SKOOBE TUOHS

SKOOBE TUOHS

----------Mostly my loud noises about me and other great independent writers.

Review
4.5 Stars
In the Garden of Weeia- Elle Boca

   This is a light weight novella, which I think is aimed primarily at secondary school level. That doesn’t mean that adults that enjoy Hogwarts and Narnia won’t enjoy reading about Weeia. The lively little story kept me well entertained, though this sort of fantasy is no longer exactly my thing. I would have been a very enthusiastic reader it my early teens.

 

   There is certainly some originality in Boca’s characters and at least in this book their superpowers are kept almost in the bounds of the possible. That was perhaps why Boca suggested that if I really was going to get off my backside to buy and read any of her already well reviewed books I might be best starting with this one. By the end, I was left wanting to know a great deal more about the only stone-cold character. Perhaps in a next in series the minerals of that magnetic personality softens. We seem to be in an almost contemporary fantasy world, as is Harry Potter, Ernie could pop around to see you the reader. However, Boca has developed her own mythology to weave her stories into rather than merely reinterpreting well-worn fantasy ‘lore’.

 

   The book is well enough written, into a quickly paced short read. There are editing errors, as there nearly always are, but not enough to agitate even my glacially slow reading rhythm, which is inclined to pause on every other word. What a relief to find a real series that isn’t fixated on the ‘undead’ of some sort or other.

 

   I won’t ever be in the Boca fan club, but I do like her parallel race idea, which though certainly not original is developed in an original way. For some strange reason I was reminder of a 1968 TV series about ‘humans’ given superpowers: The Champions. Um- there is no real connection to Boca’s urban fantasy- unless the Champions were helped from their crashing plane by Unelmoija (Dreamer). Except that perhaps there is, because both that half-forgotten TV series and this book worked by keeping a close contact with real, every day, life. It is the very ordinariness of the characters that make some fantasies work.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Love's Long Road- G. D. Harper

   The plot is set in the second half of the 1970s and is so well researched and or remembered, that it gave a really genuine feeling of realism to me, one who lived through this period and even visited some of its chosen physical spaces at a close chronological age to the main character. I short, this was read by me as accurate real-life fiction. Before reviewing I took the trouble to ask the author if he/she is a contemporary of that period. I got no answer, but I was informed that the book is ‘only’ fiction.
   I am surprised by a number of negative reviews I’ve read about this book. We all have our very individual and subjective opinions. Mine is that this is an excellent read. It is very journalistic in style, deeply psychological, and is as profoundly revealing of the main character in as much that isn’t said as is. This is really strong first person writing. What are any of us prepared to reveal of ourselves, of our strongest, often unflattering, behaviours? The mixed vulnerabilities and strengths of Bobbie were totally believable to me. One of the best drawn characters was only a ghost behind the story, until the very last pages, that being the father of an early tragic boyfriend of Bobbie’s.
   For me, the book is all the better as contemporary dramatic fiction for having a strong social message. In the end, it is a book of hope, harsh, brutal, real-life hope, but hope none the less. Unlike some reviewers I see this as a profoundly moral book, a morality drawn as much from the gutters of British life as from its more wholesome features.
   It is my belief that this book deserves readers and perhaps especially ones that believe they have no dirt in their own souls. This book seems to hurt a range of readers. That suggests to me that Harper has hit some very rusty old nails right on the head. Please don’t leave it too long before you get your hammer out again, G.D. Harper, whoever you are.

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Review
4.5 Stars
The Marijuana Project- Brian Laslow

