Free Books!


Posted on : 4/19/2017 08:39:00 AM | By : Dann

The folks over at Free Novel List are running a sweepstake.  The winner gets 7 free books.  You get 7 more free books just for entering.

You also end up subscribing to their newsletter mailing list.  I use a throwaway address for such things.

Author W.J. Lundy has a couple books in the mix.  I thought his first book was a little weak (1 star), but it showed some promise.  His second book was quite a bit better (3 stars).

There are a couple other authors in the mix that are worth considering as well.

Review: Tales of the Forgotten by W.J. Lundy


Posted on : 4/19/2017 08:38:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Tales of the Forgotten Tales of the Forgotten by W.J. Lundy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I gave the first WTF novella one star. I had this one at two stars right up to the end.

If you have some military service, then this is a good book to read. You will bring to the book your knowledge and past experiences of small unit interpersonal dynamics. You will being your perspective of being deployed or otherwise kept from your family due to operational commitments. You will understand the many motivations that people have for serving, working together, and striving for excellence.

And it is a good thing that you will bring that personal history to the book because it is pretty much assumed that the reader understands these aspects of military life.

The book suffers from a lack of character development.

The characters are little more than cardboard cutouts. More effort is put into describing weapons and tactics than into developing each character's motivations and thoughts.

It reads quite a bit like a pretty good plot development piece for a movie. I think it might make a pretty good movie.

It just isn't that great of a book.

USMC 1984/1992

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Review: Brother Dust: The Resurgence by Steven Beaulieu and Aaron Hall


Posted on : 4/17/2017 05:19:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Brother Dust: The Resurgence Brother Dust: The Resurgence by Aaron Hall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brother Dust by Steven Beaulieu and Aaron Hall

3/5 stars. This was a strong 2.5+ star experience.

Brother Dust is properly classified as "science fantasy". The events in the book take place among a spacefaring society. However, the amount of actual science involved is negligible.

The book details the continuing travels of the Solovat empire. The Solovat home world has become infected with some sort of planet killing virus. This virus consumes a planet's "energy". To save their home planet, the Solovats roam from world to world mining each planet for its "energy".

They drill ever deeper into each planet core gathering planetary energy that is then transmitted to Solovat. Once the core has been breached, the planet dies and any remaining energy is sucked off to the Solovat home world. Also, a fair amount of the advanced Solovat technology also uses this planetary energy.

Brother Dust is born on a world that has been prematurely consumed as it is breaking apart. The native inhabitants of that world seem to reflect the native foliage is a sort of chameleon-like behavior. But as the world is broken, it is mostly just dust.

What follows is a meditation involving several different themes. One theme has to do with the environment. Another prominent theme is the relative merit of empires.

Against those themes unfolds the story of a Brother Dust who transitions from enforcing the Empire against a series of unfortunate civilizations to a Brother Dust that seeks to force the Empire to leave the Dastropian civilization alone. He ends up aligned with a nascent rebellion movement.

Brother Dust is so named because he can stop appearing as a Solovat. Instead, Brother Dust can become "dust" that is nearly impossible to kill and is exceedingly effective as a weapon that shreds the lungs of Solovat soldiers and can open doors by slipping through the slightest of cracks. Brother Dust discovers that there is a cure for his "condition". Having lived for so long as dust, Brother Dust gladly accepts this cure that must be re-administered every few days.

The first roughly half of the book is quite good. It is well paced and well written.

The latter half of the book turns cartoonish with Brother Dust turning into more of comic book superhero. Extensive narrative is used to describe fight scenes with round-house kicks, thrown punches, and foot sweeps. The rebellion decides to avoid using lethal force for some reason. Brother Dust continues to accept his treatments despite the fact that they severely limit his ability to fight. Characters start using persuasion in the middle of gun fights, fist fights, and fighting fights.

I dropped out of the narrative at this point and began looking at flaws in the plot and counting the number of instances of poor grammar. Both were found with little trouble. Some of the worst examples involved characters barely limping out of one scene but being able to beat fresh (and unwounded) opponents in the next scene. It takes longer than an hour or two to recover from significant wounds.

Brother Dust suggests that these authors have much to offer in terms of telling a compelling story. It also suggests that they have much to learn about it as well.

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Review: Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson


Posted on : 4/10/2017 09:48:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Darwinia Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3/5 stars. I'd call it 3.5 stars. Just a little short of what I'd call a 4-star book.

Darwinia has one foot firmly planted in the early 20th-century western culture and the other foot planted.....somewhere else.

For the first half of the book, we follow various characters as they navigate a world where the better part of Europe and the UK have been replaced by an alternative biome. Geographically the "new" old world is close to the same. Rivers make bends at different places. Bogs and marshes appear in different places. Mountain ranges rise up in a familiar but not quite identical fashion.

