Book Review: Walking Into Trouble

Geoff LePard is a popular blogger ’round these parts, and some bloggers have been urging me to read his works for a while. So, when I received a review request from him through my Review Request Page, I knew I had to read it!

That being said, it’s not my usual genre, so hold onto your butts.

The Book

Walking Into Trouble
Author: Geoff LePard
2020
Amazon Link

As a note for people who are thinking about this book: there are a lot of intense sexual implications, innuendo, and scenes. The book is not erotica, but sex takes a front seat of importance in the story. I’d honestly classify this as a “sex mystery,” as the story is essentially about trying to solve problems surrounding who slept with who and when. Those who are triggered by intensely sexual content may want to be aware before reading the book (or, honestly, before reading my review).

Non-Spoiler Review

Walking Into Trouble is in a genre I’m not quite sure I’ve read before. It’s in this liminal space between mystery, soap, and contemporary. It has a very unique structure built around the central backbone of “three men on a long set of walks.” There’s a lot of timeline skipping and many different narrators, but LePard adds each piece of the puzzle in a sensible, understandable way. It’s hard to have a non- or semi-linear plot work out, and he pulled it off here. Another feat was how well he incorporated multiple narrators with this non-traditional plot structure.

The story also leaves you hanging while you wait for the next clue. It gives you red herrings, it leads down misbegotten paths and into deep truths, and it shoves you into desperate situations along with the characters. The problems faced by Chris, Marty, and Peter were very intense, and the combinations of their secret worries threatens to tear their friendship apart throughout the whole book. This constant drive kept the book engaging and held the tension through to the end.

One of the characters I enjoyed reading about the most was Felicity. She wasn’t a main character, but the role she played was essential to spreading just the right amount of rumors without solving anything. Her motivations were always a little cloudy (at least until the end) that you couldn’t quite trust her gossip. I thought she was well done.

Something that was difficult was how sleazy all of the characters (main or otherwise) were. I swear, if one of them contracted an STD, probably all of them would have caught it immediately. I couldn’t really identify with any of the three main characters or Diane because of how much sleeping around was done. All the sleeping around was necessary for the plot to work out (“who the baby daddy” was of course one of the main questions), though, so it made sense as I read. It was still probably the most difficult part of the book for me, and ultimately I think I’m not a big fan of the genre.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I don’t really do spoilers reviews for indie books, so I’m going to complain/whine/chat about something irrelevant.

What kind of walking trail puts you at a different city/town at the end of each day? A trail on which you can just head to a hotel after a day’s walk? I’ve never heard of such a thing. I’ve never hiked/backpacked/walked on a trail that worked that way in even the remotest fashion. Is that type of trail an English thing? Or am I just crazy and haven’t found one of those trails in America before?

Or, do they do lots of switcheroos with cars at either end of the day’s hike? However the methodology, the fact that the three main characters would walk for the day and then have *access to a hotel every night* blew my fricking mind. No eating spilled spaghetti off a rock? No bear bags or water purification tablets? What kind of walk was this!?!

Anyway, rant over.

Next week:

It’s time for Secrets of Plants in the Environment, my first non-fiction indie book read!

Book Review: We All Die In the End

Elizabeth Merry is a prolific blogger who writes fantastic stuff. Her prose is always delicious, and she’s so nice! And, despite that kind exterior, she offers this book of dark tales set in a seaside town. I was excited to read this and see what she had in store.

Many of these stories had been elsewhere showcased in other anthologies, so it’s also possible you’ve seen one before, but never packaged so neatly like this.

The Book

We All Die In the End: Scenes From a Small Town
Author: Elizabeth Merry
2020
Amazon Link

This is a book of 19 shorts focused on various characters that live in the same seaside, Irish town. As a warning, some stories in the book are incredibly dark and many either contain or hint at emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. There are explicitly sexual things in the book, though not at great detail for each scene in which they appear. Because the stories are all shorts, however, any content that may be unacceptable to a reader can easily be skipped and other stories enjoyed.

On With The Review

Without a doubt, this collection of short stories was the most well-curated of any I’ve seen. Not only did the stories fit together well thematically, and not only did they have the same general setting, but they wove into each other by mentioning various characters that showed up later. For instance, the first story is about Arthur, but he talks about Jennifer and her dogs. Jennifer shows up in the next story, and they introduce other characters. Carmel works at the grocer’s, and Julia and Sadie down at the pub are mentioned repeatedly.

