Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 11/18/2015 01:35:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Time Travelers Never DieTime Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A 2 star review on my scale is not a book that I would recommend. 2 stars is an accurate assessment of my experience.

The use of language and grammar were fine. This is a well edited tome.

My issues involve spoilers, so.....

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse by John Joseph Adams - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/29/2015 05:11:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Wastelands: Stories of the ApocalypseWastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse by John Joseph Adams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars on my scale is a book I enjoyed, but would not read again.  That is a pretty accurate assessment of my experience with this book.

Most of the stories in this collection were pretty good.  As expected, Stephen King and George R.R. Martin had entries that hit it out of the ball park.  The rest of the stories were intriguing and thought provoking.

Three stories stuck out as being truly sub-par within the context of this collection.

Salvage by Orson Scott Card - The nut of this story is that you shouldn't be surprised if you don't fit in with the dominant group if you don't share the dominant group's religion.  Please, keep religion out of science (fiction).

When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth by Cory Doctorow - The nut of this story is that as the world failed, a group of sysadmins kept the internet alive due to their presence in over pressured server farms.  The excess air pressure kept the bug that was killing everyone out.  There were two obvious holes in the plot.  1)  that there would be enough server farms with auxiliary power supplies to maintain some sort of network.  2)  that a bunch of computer geeks writing lengthy treatises could create a better world.

I am those geeks.  Even I know better.

Killers by Carol Emshwiller - Combines all of the worst propaganda about PTSD with the worst propaganda about climate change.  Erg.

Those three stories aside, give this collection a chance.  I'm sure you will find quite a few very thought inspiring stories.

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Armageddon by Leon Uris - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/28/2015 09:21:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

ArmageddonArmageddon by Leon Uris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 stars on my scale is a book that I will read again and one that I might buy for someone else to read.

This is a great book.  Leon Uris creates characters and weaves their person stories through the historical events beginning with the end of WWII and proceeding through the difficulties with the Soviet Union blockading Berlin.  He masterfully uses his characters to illustrate the difficulties that come when the victor in a conflict must eventually learn to live with the people they have beaten.  He also shows how difficult it can be for a defeated nation to recover in a positive way.

This story echoed our current difficulties in working with the governments of Iran and Afghanistan as well as their trials in re-building their nations in a positive direction. 

The story also highlights the documented belligerent behavior of the Soviets as was typical throughout the Cold War.

This book works on so many different levels.  It should be considered a "must read" for any serious reader.

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Kenobi by John Jackson Miller - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/28/2015 09:09:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Kenobi (Star Wars)Kenobi by John Jackson Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars on my scale is a book that I enjoyed, but would not re-read in the future.  This one barely made it to 3 stars.

I have not delved too deeply into the expanded Star Wars universe.  I enjoyed the original movies a great deal and the prequel less.

I thought this might be an interesting insight into the character of Obi-wan Kenobi.  It was a modestly interesting tale that takes placed between Episodes 3 and 4 of the movies.  The book delves a bit into the impact of Anakin Skywalker.  It also sets up a few of the things that we see around Luke Skywalker.

I just didn't get a lot of character development for Obi-wan out of the book.

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Bitten by Kelley Armstrong - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/28/2015 09:03:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1)Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

1 star on my scale is a book that would actively advise against reading.  I did not finish this book.

The book suffered from two primary problems.

1)  A majority of the story occurs within the head of the main character.

2)  As a result, there are lengthy sections of exposition.  And a lot of that was about her "feelings".  The cardinal rule of "show me, don't tell me" comes frequently into play.

I ended up tossing this book because the main character exhibited beliefs that were misandrist and more than just a little bigoted.  Both attitudes were irrational even within the context of the story.

I bought the book because they turned this into a TV series.  The TV show wasn't good enough for me to continue watching.  But in my experience, the book is always better than the movie/TV show.

Except this time.

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Bone Gods - By CAitlin Kittredge - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/28/2015 08:56:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Bone Gods (Black London, #3)Bone Gods by Caitlin Kittredge

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2 stars on my scale is a book that I didn't enjoy very much.  I did finish this book.

The book suffered from a several of weaknesses, any one of which would not be a problem but in combination undermined my experience of the book.

1)  The plot was a standard fantasy "something really, really evil is coming" plot where the protagonist must uncover the details and foil the Eeville Evil™ from destroying everything™. 

2)  This apparently was book 3 of a series.  That was not apparent based on the cover of the paperback that I bought, or I would not have bought it as I generally avoid series fiction these days.  In any case, this book runs afoul of Dann's Dictum regarding multi-book series.  It fails to deliver a good experience and the reader needs to know about the events in the prior books to make sense of some things.

