It’s not that often that a science fiction story bordering on space opera comes along that everyone will enjoy reading. That’s what Schmidt accomplishes with the Worker Prince. Revolving around a recent graduate prince who leaves home for his first assignment only to discover his slave-class origins, the story mirrors that of the Biblical Moses in many aspects.
While the main protagonist, Davi Rhii, does not spend 40 years in the dessert, he does wrestle with identity issues and the status quo of an empire built on the back of slave labor. The conflict that ensues is the classic story of one against the many. The result is watching an individual discover his unique place, and this is something most of us long for in our own lives.
Schmidt finds a nice balance between moralizing and adventure in his tale that I thought suited anyone between the ages of 13 and dead.
That being said, it didn’t hit the sweet spot for me. I prefer a little more grime and grit in my space opera. Rhii is a champion and hero more along the lines of Luke Skywalker (without all the whining) and less like Han Solo. But the prose is elegant and well-paced.
If you enjoy young adult literature, coming of age tales, and/or science fiction adventure then you’ll enjoy The Worker Prince. Read it! Review it! Share it!
Imagine, if you will, the dark streets of Boston. Trouble is afoot, a revolution against the wealthy and the authorities. Equality and justice are demanded by protesting crowds, some of which get out of hand at times, leading to smoky, dark nights. Add to that ghosts and dark magic at hand, a secret sorcerer working his will in the midst of the chaos. Sounds like a pretty good urban fantasy, right?
Now imagine all this is occurring during the Stamp Act uprising in the 18th Century. Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty, the original Tea Party, the Colonists stirring against the British Crown.
D.B. Jackson’s debut alternate history novel is the tale of a thieftaker, one who hunts down stolen property for a fee and returns it to its rightful owners. What separates him from his competition, however, is Ethan’s gift for conjuring. He was born with the gift, inherited from his mother, and now Ethan Kaille is called upon to investigate the theft of a brooch off the neck of a murdered daughter of one of Boston’s wealthy merchants. Murders are not the sorts of crimes men like Ethan typically get involved with, but the girl’s cause of death is undetermined and some believe conjuring was involved, and so Ethan promises to find the stolen brooch and return it, revealing what he also discovers about the murderer in the process.
But once he gets involved, finding himself haunted by ghosts and voices of not just the dead daughter but others who’ve died in similar fashion, attacked by his main rival, Sephira Pryce, a thieftaker who rules the city in ways less honorable than Ethan and many of her trade, and hunted by the authorities. Drawn into an unfolding mystery by his compulsion to understand and his desire to set things right, Ethan uncovers a dark conspiracy that brings him into encounters with the British leadership, upper crust merchants, and even Samuel Adams himself.
Jackson is the nom de plume of a well respected fantasy writer with numerous fantasies under his belt. And his skill at prose, worldbuilding, and character development shine through on every page. Add to this his degree in history and passion for that, and you have a book that drips with authenticity, despite the fantastical elements wove into the historical narrative. Colonial Boston really comes alive here, and the story draws you in quickly, compelling you to read onward with every page.
Alternate history is as tricky as working in a contemporary setting because so much documentation and knowledge exists that one has to study hard and tread carefully in order to use history both responsibly, meaningfully and fairly in weaving a fictional tale around and within it, while still crafting elements which would appeal to the genre fans for whom the book will be primarily targeted. But my opinion is that any fan of history, particularly Revolutionary War America, would love Thieftaker. And I think it’s a not to be missed start of a new not to be missed series.
Jackson is scheduled to follow next year with Thieve’s Quarry and everything from the beautiful cover art to the prose, dialogue and settings works together to bring this charming, authentic, well paced tale to life. It’s unique and yet familiar. And it’s one of my favorite reads of 2012 so far. Highly recommended!
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Cassa Fire, Space Opera, Dancing Lemur Press, 2012. Tpb/ebook $15.95/$4.99
An enjoyable read with well drawn leads that takes a while to suck you in but ultimately rises above its faults to provide a compelling and enjoyable read. I have not read book 1 in this series. So let me say some of my quibbles with it may well not be shared by those who have.
