Reviews by Writer Dan

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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Review

Aftershocks

Aftershocks

I’ve had something on my mind the last couple of months. It’s easy, as a reviewer, to dole out ratings for books. Saying this one is good, and this one is bad, and this one was just kinda meh. It’s also frequently easy to fall into the trap of thinking that every book that is published should be the “best book that it can be”. I’m also an engineer though, and so the old saying that, “If you want to finish the project, you’re going to have to kill the engineer” (meaning that the engineer will keep working on a project for forever until it’s perfect) floats around in my mess of a brain too. I think this has produced somewhat of a scarcity mentality in my head though. Because, honestly, there is a huge market out there for stories that I’m going to think are perfectly mediocre. That don’t ring any of my bells or wave any flags — even lots that don’t ring bells or wave flags for anybody — because some people just like to read something that makes them forget for a time. They don’t even want to think about it very hard. Just read. Now, I’m not exactly one of those kind of people. I expect goodness when I sit down to read. This likely stems from the fact that I read as much as I do, I’m always wanting to read more, and I never feel like I have enough time for it. Which means I don’t like finding anything mediocre about what I’m ingesting. Still, there’s obviously a market for stories like that, and I think this is one of those.
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Review

A Little Hatred

Posted: October 10, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Joe Abercrombie, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy
A Little Hatred

So, it’s been a while since we’ve had a book like this from Abercrombie. Real quick US publication timeline for those of you that aren’t immediately aware: 3 years since Sharp Ends (last short stories), 4 years since Half a War (last YA), 7 years since Red Country (last stand-alone), and 11 years since The Last Argument of Kings (last series book). Thus, I’d be painting the canvas pretty thin indeed if I were to say, for instance, that I was stupid-excited to finally read this thing. I won a contest over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist back in the day and inherited all three books of the original First Law trilogy, published by Pyr. Was the beginning of my first love affair with the works of Abercrombie. Guy just knows how to do story right, and I was hoping that he’d continue that trend. His response was a little bit “Yes”… and a little bit “No”.
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Review

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

A few months ago I hit up a small fantasy and science fiction convention just north of me. The guests of honor were Jim Butcher and Laurell K. Hamilton. Was loads of fun to see both of them. Jim was hilarious and engaging, with a head of long blue hair, and was so much more of a nerd (to my delight) than I figured he’d be. Laurell was calm and collected, had load of insightful comments, and was way shorter than I thought she’d be. Course, I’m no slouch in that department. So, it’s all relative. In the main, I was very impressed by both of them. I came away from that con feeling energized and happy that I’d gone. Near the end, Laurell made a plea in one of her panels for all of us to write reviews of every book we read. They did more good for authors than we realized, she said. Now, granted. The Anita Blake series probably didn’t need another book review done for it. There are plenty enough as it is. But this whole EBR gig is a pretty big part of who I am, and so I went away from that con with the determination to give her a book review. So here it is.
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Review

The Stars are Legion

Posted: September 20, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Don't Like Meta: Kameron Hurley, Science Fiction
The Stars are Legion

After the high of reading THE LIGHT BRIGADE (EBR Review), I was really looking forward to diving into some more story from this author. Everywhere I looked, people seemed to be talking about her and how “out there” her stuff is. It’s weird and new and her’s is a voice that needs to be heard. I love imagination and wonder. It’s one of the reasons why I love Science Fiction so much. In fact, it’s probably why I like good Science Fiction even more than good Fantasy. But before any of that, the story has to be well told through some solid characters. Because without those two things, imagination and wonder just don’t matter.
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Review

Dark Age

Posted: September 17, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Pierce Brown, Dystopian SF, Science Fiction
Dark Age

I have been spoiled. Eight hundred pages of sheer story-telling genius have just filtered through the interstices of my gray matter, and now I get to tell you all about the multi-hued and variegated experience of ingesting it all. If you haven’t delved into this particular series yet, it stands to reason that you probably shouldn’t read any further. Spoilers are kind of a given at this stage of the game. You should also go hit Amazon and make up for this lack in judgement. Trust me. You really don’t want to miss out on any more of this guy’s stuff. For you readers/lovers of the series, this is another great one. Let’s go.
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Review

Akata Witch

Akata Witch

Do you know what the biggest problem is for an author trying to write a novel about kids that are caught in the middle of very dangerous events? Parents. Well, adults in general. How do you keep the grown-ups from coming in and hijacking the story completely while still making it all believable. I have a difficult time believing that any story that is told expressly about kids has a more important question to answer. This was a very interesting novel to read, given that perspective. Because on the one hand, this story totally has adults “dealing with the important stuff”, but on the other hand, there are also several adults that are more than willing to throw children into deadly situations, shrug their shoulders, and say, “If they live, they live. If they don’t, they don’t.” Was an interesting dichotomy to try and swallow, and not the only one I found in this read.
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