Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Answering Review Request: Tethered Worlds Unwelcome Star

Gregory Faccone asked me to read his novel, "Tethered Worlds Unwelcome Star". It is a space opera concerning the politics between two space faring civilizations. I will examine Plot, Character and Polish, before assigning a grade.

PLOT

The plot starts out confusing. The first part is a In-Media-Res that consists of a single line before jumping back a little bit. This leads to a dramatic political rally that leads into a car chase and sniping.
The second part is a news segment that appears to be exposition for the world's setting. It's actually heavily biased propaganda but the reader won't learn that until later.

 
This is why As You Know is a useful trope despite how awkward it can be. Authors need to explain the world for the readers. When Adams Rush (the planet) is described as a "Sojourner's stronghold", what Mr. Faccone means is that it had a heavy concentration of a culture of people who were anti-Perigeum and vastly skilled in Mystic tech.  Based on the conventional definition of "Sojourner" I thought it was a vacation spot. I had no idea what was going on for dozens of pages, and in particular, why someone was going to so much trouble to kill the Wilkrest family. They did but I didn't.

Eventually, I get the full scope of the immediate conflict. There are these two major powers in space, Perigeum and Asterfraeo/Cohortium. They're basically The Empire and The Republic in that the former is (supposedly) oppressive and has "drone" citizens and the later is (supposedly) all about free and rugged individuals. The Perigeum bribed, threatened etc.  enough Assembly members on Adams Rush to push through a vote for Adams Rush to leave the Cohortium and join them. Their motivation for this is only briefly alluded to after several hundred pages; they're looking for fresh economic markets and resources. 

 The goal of the Wilkrest family is to recall the Assembly members who voted for the change, reverse course on it, and then call in the Cohortium's military in order to beat back the Perigeum's military that's parked around Adams Rush. The Perigeum plans to counter this by using their military, and their Faster-Than-Light-Travel technology known as "egress" to basically impose martial law on Adams Rush.
 
It was hard, at times, to take the conflict seriously. The villains here are one military commander (Legion) and one MiB style commander (The Archivers). The first one is so stoic and efficient he's little different than his AI and the second is a Smug Snake with sweating problems.  The Wilkrest family repeatedly states how awful it is to live in the Perigeum, and the egress is going to turn everyone on Adams Rush into a "drone" without going into the whys and the hows. The worst part of this is the implication that all of this conflict is rooted in a cultural clash within the movie industry. Here is a direct quote:
"EpiVADs and cineVADs were distributed far and wide from major media enclaves on the Six Sisters. Thinking and attitudes grew homogeneous. Those who refused to take their cues from the expanding popular culture became increasingly ostracized. A new wave of outward migration was fueled by such cultural holdouts."
Yes, political corruption, assassination, and space fleets moved by the establishment and counter culture movements centered on movies.
 
There's interesting world building. A lot of thought has gone into this world's history, politics, technology (medicine, spacecraft, computer, textile).  There would be times where whole pages were nothing but narration about this or that. I must admit I found them more fun to read than the main plot. This is not to say that the main plot was bad but that the world building was better.
 
There's an issue of time. The crux of the plot is that travel between planets and solar systems etc. takes a long time without an egress. Yet Jordahk goes to two places that are described as being remote and distant from everything and then returns to Adams Rush between the time when the egress arrives and before it activates. There is no mention of how much time passes. I had to re-read the first part of the novel to realize that the whole story covers six months. It's confusing.
Also, an egress has to travel someplace the long way itself right? Then shouldn't it have taken months or more just for the egress to arrive at Adams Rush? Why did it turn up on the morning of the vote to allow it? Was there some process beforehand or was it sent in advance, believing that the vote would go through?
 
There are four point of view characters. There's Jordahk on his journey with his grandfather, his parents on the home front, the military commander and the Archiver commander. All of them focus on Adams Rush egressing, so they have plenty in common, but the latter three are unnecessary for Jordahk, or Jordahk is unnecessary for them. It's a bloated thing.

