New Book Review 3: Dirt

The third book I am reviewing is Dirt, by C.C. Hogan. This book is the first of a fantasy series of the same name, which at this moment includes the stories Dirt, Bloody Dirt, The Fight for Dirt, Hope, and Yona and the Beast.

The story is set on a fictional and fantastical planet with the notably less-fantastic name Dirt. Considering that our own planet’s name is synonymous with the brown substance that plants grow in, this name is not as strange as it sounds. Dirt is inhabited by humans, dragons, and various fictional animal species invented by the author.

The story centers on Johnson Farthing, a young man who is among the poorest working-class folk of his hometown. When Farthing’s sister Rustina is abducted, Farthing gets a magician named Weasel to help him in his quest to rescue her, kicking off a journey that takes these and several other characters across several continents of dirt. This makes for a fun adventure, but in many respects our brave protagonist becomes overshadowed by the more dynamic characters who surround him. In fact, for a fairly long stretch he fades into the background while the spotlight is stolen the magician Weasel and the dragon Fren-Eirol. These two are excellent characters in their own right, but they become more interesting than the protagonist and the reader somewhat loses sight of the protagonist due to them. Weasel and Fren-Eirol’s story shines, yes, but in shining it dims the light of Farthing’s story.

The book had a quite clever balance between being grounded (heh heh heh) and being whimsical, which for the most part I appreciated. The balancing act offered its challenges though. A lot of the story, most notably the parts where the dragons were prominent, felt like it could have been geared toward young adults or even children. Alternatively, the characters swear quite casually (well, not a ton of swearing. They say “shit” several times, but that’s all) and there is an underlying threat of rape throughout the story, a threat which is frequently invoked to serve a reminder why rescuing Rustina is important. In some respects I feel like the book struggled to find its tone, but in other respects I appreciate the mixture of the two moods.

There were a fair number of typographical errors, not as much as it could be but still enough to be occasionally jarring. These errors tended to travel in herds: I noticed sets of two or three pages which had several errors (confusing “desert” and “dessert” or “rode” and “road”, for example) followed by long stretches of error-free pages, followed by another set of pages with frequent errors. Perhaps during the editing process these places were gone over when the author/editor was working late into the night while carrying the burden of exhaustion. I can sympathize, but the classes I had to take to get a bachelor’s degree in writing have irrevocably damaged me to the point that I can’t see a typo without physically cringing.

On the whole, it was a strong addition to the fantasy genre, and I wish the author the best. I will probably read others in the series at some point. At the moment I am occupied with God Emperor of Dune, and it will take a bit of time to finish.

Now, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here:

New Book Review 1New Book Review 2New Book Review 3New Book Review 4

New Book Review 5New Book Review 6New Book Review 7New Book Review 8

If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.

New Book Review 2: Neosol: Maelstrom

 

The second book that I’m reviewing is Neosol: Maelstrom, the first of science fiction series ‘The Neosol Saga’ by Andrew Wales. Andrew and I were both students at Pacific Lutheran University, and he was a great help to me with understanding Amazon’s self-publishing process. We published our respective books within a week or so of each other, and I’m proud to give his work a review now.

Neosol: Maelstrom follows the life of a college student and mall cop named Jon Enger, who becomes an unwilling warrior in an extraterrestrial war against a race of evil lizard-people called The Brotherhood. The book draws extensively on the modern-day mythos of Ufology, with references to flying saucers, Grey and Nordic aliens, the “Roswell event”, international conspiracies and government cover-ups, and of course villainous shapeshifting Lizard People bent on galactic domination. The book’s main setting is Seattle, WA, a city both Andrew and I are quite familiar with. The fine details of the known real-world setting and the investigable alien background lends a degree of credibility which benefits the story greatly.

Jon Enger, our protagonist, has a storyline which has parallels to any number of superhero stories. Through events beyond his control (in this case, alien abduction), he develops abilities which turn him into an engine of total destruction, a Neosol soldier. The chaos and violence which stem from his abilities becomes a force he must learn to control, and the sudden pressure of being drafted to battle aliens becomes cause for a difficult double-life. Part of Jon’s crisis is keeping his life as a Neosol separate from his ordinary human life, and the narrative’s develop shows this to be impossible. Beyond the madness and mayhem of the alien warrior story is the story of a young man struggling to hold his life together. This struggle is conveyed in very human and very believable terms. Jon Enger is an action hero, but he is also a struggling college student. The balance between the two is struck very well.