The book is reported as fact based fiction. Americans will understand better than me the balance of truth and augmentation. However, the writing certainly comes across as highly informed. The Project starts with a good use of flash-forward prologue, but be warned, it is really only at the very end that this intensity of action is picked up again. But yes, there are thriller genre elements that touch this story, lots actually, although much is alluded to as possible or likely rather than shown.
The story is compulsive rather than gripping. What we really have here is an in-depth dissection of one man’s ethical morality. Sam is a very conservative ex-military prototype; working in the cutting edge of modern technology as an expert on all types of security protocols and their technical and physical implementation. The character is a family man with strong conservative Christian values that are as more white middle-class cultural than definitively religious.
Sam is driven to go against his cherished principles by taking on a client that is growing and trading medical grades of marijuana. He struggles with his conscience believes the mantra that soft drugs lead to hard ones and then quite possible the subsequent fall of society. Yet, financial greed, his passion for security and a ‘realisation’ that it is better to guard a drug factory, securing the substance, rather than let crime elements get control, allow him to embrace the job.
The book is very topical, but it isn’t really about the drug at all, rather the conscience processes of one middle aged man facing an ethical dilemma. For a time, his values look to be in danger of submergence in the process by greater issues. Sam remains variably conflicted to the end, with certain family and friendship problems regularly intruding into his purely business life. An equally good story could have been written about the ethics and security issues of banking, or alcohol production, or even the business of prostitution. Marijuana is merely the theme.
The process of securing the factory, comes to be explored in very great detail, yet always as a reader I felt detached from Sam. While the characters around him are made of consistent stuff, Sam isn’t. Too often I was left thinking that Sam just wouldn’t have done that. As such, it was hard to empathise with him. I may have had more of an affinity if the book had been written in the first person, allowing me to see through him. I felt that Sam was being manipulated to fit a security plot rather than a plot being weaved around his character. His picture needed constant readjustment, in order for me to get up to ‘speed’. Or should that be up to ‘weed’. A lot less detail and a bit more intrigue would also have helped. The interesting subject of controlling drug use among vehicle drivers comes up obliquely, adding some needed bite to Sam’s sometimes rather wishy-washy moral seesaw.
This is a very interesting book, looking at the working of industrial security through one presumably mostly fictional studying. We are concerned with one factory producing medical grades of marijuana for an inconsistently regulated, and very poorly understood market. I’m very pleased I read it. This is well crafted entertainment, that puts every dot and dash of real-life security issues in a fictional account. However, I have to say that the story is not at all what the title and early content led me to believe I might read. Both the real groups, those that always oppose recreational drug usage and those that consume recreational drugs, may be disappointed by the books content. That’s a pity, because this is a very interesting, very detailed, account, which works bit by detailed bit into convincing psychological drama. This is a compelling and provoking dissection of one man’s personality, inconsistencies granted. And yes, there are exciting, even climactic, moments.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Inevitable Ascension- V.K. McAlister

This book is video game fast, with video game deaths and outlandish main actors’ superpowers. For me, there is far too much action and far too little story. However, I am not an intended reader; of that I’m certain. This is millennial generation writing with the modern addiction for frenetic virtual reality action. Of its sort, the writing is very good.
Some reviewers have made a lot of its religious content. Sorry, but I’d didn’t really get that at all. I read purely traditional dystopia with a few biblical names. For me, the kick-arse female, with physical superpowers is all a bit passé, as I’m sure is the feeling of increasing numbers across all post teenage generations. Why do futuristic women have to eat testosterone bars? The steampunk I loved, despite its erratic appearance. I wouldn’t have known that the book had two writers, except for a couple of apparent continuity slips and rather inconsistent standards of grammar. The time travel elements were clever, always reappearing in the anything but Abrahamic time lapse Eden.
I’m sure this book will appeal to many of the video games generation. But it isn’t for lovers of character development and crafted language even in that category. Until it all gets much too fast and overcomplicated towards the end I enjoyed it. The first few chapters are particularly good. I don’t recall any sex or romance whatsoever, except what I thought was being implied between the two main characters. The bits of the book that lean towards comedy are by far the best. They at least allow the reader to relax once in a rare while. Perhaps sci-fi/fantasy comedy is the direction best suited to this writing team.
I don’t hesitate in giving this book five stars, because though it is definitely not for me I know it will draw many fans. This is video in words

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Review
4.5 Stars
Extraordinary Temptation- Patrick McCusker

A really good read; but I need to start by saying that those with traditional and solid religious views must be prepared to read this as totally ridiculous entertainment, if at all. As an agnostic ‘believer’ I had no trouble at all with this story. If I had exacting believe in any scriptures, especially specifically Christian ones, I may well have done so.
The book is technically well written and the plot is very entertaining. The first half of the book is particularly good, and plausible enough to this reader. We start in a conventional conspiracy thriller, which is both pacey and credible. I wish to give nothing away, by saying that after the mid-point the plot becomes increasingly extra-ordinary. Even the science may be plausible, or at least be in the not such distant future. However, I’m sure we can all rest easy in the fact that the specific application of science is actually impossible. There is a lull in the pace for a while as the book metamorphoses, however, tense interest is maintained. As the plot slows it becomes increasingly creepy. We are ladled a good dollop of food for thought.
The plot of this book is actually very brave and even ambitious, as it invites us to reflect on many aspects of our humanity and ‘inhumanity’. There are some great what if’s in here, but no it doesn’t offer much ‘hope and happiness’. The theme of the lost crown of thorns is a nice change to the over-used one of the missing Holy Grail; as did the theme of the conflict between the academic lover of antiquities and the greed driven ‘grave robber’.
So an exciting book, but at by necessity this must be treated very tongue-in-cheek by religious fundamentalists of many Abrahamic colours.
I very much enjoyed most aspects of this book, best described as first half crime thriller, second half horror. Totally extraordinary.

