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The Self-Published Fantast Blog-Off Post 2: Bloodrush & The Thief Who…

The Self-Published Fantast Blog-Off Post 2: Bloodrush & The Thief Who… published on

About the Contest

The Self-published Fantasy Blog-off (SPFBO) is sponsored by Mark Lawrence and carried out by 10 hard-working blogs. You’ve probably heard of Mark Lawrence. He’s written a few books.

The contests itself is explained HERE.

And the final results of the contest are given HERE.

Galleywampus is not directly involved in this contest. However, I will read and review the ten finalists. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll be invited to officially take part in the contest next year. I know I want a tower of independently published novels myself.

I’ve decided to write two reviews per post.

The first post can be found HERE, and featured Priest by Matthew Colville and Under a Colder Sun by Greg James.

This second post will feature Bloodrush by Ben Galley and The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung.

The books at the SPFBO are also being rated by the blogs, so I determined to add my own ratings to the mix. I gather that these ratings are on a 1-10 scale. I am comparing these books to my own general preferences, and these preferences tend toward the center. I don’t often assign a 9 or a 10, unless the book truly blows me away. I also don’t assign 1-3 ratings often, unless the book is really, truly something that I can’t find a good thing to say about it. Most of the books I review fall into that 4-8 range.

Reviews

 

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Bloodrush by Ben Galley is sort of like those old books about an old world teen coming to the American frontier. I’ve always wondered if I view these books differently because I am on the frontier end rather than the point of origin. But this isn’t quite By the Great Horn Spoon or “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.” The whole “feel” if this book is nostalgic.

This is a world similar to our own, but the tweaks are intriguing. America is a kingdom, at least in alternative 1867. Faeries are real and they’re not Tinkerbellesque. Spirits of the land, compiling bodies from railroad ties and rails and broken wood, destroy Railroads in America and eat people.

The magic (sorry, magick!) has been deeply considered, and I enjoyed that aspect. Bloodrushing is interesting, and it reminded me favorably of the magic system developed by Brandon Sanderson for Mistborn. Both involve ingesting a substance to obtain specific powers, and both are limited by what the person is capable of turning into a usable result.

Merion isn’t perfect. He’s a kid, thirteen, who has lost a great deal, and then shipped to another country to live with an aunt he didn’t know existed. I understand his perspective. Going from posh England to Middle-of-Nowhere Wyoming is tough to handle. He does whine a fair amount. But I’ve read a lot of YA and children’s fiction, and I don’t think it is more than I see in many of those works.

His aunt, Lilain, is fairly likable, in an eager frontier-woman sort of way. Rhin and Lurker are also somewhat stock, but I feel they overcome their humble origins and add something interesting to the tale. We see a few surprises through Rhin, and surprises always make me happy.

This is a coming of age story. We see a boy become a man here, and the sequel will likely follow the young man into adulthood.

I’m left with a wary feeling for this book in one area, and this is in regard to the native inhabitants to the Americas–the ones settlers forced into smaller and smaller areas while their land was taken away. You know, the Shohari. No, not the indigenous Americans, or “Indians” as some call them, or as they were often called in the 1800s. As far as I can tell, the Native American humans don’t exist here. Rather, there are humanoid inhuman, somewhat more animal than person, beings who take the place of the “majestic savage” here. Considering the amount of dehumanizing that happened to the Native Americans in the real world, it makes me awfully uncomfortable to see them erased and re-imagined for the sake of magical beings. I don’t think this was the intention of the author, but it kept popping into the back of my mind as I read the book.

Overall, I liked it. I liked it a lot. I enjoyed it enough that I picked up Bloodmoon already and will have a full review of that book up, er. Eventually.

Rating: 8.0

 

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The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by  Michael McClung.

This was an enjoyable tale. It felt sort of like a western, though it is obviously a fantasy work. The primary character, Amra Thetys, is a no-nonsense, frontier-woman feeling character who happens to be a hell of a thief. She tends to stay out of trouble, but she has a hard time keeping this philosophy when a good friend is murdered. She digs into the motivations and events that led to his death, and from there things get really weird. And dangerous. And fun–for the reader, anyway.

This was easily one of my favorite works from the blog-off. There is enough history and weird powers and secrets to keep things grounded, with enough action and humor to keep the book moving along at a brisk pace. It’s short, but I think it was the right length for the book. And knowing there are more books in the series, I’ve already downloaded the second book from Amazon. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into The Thief Who… stories.