It. Just. Works.

Most of the stories make you think, and many contain complex social relationships that only reveal themselves in their fullness at the end. That being said, I sure wouldn’t want to live in this town – too many bad guys and terrible people! There weren’t many characters I could really get behind and root for, as many of them were morally gray or completely decrepit. Even so, they were all interesting, and Merry writes very well.

When I review collections of shorts, I also like to select a few stories to talk about in more detail.

The Favorite: Myrtle

I LOVED the Myrtle scene. Because the story was told with a narrator positioned just behind Myrtle’s shoulder and with Myrtle’s personality in mind, I couldn’t get a true physical description in my mind. That being said, when the little kid was afraid of her at the grocer’s, I immediately went to “completely insane cat lady” in my head. I was not disappointed. It went from crazy to VERY CRAZY in the span of no time, and Myrtle was just the best. I loved her, she was terrible, it went great.

Meow.

The Standout: Angela

This was probably the most different from all the other stories. Though it took place in the same town, it felt somewhat cloistered away from the rest of them because of its focus on the nunnery and school. How it turned out was completely unexpected, and it’ll probably be the last story that goes fuzzy in my head.

Least Favorite: Eugene Curran

This one was the very last story in the book, and to be honest, I had to stave off writing the review for a few days because I knew it would linger in my mind and spoil what was otherwise a great collection. This one was the most horrifying and abusive, and I was never really sure what the storyline was except for being about Eugene’s abusiveness and baseless paranoia. It did, in a way, come full circle to the paranoia seen in the first story, but it enveloped the lives of others who were terrified and prevented from escaping domestic abuse. While abuse was present in other stories, this was the only one so deeply dark that I couldn’t get my interest up.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

It’s a new month! Stay tuned!

Book Review: His Name Was Zach

Last year, I reviewed the second book in this series – Her Name Was Abby – and was absolutely blown away. Because the third book (out now, but not at the time) was coming, I decided to back up a hot second and read the first book in the series: His Name Was Zach.

The Book

His Name Was Zach
Author: Peter Martuneac
2019
Amazon Link (and hey, if you’re reading this in the couple days after the review dropped, book’s FREE right now!)

I really enjoyed the second book in the series last year, and I will say you can easily read that second book without reading the first. I like it when books give you that option, so feel free to look at that review and consider it if this one doesn’t look like you.

Like with Her Name Was Abby, I wanted to say here that some rather intense and somewhat violent situations occur within the book. This book also has more sexual themes and violence, and the amount of information and events that could be upsetting are more numerous in this book. They are, indeed, well done, and it’s very clear who the good guys are, but you might want to know these things are coming if you’re considering the read.

Non-Spoiler Review

Super action-packed, fast-paced, and contains ups and downs in tension that keep the story interesting throughout. The chapters and mini-storylines are somewhat episodic, but they build to a “season finale” at the end of the book that’s worth sticking around for.

At first, I was a little worried about how useless Abby seemed to be, but there was a huge turning point early in the book where she made the decision to “grow up”. Martuneac, who is great at metaphor and symbolism, excellently coupled this change with hints and foreshadowing with what was to come. Even though Abby shared a smaller portion of the narrator’s attention with Zach, paying attention to her gives a better sense of what’s coming.

Speaking of Martuneac’s inherent artfulness in writing, he continues an amazing spree of American history allusions. I don’t think it was as fully developed in this volume as in the second book, but it’s still got this post-reconstruction, going-out-west sort of feel. It’s filled with the ideas of individualism, struggle against the wild (the zombie-infested landscape is known as The Wild), and dealing with those people who are fleeing civilization in order to fulfill their own sick ideas of pleasure.

For better or worse, the villains were truly villainous. It doesn’t take a long time to meet Henry, so I think it’s not a spoiler to say that guy was REALLY terrible. You’ll hate him, and you’ll love to hate him. Genuinely terrible person.

Perhaps it’s because I read the second book first, but I’m a terrible person and will compare it a little bit to Her Name was Abby. This book was genuinely enjoyable, but I must admit Abby was better composed, written, and complex. Like I said above, Henry was really, really bad, and he posed a good villain because you just wanted him to die. His presence and activities in that early piece of the book did serve to better define main characters Zach and Abby, but he was a bit on the “moustache twirling evil” side. Later villains introduced in different “episodes” within the book were a bit more complex (Vicky, the Irishman, to some extent Mayor Calvin), but they didn’t have the political and emotional complexity of the villains in book 2.

