Tag Archives: debut novel

Sunday Post – 9th October

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

A much quieter week, getting back into a routine -and working very hard line editing Netted. The catch is, I have to keep breaking off, otherwise my effectiveness falls through the floor, which is annoying. On Wednesday evening my wonderful writing buddy, Sarah Palmer, provided me with valuable feedback on Dying For Space after beta-reading it for me. So I’ll be performing surgery on the narrative arc and tweaking the ending, using a good, sharp scalpel once I’ve completed my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest. It seems this is to be the year of the rewrites – but if that’s what it takes to go on improving my writing, then so be it. It’s pointless writing new material if my current body of work is not the very best I can produce.

On Thursday, Mhairi spent the day with me. Although it was only a fortnight ago we last met up, it seemed much longer as a great deal has happened since then. It was great to be able to chat over things with a sympathetic listener – there’s a lot going on at present and not all of it good…

J and I went for a walk over Kithurst Hill yesterday – it was the first time I’ve done a proper walk since I started my Pilates and Fitstep and was delighted that I was able to complete it without limping. Sadly I forgot to take my camera, but we’re also aiming to go out again tomorrow, so long as it isn’t lashing with rain, and I try to remember to get a few photos.

My reading has slowed right down this week:

How to Be a Pirate – Book 2 of How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
howtobeapirateHiccup Horrendous Haddock III was a Viking Hero–dashing, brave, and ever so clever. But even Viking heroes have to begin somewhere. In this rip-roaring adventure he recounts his early days–when he still had a lot to learn about swordfights, shipwrecks, and homicidal dragons…

Events quickly stack up, as Hiccup, Toothless and Fishlegs, his best friend, trail along in their wake. Sure enough it all goes from dodgy to disaster fairly quickly as the Hairy Hooligans sail off in Stoick’s ship, the Lucky Thirteen. There are adventures, fights, treasure, shipwrecks, more fights and more treasure sufficient to thrill the heart of a child of any age. I was enthralled. I’ll take these funny, exciting books over the tepid film version every time.

 

 

Escapology by Ren Waroom
Shock Pao is the best. In the virtual world the Slip there’s nothing he can’t steal for the right price. escapologyOutside the Slip, though, he’s a Fail – no degree, no job. So when his ex offers him a job, breaking into a corporate databank, he accepts—it’s either that, or find himself a nice bench to sleep under. Amiga works for psychotic crime lord Twist Calhoun so when Shock’s war comes to her, it’s her job to bring him to Twist, dead or alive.

While Warom’s writing has the gritty lyric quality of the best cyberpunk when it comes to the world-building, she also excels at characterisation, which isn’t always the case with this genre. This is one of the most enjoyable cyberpunk offerings I’ve read and a mightily impressive debut novel from a very talented author – and the good news is there is another book in the series due out next year.

 

 

My posts last week:

Review of Necessity – Book 3 of the Thessaly series by Jo Walton

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Escapology by Ren Warom

2016 Discovery Challenge – September Roundup

Review of How To Be a Pirate – Book 2 of How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Friday Faceoff – Consumed by the darkness, it hides all our sins… featuring Dark Eden – Book 1 of the Dark Eden series by Chris Beckett

Review of Escapology by Ren Warom

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Why Villains Need More Respect in Books http://lovelypagesreviews.com/why-villains-need-more-respect-in-books/ This enjoyable article articulates some of the frustrations readers have when authors don’t pay sufficient attention to the baddies in their stories…

Lola’s Advice: How to Run a Giveaway http://lolasreviews.com/lolas-advice-how-to-run-a-giveaway/ This excellent blog is one I frequently visit and as ever – her feature addresses the topic with readable thoroughness

Richard Ankers’ micro fiction often packs a punch – I found this offering particularly moving… https://richardankers.com/2016/10/06/the-drowned-and-the-drowning/

