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!

Book Review: Steel Reign – Flight of the Starship Concord

Once upon a time in 2020, I made the fateful step of deciding to post a “I will buy and review a book or two from the selection y’all pitch at me” on Twitter. Along with A Choice for Essence, I chose this book.

The Book

Steel Reign flight of the starship concord read 2020Steel Reign: The Flight of the Starship Concord
Author: Braxton A. Cosby
Publication Year: 2020
Amazon Link

One big reason I chose this book is the genre: sci-fi seems to be a bit less common than fantasy among indie books. Beyond that, the blurb on Amazon hints to epic space adventure in a wide world – it seems up my alley at first glance!

Non-Spoiler Review

I’m quite torn about this book. As an admission, the genre was a parody of sci-fi action, not a serious take. I didn’t expect that from the blurb or most reviews, and I probably wouldn’t have started it if I’d known. So, that caveat out of the way let’s start with the things I liked.

It did pull through with the basic promise of action adventure. Reign – or Cassius, at times – was a hardcore spy who could pull off crazy stunts if he paid for it in joint pain later. His drive was a little difficult to drill down to, but his objective was clear. If you like action comedy like Austin Powers or Tropic Thunder, this is in your wheelhouse.

The grammar/basic structure was (aside from the experimental, weird numbers that were explained in the preface) decent. Some typos, word repetition, and sentence structure issues were present but were not more jarring than the weird decision regarding numbers (“no one” was “no 1”). The thing I liked best was the descriptions of the future tech and how it worked in-universe. Some of his chemistry and processing knowledge were wonky, but those subjects I’m less expert in seemed fine. The implants, especially, interested me because they weren’t better than natural – just different.

All the elements of a plot were there. The first chapter was very confusing, but it didn’t take long after to get set up and set off on the mission. The steps to the end were clear, and I liked knowing what we were supposed to root for.

But… man… the comedy. It was exactly the kind of comedy I just don’t get, because I had that feeling it should make me laugh. It was so intensely over the top that it had to be intended as funny, but I have a hard time with absurdist or exaggerating humor.

The other primary issue I had with the humor leaked into issues of characters. The intense use of male gaze (wherein the ladies were always described “boobs first”) and sexual jokes were tiresome to me. I suspect the first person narrator’s obsession with judging and gauging women solely by looks – even though the character claims he doesn’t – was meant as parody, but I honestly couldn’t be sure.

Part of what makes me suspicious that the male gaze and objectification were unintended was the poor representation of women. Every single woman was described as having squeezable or large tits, judged for their sexual potential (even the main’s sister!), and never really had a major part in the plot except as love objects or damsels. There was nothing to prove the narrator was delusional or wrong – so the parody angle might not even be good enough to make up for the poorly built female characters. The book passed neither Bechdel nor Mako Mori tests.

So, in the end, I liked the basic ideas of the book, but it had some major issues (that, admittedly, may be 100% in my head). Because of this, I decided that bad and good weighed each other out.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

The plot was fairly straightforward, which I liked. You knew they had to steal the Concord in order to rescue Reign’s sister, Olia, from slavery. You knew they had to sneak into the Eclipse to find her. The action sequences made sense, and in that manner the book was fine.

I saw the twist – that Giff, the nerdy handler, had betrayed Reign – from pretty much Giff’s appearance in chapter two. He offered “too good to be true” for pretty cheap, so I expected it. However, that also meant the betrayal was set up, so I was fine with the twist. I’d much rather expect a twist than read a twist that comes out of nowhere.

The ending may have set up for additional entries in the series, but it could equally end where it is. Reign got the girl, saved his sister, and gained once and for all the loyalties of his crew (Giff and Stink).

Next week:

Stick around for Our Dried Souls, a sci fi indie book!

Book Review: Moby Dick

I didn’t read this in high school, despite it being considered one of the Great American Novels. We read a selection of passages and a summary, then moved on. Many people have told me to be grateful and not pursue reading this now.

But, you see, this book supposedly has a small passage about how great Andrew Jackson is, and I kind of have to read it now.

The Book

800px-moby-dick_fe_title_pageMoby Dick
Author: Herman Mellville
1851
Gutenberg Project Link

This book is famous for being highly allegorical and, simultaneously, nearly unreadable. At the same time, with all the cultural references to this book, I thought I should give this a read.

Non-Spoiler Review

First, don’t read Moby-Dick like Ron Swanson.