Rating: 8.0

[Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman

[Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman published on

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Review

Jeremy Zimmerman’s Kensei is a tightly-plotted, dramatic-comedic YA superhero tale about a kick-ass bi-racial, teen, lesbian crime fighter named Jamie Hattori, who targets baddies in Cobalt City through her ability to communicate with the spirits of places and inanimate objects in the city. As if dealing with her own family, school, and relationship drama wasn’t enough, she has a massive deity problem to handle. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a shot. It’s a fun YA title with a nice crossover appeal.

The Kickstarted sequel, The Love of Danger, continues the adventures of Jamie Hattori. And now we’ve got undead, fascist villains and their robots, plenty of relationship (family, professional, and romance) drama, and Jamie’s new set of skills.

I love the backdrop, with Jamie working in a world already populated by well-known Cobalt City superheroes. Her experience is a bit like being a minor superhero in The Incredibles, but with less family togetherness and more getting smacked around by her racist grandfather. The shared world Zimmerman accesses gives him some interesting characters and events pre-fabricated, a history of conflicts and resolutions, of biases and trust issues that already populate the landscape. We also learn a great deal more about the conflicts and motivations of some of the awesome characters from the first go-round.

The first book gripped me more than the second, but The Love of Danger is an excellent follow-up and I am looking forward to where the series goes next.

 

Links:

Goodreads
Amazon

About the Author

Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

Three Very Good Reasons to Read Ship of Fools

Three Very Good Reasons to Read Ship of Fools published on

Ship of Fools is creepy as hell. Read it with the lights on, no matter how shiny your kindle is.

The take on religion is both honest and poignant. There are two religious main characters in Unto Leviathan: the bishop—grasping for power—and Father Veronica. The latter’s faith is true and deep. She believes firmly, and often retreats to the manufactured wilderness on the ship to pray and seek succor from God. The bishop, however, who has spent his life preaching and leading others, is revealed to have no faith. He uses religion like a boxing glove and a manipulative tool. Russo is a good enough writer that it’s easy to ignore the fact that the Church would not resemble itself after how many millennia from earth as we know it the ship is removed.

In the end, the story isn’t about individuals, or even about an institution as old and settled as the church. There are a lot of questions raised in the first part of the book. Who are the main character’s parents? Is the kid the son of the captain? How is it the dwarf hid from justice all those months? At first, it seems like finding out these answers will be part of reading the book. Part of me is irritated that these mysteries went unanswered—why set the mysteries up, if they won’t be explored? But the entire book skews when the danger of the alien ship is revealed. The author made a point to reveal these minor character threads as largely unimportant and petty against the menace and totality of the ship they found. It’s well done, but I still want the mysteries to be explained. That is simply how my head works.

Home to generations of humans, the starship Argonos has wandered aimlessly throughout the galaxy for hundreds of years, desperately searching for other signs of life. Now an unidentified transmission lures them toward a nearby planet-and into the dark heart of an alien mystery.

Review: In Light of the Blood Giant by A. D. Fosse

Review: In Light of the Blood Giant by A. D. Fosse published on

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About the Book

In Light of the Blood Giant
By A. D. Fosse
Genre: Animal Fantasy; Science Fiction; Dystopian; Apocalyptic
Superluminal Press
Publication Date: November 13, 2015

A. D. Fosse delivers a darkly different futurist fantasy. Offbeat, subversive, and richly grotesque. The apocalypse just got weird…

Long after the death of humankind came the Hive. Then rose the Blood Giant bringing chaos and the end. Now the Earth is done and all that remains are the discontinued: those the Hive deemed unworthy of evacuation.

Dusk is addled and abandoned. His only concern now is deciding how best to die. The only thing he knows for certain: he aint gonna be sober when extinction finally takes him. Yet hope hides in the strangest of places. And soon Dusk finds himself responsible for more than simply his own destiny.

Great. Another thing to love and lose.

Review

This is an odd one. I mean that in a good way. Mostly.

After humans abandon the earth completely, escaping the impending expansion of the sun from a yellow dwarf into a red giant, shuttling off into space to find a way to live, the swarm of rats came up, out of the depths of the earth and started their own civilization. Then, even the rats, evolved and intelligent and now with useful stomach pouches, realize that the earth isn’t habitable for much longer, and most of them–the ones who are pure or worthy, anyway–leave the earth as well.