Ultimately, part of what this book does is prepare you for the end. It’s a building experience, and then that ending is like “OMG.” You kind of know it’s coming since Martuneac uses foreshadowing like an absolute boss, but it still hits like a truck.

Anyway, long story short, these human-focused, post zombie-apocalypse books are really good. Zach has a few more awkward tell-instead-of-show moments, but as a whole I would recommend it, especially so you can enjoy book 2 to its fullest.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

Spellbound, an anthology put together by David Alatorre and including a story by Robbie Cheadle, comes to the blog next week! Stay tuned!

Book Review: Liars and Thieves

I have reviewed three D. Wallace Peach books in the past (See reviews for The Melding of Aeris, Soul Swallowers, and Legacy of Souls). She’s written reliably good works, and I am excited to start a new series.

The Book

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Liars and Theives
Author: D. Wallace Peach
2020
Amazon Link

I was interested in this book because one of the main characters is a goblin. That’s not an ordinary trope or common thing, and unusual characters or ideas always attract me. A bit about the blurb: it seems like the book will mostly be about the Lord of Chaos, but at least this installation in the Unraveling the Veil series is about three mortals and not so much of the Lord of Chaos.

Non-Spoiler Review

Liars and Thieves was, as a whole, an enjoyable book. The world was complex and entertained a full suite of political situations, alliances, and treaties. The three major races – elves, goblins, and changelings – all work around a treaty that keeps them at peace… for the moment. Each race had political jurisdiction in a different environment, as well; it’s so often you get fantasy or sci-fi worlds that are homogenous and either feel like “everything is England” or “everything is Norway” or “everything is the Sahara”. The wide variety of weather, climate, and vegetation added a richness to the setting.

The inciting incidence – a mine collapses, and everyone inside mysteriously disappears – causes the elves to suspect the goblins of foul play. Similar events over large portions of the world shared by these races occur, and racist opinions on the cause abound. The palpable tension over something to which blame couldn’t easily be attributed was great. The political fragility of the whole situation made me feel like it was a 3-way Cold War, rife with spies, weapons of mass destruction, and utter terror of the populace.

Out of the three main characters – Alue the elf, Talin the changeling, and Naj the goblin (well, half-goblin half-elf, but it seems there’s some one drop rules in this world regarding goblins) – Talin was my favorite. Then again, I’m a big fan of people hiding secrets about their true identities. I loved Talin’s parts as a spy, and I liked his shifting loyalties and thoughts. Naj reminded me a lot of Spock from Star Trek. The goblins were overwhelmingly logic-oriented, and Naj as a half-goblin had to struggle with greater emotional imbalance.

(Spoiler for like the first 3 chapters or something coming up). Alue? I liked her less than the other two. She is an officer in the elfin army and was initially sent to look over and protect a mining operation near the borderlands. After the mysterious earthquake, she decides to blame Naj and chase him. As soon as I read about this decision, I thought, “That’s dumb. She should have sent someone else.” And, sure enough, it was a dumb move. Foreseeing that made me feel smart, but Alue continues making poor decisions, which led me to wonder why she was in the army at all. She often relies on others to rescue her and fails to move forward. While I’m interested in her relationships with Naj and Talin, I wasn’t really able to get into Alue for her own sake.

Lastly, the book did feel like an intro to the rest of the books. There were solutions to the main problem of distrust between the main characters and how to bind them together, but it seemed the main point of the book was to get the three together and introduce the main problem of the series. As such, it didn’t have as powerful plots as Soul Swallowers or The Melding of Aeris, also by Peach. I still think it was fantastic, especially for an indie book, but so far I like the other two better.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

This book is still very new, so I’m not going to spoil much. However, I will spoil just a bit concerning what I want to keep an eye out in the coming book and why:

Talin was sent as a changeling spy in the elfin empire. He latched onto Alue because of her family, political, and military connections. Disguising himself as a weasel familiar, he lived closely with her and was very involved in her life. Then, once he must reveal his identity, their relationship must change immediately. She knows he’s humanoid, but he’s seen her naked etc. while pretending to be an animal. She’s got a steady relationship, and Talin is still smitten with his queen. I kind of want to know where that is all going!

