Review: Please Don’t Talk about Me When I’m Gone

Please Don't Talk about Me When I'm Gone
Please Don’t Talk about Me When I’m Gone by David Perlmutter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Short Story Presentation

Cicero Clayton and his gal pal, Suzy Mack, have had plenty of adventures in their fictional version of Halifax. After all, life as a cartoon character should be nothing but fun and excitement, right?

All things may be possible in the world of Cicero and Suzy, but the real adventure won’t begin until their show is cancelled – and that’s exactly what’s about to happen.

 

My Review

The perspective of cartoon characters, when their television show gets canceled.

Some might find this short story humorous. I don’t, though not because it doesn’t have its share of humor. It’s a parody, if you will, of the world of entertainment networks, one that feels sad all the way, shadowing its funny twists.

There is money, narrow mind and ego, corporate power negotiations, threats and ruthlessness. There is no place for quality of a show, for feedback from the audience, for a kid’s fun, in the decision making. Cartoon characters, the last ones out, fight their way and out of their way, for a few minutes on the air.

Note: I have received a copy for free from the publisher, with the purpose of an honest review.

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Review: Sorcery and Scholarships

Sorcery and Scholarships
Sorcery and Scholarships by Ian Isaro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Presentation

 

Everyone wishes the ancient prophecy would go away. Pixies commute to work and sirens make mp3s of their songs, yet antique forces stubbornly persist. They want to bring about a war between Light and Darkness in an era when most people just want to cash in on the merchandising.

Aki is struggling to make ends meet and hopes her scholarship can at least earn her a better apartment. Blake refuses to believe he could be something so cliché as a Knight of Darkness. Keisha is pursuing a career in law when she’s told she has no choice but to serve the forces of Light. All of them will be attending the same university, whether they like it or not.

It’s hard to think about dark omens when there’s a term paper due, much less a party that night. But they’d better relax while they can, because after college is only the real world, which is stranger and more dangerous than they could possibly imagine.

My Review

An uncommon book in the fantasy landscape, Sorcery and Scholarships is an on-going trip in a rich fantasy world. Dynamic and complex, the world is too rich to catch in a few words, and it is a setting hosting a saga of magic, youth struggles, destiny and war.

Characters

The new students to Axis University are distinct, well sketched characters. We meet Aki, a girl trying to live on her own and struggling with basic spells to prove herself. Blake, a powerfully distinct character from the start, presented to us as a bearer of Darkness and from his very introductory scene the author shocks us with his behavior. I would rather not give spoilers, so I’ll pass over the details, I’ll just say that not everything is rosy, and that has caught my interest from the start. Then we have Keisha, the smart girl aiming for law school, an overachiever in anything she puts her mind to.

The book is well written on characterization and point of view, though not easy: it switches often the points of view, following the experiences of every of our students. However, thanks to the skillful depiction of the biases of each and the clear distinction between their take on Axis, on their entourage, on the war going on, we have no trouble following them and enriching our experience of the world of Sorcery and Scholarship through the superposition of their perspectives.

World Building

The world is complex, and more than once, at the beginning of the book, I’ve felt it rushing to the reader with many assumptions on history or events we don’t know yet. We have to figure out as we go, the fey, the spites, races we’re dealing with in this world, the magic system, or rather systems, since there are more areas of magic, the prophecy that lies above the events and puts things into motion at the time we enter the world.

The book doesn’t have too long infodumps on magic, still it transmits a lot of information, through part-infodumps. That’s somehow more confusing, because they’re clearly only hanging parts, that we have to figure out how they relate in the bigger picture. The magic system is complex, with many areas and specific characteristics, partially dependent on the native abilities of the student as well as the willingness of their professors to train them. Weird things are happening, and in the course of the story we don’t know much of what or why. Only that it’s a war, a war between Light and Darkness, with many aspects we discover along the way.

Thankfully, the plot is character-driven, and very well done at that. We can easily sympathize and connect with Aki, and likely Keisha, from the start. Twists and surprises keep our interest alive as they move along, we can learn with them as they try to uncover the deeper meaning of what is happening in the university and in the world.

A complex fantasy with a complex magic world, Sorcery and Scholarship is an interesting read. Light, though snappy, switching fast through events, the writing style makes this book a pleasure to read, for the fantasy fans.

Note: I have received a copy for free from the author, for an honest review.
This review is part of Making Connections blog tour.

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Short Review: And They Called Her Spider

And They Called Her Spider
And They Called Her Spider by Michael Coorlim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What if Holmes’ friend was an engineer, they both lived in a steampunk England, and their story told in a witty style in a fantasy?

They would be Bartleby and James, the fun couple in this steampunk story.

Well written and a light read, the story has been a surprise. I found myself smiling at the tribulations of the engineer, enjoying his use of the detoxification apparatus, in a world excellently sketched with all its steampunk flavor.

This story is now for free on Smashwords, and it makes a good read for steampunk fans, and also an easy introductory read for those curious to try steampunk.

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Review: My Name Is Michael Bishop

My Name Is Michael Bishop
My Name Is Michael Bishop by T.R. Goodman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This fantasy is a RPG-like delightful episode.

The world in which we’re invited is immediately engrossing, we’re in a rich setting with a familiar and yet original feeling. We have sages and priestesses, dark magic and technological contraptions, apothecaries who sell plants for spells, we have lords at their manor, and we have picturesque carriages, and scientific endeavors. We have power of magic and fear and disdain for it. The characters and the world are familiar, they share many elements with the collective imaginary of every well written fantasy story, but the writer adds unique bits: he brings steampunkish golems, creates a distinctive magic system, and a poignant plot, with carefully prepared twists.