This is where the tale begins–with a drug-fiend rat named Dusk, left behind by his betters to die. One of the strengths of Fosse’s tale is that his lead character is not human. This allows for some dark events–for example, a lead human character whose first “onscreen” acts are shooting drugs and eating some infants wouldn’t be likable. For a rat, we’re left remembering that rats aren’t people. They have their own societal norms, acceptable practices, and biological drives. Dusk isn’t especially likable to begin with, even aside from the drug dependency and the “ratricide.” But after his drug-aided consumption of several young rats and subsequent loss of consciousness, he awakens to discover that one of the tiny-tails is still alive. Having been abandoned to the earth’s destruction, Dusk doesn’t see much reason to try to save the infant. But he does feel that the little rodent deserves a better death. His feelings alter and change, we eventually see more of his past, and we see a different future than he imagined. The protagonist isn’t static by any means.

In some ways, this book is a bit like The Road meets The Rats of NIMH as told by a British version of a beat-generation author–William S. Burroughs, maybe. We meet some other interesting characters along the way: a sociopath called only “the Snowy,” a pure white rat who hasn’t dropped his job from before the establishment left; Astral, a black rat who is in dire straits when we meet her; some mysterious rats wearing masks, other rats that shave their heads and have a bone to pick. The setting seems to be (if I parsed it correctly) continental Europe and England, each owning about half of the book.

This book is non-traditional in every sense of the word. We even shift to several other third-person semi-limited points of view toward the end of the book, leaving Dusk behind for a brief time when the action is thickest.

On the critical side, this book could use another run of edits. There are several missed spelling errors, some areas that need clarification, and some metaphors that don’t fit the time, setting, or characters . Another set of eyes could bring this book from a flawed mid-draft of an intriguing concept to a hell of a book. I’d love to see the book get a deep combing through by a professional editor. In the meantime, I worry that this is a clever work that might be passed over by readers who don’t want to work so hard to get to the dark (but hopeful) story and characters underneath.

 

About the Author

Author close
A. D. Fosse is a physicist and science communicator from the East Midlands of England. His brain is rarely elevated more than five feet and eight inches from terra firma, though his thoughts are wafting somewhere in the clouds.

He is younger than some and older than others.

His first novel In Light of the Blood Giant, continues to be elusive to read whilst driving.

Links

Twitter
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Amazon
Publisher

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This tour was organized by Sage’s Blog Tours.

[Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 2

[Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 2 published on 4 Comments on [Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 2

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We’re pleased to be a part of Sci-Fi Month (Put on by Rinn Reads).

We’ve taken on the enjoyable task of hosting Week 2 of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. We are discussing the chapters “Port Coriol” through the end of “Cricket.” If you haven’t started the book yet, HERE BE SPOILERS.

If you have only completed the first four chapters, head over to the week 1 discussion at Over the Effing Rainbow.

This Read Along is specifically hosted by Lisa at Over The Effing Rainbow. She hosted week 1 and will host week 4. Week 3 will be hosted by Claire Rousseau. Keep your peepers open.

I’ve never been a Firefly fanatic. Heresy, I know. I enjoyed it. I especially liked the concept, the quirky characters, and the sheer fun a sort of “working-class” crew brought to space. The actors pulled off their roles perfectly. Firefly was about both the laughs and the feels.

For me, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet has been a fun experience, and the book fills the hole (at least for me) left by Firefly’s early demise. The characters are quirky and interesting, the book is funny, the science is “sciency” enough to satisfy most of us. The book asks some important questions, but it is always fun. So fun! Really fun.

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1. There has been significant conversation about AI, what it means to be alive, whether or not AI should have rights, whether or not a person can fall in love with a specific instance of AI, etc. This is a bit of a sticky situation. After the discussion between Pepper and Jenks, how do you feel about Lovey’s and Jenks’ relationship? Should they move forward with their plan?

I tend to be pro-rights. Bringing AI into the whole thing is interesting. But I lean toward letting individuals live their lives so long as it doesn’t harm the lives of others. This is complicated here by the fact that, potentially, AI could be dangerous. But so could every other being. With all of the inter-species relationships in this book (different alien species, I mean) I have to say that Jenks and Lovey should do what makes them happy. I do worry that it will create an issue with the captain. We’ll see!

2. In the chapter “Intro to Harmagian Colonial History,” we see Dr. Chef’s perspective of having been a mother, though he is currently male, and Sissix’s perspective that children aren’t people yet. Ohan is referred to as they/them. The Akarak are referred to as xyr/xe. These perspectives and preferences are perspectives actually held by different groups of humans in our own world. Do you think assigning these perspectives to aliens rather than humans make them easier or harder to sympathize with?

This is one of the things I like most about this book. It is hilarious, sure. It has me laughing out loud at night, almost waking my wife. But science fiction that asks questions about what it means to be human…science fiction that attempts to see from different sets of eyes, that’s what really gets my heart going.

