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Monday, October 23, 2017

Horror Review: Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale

In hindsight, as much fun as the Bubba Ho-Tep movie was, I realize I enjoyed it more for Bruce Campbell's performance than the story itself. It was fun, but not enough to drive me to seek out Joe R. Lansdale's original story.

Having said that, Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers has a lot of things going for it, and was actually quite brilliant in some respects, but it's far too uneven a read for me to recommend it. For every paragraph of blood-sucker horror, we're forced to wade through pages of cosmic weirdness, and for every snappy bit of banter, we're made to sit through one tired Elvis-ism after another.

The concept is fantastic, and I would love to read more about the government's secret monster-hunting unit, just not with Elvis at the helm - or, at least, not with this fat, pill-popping, flatulent, overstayed-his-welcome, embarrassing Elvis.

Read the first 12 pages of drunken Mr. Positive and the screaming balls of human flesh crammed into the cars of the junkyard, and you'll be hungry for more . . . but by the time you get through the next 65 pages of introductions and celebrity banter, and you'll start to get a feel for what kind of balance to expect. Personally, the novelty of the Colonel, Nixon, and all the rest wore off pretty quickly for me, so much so that I was already starting to skim by the 30% mark, which never bodes well for a book

Hardcover
Expected publication: October 31st 2017 by Subterranean Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sci-Fi Review: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

Although I don't read a science fiction anymore, I am still easily hooked by a cool concept and an interesting author. Even still, I nearly gave The Stark Divide as pass, but I'm glad I let my curiosity get the better of me, because J. Scott Coatsworth weaves a fantastic story.

First off, even though this a big story with a lot of world-building behind it, it never info-dump and never feels overwhelming. Coatsworth keeps the story well-balanced and well-paced, using flashbacks and memories to fill in gaps that tantalize rather than frustrate. What we are looking at here is a not-too-distant future where Earth is on the verge of collapse, leaving humanity to take to the stars in 'living' ships.

For a story that deals with a lot of heavy social themes (politics, religion, immigration, capitalism,etc.), it never feels heavy. Instead, this is a story where things just are, where people are allowed to just be, without making a big deal out of it. In fact, you'll come away from it thinking far more about the ship-mind, station-mind, and world-mind than you will the character's gender, sexuality, faith, or politics . . . and that's precisely how it should be.

Like so many of the golden age science fiction authors, Coatsworth tells his story in pieces, separating the book into 3 interconnected stories, each of which moves the overall narrative ahead by decades. It makes for an interesting read, with the character in each segment getting just enough page-time to develop and make themselves memorable, while injecting new life into the story along the way. Where it differs from those golden age authors, though, is in its resigned pessimism regarding humanity. This is not a story of an enlightened people taking the best of themselves to a new Utopia, it is a story of humanity transplanting its struggles to somewhere new, without seeming to have learned anything in the process. Don't get me wrong, there is hope to be found within it, but as a race we're going to have to earn it.


ebook, 284 pages
Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by DSP Publications

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Yesterday’s Future by J. Scott Coatsworth

Yesterday’s Future
by J. Scott Coatsworth 

I just finished the first draft of my next novel, The Rising Tide. It’s the sequel to The Stark Divide, the book just releasing now and is the first in the Liminal Sky series.

I started writing The Stark Divide in 2014 and completed it in 2016, just as the US elections came to a close and we found out who our new president would be.

What a different world we live in now.

As a sci fi writer, I am tasked with writing both probable and improbable futures, some that are connected to the here and now, and some that are more distant or, in some cases, entirely divorced from Earth and our present day issues.

The Liminal Sky series take place on a future Earth, starting a little more than a hundred years from now, and so the stories in it are strongly influenced and informed by the trends I see happening around me today.

Climate change, human denial, and greed all play a role, as do the bending arcs of justice that our last President was so fond of talking about.

The Stark Divide, while doubtful about the ultimate future of the Earth, had a fairly hopeful tone for humankind as a species.

But as I started writing The Rising Tide, I found that some of my optimism had flagged, and the result is a more complex, sometimes darker story. We live in a world that is changing so rapidly that the future I saw just three years ago now seems much less likely. This sci fi writer has changing future whiplash.

So what am I supposed to do?

On the plus side, I have the chance with each new book to address the future I see at that moment in time. Sometimes it’s hopeful, and sometimes it’s a little more dark and twisty.

If I’m any good at this job, I’ll figure out a way to make it all work together, and create a series that has lasting relevance for many possible futures.

Only time will tell if it all works out, for the series and for the Earth and humanity as a whole.

Guess I’ll just have to wait and see what tomorrow’s future will bring.

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About the Author

J. Scott Coatsworth spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Ushered into fantasy and sci-fi at the tender age of nine by his mother, he devoured her library of Asimovs, Clarkes, and McCaffreys. But as he grew up, he wondered where the gay people were in speculative fiction.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would write them himself.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently—he sees relationships between things that others miss, and often gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He transforms traditional sci-fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

He also runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring LGBTIQA communities together to celebrate fiction that reflects queer life and love.

http://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor

http://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

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About the Book

The Stark Divide
Liminal Sky | Book One
J. Scott Coatsworth

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky

Monday, October 16, 2017

Top 5 Video Games I Played Between Writing Sessions in 2017 by Glynn Stewart

If you spend all day writing, you pretty quickly learn to come up with a system that works for you. I write a book every six weeks or so, and for me, the trick is timers: write for a set time, take a break, repeat until I have 3000-5000 words.