Next week:

Last year I read Peter Martuneac’s Her Name was Abby. This time I’m actually reading the first book in the series, His Name Was Zach. Let’s see if I like it as much!

Book Review: 1NG4

This was me taking a chance on a book gotten on a Free Book weekend. The book was short enough, though, that I wanted to go ahead and share it with y’all rather than hold back!

The Book

ING4
Author: Berthold Gambrel
2019
Amazon Link

I found Berthold Gambrel’s website through Peter Martenuac’s website. He writes extremely thoughtful reviews (including one of my own free book, American Chimera, which simultaneously makes me feel nervous and very proud), and I thought someone with such detailed thoughts and good writing skills would write a good story.

Non-Spoiler Review

1NG4 was an intriguing story (was it a short? I think it was more of a novella, maybe novelette) with a great setting. While people think that science occurs in its own vacuum, I very much appreciated the way money, politics, and science overlapped in this near-future sci fi short.

Gambrel imagines a unique dystopia in which water has swelled over the shores and the oceans are bigger. There’s new supernational governments (and thus funding sources), and there’s lots of mystery. I’m also very impressed at how quickly he could build an entire world in such a short space.

Also impressive was how he was able to include a full plot alongside the worldbuilding within the space. He was able to feed information smoothly between all the other pieces of information. Before the titular character 1NG4 shows up, we meet a couple of scientists investigating a mysterious object that can generate nearly infinite energy. They’re not told where it’s from, what it’s about, or what they’re really supposed to understand – but they’re doing it, because it’s a job. Like real scientists would.

Twists about what 1NG4 really is, what’s going on, and the alignments of the professors kept the story moving. If you’re looking for a short sci-fi in an interesting and political world, this one is a good option for you.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I don’t like giving too many spoilers of indie books, but this one’s two years old now so I’m going to go straight to the part I care about spoiling: messy endings.

Often, I don’t like messy endings. Binti: The Night Masquerade had a horrible messy ending. 1NG4, however, had a messy ending that made sense. Some things just remain a mystery, but Gunnar and Jenny’s story really does wrap up. He leaves room for more to occur within his world, but he essentially finishes. The messy ending, wherein things like 1NG4’s true origins and some information about the energy machine are not explained, still works out well.

If Gambrel chose to write another entry in the series, I’d probably go for it!

Coming Up Soon:

This book was a surprise entry – I’ll continue with D. Wallace Peach’s Liar’s and Thieves on Monday!

Book Review: Marriage Unarranged

Ritu Bhatal’s Marriage Unarranged has been on my radar for quite some time. This debut novel is in a genre I don’t normally read, but its international flavors and promises to visit cultural norms I’m not used to interests me.

Besides, I’ve followed Bhatal’s blog for some time, and I trust her craft enough to give this a whirl!

The Book

Marriage Unarranged
Author: Ritu Bhatal
2020
Amazon Link

Marriage Unarranged is billed as “chickpea lit,” which in and of itself attracted me. I can dig a good pun.

An arranged marriage falls apart, causing Aashi to go on a semi-spiritual journey to discover what comes next for her. The book is a contemporary about a woman who must deal with the difficulties of being a woman of Indian descent who has been “shamed” by a broken engagement.

Non-Spoiler Review

I always feel happy when my expectations are met in a good way – and Marriage Unarranged did that! Many times when I read books about non-English speaking cultures (or cultures that didn’t used to speak English, which is what I think India is now), authors assume too much of the reader’s prior knowledge. Either Bhatal got the right amount of beta readers or she’s a natural at leading someone to understand situations, because rarely did I feel like I needed more information about how the characters were processing their issues. I think I learned a lot of Hindi words, and I definitely learned more about modern India than I knew before!

In addition, the story itself gets off to a fast start. You don’t have to build up a relationship between Aashi and Ravi very long before you get to the inciting event. That drew me in quickly despite romance and contemporary not being my preferred genres.

I also enjoyed some of the secondary characters like spunky Kiran and Bali (who reminds me of my own brother). The various relationships explored in this book really did show many facets of Indian culture and what sorts of things might not be acceptable in the society: things like dating on your own, or how women are mistreated for a man’s mistakes. Kiran and Bali (as well as another couple that I won’t spoil because it’s theoretically not obvious) served as a great foil for the other romantic relationships because of how they are perceived compared to others.