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Review
5 Stars
The Locksmith's Secret- Tahlia Newland

   This is a total standalone that builds on the character Prunella Smith, who appeared in Tahlia Newlands earlier metaphysical, mixed genre delight, "World Within World's". This one is again a weave of differing themes and stories that interlink based around the thoughts, life and writing of the author Prunella Smith. Each of the main story elements would work as independent short stories. These superficially independent threads are spliced together into one mystical reality. The binding themes are ultimately metaphysical. Each of the four main plotlines run as strands in Prunella's possible past and certainly present being. Actually the book reflects, openly from a deeper level, many elements of Newlands real life that are flickering away in the background. Prunella isn't Newland, but she might be in some parallel existence. The Australian bush, cats, steampunk, crafts and Buddhism continually bounce around the complex reality that is the real author. All fiction carries some sense of the author. This one does everything but try hiding the connectivity. The beating heart of the book is classic romance, which is always, quite unavoidably, deeply personal. Possibly I'm not even deep enough yet, because there is another even stronger binding theme than romance, that being of female emancipation and the associated problems of finding real psychological independence from cultural and emotional ropes that affect all of us.

   The point of the book, as I read it, is that Newland is exploring different aspects of herself, not through introverted memoir but rather through extrovert expression in her layered fictional plot inventions. We have Newland herself, Prunella, Nell and Daniela, all giving us insight into each other and into one spiritual female whole. The stories strongest plot protagonist is also female, though, classically, true evil only rests in a male persona. We must excuse that device, as that is a more than fair reflection of the physical worlds in which most of us have always lived. The relative weaknesses and strengths of the sexes are after all the whole social history of mankind. The book is about both spiritual and physical emancipation. Male readers need not be put off by this review. We generally come out of these stories well. The romantic spirit wins through, but not without clear reflections from real life.
   This is a beautifully written and intelligently crafted book. It is at once, spiritual, contemporary, historical fiction, a steampunk thriller, speculative fiction, philosophical and a social commentary, and above all else, a classic romance. We are still in worlds within worlds, such that at finish I'm not sure if some sort of spiritual 'Buddhism' is driving the author, or the author is demonstrating her own magical realism. You may have to read several of Newland’s books before you can make any deep judgement. I've read them all and still can't be sure.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Murder and More- Gerald W. Darnell

A detective mystery set in the 1960s with an authentic feel of the 1960s. The book could so easily have been written then rather than in 2015. The read is nicely scattered with illustrative pictures from the period, which I can see adding a lot to the reading experience of those born later. I felt that I could be reading a period Mickey Spillane novel; the script felt that authentic. I'd even say that there are more than a few similarities between Mike Hammer and Carson Reno— well at least as how I remember the character. Then again, possibly Reno is a more James Garner in the Rockford Files TV series. Okay, that was very 1970s scripted, but the Rockford character could have been slotted seamlessly into any '50s/60s detective series. So then, for me, Carson Reno is possibly best described as a blend of Mike Hammer and Jim Rockford.

 

The writing has a sharp journalistic economy, never burying us in irrelevances and keeping a brisk pace. Some of the bit players are easy to confuse, but that problem is relieved by the index of characters. This is the first Darnell book I've read. Love it. I can see this series of books on every paperback turntable in front of every '60s newspaper store. The mass market paperback days are, generally speaking, history, but that shouldn't limit the availability and popularity of Darnell's Carson Reno. This book is an object lesson in how to get that old paperback buzz into the e market. For those still addicted to traditional paper, the lovers of the smell and feel of 'pulp', for those that still have or are discovering vinyl records and classic cars, the hands-on version looks just as 60s slick. The period will always be culturally cool and so will Carson, with bourbon and coke and an after dinner cigar.

