The First Million Words (book reviews)
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2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron

Posted By Ben

A great book for any writer wanting to make the transition to author. I've always loved Rachel's advice, and it's nice to have a "greatest hits" compilation all in one book along with the added bonuses. The editing stuff was probably the highlight: something to look forward to when I actually do get around to finishing a project. Recommended highly for anybody that wants to tell stories for a living.

5 out of 5

Category:Book Reviews -- posted at: 5:39am EST
Comments[2]

Space Battles: Full-Throttle Space Tales #6

Posted by Ben

RED ALERT! RED ALERT!

This is not a drill...

Space Battles is the latest collection of Sci-Fi short stories from the Full Throttle Space Tales series (the 6th, to be specific).

Overall, this collection was extremely fun. Most of the stories are short enough to read on a daily commute (don't read while driving, please!), but long enough to be full stories with fully developed characters and plots. 

The stories (as the title suggests) all revolve around battles in space. Whether they deal with ship vs. ship, ship vs. fleet, fleet vs. fleet, drones vs. fleet, or ship sabotage in the midst of a battle, all the stories remain tightly focused on the battle while still focusing enough on character (a must for shorts) keeping you at the edge of your seat. 

The standout stories: 

"The Thirteens" by Gene Mederos was an interesting one. The story felt just a tad rushed, but the science involved was awesome, and the characters well-rounded.

"Jump Point Blockade" by David Lee Summers had GREAT characters (space pirates!), and a fast-moving, interesting story (with  the backstory hinted at very well).

"The Book of Enoch" by Matthew Cook focused on a single character dealing with his inner conflict while portraying a rich world around the character. Had a great resolution at the end that complemented the world-building very well.

"The Joystick War" by Jean Johnson was just plain, old fun. I could have done without some of the Alien diction (adding the extra "r" or "n" here and there), but the aliens themselves (cat-like, more or less) were really cool, and the story was just as cool (not to mention the Star Wars references in there made me LOL).

"The Hand of God" by Bryan Thomas Schmidt (the editor of the book and friend of the show) was edge-of-your-seat from sentence one. I loved the space-pirate/smuggler character the story focused on. It was cool to see a couple characters from the Davi Rhii Saga make appearences, and it makes me really excited to read the next in the series (The Returning).

My only complaints:

"Between the Rocks" by Anna Paradox was just a little lackluster for an opening story. It was well written and had a decent pace, but not enough world-building/character-development around the action.

"Guard Dog" by Mike Resnick and Brad R. Torgersen fell a little flat for me. I was surprised, given the clout that comes along with being a Mike Resnick story (he's pretty darn epic). The tech and science was really cool, but the story itself kind of rushed along and didn't really have the resonance it needed to be really really good.

Overall: 5/5. It's a great collection of stories even if you're fairly new to Sci-Fi (like I am: this is only, maybe, the third Sci-Fi book I've read recently). The stories, for the most part, are interesting, fun, and full of action and great characters. 

(Check out our series of interviews with Bryan on our podcast, The First Million Words, buy his book, The Worker Prince, and pick up Space Battles from Amazon)

Category:Book Reviews -- posted at: 3:43am EST
Comments[5]

Book Review: Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

Posted by Ben

Heir of Novron was amazing. So much so that I waited a full month before writing my review just to see if the effect would wear off. It didn't.

If you haven't read the first two (Theft of SwordsRise of Empire), do it now so you can feel that same sense of epic completion at the end of this one that I felt. This series attains something you don't see much in Epic Fantasy: the characters feel very personal while the plot revolves around a changing world. I was actually a little sad at the end. Don't get me wrong: I rushed through the story, hardly putting it down. But, at the end, I just wished there were another three books waiting for me, or something. This is not a bad thing, it's something else the series accomplishes wonderfully: a sense of closure with just a hint at the fact that the story is still being told.

I recommend this for anybody who likes Fantasy, character-driven stories, humorous dialogue, or just a well-developed, yet epic plot. I just about cried at the end, it was so satisfying.

You can really tell that the whole story was thought out (or fully written) before ink went to paper. I love when stories do this (see: Avatar: the Last Airbender), and the world was fleshed out and interesting enough to make me want to visit (I wonder if writing fan fiction would help?). I think Michael J. Sullivan is the master of developing characters I might be scared to meet in person, or would brush me off without a second glance at the beginning, but I would want to hang out with at the end. His characters progress and change so fluidly that you only really notice it when the character themselves think about how much they've changed. I'd also like to point out that the female characters are just simply amazing! It's refreshing that none of them are scantily clad warrior/rogues that, deep down, just need a man to hold them. They're strong and independent, and the male characters are just as vulnerable.

As far as setting and magic: It's mostly basic secondary world fantasy. The big difference being in the races and the politics between them. I love that elves and dwarfs are treated like animals by the humans, only to be nearly destroyed and then saved by a few members of these races. The magic was a bit lacking: no explanation of how it works, it just does (which isn't a bad thing; it keeps it mysterious).

My only complaints: Like I said, how magic works was never explained, and is just a little too powerful, making it almost Deus ex Machina. Also, one of my great joys in reading a book (especially now with a Kindle that let's me simply hi-light) is finding typos. I had to read through three entire books before finding the one typo in the whole series! And all it was was just a little "She noded" instead of "nodded". C'mon!

Overall: 5/5. I'm still kind of new to Fantasy fiction, but I still maintain that this is one of the best new series in the genre. It's a good read whether you're into this sort of thing or not. Do yourself a favor and read it. I could even see my kids reading it when they're older.

(Hear our interviews with Michael all through the month of May, and find his website here: Riyria.com.)

Category:Book Reviews -- posted at: 8:15pm EST
Comments[0]

Book Review: The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Posted by Ben

A very well written book, and a story very well told. It's nice to read a book where the heroes are heroes and the villains are villains. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of the Moses story with the Sci-Fi themes (although, the Moses story only involves the premise--it is by no means a mere retelling). The allusions to "Old Earth" gave the story a good grounding and a rich history. It's also nice to see a first-book-in-a-series that is able to work as a stand-alone novel. My only complaints: The names in the book along with some of the vehicles and robots were just a little too Sci-Fi-ey for me, and I would have liked to have seen the romance sub-plot stretched out just a little longer. Other than that, it's a great book to pick up. I would highly recommend it even if you are new to Sci-Fi. 

4/5:  I highly recommend it even if you are new to Sci-Fi. It's entertaining, family-friendly, and will keep you turning the pages until the very end. Can't wait for The Returning

(Hear our interviews with Bryan Thomas Schmidt all through the month of April, and check out his website here: BryanThomasSchmidt.net.)

Category:Book Reviews -- posted at: 12:00am EST
Comments[0]

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