Tag Archives: book

Book Review – Excelsior

excelsiorExcelsior, by George H. Sirois, is about a young man who writes a web comic that ends up being more true than he had ever imagined.  A young adult science fiction book, it’s very much your typical hero saves the day type of story.  There are many things to like about this book, but it’s not for everyone.

I should mention that this was an eBook that was published independently (paperback is also available), so I didn’t have high expectations for the editing.  In my past experiences with indie books, editing seemed to be poorly done.  However, I’m happy to say that this book is edited well, though there are a few minor mistakes with missing letters or punctuation.  But it was easy to read, the scenes were well-defined, and it was very easy to follow.

The story is a simple one.  A high school student named Matthew Peters writes a web comic called Excelsior that becomes quite popular.  However, it seems that his stories are more true than he expected.  His life is turned upside down.  What I found with this story is that it is a very straightforward hero story. No surprises, although creative, the plot isn’t unique.  However, after reading the afterword of the book, I see why it was this way.  I thought the story was very predictable.  Not that it’s always a bad thing.  Sometimes predictable stories give us a feeling of comfort and familiarity.  I did enjoy reading the story, though.  The action was described well, so I could imagine what was happening easily.

The characters are mostly your stereotypical characters in this kind of story.  Awkward teenager becomes the hero, supported by your usual cast of role models that guide and sidekicks that entertain.  I found that there was very little background information for the Denarian’s homeworld.  Where did the Krunation come from?  That’s something I’d like to know.  The dialogue was filled with cliche, something you’d read in a superhero comic.  And you know, that’s how I felt about most of the characters in this book.  The good were good and pure, the evil were completely evil.  There seemed to be no grey, it was all black and white.  It was all very campy, but gave me a bit of nostalgia.

Toward the end of the book, I noticed it could have a sequel.  If there is one in the works, I would read it.  It wasn’t a bad book at all.  It was entertaining, in a superhero comic kind of way.

Out of 5, I’ll give it a 3.  It’s a good read.  Don’t go into it thinking you’re going to read an amazing original story, though.  The feeling is familiar and comforting, but not very deep.

My SF world teaser

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve worked for a long time on a world for my science fiction series of stories.  I’ve got a bit of news about it.  It has a name!  I’m not going to say the name, but I’ll give you a bit of information.

The star is real, and it’s a G-type star similar to the sun, though only 3 billion years old.  It’s the brightest in its constellation, and is a candidate for the search for Earth-like planets.  It is known by its Bayer designation, though it has a lesser-known Arabic name.  I will be using the Arabic name of the star for the sun’s name.  I have a list of names for five of the planets at this time.  The names of the planets are linked to the historical and mythological story of the constellation. The feature planet’s name comes from the alternate name of the constellation.  The name has already been used for a minor body in the solar system, so that may or may not give you an idea what it is.

Can you guess the name of the planet or star system?

Book Review – Guards! Guards!

guardsguardsTerry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! is the eighth book in the Discworld series. Pratchett is a master at satirical humour in a fantasy setting, and his books are always great light reading.  Guards! Guards! is one of the better ones.

This book centres around the Night Watch of the City Watch in the city of Ankh-Morpork, the greatest city on the disc.  Carrot is a new recruit from the dwarf mines, while his colleagues are Captain Vimes, Sergeant Colon, and Corporal Nobbs.  Carrot is a young, eager man, ready to please anyone.  He is quite naive, but has great knowledge of the law.  Captain Vimes is the often drunk leader of the group. Sergeant Colon doesn’t like to see much action, and is usually in the office.  Nobby is one strange guy who seems to never play things by the book.  All four of these main characters are delightfully developed, and they go through quite a bit during the course of this book.  Vimes develops into a wonderful character, and has some hilarious drunken thoughts.  Carrot shows amazing initiative in a law enforcement group that basically has no power.  The Librarian, an orangutan at the Unseen University, joins the group.  He is one of my favourite Discworld characters.  Nice to see him here.  Lady Ramkin is another colourful character who breeds swamp dragons.  She is quite funny, and a great addition.  Lord Vetinari also plays a part in this book.  And you can’t forget the dragon.  The ensemble cast was very entertaining.

The story was Pratchett’s usual witty plot, poking fun at various subjects, such as police novels and “hero defeats the dragon and turns out to be the last king’s heir” kind of story.  Unexpected incidents is what I expect with Discworld novels, and this one did a very good job at that.  I expected Keystone Cops kind of buffoonery, but got an actual good story, albeit a silly one.  But it worked remarkably well.  I find that Pratchett has a good comic sense most of the time, though sometimes it isn’t as funny as I’d hoped.  However, Guards! Guards! was very funny.  There was more than one occasion when I laughed (thankfully, no one looked at me on the train when I did that).

Most of Pratchett’s books involve more than one setting location, but Guards! Guards! took place about 99% of the time in Ankh-Morpork.  I got to know the city better through this book, and sometimes revisited locations I’d seen in previous novels.  It’s a very interesting city in many ways, but I wouldn’t want to live there.  It’s a city that works with Guilds for thieves and assassins, who legally do their illegal work.  The city has a lot of unusual characters, shady neighbourhoods, and a dangerous, yet popular bar.

I think you should visit Ankh-Morpork through Guards! Guards! and take a tour with the Night Watch.  It’ll be worth your time.  So far, this may be the best Discworld novel I’ve read.  Highly recommended!

So, I will give this a full 5 stars.