The action was well written and Cavanaugh uses some invented SFnal ideas here, including mental powers for two races, one limited to men, the other expanded by the entry of women. The developing relationship between the humans and Tgren as a result of this development makes for interesting drama and asks interesting questions. It also provides good fodder for further storylines.
His worldbuilding is very solid. The starships are well thought out and created well. You can definitely feel an 80s SF influence, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in particular, although I suppose Star Wars and Star Trek could be found in it as well.
The prose itself is solid. Cavanaugh is quite good at weaving description and dialogue and keeping things moving well. He handles multiple POV characters well and does a good job transitioning between scenes and chapters.
Action scenes are well written and handled and have appropriate pacing and tension, avoiding the silly dialogue which sometimes ensues.
Now for the quibbles:
First, the story didn’t hook me until Chapter 4. In part, I felt there wasn’t much going on at the beginning. The real action didn’t take place until later on. There were a number of passages with routine day to day character routines which I could have done without that slowed down the pace as well. The worldbuilding is solid but I wish the writer had found a way to get us into it with a bit more excitement. The result is a dragging pace until chapter 4 when it picks up more and more as it moves toward the middle and end.
Second, other than Byron and his love interest, I didn’t find the other characters very well drawn. They didn’t seem to have arcs of their own. Perhaps they were from book 1 and developed more fully there, but I think he could have added a bit more development in them to make it more interesting. The uncle of the love interest, however, does change a bit in his attitude, which was a nicely handled touch. I just would have liked to have seen more with other supporting characters for a richer, fuller canvass.
Third, because the story doesn’t have as much action as I expected from the cover (my fault not his but the cover did set expectations somewhat), I’d compare this more to a storyline from Star Trek:TNG or a thoughtful TOS episode than I would to something more action packed like Star Wars or Buck Rogers or even BSG in storyline/plot. I would have liked a bit more action. This last note, admittedly, is personal preference and not the writer’s fault. There’s just rich potential in the ships, characters and world for some really good action. Perhaps book 1 provides more of that. I do intend to read it.
Ultimately, I am giving this four stars because I think despite any flaws it’s well worth your time. Don’t let the pacing keep you from digging in. The SF ideas, cultures, and world are well developed and interesting. I would look forward to more stories. I do hope next round he’ll give us more action. And I hope he’ll develop some of the other characters as well. Regardless, if you like old fashioned space opera, this is a family friendly fun read. Recommended.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
For me, Star Wars books are often like comfort food — familiar, not overly surprising, but good, an enjoyable way to pass the time. So when I scheduled Paul Kemp for my interview chat, I was surprised to learn his Star Wars books didn’t include those familiar characters I’d grown to love–the characters who made me fall in love with science fiction, made me want to tell stories. But Paul Kemp wrote a Star Wars book (three now in fact), and we’re close in age, so I wanted to commiserate. He must have viewed the saga at the same age I did with similar awe. What was it like to now be a part of that universe as a storyteller? So I ordered up some reading copies and read.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself engaged, even captivated by the characters. Kemp’s ability to create immediate connections between characters and readers is admirable. He had me at “hello,” you might say. And like a stalker, he never let me go, but in a good way. Even the antagonist, Darth Malgus is someone you can’t help but feel sympathy for. He’s relatable. He may be evil and dark and hateful, but he’s human, just like the reader. And Kemp brings that out so well you almost root for him at times against the protagonists. That’s great writing.
Like most Star Wars tie-ins the prose is kept simple, a few challenging words here and there, but not many. After all, these books are intended to be accessible for fans of all ages. And that requires talent, too. When the competition are sometimes books with extra effort at complex prose, to have written a book written simply but well which engages adults as well as children is a real accomplishment. One to be proud of.
I can’t wait to chat with Paul and find out more about his writing journey, to soak up the lessons he has to teach us about writing, and to call him my friend. He tells me his assignment was to do a story with Darth Malgus, a character from the forthcoming online multi-player game “The Old Republic.” He wrote a Malgus story with spades.