Something that I could complain about a little was the story with Ravi. I thought some of the characters in that storyline were moustache-twirling levels of evil, and that just doesn’t do it for me. They weren’t very nuanced, and I wasn’t entirely convinced I needed all the information given to decide if Ravi was a good match for Aashi or not.

And, last, the book was very hopeful. Babaji (their God) was always there for them, and it was uplifting even during the harder parts. There were more places than I would have liked where a grammar error or weird wording could have been fixed, but it doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed reading this travel/romance/contemporary more than I usually do with those genres.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

This book is so easy to spoil because it’s romance, essentially, and you don’t want to know beforehand who gets together with who. I strongly suggest you don’t continue reading if you don’t want that sort of thing spoiled.

I thought this book had a great theme of restoration and new beginnings. At one point, the group of young people (eventually all lovers, haha!) go to the Golden Temple to do sewa, a sort of ritual baptism. After that cleansing is done, the characters all seem to have a new lease on life and start a new journey – even though they’re on a journey as it is. I liked that symbolic shift.

Honestly, this book is pretty literary. There’s a lot of comments on English and Indian culture without bashing either (though there is some bashing of dirtiness). It looked at someone caught in between things culturally, romantically, and financially. If there’s anything that makes this book, it’s the themes, symbols, and metaphors.

Next week:

It’s a new month! Stay tuned!

Book Review: A Choice for Essence

Once upon a time, I made the (potentially) dangerous decision of saying on Twitter that I had money to burn on a couple indie books and that I wanted to read something new. This is one of the books that came of that adventure.

The Book

A Choice for Essence reading 2020A Choice for Essence
Author: Katelyn Uhrich
2019
Amazon Link

When I read From Ashes to Magic, there was a story by Nita Pan from the perspective of two gods. When I read the description of A Choice for Essence, it was reminiscent because the main character was a god(ling) who puts everything at risk for the “spirits” (which I didn’t know what that meant at the time). I realized this was YA, but I have been pleasantly surprised by YA before and am willing to try it out now.

Non-Spoiler Review

I’m not usually a fan of YA, so I really do believe a younger audience or people who enjoy YA would dig this book more than me. As it is, though, A Choice for Essence was enjoyable. The story did constantly build on itself, the characters were clear, and the writing was well-done.

The main character, Essence, goes through a bildungsroman type story wherein she matures by learning about her environment more so than by developing internal strength. I thought this unique, as most YA stories rely on the main character to change their minds in order to complete a quest. But Essence’s ideas of right and wrong, her goals, and her love doesn’t change. It’s really cool to watch.

The thing that kept me going for more was the idea of generational gods. Essence’s parents were fire and life, and her powers were a combination of both. Pirro (another character) was the son of Love and War (how cool is that!?). I’ve never seen something quite like this before, and I enjoyed how Uhrich split and recombined the gods’ powers.

For personal reasons, the ending wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I do commend Uhrich for making a first book in a series with an enclosed storyline. However, there was a very nice teaser at the very end hinting at what could come next – and I’m sure it truly is in the pipeline.

Some of the pacing felt a bit off, especially the amount of time that passed during timeskips. At one point, 99 years pass by but Essence is the same person, with the same maturity, following that skip as she was before. The skip felt way, way too long given the character change and the change of motivations of other characters. Other time skips didn’t quite feel right, either. The ages of the godlings in comparison to the spirits made love trysts a little weird to me, too. Didn’t stop the Greeks though, did it? 😉

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

This book is pretty new, so my spoilers are going to be pretty short. However, the very, very end was probably the main reason I gave it 4 discoball snowcones rather than 5. I’ll dance around it the best I can, but the following may ruin the book if you’re ok at guessing plots.

Something I find interesting in stories is what I call the “Pinocchio Effect”. If a character is non-human but interacts with humans, they often end up wanting to be human or desiring to be something other than themselves. Essence, born a god, ends up wanting to become human by the end of the book. This denial of her nature felt so strange to me, since she very much loved being able to transform or use her fire powers.

Next week:

Sit back and relax while you wait for my review of Ritu Bhatal’s Marriage Unarranged!

Book Review: What to Do With Baby Ashes

Once upon a time, several years ago, I got a comment on my blog from someone I didn’t recognize. Because I was so new to blogging, I immediately clicked follow – and that just-so-happened-to-click moment led to me following one of the most brilliant poets I think I’ve read. She’s more active on Twitter now, if you want to follow Marnie Heenan @MarnieWriting. You can also find her website https://www.marnieheenan.com/

She’s published several poems in many outlets, but I’d like to present to my little corner of the blogosphere a book of poetry that will send you on an emotional ride.