3)  The story is set in the U.K.  I take it that the author, Caitlin Kittredge is from the U.K.  There is a fair amount of U.K.-centric terminology that is used. 

As with every other SFF fan on the planet, I have no problem with absorbing and understanding terminology that is specific to the setting of a book.  However, given the other issues with the book, this was a minor irritant that just further detracted from my reading experience.  I expect this will not be an issue for readers that are more familiar with U.K.-centric jargon.

4)  Last and most important, the protagonist was weak.  She was supposed to posses some magic power, but it could only be used if some other magic person filled her with magic in the first place.

I tend to enjoy strong female characters.  The protagonist in this case only possessed strength if it was first given to her.  She could not act on her own without someone else acting first.  In this case, it was her erstwhile boyfriend.

Combined, these four factors simply let me with a "why bother" reading experience.  YMMV.

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Edge of Tomrrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/28/2015 08:35:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Edge of TomorrowEdge of Tomorrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars on my scale was a good book, but not one that I would want to read again.  I'm being a little generous with the 3 star rating.

The book seemed to be derivative of John Steakley's Armor as well as R.A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers.  More like the former than the latter.

The endless time loop was obviously repetitive and just a little boring.

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Impaler by Kate Paulk - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/28/2015 08:24:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

ImpalerImpaler by Kate Paulk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A 4 star book on my scale is one that I would want to read again.  3.5 stars is probably a more accurate assessment of my experience with this book.

Impaler by Kate Paulk takes the primary character from the Bram Stoker's Dracula and re-imagines him as a hero defending his land from the invading Turks.  Kate Paulk has re-inserted what little is known about the real-life Vlad Tepes and his family into the story.

If you want your vampires to rise at sunset and to drink blood until a village mob drives a stake through his heart and removes his head, then read something else.

I found the cast of characters to be interesting.  The sole plot perspective on Vlad was a bit tiring. While there were opportunities to examine other characters, those opportunities when unexploited.  A little variety in perspective and this would have made this a solid 4 star book.

The book included a modest amount of military strategy as well as some commentary regarding politics of eastern Europe as the Turkish empire was expanding.  Both were modestly interesting aspects that certainly added to the flavor of the book.

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Mammoth by John Varley - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/28/2015 08:08:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

MammothMammoth by John Varley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars for means that it was a good book, but I wouldn't want to read it again. That is a pretty accurate assessment of my experience with this book.

Essentially, this is a book that is a derivative of a huge chunk of the Michael Crichton catalog. It deals with time travel and critters that have been extinct for thousands of years.

There were some decent twists and turns at the end. The antagonist achieves redemption.

However, the science part of the book steadily gave way to a sort of mysticism so that the cause of the ending is less than clear.

This is a fun little romp, but it isn't anything that I feel compelled to read again in the future.

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The Goblin Emperor - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/24/2015 12:54:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Goblin EmperorThe Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars in my book was a book that I enjoyed reading, but would not want to read again. A more true rating would be 3.5 stars as I would not mind reading it again at some point in the future.

The first half of the story really dragged. Maia, a forgotten and banished son, is elevated to become emperor due to an unfortunate incident that took the life of his father, the emperor, and his older brothers. During the first half, Maia is not only a fish out of water, he is also a leaf upon the breeze.

It is only due to the kindness of strangers in the court that he begins to hold the reins of power. Unsteadily at first, and rarely with any sort of personal direction.

Such a situation is far more likely to result in a government run amok as various functionaries exercise unchecked power. It is far more likely that such a weak ruler would be killed or forced to abdicate. That all of these options are tried within the book does little to relieve the sense that it would have happened sooner and with broader support in any sort of more realistic setting.

So the emphasis is on fantasy in this fantasy tale.

A prime example is Maia's decision to select Csevet at his primary aide/personal secretary upon arriving at the capital. It appears to the reader that it is only blind luck that permits Csevet's selection to result in a solid guide as Maia navigates his new existence.

As with many works of SF/F, The Goblin Emperor contains many messages/passages that one could read as political commentary on the modern world.

Many of those passages and many of the larger themes would have been far more appropriate in the late 19th century and early 20th century than they are in the early 21st century. One such theme is whether women should be educated or if education simply ruins them for their only "fit" purpose of breeding and care of children.

This is largely no longer an issue for the English speaking world. Thankfully. It remains a more significant issue outside of western civilization/culture. The inclusion of this theme does not detract from the book. It is just an odd choice, IMHO.