Book Review – Gunship

Gunship is the debut book by John M. Davis, and the first in a series of books.  It’s available in Kindle format, though it appears there was a paperback edition.  It was independently published, so this is the third indie book I’ve reviewed.

I found this to be a very quick read.  It’s not a long book, and is easy to finish quickly.  It involves the crew of a gunship, a crew of outlaws wanted by many people, but they’re well-meaning.  Captain Adam Michaels is the lead character, and he is a brash leader prone to impulsive decisions that aren’t always the best choice.  Then there’s Dalton, his best friend and alcoholic, providing plenty of humour.  Roman is a tough fighter with another side to his personality. Kelly, Kato, and Luck round out the crew, though those three have very little development.  Sarah and Troy come in soon and complete the group.  Of all the characters, I found Michaels and Roman to have the best development, while Dalton remained pretty static.  Sarah seemed soft, but has a tough side to her.  Kelly, Kato, Luck, and Troy don’t get much time to develop.  The dynamic between Michaels and Dalton is humourous.  The romance wasn’t very well done early on, unfortunately.  I found it unnatural and a bit cheesy in the beginning.

The story takes place both in space, as well as a handful of planets.  There wasn’t much in the way of extensive description, it was kept pretty short, but was effective enough to create a solid picture in my mind.  Although it’s in space, I found it interesting that most weapons were rather old-fashioned.  I guess it’s retro sci-fi in a way.  The antagonists were kind of like vampires, making it an odd combination with science fiction.

The story itself is mainly action scene after action scene.  There is a small amount of downtime in between, but not very much.  It’s a very fast paced story, so there’s plenty of excitement.  Davis describes the action reasonably well.  It’s not a complex story, and is very straightforward.  It’s not entirely predictable, but it doesn’t really give much in the way of surprises.   But it is an entertaining story.

I don’t base my reviews on editing issues, but I have to mention that this book really needs an editor to clean up the strange dialogue punctuation, spelling mistakes, and lack of line breaks between characters’ speech.  It’s also difficult to tell when a scene change happens, as they’re not marked.

Aside from the editing problems, I found this book to be fairly entertaining, though not very deep.  It’s a simple story with pretty basic characters.  But I did enjoy the story.

I’d give it 3 stars. It’s an entertaining read, and I’m curious about where the story will go in the next book.

Book Review – Revelation Space

Revelation Space, the first in Alastair Reynolds’ science fiction series Revelation Space held some big surprises for me.  Reynolds was an astrophysicist who worked for the European Space Agency until he became a full time author.  This book is a hard SF novel with plenty of interesting future technology.

I went into this book not knowing what to expect.  Although I read the blurb on the cover, it doesn’t really tell much of the story.  This story takes place mostly on the planet Resurgam, but also in space and another planet, Yellowstone. The settings are quite dark and gritty.  It seems much of the technology is very advanced, but there are problems.  Everything is described quite well, although Reynolds uses a lot of very technical terminology.  He was a scientist, after all.

I found it difficult to get into this book in the beginning.  For the first half, I didn’t really care about any of the characters.  They all seemed so self-centred and not very likeable.  However, many of the main characters began to grow on me, and I liked them by the end.  Dan Sylveste is a very interesting character who is single-minded in his quest.  Ana Khouri is probably my favourite character of the book.  She’s a strong character, but still has many doubts.  Ilia Volyova seems like such an unlikeable person, but I grew to really like her by the end.  Pascale is a decent character, too.  Sajaki is probably one of the more unusual characters, being a chimeric with a desire for power.  Hegazi wasn’t developed very well, and I just couldn’t figure out what to make of him.  But I particularly enjoyed Calvin Sylveste, who was a very colourful character.  However, I could never be sure who was bad.  It kept me guessing.

As I said, I didn’t get into the book in the beginning, though around the halfway point, I was looking forward to opening the book and reading.  It’s quite scientific, and some things were explained somewhat like a textbook.  There was a lot of secrecy between the characters, and it made some of the story unpredictable, as I couldn’t tell what some of them were thinking.  Towards the end, it was fantastic.  I felt like I couldn’t put down the book.  I certainly couldn’t predict the ending.  I’m interested in what will happen next.

I’ll give this 4 1/2 stars.  The ending was amazing, but I found it hard to get into in the beginning.  Some of the terminology may be difficult for some, but with my background in astronomy and physics, it wasn’t a problem for me.  I found it fascinating.  Highly recommended.

Inspiration

Inspiration is a wonderful thing.  I just wish I knew how to make it happen more often.

As I was walking home tonight, I was pondering an idea I had for the novel I’m planning.  I’d been struggling with one very crucial part of the entire setup of the book and how I’d go about it.  I realised I was thinking about implementing the idea the wrong way.  My modified idea is a bit more down to earth, quite literally.  Not only that, it provided me with a short story idea I can use to help introduce my science fiction world.

I’ve also had some other inspiration recently that I’d like to get started on soon.  I’m going to write some very short stories based on dreams I’ve had.  These are some rather unusual dreams, but I felt that they could make good short stories or even flash fiction.  When I have time, I’ll be working on them and posting them to this blog.  They’ll be more of a writing exercise than something I want to publish.

Inspiration has been coming to me slowly lately, mostly due to the fact that I’ve been working a lot with not much free time.  I only have one day off every week.  But I find that my inspiration comes to me at two very different times.  One is while I’m walking home from the train station, and the other is when I’m taking a shower.

When do you get inspiration?