The book revolves around three central characters, the dark Sith Malgus, a rogue Jedi Aryn, and a pilot Zeerid. Malgus wants to conquer the universe for the Sith and rid them forever of the Jedi menace. Aryn wants revenge for the death of her mentor/father-figure at Malgus’ hands. Zeerid, an old friend of Aryn’s, is just trying to pay off a debt and provide artificial legs for his young daughter. Each of them gets sucked in by circumstance to a web of deception–both internal and external to themselves–and struggles to accomplish their goal. All of them wind up taking paths far different than they’d imagined in doing so. And all of them learn lessons that forever change them in the process.
Filled with action and moving at a steady clip, “Deceived” even includes a cute astromech droid character, who may remind us of ancestors to come. It has romance, betrayal, political intrigue, and rivalry. It’s a well told tale that could be set in any universe but works exceedingly well in the confines of the familiar Star Wars one. Truly these are characters worth discovering and enjoying. I’d like to see more of each of them.
I can’t wait to read more from Kemp. Highly recommended.
A compelling read filled with sparkling prose about the author’s adventures outside his culture and comfort zone encountering predators around the world and even in his own yard. Rich in detail with a good sense of self-deprecation mixed with genuine cultural and animal insight, Foster herein challenges all of us to live a little more bravely than we might so that we can write better, understand better, and experience the world better. Truly inspiring. I couldn’t put it down.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to stare a lion in the face on the serenghetti or swim with sharks in the ocean? Author Alan Dean Foster answers those questions and more in the riveting “Predators I Have Known,” coming February 22nd from Open Road Media.
Foster, a well known and respected author of science fiction and fantasy, New York Times bestselling author of 110 books, has the same lust for adventure he satisfies in readers with his many books and he takes us with him on many adventures around the world as he satiates it with daring encounters many of us might never risk. From the Amazon River in South America to the plains of Africa to the Arizona desert, Foster’s tales are told with vivid description, honest self-deprecation, and a great sense of humor using powerful prose. He captures his emotions and thoughts as he faces uncertain dangers yet feels compelled to stand his ground and not run. The predators are everything from giant ants to giant otters, usual suspects like snakes and spiders to big cats and elephants and other surprises. Some are well known, others less so. All are intriguing.
For readers without the budget, time or guts to travel the world, Foster gives you a bird’s eye view of Australia, the Amazon jungle, the Pantanal, African desert and more. Having visited some of the places he does myself, I can attest to the accuracy of his descriptions and realism of his emotions. I only wish I could describe them so well. Sure to invoke the imagination, the book will make you laugh with delight, squirm with discomfort, and wait with baited breath to see if he survives. It’s a wonderful change of pace from a beloved writer and one I highly recommend. I’m sure I will read it again and again, especially when my own reality prevents satisfying my own lust for adventure.
The only weakness for me was that I wanted more, and I especially wish there were some of Foster’s pictures of the various encounters. His prose is vivid enough one can live without them, but having them would have just made the book all the more powerful.
First, a couple of disclaimers might be appropriate: I like Mary Robinette Kowal. She’s a nice person, the kind who is easy to converse with and who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, she penned one of my favorite short stories of the past few years, “Clockwork Chickadee,” a story which delights me each time I read it and is even more delightful hearing her read it out loud. She’s very giving of her time to help up and coming writers from teaching them how to do readings to answering basic questions. And she spends a lot of time with puppets. Who can help but like someone who spends her time entertaining and delighting children?
Second disclaimer: other than perhaps a passage or two in English literature classes, I have never read a Jane Austen book, and I think I have only seen one movie based on her work. Despite my weakness for romantic comedies and enjoyment of Nicholas Sparks, I just never felt drawn to Victorian romances. But when Kowal agreed to be with us on Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat on Twitter, I had to read “Shades of Milk and Honey,” out of curiosity and an obligation to make the discussion as fruitful for everyone as possible.
Am I glad I did.
The prose captures the feel of Victorian writing beautifully, yet remains simple and accessible for readers who might not be familiar with it. Her characters are well drawn and interesting, and although before I read it I’d have thought I wouldn’t be drawn in by the personal politics of a female spinster and her family and neighbors, I literally couldn’t put this one down.
