Reviews by Writer Dan

Review

Blood Heir

Blood Heir

I was fairly surprised when I saw this book displayed on a wall at my local library. Some of you may be familiar with or remember some of the mess that rose up around this book back in 2018. This is the author’s debut novel, and when it went out for early reviews, there was a bundle of people that started complaining quite loudly about how the book was racist and condoned slavery, and there was a big ruckus about it. By the time I’d even heard about it though, the book had been pulled from publication, by request of the author, and it was no longer available for review. Color me excited though when I saw that the book had quite obviously been published after all, and I was going to get a look at what all the hubbub was about.

Turns out, there wasn’t much to get excited over.
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Review

Strange Exit

Strange Exit

The concept of virtual worlds has always intrigued me. In some ways, we’re rapidly approaching the condition where such things could become a reality. And in others, I think we’re light years away. When I’ve seen them used in stories, one of the big themes that invariably comes into play is the ability to determine whether you’re in the virtual world or the real world. Inception, anyone? There are lots of other ideas to play with in that realm as well, but this one is of particular importance because it comes into play in this book. In Inception, there was a very simple, very direct way of determining which world the character found themselves. Made it easy for the audience to stay grounded. But without such a device? Well, let me not spoil the message of this review.
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Review

Age of Assassins

Posted: January 3, 2020 by Writer Dan in Books that are Mediocre Meta: R.J. Barker, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy
Age of Assassins

Recently I’d been seeing frequent mentions about R.J. Barker’s new book, The Bone Ships, but didn’t have ready access to a copy. So I went looking for another book by the same author and found this one. Apparently it’s his debut novel, and was just published a couple years ago. From the publication schedule, it looks like they were probably all written first, and then he got picked up by his publisher. 6-month, very regular release dates kind of point in that direction. Seems like I see this significantly more often from speculative authors across the pond, but not so much from those here in America. Wonder if that’s because I just haven’t noticed them, or perhaps if it’s just something they don’t do here as often. Bonus for people that find they really like the thing, I guess. 🙂
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Review

The Girl in Red

Posted: December 31, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Christina Henry, Horror, Post Apocalyptic
The Girl in Red

I have a thing for constancy. When I drive somewhere I usually take the same route. When I’m feeling down, I like to hit the used book store. Things I do on a regular basis are safe and known quantities. But I also have a thing for new stuff. Surfing YouTube for new music. Trying out some new kind of food. I may or may not really like to find new breakfast cereals, despite the fact that I know pretty much anything else would be better for me in the mornings. When it comes to books and stories, I also like to see new things. All the sequels that Disney puts out frequently annoy me. Although it seems as if Pixar can do no wrong. So when I come across a story that is a “re-telling of a classic fairy tale”, I’ll typically pass. For whatever reason, the third time I picked this book up off my EBR-TBR shelf, I decided that I’d read it. Must have been my “constancy” having a surge of strength that day or something. Whatever. I picked this one up, and boy am I glad that I did.
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Review

Salvaged

Posted: December 24, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Like...and Hate Meta: Madeleine Roux, Science Fiction
Salvaged

Sometimes I think it surprising that a good cover quote by a published author can still sway my opinion on whether to read a given book or not. I mean, I’d like to think that EVERY cover quote would be legitimately honest and portray the full feelings of the one giving the quote, but there is this very pessimistic side of me that has been shoved into the advertisement and marketing niche for too long to believe that this is completely true. The cover quote on this book definitely caught my attention, and pushed the book to the front of my reading queue after I’d checked out the first couple pages and found it readable. To a limited extent, I can say that I agree with what the cover quote had to say. But I also felt like it was somewhat skewed to represent only one of the best aspects of the book and not the book as a whole. Which kind of goes back to my point. But I digress. There was plenty in this book to enjoy… and to be frustrated with.
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Review