 

This is a mystery detective novel, not a voyeuristic trip through violence and death, as so many modern genre books are. A read that may seriously damage your place in time.

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Review
4 Stars
The Stratosphere: The Birth of Nostradamus- Brian Cox

I enjoyed reading this science fiction adventure set in a perhaps actually soon to come time, in which mankind, or what is left of it, has prostituted itself to hedonistic pleasure. The doctrine of the modern right, of the selfish individual that has no cares for any less advantaged soul, is laid bare with a worst outcome. On-line digital space, has seduced nearly everyone at the cost of progress in, or even maintenance of, the real world. Time in reality is despised and avoided in favour of pretend life inside the computer's generated parallel world. When the players aren't in the machine themselves there, 'ghosts', still acting shadows of themselves, still are. For most people it isn't even possible to know if those they interact with in digital space are really in the machine with them or not.

Meanwhile, in the real world pollution from the '3D printers' that produce the technological hardware of civilisation, is destroying what little is left of the environment. The Professor, that enabled all this, literally reprogrammed human life, has seen the error of his ways, but who is left to listen? Have I said too much, creating spoilers? I hope not; I don't believe I have. It took me a while to grasp all this necessary to understanding stuff, and I didn't consciously miss any words.

The plot is exciting, drawing one relentlessly forward, while at times running a little short on wide background. The dynamic climax is terrific- but very rushed, as though the author was running out of time in an exam. That annoyed me immensely, as a bit of depth in some of the final scenes would really have added a lot. Was Cox already thinking 'film script' rather than book?

Another edit is certainly called for, with perhaps a bit of thought about how the reader could be interpreting the story. At times, I felt the author forgot the reader, leaving script sitting in his head. Poor editing aside, Cox is a very good descriptive writer. I can only give four stars for the book as is. Another couple of months work between editor and writer could make this a classic of modern science fiction- It potentially, really is that good. This is a case of modern publishing being just too easy, being short of 'house' content editors rattling every cage. I really enjoyed this book, which pulls together three or four recent SF themes. And as I say, with more work, this could end-up becoming a classic.

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Review
3.5 Stars
Gypsyroad - Graeme Shanks

This is an unusual book, of no genre and many, weirdly paranormal but rooted in reality, psychological drama and yet often cultural history, part travelogue and possibly part true biography, explorative of positive new age philosophies and yet at times strangely nihilistic.

What would you do if strangers you touched randomly fell down dead? I would go and live in an isolated lighthouse or in a very empty desert.

What would you think of what I assumed as I read was a basically non-fiction script, that follows an Australian hippie from one of the last cohorts of the baby-boomers, as he toured the English speaking world on a exploratory rap for most of his life? If you were of his age, which I am, you'd find that interesting. At least I did. Now what would you think if he added what the sane must hope is a fictional reason for his wandering behaviour, that being that he is an unwitting mass killer? Could that work? I was interested by Shank's private experiences in last thirty years of the 20th Century, and the beginning of this, despite the fact that he seemed to live and do very little that didn't fit period clichés. However at least some people have to live them to create shibboleths, don't they?

The book could have been called 'A Hundred Tragic Deaths on the Way to Zen': not that the author necessarily actually stayed in that particular philosophical cul-de-sac when he arrived. If he had he may never have been agitated enough to write. Actually, for anyone that didn't live those years the book is far too long. The detail is interesting, if one is writing a history of the Australian itinerant tie-dyed period hippie, but drags us a mile away from the goal of understanding what I pray is only highly unproblematic fiction.

I can accept that people can be killed as easily as this first person actor kills them. That is quite plausible, especially if one chooses to believe the writer is penning a fiction as a cunning serial killer living in denial of his crimes. I can even see the deliberately outlined possibility that Shanks is actually a premeditated killer and that this book comes half-way to a confession. Can one confess to multiple murders and yet not take any real responsibility? If fact is pretending to be fiction then that makes the matter of fact mentions of death in this book into real life horror.

One possibility is that Shanks is not a human at all, but a sort of humanoid triffid plant. My guess is that he is then genetically close to aconitum, better known as wolfsbane. When you've read the book, take a break to look up the ways in which this plant kills its victims.

What I actually subscribe to is the likelihood that Shanks just intended to give the 'killer story' plausibility by weaving it around his very real bohemian life. I was drawn along, hoping to find a true answer. Um- there wasn't one for me, though some readers may find one.