Before the Call https://gloriachao.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/before-the-call/ Gloria Chao had her writing dream come true when she got her agent and then a publishing deal – and is now generously sharing the nitty gritty details of her preparation towards that dream

Chronicling the Craft: A Conversation About Beta-Reading, From Nailing Your Critiques to Finding Your Candidates https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/10/06/beta-reading-conversation/ I seem to have been particularly drawn to how-to articles this week – and this is another gem for writers who wish to improve their work

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

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Review of Escapology by Ren Warom

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My mate, Mhairi Simpson, strongly recommended this offering so now that I’ve managed to get through my backlog of Netgalley arcs for the time being, I turned to this one.

escapologyShock Pao is the best. In the virtual world the Slip there’s nothing he can’t steal for the right price. Outside the Slip, though, he’s a Fail – no degree, no job. So when his ex offers him a job, breaking into a corporate databank, he accepts—it’s either that, or find himself a nice bench to sleep under. Amiga works for psychotic crime lord Twist Calhoun so when Shock’s war comes to her, it’s her job to bring him to Twist, dead or alive.

This is classic cyberpunk in many ways – a dystopian far future, where far too many people are crammed onto the remaining landmass in a megacity. The majority live in ghettos, crime is rampant and the brightest few are cherry-picked to be educated and work for the corporations, with a secure financial future ahead of them. Shock was once one of these chosen few, but couldn’t face the prospect of a lifetime of boring dead-end work ahead of him, so dropped out. Trouble is, he has dropped a lot further down than he’d intended.

While Warom’s writing has the gritty lyric quality of the best cyberpunk when it comes to the world-building, she also excels at characterisation, which isn’t always the case with this genre. Shock is edgy, damaged and vastly prefers spending jacking into the virtual world, the Slip, to spending time with people. It didn’t help when he tangled with the wrong girl, who now has her hooks into him – dragging him into performing a series of tasks on the wrong side of the law. Until he finds himself in a mess of trouble. I don’t generally do lost causes and I’m not a huge fan of criminal underworld adventures, either – so by rights this one shouldn’t have really hooked me. And it did.

The quality of the writing made it a pleasure, but I thoroughly enjoyed Warom’s cast of damaged outcast characters, even the assassin, Amiga. It doesn’t hurt that there is a fair amount of humour within the writing, albeit on the dark side. The story takes it time to fully gather pace, but I’ve no problem with that.

The world is so richly detailed with all sorts of enjoyable flourishes, like the landships who contain floating populations from areas devastated by the quakes, that the fact Warom takes the trouble to also establish her cast of misfits was just fine with me. It meant that when the action started kicking off, I was fully invested in the world and the people involved, as well as being slightly on the edge of my seat. Warom has no qualms in causing unspeakable suffering to her main characters – and I didn’t know if they would all make it out in one piece…

This is one of the most enjoyable cyberpunk offerings I’ve read and a mightily impressive debut novel from a very talented author – and the good news is there is another book in the series due out next year. Yay!
10/10

Review of How Dark the World Becomes by Frank Chadwick

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This is a debut novel published by Baen, so would I enjoy it?

Sasha Naradnyo is a gangster who sticks his neck out for no man. That’s how you stay alive in Crack City, a colony stuffed deep into the crust of the otherwise unlivable planet Peezgtaan. Sasha’s parents came to this rock figuring to make it big, only to find that they’d been recuited as part of an indentured labor force for alien overlords known as the Varoki. Now a pair of rich young Varoki under the care of a beautiful human nanny are fleeing Peezgtaan, and Sasha is invited to help. But he has responsibilities to his own people in Crack City… That’s as much as the rather chatty blurb I’m prepared to reveal.

how dark the world becomesThis is one of the best science fiction worlds I’ve encountered for a while. There are all sorts of enjoyable twists – for instance, the fact that humans are barred from using faster-than-light technology because the aliens who got there first have forbidden anyone else from utilising the same knowledge. In this bleak rendering of the future, Humanity is confronted by a group of aliens who regard our species with contempt and consider only using us for the dirty jobs they’d rather not do… A nifty way of depicting the damaging, malign influence of racism.

