Another book review is up over at Adventures in SciFi Publishing.  This time, I reviewed Bone Machines by John Dodds.  Great book and it’s available in podcast form too.  If you’re into crime thrillers, I recommend checking it out.

Speaking of reviews …

Justine Larbalesteir talks about why she loves bad reviews and John Scalzi weighs in (here and here).  I also had a friend recently ask me about protocol surrounding receiving books and writing reviews.  Now that I’ve had some more time to think about it, I’d like to offer this advice to authors:

Just because you’ve sent your book to someone does not mean they are obligated to review it.

There’s a lot of reasons for this.  Writing a well done book review is hard.

Reviews are not whipped out in an afternoon.  If done right, a reviewer has to actually read the book.  Then they have to figure out why the book appealed to them.  Sometimes this is easy, sometimes it’s hard.  A well written book just works.  Then there is actually writing the review.  This usually takes me a couple of hours to an entire afternoon because I have to figure out just the right way to articulate things and make sure I’m not repeating myself.

As for me, I just don’t write bad reviews.  Why?  Well, look at what goes into writing a review.  It’s hard work.  Why would I waste my time pointing out all the flaws and generally tearing something apart?  It’s not constructive.  Heck, if I don’t like a book I often never bother to finish reading it.

Being a writer myself, I know how neurotic we can be so let me touch on that last point:

Just because a reviewer has not written about your book, does not mean they hate the book or they hate you.

Sometimes a book just doesn’t work for someone.  Take for instance the last three books I’ve been unable to finish – The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss), Neuromancer (William Gibson), and Carnival (Elizabeth Bear).  All of these earned extremely high praise.  They just didn’t work for me.  In Rothfuss’ case, I think I wasn’t in the right mood and I suspect I’ll pick it up sometime in the future.  For Gibson, I lost the plot about 2/3rds of the way through.  Maybe I’ll try again in the future, maybe not.  And as for Bear, I attempted to read the book prior to Viable Paradise and I just couldn’t get a handle on it.  Maybe some of her other books I’d like better, maybe not.  But at the same time, the fact that I couldn’t get a handle on it was why I sought her out for a one-on-one at VP.  I learned a lot of valuable things fromt that session.

Not finishing the books didn’t mean I hated the author or I thought they wrote crap.  It just meant the book didn’t work for me.  That’s all.

In parting, let me offer a last bit of advice to authors:

Just write the damn book.  Everything else will work itself out.

AISFP – The Physics of Superheroes

The Physics of Superheroes
The Physics of Superheroes

Holy libraries, Batman!  It’s another review up at Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing!

The book this time?  The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios.  You might remember this one from my w00tstock post back in mid-June.  I had a lot of fun with it.  Being that I am currently writing a sci-fi/superhero story, I paid special attention and learned quite a bit.  It has changed portions of the story too.

So head on over to AISFP and take a look.


Couch by Benjamin Parzybok
ISBN: 9781931520546
Published: Small Beer Press
Released : November, 2008
256 Pages

This one came from Scalzi’s Big Idea. The concept sounded interesting so I threw it onto my Christmas list. My family thought I looked forward to it so much, they gave me two copies.  One of those went over to my brother.

I’ll start off by being honest – Couch started off stronger than it finished, but not by too much.  Each day as it sits and percolates in the brain, the more I enjoy it.  I may give it another read sometime.

Couch is about Thom, a computer programmer out of work.  His roommates are Eric, a con-artist who is not terribly successful and Tree, who sees visions and makes incredibly detailed figurines out of wire.

After their apartment floods, they are evicted and forced to take their couch with them.  Only the couch only wants to go one way. Try taking it the other direction and it becomes impossible to carry.  On top of that, other people have expressed an interest in the couch.  One offers tens of thousands of dollars.  Another is willing to kill for it.  Some are willing to die to protect it.

Couch has its dark moments and its lighthearted.  Parzybok did a wonderful job with his characters, primarily Thom.  The computer geek transitioned from a steadfast reliance on what made sense to accepting the magical.  He went from being shy and uncertain to going forward, even if he didn’t know where the couch was going to lead him.

It ended up being far more surreal than I expected, though it did pose questions and subjects I found fascinating.  One that stood out was posed by Parzybok in an interview and surfaces in the book.  Every civilization is built on top of another civilization.  That civilization is built on top of another one and so forth.  Who are we to judge that what has been discovered today is actually new?  How much have we thrown aside without realizing it?

It took me a little while to realize it, but the end result and the mystery of the couch is something close to the Hughes family.  I won’t spoil it, you’ll have to read the book for that, but it has something to do with the purpose of Seed Savers Exchange, the non-profit Steph works for.