This story has a good ending in the style of  And The Adventure Continues. This is a clear "the end of the first battle of the war" sort of thing. The main conflict is closed but the series conflict is still open and there are plot threads for sequels.  
 
CHARACTERS
 
 
Jordakh is sort-of the protagonist. He has one of four viewpoints but he's basically the main one. He was raised in his parent's security business so he has little life experience outside of missions and training. He's also an Amazon Chaser; he lost his heart to Glick as soon as he saw her sparing. His Beware The Nice Ones trait is an appealing contrast with his AI companion, who is gruff and mischevious.

His grandfather is this classic wise old mentor figure. He has impressive technology and cunning tactics. One thing that I find annoying about him is that he never tells anyone, not even his grandson, his objectives or what it is that they're doing. Either he's making it up as he goes, or Mr.Faccone wants to keep everything mysterious.

I like the sibling sidkicks, Glick and Cranium. They are a Sibling Team of Brawns and Brains that become Jordakh's allies through Defeat Means Friendship. The three of them together make for both an effective and entertaining team.

The two Perigeum villains are distinct from each other but part of the Perigeum monolith. It's like a Cohortium propaganda cineVALD; on one hand is the merciless military man focused on taking over their planet and on the other is the petty power tripping Archiver who will spy on every part of their life looking for Mystic tech to exploit for his devious purposes. Everyone working for them is a either a mindless killer machine, enslaved AI, or mooks disguising themselves as civilians.


POLISH


No spelling or grammar errors that I could find.

This story is long enough and has a big enough scope to be two stories. One of them covers the away mission and the other the home front. Both of them are interesting but they are largely separate from each other. This sort of fusion is better handled than others I've seen. It doesn't harm the narrative; just make it twice as long.


Trickster Eric Novels gives Tetthered Worlds Unwelcome Star a B+

Click here for the next review request: "The Warble"

Click here for the previous review request: Alpha Hunter


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Journey to Chaos special promotion: FINAL HOURS!

BEWARE THE MONSTER!

That's the emotion at the center of Journey to Chaos book 3; raw, primal and omnipresent fear.  "Mana Mutation Menace" refers to a global problem in the fictional world of Tariatla. Mana is the foundation of society and a cornerstone of culture, and has been for ages. Its ambient form is harmless but at high concentrations it can turn people into monsters. Fear of these monsters is another age old foundation of society and cornerstone of culture.  My protagonist, Eric Watley, has found himself between these two stones.


Due to a battle with an evil sorcerer, Eric has both experienced mana mutation and recovered from it. Because of this, he has become both the fear and hope of the world. There are those who believe his transformation will lead to tragedy as his new monstrous mindset terrorizes their communities. Conversely, there are those who believe it will lead to hope for current and future victims if it can be replicated.  At the worldwide Mana Mutation Summit, these two camps will clash with Eric at the center.


For this third adventure,  Eric's chief foe is neither a scheming nobleman nor any breed of mage, but the specter of mana mutation and the fear it provokes in the hearts of people everywhere. 


To celebrate the release of the third book in the Journey to Chaos series, I started a promotion this past weekend. Now it is hours from ending. Series-wide deals like this are rare. If fantasy is your thing, be sure to check it out while it lasts.


1. A Mage's Power FREE (until midnight tonight)


A fabulous YA fantasy adventure! Wilkerson masterfully combines threads reminiscent of Manga/ Anime hits Naruto, Fairy Tail, with bits of Bleach tossed in for fun. 
-Sarah E Bradley, reviewer for InD' Tale Magazine


2. Looming Shadow $1.99 (until 10:00 PM tonight)


Looming Shadow picks up in The Trickster's world where A Mage's Power left off. Book 2 in the Journey to Chaos series is fantastical and funny-- consistent with the fantasy genre with vivid imagery, entertaining battle scenes, and the diverse characters from Book 1 that are quickly becoming "beloved" to this reader. The novel, even with a fairly long length, moves at a fast, page-turning pace that will leave you breathless!
-Hercules Editing and Consulting

