Review: Paths of Destruction (The Awakening #2)


Posted on : 3/25/2019 09:38:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Paths of Destruction (The Awakened #2)Paths of Destruction by Jason Tesar
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I loved book 1 of this series. Gave it a solid 4 star review.

Four chapters in. I am bored to tears and looking for my RE Howard Conan collection.

None of the characters inspire interest. They reek of cardboard.

Book 1 was really very good. If you haven't read it, then please do.

But save your money for something worthwhile and don't go any further. I wish I had.

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Posted on : 2/01/2019 02:50:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Inspired by Amélie Wen Zhao and in honor of a book that no one else will read. See also this and this.

by Dann Todd


Author, Author, what did you do?
Can't read your book, no one should want to
You lack sophistication and craft and more
Your book will never be in a book store

Author, I got your number
Gonna make it stick once more
Author, here comes your number


Author, Author, I'll burn the galley
You don't know me, but you make me unhappy
I'll call you out, 'cause you've got some nerve
Your little novel has made me disturbed.

Author, I got your number
Gonna make it stick once more
Author, here comes your number


I shame you, (I shame you), I shame you
I shame you for offenses perceived
I shame you, (I shame you), I shame you
I'll shame you, until I feel relieved

Hey, Author, I got your number
Gonna make it stick once more
Author, I'll shame your opus


Author, Author, what did you do?
I am offended just by looking at you


Offered with apologies to Alex Call, Jim Keller, and Tommy Tutone.  And with deepest thanks to Messers Ray Bradbury and George Orwell.  Their works were never intended to be "how to" manuals.

Authors and Social Media


Posted on : 1/31/2019 05:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

I had an interaction with an author a short while back via social media.

The author is an indie author.  They had put out something that was unrelated to their works.  It was something political.

The item considered a comparison between a socialist/communist dictator to Che Guevara as being positive towards the dictator.  I pointed out that Che Guevara murdered a whole ton of people.

The author responded by calling me a "crypto-fascist" and attempted to get a dogpile going in my direction.  No dogpile resulted.  The author also went into "whataboutism" mode by pointing out that the US government had killed a bunch of people in the 20th century.  (He is right on that count.  More context below.)  The author was either unwilling or unable to engage in a civil discussion about Che Guevara's history of malign actions against the people of Cuba.

I lamented the fact that our modern age offers enough access that we can learn all sorts of things about authors that most readers would never have known.  Nothing I offered was insulting.  The author asked me not to respond any further and I honored that request.

Some other person (also an author....I think)  came along with a response that was more pointed than mine.  That individual made some mildly insulting remarks towards the author while also questioning whether Che is worthy of laudatory comments.

And that was largely the exchange.

You may note that I haven't named the author, their books, the social network, or the socialist/communist dictator.

That is because, this incident aside, I like this author and I enjoy their books.  They only have two books out right not, but they are both great.  The third book in the trilogy is due out later this year.  I can't wait.

And I do not want anyone harassing the author.  Again, this incident aside, I like this author and I enjoy their work.

But I do want to talk about the author's ultimate response which was a couple of blog posts.  One was about indicating that they were stepping back from social media.  The other was lamenting the emotional drain that being in near constant contact with one's readers/fans has on an author.

Ironically, the first one was titled to give the impression that a discussion of that social media platform in particular.  No such discussion was forthcoming.

I'm sure that the constant contact with fans and the perceived need to continually create new engagement is emotionally draining. 

Everyone has to figure out how much social media they can take without harming their own well being.  

One helpful approach is to be well grounded in one's postings.  Kind words for Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, or Adolph Hitler (number 4 on the mass murdering dictator list) are going to invite a pretty significant reaction.  While Fidel Castro (and by extension Che Guevara) didn't have the same raw numbers in terms of people murdered, the percentage of the population that was murdered was certainly closer to that for the people that suffered under history's "big four" murdering dictators than to a true democracy.

The table below comes from the Power Kills website that is maintained by the University of Hawaii.  That website presents the research data of the now deceased Professor Emeritus R.J. Rummel.  Professor Rummel researched the number of civilians killed by government action; military combatants excluded.  I have extracted a few lines of data from the professor's database.