For me, the breaks in between writing sessions are usually taken up by playing video games, because it’s the easiest way for me to “switch off.” Here are my top 5 writing companions for 2017:

1) Overwatch. I’m usually a little leery about multiplayer games, but my friends finally dragged me into this one in fall 2016. It’s fun, it’s fast, and it’s incredibly pretty. You can team up with your friends to complete missions, or—if your friends are the kind of people with day jobs that don’t allow video games—you can let the system randomly assign you to a team. The sheer variety of characters and play styles to learn means that you’ll never be bored, but I’ll admit that my current favourites are Junkrat and Mercy.

2) Stellaris. You’ll see from this list that I love strategy games. This is one that explores my chosen genre of space opera in great detail. Stellaris has an astounding number of variables with at least four methods of space travel, and that leads to some interesting strategic interactions. I need to be careful with this one, though: I’m not worried about the number of hours that I put into it (as long as I’m also writing), but sometimes I keep playing for too long and realize I’m not having fun with it anymore. That’s the cue to put it away for a few months and come back later.

3) Crusader Kings. This is a sort of alternate-history strategy game, where you start playing with one European power and follow your dynasty through the ages. I’ve attempted to spread the Old Norse pagan religion across the globe (not very successfully) and I’ve seen some interesting royal soap operas develop. Like the time one of my queens had a daughter who was almost of age and ready to take the crown until suddenly she had a half-brother she needed to murder. I’m still not quite sure how that happened.

4) Wolfenstein: The New Order. This is a straight-up action-adventure first-person shooter, and the designers did a really good job of taking some old school gaming sensibilities and building a new game around it. It’s a fast-paced action-oriented blasting-nazis-in-the-face game, but it also uses everything we’ve learned to do better with these games in the last twenty years (especially new user interface elements) and uses them to tell a quite interesting and entertaining story.

5) Sunless Sea: This one is a “survival/exploration” game where you control a ship as it explores a vast underground ocean, and here there be much worse things than dragons. I actually had trouble getting into this game initially. A friend walked me through something at the beginning that I just wasn’t getting, and suddenly I was immersed in a game with a really unique theme and tone, and the world that they’d built was fascinating. I had a really long chain of captains that kept passing down money and a house to their heirs, and then I forgot to write a will for one… and my character went crazy and the crew murdered me. Which is pretty typical for Sunless Sea.

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About the Author

Glynn Stewart is the author of Starship’s Mage, a bestselling science fiction and fantasy series where faster-than-light travel is possible–but only because of magic. Stewart’s other works include the science fiction series Castle Federation and Duchy of Terra, as well as the urban fantasy series ONSET.

Writing managed to liberate Stewart from a bleak future as an accountant. With his personality and hope for a high-tech future intact, he now lives in Canada with his wife, his cats, and a portable cast of thousands for readers to meet in future books. You can learn more about Glynn Stewart at his website, glynnstewart.com.

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About the Book

Interstellar Mage
by Glynn Stewart

Mars destroyed his ship — but gave him a new one.
Mars drafted his Mage — for the good of humanity!
He should have known that wouldn’t be the end of it…

Captain David Rice has a new ship, a new crew, and a new set of Jump Mages to carry him between the stars. All he wants is to haul cargo, make money and keep his head down.

His past, however, is not so willing to let him go. An old enemy is reaching out from beyond the grave to destroy any chance of peace or life for Captain Rice—and old friends are only making things more complicated!

All he wants is to be a businessman, but as the death toll mounts he must decide what is more important: his quiet life or the peace humanity has enjoyed for centuries…

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
Expected publication: November 14, 2017 by Tor Books

The eagerly awaited sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling Words of Radiance, from epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson at the top of his game.

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together—and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past—even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.


This was probably my most anticipated read of the year, and definitely one of the most prized ARCs I have ever received. A review embargo means I can take my time and enjoy it, which is a nice problem to have.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Non-Fiction Review - Untamed: An Atlas of Wild Places by Chris Fitch

Abandoned ruins, strange places, and natural beauty. These are things I live for, the geography of my bucket list. Chris Fitch clearly shares that passion, with Untamed: An Atlas of Wild Places the perfect first volume in that.

A collection of global snapshots that are as fascinating as they are incredible, this is not the kind of book you sit down and devour over the course of an evening. Instead, it is something you leave sitting on that proverbial coffee table, a book to be sampled, shared, and appreciated.

The Atlas is divided into six sections - Extreme Environments, Untouched Lands, Human Activity, Weird Worlds, Isolated Realms, and Nature's Wilderness. Each features 6-8 short articles of a few pages each illustrated by photographs and (more importantly) detailed maps.

Human Activity set the bar high for abandoned ruins. Here we find details of Chernobyl that are almost unfathomable, such as the fact that the process of decomposition has ceased to operate, and walk through a town in Pennsylvania that has been burning since 1962, although it took the collapse of a 100-foot deep sinkhole to finally begin its abandonment nearly 20 years later.

In terms of strange places, Extreme Environments was easily my favorite. Where else can you find shipwrecks a few hundred yards into the desert, toxic gas spewing lakes, and a cave full of massive 36-foot crystals? As for natural beauty, it's hard to choose between Untouched Lands (which tell of a cave beneath Vietnam that is not only large enough for a jumbo jet, but which has its own weather system) and Weird Worlds (with a lake in Venezuela that receives 1.2 million lightning strikes each year).

Honestly, Untamed: An Atlas of Wild Places could be ten times as long and I would still want more, but as first volumes of a bucket list go, it's a great start.

Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 28th 2017 by Aurum Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.