Odd Men Out by Matt Betts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Review Excerpt: These characters’ journeys from outcast to hero set in a creatively-built playground made Odd Men Out an enjoyable read and Matt Betts an author to follow. The genre mashup between steampunk, alternate history, horror and monster-catching thriller excited me in their introduction, but often let me down as they faded offscreen for another genre element to show up. The focus of the story is clearly on characters becoming heroes, but the above genre elements felt too quickly used and discarded.
Full review: http://www.adventuresinscifipublishin…
(disclaimer, I’m changing my rating from a 3 to a 4 star because of a recent distinction I will make between the two. 3 Stars have elements I enjoyed, but not enough to make me buy the sequel. 4 Stars are books I will buy the sequel for, but which had areas that took them down from being a 5 Star. As I say in my full review, I want more Matt Betts books!)
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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Took a friend’s advice to make this my Audible pick this month because of Wil Wheaton’s narration and am very happy with the outcome. Even though I am a decade too young to have experienced the 80’s in the way it is highlighted in this book, I still enjoyed the sense of a larger than life video game scavenger hunt with life or death stakes. Would I have liked it more if the nostalgia was focused on Nirvana, Final Fantasy III and Jurassic Park? Maybe a little, but not enough to indicate that the character’s enjoyment was lost on me. I was pumped up just like they were for every secret clue, every virtual battle, the solving of riddles and the like. The pacing moves along pretty quickly as our main character plays through a competition to unlock secrets within a virtual reality game before the evil corporation wins and ruins the game for everyone. I enjoyed its conclusion and left the story with a fond memory of the characters and their adventure. Top-notch job by the narrator.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: The zombie apocalypse has never been more engrossing, heart-wrenching, or personal. I rooted for this hero with held breath.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A pair of drug addicts open their window to a zombie apocalypse, run for their lives and fight for what they’ll love more: sober life or death.
PROS: Front-to-back engaging; phenomenal ending; emotionally powerful characters; scary zombies; survivalist setting.
CONS: The sexual descriptions, while consistent with the gory details throughout, were more than this reader preferred.
BOTTOM LINE: Best read of the year. Best zombie book, ever. Masterful illustration about how painful and overwhelming addiction can be – over love, over family, and over being a good human being, even in the face of losing one’s life to a zombie horde.
Read the rest of the review at SF Signal.
Stay tuned for my podcast interview with Peter at Adventures in SciFi Publishing.
by Madeline Ashby
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
A more formal review will go up on SF Signal soon, but for now, here are my thoughts.
I’m very impressed with this debut novel from Madeline Ashby. She excels at making her A.I. robot perspective feel real, sometimes in humorous ways, sometimes in scary ways and most enjoyably through their struggle to experience love, freedom and responsibility over loved ones. The layout for how the robots iterate (make copies) appeals to the love of technology upgrades and creating superpowers, reminding me of an adventure through a video game and leveling up my characters, but in a story that also touches the heart.
Another way the author impressed me was in how she layers unexpecting conflict after unexpecting conflict, like getting beatup by the Terminator, then Bruce Lee shows up to snap a few roundhouses across your face, and then when you think you can’t take anymore, Chuck Norris walks in and says, “Madeline’s not even halfway done with you.” Sometimes, as a reader, you think an author is going to wait until later in the story to make survival impossible, but this author found new ways to surprise and doom her characters, seemingly, on a page by page basis. Continue reading
No Return by Zachary Jernigan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is my review fresh off of finishing today. A more polished review will appear on SF Signal sometime in the future.
NO RETURN displays the kind of prose, worldbuilding and depth of characterization that place Zachary Jernigan securely within the top tier of Fantasy authors. The prose pulls you in like a piece of art, forcing you to slow down and observe. The worldbuilding makes you imagine maps, bar room brawls over differences in customs, shop keepers making lists of what supplies to buy from where, kids praying to the god who lives on the moon, women making sex spells, warriors becoming one with their self-controlled, mutating body suits… all in a way that separates the world in NO RETURN from generic fantasy–this world is alive! Continue reading
Here’s a sneak preview of my review of Shift Omnibus at SF Signal. It contains spoilers for Wool, but only minor plot summaries for Shift, which may or may not be considered spoilers. If you are new to this series, check out my review of Wool. I also have more in depth reviews of First Shift and Second Shift, which have spoilers and are meant as more of discussion points for those who have read them.
REVIEW SUMMARY: The sequel trilogy to the best seller, Wool Omnibus, which takes a leap back in time to show how the chaos started.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A silo architect finds out too late what he’s been building, loses track of his wife and memories, and must uncover the secret behind the silo in order to make everything right.
BOTTOM LINE: While the first half gave hope that this sequel could surpass Wool Omnibus, the story went downhill from there. Shift is still recommended for Wool fans, and it will not kill interest in reading the concluding volume although but it did not meet expectations.
Click here for full review at SF Signal.
In my review of First Shift, I debated the reading order between Wool 1 and First Shift, but Second Shift makes it clear that Wool Omnibus should be read before Second Shift. For this reason, I’m assuming that anyone looking to read the review for Second Shift has already read Wool Omnibus and the first two books of Shift Omnibus, all of which are so good that it’s doubtful you’re reading this to see if you should go on. If you haven’t read any of these, pick up Wool Omnibus and get ready for one of the best SF books out there.
This review will contain spoilers of everything except for Third Shift, which I haven’t read yet. I’m more interested in discussing with those who have read up to this point only. Continue reading
Frequenters to my site know Hugh Howey is one of my favorite authors, ever since I came across his novelette, “The Plagiarist,” and quickly thereafter, Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga). If you haven’t read Hugh yet, I’d recommend starting there. *** I waffle later in this review about whether or not reading this prequel first is better. ***
The intro novelette to Wool Omnibus, “Wool 1,” is permanently free on Kindle. My review of Wool Omnibus is spoiler-free, as are the podcast interviews linked within discussing Wool and Hugh’s publishing success story.
All that to say, I picked up First shift (now that the Shift Omnibus Edition (Shift 1-3) (Silo Saga) is available) with very high expectations. Waiting for the omnibus edition to arrive meant overhearing lots of positive reviews, many saying it was better than Wool, which is a tall order.
[My review of Shift Omnibus is now up at SF Signal.]
It may seem unfair to read a book with these kind of expectations, but it’s impossible to keep them out. I wanted Shift to be better than its predecessor, and thus every scene was seen through that extra critical lens. The good news is that First Shift held its own, and added a tremendous new level of interest into an already amazing series. Continue reading
In case you haven’t seen, my review of Hellhole is now up at SF Signal. This tag-team writing duo wrote some of my favorite books in their Dune prequels, and it surprises me to see such adamant haters of their work. Granted, Hellhole wasn’t great, but it wasn’t so terrible that anyone with half a brain should be repulsed within the first few pages, as one commenter said.
Despite my 3.5 rating, I still recommend it, especially since Amazon is now listing the hardcover of Hellhole for $2.81! Continue reading