Book Review: Aurora Rising

I needed something – anything – to listen to while I was making expensive saltwater at work. I got this audiobook from the library because it was marked as “Always Available,” thus no wait time.

The Book

Aurora Rising
Author: Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff
Amazon Link

There’s really not much you need to know about this book in terms of warnings or generic “people may not like this.” Unless, of course, you want to count the fact that this is so very YA.

On With The Review

This book was just not my thing. Like I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of YA – and, in this book, all the typical YA elements made it so, so much harder for me to read. In a nutshell: play the Mass Effect trilogy to get a better story with better characters and better villains.

Reasons I think this is a fanfic of Mass Effect but with teenagers and YA tropes:

  1. Everyone was overly sexualized. Except in the book it was dumber because things “sounded like two [insert alien animal here] trying to have sex”.
  2. There was an ancient, dead species who left clues for a way to defeat an ancient villain.
  3. A techy character with intensive disability (Fin in Aurora, Joker in Mass Effect)
  4. A snarky computer (Magellan in Aurora, Edi in Mass Effect)
  5. A war between the humans and the warrior race (Syldrathi in Aurora, Turians in Mass Effect)
  6. A species that infects another and takes over their body (Raham in Aurora, Thorians in Mass Effect)
  7. Upstart humans have become important in the military and are part of the interstellar school for badasses
  8. Psychics/Biotics

If you played Mass Effect, there is literally no reason to read this book.

 YA tropes in this book I hated:

The characters were too young to be sent off as soldiers on their own. The book acted like they were a normal crew of warriors for the GIA (which, if I’m being honest, I don’t remember what it stands for other than ‘The Man’), but it seemed to me like they should have been some sort of black ops or elite group. They also had 0 (zero) grunts and were all highly trained officers. The idea behind the space travel was that as one got older, it got harder to stay awake through the fold (a wormhole), and that was the excuse as to why only young people appeared in the book. I thought, however, that the lack of older characters – especially commanders who might send orders to the ship – was appallingly lacking.

Another YA trope that got me hard was the “everyone here is an outcast because they’re terrible, but now we’re family” sort of thing. Kill off all the parents, ostracize all the children, make everyone in the whole group look for a new family. Then, once they find this friend group works, they attach to each other like leeches. It makes for extremely awkward, repetitive dialogue. When the characters turn out to be “the best, but just bored at school or with personality issues that are magically solved by being in this family,” I just don’t dig it. In this book, every main character fit into this trope, and there were altogether too many main characters for my taste.

Next: the eyes and hair. I literally could care less about people’s multicolor, flower-shaped, or red eyes or their silver hair or whatever. Why is it so common in YA to have fancy eyes? I’ve never liked that trope, never found it interesting. It makes these characters with weird eyes have hardcore Mary Sue complexes, even beyond the “everyone hates me” tropes mentioned above.

Also, the “oh no, I’m super hot and have all these great powers, but I’m a weapon” boo-hoo nonsense. At least you’re not a whore like Scarlet, the diplomat of the group (which why do they have a diplomat in the army? Shouldn’t that be a separate field? Whatever).

I had thought this book couldn’t be worse than City of Bones because it was sci-fi, but lord it made me angry because it was so cliche and not creative in the least. If you’re a sci-fi fan, you’re getting nothing new out of this. Nothing.

1/5 Discoball Snowcones

What I’m Reading Next:

I’m going to finish How to Fight Presidents soon enough, but I’m also reading the indie book The Gossamer Globe! Stay tuned.

Video Game Review: Disco Elysium

I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.

And this one. This one.

Disco Elysium is a miracle of an indie game produced by ZA/UM.  It’s usually $39.99 on Steam, and it’s worth every single penny. It’s unlikely to go on sale anytime soon, as it came out in 2019 and is racking up award after award.

You don’t need to read further if you don’t want. This game is amazing. But it needs more disco.

disco elysium 2020 reviews video game

Non-Spoiler Review

Traditional gamers who are into shooters or platformers exclusively probably won’t give a crap about this game. There’s absolutely no mechanics to it that require skill of any sort. The game is almost exclusively dialogue choices, interacting with objects, a lot of running, and feelings.

So what’s this game about? Well, let me show you a screen shot of how it opens.

disco elysium start image

You wake up naked in a busted hostel room, still drunk but with a hangover. You have no memories of who you are, where you are, or what you’re doing. There are voices in your head telling you what to do (each of them clearly a part of yourself).