My point?  Cuba under Castro was a bloody mess.  His regime murdered at least tens of thousands of Cubans for the crime of dissenting from his communist regime.  We aren't talking about violent dissent.  We are talking about people that were insufficiently supportive by cutting corners on rationed goods or who participated in black markets for staples that most Americans purchase at a local grocery store.  And gays.  Castro murdered (and imprisoned) lots of gay folks for the "crime" of being gay.

Cuba under Castro was a far more bloody mess than it was under Batista.  That is almost always the case when comparing a non-socialist/communist government with the socialist/communist government that replaces it.

In fact, the Cuban government killed far more Cubans (domestic deaths) than Americans that were killed by the American government (again domestic deaths).  The US is clearly a much larger nation, yet the government killed far, far fewer people.  In an apples-to-apples comparison, the Cuban government was far more murderous (0.807% of the population vs. 0.016% in the US).

Looking at democratic governments, including the US, in comparison with totalitarian and communist regimes (kinda the same thing, IMHO), democratic governments are far less likely to start killing their own people.  Democratic governments, including the US, are far less likely to run around killing civilians in other nations as well.

We should all be decent to one another online.  Don't reach for invective and insults too quickly.

And don't offer praise for people that are undermining the human condition on a massive scale.  You will get called on it.

2019 Hugo Nominations


Posted on : 1/15/2019 10:40:00 AM | By : Dann

Hugo season has come again and with it comes nominations from participants.  Members of Worldcon 2018 held in San Jose last summer are eligible to nominate works for consideration at this year's Worldcon 2019 being held in Dublin, Ireland.  (as opposed to Dublin, Nebraska - thanks Cinema Sins)

You can also sign up to be a member of Worldcon 2019 and nominate works for consideration.  A supporting membership only costs €40.  Generally ....but not always... finalists offer copies (or at least samples) of their nominated works to members.  And of course, members of Worldcon also get to vote next summer when the finalists are announced in April/May.

As I didn't read any books that were published in 2018, I couldn't properly nominate in that category.  I did nominate the works below.  There might be one or two additions, but this is pretty much my nominations for this year.

Short Story:

Hither and Yon by Stephen S Power
Published at

For Your Own Good by Rebekah Mabry
Published at

Graphic Story:

Skybourne by Frank Cho and Marcio Menyz
Boom Studios - publisher

Redlands Vol. 1 by Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa Del Rey
Image Comics - publisher

[I might have nominated the new graphic novel series Die, but only one issue came out in 2018.  I expect that Volume 1 will come out in 2019.  It is well worth your time.]

Editor Short:

Adrian Collins - His anthology Evil is a Matter of Perspective was fabulous.


  • SinCast by Cinema Sins -
The guys at Cinema Sins are serious cinephiles.  Their SinCast is devoted to a serious review of movies.  All (or almost all) of the hosts have worked in movie theaters as projectionists, managers, etc.  So they had a chance early in their lives to watch a lot of movies.  VHS, DVD, and Bluray have made that love of movies easier to pursue.  The guys are very genre friendly when it comes to being open to accepting genre films as being worthy of recognition.
  • The Disney Story Origins Podcast -
The DSO Podcast is the love project of author Paul J. Hale.  Paul breaks down the original stories that form the basis for Disney's animated movies.  He compares the original text with the Disney-fied tale.  He is not critical of Disneyfication.  Paul's objective is a better understanding and illumination of the original material that was eventually used as the basis for Disney movies.  His podcasts demonstrate a breadth and depth of research that is unsurpassed.
  • The Post Atomic Horror -
The Post Atomic Horror podcast is the most accomplished Star Trek podcast in existence.  They have reviewed every televised episode of Star Trek from all of the various iterations.  They have reviewed all of the movies.  They have reviewed the games.  They have seen it all.  