The Book

What To Do WIth Baby Ashes read 2021

What to Do With Baby Ashes
Author: Marnie Heenan
2020
Amazon Link

The subtitle for this book (which isn’t on the cover) is Poems From My Life Before, During, & After Pregnancy Loss.

=O

Before I get much further, yes – this book does get pretty intense. As someone who will probably never become pregnant, I didn’t think it would be hard. I was there for the nature poetry (and whoo boy, can Heenan pull out some beautiful naturalism), and I still got hardcore heart thumpies. If miscarriage/pregnancy loss is going to be too intense for you, you might want to consider how or when you read this.

Non-Spoiler Review

There are two ways to read this book, and I will admit I did both of them because I just felt like the book deserved it.

Also because the story linking the poems was intense enough that I didn’t stop.

Usually when I read a book of poetry, I read one poem a night just before going to bed and then put it down. I happened to read this one in a single sitting (easy to do – it’s short), and HOLY CRAP WHAT INTENSITY. If you read this in one go, it’s like “Oh, this is pretty neat”, then it goes bam-bam-bam with shooting your heart right out of your chest followed by trying to sew it back together with a rusty needle and floss.

I finished it and was like, “Wow, that sent me somewhere.”

After that, I read a poem at a time (or maybe two, something like that).

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Like I do with compilation books, I’m going to talk about my favorite, a standout, and least favorite poem.

Favorite: Family Photo
This last poem in the book wraps everything you just read together. It draws the three sections – Before, During, and After – into a nice, tight bundle, and I love it. It was placed perfectly, and I think it did so much to the overall feel of the chapbook in addition to being intense, raw, and well-written on its own.

Standout: Drive Home
I thought about this one being my favorite, but it’s too perfect a fit for standout. It’s unforgettable. It’s such good stream of consciousness, and it has almost a Faulkner sort of feel. It’s short enough that the stream doesn’t become burdensome, and the emotional intensity of it might have been the climax for me.

Least Favorite: Subtropics
Honestly, this is kind of a bullshit section for me because all the poems were good. I chose this one because it was, once I flipped through it to write this review, the one I remembered the least of. It’s necessary to the story because it marks a shift in the author’s situation, but it’s a poem of nature that leads very quietly into the next scene. That’s all.

Next week:

I’m reading the first craft book I’ve ever read – Colleen Chesebro’s syllabic poetry book! Get hype!

Book Review: Dust & Lightning

Rebecca Crunden went to my book review request page and made a request! While I turned down the book she requested (a romance – which is why I made a page talking about what kinds of books I like), she also pointed out this book as something I might like. Without further adieu, here is my review for Crunden’s Dust & Lightning.

The Book

Dust & Lightning
Author: Rebecca Crunden
2020
Amazon Link

I love sci-fi, and this month I’ve read quite a bit of indie sci-fi books. This third entry to my indie book January promises to be an exciting trip through space.

Non-Spoiler Review

This short book was very much a ride of excitement from beginning to end. The main characters, Ames and Violet, found each other quickly and were off on an adventure to save Ames’s brother, Callum. The book moved quickly and – had there not been a mild emergency occur IRL at 42% of the way through my reading – could easily be read in one sitting. The book reminded me a lot of the Schwarzenegger flick “Total Recall”.

Though the beginning did contain a lot of worldbuilding, the drive of the story came up relatively quickly, especially if you consider the brevity of the book. The worldbuilding did continue throughout, and while primarily done in a smooth manner, there were instances in which information was plopped in a large paragraph. Some of the science elements felt a bit off to me, but the premise of the electrical worms (no spoilers as to how they play into it further than that) was interesting enough for me to suspend disbelief.

The characters were interesting, and I think most of them had reasonable drive. Violet’s addition to the party was the strangest; I didn’t personally believe she had enough reason to go with Ames to save Callum, and I’m not sure how she acquired her skills.

While the story did wrap up the main plotline, it left a *lot* undone. I assume there will be follow ups because of how much was left open.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Because this book was pretty short, I’m not going to give big spoilers that destroy the ending. What I’ll do instead is talk about two aspects that were important but might give away too much of the book for someone who wants a clean and simple “no spoilers” review.