Upon putting on clothes and exiting your room, you quickly find out that you’re a cop who was sent to investigate a lynching in the hotel’s back yard three days ago. Your primary duties were to get the body out of the tree, question important subjects, not lose your gun, and not lose your badge.

You did none of those things.

The game lets you be weird, spontaneous, and political (I went with the full-on-Ayn-Rand boner because it gave you more money).

You’ll laugh. You’ll certainly feel like an existential crisis.

dolores dei

Hints and Tips

I’m not doing spoilers, per se, because that’s lame crap. This game is too good and new to spoil.

Decide Up Front about Save Scumming

This game is really easy to save scum (which means to save, try an option that is random chance, then re-load if you fail to roll well enough). The game does not punish you too much for failing rolls, so don’t be afraid if you would rather not save scum.

I did some save scumming. If I felt like it was important enough, I would save scum. A lot of people can make it through without cheating, but I had to get what I wanted, and I don’t feel bad about it.

Beg Money off of EVERYONE

You’re poor in this game. Egregiously poor. I suggest asking literally everyone for money.

Use the Phone on the Third Day

On the third day, you get access to a new area. On that new area, you’ll find an active payphone.

disco elysium payphone

Despite it being so hard to get money, USE IT ON THE PHONE. IT IS YOUR ONE TRUEST QUEST DO IT.

Make van Eyck’s Jam Harder Core

First, of course, you need to find the ravers in a tent and do their quest, but then you need to find a magnetic tape in a tree and give it to Egg Head. Just type in “Make van Eyck’s Jam Harder Core walkthrough” into Google and follow a let’s play, honestly. I didn’t, but I got lucky.

Put Some Points in Authority

Trust me, there’s one place in the game where you’ll want authority. It doesn’t need to be your primary stat, but you should have a few – it gets clutch…

Prepare for Existential Crisis

Yes. Prepare.

dolores dei


Water Striders

insect water strider

Skri water walks over to me. “Lookit – those things are on the island again.”

The short-limbed creatures watch me from the shores. I do not bounce as if to play, do not acknowledge them. Instead I reach below the surface to grab a chunk of algae. “I thought nothing lived on land.”

“You know what the elder says?” Skri leaned in close. “She thinks they’re monsters.”

The materially-rich monsters move as if to avoid scaring us. There’s something knowing about them, something intelligent, but they’re absent the holiness of water.

I shudder. Nothing with a soul walks on land.


This sci-fi flash was written for the November 7th Flash Fiction Challenge on the Carrot Ranch. Water Walkers was the theme this week, and that made me think of water strider bugs. I invented an alien that is bigger, intelligent, and walks on water. The land creatures are supposed to be us treating the aliens like animals on a National Geographic.

Though I guess you could just read this as from the viewpoint of actual water striders, lol.

***Edit: I realized this also fit the prompt for D. Wallace Peach’s November Writing Challenge. Perhaps I will get off my lazy bum and write something special for it – but perhaps I will just let this one linger as my response. 🙂

Photo by Tanguy Sauvin on



“Well, it’s definitely a message. It’s binary, very clear, quite ordered.”

The head of the agency tapped the desk.  “You have a translation of it?”

“Yes sir, we think it’s decoded.” She handed him a block. “There were 1,679 blips. If the message was purposefully sent, the number probably means something. Since it’s semiprime, we set the message onto a 23 by 73 grid and raised the grid spaces that were ‘on.’ The patterns clearly indicate a message.”

He swept a tentacle across the braille. “We really aren’t alone in the universe! It has the numbers one through 10, then a code of sorts. What’s it say?”

“Get your FREE bottle of male enhancement pills from Crazy Joe’s NOW.”


This was written for the Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt #111, translation. The original Arecibo Message was a 23 by 73 binary message launched from the Arecibo Observatory as part of its opening ceremony in 1974. Intended to be a publicity stunt more than anything, the message was nevertheless an informative thing indicating the presence of life on Earth for anyone who might be around to receive it. But, knowing us, we’ll send another in a few years advertising penis pills, ’cause that’s the way we do.

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Interstellar Cargo


The computer hitched the wagon to the back of my train. I brushed my finger against my moustache, then handed my electronic clipboard to the customer. “Your wagon will be delivered two Earth days from now at Elysia. Sign here, here, and here.”

The customer scrutinized the contract. “Says here you’re not liable for pirate attacks.”

“For cargo shipped out there, ma’am, I doubt anyone would insure the goods. I’m driving my tug out to Elysia, and you can either hitch your wagon or not. Simple as that.”

