Posts Tagged ‘Reviews by Dan Smyth’

The Monstrous

Posted: May 18, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love
Tags: , , ,

tm_ebrThere is a certain way that little old ladies look at you when they find you reading books with covers like this one. There were several times while reading the book, however, that not only did I catch some of those little-old-lady glances, but I caught myself looking at the book itself with what I imagine to be a very similar facial expression to those ladies. It’s been a while since I’ve come across quite so many great stories as those that have been contained in these horror anthologies compiled by Ellen Datlow. The best part is that I have one more of these beauties sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to sink my claws into it. And after this one, I can’t wait to do just that.
(more…)

Sins of Empire

Posted: May 4, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love
Tags: , ,

I’ve been meaning to read this guy’s books for quite a while now. Well, ever since his first book came out, because I heard it was pretty awesome, and how could you not love a story that mixed magic with black powder? For whatever reason, though, I just never picked one up. Until I listened to him speak at a writer’s convention. He mentioned something about how awesome Daniel Abraham’s most recent fantasy series was, and I figured if the guy loved Abraham’s method of storytelling, then he likely wouldn’t have written a bad book about black-powder mages, which was still a freaking cool idea, and I should give the guy a shot. The sooner the better. And after reading it, I think if you haven’t read his books yet, then you should “give him a shot” too. Ha. I kill myself sometimes.
(more…)

Character is the third-most important aspect of a story. Hah! Bet you never expected to hear something like that come out of my mouth. Great character is not the most important piece of a story? Blasphemy! The fact of the matter is that the ability to string words together in a manner coherent enough that someone will actually want to pick up the result and read it is arguably the most important piece of the storybook puzzle. Fortunately, it is also one of those things that you can get better at with practice at reading and writing. So, not difficult, just time consuming. Second on that list of importance is likely the hook: that piece of “zing” (as John Brown says) that grabs a reader’s attention and gives you a little temporal real estate to work with. Those are pretty much one-offs, though. You find ’em, you stick ’em into the beginning of your story, and then you’re done with ’em. What is it then that comes next, if not for character? What else will capture a reader’s mind or heart in such a way that they will not only keep reading that particular story, but will also keep them coming back to you for more story again and again? There is no other answer. It can only be character. And yet, for how vitally important character is to a story, it seems I find stories time and again that fail to get it right. So I thought I’d make a few notes and write a thing or two about it in connection with the SPFBO in hopes that it might help someone along their path to being a great author. (We’re all just charitable like that here at EBR, and this has nothing to do with the fact that we only want to spend our time reading amazing stories. Okay. Maybe that last part, just a teensy bit.)
(more…)

So every once in a while I’ll perform what I affectionately call a “dummy test” to check and make sure I’m not being a dummy about something in particular. I have my opinions, my habits, my modus operandi, but as the world is constantly changing I figure I had better allow myself to change along with it every once in a while as well. It’s no secret (based entirely on my most recent SPFBO review) that I thought The Grey Bastards was head and shoulders better than any of the other entries that made their way into the final ten novels in the contest. After finishing my read of ALL of them, I happened to come upon some comments that Mark Lawrence made about one of the books that hadn’t made it past the initial winnowing of the bevvy of novel hopefuls: SENLIN ASCENDS. Specifically, he said that it was, “my best read, one of my favourite books of all time in fact. So read it.” Whoa. How then, I wondered, had it not won out in round one? I tried to read the story that had taken the proverbial cake in the first round of that group of stories, THE PATH OF FLAMES (EBR review), and quit after about 65 pages. So the situation left me wondering if I was a dummy, or if perhaps I might just like Senlin Ascends. So, I decided to put my money where my mouth was–or more specifically, I guess, my money where Mark Lawrence’s mouth was–and I bought both of the currently self-published Books of Babel.
(more…)

Shadowed Souls

Posted: March 23, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love
Tags: , ,

When I saw that this anthology had a new Dresden story in it, I snatched it up quick and then found myself regretting the decision. Because, you see, I’m kind of still catching up on that freaking amazing series, and it only took reading the blurb on the back of the book to determine that this story takes place at a point in time significantly later than my current location in the series. Had the story been by anyone other than Jim Butcher, I likely would have canned the project and either handed the book off to another reviewer or not read the story before reviewing it the anthology myself. But the thing is, The Dresden books have been absolutely genius to read, and even though I like the twists and turns and revelations in that series a ton, so much of the story comes by living it through the experience of reading. And so, already somewhat spoiled, I committed to reading the Dresden story with the understanding that getting from where I am in the series to where this story takes place was still going to be awesome-sauce fantastic. Oh, and there were some other stories in this book too. Even some really good ones. 🙂
(more…)

tgb_ebrThere are times that I grow tired of all the profanity and sexual content in books these days. I might have added violence here as well, but there is a part of me that realizes I’ve become fairly inured to it over the years, and as Dave Matthews has said, “I’m still a boy,” and boys do love to see a fight. 🙂 Still, it makes me happy to find a great book that avoids all the potentially offensive content. Now, up front, you should probably understand that this is definitely NOT one of those books. Yeesh no. Not by a long shot. But it was a story that made me think about the concept, because there was just so dang much of it. Now, I know many of you will likely be crying foul right now amidst references to all my “Books We Loved” reviews by authors like Joe Abercrombie and Sam Sykes. What I need to emphasize though is that in those cases it is the author’s ability to tell great story with great characters that I love, and rest of everything only plays second fiddle in comparison. But sometimes, one or two of those second fiddles can become kinda loud.
(more…)

Revenger

Posted: February 23, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love
Tags: , ,

r_ebrSo I’ve been sitting on my hands for the last five months, fairly disgruntled, that I didn’t have this story in my hands yet, because it was published in the UK last September and as part of that cycle, released in ebook/Kindle format. I’m pretty much a hard-copy only kind of guy. I don’t buy eBooks. I’ll read them. I just don’t buy them, because I so love seeing all of those bound blocks of paper sitting on my bookshelves at home. As Tracy Hickman refers to them (per my sometimes sketchy memory), the “physical reminders of the experience we found within them”. I guess I always have the option of importing hard copies, but that can get expensive fast, and for the most part I end up just shaking my head and dealing with it. Regardless, it’s always nice to get a new Alastair Reynolds book.
(more…)