religion. The king of humans is the only character to raise a modest amount of interest. He has lost one heir and seeks to protect his only surviving heir; a baby girl. The king of humans is in turns insufferably arrogant and incredibly spineless. The queen of the faeries is just.....there....barely.

The setting is sketched out in the barest of terms. The one feature this citadel has is that it includes a large number of objects made from a stone that looks like gold...or that has gold veins running through it. There are vague references to armor, arms, and other trophies of past wars. We have no idea what those wars are about or who the armor, arms and other trophies might be worth having. We really aren't given any idea what they look like, such is the generic description that is in play.

What drove me out of this book was the poor storytelling. Examples:

"I call this council of war to order. Scant as our numbers may be, we here are the leaders of the Three Races (humans, fairies, and dragons), and so our decisions cannot be contested"

This dialog is the king of the dragons speaking to the king of the humans, the queen of the fairies, and his son; the prince of dragons. There are a few servants, but this is essentially a private meeting. They all know that they are human, fairy, and dragon. So why the parenthetic clarification?

Later on, the dragon prince is running to save the baby princess. The forces of evil are battering down the gates and seizing the citadel. The princess' guard promptly begins to carry her down to the ship that awaits her at the port. It is so urgent that they get her out of there that they carry her in a crib that is so large that it requires 6 full grown men. If it is so urgent that she get to the ship, then why not just carry her without the crib?

The dragon prince eventually carries the princess in his arms in an attempt to get her to safety.

From the book - "As the door caved in, he fell with it, and saw a flash of black ripple past his face. His right cheek flared in pain as the arrow sliced through the top layers of his skin."

Wouldn't it be more direct to just say that an arrow grazed his cheek?

Moments later the dragon prince is attempting to bodily ram through a door while carrying the princess in his arms. The door, being magically sealed, rebuffs his attempt and he lands on the floor. His armor is dented badly enough that it now pierces his skin. Despite the obvious violence of the impact, the princess is unharmed.

Children playing with GI Joe action figures have more believable adventures.

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Review: Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith


Posted on : 11/19/2017 06:44:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Hell Divers Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2 star "did not finish" review.

The hook for this book is that the world has been destroyed and the only pockets of humanity left alive are on airships. The airships send out skydivers....well Hell Divers (roll credits)....to scavenge for equipment/parts that are in short supply.

Part of the ability to suspend disbelief is the fact that there are other believable elements to the story. By chapter 5 I had more than enough plot holes that could not be filled except by just accepting that this was just a story.

A reader that just wants a cool read might well enjoy this book. The writing/grammar is fundamentally good. It's just that the plot holes drove me out of it early and often.

- So the promotional reading indicated multiple airships. There are two, so the plural is accurate....barely.

- Everything is in short supply on these airships. Yet the hell divers are ready to knife their way out of their parachute harnesses. Also, they don't spend much time recovering the useful gear of a diver that dies on the way down.

- Nuclear fuel is heavy. Nuclear fuels are very dense. They pack a lot of energy into very little space. But it still requires tons of the stuff to power a reactor that can power a city. One hell diver finds a "case" of nuclear fuel cells that weighs 40 lbs. This is supposed to be enough to power the airship for years if not decades. There isn't enough energy in 40 lbs of nuclear fuel to do that.

- Nuclear fuel is radioactive. Yet the hell diver opens the case to see what is inside.

- Again, things are in short supply. But when the hell diver returns to the airship via a balloon inflated using helium, they just let the helium escape.

- And the hell diver "steers" the balloon into the open bay of the airship by pulling ropes/lines like they were steering a parachute or a kite.

- Early on it is established that none of the hell divers has seen any significant signs of surviving down on the polluted/radioactive surface of the world. Yet the two teams that go down instantly run across semi-humanoid lifeforms.

- The divers have binoculars. Things that should have existed before the world was destroyed. Binoculars are normally used close to the eyes to get the focal length right. Yet the divers wear masked helmets. The shouldn't be able to use the binoculars effectively.

- The divers wear helmets and suits that seem to be uniquely well suited for jumping into a poisoned and radioactive environment. Yet it is established that no one knows who started the war that ended the world. Why would those suits exist on those airships before the world ended? How could they have been manufactured on an airship suffering from scarce resources after the world ended?

There were just too many plot holes for me to bother reading any further.

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Review: The Red Knight


Posted on : 10/11/2017 01:04:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Red Knight The Red Knight by Miles Cameron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a 5-star review. There were a couple of minor issues with the book, but overall this is exactly what great fantasy fiction looks like.

On one level this is a straight-out swords and sorcery tale. One of the fae has created an incursion into the lands conquered by humanity. His objective is to retake a fortress that is home to a source of magic that is valuable to the fae.

A band of mercenary knights hire themselves out to the abbey that is housed in the fortress. They are led by a bastard son who is young for such a position. He leads this elite group of warriors on the field. He is also in the process of developing the skills needed to use magic.

The nuns of the abbey have rather unusual habits that end up being used to help heal those that are wounded defending the fortress/abbey from the fae siege.

The world suggests that it could be a version of the earth after some sort of cataclysm has wiped out modern technology and replaced it with magic. The religion in the world bears many of the forms of Catholic Christianity; including an opposition/revulsion of the use of magic. It is church teaching about children born out of wedlock that lead the young knight into a mercenary life.

And yet he and his group end up defending a church abbey.

Beneath this straightforward story is an examination of the difficulties of living in a world that uses social/cultural conventions to create a uniform populace. How can a person survive when their very existence is condemned by "the church"? How can a person actively foster a faith that teaches that they are damned?

This is a tremendous start to what I hope will be a fantastic fantasy series.

There are two nits to pick with this book. The grammar editing of the book was quite poor. Fortunately, the story is good enough to pull me right back in after encountering a plethora of easily identified errors.

The second is that the there are times when the book reads like the author just purchased a second-hand copy "Medieval Armor Illustrated". As it turns out, the author's other interest include medieval combat; including armor, natch! It wasn't a huge issue, but there were times when the examination/description of the armor worn by various knights got a little repetitive.

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A brief afterwords:

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Miles Cameron is a fellow United States Marine.  His love of martial experiences definitely comes through in his work.  Now I am looking forward to the next installment of this series even more.

After the afterwords:

Per his profile on Goodreads,  Miles was actually a Naval officer and suffered under the tutelage of firm Marine Corps hands in OCS.  I had misread a common on one of his blogs to mean that he was a Marine.  He's still a vet and still writes great fantasy.