Each episode features a somewhat farcical summary of the episode in question followed by a more serious discussion of the events that transpired.  Their personal knowledge aside, they also access a variety of resources (in print and online) to provide a deeper understanding of the franchise. 
  • The Horror Show with Brian Keene -
The Horror Show is a tour de force within the horror sub-genre.  The hosts cover a broad range of issues and perspectives.  They provide probing interviews of authors with a range of experiences.  They report on industry news across the gamut including copyright infringement, scams, and harassment.
  • The Grim Tidings Podcast -
The Grim Tidings focuses on the "grimdark" subgenre.  They interview authors, publishers, and agents in the field.  Interviews with authors routinely include "games" designed to provoke spontaneous creativity.  (i.e. rolling up a D&D character based on the author's novel(s).  Sadly GTP has ended.  But their work last year was among their best.  This is a hidden gem of a podcast that is worthy of consideration.  Co-host Philip Overby may be coming out with a new podcast in the coming months.


It is my hope that my nominations will increase the diversity of finalists.  It would be nice to see some new faces end up as finalists.  In recent years, there has been a trend towards repeat nominations for creators.  The graphic novel category has had a few "frequent flyers".  The fancasting category has become downright repetitive.  The novel category has also become somewhat repetitive favoring series entries from more known authors.

It is useful to keep in mind that there are lots of different methods for discovering new and interesting works.  If a category becomes too repetitive, then it is probably missing out on a fresh perspective within the genre.

Review: Jade City


Posted on : 11/25/2018 09:06:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Jade City Jade City by Fonda Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fonda Lee hits one out of the park! Almost....

Jade City is the story of rival criminal gangs. The gang members are genetically capable of using pieces of jade to give them near superpowers. They go through 8 years of intense training to be able to hold and use jade for that purpose.

The gangs maintain a tight control on who gets the jade and who gets trained to use it. Effectively, the gangs run the city in a way.

The author did a ton of research on real criminal gangs as well as depictions in movies and books over the years. The Asian influence is apparent as the gangs are on some sort of Asian island, draw inspiration from wuxia and use a version of kung fu (my interpretation).

The characters have multiple motivations and are well developed. The plot holes are few and minor.

The one thing that holds me back from giving this 5 stars is that Ms. Lee didn't trust her readers to get all of the subtext of the book.

It is apparent from the story that these gangs are largely male dominated. Yet as the society evolves with improvements in technology and exposure to other cultures, women find that they are able to create their own roles in that gang culture. It is harder for them at times. It is also just different.

Rather than let those features be self-evident, Ms. Lee put in a few direct statements confirming that the gangs were dominated by men. Well....yes....all the other words around those statements made it pretty clear.

Authors, trust your readers to "get it". You don't have to rub their faces in identity politics to get your point across.

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Review: Skin


Posted on : 11/25/2018 08:49:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Skin Skin by Peter Fugazzotto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good novella from horror/grim-dark fantasy author Peter Fugazzotto.

A group of men guarding a border outpost find that they have invited some creature into their keep. The creature can mimic any person. And it is killing them off one by one.

Well constructed story. Compelling characters and decent world building.

As the author readily admits, this story seems to be a close parallel with John Carpenter's movie "The Thing". That was apparent to me early on in reading the story. But the writing was compelling enough to keep me interested in seeing how Peter would reveal his version of the story.

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Review: Fool's Assassin


Posted on : 11/25/2018 08:43:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Fool's Assassin Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great opening book for this trilogy. Interesting world building and character development.

The biggest drawback was the lack of inventiveness for the magic system. Called it "wit" and "skill" was a bit lazy.

Otherwise, this is a great book and I look forward to the rest of the trilogy.

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Review: 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers


Posted on : 11/02/2018 01:25:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic and awe-inspiring recounting of the early days of America's involvement in Afghanistan. The book illustrates how putting a few highly capable individuals in just the right position with the authority to get the job done results in the job...getting done.

The book also illustrates how the difference in cultures creates many opportunities for missteps.

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Review: Beren and Lúthien


Posted on : 10/31/2018 09:14:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Beren and Lúthien Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was hoping for a more refined tale that was more in keeping with The Hobbit and LotR. This was not that.

I read the first version of Beren and Luthien that is included in the book. It was interesting but not as tight as the later works. The origin story for the conflict between dogs and cats was pretty good.

If you are a hard-core Tolkien fan, then this book is for you. If you had a hard time getting through the Silmarillion, then this book probably is not for you.

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