The larger world is of elves and goblins who can and do intermarry and interbreed with predictable questions about race and identity. However, they refer to themselves as "men". This is an odd combination.

There is apparently some form of magic, but the details are unexplored. Also, the world contains some elements of steampunk which are also largely unexplored in any real depth. Steampunk is not a favorite sub-genre of mine and so I was grateful that it existed in a state where the details did not overly intrude on the larger story.

The first half of the book focuses on a number of secondary issues such as jewelry, attire, and dancing. While these are good ways of illustrating Maia's lack of preparation to become emperor, they are not terribly interesting for any other purpose.

[warning - semi-political rant ahead]

Another minor theme that is explored is the nature of "power". Within the context of the book, those in power are in some way affiliated with the structure of royalty. Apparently, "fortunes" may rise and fall. The relationship between this rising/falling relative to society, wealth, and the government are at best tangentially explained.

While there seems to be some sort of system of trade and while factories are present, the market is not presented as being free. Nor is it presented as "un-free".

Within those constraints, there is an exploration of a form of proto-socialism within the context of a letter to the emperor. One of the points made in that letter is that the most ardent advocates for this proto-socialism are really more concerned with seizing power from the powerful and have very little concern for the average citizen/worker. Rhetoric aside, they are more Stalinesque/Hitleresque/Mao-esque in their desire to impose their vision of "equality" and have little interest in actually improving conditions for anyone other than themselves. The lives of any who dissent are apparently regarded as disposable.

As a small "l" libertarian, my preferences run towards free market capitalism where the markets are regulated to prevent abuse of investors and workers. No sane person...to true Irishman....should want to see children laboring....and dying...in coal mines. Nor should one accept other labors that cost workers the valuable use of their limbs, senses, and rational thought.

And so the razor's edge we walk is how to balance the need regulate those abuses with the inherent progress that accompanies a free market.

The book offers some thoughts on those issues, but leaves further consideration as an exercise for the reader.

[end semi-political rant]

This is a free-standing book. It is not part of a series. For that we are mostly humbly grateful to the author. Dann's Dictum for authors remains in force.

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Dann's Dictum for Authors


Posted on : 9/24/2015 12:49:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

My reading lately has slowly helped to develop the opinion that there are far too many book series being published.  Authors will develop a fictional world and a cast of characters.  They will then use those developments to create a series of stories.

This makes sense from an author's perspective.  World building takes time.  Character creation takes time.  Re-using the product of those efforts means less work needed to produce each book.  This process also enables an author to tell longer story arcs.

This also makes sense from a publisher perspective.  One successful book in a series is usually sufficient to ensure reasonable sales of other books in the series regardless of the quality (or lack thereof) in each individual book.

This preference for serialization only places the reader at a disadvantage.  Picking up book 4 of 6 (or 12, or....) means that the reader will not possess the knowledge of events in the preceding books.  This forces the reader to go back to the beginning of a series whenever a later book is recommended or otherwise achieves some measure of notoriety.

If every book in the series is a superior piece of artisan effort, then the only real harm is the time spent with a series of enjoyable books.  However, the more books in the series fail to favorably compare with the rest of the series, the more the reader's time and money is wasted just to remain current with the series.

This leads to Dann's Dictum for Authors.

Write one good book.  And then move on.

Do not offer a series unless you have the capacity to have every installment achieve the same high level of reader satisfaction.

This Dictum does not preclude telling multiple stories in one fictional universe.  Dragonlance was home to a great many good stories and several good series.  However they were usually crafted so that one need not be overly familiar with other books/series from that fictional world.  The Star Wars universe would be another decent example.

Authors, I entreat.  I beg.  I appear.  I conjure.  I implore.  I plead.  I supplicate.

Please write the best book you can.  And then move on.  Do not undertake a series unless every installment can be superlative.  Just as a short fiction author who lacks the ability to write books should avoid doing so, an accomplished book-length author that lacks the ability to craft a series should avoid that monumental task as well.

Population 485 - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/17/2015 12:46:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a TimePopulation: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael  Perry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic read that combines emergency medicine, the realities of rural life, the gallows humor that is necessary to survive high social and career pressures, with a person journey.  This is a book that will grab your attention and hold it until the last page.

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Red Equinox by Douglas Wynne - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/09/2015 10:06:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Red EquinoxRed Equinox by Douglas Wynne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars - on my scale, it was enjoyable, but I am likely to give the book away as I won't read it again.

A rather derivative take on the Lovecraftian mythos.