Writers of the Future, Volume 35

Writers of the Future, Volume 35

So I’m a little behind in getting to this anthology this year. Can’t say that I really have a good excuse for that. Just sat on my shelf for way too long, and then I noticed it a few weeks ago and decided that I had better stop passing it by in favor of other reads. Regardless of my overall impression of the stories this annual anthology contains, I always find it an informative read and well worth the time I put into it. Although, I admit, I have some strictly selfish reasons for feeling that way: I’m still trying to craft a winning entry. 🙂

The anthology included 12 stories this year. No Published Finalists. There were also a couple essays and a couple stories by those associated with the contest, and then the art for each of the winners. For me though, the important part was the stories. Want to know what I thought? Figured so.
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Review

The Poppy War

Posted: December 17, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books that are Mediocre Meta: R.F. Kuang, Fantasy
The Poppy War

There’s a part of me that wonders if I’d have ever decided to pick up this book if I didn’t have a Twitter account. A few months ago, there was just this rash of people talking about it in my feed and gushing about how beautiful it was, or what a great book it was. So I decided I’d better see what all the hubbub was about. There are a couple other books like that in my to-read queue right now, but this was the one that took precedence because it was the first one I had free access to it. Got nothing but love for my local library.
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Review

Wanderers

Posted: November 26, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Don't Like Meta: Chuck Wendig, Horror, Science Fiction
Wanderers

Well, here I am again at the tail end of the reading experience for a book that has left me absolutely stymied. Sometimes it surprises me just how different my opinion can be from other readers, not just around the world, but from those in my own backyard as well. Finishing this book has brought me to the conclusion that I am completely oblivious when it comes to understanding the “literary” merit of a story. I just don’t get it. Like, at all. In fact, I think I can safely say that any literary aspects of a story come across as 100% transparent to me. Not only do I not understand them, I don’t even see them when I read a story. A Google search for the term “literary merit” currently brings up a 2017 article from Medium.com. It seems to do a fairly decent job of relaying the main ideas of what literary fiction is about. My take is that a literary story’s primary concern will be to try to relay a “theme” or “well-posed question” dealing with society or humanity… or something else equally boring and, for me, pointless. As such, they typically make lots of mistakes along the way when it comes to telling a story that is actually engaging and worth being told.
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Review

Redemption Ark

Posted: November 15, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Alastair Reynolds, Hard SF, Science Fiction
Redemption Ark

I’ve wondered for quite some time what a sophomore novel from Alastair Reynolds would read like. Seems like I’ve been a fan of his stuff for just about forever now. Coming back to this author and reading first, Revelation Space (his debut), and then this one, has been an effort that was completely worthwhile. Then, as I’m preparing for this review, I come to find out that this book is in fact not his sophomore novel, but the third novel that he published. Color me surprised. I figured with a debut novel being published in 2000 and the second in the series weighing in at over 550 pages and being published in 2002, that it was obviously his sophomore novel. So much for assumptions. Still, this is the second book in the main sequence dealing with the Inhibitors, and that was the book I went looking for this time around. Will have to go back and read Chasm City (another whopper of a book that was published in 2001 and set in the Revelation Space universe) sometime later. Until then.
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Review

Trace the Stars

Trace the Stars

It’s been too long since I read me some short stories. Only one other anthology in the last year, in fact. Yeesh. You’d think I’d been avoiding them purposefully, but that would definitely be incorrect. Anyone out there have a suggestion for some good short fiction I can get my hands on? Something in anthology form and not a collection, if possible (unless it’s really good). Anthologies just give you so much variety that I can’t help but be glad I read them — despite what overall rating I give them — because there’s usually at least a few good ones that will rise to the top. And then I have some good suggestions on new authors to go chase down.

I found out about this one because of an email submission from our contact form. Like, from here on the website. Yeah. See. It does happen. Not very often I’ll grant you. AND, as it happens, I have somewhat of a geographical connection to the anthology. Oh, AND I met Joe at another convention, and he was a cool guy. So there’s that stuff too. Sorry if I got anyone’s hopes up. Anyhow. Time for some shortness. You ready?
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