The other target that Chadwick lines up in his sights is Capitalism. The basic inequality of a system that intrinsically rewards the wealthy few over and above the poor many is highlighted in his world-building, where the well-established Varoki have no intention of sharing their riches with their alien allies. This scenario, where Humans as the latest addition are right at the bottom of the heap – more so because no other colonised planet has flora and fauna compatible with Earth-type DNA – leaves them disempowered and vulnerable.

Of course, if this were one of those science fiction novels where the world-building turns into pages of rants in semi-omniscience (we’ve all read them…), I wouldn’t be reviewing it. But don’t go away with the impression that this is book long on polemics at the expense of the story. Right from the start, Sacha’s first person narrative bounces off the page with more than a nod to Raymond Chandler’s noir crime thrillers. The voice is sharp, often amusing and always snappy. And the tale hurtles forward at an impressive pace, from one dangerous, tension-filled scene to another. In short, I found it difficult to put down and when I finally finished it, I was still wanting more.

Chadwick is definitely One To Watch and if you love your thrills and spills leavened with spacescapes and inscrutably hostile aliens, track down this offering – you won’t be disappointed.
9/10

Review of The Drowning City – Book 1 of The Necromancer Chronicles by Amanda Downum

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This is Downum’s debut fantasy novel, set in a jungle-type world with a complicated political system seething with discontent.
For Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and spy, the brewing revolution is a chance to prove herself to the crown. All she has to do is find and finance the revolutionaries, and help topple the palaces of Symir. But she is torn between her new friends and her duties, and the longer she stays in this monsoon-drenched city, the more intrigue she uncovers – even the dead are plotting.  As the waters rise and the dams crack, Isyllt must choose between her mission and the city she came to save.

This political intrigue certainly hits the ground running – events stack up and we are swiftly introduced to the cast of characters who are immediately plunged into the action. In this case, this has its drawbacks. Downum’s inexperience shows, I feel, in the lack of any real explanation about the political situation – it is all implicit, which is certainly a plus side for the narrative drive, but I did find myself floundering for a while as I sorted out exactly who was on which side. It didn’t help that in addition to the countries slogging it out – there were also a bunch of factions and clans weighing in.

In addition to the scarcity of background information necessary to clarify the plots and counter-plots, the three female protagonistsdrowningcity are far too similar. They are all reasonably young; all are competent magic-users; all have a conflict of loyalties and issues around their love life. Given that Downum doesn’t do hanging around to let the reader get her bearings, I was also a bit adrift as to exactly which one was doing what… Granted, I read this at a time when I wasn’t at my sharpest best – but I did feel this confusion could have been avoided if their characters weren’t so alike. The very similarity of the three main characters meant that they all occupied the same niche in the cast of characters. I think this very much lessened the impact at the end, simply because the reader has been asked to empathise with three versions of the same type, rather than a range of fully rounded, completely different individuals, thus diluting our feelings for each of them.

That said, I didn’t hurl the book across the bedroom. One reason is because Downum’s description of her world is outstandingly good. The city itself is beautifully described and one of Downum’s strengths as a writer is her ability to write action scenes where her characters experience the full range of climactic conditions, as well as coping with whatever else is going on.

I also very much enjoyed her magic and undead system. This was where Downum’s lack of explanation absolutely worked. The depiction of the various types of magic and nasty creatures was riveting and worked well with the action scenes. I note from the cover that this is the first in a series – which means that we’ll get a chance to revisit this exciting world. I’m hoping that next time around, Downum will take just a bit more time to better establish her political system and ensure her characters are more varied – and if she does, then she’ll have written a really superb fantasy thriller, rather than a good one with some flashes of brilliance.
7/10