There appear to be ancient remains of creatures unlike anything previously seen by humanity.

The world is in shock. British citizens around the world work to return to what was formerly Britain to rebuild what was lost. Citizens from various European nations do the same thing, but with less enthusiasm and effect.

With the loss of Europe, including Russia, America is left as the sole power in the world. The American government has decided that this "new" old world should be open to all for settlement rather than remaining the province for European expatriates to re-settle. A low-level conflict ensues.

Instead of trench warfare on a massive scale, we instead see a low-intensity conflict conducted that mainly involves small-scale raids. History has changed, but it still echoes.

And that is where the foot planted firmly somewhere else comes into play. Just when you think this is another alternate history tale, you discover that it is something else. Something more.

Something that involves conflict on a much grander scale.

I found the concept to be interesting. The characters were engaging and the events kept me coming back. The hook...that conflict on a grander scale...just lost me a bit. After the first half of the book intimating questions about religion and evolution, the shift was not only jarring, it undermined the earlier philosophical debate.

Curiously, this was a finalist for the Hugo award for best novel in 1999. This wouldn't be something that I would select for that level of recognition.

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Review: Servant: The Awakening by L.L. Foster


Posted on : 4/10/2017 09:25:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Servant: The Awakening Servant: The Awakening by L.L. Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

L.L. Foster's Servant: The Awakening is the best book that I did not finish. I'm giving it 3 stars in this review.

The premise is straightforward.

God...or "god"...or "something" periodically compels our heroine, Gaby, to destroy demons. A feeling comes over her that is both painful and undeniable at the same time. The pain remains until the demon is dead. Or sent back to hell. The early part of the book is unclear on the religious connections involved.

At the start of the book, the characters bore more than a modest whiff of cardboard. Gaby is an angry loner. That's all you get; anger and purposeful separation from the rest of humanity. She doesn't understand why she has to kill these demons and she doesn't like the compulsion to kill them either.

Her landlord has poor self-esteem. Mort is just wishy-washy in every aspect of his life and relationship with others.

Then there is the handsome and dashing police Detective Luther. The good detective inspires feelings in Gaby. Feelings that she doesn't want to have. He is a bit of a mystery as he keeps showing up at all the wrong/right times. And Gaby experiences an unexplainable attraction to him that also messes up her demon-killing skills.

All very cardboardery. But then midway through the book, the interaction of the characters, as well as the developing threat of a continuing stream of new demons, starts to make things interesting. I bought this book at a Dollar Store and it could have been easily worth the original cover price in terms of entertainment.

The problem....cancer. The hook in the book is that all of the demons end up possessing cancer patients. The villain, in this case, is using the patients as potential hosts for the demons. Instead of doing his job and curing the patients, he is actively making it worse.

And I couldn't finish the book. I've lost too many people to cancer. Seeing their pain as a pathway to demon possession isn't fun for me. I think the book has some potential as the characters start to unfold. I would be open to reading something else from this author in the future. Just not any more of this.

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Rules For A Successful Life


Posted on : 3/25/2017 06:02:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The following is something I wrote over a decade ago on my old (and now defunct) Dain Bramage blog.  I thought it was worthwhile then.  I think it remains worthwhile.


I've been mulling this over for some time. One of the things that bothers me is the idea that there are some sort of barriers that keep people from succeeding. Some will suggest that it is impossible to break out of poverty.

Impossible? Not at all.

Hard to do? Yup. It takes hard work and dedication.

But how to do it. That's the question. What follows is my answer to that very question.

  • Go to school.
  • Stay in school.
  • Don't do drugs (alcohol and tobacco inclusive)
  • Don't have sex if you can't afford to raise the results. Marriage before having children works best.
  • Graduate.
  • Get a job [or better still, start a business]. Any job. Any pay. Work hard. It's called paying your dues.
  • Get more education. A trade school. The military. College. Something. Something productive that is. It doesn't matter if you have to do it one class at a time. Make education a priority.
  • Get another job [or start another business]. Work hard. Repeat as necessary. It's called climbing the ladder.
  • Save. Make it a priority.
  • Invest. Make it a priority.
  • Avoid credit cards.
  • If one is so inclined, get married and if the inclination is incurable, have kids....after making sure that you can afford to raise them. Somewhere between the ages of 28 and 40 is a good spot for most people if the other rules have been followed.
You can violate a couple of these rules and things will still turn out OK. Perhaps not as good as they might have otherwise, but OK nonetheless. Follow all the rules and you can't miss.

This is the sort of advice that I wish I'd been given when I was much younger. I've fallen into a couple of those traps and digging out is a bear. Better not to fall into one of them in the first place.