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Don’t read Moby Dick like Steven Colbert:

Moby Dick

This wasn’t as difficult to trudge through as I had expected, but I wouldn’t say it was easy. The extended passages talking about the finer points of whaling definitely take a toll on this book’s readability, and it makes it quite difficult to appreciate any of the characters or actions. I think an abridged version of this book could take up perhaps a third or a tenth of the space and give you the same story.

At the same time, those extended passages of nonsense give the book an Old-Testament feel, wherein massive passages are just records of troops, measurements of buildings, or lineages. The passages in Moby-Dick are extremely reminiscent of these passages, so I don’t fault Melville for these horrifyingly boring paragraphs and pages.

The themes of Moby-Dick, from anti-racism to the deeper meanings of a relationship with God, are sometimes flaunted in your face while, simultaneously, riding in the undercurrent of all things. The names – good lord, all the biblical names! – require one to have a pretty deep understanding of the Bible in order to understand the exegetical importance of everything. I’m pretty good at Bible knowledge, but not as good as Melville probably was. The book is magnificently researched, extremely true to itself and to its time, and the writing style in and of itself flows smoothly.

So I think I enjoy the fact that I read this book, but I would not read it again.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Overall, the book proceeds much as you probably expect. The whaleship hunts whales, comes upon other boats that lead you through a Biblical expectation of prophecy. The dream of Fedallah was especially telling, and I hope you pay attention to that, especially, if you read it!

Otherwise, I’m afraid there aren’t many spoilers. The end of the book – a.k.a. the ruin of the Pequod and Ishmael’s survival – is something I think everyone expects. I think it’s supposed to be metaphorical of all the times Old Testament kings and rulers failed to heed generations of prophecy (which was symbolized, in part, by the meetings with the other boats).

Also, the Andrew Jackson passage was good enough but not great.

Next week:

It’s a new year! Will I keep reviewing books, or will I suck? Stay tuned!

Book Review: Beloved

wThis book has been highly, highly heralded as one of the great American novels. The descriptions remind me somewhat of Native Son, which I read in high school and still think of as the best book I read at that time, and that excites me.

The Book

412b8ib2b0uql._sx322_bo1204203200_Beloved
Author: Toni Morrison
1987
Amazon Link

This was an easy enough book to find at my libary. Not only is this book considered a Great American Novel, but the author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997. Now, I usually don’t enjoy much of this critically acclaimed stuff, but the subject matter presented in the blurbs seems right up my alley.

After I read it, I think I need to admit that Beloved was so good that I can’t even explain it. It was powerful, riveting, beautiful, haunting. It’s one of the best classics I’ve ever read.

Non-Spoiler Review

First off: My god. MY GOD. I didn’t go in expecting to like it – I went in expecting this to be like Oscar bait movies: vapid, containing some exciting elements that are there to make people think it’s ok, and then mostly garbled quotes that are supposed to be inspirational.

This book was a constant train ride of excitement, perfect, perfect character development, and a plot that just wouldn’t be silenced. The tone of the book was successfully different from the outlooks and tones of the characters, and it added such depth to the book’s impact. This book deserves every accolade it has, and even if Toni Morrison wrote nothing else, this thing is so top notch.

Second off: THIS BOOK IS THE BEST EXAMPLE I’VE EVER SEEN FOR HOW YOU DO A SEX SCENE. There were a few sex-scenes in the book, but the objectives of the scenes were very clear. It was explicit, but not to the point of erotica – each action was strangely, beautifully symbolic, and the thoughts and feelings of the characters molded during these scenes. That’s what made these scenes, bar none, the best sex scenes I’ve ever read: plot and characterization were crystal clear during them.

You know what? They should just stop reading Great Gatsby in high school. People should read this instead. Best classic I’ve read in a long time, and I don’t care that it was written as recently as 1987. It’s going to be a classic, period.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Something that I loved from this book was the magical realism. In the book, a girl named Beloved shows up at Sethe’s doorstep. Sethe, who had killed her oldest daughter in effort to keep her from being whipped by her masters, had bought a headstone for that little girl and gotten “Beloved” inscribed in it. When Beloved shows up at her door, Sethe believes it’s her daughter returned to forgive her – but Denver, Sethe’s living daughter, believes Beloved has come to take Sethe’s life in return for the one stolen from her. However, it’s unclear if Beloved really is this daughter, or if she’s just a weird girl.

