Reviews :: Book Rating :: Books that are Mediocre

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.
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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.
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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

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

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

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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