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Night Shifted by Kate Paulk - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/09/2015 10:02:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Night ShiftedNight Shifted by Kate Paulk

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2 star review - on my scale, 2 stars is a book that probably isn't worth the time.

Vampire fan fic. 

I wouldn't have finished it if it was any longer.

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The Forgotten by Bishop O'Connell - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/09/2015 09:47:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Forgotten (An American Fairie Tale, #2)The Forgotten by Bishop O'Connell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars - barely - on my scale, a 3 star book was an OK read, but I'm likely to give it away as I won't want to read it again.

This book violated Dann's Dictum for authors.  Simply put, don't write a series unless you can make every installment top notch work.  While the first book was great, I had to work to get through this one.

There was far too much magic that was nebulous.  The protagonist almost wanders along in a bit of a fog.  The use of higher mathematical symbology for the protagonist's means of expressing magic was a little clunky.

Also, my digital copy of the book contained at least a dozen easy to fix grammar and spelling problems.  The publisher just didn't put enough effort into making this the best book possible.

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The Stolen by Bishop O'Connell - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/09/2015 09:41:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Stolen (An American Fairie Tale, #1)The Stolen by Bishop O'Connell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 stars - on my scale, if I loan out a 4 star book, then I want it back so I can read it again.  It probably was closer to 4.5 stars.

This was a great tale that created a new vision of faeries, magic, the Irish, and how they all work in our modern world.  The protagonist was particularly inspiring in his dogged pursuit of the kidnapped child.

I devoured this book.

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The Trench by Steve Alten - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/09/2015 09:34:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

The Trench (MEG #2)The Trench by Steve Alten

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars - on my scale, 3 stars was a good read, but not good enough that I would want to read it again.

This book violated Dann's Dictum for authors.  Essentially, don't bother writing a series if you can't have all of the books measure up.

While book one, Meg, was a fantastic read, The Trench simply was not that good.  It was an enjoyable read.  It was time well spent.  It simply was no where as ground breaking or engaging as the first book was.

The ending sort of lost me. The antagonist had apparently gone to a lot of trouble to "train" a megalodon shark to respond to certain noises with the intent of luring the protagonist into the shark's kill zone. It just wasn't a believable ending.

Add to that the fact that very little new information about megalodons was presented in the book and it was only mildly engaging.

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Meg by Steve Alten - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/09/2015 09:25:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

Meg (MEG, #1)Meg by Steve Alten

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 star review - on my scale, 5 stars is a book that I would be willing to buy for others.

And in this case I will have to buy it for myself as one of the dogs ate my copy.

Just a great read.  Excellent presentation of how dramatically different a dinosaur is from the animals we have among us today.  Very interesting characters and a well developed plot.

You just cannot ask for a better read than this book.

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George Washington's Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade, Don Yaeger - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/09/2015 09:18:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American RevolutionGeorge Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gave this a 4 star review, but it was closer to 3.5.

On my scale, 4 stars is a book that I expect to get back if I loan it out as I want to read it again and 3 stars is a book that I will recommend, give away, but don't want it back.

This was an engaging historical read.  It was a little short on details of the operational minutiae of the spy ring.  It did cover in broad strokes how the ring developed and operated.  Quite an interesting read.

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Slow Apocalypse by John Varley - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/09/2015 09:12:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Slow ApocalypseSlow Apocalypse by John Varley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2 Star review - On my scale 2 stars probably isn't worth picking it up.

I read the first 1/4 of the book and did not finish it.

This was an interesting concept, but it failed in that the primary impact of the "apocalypse" simply didn't much impact on the primary characters.

Aside from losing electricity and having to camp out, they were not significantly impacted by the series of disasters. Given their proximity to one of the major impact zones, this wasn't a very realistic representation of the unfolding disasters.

I just couldn't get into it.

The book was well written and well edited. It just didn't grab my interest.

A better take on this general idea was Lucifer's Hammer.

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Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 8/27/2015 04:20:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Spirit Gate (Crossroads, #1)Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

From reading elsewhere, you will already know that Spirit Gate is the first of the Crossraods trilogy of books written by Kate Elliott (Alis Rasmussen).

I gave this a 2 star rating and thought about saying it was really a 2.5 star rating.  I also toyed with simply not finishing the book.  A 2 star rating is an honest reflection of my experience.

Ms. Elliott's other work may demonstrate an outstanding ability to tell stories.  This particular book left me with the impression that her skills fall well short of writers like Melanie Rawn, Sara Douglass, or George R.R. Martin.

Caution - spoilers ahead.