Reviews by Writer Dan

Review

Kalanon’s Rising

Posted: February 19, 2020 by Writer Dan in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Darian Smith, Fantasy
Kalanon’s Rising

So it’s been a minute since we were involved with the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off run by Mark Lawrence, and I constantly find myself torn over the fact that we aren’t involved anymore. This annual contest is doing sooooo much good in finding some really good authors that have taken the self-publication route. Whether they plan on sticking to their guns for the long term or are hoping to gain the attention of a traditional publication house, you can’t deny the fact that the efforts Mark Lawrence (and all of the online review houses involved) is making for these authors is nothing but pure gold. Recently, we were approached by the author of a finalist in the current incarnation of the contest for a review, and I couldn’t help but accept.
Read the rest of this review »

Review

Permutation City

Posted: February 7, 2020 by Writer Dan in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Greg Egan, Hard SF, Science Fiction
Permutation City

I’m reaching way back into the vault for this one: 1994. Yeah. I was still in high school and nowhere near mature enough of a reader to pick up half of what science fiction was offering at the time. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a mature enough reader these days to understand some of the stuff that science fiction is bringing to the table. A lot of it just makes me go cross-eyed with annoyance and leaves me wondering why story and character are so often pushed to the back burner in favor of presenting ideas that the author thinks are important. Why do they need to present these ideas in the form of fiction? Why not just fill out encyclopedias with these awesome ideas and essays, if the presented construct doesn’t really matter? Still, there are some really cool ideas that get flung around here and there, and I guess authors aren’t exactly going to stop presenting their ideas in these ways. So, we might as well read them, if we can handle them, and try to get what we can out of them. Yes? Yes.
Read the rest of this review »

Review

The New Voices of Science Fiction

The New Voices of Science Fiction

I’ve been looking for something from Hannu Rajaniemi for some time now. At least, it feels like it’s been a long time since I read something from him. Year-and-a-half maybe? So, even though none of the stories in this anthology was by him, I was still pretty excited to read it when it got dropped into my TBR pile. It is, unfortunately, the last bit of short fiction that I’ll be getting to for a while. Nothing else on the near horizon anyhow.
Read the rest of this review »

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.
Read the rest of this review »

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.
Read the rest of this review »

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. 🙂
Read the rest of this review »

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.
Read the rest of this review »

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.
Read the rest of this review »

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.
Read the rest of this review »

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.
Read the rest of this review »