Many of the characters are willing to treat others with respect. I like the idea that humans from different places will have different perspectives, and that aliens would come in all sorts of shapes, types and have all sorts of different perspectives and preferences, too.

3. How might the ship robbery have been different if the Wayfarer were armed?
This is a question that really comes up because of events in the chapter “Intro to Harmagian Colonial History,” but the in-book discussion occurs early on in the chapter “Cricket.” Sissix and Kizzy are noted as advocating for guns on board the ship. Ashby specifies that he doesn’t want any, and notes that anecdotally, he has never had this happen before and that it wasn’t likely to happen again. In thinking back on the events, we get inside Ashby’s mind in a third-person thought-bubble of sorts:

He touched his jaw. The bruises from the Akarak’s rifle were still fading. he revisited those horrible moments in the cargo bay, remembered how it felt to have strangers rip their way into his home. He recreated the incident, imagining a gun in his hand. Would he have fired? He couldn’t say. But imagining the addition of a weapon in that scenario made him feel safer. He no longer felt helplessness. He felt powerful. And that was what scared him. “I’m not comprimising my principles over this. That’s that.”

I don’t bring this concept up in a political sense. I am looking at it more as a cultural perspective. Sissix then ribs Ashby in a good-natured way, noting that his perspective was particularly Exodan. We see that Sissix has been influenced by cultural perspectives, by his own formative knowledge.

This particular situation worked out very well for the crew because Rosemary shared a language with the robbers. They lost items, stuff, but all lives were accounted for. Things could have gone differently. Sissix and Kizzy are both nervous about a repeat possibility, and Ashby is more afraid of what he’ll become if he kills than he is afraid of dying.

I love that the book is willing to take us through the thought processes of several characters who went through a similar experience, but came to different conclusions. This is one of the things that makes the story realistic. People internalize experiences in many different ways.

This particular situation would likely have had a much more violent ending if both crews were strapped with weapons. I do not make the specific argument that there are no situations in which guns would have been helpful or effective.

4. As I finished the fourth chapter in my section, “Cricket,” I thought it might be a good place to stop and talk about some of our favorite humorous moments so far. What scenes really tickled your funny bone? Who makes you laugh the most and why?

I don’t know if it is possible for me to pick a favorite character. I don’t know if it is possible to share a funniest scene. But I’ll choose one of each, as I asked the question, and it is only fair.

This is one of those questions that reminds me of the movie “Orange County.” When the English teacher, Mr. Burke, asks the students who their favorite Friends character is, Shaun is called upon and he says something like, “I don’t know, Ross, I guess.” And the teacher tells him no, that is the wrong answer. He accepts every other answer given. I feel like Corbin is the Ross of this question. I think every other character has funny moments, but Corbin…oh, man, that guy.

I am a little in love with Kizzy’s exuberant joy. Her scene from the chapter “Technical Details,” in which she sang “I ate a har – monica! These socks — match — my hat!” and “Step on –some– sweet–toast! Socks!” had me rolling. I can easily identify with singing the wrong lyrics of songs (Taylor Swift’s “Starbucks lovers,” anybody?)

One of my favorite lines from my four chapters was Kizzy’s: “But I am now starving. What sounds good? Noodles? Skewers? Ice cream? We’re grownups, we can have ice cream for lunch if we want.”

I also found Sissix’s molting angst humorous in “Intro to Harmagian Colonial History.” She is so cranky. Understandably so, but she just can’t catch a break. Then we find out that humans smell terrible to some species, but the humans didn’t even notice that Dr. Chef has been spiking their soap with anti-odor powder.

Book Spotlight: Shadows Collide by Dan Levinson

Book Spotlight: Shadows Collide by Dan Levinson published on

Shadows Collide cover

About This Book

The Orion Psi Corps is in shambles, the dead still being counted. And though Orion’s retaliation has begun, Calchis isn’t finished yet.

New Axom City—that’s where Nyne Allen has taken refuge in the wake of his desertion from Orion. Soon, it will become a battlefield, as forces from both sides barrel toward a collision that will change the world forever.

Meanwhile, in the Far East, Aaron Waverly learns the truth behind the red-robed man, and discovers a destiny that might one day spell the end of the world as he knows it.

Excerpt

1.

JANE DOE

Date Unknown

Location Unknown

 

1.
JANE DOE
Date Unknown
Location Unknown

The air was on fire.

As the blaze embraced her, she raised her hands, shielded her eyes; the billows of flame engulfed her as she screamed her defiance. The world blinked shut, like an eye closing, and when it opened once more, she saw faces, murmuring alarm. She tried to tell them they should leave her be, let her die in peace, her body still ablaze as if subsumed in the inferno. Yet before she could speak, wings of darkness enveloped her, carried her into oblivion.