3. Mana Mutation Menace: $2.99


"Eric Watley is a character I could relate to in a strange sort of way as he figures out who he is, what he can do and what is really important to him. I like his love interest, Kallen Selios, too and watching them figure out who they really are is part of the fun of Mana Mutation Menace. I'm a sucker for medieval type societies and I love science fiction and Brian Wilkerson cooks up an original weird mixture of both here. This world has balance."
-Ray Simmons, reviewer for Reader's Favorite

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sassy Saturday: Annala the Archer vs Samael the Reaper

Welcome to another week of the Sassy Saturday Blog Hop. Its purpose is to showcase excerpts from our novels about kick-butt heroines. Every Saturday is a new post. If you want to join, the link is here.

This week's post is special. I released the third book in my Journey to Chaos series yesterday, it is called Mana Mutation Menace. In its honor, I decided to share an excerpt from it. This scene stars Annala Enaz. She is in both A Mage's Power and Looming Shadow but it is not until this book that she gets a chance to shine as a "kick-butt heroine".

As for context, Samael is a reaper as in "grim reaper". She's trying to recruit Eric as her subordinate reaper because of events that occurred at the end of Looming Shadow.
_______________________________________________________

Suddenly, Samael’s right hand was around Eric’s throat and lifting him off the ground. Her left hand grasped the shaft of his spear. Her Divine Presence smothered his entire being; body, mind, and soul. Her eyes bore into him with a power beyond that of Evil Eye.

"Tasio is not here now. He is in the Abyss and will not be able to hear you."

“In... that case…” Eric gasped. It was getting hard to breathe and he had already lost feeling in his fingers and toes. “Samael, please trans—”

A shimmering arrow streaked across the night and head-shotted Samael. It made her physical form flicker. The reaper couldn't remember the last time she’d felt pain. Standing just off the bridge was her attacker, an elf in a nightgown. Her body shook with the cold and yet she was sweating nonetheless. She panted and her teeth clattered, but she still wheezed out, "That won't be necessary."

Annala stared down Samael like a warrior stares down a monster. In her hands was a gleaming white bow with golden filigree. She drew a second arrow, notched it, and it gleamed as well. Instant runes shone beneath her feet as a magic circle.

"Good evening, Angel of Death. What do you think of my Death Killer bow? I made it myself in my mother's lab."

With effort, Samael removed the first arrow and crushed it into nothingness. Despite the pain and annoyance this caused, her serene expression remained.

"It is effective but presumptuously named. You cannot kill me. No matter how many—”

Annala lodged a second arrow in her forehead and a third in her throat and a fourth in her chest. Samael's form flickered so much it disappeared, and the arrows fell to the bridge. Annala notched a fifth and fired it just as Samael reappeared. This time, the reaper caught it.

"Elf, you try my patience," she said as the arrow burned her hand. "This boy must become a reaper for the sake of the omniverse."

"That’s preposterous!" Annala nocked a sixth arrow. "He's kind and heroic and saves lives! He'd never be happy as a cold and ruthless arbiter of death like you!"

"Hmmm... How odd." Samael reached into a skirt pocket. "Lord Death supposedly has a high public approval rating in this country." She pulled out a book and leafed through it. "I suppose it could be because you're an elf but... Ah ha. Here we are; Annala Enaz, niece to Morrir Enaz. When he arrived, he listed your despair as one of his regrets." She looked up with the disinterest of a busy bureaucrat. "Didn't a reaper come by and address that?"

Just for that, Annala released the sixth arrow. "Hit and run murderer!"

Samael deflected and tsked. "Yes, I imagine Reno Grade wouldn't give a shit about mortal grief." Suddenly, her hands clutched Annala's neck. "Then again, neither do I."

Fear of the reaper threatened to send Annala into shock but her hatred of it enabled her to power through her fear. She smacked the nether creature with her bow. Again, Samael’s form flickered and she grew two more arms to restrain Annala's. By now, the girl was suffocating and, with her last breath, she shouted, “Tasio! Ta—”

Samael broke her neck and tossed her aside. "Even elves can't shrug that off.”