Couch was an great book.  No, it’s not a book for weekend kicks.  It’s a bit more thoughtful than that.  Steph and I read it over our recent week long vacation (we actually fought to the book in our hand before the other person).  It was fun discussing it when we were finished, making the time spent together more enjoyable.  I would highly recommend it

The Clone Elite

The Clone Elite by Steven L. KentThe Clone Elite by Steven L. Kent
ISBN: 978-0-441-01608-2
Published: Ace Books
Released : October 28, 2008
368 Pages

On vacation in 2006, I wandered into a Barnes and Noble to look for something to read.  Near the front, I saw a book on a stand called The Clone Republic by some guy named Steven Kent.  I’d never heard of him but the cover looked good and a quick scan of the first chapter drew me in.  I’m afraid my wife probably has unpleasant words for Mr. Kent.  I spent way too much time reading and way too little time hanging out with her.

The Clone Elite is the 4th book in the Clone series (Republic, Rogue Clone, and Clone Alliance preceding).  Taking place in 2512 A.D., humanity has spread itself throughout the galaxy using technology known as the Broadcast Network.  The Unified Authority, based on Earth government has forsaken democracy for the principles of Plato’s Republic with three societies – citizens, military, and political.  Clones, raised by the millions in orphanages, form the bulk of the military and are lead by natural born (i.e. – non-clone) officers.  Each clone is genetically identical, incapable of disobeying orders, and, should they ever realize they are a clone, will die instantly.

Wayson Harris is a clone, but unlike the others, he knows it.  He is a Liberator clone, an unstable model that was banned due to past tragedies.  Though he’s a bad-ass on the battlefield, Harris has a knack for being caught in the middle of things when they go bad and he’s forced to confront enemies even among his allies.

The Clone Elite finds Harris back in Hawaii, a frequent stopping point in the earlier novels.  He’s come a long way since Republic.  He’s more world weary and frankly, at a low point in his synthetic life.  At the conclusion of Alliance, Harris left the Marines, having grown disgusted with the way natural born officers use clone soldiers as little more than fodder.  Unfortunately, a visit from an old friend forces him back into the Marines under the Elite Conscription Act.

Aliens, former allies of the foe Harris defeated in Alliance, have invaded and are quickly conquering every plant in their way on a straight march for Earth.  The U.A. decides to make a stand on the planet of New Copenhagen in a bid to buy time.  Unlike the rest of the series, Elite takes place on a single planet.  This allows Kent to develop good suspense when Harris and his companions are cut off from the rest of the universe in the midst of the alien invasion.  Like the previous books, it’s told from Harris’ point of view and his limited information adds to the tension.

As well as fighting aliens, Harris is forced to confront his own demons, realizing how and why the Liberators were banned.  He begins to see worrying signs as the clones buck their neural programming.  Kent does an excellent job of pointing out that even in the face of impending doom, man is petty and fallible.  We see this through the squabbling of generals and the actions of a commanding officer, willing to sacrifice an entire platoon to rid himself of a single troublesome clone.  The majority of the book takes place on a single planet, unlike the rest of the series which has more galaxy hopping.  This allows Kent to develop good suspense when New Copenhagen is cut off from the rest of the universe in the midst of an alien invasion.

There’s a bit of a mystery, plenty of conflict (both on and off the battlefield), and though I’ve never spent time in the military, I think Kent has the dialogue between soldiers down pat.  He does an excellent job of blending in the unfamiliar and explaining it in a way that seems easy.  Elite continues Kent’s cynical look at warfare and how the politics of it are handled, though to a slightly lesser extent (perhaps on a more personal level with Harris and his commanding officers).  The finale of Elite leaves a great deal open.  Per the author’s blog, he plans on writing more books including some on the Japanese Fleet and Navy Seals, an action hinted at in the last pages of the book.

That is not to say the book is flawless.   Some characters strike me as flat (typically those in the upper echelons, but maybe that’s military for you).  The greatest thing that bothered me actually came out of the Appendix.  Kent mentions the fate of one character (no spoilers here) and how he wanted it to be different.  Even before I picked up the book, I had a feeling something would happen.  After reading the story, I have to say I agree with the author’s gut feeling.

Nonetheless, The Clone Elite has everything I’ve come to love about the series.  Fast paced action, incredible combat scenes, a wide range of interesting characters (even among the supposedly ‘identical’ clones), and most importantly, a great story.  If you’re a fan of military sci-fi, pick up the series.  You won’t be disappointed.