The book is well enough written though I fear, in far too long-winded a form for many time-pressed readers. I give the book four stars for writing and invention, but not five, simply because far too many pages tell the reader too little and advance the drama not at all. If ever a book cried out for a content editor, it's this one. But don't take my word for it. Read the book- It as truly fascinating, and for once the skim-reader may actually pick up comprehensive detail.

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Review
4.5 Stars
As If It's Real- Jeff Maehre

 

This read of four interlocking short stories draws one into what are to most people fairly unfamiliar lives, yet reflects on life truths that affect us all. I have never played cards for big money, or betted more than a few coins in what we accurately used to call 'one-arm-bandits', but the story made me feel as though I had. Equally, I've never given up my freedom to drugs, but felt the sickening 'necessity' of the next fix for a few minutes. My favourite story was about the gambler's mother, trying to understand by learning poker for herself. We get a feel for how each character rubs against the others through different first person points of view.

The stories pass all too fast. This is interesting fiction observing human behaviours from inside fictional characters. I would gamble that the character Elliot has a real thread of Jeff Maehre in him, but then, as I say, I don't put money on it.

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Review
4.5 Stars
A Tale of Moral Corruption- Marsha Cornelius

This book is as unique as all Cornelius books. Those that prefer their authors' scripts predictable might not. I loved it, even though I'm a bit of a prude, preferring sexual content to be more implied than graphic. If one is going to lean towards porn, while still keeping the serious content on top of the page, one had better do sex scenes well. In too many books porn is included for the sake of commercial successful without regard to plot. Cornelius includes vivid porn without losing sight of her intellectual idea. There is also a little fairly graphic violence, which in its case the story simply couldn't have worked without. Both sex and violence were written with realistic efficiency, and with a great deal of gymnastics. Cornelius represents everything that is best about self-publishing, going places with her scripts that the established publishers generally fail at- genuine originality. This is inevitable because businesses have to make commercial decisions. True, reading SP is a gamble, in that one has to read nine books to find the tenth gem; but a worthwhile gamble, especially when one can grab a sure fire winner by studying previous form.

Few books are perfect, and this is no exception, despite my praise. I don't actually think she got the dominated males response quite right. Every reader will have an independent view about plausibility. I certainly think the author had tongue firmly planted in cheek. Men certainly love their kids as much as Mum's do; but on a rather less psychologically bonded and intimate levels. Their overall emotional attachment is often just as powerful, and Cornelius certainly get's that right. I'm not at all sure that many males would ever be quite as into the baby thing in the deep way that Mason is, even in a matriarch dominated world. Cornelius is writing first person male, and in the main doing it very well, I just think she overplayed the we-are-what-we're brought-up-to-be card over-strongly, against the we're-simply-what-biology-made-us one. The book has a great deal of interesting feminist angles in it, especially concerning what might actually happen if women got to wear the trousers all the time, at home, socially and in the work place. Would women behave a bit like men? To some degree yes, we already see that in more sexually equal societies. It is certainly true that nearly all the women who make it to the top of the business world do so by using traditional male behaviours rather than female ones. To fly high one has to believe one's own egotistical garbage, that's for sure. We certainly don't live in a world were quality guarantees success, just bull-shit, connections and confidence; three male strong suits. Playing dirty comes with the success package, which Cornelius doesn't shirk from seeing when it's the females in charge.

On a technical level, this book has all the mechanics spot on. It's well written and well edited. This is another first class piece, full of this author's usual inventiveness. The prose is so natural that I literally floated through the book. This is seemingly effortless writing that seems to run in a fast river across the page, sweeping the reader along. I found this to be easy reading done well, with strong and in the main very believable character behaviours.

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Review
4.5 Stars
The Theory of Irony- Erik Von Norden

   This history of the ridiculous is an extremely interesting and irreverent look at the antics of our ancestors. As I read I didn't get the theory bit, because historical action seems to defy any theorisation. Well, yes, that is kind of ironic! And it is certainly ironic that so often an action has the opposite effect to that intended. However, as for the word 'irony' in the title, far from all the happenings mentioned in the book, or even a majority, really coalesce around irony. As I progressed, it appeared to be the absence of logic, the incongruity of the action, the paradox, rather than the sometimes irony that was significant in the books subject matter? Though, I found some of the best material to be in passages where true irony was immediately clear to me. With a nod to the sub-title pf the book, it's certainly deeply ironic that the high point of the 'one small step' on the moon presently seems to distilled down to the swinging of a golf club in one sixth of Earth's gravity rather than in a 'giant step' into a God given future for mankind.