I was particularly impressed with the book’s fight scenes. Each one is carefully plotted and choreographed. As far as I could tell, no details were overlooked. The violence was, however, quite over-the-top at times. When he gets going, Jon Enger fights like The Terminator or like a character from a video game. The fights are described with every burn, slash, and bullet wound included. Certain readers might be turned off by that, but for others it might be exactly what is desired in an action thriller.

Now, I know that Andrew has released two editions of this book, and the one I read was the first edition. The first edition had quite a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes (though they were mostly concentrated at the beginning and became fewer as the story progressed) and the sentences would have benefitted from being more concise.  I know that he corrected many of the mistakes in the second edition, which I have not read and which I am giving him the benefit of the doubt on.

Fans of sci-fi action and conspiracy buffs will take a great deal of pleasure from this book. I enjoyed it, and I can imagine somebody from a more specific target audience enjoying it even more.

Now, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here:

New Book Review 1New Book Review 2New Book Review 3New Book Review 4

New Book Review 5New Book Review 6New Book Review 7New Book Review 8

If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.

New Book Review 1: Sand and Scrap

I’ve decided to do a series of posts offering my review of recently-published books, with a focus on indie authors. This post is the first of the series. I’m reviewing Sand and Scrap,  the first novel of the dark fantasy series ‘Dregs of the Culver Waste’ by Chris R. Sendrowski. At the time of this post the  book is only available as an e-book.

This author, I think, likes Dune. If the sandworm wasn’t a dead giveaway, the use of the word ‘melange’ in a phrase spoken by a wizard certainly was. Nothing wrong with that; Dune is currently my favorite science fiction novel. In many ways the world in the novel resembles Frank Herbert’s desert world Arrakis, but more prominently it resembles the post-industrial hellscape of George Miller’s ‘Mad Max’ films. Slaves toil in impossible conditions, there is radiation and mutation and the abandoned scraps of a now-dead civilization, but the story finds place for more traditional fantasy aspects as well. There are wizards of sorts, spells and curses, and mystic monsters roaming or hiding in the landscape. The post-industrial aspect gives allows stand-ins for fantasy races as well. A Tolkienesque world would have its men and elves and dwarves and goblins, but this world has humans in stages of mutation depending on their place of origin. It’s a smart way to present an alternative to more typical fantastical races.

The world is hideous and brutal, and very well designed. As far as fantasy goes, I hadn’t seen anything quite like it before. The story within the world is quite good as well. Most of the major characters are memorable, and the situation they are drawn into has suspense and dangers and obstacles to overcome which make for a very interesting adventure.

One trouble with Sand and Scrap, unfortunately, was that it felt terribly unpolished. There were mistakes in the writing, lots of them. The prelude the worst for it. The mistakes get to be less frequent as the reader gets closer to the end of the book (and in the final thirty pages there are almost none), but even so, I cringed every time a word was misused or a punctuation mark misplaced or a paragraph improperly indented. There is a difference between a hyphen and a dash, and there is a difference between “it’s” and “its”, but errors in the use of these are all over the book. These problems could have been resolved by editing, either by the author having an independent editor or by the author putting in the painstaking hours to take care of all the edits himself. It’s a long and frustrating process, but this book needs it badly. I hope I haven’t upset Mr. Sendrowski by saying so, but this is what the book needs. The further books of the ‘Dregs of the Culver Waste’ series need to be more polished. They need to feel complete, as opposed to two drafts short of complete.

The story also contains what could certainly be read as a lot of homophobia. I was uncomfortable with in the same way that I am uncomfortable finding casual racism in books from, say, the Victorian Era. However, I don’t know exactly how the series is going to develop. Homophobia can be an aspect of the hellish wasteland without the series necessarily being homophobic, just as rape and misogyny an aspect of Westeros in George R.R. Martin’s  ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ while the series itself is not misogynistic as a whole. I’d prefer to withhold judgment regarding the prevalence of homophobia in the Culver Waste, but as it stands with just this one book, I have the impression that the book might just be irredeemably anti-gay.

Another problem is the way the point of view works. The reader is jolted back and forth between several different points of view (which is not a problem), in many cases put into the point of view of a new and unknown character who the reader has no reason to be invested in (which is a problem). This happens throughout the book, and the way it’s done is very disorienting.

To summarize, I really enjoyed the setting and I thought the story was fairly good, but the high number of writing errors in the text and the way point of view operates were real problems.

Now, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here:

New Book Review 1New Book Review 2New Book Review 3New Book Review 4

New Book Review 5New Book Review 6New Book Review 7New Book Review 8

If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.