My personal opinion is that Beloved really was a ghost, but I can see how people could make the argument otherwise. Instead of Beloved taking Sethe’s position slowly away, one could say that Beloved was simply a very disturbed child who got pregnant by a nasty horndog. Instead of exorcising an evil spirit, the community could have banished someone who desperately needed help.

Something else I found interesting in the book was the positions of the white people. The tone of the book made it clear that the author thought white people were, similar to black people, trying to look out for themselves but had enough benefits that they were also able to destroy others’ lives. The way the characters in the book spoke, however, white people felt like English fairies: sometimes randomly benevolent, but mostly mean-spirited, unpredictable, and powerful. It was a really interesting look at race relations, especially for a book set around the Civil War.

If you’re in the mood to read a classic, consume this one. Do it.

Next week:

Oh lord, I’m doing Moby Dick next. Pray for me.

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

I’d never read The Great Gatsby, even though many people did at my high school (I was in the honors section, and we read Native Son instead). I’ve discovered that a lot of the books you read in high school are culturally important, so I reckon I should get through this one!

The Book

41iers2bhlslThe Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
1925
Amazon Link

If you didn’t want to buy this book, too bad – copyrights are still in place for books from the 1920’s. Thank Mickey Mouse for that. Unless the Almighty Mouse argues, though, this thing will enter the public domain in 2021, which is kind of cool I guess.

Either way, I listened to this on audiobook. The version I listened to had a narrator willing to do the voices, which was nice.

Non-Spoiler Review

Wat.

I don’t understand this book. I tried to listen to it, and I even had to repeat some chapters because I was certain more had to have happened. I feel like it was a pile of pages about awful people doing as close to nothing as possible, then whining about it. They complained so much, and none of them felt real to me. Then the “exciting” bits at the end happened, and I was just upset more people didn’t die.

By the end, I was so confused that I decided to read someone else’s interpretation of what this steaming pile of mess was about. It turns out I understood what sliver of a plot existed, but other people read a lot more into the themes. According to Wikipedia, the book was supposed to be about decadence, excess, and resistance to change. I guess I could see those themes, and it probably would come through clearer to someone who grew up middle or upper-middle class. To me it seemed just ridiculous that people live that way, but I suppose it may have been close enough to what some people have experienced.

Overall, what the f*ck was this? Why do we make our children read this frivolous circle jerk of a book? Gah, this is one of those times I feel like critics are wrong, but then I realize I don’t have a good enough education in literature to combat them…

1/5 Discoball Snowcones

1 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Honestly, I didn’t like Gatsby. I didn’t mind how he died at the end. I didn’t mind that Myrtle died either, though it was a little sadder. George’s death didn’t really make an impression on me at all. I really didn’t like, however, that Tom made it out unscathed. Screw that guy – he was terrible, possibly the worst of the whole bunch. I decided not to like him when he punched Myrtle early on, then I really hated him when he turned out to be an unforgiving hypocrite.

I hated reading this book.

Next week:

I’ll be reading Beloved, another Great American Novel! Can it possibly get worse?! Stay tuned!

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

When I couldn’t finish Outlander, I freaked out that I was a bad reader and just yanked for any old audiobook at my library so I could finish something.

This was that book.

The Book

A Court of Thorns and Roses read 2021A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
2015
Amazon Link

Honestly I have no idea what this one’s going to be about heading into it, but I’m guessing it’s supposed to be like store-brand Game of Thrones going by the title and date of publication.

Non-Spoiler Review

When I first started reading this book, I thought it seemed a lot like The Hunger Games series. It used words like “blood” and “roast” and “roses” more than should be theoretically possible. It contained a main character who was a hunter using bows and arrows. That character, Feyre, was a woman, and she had useless sisters (sure, Katniss had one sister, but whatever). If you have a problem with Collins’s writing style, the writing style of this book won’t please you.

The plot, as well, was pure disappointment. About 1/3 of the way through, I thought to myself, “Is this Beauty and the Beast but with characters sexy in the way Edward was sexy in Twilight?” That is to say, “are these creepy, immortal pedophiles stalking this young woman and giving her Stockholm syndrome?”

And the answer is yes, yes that was what the book was about. If you’ve watched/read/heard glancingly about Beauty and the Beast, there’s no real reason to read this book. There’s no surprises.

There were some attempts made to show the character wasn’t a terrible pushover, and there were obvious struggles to get Feyre not to seem brainwashed (they failed). Something that bothered me a lot though was how many times she was covered in blood. It seemed like every other chapter she became drenched with blood and talked about it profusely. Sure, you can do that once or twice a book, but this was ridiculous.