A delight from start to finish, “Shades of Milk & Honey” has been aptly described as Jane Austen with magic, but the magic, the manipulation of light through a technique called glamouring, fits in naturally with the story. Although it flows through and undergirds much of the narrative, Kowal maintains a sense of mystery about it by not telling us too much about how it works and instead focusing more attention on how it is used and how it affects the characters themselves.
The story of Jane Ellsworth, twenty-eight, a gifted glamourist in her own right, who dreams of love and happiness as she watches her much younger sister, Melody, and neighbors Beth Dunkirk and Livie FitzCameron wooed by men. When a few men take notice of her for various reasons, hope rises in her, but she always finds the possibilities threatened by others. Jane is too kind and mannered to wallop in her own jealousy and disappointment, however, and continues fighting her baser urges by befriending and caring for her sister Melody and neighbor Beth Dunkirk, whose brother Edmund seems Jane’s most likely suitor.
Then the mysterious galmourist, Mr. Vincent, hired by Lady FitzCameron, the Viscountess, to create a glamour for her dining hall, becomes an intriguing challenge. Jane compares her own skills at glamour to his, while examining his artistry and striving to improve her own. When his response seems to be resentment at her questions and attention, she begins to feel resentment of her own. Especially after he implies her art shows talent without any heart behind it.
There were times I felt Kowal’s foreshadowing made later developments predictable, but in the end, I discovered her plotting to be far more clever than I’d imagined. The ending certainly was different than I had expected in several respects, and the book maintains a sense of suspense and motion which kept me riveted and wanting to know what would happen next. In spite of my lack of commonality with these characters, they captured my heart—I cared about them and what happened to them far more than I’d imagined I would.
For a book which I’d not have chosen on its own based on what I knew of it and my own literary preferences to have so held my interest and charmed me, I feel confident in saying it will likely surprise and charm others as well. Kowal is a smart writer, whose gift for words and understanding of people are readily evident on every page. While one can find small deficiencies with which to quibble in her first novel (as in any other), the book shows great promise and is a great diversion. If anything it’s greatest weakness is its lightness. There is no heavy moral here. And the story does not create a great set of questions one is left to ponder for months after. Instead, the questions and story are light yet still manage to rise beyond mere entertainment.
Truly a worthwhile read from a worthwhile talent. I look greatly forward to what the future will bring from her.
Two sons, one an embarrassment, the other prophesied to rule the world. Two armies, facing each other for nine years of war. A tortured princess. A bodyguard torn between duty and love. Moses Siregar III’s “The Black God’s War” novella has all the right ingredients and his prose lives up to the challenge–an exciting new epic fantasy is soon to arrive.
It’s taken me far too long to read this tale, and I am reading an older draft, but I’m so glad I waited until I had the focus to properly appreciate it. It’s been a while since a novella so captured me that I read it almost straight through–70 pages in the first sitting. But Siregar’s novella, 15 chapters culled from 85 of his upcoming novel, just has that effect on you. His characters are as passionate as his descriptive prose. The pacing is perfect. There are a few spots where editing might tighten things up, but as I said, this is an older draft and I know he’s been polishing a lot since then.
“The Black God’s War” is the tale of two countries at war on a distant planet. The sons of their two leaders each take their role in battle. One, Caio, is the legendary Haissem, born to rule the world. The religious ceremony handing him his father’s power takes place and the army awaits his arrival and their imminent victory. The other, Rao, hardly knows his father and is mocked by his men. Meanwhile, Caio’s sister Lucia is leading the army as they await him. Each side calls on their gods and each expects to win.
The novella has elements of mythology reflective of Siregar’s years spent studying religions and philosophies. It has a Greek or Roman feel to it at times, yet it remains clearly in the epic fantasy mold, despite being set on a distant planet.
Siregar handles the battle scenes well, using dialogue richly to both build his characters and his world. And the novella introduces many of his major characters well, wetting the reader’s appetite and leaving him wanting more.