   The history of man is certain overflowing with the absurd. Hindsight allows us to see tragic irony in so much of the pattern of historic incongruity. At finish, the point of the book for me finally emerged as the irony in the fact that it is impossible to find any consistency in history other than total inconsistency, chaos. Perhaps if I was less stupid I would have concluded that before I reached the end notes, or have I yet missed something deeper?


   Norden imparts a great deal of information, all of which is referenced for those that wish to find out more, or to question his irreverent points. The historical events and often whimsical anecdotes are strung together in a logical chronology, with an occasional leap into the experiences of Norden himself. Usually these injections are amusing, though sometimes distracting. I definitely felt a strain between Norden as an academic thinker and him leaning towards writing an adult version of Sellar and Yeatman's humorous "1066 And All That". Personally, I couldn't get enough of the entertainer in Norden in his most cynical and humorous deductions. I look forward to reading more hapless history, or illogical law or pothead politics, all of which I'd be less than surprised to see appearing in print from Norden. I very much enjoyed this non-fiction that points out that fact is often more absurd than most fiction.

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Review
5 Stars
Idyll- James Derry

   This is one of the best books of any genre I have read for some time. Idyll is very much at the intelligent end of speculative science fiction. The technologies, once you start to understand them, may seem thin on scientific logic, but the philosophical speculation behind the storytelling process is extremely stimulating. How unique Derry's vision is I couldn't possibly say, as there is just so much brilliant and diverse science fiction out there now that the publishing walls have tumbled, but what I can say is that Derry is a good writer and an even better storyteller. There are certainly a host of books that cross the divide between the 'Western' and Scifi, in fact a huge sway of modern SF and Sci-fi books and films owe much of there appeal to 'Space Western' themes but Derry's creation reads as very original to me. I don't think, oh yes, this author has borrowed from Orson Scott Card, Michael Crichton or Alice Mary Norton; not a bit of it. Rather I think that Derry has absorbed a great deal of visionary depth from such writers, remodelled it brilliantly, and is himself adding must read copy to future SF authors.
   Apart from one particular continuity jump as the book started to build to completion which I felt needed a bit of smoothing, the plot line read very well. The interactions between the characters were truly fascinating. They would have worked in any genre setting. The book seems to have been finished with a sequel already well plotted. I hope that one soon emerges. Every now and again, at least for a while, one's favourite book becomes the one just finished. Derry has given me my recent favourite.

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Review
4.5 Stars
The Prophet of Marathon- Bob Waldner

   An interesting plot centred on a rich wastrel from a well-to-do family, who in the end sort of comes 'good'. There are two very powerful male characters in this book and neither of them are the failing gambler that is at the centre of this story. One is his father, and the other a preacher of dubious reputation. There is a strong female role as well.

   The book reads well and is in the main well edited. The plot is believable, unlike many thrillers, with all of the individual elements pieced together from behavioural patterns that really do regularly pop-up in the real world. There are some nice twists that kept refreshing the book without over stretching one's credulity.

   The book's strongest elements, the difficult relationship between a highly successful father and a son that at thirty still hasn't fully tested his potential, the shenanigans of the evangelical preacher, and the preacher's daughter that seems to like existing on the seedy side of life, might be in a sense formalistic, but believable characters have to be, don't they? They certainly aren't ridiculous inventions.

   The story dynamics lack some of the power of Waldner's first book, 'Peripheral Involvement', but I preferred the first person writing that was employed here. We need to get inside James's head in as personal way as possible, we need to understand why he was so easily manipulated, and that is perhaps only possible by engaging through his mind and his eyes. The third person style would have been far too remote for us to build any genuine sympathy for this patsy. I was sort of left doubting that James's father would have trusted a dime given past history between the two, but he did, and thinking about it as I read on, the father's assumed feelings of guilt made that element seem believable.

   So, so far, two great five star reads, from Waldner, with I assume plenty more to come. If you like believable thriller fiction then these books might well be your cup of tea as they are mine.

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Review
4.5 Stars
I Am Sleepless Sim 299- Johan Twiss

Well written, five star, speculative science fiction, that is great entertainment especially for those that like the zany end of the Sci-fi family of genres.