1/5 Discoball Snowcones

1 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS AHOY

I spoiled it above because I said it was Beauty and the Beast. Sure, there was the “epic battle scenes” where Feyre has to defeat the witch who put the spell on the Spring Court (fey Tamlin’s castle thingy), but really there was nothing to the book. People on writing websites keep wanting revamped fairy tales, though, so I guess this fits the bill.

But why Beauty and the Beast? It’s a terrible story, really. I don’t see why someone would want to start with that as an inspiration.

Next week:

It’s the beginning of December, so there’s something new in the air! Stick around!

Book Review: Manassas

I’m reading whatever awful thing I want to this month, and what better way to do so than to read a historical fiction about the bloody first battle of the Civil War? I don’t know, so stick around to find out!

The Book

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Author: James Reasoner
1999
Amazon Link

I was researching a different Civil War battle – Chickamauga – for one of my books, and I found that Chickamauga was the 8th of a 10 book historical fiction series set in the American Civil War.

Well, since I’m (sort of) working on a Civil War historical fiction with a slice of magical realism on the side, I thought I’d at least start this series and see if I wanted to read all the way through to Chickamauga. I worry a lot about how historically accurate I need to get, since those Civil War reenactment people are INTENSE.

Non-Spoiler Review

This is going to contain some spoilers for the book. I don’t know how I’m going to get around it. I’ll keep the main spoilers in the spoilers section, but, you know, fair warning.

When I started this book, it seemed quiet and good enough. It was about a white family in Culpepper County, Virginia, which is too close to Manassas for the community to be unaffected by the battle. There is a backdrop of looming war, but the main story is about the sheriff of a town shooting a man in self defense and, to assuage his southern mother’s heart, joining the confederacy as penance. He has 3 brothers and 1 sister who live on the farm with their widowed mother, and they run around getting into social trouble and fostering ideas about horse races.

Extended sequences focused on a lone stallion that jumped fences back at the farm, luring away mares and running off when he was done. He was un-tamable, strong, free. One of the brothers dreamed of catching this wild horse.

After about half of the book focusing on this sheriff who unwillingly killed a man, this horse which refused to be caught, an upcoming horse race, and an impossible passel of corn pone and various pies, I asked the question:

Is this a cowboy book?

So I looked up the author. James Reasoner is one of those people who usually writes in the genre I call ‘bad cowboy books.’

And that’s genuinely what this book was.

To be honest, with a book named Manassas rather than Bull Run, I already went in worrying it was going to be a southern apologist story (battles are named after the nearest town/city in Southern histories, after the nearest river in Northern histories). A cowboy story isn’t the worst thing that could have happened, but it’s pretty darn close.

1/5 Discoball Snowcones

1 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

For a while, I had it in my head the Fogarty fixation of Will Brannon was going to be interesting. There were hints at a greater Northern conspiracy to kill off a crack shot before the war started, but it fell completely flat. The mystery was nothing, just silly, as it does turn out to be the Fogarties who backstab Will during the battle. Using the cover story of Yanks being the killers, they pursue Will and end up getting killed by the sharpshooting ex-sheriff himself.

The actual battle only happened in the last couple chapters, and the preparations leading up to it didn’t make much sense. I didn’t look it up, but I have a hard time believing supply lines were so bad right at the beginning of the battle. Some of the Southern honor culture just felt off, since it tipped into cowboy honor more often. There was just a lot wrong with this book.

Next week:

Next week is the 5th Monday in the month – stay tuned for something fun and bonus!

Book Review: Mass Effect: Revelation

Oh yeah, I realize this is supposed to be a trashy novel. I realize this thing was a cash grab meant to go along with the triple-A Mass Effect game. Published the same year the first Mass Effect game came out, I became interested because this author was the guy who wrote the first two games in the series.

The Book

51tbjieuzqlMass Effect: Revelation
Author: Drew Karpyshyn
2007
Amazon Link

Haha, I wouldn’t have spent real money on this. I saw it on the science fiction shelf at the library and thought, “What the heck. I love the Mass Effect game series.” It was short enough that I didn’t think it would take too much time out of my day, but long enough that I don’t feel guilty for making an entire review out of it.