I’m anxious to know the rest of the story and you will be, too. This is a novella epic fantasy fans don’t want to miss. Avaialble as an ebook right now through Kindle and other sites. The novel should follow in Spring 2011. Siregar is an exciting new talent to look forward to.
A great read and one I wish I’d had time to read straight through without so many interruptions. It captured me from the get go and kept me entertained throughout.
The first in a new sword and sorcery series, “Tome Of The Undergates” is about a group of adventurers, led by a human named Lenk, who get hired to retrieve a powerful book stolen by demons which holds the power to threaten the planet. A motley crew indeed, our adventurers include four humans, a shict, and a dragon man, none of whom are necessarily admirable but all of whom are deeply flawed.
Sykes basically takes two large set pieces — an opening battle and a closing battle, and connects the dots with a few scenes. The book is told from the POVs of his band of adventurers, whom we only come to know a little over the course of the book. Instead, the focus is on action and grit, both of which Sykes gives us in abundance. He’s clearly a master of descriptive verbage, and some of that verbage might not work for those easily offended. But it does serve to make his battle scenes more realistic than most and it also makes them more powerful and effective at drawing you into the world he’s creating.
His world building is strong but he can certainly do a lot more with it and the same can be said for the characters. I would have liked to see the character arcs developed a bit more. We get their backstories in bits and pieces, some not even given until the very end. And while these bits and pieces of world building and characterization are strong, they amount altogether to very little parts of the whole. We still have a lot to learn, but it’s a small quibble because Sykes is in this for the long haul. He’s already written a sequel, “Black Halo,” which comes out in Spring 2011, and I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more about these heroes and their world in the further adventures to follow.
A strong and entertaining story, Sykes invests his characters with distinct personalities and makes good use of humor. Despite their flaws, we like them, and we root for them, and it’s a fun ride to join their journey. If you like adventure fantasy, you’ll love this. Recommended. I look forward to more to come from Sykes in the future.
Well written and powerful, it’s easy to see why Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” has been so acclaimed and awarded. The story of people in the Thai Kingdom, somewhere in the future, the story is told through multiple points of view – the American factory owner/agent who is using the factory as a cover; the abandoned Japanese windup girl, an android or clone, who is forced to survive by dancing and prostituting herself; the expat Chinese factory manager who works with the agent and betrays him; and two White Shirt members of the Environment Ministry who go around enforcing code, fighting disease, and taking bribes or stealing them (depending on your point of view.) Each has a reason for why they’ve come to the point where all paths intersect, and each has the desire to survive the hard life that exists in the kingdom.
Bacigalupi’s characters are three dimensional and well drawn, but I found it hard to sympathize with all but the windup girl and the female White Shirt. Both of them are victims who seem caught up in circumstances. And while each commits acts which are violent and even criminal against other humans, both have a genuine desire to do the right thing. They are just protecting themselves the only way they know how. The lack of a central “hero” left me a bit empty at the end.
The book is paced very well and the world building is top notch. Bacigalupi has done his research on Thailand and created a wholly real and believable future world. In truth, it doesn’t seem so vastly different from what one might expect to see in a Developing World country today, except for the gene replicating and windups. There are dirigibles here and a few other steampunk tropes, but the time period is not Victorian and neither are the people, so it’s not really steampunk genre. It’s more slipstream, often compared to William Gibson. In many ways, the world here is if anything less developed than our own, relying on megodonts (giant mammoth/elephant type creatures) to power the city through their leg power, travel around mostly on bikes, ricshaws and a few cars. It just doesn’t seem as far future as one might anticipate, which only serves to make it all the more powerful.
Bacigalupi wisely sticks to English dialogue, subtly hinting what language his characters are speaking when necessary. He mixes in ethnic Japanese, Chinese and Thai phrases from time to time to add to the authenticity, and even uses some key native words throughout to lend to the feeling of being inside the mind of peoples who think in such terms.
Bacigalupi is a talented writer from whom I look forward to reading much more in the future. His future is a bleak one, which may have contributed to my disappointment with the lack of a pure hero. But his writing craft is solid and the book thoroughly engaging. Recommended.