She phased out of Eric’s spear charge and caught him in her arms. She wrapped them around his chest and drew him against her well-developed form. She giggled at his blush.

"You humans are always like this, regardless of your gender."

She leaned in close enough to breathe on his face and Eric felt consciousness leave him. Since the transformation process was basically rebirth into a minor god, it would be horrific and traumatizing. So much pain and he’d have to remember it for eternity. It was a professional courtesy for the contracted to be put to sleep for the duration.

"Did you ever wonder where the term 'kiss of death' came from?"
_________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
To learn more about Annala and her world, visit Tvtropes at http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/AMagesPower.
Mana Mutation Menace, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, are available for purchase at http://amzn.to/10NsG2i. Speaking of which, there is a special Promotion for the Journey to Chaos series!
To celebrate the launch of book 3, Mana Mutation Menace, I have created a weekend long promotion of the series. From now until Tuesday, A Mage's Power will be free to download and Looming Shadow will be discounted. Until 3:00 PM Sunday, Looming Shadow will be only 99 cents, and after that, it will be $1.99 until Tuesday evening, at which point it will return to its normal price of $2.99

 

 



Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sassy Saturday: The Danger of Dark Staff


Welcome to another week of the Sassy Saturday Blog Hop. Its purpose is to showcase excerpts from our novels about kick-butt heroines. Every Saturday is a new post. If you want to join, the link is here.

This week's post connects with the last one. It's not a perfect connection because of the 800 word limit. I had to cut out about 187 words between this week's post and last week's. It was basically Eric running to Tiza, telling her what he saw (the last post) and her expressing her glee about such an opportunity.

_____________________________________
“Uh . . . I don't think we should go without Nolien and Basilard; it's too big for us.”

“I know!” Tiza said excitedly. “And that's why we'll get a big reward when we succeed!”

 What's all this confidence based on?

“Do you have a plan?”

“‘Course I do,” Tiza replied. “Spider Daylra's an expert on rescues and she drilled her knowledge into me. Here's what we do . . .”

The sounds of battle at the center of the stadium grew fainter and fainter until silence reigned. Eric couldn't hear anything other than his own breathing and that of Tiza’s right next to him. The artificial darkness almost hid her from view. Despite all this, Tiza didn't appear lost.

Of course, she was pretending. It was the same thing at the Dragon's Lair; Women's Intuition. She even closed her eyes as if that would make it work better. At least she's prepared . . . Eric saw her holding her sword out in one hand and shield close by in the other. For one reason or another, she said she saw two suspicious humanoids guarding the path ahead.

“HEELLP! HEMM!”

“What have we here?” Tiza whispered. “Cries for help beyond obviously evil minions in black cloaks? All right, Dimwit. Let's put my plan into action.”

Apparently, the guards were as blind as everyone else in the Dark Fog. The two mercenaries flanked and knocked them out, the Dark Fog muting their attack. They entered just in time to see the princess stuffed into a sack. More luck . . . or was she right about Women's Intuition?

Whatever their leader did to her had worn off, but it bought them enough time to make her helpless with rope. She shouted something muffled and the sack was pulled over her head. The leader hauled the bag to his shoulder when mana bolts pelted him and he dropped her. Tiza rushed in under Eric's cover fire and darted for it.

A mage stepped forward and thrust the staff. The mana bolts splashed against its barrier. It dimpled as Tiza collided before repelling her like a rubber ball. She flew backwards and crashed on her back. Eric took aim, but they were faster. A force like a mule kick hit him in the chest and drove the breath from his lungs.

 Eric couldn't see the mage’s eyes, but the smile was a wicked grin. “Is this it? A pair of rookies?” a feminine voice asked. “The princess might not be worth stealing . . .”

Tiza jumped to her feet.

“And you; you look like you barely know how to use that sword.” Tiza lunged, but her enemy blocked with the staff. Tiza swung overhead and was blocked again. Right, left, thrust, cross, the mage casually blocked every strike. “See what I mean?”