Non-Spoiler Review

This book is what I would call quintessential cash-grab garbage. It was fun as heck and went along really well with the game. It makes me kind of want to play through the series again because I’m way more informed about Captain Anderson’s past. As a whole, if you enjoyed the games, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

At the same time, be aware that Karpyshyn’s style contains all the same, weird failings of the games. Everyone is sexualized in a weird, over-the-top manner, and the Asari aliens are still mostly a fetish that he tries to temper with idealism about their diplomatic power. The game at least allows you to believe that your actions are actually solving problems, but without the struggle to succeed, the problem solving and information gathering conducted by Anderson seems… broken. His choices don’t always make sense.

Anyway, not worth reading if you’re not into the games, but actually pretty interesting if you did like the Mass Effect trilogy.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

If you’ve played the game, you know the big twists in the first Mass Effect are:

  1. Saren really is a bad guy
  2. Saren’s ship, Sovereign, is an evil alien that brainwashes people
  3. Matriarch Benezia has ENORMOUS boobs

Two out of those three are essentially spoiled by the novel. I think the reveal is more dramatic in the game, so I’d play the games first, then come back and read the novel if you’re that desperate. If you played the games,  you probably know most of what happened in the book. You know that Anderson failed to become the first human specter. You know the council is a worthless POS.

The book really did feel like extra background information that you didn’t need but might be interested in if you’re hardcore.

Next week:

I will be reading the first of James Reasoner’s “Civil War Battle Series,” Manassas. It doesn’t look good, not one whit, but I decided to give it a try anyway!

Book Review: Rebel Mechanics

I’m a sucker for weird alternate histories. An absolute sucker.

In this one, the British nobility have magical powers that helped them put down the damn 1776 rebellion. Since the rebellion, though, industrialization has happened and the nonmagical might be catching up.

OH. YEAH.

The Book

51s4riwsw5lRebel Mechanics
Author: Shanna Swendson
2015
Amazon Link

I saw this book in my library and for some reason read the back cover. I saw that it was YA/middle grade, so I begrudgingly put it back, thinking it was ridiculous to read this sucker. Ridiculous, yes, but exactly up my alley. Steampunk? Alternate history? Fantasy? How had I thought this wasn’t for me in the first place?

I went back to the library and checked that sucker out.

Non-Spoiler Review

I really enjoyed this book. Like, really enjoyed this book, probably more than I rightfully should have. This was the first book in a long time that I literally couldn’t put down.  There were a couple chapters I re-read not because I didn’t grasp them but because I was like “OMG I HAVE TO.” In fact, I liked it so much that I swear I’ll finish them one day when I feel like I have the time to finish the series all in one go.

That hasn’t happened since Ancillary Justice with me.

Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s not the most artful book. It’s not a complex book or one filled with intriguing adult themes. It’s an absolute romp, but the plot kept me on the edge of my seat. The relationships, even the love angle, were done beautifully. Every single twist was built with intricate detail. Not only that, but the ending wrapped up all the plot lines but left you with this desire to see how the newest relationships and the still lingering societal threat of revolution would play out.

If you are at all interested in steampunk or Victorian books, this one is an absolute gem to start with.  It’s also fine for the youts.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

This was a plot-centered book, so spoilers really are crappy if you plan on reading it. TURN BACK NOW.

Anyway, main character Verity started out as just a normal bastard child who had silly, romantic dreams of being a governess like Jane Eyre. By witnessing a robbery on her train, she is late for the interview and forced to accept transportation from some mechanics and their machine.

Turns out, those people were rebels.

Turns out, they figured they could befriend her and get her to spy for them.

Turns out, the man Verity was going to work for had been the asshole who’d robbed the train in the first place!

In the end, Verity had to convince her magical/thieving boss to work with her rebel mechanic friends to save a bunch of machines and prevent the revolution from breaking out immediately, which would have caused untold deaths.

My god, the twists just sound ridiculous here, but Swendson puts hints and tips in just right. Verity works well as a main character because she possesses those heroic traits that keep her right on the edge of trouble.  Damn, people, just read this book. It’s underrated.

Next week:

I’m going to be reading another novel that I classified as ‘trashy’: Mass Effect: Revelation. I was pleased as punch by this book, so will the next one be as successful? Tune in next time to find out!

Book Review: Her Name Was Abby

Peter Martenuac 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

Her Name was Abby
Author: Peter Martuneac
2020
Amazon Link

I’ll admit I like zombies. I’ll admit I’m always looking for good action. And I’ll be damned if I pass up an indie book that seems to promise both.

