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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

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

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

The Light Brigade

Posted: August 27, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Kameron Hurley, Military SF, Science Fiction
The Light Brigade

Every once in a while I go to the library looking for books. It seems somewhat ludicrous that between all of the books that I really want to read, and all of the others that publishers/agents/etc send to us, that I could ever find time to read something I found at a library. And yet, I do. Because I’ve found that I’ll still occasionally find something that pushes my buttons. In my profile for the site, I mention that I have no patience for “plots that don’t grab by the throat, the heart, or the funny bone”. Yeah. I judge. So anyways, I was walking through the library this one fine day, saw this book, and thought the cover art was pretty intriguing. So I picked it up. Then I opened the cover, flipped through the first couple sheets, and came across a nearly blank page with a single statement printed near the top:

“Don’t just fight the darkness. Bring the light.”

Instantly I found that both my heart and my throat had been grabbed. My decision had been made and another book added to my TBR list.
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Review

The Last Astronaut

The Last Astronaut

First contact is the kind of experience that’s ripe for miscommunications and misinterpretations that can literally reshape the world.
From more traditional hard sci-fi stuff, like Clarke to Reynolds, to the more literary offerings of LeGuin or Russell (she wrote THE SPARROW), first contact is a recurring theme in speculative fiction.
While there’s a million different ways to parse and taxonomize this (sub) genre, you can trace a big divide between texts that explore first contact with aliens who share fundamental premises of existence with humans (in psychology, if not in size or number of eyes) and texts in which the aliens are really, really… alien (think “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, which is portrayed in the movie Arrival).
David Wellington’s THE LAST ASTRONAUT belongs to the latter category. Let’s just say that there are no little green moon men here.
Sunny Stevens knows something that no one else does. There’s an object heading […]Read the rest of this review »

Review

Meet Me in the Future

Meet Me in the Future

Kameron Hurley owns weird.

Since her first novel, GOD’S WAR, she’s developed a motif. All writers have them. All writers hone them. And in the near decade since she crawled out from a dead man’s corpse with her first novel, she’s consistently gutted it toward nasty perfection. I’d be biased to say I don’t love her disgusting motif.

She’s New Weird with her body-hoppers, mind-wipers, and amoral assassins. Also, she had a literal bee gun that eats the flesh of its victim in last year’s APOCALYPSE NYX (EBR Review), so there’s darkly creepy done sinister. But with her latest book, MEET ME IN THE FUTURE, a short story collection, Hurley turns to a different theme.
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