When she surfaced again, she saw glaring lights.

She lay upon a gurney, moving swiftly through florescent-lit halls, the acrid stench of burned hair like a halo around her. Again, faces peered at her, their voices a low babble, distorted, as if through a tunnel. When a sudden movement jarred her, she howled, her vocal cords raw, like pulverized meat. Even the air rushing by tormented her.

What had happened?

She glanced about, eyes rolling, unable to move her head. A sign loomed above: Burn Ward. Another jolt shook her, and an animal sound escaped her throat as she lapsed again into unconsciousness.


She awoke in a white, sterile room, and for a moment thought she was somewhere familiar. But the hospital room was only an echo of a place she couldn’t quite recall, the memory slipping from her like sand through a sieve. She shifted in her bed, gasped, and only then looked down at her arms and hands, covered in bandages, the rest of her hidden beneath a thin, tan wool blanket. She could feel where those bandages compressed her flesh, chafed her raw throat, her belly, breasts, legs, and feet.

To her left, she saw a morphine drip, but could not reach it, the effort of moving her arm more than she could bear. She tried to cry for help, but now her voice came only in croaks and whimpers. She was trapped in her scorched body, no one to help her, while machines and monitors mocked her with ceaseless beeping.

A male nurse walked by the room, peered through the door’s glass pane, and she met his eyes, silently begging him for aid. He ran off, and for those next interminable minutes, each second seemed to her a test of will simply to exist. An inner voice told her to be strong, that she could make it through this, and she clung to it, the vague notion that she could endure all that she had. Mentally, she counted, One, two, three, four, five, those numbers like a life raft, though she did not know why.

At last, the doctor arrived—an austere, dark-haired man in a white coat, his eyes gauging her behind silver-framed glasses. She could read the pity on his face. “My name is Dr. Shipley,” he said. “You’ve been involved in a very bad accident. I don’t mean to alarm you, but you’ve suffered third degree burns over sixty percent of your body. Do you understand?”

She tried to nod while her mind processed. An accident? Of course. How else could she have ended up like this?

“How’s the pain?” Shipley asked. “I can increase the painkillers if you—”

“Hurts,” she rasped, her voice like sandpaper.

Shipley adjusted the morphine. “Your esophagus is damaged, from inhaling superheated air. I’ll ask a couple more questions, but keep your answers to one or two words. After that, no talking. Okay?”

She nodded again as the painkillers entered her system, making her woozy.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

She opened her mouth to reply, then closed it, the answer elusive. The pain had so consumed her that, until now, she hadn’t realized the details of her life were whispers and shadows lurking in unseen corners of her mind. She couldn’t remember her name, nor the accident, nor anything else. She choked back a sob, the force of it stabbing at her injured body.

“You don’t know?” Shipley asked.

Feebly, she shook her head.

“Well,” Shipley said, “given the trauma you’ve been through, it’s not unheard of. Unfortunately, when you were found, you had no identification, and your hands are too badly burned for us to take fingerprints. But don’t worry. When you’ve had the chance to recover, I’m sure it’ll come back to you.” He offered her a reassuring smile.

She knew he was trying to comfort her, and so restrained the urge to tell him to go fuck himself. Don’t worry too much? What kind of advice was that?

“Is the pain still bad?” he asked her. He fiddled with the drip again, and the room grew hazy, indistinct, before she could manage a word.

When she opened her eyes, the room was dark, all shapes indistinct save the colors on the monitor feeds. Burning, throbbing blanketed her. She rolled her head to the side, saw that the window shade lay slightly open, revealing the lights of an unfamiliar city—the greens and reds of traffic signals, the whites of far-off windows, the myriad colors of illuminated billboards. She had no idea where she was.

Despairing, she wept, and as the grief shuddered through her, it ignited her body anew, though she could do nothing to stem her tears. “Why?” she murmured. What sin had she committed that she was being punished so? “Why did this happen?” She didn’t care that she was not supposed to speak, for hearing her own voice reassured her; it was an anchor, even if it was a whisper.

And that was what she had become, she realized. A shadow of her former self.

A whisper.

 

About the Author

51tHGgkCExL._UX250_Dan Levinson is a NY-based writer of speculative fiction. Trained as an actor at NYU’s Tisch School of Arts, he also writes for the stage and screen. He grew up immersing himself in fantastical worlds, and now creates them. In addition to the Psionic Earth series, he is also the author of the upcoming YA fantasy novel The Ace of Kings, first book of The Conjurer’s Cycle.
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