She swung her staff at the left side of Tiza's head, but Tiza blocked it and was struck on the other side when the rogue reversed the staff. Stunned, the staff came down on her head, then jabbed her stomach. Tiza collapsed, gasping for air and blinking back tears. Dark Staff stomped on Tiza's sword hand and kicked her weapon away.  

“Dark Staff!” the leader called. Over his shoulder was a squirming sack. “Stop playing.”

“Oh, all right . . .” The bottom of the woman's staff grew a blade of blue light. “I never get to have any fun . . .” she muttered as she plunged the point on Tiza's neck.

Eric could only watch. This woman was more powerful than both of them were and he still couldn't breathe properly. He was just as helpless as the girl being carried away, not a foot from him. Useless! Tiza rolled out of the way and jumped to her feet. Why am I so useless!? It's Laharg all over again. The leader slipped into the darkness. This is real. We're really going to die! Tiza choked down tears. Her hands glowed with the blue light of mana bolts.

“So you want more, huh?” Dark Staff said. “I guess I can spare a little time.”

Tiza fired. Dark Staff didn't budge. She didn't need to; her barrier stopped them for her. Tiza lunged for her sword and fired again. With a spin of her staff, Dark Staff reflected them all back at her. One, two, three and Tiza was knocked to the ground. Dark Staff chuckled as Tiza struggled to her hands and knees before falling again.

“It’s been fun, Wannabe, but—”

“Take. That. Back.” It was soft, but also a growl, and so cold that Eric felt a chill. Even though she was on his side, and even though she was face down in the dirt, he was afraid of her.



______________________________________________________________



To learn more about Tiza and A Mage's Power, visit Tvtropes at http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/AMagesPower.

A Mage's Power, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, are available for purchase at
http://amzn.to/10NsG2i


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Answering review request: Alpha Hunter

G.S. Luckett asked me to review his novel "Alpha Hunter". It is a vampire hunter story taking place in medieval Europe. I will examine plot, character and polish, and then assign a grade.

PLOT

The opening is great. It is mysterious without being pretentious, it is well described and sharp with language. It features a cinematic battle sequence. I could see it in my mind clearly. The phrase "Rule of Cool" is fitting for it, but it is also used to initiate the main plot.

The main plot is pretty and straightforward. There is this dead vampire that the bad guys want to revive in order rejuvenate their race and expand their territory. They need the pieces of this one map in order find his tomb. The heroes are trying to stop them by finding the pieces first. This is the reason for the pitched battles that take place.

You would think this is a standard You Can't Thwart Stage One, but you'd be wrong. Mr. Luckett plays with this trope in three ways, one for the heroes and two for the villains. They are nice twists that add a little life to a plot that is otherwise nothing but battle and exposition.

This book reads more like a movie script than a book. I imagine it would look amazing on screen, but on paper it falls flat more often then not.  There is a battle, a little exposition, and then another battle in a new location. In that sense it is also like an early video game; the ones where the hero starts in a dungeon and spends 90% of the game fighting alone.

The ending has a satisfying conclusion. The current Evil Plan is averted (for now) but The Adventure Continues.

CHARACTERS

Characterization for everyone is scant. Alexander Damascus is this stoic action hero working on duty. Demitra is his faithful sidekick who is better at socializing.  They're working with a couple mercenaries and a priest who have just enough characterization to be more than red shirts.

The villains are little better. There's Adrielle, the vampire Queen, and her two lieutenants. One of them is her treacherous personal attendant and the other is the loyal field leader of her army.

POLISH

Grammar and spelling are acceptable. It's not perfect and I found a couple errors but it's nothing serious enough to affect the grade.

Then there's the quality of the prose. The first and last scene are great in the way they are written. They are smooth and animated. It's a professional polish. The middle parts are just bland. Simple description without any life to them.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Alpha Hunter" a C+

This has been a free review request. I received nothing in exchange except a free copy of the book.

Click here for the next review request: Tethered Worlds, Unwelcome Star

Click here for the previous review request: "The Black, the White and the Grinning Grey"