Usually I reserve this section for “why I read the book” and an intro, but I wanted to say here that some rather intense and somewhat violent situations occur within the book. They are, indeed, well done, but you might want to know that if you’re considering the read.

Also, I apologize that I’m no longer cursing in my reviews, but Amazon keeps taking them down from their site when I do that.

Non-Spoiler Review

This book was right up my alley. Written with intense historical context, rich backdrop, and enough introduction that I didn’t feel like I required the first book, I just gobbled this up. Make it through the first part, and you’ll be in a whirlwind of emotion that just doesn’t stop. Read this with an eye for historical metaphors, and you’ll be rewarded immensely.

Let’s go with the simple first: the tension is great. Main character Abby struggles in the beginning to find her way through the wilds. Though the book’s main plot and intensity picks up a lot in Part II, the beginning fits very thematically and adds to the sense of horror that Abby must pull herself through. Once Part II starts, Abby meets compelling characters like Hector and Hiamovi. As members of a resistance faction against the emergency government, they’re idealists who you’ve just got to like. Throw Derrick, a good-looking member of the enemy, into the mix, and you’ve got sexual tension that I didn’t expect from an action book. I kid you not, the sexual and romantic tension was just so good. (More about that in the spoilers section). There’s no safety for any character in this book. I won’t spoil who lives or dies, but I will say that Martuneac obviously killed off the main character in Book 1, His Name Was Zach. Be afraid for your favorites!

Martuneac can write a really good fight scene. It might be introduced with a deep-dive into some war-based minutia, but the movement isn’t too punch-by-punch to withstand nor is it too sparse. Though some of the minutia – such as talking about gear – seems a bit dull, it served two purposes for me. One, it did help me predict tactics and understand the battlefield. Two: metaphors.

THIS BOOK WAS CHOCK FULL OF ALLUSIONS TO AMERICAN HISTORY. The president was Cyrus Arthur, for goodness’ sake. When I read about his corruption, his wife’s mysterious death, vice-presidency-to-presidency, and his VERY NAME, I instantly thought “Chester A. Arthur.” The book also referenced Ulysses S. Grant. It’s the Guilded Age, you guys. There was a Moby-Dick like reverence and study of tools, an apocalyptic event that forced movement to the west (zombies in the book, Civil War in real life), Indian Wars (I’M NOT KIDDING), and treatises on inequality that reminded me of 19th century American history.

The book’s metaphorical reconstruction, complete with martial law and obligatory lawlessness following the apocalypse, mirrors a Post-Civil War landscape. There’s a sort of idea that the “Lincoln” of the story, the president before Arthur, was killed before his time and that everything was worse for it. There’s rampant corruption in the upper eschelons. If you read this with an eye for these things, it adds so much flavor to what you’re consuming.

But there’s also a major, major difference between what happened in history and what happened in this book: Abby. While putting a modern world through an explosion and comparing our current situation to the past, Martuneac also posited that our future doesn’t need to mirror that which has already happened. The moral that one person could make a difference really did it for me. Together with the action, that made this book one of the best indie books I’ve read this year.

I’ll admit that some of the detailed description of weapons systems, equipment, and “how-to” battle could get a bit tedious, especially at the beginning where there wasn’t as much character tension. The beginning could have been shortened or integrated better from a plot standpoint, but it did serve the purpose of making a reader unfamiliar with Book 1 catch up really quick, and it added to the historical themes. The ending worked very well and wrapped up all plotlines, but there were a few things I would have enjoyed seeing instead.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Look, this book came out in 2020, so how dare I spoil much?

All I’m going to talk about here is that little love triangle. If you want no spoilers, don’t read further. This is a major part of the book that adds tension.

What makes the love triangle in this book so compelling is that both love interests, Hiamovi the rebel and Derrick the president’s son, are great. You have to like them both because they’re honest, earnest, and hardworking. You understand why Abby is two-timing, and you feel for her, and you just can’t choose how to finish out this storyline.

I think what Martuneac chose was probably one of the best options out there, but by the time I got to that resolution I severely wanted a threesome. Gosh darn it, both those boys were good, and I’d have been fine if they’d turned out bi or ok with sharing. They seemed like people who could have been friends, and their jealousy over Abby was just not going to let it happen.

But oh! Oh, it would have been a great solution. In my little, bleeding heart, anyway. It’d probably screw up book three, though.

Next week:

NOVEMBER (*Parks and Rec song where Andy sings “November” to April plays in the background*). Stay tuned for some dank new reviews!