An afterwords of sorts. Over the intervening years, I have had a chance to interact with more people.  One of the continuing observations that we encounter more frequently is that western society, and the United States in particular, contains certain cultural obstacles that make it harder for some people to succeed.

Well I agree to an extent.  There are cultural obstacles to success.  There are some people that start the race 100 yards behind the starting line.  There are some people that have to run with higher hurdles in their lane.

None of that changes the utility of this advice.  Where it is incumbent upon those that do not face those obstacles to help reduce those cultural barriers, it is equally incumbent upon those that want a successful life to assimilate the habits that create that success in the first place.

Hugo Nominations 2017


Posted on : 3/12/2017 08:48:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

For what it is worth, here are my current nominations.  Unless I find something in my "has been read" pile that I missed, I can't see this changing much.  Nominees are not offered in any particular order with respect to how I would vote if my nominees were the only nominees.

Best Novel

A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more published in 2016.

TitleAuthorPublisher/Where Published
The Silent ArmyJames A. MooreAngry Robot
A Little KnowledgeEmma NewmanDiversion Books
The City of MirrorsJustin CroninBallantine Books
Saint's BloodSebastein de CastellJo Fletcher Books

Best Graphic Story

Any science fiction or fantasy story told in graphic form appearing for the first time in 2016.

TitleAuthorPublisher/Where Published
Monstress Vol. 1Marjorie M. LiuImage Comics
Outcast Vol. 3 - This Little LightKirkman & AzacetaImage Comics

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Any theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during 2016.

TitleStudio/Network/Production Company
The MagiciansSyFy
Stranger ThingsNetflix
The ExpanseSyFy

Best Fancast

Any generally available non-professional audio or video periodical devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects that by the close of 2016 has released four (4) or more episodes, at least one (1) of which appeared in 2016, and that does not qualify as a dramatic presentation.

TitleWeb address
The Sarcastic Voyage Podcast (Contentment Corner)Website
The Post Atomic Horror PodcastWebsite
Tea & JeopardyWebsite
The Grim Tidings PodcastWebsite

Best Series

A multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, which has appeared in at least three (3) volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the calendar year 2016, at least one of which was published in 2016. If any series and a subset series thereof both receive sufficient nominations to appear on the final ballot, only the version which received more nominations shall appear. While it isn't a requirement for this category, I do not intend to nominate for a series until it has been completed. Why should a 6-volume series get four opportunities to win this award while a 3-volume series only gets one?

Name of SeriesAuthorQualifying VolumePublisher
Seven ForgesJames A. MooreThe Silent ArmyAngry Robot
The PassageJustin CroninThe City of MirrorsBallantine Books

John W. Campbell Award

Award for the best new science fiction writer, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award). A new writer is one whose first work of science fiction or fantasy appeared in 2015 or 2016 in a professional publication. For Campbell Award purposes, a professional publication is one for which more than a nominal amount was paid, any publication that had an average press run of at least 10,000 copies, or any other criteria that the Award sponsors may designate.

JR HandleyThe Legion Awakes/Fortress Beta City/Demons of Kor-Lir

Sensible And Sustainable Weight Control


Posted on : 2/02/2017 06:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

I have had several people note my weight reduction of the last few years.  They almost uniformly ask how I did it.  But they want something quick and easy.

So here's the quick and easy....or at least as quick and easy as I can make it.

A Note To The Professional Actor, Author, Painter, Musician, Etc.


Posted on : 1/14/2017 03:55:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Dear Professional Entertainer,

Your opinion matters.  Your ability to express that opinion matters.  It is thoroughly unacceptable for critics to suggest that you "shut up and" do whatever it is you do to entertain the world.

Your opinion is not the only one that matters.  The caterer that provides food for your events has an opinion as well.  The person makes sure that electricity makes it to your home has an opinion.  The person building/repairing our nation's highways and byways has an opinion.  The person that monitors inmates at the local jail has an opinion.

And all of those opinions matter as well.

The primary difference is that the caterer, the power company employee, the road construction worker, and the jailer do not enjoy a prominent platform from which to offer their opinion to the world.  Instead, those very same people enable the privilege of your very prominent platform that you  use to present your thoughts on passing events.  They buy your books.  They buy your albums.  They buy tickets to your concerts, movies, and theater performances.  And they help create that platform by being fans that are interested in the life behind the creative efforts that they so frequently enjoy.

So instead of reflexively reaching for snark, instead of using that most over used tool of sarcasm, perhaps it would be better to have a bit of restraint.  Instead of painting people who possess a different opinion with a broad, tar-laden brush, it might be better to exercise a bit more precision.

Instead of denigrating those that create your privileged position while not similarly enjoying a equal opportunity to comment on passing events, perhaps you should demonstrate a modicum of leadership.  Show us how people that disagree can do so with a modicum of civility.