She pursed her lips and scrawled her mark on my board. “This is important medicine.  You must make sure it arrives at Elysia.”

I closed my board. Medicine – almost always code for drugs. “I’ll do my best, ma’am.  The Interdimensional Roads are a treacherous place, but the law’s cleaned them up some recently. Maybe it’ll be an easy drive.”

“Thank you, sir.”

I harrumphed.  Easiest way to be a good pirate was to also be a good deliveryman.


This Wednesday, I chose to feature the prompt #FOWC, Fandango’s One Word Challenge. A daily prompt with astounding participation rates, thus is a great one to check out if you don’t have a set schedule for your blog. Today’s word was Wagon.

Video Game Review: To The Moon

I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.

To The Moon is an indie RPG from Freebird Games.  It’s usually $9.99 on Steam, and that’s not a bad price for it.  However, I’d put it on your wishlist and let Steam email you when it goes on sale; $5 is definitely worth it.  Also keep an eye out for a Humble Bundle including it (this is where my copy came from).


Non-Spoiler Review

Now, before you get super hype, you video-game lover you, I first must warn you: this is almost exclusively a short story with a tiny bit of video-game and puzzle.  The story is linear, and nothing you do will change it; hell, there’s barely even any score, and any scoring functions you perform are all in your head.

Here’s a pretty good image of what the game will look like:


You play as a pair of scientists whose job is to alter the memories of dying people so they head off into the wild blue yonder with the belief that they fulfilled all their life’s hopes and dreams.  This means you get to hop through ol’ geezer Johnny’s head and see his past as part of your effort to get him to the moon.  The problem is that he doesn’t – and never has – recalled why he wants to go to the moon in the first place.

There are twists, and I think they’re well done (if a bit sappy).  It reminded me a lot of Citizen Kane (though, I must admit, Citizen Kane is a f*cking masterpiece).

Overall, good game.  Great game?  No.  But definitely worth the time and money I put into it.  It takes about 4-5 hours to play all the way through.

Spoilerific Review

Beware – I will be spoiling both the main twist and the ending before I get through this review.

Anyway, the front end of the game focuses on Johnny and how he had a fulfilling if pretty normal life married to a woman named River.  River is non-neurotypical, and I get the game was going for autistic (though I’m not sure and it never says for sure).  In an atypical fashion, however, you can’t access his earlier childhood memories, and this makes your main characters fail at their objectives… at first.

Then, after some creative thinking, you come up with a way to solve the problem and access his childhood memories in order to instill the desire to go to space into him.  You find out *twist spoiler ahead* that his twin brother died and the resulting ‘blank spots’ in his memory caused him to forget that he promised River to visit the moon.

The twist contained all the elements I like in a twist: 1) I didn’t see it coming and 2) There was evidence for it that you didn’t quite put together before it was told to you.  It was great.

My problem with the twist is that it came with the result that the twin brother, which you didn’t hear about for most of the game, ended up being more important than the wife.  It made her part of the story feel like a red herring, and I was slightly disappointed that she wasn’t part of the problem/solution.

However, the ending did work out well.  It was happy despite some worrying bits in the third act, and you get to see Johnny launch to the Moon with River by his side.

Give the game a try.  It’s a good indie game, after all!

When to Cry Over Spilt Milk

Beep.  Boop.

“This is Niunai. Come in, Naicha.”

“Naicha here.  Have you made the drop point?”

“10-4.  Drop point reached.  Identifying information within sight.”

“You have permission to engage.”

“Scanning now.”  Beep.  Boop.  Bzzzzzt.  “My… my god, Naicha!  This poor sot is flat broke.”


“Yes!  Their water is about to be cut off.  Electricity too.  Bank accounts are empty, they’re only getting denials for jobs or entry to school.  There’s nothing for us to steal here.”

“But we spent so much money on these milk carton drones!”

“I told you we should have done a fancy wine drone instead.”

“No.  They’d seen right through to us.”  Le sigh.  “What were we thinking…  identity theft through milk cartons in China… do the Chinese even like milk?  I don’t know.  Self destruct the drone and pack it in.”




This was for my first venture into the FFfAW Challenges. This was challenge 185, and the picture was provided by Yinglan.  I don’t know quite enough Chinese to be able to read the stuff on the letter, and I don’t know why “Glutinous Rice” is on there at all.  There’s also something about advertising, but I couldn’t determine everything.  So I made it up. 🙂

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this tale!