Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recommeded Reading - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

Looking for some free reading? I think the title of this website says it all. There's a very solid selection of stories, each one chock-full of two-fisted pulpy action goodness.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review - Bob Moore: No Hero

My Rating: 4/5

 I've found another free gem, and another author to watch. Bob Moore: No Hero is the kind of story that makes me enthusiastic about digital publishing. It would never see the light of day in traditional publishing. It' too short. However, it's exactly the length it ought to be, and it's a thoroughly entertaining and worthwhile tale. 

A blend of comic book tropes and gritty noir stylings, No Hero is the tale of an ordinary guy in a world where mad scientists and super heroes are commonplace. He's found his (very dangerous) niche in this new world: he's a private eye who specializes in investigating supers. 

The opening gambit is brilliant and hilarious. Bob has been hired by "The Flamer" to spy on his sidekick. He's afraid she might be sidekicking for someone else. It turns out she's having a torrid affair with another superhero. Bob learns first-hand the dangers involved when you start snapping photos of people with super-hearing, who can fly and throw fireballs. 

It's one of the funniest things I've read in months, but it has a serious undertone that sets the theme for the rest of the book. The supers know they're better than the rest of us. It makes them arrogant. They abuse their power almost automatically, bullying regular people with no more thought than you would give to putting your dog on a leash. 

The bulk of the tale involves Bob being hired by a mad scientist whose patients have been disappearing. There's a baffling mystery, a looming sense of danger, and beneath it all a thoughtful exploration of the theme of power and its abuse. It's a comic-book world, but it's populated by complex, fascinating people. 

There is now a sequel available, Bob Moore: Desperate Times

Get Bob Moore: No Hero free at Amazon.

Get Bob Moore: No Hero free at Smashwords.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review - Flash Gold

My rating: 4.5 / 5

Flash Gold is a steampunk novella by Lindsay Buroker.  Set in the Klondike during the gold rush, it tells the story of 18-year-old Kali McAlister, who has inherited her father's alchemical invention, flash gold.  She's using it to create some fantastic inventions, but there are gangsters and pirates who will do anything to get it from her.

She builds a steam-powered "dogless sled" and enters a race, hoping to win enough money to escape Moose Hollow (by building an airship, of course).  A potential ally comes along in the form of Cedar, a tall, mysterious stranger who hires on as her assistant.  She doesn't trust him, not even close, even when he helps her out of some tough scrapes.  Her distrust is not without reason.  He's got secrets.

All in all this is a hugely fun, entertaining story.  There are cool elements, from pirates in an airship to Kali's weaponized gadgets.  There is action galore, all of it in a setting quite refreshing for a steampunk story.  The characters have depth and nuance, and secrets too.  They're also really fun to read about.  Kali's spunky and full of bravado, with a bunch of vulnerability kept hidden under the surface.  Cedar is mysterious and dangerous, with a tongue nearly as dangerous as his sword.    

Some of the dialogue is a delight to read.  Kali and Cedar are quite intelligent, and their dialogue reflects this.  There is some excellent witty banter, and the chemistry between them is handled very well.  Even as they save each other's lives they exchange insults and keep secrets.  It's a real pleasure to read.

From time to time, though, the dialogue gets a little too erudite.  It starts to sound like something you would write, but not something you would ever say out loud.  That's as close as I've got to a complaint.

At 18,000 words it's a fairly short tale, but the length is appropriate for the story being told.  There are two sequels, each one longer than the one before.  I'll be checking those out for sure.

Check out Flash Gold for steampunk gadgets, high adventure, and a thoroughly enjoyable story.  Best of all, it's free.

Get it at Smashwords.

Get it at Amazon.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Book Review - The Black God's War

I've been reading The Black God's War by Moses Siregar III, and I find myself strangely unenthralled.  I say strangely because Siregar is undeniably a very skilled author.  It's clear that he really knows what he's doing.  It just doesn't work for me.

On the face of it it's a pretty cool story.  There's a war with the survival of an entire civilization at stake.  There are mages and clerics with intense personal stakes.  There's rich allegory, and a wonderful lack of cliche.  If you know your Greek mythology you'll find familiar concepts here, but it's all refreshingly new at the same time.

The book has much to like and much to recommend it.  Epic battles, magic of a sort you've never seen before, the complete absence of Tolkein-esque, D&D-derived, tired old story elements.  And all of it is told in lovely, engaging prose that's entirely free of newbie-writer mistakes and clumsiness.

In most of my reviews I find myself saying that the author could use an editor, or a proofreader, or both.  Not Siregar.  This is an author who knows exactly what he's doing.  You don't have to look past the unpolished writing to enjoy the story.  The writing, like the story itself, is meticulously crafted.  Every phrase contributes to the mood, the impact of a scene.

So why don't I like it?

Two things troubled me, and I want to be clear that both things are a matter of personal taste.  First, the point-of-view characters are ivory-tower types.  They rule nations, they hobnob directly with gods.  At the very least they have a level of education that places them high above the average man.  It puts the war at an intellectual distance.  I prefer my stories gritty and raw, told from the front lines or somewhere close.  I found myself getting bored with the exalted characters and their view from on high.

The second issue I had was with religion.  It felt to me as if the characters had a ridiculous, if typical, primitive religion.  No more ridiculous than what the ancient Greeks or Egyptians had, but still, not something you can take seriously.  The problem is, in this novel, the contradictory, arbitrary, implausible gods are real.  I couldn't make myself go along for that journey.

The bottom line is, I didn't like it, but I think it's the kind of book you have to try for yourself.  Believe me, I've encountered crap out there that I can tell you unequivocally you don't need to bother with.  Not this.  Like opera, like chipotle sauce, it's not for everyone, but you can't dismiss it until you try it.

Get it from Amazon or from Smashwords for a buck.  Or try the free novella, which is excerpted from the full novel.

The Black God's War at Smashwords.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Justice Girl Gets Her Cover

I have a new cover for Justice Girl Gets Her Man, my super hero romance novella.  I think it's an improvement.  

I just learned that another author has released a series of "Justice Girl" stories that are sexually explicit and loaded with bondage.  Hmm.  I don't think I want to take my story in quite that direction.