The world feels like a role-playing game universe, where immersion is how you step in and stay in all the way.

There are many things done well, the plot matters, characters are believable and likeable, the bad guy will surprise, and the writing flows just right. Sometimes the writing feels almost musical, in its rhythm. Most of all, the world building is exquisitely done, to the point where immersion in the world (more than in the plot) is how the book reads.

This book feels like a RPG. One for which you don’t need instructions, you’re in the middle of it. I almost have on the tip of my fingers the need to type the next scene, move a character, re-enter the manor and reach for the moondrop dew in the sage’s cabinet. In case I’d need it for the spell I will – I mean, my character will, learn. From the spell book, you know. OK. Turn the corner. The two stupid and hilarious guardians are not here yet, psst, I know when I’ll hear them coming, because they never stop talking…

I’m a sucker for RPGs, and My Name is Michael Bishop is an episode set in RPGish world, a well written scenario set in a world I wish it didn’t end.

I recommend this book for any fantasy/steampunk fans, and anyone looking for a great book.

 

Note: I received a copy for free, for the purpose of an honest review.

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Review: …And the Stars Will Sing

...And the Stars Will Sing
…And the Stars Will Sing by Michelle Browne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful book, smooth writing, strong characters, compelling science fiction landscape.

I think this book is a 4/5 rating in my bookshelf, but my subjectivity played a trick on me. I wanted to pick it up thanks to an impressive review, that excitedly recommended it for originality. As a science-fiction addict, I always have this nagging question in the back of my head: how much more can be said, in a book on wormholes, and with starships, and traveling faster than light? That is, the field has so many yet another of the same, that it’s hard to find your new “aaah wow”. This proved among the best reading I had for a while.

The novella puts a unique spin on a space story. Written as a journal of Glass, in her first mission to open a wormhole, it draws us directly in the reality of the main character, and in the world she lives in. It treats technology, alien relations, science theories, like common sense reality. The far future world is believable, and sound, and damn fun.

While the story is compelling, I had some issues believing the plot and characters. I didn’t quite buy the little romance between Glass and Jai, when he’s coldly letting her go in a reconnaissance mission. We’re told he’s scared, but he didn’t sound to me like he’s scared for her. I kept waiting to find out he has some agenda of his own aboard the ship, although that’s probably just me. I also was confused at some point on who is talking, in a dialogue between Kial and Ruzzan. With no consequence to the story, though. A few of the characters are very well sketched, a few others less so. I can easily identify with Glass, and Annamar has a recognizable presence, Kelna less so.

The girl gossip scene felt a little rushed. That is, the four girls eagerly meet during launch break, and take all the long way to the quarters, and once there, they exchange a few replies, then one of them gives the signal to go back. I was amused, not bothered, it just felt like something’s missing.

I’ve read the ebook version, and towards the end, I found a few editing issues, but they were very few and trivial.

The novella is an easy, fast and pleasant read. I loved the writing style, it’s flowing beautifully, and that makes it a very enjoyable experience. I found myself so drawn in, and at the end I agreed with the originality, and that’s the charm of it! This is Michelle Browne’s debut novella, and a fine debut it is. I will be looking for her next books.

Note: I have received a copy for free, for an honest review.

A closing remark, on the copy I read. In the introductory acknowledgments, there’s a misuse of the term copyright: original photo cannot be both public domain and copyrighted by an organization. Public domain is outside copyright of someone, it’s either one or the other. If the photo is public domain, the proper term is “public domain and credit to STSci”.

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Review: The Secret Lab

The Secret Lab
The Secret Lab by Steven M. Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will disclose this: I picked up The Secret Lab because of Mr. Paws, the intelligent cat. Yes, I could not resist the temptation to read the adventure of a sentient, mathematics inclined cat, told by Steven M. Moore. It exceeded my expectations.

Mr. Paws is the result of a genetics experiment aboard a facility orbiting Earth in 2147. The cat and his newly found friends, a group of four smart teenagers, find themselves in an intrigue with corporate agendas, young curiosity, dangerous and ethically problematic research, relationships and their difficulties when coming of age. The complexity is enthralling, but the author also makes it easy to follow, using a light, natural style to tell us their story.

This is what Mr. Moore does at his best. Tell us a story, a cozy story, a story that makes me smile and enjoy comfortably the cat-like analysis on those humans, as it unfolds. Along with their obvious, though understandable, limitations.

At its core a young adult fantasy, the story takes place in a science fiction context, extrapolated from the physics and genetics of our time. The artificial intelligence dubbed “the AI” is very advanced, but you still know it’s a programmed entity, bound to its programming. The formation of mathematician and physicist of the writer shows in his brilliant and understandable description of the life in a space station.

All in one, the book is a very enjoyable read, appealing to all ages.

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Science Fiction reviews

If you are looking for honest and fair reviews, you have come to the right place. If you are not, and are just curious on Science Fiction books, you are the most welcome! If you are looking for new SF authors to read, this selection of books and stories is for your use.

I am starting this blog to review Science Fiction books of new authors, Indie books, those books you can easily get today as ebooks, but you feel you don’t know what’s in. Everything here is my opinion and perception, and while feedback is welcome, I am not accepting trades that would affect the reviews. They are and will remain non-biased, other than by my own take.

Writers, if you’d like me to review your books or short stories, please check the About details.

 

Welcome, and enjoy the ride!