 

I have a fundamental criticism, but I hope it doesn't put people off reading. This book has plenty of merit so that really wouldn't be justice. I have no idea whether the lack of descriptive writing of the finished work was due to the pen of Twiss or the scalpel of the editor. The book certainly has the harsh editing of tangential description that is so fashionable. We are repeatedly told that this thin-form style is necessary to overcome the short attention span of modern readers. It is certainly a love of 'fashionable' book critics. I feel that this was a book written twenty thousand words longer only to starved of anything more than was strictly necessary to keep the heart pumping fast through every chapter. Sadly, we had to get to the final pages of the book before we could really appreciate the 'form', the fat, of the principle characters. Unfortunately the minimalistic prose leaves the early chapters with the narrowness of focus expected in children's rather than adult literature. If I was the author and had actually written a less stripped version I would strongly consider editing back some of the flesh.

 

I felt that the author has read as widely of mythological plotted books as of science fiction genres. To me, the plot carries a lot of re-inventive mythology, (traditional fantasy), though clearly set in a future virtual world. Certainly the beasts' names and the line-drawings in the book were very similar to chimera type creatures and other mythological hybrids. They added a lot of creativity to the plot outline.

 

As some others' have suggested, Twiss may have been done better by putting the 'end notes' at the start of the book and also included character profiles; noting that this content was for reference not initial reading. The e-book format means that most readers are unaware of the help pages until they have already finished the book. I am particularly aware of this problem having published and being criticised for making this same fundamental mistake.

 

Great book, which I believe has been seriously over content edited by either the author himself or his editorial team. It is a testament to the quality of the writing that this reads so well even though we are kept so blinkered. My overall view is, wonderful, when can I purchase the next in the series?

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Review
4.5 Stars
Paw-Prints of the Gods- Steph Bennion

   Paw-Prints is a pretty solid standalone, but for all that I regret not reading Hollow Moon first. I would have preferred a full prologue, rather than the sometimes rather clunky slotting in of backstory when the author felt it necessary. However, when strong prologue is so frowned on by so many 'modern writing experts' its often avoidance is only to be expected. The problem is that gradual past history integration requires very a great deal of the writer, far more than the ability to tell a good story or write entertainingly. This is an excellent book, don't think for a minute that it isn't, but sometimes the simplest way of doing things is actually the best.

   This is a book suited to a young teenage audience, and so equally to everyone who doesn't require more adult content. I very much enjoyed the book from well the wrong side of fifty. Good story telling is good story telling.

   The book was published in 2013, yet partly through naive space science and partly through some strange cultural insensitivity I felt I was ready a book written in the 1950's. Phrases like, "she spoke with a sweeter Asian twist" can't really be construed as offensive, but they certainly demonstrate a degree of cultural heavy footedness. The quirky science is no problem at all. It is nothing to the ridiculous lack of realism displayed by so many 'paranormal' writers. It's just a bit more Michael Crichton than Arthur C. Clarke.

   My biggest criticism is reserved for excessive use of the single character pointers for certain of the main characters. One of characters can't be mentioned without some reference to the game of cricket, and another to excessive food consumption. Yet other important characters disappear into a fog as they are left so bewilderingly thin of detail. I'm sure this was in part the casualty of the lack a nice thick backstory before launching into this second in series. An index list of characters might have made the book better, and saved using such repetitive memory joggers.

   Bennion is a very competent writer, who I'm sure has plenty more adventures for Ravana lined up. Ravana is very much in the fashion of strong female characters, but is made to feel all the more real for lacking many of the 'superior to men' superpowers that so many 'fictional kick-arse-feminista' possess. We seemed to be swamped by beautiful female characters that weigh less than a bag of potatoes yet fight in a way that makes James Bond look like a pussy. Ravana is a tough cookie, but one that mere mortals can relate to.

   I think this storyline could be made into a really good screenplay for all sorts of live film and or animation. The chances of that happening may be nil, as media producers are swamped with brilliant material from independent writers as it is, but that doesn't mean one shouldn't advance the idea. There is a touch of humour in this book that I think would work really well.

   I hope that all the British rather than American cultural references don't put off young American readers. I very much enjoyed their presence, particularly as so too many non-American English writers try over-hard to appeal to the American market. I know absolutely zilch about Bennion's background, but as an aside to the plot I enjoyed speculating. I would be very disappointed if I found out that she hasn't played cricket.

To conclude, this is a great read fro the young of all ages.

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