First: as mentioned above, there were electric worms. They were native to the planet Kilnin, and touching them could result in a deadly zap. The introduction of these little buggers was perfectly timed to set up what happened next: the use of the worms’ (genetics? I’m not sure on the specifics) abilities as applied to humans. The humans who got these powers were able to shoot and destroy stuff with their lightning powers. While I don’t really care about the powers in and of themselves, the setup and foreshadowing was well-done.

Other than that: Violet. She was a lawyer on the spaceship with her abusive husband, and Ames saved her from him. In return, she sticks with Ames and helps him free his brother from prison, etc., while risking her life and freedom to do so. Sure, rescuing her from an abusive situation is a really good thing, but I just didn’t feel like “dedicate my life to this guy immediately” was very reasonable. There were no other hints that she was one of those people who attaches herself too readily to another person. While she did have interesting skills and was essential to the book working out, her motivations eluded me.

Next week:

It’s February, which means it’s time for a new theme! Stick around to see which three books I’m reading and why.

Book Review: Our Dried Voices

Greg Hickey posted his book in my handy-dandy review request form on my book review request page! My rules for answering a review request are there, if you want to risk it.

The Book

read 2021 our dried voices hickeyOur Dried Voices
Author: Greg Hickey
2017
Amazon Link

Ultimately, I was going to read this book because I was requested to do so and it was in a genre I like. When this book came across my lap, at least, I was in a place where I wasn’t getting enough requests to really put me off the trail. That being said, it’s a dystopian future sci-fi, and I’m ok with that.

Non-Spoiler Review

This book is billed as inspired by classic sci-fi like Wells’s The Time Machine or Huxley’s Brave New World. I absolutely agree that if you like The Time Machine, this book is probably up your alley. Our Dried Voices takes a similar idea from The Time Machine – i.e. that humanity will collectively devolve into helpless, mindless creatures kept safe by old humanity’s successes – but there’s plenty of new, different ideas that you won’t be bored.

If you’re looking for a more modern comparison, I’d like to point you to Liu’s Three Body Problem. Hickey’s Voices is similar to Three Body in that it’s an extensively explored setting that builds with slow exactitude to its final reveal. Liu’s book is probably 4 times the size of Voices, but there’s a lot of explanatory shpiels that build on each other. It’s got that classic sci-fi “boring” to it that I and many fans of the old stuff enjoy. At times it did get excessively dry, but the book was short enough that it didn’t become too tedious.

Another good point in Voices’ favor is the high-quality editing. Though at times the book did fall into purple prose, the sentence structure, spelling, and logical flow of the book was good. I hate that this is something I have to grade in indie books, but I am happy to say that this one did it right!

The reasons this isn’t five stars, though…

This book, like Brave New World, is what I would call “artsy fartsy”. It has a semi-experimental structure wherein the characters say very little. Without much dialogue, it was hard for me to really get into Sam or Penny as fast as I wanted to. I could see what kind of feeling (a sort of “awakening” where the mains go from ignorant to curious) this sort of narration achieved, but it made it somewhat difficult for me to get into the book. They were inoffensive, perfectly fine characters, though. Penny was never an object, and by the time I figured them out, her role was well defined and well done.

The mystery elements were also not quite up my alley. Some of the mystery was easy enough that I questioned what the main character was thinking, some of it was a stretch even after it was explained, and some of it didn’t make sense how the character put together the clues.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

The plot was relatively simple, and most of it could be guessed, but that’s not something you really have a problem with in sci-fi. It did build logically, and for that I commend it.

However, I must say that the bulk of the chapters were similar to one-off MacGuyver problems. Some of them – like fixing a bridge – were somewhat interesting, but others – like the “food box” where they collected the humans’ food to fairly redistribute it – was frustrating. Other problems didn’t make so much sense, but they tended to contribute to the overall plot.

As I said in the non-spoilers review, there was a mystery element. In the course of solving problems, the main character Samuel came across messages from a mysterious, possibly villainous, personages. While it was a clever idea, I thought these messages weren’t incorporated very well. They seemed a bit of a nonsense puzzle on top of all the other survival puzzles.

Anyway, the point is if you like classic sci-fi, this might be a pick for you.

Next week:

It’s time for the last of my indie sci-fi reviews – Dust & Lightning!